Where To Begin

Welcome to Bethany West Photography's Wedding planning blog! If you are reading this there's a good chance that you've never planned a wedding before. Fortunately, I've not only planned a wedding myself but also captured countless special moments at weddings. In the process, I have seen many different styles and flows and have my own perspectives on what works and what doesn't. Hopefully my experience can help you plan out your own wedding day. Keep reading for my simple list of steps to begin your planning process!

Step 1. Enjoy Engagement!

It's easy to forget this step but it's one of the most important if you want to have an enjoyable and low-stress planning experience. Planning a wedding is a lot of work but don't forget what it's all for! You're choosing to spend the rest of your life with someone, so prepare for marriage by keeping your priorities straight and getting non-wedding related quality time with your S.O. on a regular basis. Consider setting boundaries around when you will or won't talk about wedding stuff and enjoy your present season. This step can make or break your stress, excitement, and energy levels as you get closer to your wedding.

Step 2. Set A Date Range

This step is #2 for a reason and no it's NOT the same thing as setting a date. As soon as you get engaged people are going to start asking you when the big day is, and if you don't have a lot planned yet, it can feel overwhelming not knowing how to respond. Without having made any commitments or booked anything yet, a simple "next fall" or "early June" is enough to satisfy all your curious friends and relatives.

The second reason for this step is your date range might effect wedding planning. There are several aspects such as weather, school schedules, or themes that might change when you want to set your date. Consider how the time of year might effect your guest's schedules and the surrounding scenery, especially for an outside ceremony. Remaining flexible with your date range allows for better availability and increased chances of securing your dream venue.

Step 3. Create A NEW Shared Email

Establishing a shared email is crucial for seamless communication and coordination with vendors. Consider creating a Google account for centralized planning.

Step 4. Create Or Update Your Wedding Board And Find Your Vibe

Now that you're ready to start planning it's important to begin with a vision. Creating a Pinterest board is a great way to save and share ideas and inspiration with your S.O. and figure out what your wedding vibe is so those ideas can become reality. This also helps with getting on the same page with your S.O. about colors and priorities. If you want to find your wedding style before exploring Pinterest you can take an online quiz like this one from The Knot. You don't need to know everything you want just yet, just get inspired!

Step 5. Set A Budget

Setting a budget might not be the most glamorous part, but it ensures financial peace of mind throughout the planning process. Consider who may be planning to contribute to your wedding budget and find out what they want to give. Many couples are surprised to find out how much every aspect of a wedding costs so, unless you're the princess of Genovia, prepare to make sacrifices. Once you have a total budget, you can decide how to divvy it up, but first, step 6...

Step 6. Set Your Priorities

This step is vital when planning your wedding. Between the two of you, decide what your top 3 or 4 priorities are on your wedding day. They don't all have to be expensive things, but they they will be where you put the biggest chunks of your budget. Prioritizing will help when choosing vendors, planning your budget, and even what ends up on your vision board. Identify the aspects that hold the most meaning for you both. This could be a breathtaking venue, personalized vows, or a particular theme. What is important to you may not matter at all to another bride, so make sure that you communicate your priorities to your S.O.

Step 7. Compile A Guest List Draft

Guest lists, while they don't have to be finalized until you send out your invites, determine the size of your wedding and therefore your venue. There are several criteria for wedding guests suggested online such as how long you've known them, how close you are, or whether they know both the bride and the groom. These aren't necessary but they are useful if you don't want 500 people at your wedding and are having trouble narrowing down the list. Consider making a much smaller list of non-negotiable people and going from there.

Step 8. Book A Venue And Set The Date

Now that you have an estimated guest count and an idea of the vibe you want, it's time to pick a venue! Of all the vendors you could hire, your wedding venue takes priority and affects everything else in the planning process. The venue is also often the first or second largest expense, so it helps to know how much of the budget you are left with. Your venue may also effect your wedding date. Since venues are often booked upwards of a year in advance, there's no guarantee that the venue you find will be available on your chosen date. For this reason it's important to have an idea of your date but to be willing to be flexible.

When choosing a venue, obviously budget and guest count should be considered, but as a wedding photographer I would put good natural light high on that list as well. This goes for all areas and aspects of the venue (getting ready location, reception, ceremony, etc.) but especially consider what is most important to you to be photographed. If the location is indoors then look for large windows or doors that let in light. If you want an outdoor wedding then consider: time of day (avoid 11am-3pm which gives harsh light and dark shadows) , tree coverage (notice if the light shows through the trees, it will create splotchy areas during bright sunlight), and grass reflection (bright grass in harsh sunlight will give green reflective shadows on your faces).

