Newly Engaged? Here’s Our Go-To Wedding Planning Guide & Timeline to Help You Get Started
Love is certainly in the air! Valentine’s Day each year is one of the major holidays that many couples get engaged – truly, it’s the perfect date to plan your engagement and showcase your love and commitment to your partner! Valentine’s Day is such a special time to get engaged, and is actually a great time to start your wedding planning process – typically, many couples look to the summer and fall/winter for their wedding, so this gives you plenty of time to get started with preparations. According to The Knot, “the average engagement length is 16 months, and more than half of couples are engaged for over one year,” so we promise, you have plenty of time!
To our amazing newly engaged couples and readers: we want to extend a big congratulations on your engagement! It may feel overwhelming to know where to start with planning your wedding day. It is normal to feel a little overwhelmed when you first start planning your wedding, but the process can be both joyful and streamlined if you get your planning and preparations in order with the right guidance and timing.
Our handy guide will take you through the entire wedding planning process, step by step, from selecting a budget, planner, and your wedding date to finalizing all the details of your dream day. We want to ensure that you know of the key details that needs to be considered, planned, and organized, but we INSIST that you enjoy the process – this is one of the biggest days of your life, and you should enjoy and savor each moment of planning your big day!
The First Steps – Set Up a Budget and Choose Your Team
Before you jump into all the fun stuff, you will want to set aside a realistic budget and decide who will be on your team to help bring your wedding vision to life. Start by discussing how much money you are comfortable spending on your wedding with your partner, both sets of parents, or any other family members if they are contributing financially. Once that has been established, create an excel spreadsheet outlining the overall budget, and leave room for each vendor, their information and cost to roll up to the total budget. You can also use one of many wedding budget calculators available online which can help you divide up funds among different categories like venue fees, catering costs, photography services, flowers and more. We LOVE the planner through Zola and these spreadsheets from Wedding Forward!
Wedding Planning: You vs. Hiring a Wedding Planner
Next, determine who will be helping you plan this special day – this could include family members, friends, or even a professional wedding planner.
If you opt for a wedding planner (and we recommend you do!) – they are the most important vendor you will hire for your wedding – so it is super important to find the right fit for you & your vision and personality!
Professional planners will help to guide you seamlessly through each stage of the wedding planning process and will always direct you to their prime team of vetted wedding vendors, where they’ve established key relationships in each area of planning a wedding. On your wedding day, they will be onsite to coordinate and guide couples & their families through the flow of the day from ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception to the end of your momentous day. Their goal is to ensure your entire planning process is seamless and effortless so you can enjoy your day without stress and overwhelm.
Regardless of what route you decide, make sure that everyone is aware of their roles so that tasks do not overlap or fall through the cracks.
Create Your Dream Day – Choose Your Date
You’ve confirmed a budget and who will be assisting with your planning – great start! Next, it’s time to identify a wedding date!
Giving yourself at least a year to plan your wedding can be helpful for most couples. A wedding date at least a year out will give you plenty of time to check everything off your list—from finding and ordering a wedding dress (which can take 9 to 11 months) to booking your wedding venue (some are booked a year in advance).– The Knot
Check out their handy article on how to choose a momentous wedding date for you and your partner.
Many couples draw inspiration from key milestones or dates in their life, a season they both love, a cultural or religious tradition, even astrologically! Ahead of this, please consider having your wedding date at an off-peak time or weekend, and avoid holidays if you can help it. Trust us, this will be best for not only your guests, but everyone involved (plus will save you a lot on costs, too!)
Everyone knows what it’s like to get a wedding invitation over the 4th of July holiday. Do NOT be that person! Be very cautious of holidays, especially ones like New Year’s Eve or Day, Mother’s Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day amongst others, where many people and their families go on vacation and prices skyrocket in destination areas.
Check out the most popular wedding dates for the next year or so, and do your best to avoid those dates, or be mindful that your guests might not be able to make it! Check out his handy guide to get inspired when choosing your wedding date in 2024!
Personally, we never want to have to turn any couples away! For this year, we’re already fully booked for the most popular dates in 2023: May 13, June 10, July 6-8, October 6-9, among others.
Find & Book Your Dream Venue
Once all the logistics have been taken care of, it’s time for the fun part!
Start scouting out potential venues – consider what type of atmosphere would best fit your vision for the big day: formal or casual? Indoor or outdoor? Classic and Traditional? Minimalist and modern? Open-air? Grand hall? Destination?
Venues are booked up to 1 year in advance, and will likely be the biggest expense for your wedding (besides catering), so this is a very important decision!
