Planning Your Dream Wedding: A Stress-Free Guide to Navigating the Process With Ease

Planning your dream wedding; photo of a wedding in the tropics; outdoor tropical dream wedding

Don't let the daunting wedding planning process stress you out! With the right mindset and effective strategies, you can make it a fulfilling and rewarding experience. We've created this guide just for brides-to-be, full of practical tips and advice to keep you organized and help you enjoy every step leading up to your big day. Arm yourself with these helpful insights to tackle any challenge that comes your way, and plan a wedding that goes above and beyond your wildest dreams! 

We suggest you consider the following helpful insights when planning your dream wedding:

1. Imagine what your dream wedding will look like 

Imagine your wedding day. Will it be grand or intimate? Will you want to add vintage accents or go traditional? You'll need to choose a theme and decide where to tie the knot. Will it be a special venue or unique destination? The possibilities are endless!

Do this ideation activity with your partner. Come prepared to discuss your ideas about a number of major themes such as location, theme, wedding color palette, food and music. And keep in mind that you don't need to make the big decisions now. You're just brainstorming and exploring the possibilities. Couples often disagree during wedding planning and change their minds. Enjoy the process by getting creative on the couch or over dinner! And remember, it's ok to have differing opinions during the meeting, after all, you are two different people. But if you talk it out, there will be less surprises along the way. For help on how to include your groom in this process, check out "How to Include the Groom in the Wedding Planning".


2. Decide on a budget 

Planning your dream wedding on a budget; photo of a glass jar with coins in it and a label on the jar with the word "wedding", showing that it's a wedding savings jar or a couple working with a wedding budget


Let's be real, it's time to give your wedding fund a serious reality check. Don't freak out over budgeting though. Instead, view it as a chance to flex your financial savvy skills as partners in crime. Ready to tackle this challenge? In addition to "The Bride Guide on Wedding Budgeting", here are some suggested steps to success:

  • Help from others - Don't forget to consider contributions from others for your wedding. Are your folks pitching in? Maybe a relative or a really good friend who will pay for photography and flowers as their gift to you? You need to know how much everyone plans to contribute, so you can be smart about budgeting. Hey, we get it. Money talk can be awkward, but trust us - do your homework beforehand for a painless "talk."
  • What you already have - Take a peek into your piggy bank. What does the cash situation look like? How much have you tucked away in savings? It's crunch time - what percentage of that money stash are you willing to use up for your wedding? Remember to jot that number down as soon as possible and do your best to stay committed. Don't let the temptation of shiny new things derail your savings goals!
  • Start cutting back now - Want a dream wedding that won't break the bank? It's time for some money saving magic! Pinch a few pennies here and there - like saying goodbye to dining out or stretching your salon manicures to 3 weeks instead of 2. Read "10 Clever Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding"for more ideas. Do all these little things and you can watch your wedding fund grow faster than you can say, "I do!"
  • Add it all up - Combine these numbers to get an estimate of your overall wedding budget. ballpark figure for your nuptial expenditure!

Be sure to add an extra 5-10% for unexpected expenses. This may not be the most glamorous part of planning your dream wedding, but it's mission-critical if you want to avoid financial surprises.


3. Get help 

Planning your dream wedding with a wedding planner; black woman wedding planner holding a clipboard in a wedding salon


Planning your dream wedding is no easy feat – it takes more than just you and your partner to make it happen. Don't be shy, ask for help when you need it! Here are some ideas on where to find that support:

