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First 9 Steps To Enjoy Planning Your Wedding & Avoid Overwhelm

By Jennifer Sabini Evans

Happy New Year!

The holiday season is over and if you’re one of the lucky couples that got engaged recently, congratulations! Whether it was a snowy Christmas proposal or a New Year’s Eve surprise, you might already be overwhelmed with the task of planning your dream wedding. I am here to offer some advice and guidance as you embark on the exciting journey of wedding planning!

A table designed for a relaxed coastal boho romantic event. Creator: Jevgenija Zukova-Cernova/Getty Images

Post Pandemic Wedding Statistic: According to market research firm the Wedding Report, an incredible 2.47 million weddings are forecasted for 2022 – the most since 1984. After a trying time, people possess a newfound sense of joy and need for celebration. The world of weddings is about to explode with an abundance of innovation and creativity and that is fantastic news for anyone looking to tie the knot!

I don’t know about you, but I love a good checklist. I have found wedding planning checklists can be super useful, but they can also have tons of extra details that might stress you out more than help you out. Whether you’re planning a wedding in three months, six months, or 18 months, if efficiency is what you’re after, this simple planning checklist will serve as your ideal progress report.

Step #1: Exhale – You Got This!

When you are ready to dive into planning, treat yourself to a brand-new wedding notebook to keep yourself on track and motivated. If you want to keep track of your checklist digitally, I recommend creating an account with The Knot. Their tools help couples, stay organized and on track with a personalized checklist, budget and more!

Step #2: Before Making Any Other Decisions, Answer These 3 Things First.

As soon as you’re prepared to start seriously planning, select your date, set your budget, and secure your venue, all in relatively rapid succession. It might feel like a lot at once, but you’ll be so glad you have tackled these three essential decisions before planning your celebration!

Wedding Budget Tip: 50% of most budgets go toward Location, Food & Beverage & Rental Costs.

Step #3: Book Your “Must Have” Suppliers

It should come as no surprise that the secret to a great wedding is an even better team of talented experienced wedding vendors. (In my opinion, the fastest way to become the world’s most stressed out bride is to attempt to plan your wedding on your own.) Been there, done that and will not do that to myself ever again!

But, if you want to still take on the challenge, I put together a list of the type of suppliers you will need (at the very least!), with tips on when to sign the contracts, and how much you should budget for such costs. By securing your ‘must have’ suppliers first, you then have an idea of your remaining budget.

I realize that my list does not include every vendor you might require on your wedding day, so feel free to add your own and make it more your own. This is only my suggestion, but that doesn’t mean I think other suppliers are any less essential. It is after all your day, and you know you better than anyone else. So trust yourself.

Here are my 10 “Must-Have” Wedding Suppliers.
1-2. Venue & Caterer: Book 12 Months from Wedding Day

Depending on the menu, venue, set up, and alcohol consumed, catering costs can range from $25 to $100 plus per person, not including any decor or linen upgrades. Approximately 50% of most wedding budgets go toward Venue, Food & Beverage, & Rentals

3. Wedding Planner: Hire 12 Months from Wedding Day

Depending on the scope of work, full-service wedding planners charge anywhere from $5,000-$7,000, while month-of coordinators usually charge between $2,000-$3,000.

Wedding Dress Credit: Magda Moiola/Getty Images
4. Wedding Dress: Purchase 11 Months from Wedding Day

Pricing for wedding dresses will vary considerably depending on how much detail (like lace or beading) is included, and if the gown is custom-made. An average dress, however, is going to cost anywhere from $2,000-$6,000. Since you’re already in the fashion mindset, now is a great time to select your bridal party & groomsmen attire.

5-6. Photographer & Videographer: Hire 11 Months from Wedding Day

Experienced wedding photographers and videographers will charge between $2,800-$6,000+ depending on the experience level, demand and packages.

7. Floral Designer: Hire 8 Months from Wedding Day

Flower pricing is dependent on the amount of decor at your wedding. For the basics like bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages, you will want to budget $1,500. For the rest, the sky’s the limit.