Next, it’s time to consider what types of colors, themes, or any other novel or unique ideas you two have as a couple that you want to showcase to your friends, family, and loved ones for your big celebration. Your wedding is the ultimate expression of you both, and a celebration of what brings your two unique souls together in this incredibly momentous way!
Your inspiration can start with things like you find on Pinterest, Instagram, Tik Tok, and even Etsy! Your color themes would be a great place to start – your save the dates, invitations, dresses, suits, florals, and decor will match up with your colors and theme as well – this could include any stationary, wedding florals, table settings, lighting, rentals and keepsakes, photo moments, fixtures and more! Also, consider any additional vendors such as wedding florists, calligraphers, or cake designers who can help bring your vision together.
Why Wedding Florals?
We might be biased, but we believe florals can bring a wedding vision to the next level – we will write a full blog post on this soon!
Wedding florals have been used for millennia in celebration, honoring, and memorializing beauty, joy, love, luck, abundance, and fertility across many cultures and traditions around the world. It’s fascinating to look into the history of why flowers became so important to humans as a way to celebrate & commemorate life events, occasions, rituals, and more! This article is fascinating and traces humans’ love and admiration for flowers since we were hunter-gatherers.
Flowers are not only symbolic but provide a lush and fresh, delicate and beautiful, full sensory experience for your guests and loved ones, helping to define and elevate your physical space, provide texture, detail, and vibrancy to your venue, and can naturally lift mood states to joy and delight. They will look stunning in your photos and videos, and even can be preserved for long-lasting memories, keepsakes, and heirlooms! More on our article on how to preserve your wedding flowers, here.
Making it (Legally) Official
Keep in mind – make sure that you are familiar with local laws regarding marriage licenses in order for everything to go smoothly once it is time for “I do”!
Timeline – When Should Things Be Planned?
Once all the basics have been covered (budgeting/team set up/venue selection, inspiration on colors, themes, unique expressions of you as a couple), create a timeline which outlines when key things should be planned throughout the year leading up to the big day!
Here is an example timeline for 2023/2024 weddings:
12-16 months before: Outline budget, define planning team or hire a planner, book venue – define theme, colors, inspiration & unique expressions of you as a couple.
8-11 months before:
- Book photographer, videographer, caterer or food vendors, your florist
- Design invitations, and send out save the dates
- Book music – Live band? String quartet for ceremony and cocktail hour? DJ?
- Plan out guest accommodations.
- Find your officiant.
- Buy your wedding dress!
- Confirm your bridesmaids dresses to go along with your colors and theme
5-7 months before:
- Book hair stylist, makeup stylist
- Confirm rentals, linens, tableware, furniture
- Groom’s Suits
- Accessories – gifts, jewelry, veil or hair florals or accessories, and any special mementos
- Hire transportation if needed
2-4 months before:
- Finalize your wedding bands and rings
- Finalize and order your favors
- Send out your invitations!
1 month before:
- Finalize seating chart
- Confirm final counts & communicate updates with vendors.
1 week to a few days before:
- Rehearsal of ceremony & rehearsal dinner
1 day before:
- Rehearse ceremony, rest, and enjoy your evening! *butterflies*
- Time to say “I Do”! Luxuriate in the love and joy of your wedding!
Of course, this timeline may vary widely depending on each couple’s individual needs, but based on our experience with our couples, planners, and other wedding professionals, these are some of our best starting points! We hope that this blog post can serve as a helpful guide in making sure no major detail gets overlooked during what can be a hectic wedding planning process leading up to saying “I do”!
Additionally, keep in mind any estimated costs associated with each item listed above and their % to your total budget, there are handy guides that share how much each vendor might cost – adjust accordingly based on current market prices and be aware of inflation and how it might impact each wedding vendor and their associated costs (i.e flower prices, catering prices may change year over year).
Wedding budget breakdown
While actual wedding budget percentages will definitely vary from couple to couple, here is a typical breakdown of costs that can be applied to weddings and which you may use for your own wedding as a starting point:
50% Reception (Venue, Food and Beverages, Cake, etc.)Little Wedding Guide 2023
10% Bridal Gown and Accessories
10% Everything Else (Invitations, Gifts, etc.)
With a little bit of preparation, organization, and some help from family, friends and vendors along the way, we hope this guide has provided some clarity into how couples should begin their journey towards creating their dream wedding in 2023, 2024 and beyond!
Best wishes to all newly engaged couples looking forward celebrating love over Valentine’s Day 2023 and beyond.
Need guidance with your floral planning process? We’re here to help! Our 1:1 custom design services offer a delightful partnership with our couples to educate, inform and inspire your dream wedding floral vision. We have open dates for 2024 and select dates in 2023 – learn more and reach out to us, below, via our inquiry form!