  • Get the perfect wedding without breaking a sweat - hire a wedding planner! Think decor, venue selection, dress ideas that match your style, and more. A wedding planner is like a genie in a bottle – they can manage many of the tasks on your wedding checklist with ease. And guess what? You don't need to go full-service! Some couples opt for partial-service planners while others plan themselves and only hire a day-of coordinator. More importantly, a wedding planner can help you focus on what's important and that's celebrating your love for each other. Read about the 4 Ways a Wedding Planner Can Reduce Stress on Your Big Day.
  • Don't let a tight budget stop you! Enlist the help of your loved ones to plan your dream event. Trust us, they'll be thrilled to lend a hand. Just make sure not to burden one person with too much responsibility, as they've got their own lives to manage too.
  • Technology and tools can be useful with your wedding planning too! Snag some incredible free wedding planning apps to keep yourself relaxed and well-organized during your big day preparations. Trust us, downloading is a must. Plus, why not peek at some top-notch wedding planning books or follow wedding gurus on social media? These resources will have you feeling like a wedding planning pro in no time.

 4. Choose a wedding date

Don't wait to choose your wedding date, start the countdown now! Round up your essential guests and determine a date that suits all. Remember: popular venues fill up fast on weekends, so don't stall. If you're on a tight budget, then consider a weekday wedding for potential savings.

Make sure to have your top-three possible wedding dates ready when you start researching venues Consider including two dates in the same season and one in another to keep it flexible. And if you're working with a timeline less than 12 months, check availability at your dream venue before locking down the perfect day.


5. Select the members of your wedding party

Bridesmaids wearing pink gowns and groomsmen wearing dress pants and suspenders; members of the wedding party 

Selecting the perfect group when planning your dream wedding is no easy feat. From pre-wedding festivities to your grand exit, these handpicked groomsmen and bridesmaids will be by your side. So choose wisely, as they'll be with you every step of the way until your wedding festivities are over.

When it comes to choosing your wedding party, go with your gut and select those that you absolutely want by your side. Yeah, there might be some egos involved, but don't sweat it! A little chat with those left out should help clear the air. Remember to invite those who didn't make the cut to some "exclusive" pre-wedding events, like the bachelor/bachelorette bash or rehearsal dinner.


6. Decide on your guest list

Planning your dream wedding with a wedding guest list; seating chart


Don't let the guest list stress you out! Pick a relaxed weekend when you have some time on your hands to tackle this task. One thing to know is that there will be a difference if you're planning a small guest list or a big one.

To create your wedding guest list, look through your contacts and social media for people who you want to invite and put them two categories: 1 and 2. Category 1 is for the VIPs, family and friends you absolutely need there. Category 2 is for everyone else – extended family, colleagues, and friends you'd like to invite. Take a break before moving on to Category 2. Then, narrow down the list until it fits your desired wedding size. Be ruthless!

With this exercise, you're allowed to add anyone you want to the guest list without hesitation, even if they live far away or your partner doesn't know who they are.


7. Decide where you'll get married & confirm availability 

Outdoor wedding venue; chairs, wedding altar with flowers

When planning your dream wedding, the venue you choose for your ceremony will set the stage for all your wedding plans. You can choose a space that will accommodates both the "I do's" and the wedding reception. Or, you can separate them, especially if you have your heart set on saying your nuptials at a place of worship.

Hopefully the venues you've narrowed down will be available on your preferred wedding dates. Be sure to complete a site visit so that you're sure the venue will suit the wedding you have in mind. When you're ready to check out various venues, we recommend you read "Wedding Venue Shopping? Here Are the Questions You Should Ask?"


8. Decide if you need a wedding theme and then align on the details

If you're having a small, intimate wedding with a marriage officiant presiding, then that itself will be the theme. You'll just need to pull together a small guest list plus food and the celebration is all set.

But if you'll be having a bigger wedding, then a theme might add that extra touch of fun for everyone involved. We have a number of theme ideas for you to consider, such as an Anne of Green Gables theme or 10 Stylish Themes for Your Contemporary Wedding. Regardless what you land on, a theme will help guide decisions in some other critical areas such as decor, color palette, food and music when planning your dream wedding.


