For couples who are planning a first wedding, on the surface, it always seems as if it’s just a matter of picking this and that, scheduling a few things and signing a contract or two. But when couples get about knee keep in the wedding planning process, many begin to feel overwhelmed, defeated and stressed out. Wedding planning is much more than picking colors, scheduling the caterer, and signing a venue contract. In order for your day to go as smoothly as possible, it needs to run with military precision. Before you dive headfirst into your wedding planning, take a second to read these very first steps to planning your wedding day. I think they’ll help.

Wedding Planning Step #1: Choose a Wedding Planner

Step one. Choose a wedding planner.

First mistake. Many couples think they can save money by not hiring a wedding planner, but the honest truth is that nine times out of 10, a wedding planner will not only save you money, they will also save you time. AND, they will make your actual wedding day much more enjoyable (and memorable) because they will be the one stressing out about all the minute details of your day while you freely celebrate your love. (What would you rather be the most memorable thing about your wedding day—how you had to look for your wedding bands for an hour-and-a-half before the ceremony, where the champagne flutes got misplaced, why Grandma Betsy was the last one to eat OR how your husband gazed straight into your heart during the first dance and whispered the most amazing love notes in your ear?)

first steps to planning a wedding

But how does this added expense save you money exactly? By hiring a wedding expert right off the bat, they can lead you to reputable wedding vendors who will perform exactly as you need them to. You don’t have to waste time researching and interviewing possible candidates. A good wedding planner will already have knowledge of vendors’ styles and price ranges. They will have a library of vendors who are trustworthy. You minimize the chances of having to re-do or re-purchase things because you started out on a solid foundation.

First Steps to Planning a Wedding

Wedding Planning Step #2: Set a Rough Budget

Step two. You should have a general idea of your wedding budget. This doesn’t have to be an exact dollar amount, but you should know if your budget is closer to $15k or $125k. This will set the guidelines for everything that follows.

how to easily plan a wedding

Planning Step #3: Create an Estimated Guest List

Step three. When asked, I like to advise my couples to use the tiers of wedding guest selection and the ABC’s. How does this work? Create three tiers: 1) immediate family and bridal party 2) anyone you can’t imagine celebrating without 3) all others. Include your ABCs in group 2. These are people that you usually share or celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, or Christmas (or other religious holidays) with. I would even go so far as creating a fourth group and putting everyone in there who you haven’t seen in the last five years (or whatever your personal threshold is.)

Make sure you get both mothers to help with this list, but remember you (the couple) have the final say—especially if you’re footing the bill.

wedding planning 101

Planning Step #4: Select Your Venue/Set Your Wedding Date

Step four. Now that you know what you can spend and how many people you need to accommodate, you can begin looking at wedding venues and simultaneously, set your wedding date. It’s a good idea to have a general idea of what you want your wedding day to look like or a wedding theme. For instance, if you’re envisioning a black tie affair with chandeliers and vaulted ballroom ceilings, there’s no sense in visiting rustic venues. A barn venue can certainly be transformed into just about anything your heart desires, but it’s going to cost you.

Planning Step #5: Hire Photographer/ Videographer

Step five. This is where I come in. Please book your photographer (and videographer) out early. First off, we generally book out a year in advance. So, if you have your heart set on someone, make sure you grab them up quick. Secondly, by having a long-term relationship with your wedding day creatives, it increases the chance that your actual wedding day photos are going to be that much more incredible because these are not just people showing up with cameras. These are friends. And you trust them. And you feel comfortable when they give direction and get in your personal space with your lover.

first steps to planning a wedding

I have to add that these are not how couples usually do things. They usually don’t opt for that wedding planner (step one) and rush to the nearest bridal dress boutique to pick out a gown. They lust for all the fun, exciting parts of the wedding planning which, more often than not, causes headaches, stress, and the need to pivot down the line. And, here are some additional tips from if you don’t want to take my word for it.

Do yourself a solid. Take your time and do things in a chronological order that makes sense. Work with professionals who won’t let you down. And love hard.

Let’s “hangout!” I wanna hear about your love story!

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For more options, visit my “Let’s Connect” page.

About Ata-Girl

I am a San Antonio-based wedding photographer and I cater to outdoor-loving couples who prefer to have all the realness captured on their wedding days. I am the wedding photographer for the outdoor adventurers, the romantics, the laid back, the snugglers, and those who wish to capture all their realness.

I am absolutely in love with capturing the kinds of weddings where there are more hugs than handshakes, the dance floor rumbles all night long, and chairs are pretty much rendered useless after dinner. Whiskey bottles are passed around, most of the wedding party has been best-best friends since kindergarten, Grams is likely to lose her shoes and your partner is much more emotional than you are. These kinds of weddings are my jam!

You can always call or text, but if you really want to get to know me, schedule a meetup!

I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journeys and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to get your hands on 20 FREE interactive wedding planning tools that every couple needs, please take a moment to access them here.

I am a published author (purchase my book here), a podcast host (listen here) (watch here) and a WPPI-C certified professional, full-time wedding photographer. I specialize in a 10-day image delivery, same-day prints, same-day slideshows, Italian handcrafted wedding albums and I have a mobile meeting space.

When I’m not behind my camera, you can find me hiking, cycling, backpacking, camping, enjoying water sports, listening to music (Elvis and Prince), hunting for arrowheads, reading audiobooks, occasionally eating a few glazed donuts (my only weakness to sweets) and then re-starting my keto diet about every 10 days. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents and grandson would be proud of.

The post, The Very First Steps to Planning a Wedding, first appeared on Ata-Girl Photography Co.’s website and blog. Please feel free to comment here, or share this post with your friends via Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Please email me if you have any questions about this article or want to share a neat idea for a future blog post with me.