01/09/2014 04:03 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2014

How to Start Planning Your Wedding

Yay, you're engaged! This is one of the most exciting and happiest times in your life. It can also be a very overwhelming and emotional time. So many vendors to research, not knowing the cost of items or if something is normal procedure -- you will be chasing your tail before you know it! Below is a list of tips to help get you started. Hopefully, they will help ease the pressure and get you going on planning your dream wedding.


  • Have an honest conversation with your spouse-to-be and, if they will be involved, your parents. Figure out who will be contributing and how much they are comfortable with.
  • Be realistic! It is important to come up with a realistic budget. This can be hard, though, since most people have no idea what a wedding costs. I find clients are often surprised by the actual cost of having a wedding. Be prepared for numbers to change from what you initially think things will cost. Unless you have a background in events, it is very hard to guess what different items should be. The Internet is a great source to see what is normal, but keep in mind that it varies depending on where you live. The cost of a downtown Toronto wedding will be different from a wedding that is in the GTA, or one that is in New York City, Texas, Montreal or Alberta.
  • Make a list of all the vendors you will need to hire: i.e., venue, photographer, florist, stationery, wedding planner, DJ, cake, etc. Number them based on priority. That way, when if comes down to cutting items or making decisions between vendors, you know where you want to spend money and where you are willing to sacrifice.
  • Most likely, 40 to 50 percent of your budget will go towards food and beverage. The rest should be divided up between other areas and the percentages will depend on your priority list. Photography and stationery might be at the top of your list, so you may need to spend less on décor and a DJ. Or vice versa. Of course, not all weddings will fall into these divisions, but it is a great place to start.

Guest List

  • It is usually best to write out a list of absolutely every person you would consider inviting to your wedding. This gives you a feel for the largest number you could invite.
  • Ask parents for a list of whom they would like to invite.
  • Start to categorizes the list by family, closest friends, other friends, work associates and a "think about" option. Starting with a large list and then categorizing guests lets you get a feel for the crowd at your wedding (family heavy, friend focused, etc.) This will also help you cut the list back, if you need to. Do keep in mind that the larger your wedding the more limited you will be with venue spaces.

Start a Venue Search

  • The venue (i.e., your food and beverage) is going to be the largest expense and is generally one of the most important aspects to planning a wedding. The "feel" of your wedding is often based on the venue. Formal vs. casual, rustic vs. elegant, modern vs. traditional or a mixture of them all.
  • Start by doing an Internet search of wedding venues and make a list of the ones you like. Most likely, a theme will develop from there.
  • Contact the venues to see if they are available and what they cost.
  • Narrow your list down and start making appointments for site visits. Seeing a few spaces and speaking with the venue coordinators will really help you get a feel for what to do. The rest will start to fall into place from there.

This list should help get you started. Once you have a venue, there is still a lot to do (booking the photographer, florist, stationary, wedding planner, DJ, cake, etc.) Hiring a wedding planner early in the process is a great way to cut down on the Internet research. A wedding planner will also be able to help you make decisions about what's realistic for your budget and focus you on vendors that fit within your budget (shameless plug, I know!).

Check back next week for a detailed wedding planning timeline for more help.