9. Select your wedding stationery

Part of planning your dream wedding means choosing your save-the-dates (if you'll be using them) and your formal invitation card suite, which includes the reply cards as well. Standard practice is to give guests a heads up on your wedding date and sending them out 6 to 10 months in advance is good courtesy. Of course, these timelines would change depending in your actual wedding timeline. While you're at it, choose your formal invitations to match the save-the-dates. These are usually sent out about 6 to 12 weeks before the actual wedding day.

Sending out cardstock invitations is a classic tradition that many couples still love to hold on to. They make a nice memento after the wedding and your family members may want to keep it as well. The wedding theme you've chosen will dictate the style of invitation to choose. And, don't forget to let the theme flow into the language and tone you'll use when writing the invitations as well. "Add a Personal Touch With Creative Wedding Invitation Envelopes" might give you some additional inspiration.

If you don't plan on sending out actual invitations and you're choosing to be more eco-friendly, you can use a number of websites to design and send out your invitations as well as track RSVPs. In addition, many of these sites offer free wedding websites where you can feature all the details of your wedding.

To make things even easier for you, check out the number of free online seating chart tools. They'll allow you to track RSVPs, assign seats and make note of dietary restrictions along the way.


10. Research vendors

The success of planning your dream wedding hinges on one crucial factor: vendors. Seize control of the reins and curate the ultimate celebration tailored to your style and location by handpicking each vendor. Luckily, all-inclusive venues can take care of business if you prefer, but be sure to meet with them for a chitchat about style and flavor.

If you're planning the wedding yourself, vendors you'll likely consider include a musician, DJ, photographer, videographer, caterer, hair/makeup artist, florist and a marriage officiant.

Regardless of how many vendors you choose, make sure you don't lose sight of the budget that you created as part of your planning process! It'll be easy to get carried away with all the add-ons and upgrades. Just stick to your budget and prioritize what's important to have at your wedding.


11. Plan your wedding day outfit

Planning your dream wedding includes picking out your wedding day outfit; wedding dress, wedding shoes, accessories


All we can say is that you should wear what makes feel your best, when you're planning your dream wedding. Figuring out your wedding day outfit is going to be far more involved than picking out your birthday outfit. Regardless if you're going with a traditional outfit or if you're going to incorporate a cultural outfit, just be sure to leave enough time for alterations along the way.


12. Choose your food and beverage options


Wedding day food and beverage; various appetizers, cake, champagne displayed on the table

When it comes to catering for your wedding, whether you choose to hire a third-party caterer and cake designer, or use an all-inclusive venue, there are many decisions to make with regards to food and drink. Ensure that your menu offers a wide array of options that can cater to different dietary preferences such vegan and vegetarian choices. You may also want to request that guests share any dietary restrictions on the RSVP.

How you choose to feed your guests is entirely up to you. It can be a celebration brunch if you want it earlier in the day or even a cocktail reception with substantial appetizers if you don't want a formal sit down meal. Some couples have chosen a family-style meal and others have gone ultra casual with a dinner reception at their favorite fast food joint!


13. Create your wedding registry


Don't just mindlessly throw items on your wedding registry - take a step back and assess what you really want and need. If you enjoy hosting elaborate dinner parties, then focus on those types of items for your registry. If you're a more casual and not very traditional couple, then don't feel obliged to register for the fine china dinnerware set. Interestingly, more and more couples are skipping the wedding registry and choosing to register for a cash fund or a honeymoon fund instead.

If you do create a wedding registry, be sure to have a number of price points to suit all your guests. Have some affordable items for younger guests and pick some items that make good group gifts too.


14. Plan and schedule the pre- and post-wedding celebrations

Women dressed up for a bachelorette party; cocktails, fun hats with the bride-to-be

Think that you're just planning for the big day? Think again - weddings are a full-blown journey that includes much more than just the actual wedding day.

Events you might need to plan for or at least schedule time for include: your engagement party, bridal shower, bachelor and bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinner, post-wedding brunch and your honeymoon.