Step 9. Book Major Vendors

Woohoo! Your date is set, and your venue is booked! Now is the time to choose your other vendors. Your photographer captures lasting memories, your caterer satisfies palates, and your DJ sets the mood for the celebration. Consider your priorities and what really matters to you, but also consider the person behind the camera, food table, or DJ booth. Remember that the provider, not just their services, will be at your wedding and - in the case of a photographer, coordinator, or planner - be with you often throughout your day. Make sure they are people who will save you stress, not cause you more of it.

Step 10. Choose Your Wedding Party Wisely

I know this part may seem obvious, but your wedding party will help you plan, hype you up, and set the mood on your wedding day. Make sure you choose people that you love and trust who you can lean on for support. Whatever expectations you may have for them when you ask them to stand by you, make sure those things are communicated clearly and give them an opportunity to say no without hurting your feelings if they aren't able to show up for you fully in the way you need. Don't choose people just because you "should," and don't feel pressured to have a certain number. This day is about you and your marriage!

Step 11. Shop For Wedding Attire

Once you have your "I do crew" don't waste any time finding your perfect dress! Finding the perfect dress is a journey—enjoy the experience and cherish the moments of selecting attire for you and your party. Unless you buy a dress right off the rack, it can take months to arrive even before alterations begin. Be realistic for your timeline. If you're getting married in 6 months or less order ASAP or checkout second hand dress shops so you can take it home right away. This goes for other attire as well but the dress usually takes the longest.

Bridesmaid dresses often need alterations as well. One alternative to buying new clothes for everyone is renting. This is especially popular for the guys' suits since it's unlikely that all the groomsmen have suits in the right color and they can get pricy. You can also go halfway and rent things like shoes, belts, and vests without having to get a whole suit.

Step 12. Simplify Your To-Do List

Get rid of anything that isn't important to you to save time, effort, and money. Most guests don't care for party favors unless they are useful or meaningful, so don't feel like you need everything on that master wedding checklist if it doesn't serve you. This also extends to other wedding traditions like cutting a cake, or having a lot of events in your ceremony. Realize that your wedding is a blank canvas that you can fully customize to your preferences and do what feels like you! You can also switch out traditional events with non-traditional ones instead.

Step 13. DIY Wisely

Be realistic about what you can and WANT to do yourself. You already have so much on your plate, so saving $15 or even $100 isn't necessarily worth it if it takes loads of time, adds stress, and buries you in projects. While DIY projects can add a personal touch, ensure they align with your vision without overwhelming your time and energy. Alternatively, consider if you can trust projects with others so you don't end up feeling like you're doing this alone. Ask yourself questions like: Is it important? Would hiring a professional or buying something make a huge difference in the outcome? Do you have a friend who can help you? Would the money saved make that big of a dent in your budget? If the answer was no to those questions, don't do it yourself.

Step 14. D E L E G A T E

You don't have to delegate right from the start but you WILL gave to delegate. Once you decide something needs done for your wedding, ask yourself if anyone you know and trust could do it in a way that satisfies your vision. If yes, ask them! It may feel like you're inconveniencing or burdening others but in reality, most people who love you would LOVE to help you. Even if you do most of the planning alone, make sure someone ELSE responsible for everything on your list on your wedding day. Trust me, you won't have extra time, and you don't want extra stress.

Step 15. Build A Timeline Schedule

This can be started as soon as possible but it doesn't need to be finished until you've got most of the details sorted out. I have found that it's helpful to have an idea of your wedding day schedule early on for multiple reasons. It helps you decide on what events to include; it helps know how long and when you need a photographer or other vendor service; and it helps you know the best time for photos in relation to your ceremony time. Collaborate with your vendors to create a comprehensive timeline that ensures every moment is captured and enjoyed.

A timeline will also be essential for a a smooth wedding day, especially if you're on a tight schedule or there is a lot of people involved. It is also nice for guests to have a simplified version of the timeline to know when to expect the next event. Especially if you have a full day, letting the guests in on what's next will keep them engaged and they might stay longer.

As a wedding photographer I know a wedding timeline can have a great effect on the flow of the day. That's why I create custom timelines for each of my clients and work with them to plan and prepare for the big day! So if you want to work with me to make this day everything you want it to be - or you already are - you can go ahead and skip this step. ;)

Ready to embark on your wedding planning journey? Connect with Bethany West Photography for personalized assistance and guidance.

With joy,

Bethany West

Bethany West

Thank you for reading this far! If you need a photographer feel free to checkout my work and send me an inquiry!