Congratulations… You’re engaged! You’ve shared the big news with friends and family – let the wedding planning begin! But where do you even start?
At first, wedding planning can feel overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be! The one thing you’ll notice as you plan your big day is that you’ll have to make decision after decision after decision. But before you let those decisions stress you out, consider these 6 important questions before you dive into the world of wedding planning. Once you know the answers to these 6 questions, you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to make your big day better than you could have ever imagined!
1) What’s Our Budget?
Your very first step should be figuring out how much money you want to spend on your wedding. Every couple is different and wedding budgets will vary depending on your financial situation and where you live – there is no magic number! Come up with an amount you feel is reasonable and then maybe add a little buffer just in case. Do your research – this handy guide from the Knot is a great place to start.
Your budget should never make you feel financially unstable or put you in a precarious situation. Always consider the financial responsibilities you have now – those won’t go away after you say “I Do”.
2) How Do We Allocate the Budget?
Now that you have a grasp on how much you want to spend on your wedding, you need to decide on how you want to use those funds. Decide how you want your wedding to look, sound, and feel – and then focus your budget on the important elements that you know you can’t compromise on.
Visualize your dream wedding, make a list of you and your partner’s “must-haves” and then plan accordingly. If you’re a foodie, this may mean spending a bit more to get food from a particular restaurant or chef. If you know you want a dance party all night, then you may want to spend more on an experienced and trusted DJ. If you aren’t even sure where to start, check out Six Expenses to Consider in Your Wedding Budget for to help get you pointed in the right direction.
3) Where Are We Getting Married?
One of the first contracts you’ll sign will be with your wedding venue, so one of the earliest decisions you’ll make in your wedding planning will be to figure out the type of space you want to tie the knot in. Are you hoping for an impossibly beautiful rustic look? Barns or converted warehouses are a good place to start. Thinking of something more edgy and modern? Check out local art galleries and industrial spaces. Or are you a traditional bride? There are tons of options out there for you! Once you know the aesthetic you’re going for, consult directories with reviews to help guide you. We like The Knot, Wedding Wire, or local sites, like this one for New Jersey couples.
Just make sure you choose a venue that hosts one wedding at a time; while they may be a little more expensive, you will get the exclusive treatment you want and deserve on your special day.
4) Should We Hire a Band or a DJ for Reception Entertainment?
Your wedding reception entertainment is the lifeblood of the event and it is probably the most talked about element afterwards. Years of experience have taught us that people may not remember every detail about a wedding, but they will always remember whether or not they had fun.
Because the entertainment is such a major element, you need to really do some research and weigh out your options (of which there are many). Here are a few things to consider when deciding on reception entertainers:
Variety: Whether a band or a DJ, your wedding entertainer should be flexible and willing to play all different types of music to make sure the dance floor is always packed.
Budget: In the hierarchy of event musicians, bands typically cost more than a DJ (though highly sought-after DJ’s can get up there in price as well). If you want to try to get the best of both worlds, consider adding a percussionist to play along with the DJ to infuse that live music feel at a reasonable cost!
Insurance: Most venues will require proof that all of your vendors have proper insurance, and that includes the entertainment! Make sure that you’re working with actual professionals so you won’t get caught off guard. And don’t forget the most important rule: stay away from hobbyists!
Style and personality: When making your choice, you want to hire professionals that are able to match and cater to your style and personality. If they are not willing to meet your requests and expectations, move on.
The Process: Planning a successful wedding takes time! Make sure you’re working with professionals that are methodical, organized, and have processes in place to ensure the proper execution of a rave-worthy event. A wedding is not like a birthday party – if it’s kind of lame this year, you can’t try again next year! It’s always good to remember that you have one shot at getting this done right, so make sure you do your research!
If you decide to go the DJ route, check out or Ultimate Guide to Hiring Your Wedding DJ to help your search!
5) How Will the Wedding Be Lit?
Of course your wedding is gonna be lit, but how are you going to make sure you aren’t sitting in darkness? By hiring wedding lighting professionals of course!
Lighting is an extremely important factor in setting the mood for your event. We highly recommend setting a budget aside for this before considering any other type of enhancement. When done right (by real professionals), the right wedding lighting can completely transform a room and event. Plus, good lighting means even better pictures for your photographer.
Here are just a few of the different lighting options that can shape your wedding:
Up-lighting: Fixtures that are strategically placed against the walls throughout the room. They can be static (meaning the lights will remain one color (of your choice) throughout the reception) or dynamic (the lights can change color, movement, etc.). Dynamic uplighting is programmed and controlled to move at slow, medium, or fast paces, depending on what you’re going for. A faster pace would be used during high energy dancing, while a slower pace would be used during the more relaxed parts of a wedding, such as dinner time. The colors will transition smoothly from one to the other and will match your color palette.
Moving Lights: These lights are excellent at not only making a room look amazing and can help delegate pace during the evening, whether it’s gently guiding the attention of the attendees, spotlighting speeches, or energizing the dance floor. These lights are controlled by a lighting operator to ensure that you won’t end up with a rave scene (unless you want one!) and to prevent lights shining into everyone’s eyes.
Pinspot Lighting: Specialized bulbs that are narrow spotlights (rather than a normal light bulb which has a wide angle wash light) are secured to freestanding surfaces by lighting designers and then focused to illuminate an object. These are perfect for lighting centerpieces, cake tables, buffets, floral arrangements, and more.
There are many different styles and options for lighting design so it’s important to make sure you’re being educated properly when meeting with vendors. If they can only speak about one type or style of lighting, then chances are that they don’t know anything about lighting design or operating the equipment properly.
6) How Can We Save Money?
Regardless of your financial situation, everyone likes to save money – it’s only human! Establishing your budget beforehand is key. Second, take time to consider the elements that are most important to you and eliminate those you can do without. Forget what everyone else is doing or what is considered traditional – instead, go with what makes you happy and works for you as a couple.
Think back on weddings you’ve attended. What don’t you remember? Invitations, flowers, favors, and all those small things that can suck up a large part of the budget but don’t really enhance the day one way or the other. These are your opportunities to save! Nobody will remember what kind of flowers were in your bridesmaids’ bouquets, but they will remember how much fun they had.
Invest your money in areas that are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Do your research. Meet with multiple vendors. Be confident in your decisions. And most of all, have fun and enjoy the process!
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
– Benjamin Franklin