If you haven't noticed, there's going to be a lot going on from now until even after your wedding. Our suggestion is to not completely load up your schedule so that it's beyond belief. Make sure you're scheduling enough time off as a couple to enjoy the entire process. Brides - we're speaking to you specifically on this one. Trust us as we've been there when we're telling you this. The wedding journey is going to be stressful and depending on your wedding timeline, it can be fast and furious. Be sure to celebrate all the milestones along the way and enjoy the process. Many brides are turning to engagement and wedding subscription boxes as a way to relieve the wedding planning stress and to remind them to celebrate. Mrs... At Last! offers a set of six wedding-themed subscription boxes that take you from your engagement to after your wedding day.


15. Send out your wedding invitations

If you've gotten to this point, then you're likely 6 to 12 weeks before your wedding day. Get family and friends to help you set up an assembly line to stuff the invitations and get them in the mail. Once they're on the way to the intended recipients, your wedding is going to feel more real.

A few tips to keep in mind when you're addressing your invitations:

  • Everyone should be getting an invitation, even if they have a formal role in wedding. This includes parents and your bridal party.
  • All the names of those invited should be clearly indicated. That way, there is no second guessing as to who is invited, including children.
  • There's no need to send individual invitations to married couples - they can both be on the same invite.
  • If a guest is allowed to bring a plus one and you don't know who it might be, you can include 'and guest' after the invitee's name.
  • If your friends are unmarried, etiquette states that you name the closest friend first followed by their partner.


16. Get your marriage license

All soon-to-be married couples need a marriage license. Be sure to check the requirements well in advance so there are no surprises, especially if you have a destination wedding planned. You'll need to bring a number of government-issued documents, so read the checklist thoroughly before you head out.

Many couples make the mistake of thinking that it's an application form that you can grab and fill out at home. In most cities, you should be showing up to obtain your marriage license with your partner that you intend on marrying.


17. Arrange or suggest accommodations for out-of-town guests

If you have out-of-town guests attending your wedding, now's the time to figure out their accommodations. Regardless if you're paying for the accommodations or not, arrange a room block at a hotel or several hotels near the wedding venue.

Alternatively, you can talk to friends or family to see if they'd be willing to host the out-of-town guests as well. If you're going to be getting married during peak season, be sure to book early as accommodations can quickly fill up with vacationers as well.


18. Select your wedding rings

 Pair of white gold wedding rings; groom wedding ring; bride wedding ring with diamonds

If you didn't pick out your wedding rings after you got engaged, then now's the time to do it. Give yourself at least a few months in advance of your wedding day to get this done.

You can either pick matching bands or two separate designs - that decision is completely up to you as a couple. Consider whether getting warranty on the rings is a good idea. If it's a fairly sizeable investment like the engagement ring, then it may be a worthwhile expense.


19. Assign a crisis coordinator

At this point, you're probably pretty close to your wedding day and most big items have already been planned. What's coming up will be all the excitement that you've been planning for a long time. You certainly don't want anything to go sideways, so consider tapping someone to be the "crisis coordinator" on the actual day. If you have a wedding planner, they likely will play that role. Otherwise, you can consider hiring a wedding day-of-coordinator to make sure everything goes smoothly. Other people you could ask do this task would be your best man and maid of honor. Regardless, just make sure that the last minute details or anything requiring intervention is assigned to someone reliable and trustworthy.


20. Last check-in with the wedding team

Make sure everything's on track by checking in with key wedding vendors. Your wedding planner might need final details, so check in with them to make sure everything is on schedule. Keep family and the wedding party in the loop, too and make sure everything is good in the days leading up to the wedding. Lastly, be sure to take some time off and relax with your sweetie before tying the knot!

We also suggest staying on top of things and avoid any last-minute mishaps by creating a pre-wedding checklist with all your vendors' names, contact information, and key details that might need follow up.

The days leading up to your wedding day are bound to have some bumps along the way. But will the help of the tips and suggestions provided in this guide, you'll be more prepared to handle anything that comes your way when planning your dream wedding!


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