NuGlam Artistry Hair & Makeup. Photography: Candids Photography
8. Hair & Makeup Team: Hire 6-8 Months before Wedding Day

On-site bridal hair will usually cost around $100 while full makeup application will average around $85. Bridesmaids and moms average around $85 for hair styling and $75 for makeup application. Trials and consultation for both typically run about $75.

9. Stationer: Hire 6-8 Months before Wedding Day

Depending on the complexity of the invitation suites, you can expect to pay between $4-8+ per invite. Further customizations will increase your per piece price.

10. Cake Designer: Hire 6-8 Months before Wedding Day

Your wedding cake will cost approximately $4-$8+ per slice depending on the complexity of the design, baker’s skill level and availability.

Step #4. Get Personal With Your Wedding Style & Make That Wedding Website

Once you’ve nailed down the big decisions, grab a glass of wine or a craft beer with your partner and complete your wedding website and registry –I promise, it’s fun! And it will also help you streamline your communication process with your guests, giving you and your partner time to enjoy your time together without constantly being interrupted with the same questions leading up to your wedding day.

Step 5. Have The Parties Before the Party

By the time you’re in the final stretch of wedding planning, trust us, you’ll welcome any escape—especially with friends. Now is the time to plan a bachelor or bachelorette party. It doesn’t have to be fancy or far flung (even a relaxing night in with friends painting your toenails would do, if that’s your style), but take some time to celebrate you and your hard work with your besties. If your loved ones want to host a bridal shower, make sure your registry is up-to-date so that your family members and friends can purchase your newlywed nest essentials like that Calphalon Contemporary Self Sharpening 20-Piece Cutlery Set or that Le Creuset Cast Iron Rice Pot you’ve been eyeing for years.

Step 6: Apply For Your Marriage License

Worcester County Court House in Snow Hill, Maryland

If you are planning a wedding ceremony in Ocean City, Maryland a marriage license from Worcester County is required to get married. The fee is $35.00. Should you have any questions, please call (410) 632-5500 or toll free 1-800-340-0691 or visit the Worcester County Website.

Photo: Candids Photography

Step 7: Arrange a Beach Ceremony

If you’ve always dreamed of saying “I do” with your toes in Ocean City, MD white sand, make sure to fill out Ocean City’s Wedding Notification Form. Since Ocean City doesn’t have a Justice of the Peace you will need to provide an officiant. Call the Ocean City Mayor’s Office at (410) 289-8931 for further questions.

Step 8. Finalize Setup & Day Of Details

The final portion of wedding planning is the time when you have to buckle down and get through the minutiae. I warn you, if you are overwhelmed, this period is a great time to call upon family members, friends, and your planner (if you opted to hire one) to help you tackle all of the remaining items on your wedding planning checklist. A few outstanding items may include: confirming your guest count, finalizing rental orders, flowers, catering updates and signature cocktails, the final dress fitting, putting together thank-you gifts, getting those favors together and sending a detailed shot list to your photographer/videographer so that these pros know exactly what to anticipate…..

And if that is not enough, make sure you establish your final expectations with your wedding party members, review your seating arrangements, meet with your officiant (to ensure all premarital counseling has been completed), and finalize any legal details like your marriage license and name change documents. And don’t forget to breathe!

It might feel like a lot, because it is a lot. But you can still do it! And trust me, if you make the time and take the effort to accomplish these last minute checks, you’ll cherish this time period after it’s over.

Step 9. Rehearse, “Eat, Drink and Be Married”

Wedding photo session on the beach. Credit: GladiusStock/Getty Images

You made it! The days leading up to your wedding should be as stress-free as possible, so if you realize you forgot something at this point, let it go (especially if it’s small). Your wedding will be yours, truly, because you tackled the biggest decisions first. In case of a snafu during the wedding festivities, designate a point person (like a planner, your maid of honor or best man) in advance. More than anything else: have a great time. Embrace and enjoy the wedding that you’ve planned for you and your guests, and focus on being present with your partner. It’s the best gift you can give yourself.

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