1. Choosing Guests/Venue (Step One)
Get an idea of the approximate number of guests you’ll invite before choosing a venue. This will ensure that there is plenty of space for everyone you want there. As a general rule of thumb, allow for 20 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot of space, but it’s really not if you count the space you will need for the tables, servers, the DJ or band and a dance floor. Also consider #3 when choosing the venue.
2. Discover Wedding Blackout Dates
Learn ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade show, community event, or any other local event that could affect traffic, lodging availability or your potential guests ability to attend. Think about things like holidays, other weddings (we have seen other people schedule their wedding the same day as another friend and it tears people to choose one to attend) etc.
3. How’s the Weather?
Think about when and where you are planning the wedding. Is it historically hot, cold, rainy or snowy? Will you and your guests be comfortable? If you like rain on your wedding day, that’s fine, but this is the time to start planning accordingly. Your friends don’t want to get bit my misquotes and burn in the desert sun, they also don’t want to freeze. Make sure you also tell your guests what to expect to some extent if isn’t already obvious and select a venue that will help everyone enjoy the occasion.
4. Get Organized
We recommend getting a binder to keep all the necessary details in. When you are planning a wedding it’s important that you keep the details on paper so you can enjoy yourself. eg. If you talk to ten DJs, Photographers, Caterers, etc., you should write notes about your communication with each of them so you can make the most educated decisions and it will be well noted and in line across the board. You can keep all of the samples, invoices, Pinterest print outs and more all in the binder where you can find it to share!
5. Choose your Vendors Wisely
Photographers, Videographers, Musicians, DJs, Caterers, the Venue and more! Who has the best price and who sounds the most professional? Do they have a track record or is this their first rodeo? Make sure they have good communication skills because those errors can affect your wedding DRASTICALLY. You don’t want the DJ showing up an hour late and you don’t want to miss photos of the ceremony. You will have 1000 things to worry about before the wedding so you should choose vendors that are detail oriented (that ask YOU questions). That way they can get the job done on the day of the wedding, and you will be able to enjoy yourself on your wedding day! (We are pretty detailed and have over 200 weddings under our belt here at Prolific Circle) We provide professional Photographers, Videographers, DJs, and have awesome connections to Cake Artists, Caterers, Venues and More!
6. Credit Check
It’s not the worst thing in the world to use a little credit sometimes, so applying for a credit card may not be a bad idea depending on your cashflow. Even if your pockets are fat, using cards with rewards may be a really smart way to save thousands on flights. eg. some cards offer 50,000 points for spending $3000 in the first three months. That’s enough points to pay for round trip flights to cancun for a week so you can spend that elsewhere! You are going to spend the money either way so you may as well get something for it right? (That’s what we did for our honeymoon, haha)
7. Plan the Meal
Plan the meals for your guests but don’t forget the vendors that will be with you for 6 or more hours (yes they get hungry too). Surf and turn sounds great, until you realize you have 300 guests and that may not be practical at $20 per plate (over $6000). Then again this is your wedding day so splurge where you choose. Choose a food vendor that is familiar with the venue so that all that flows smoothly.
8. Bar/Server Ratio
I general you need about one bar tender per 50 guests. You may consider adding a server or two depending on the number of guests you plan to have. It’s no fun not being able to get a drink/refill at a wedding so make sure you have the bar ready to roll.
9. Manage the Mailers/Invites
You may not think postage will amount to much but it really can if you realize that some of the people you invite will not be able to attend. Don’t choose an abstract size envelope that will cost an arm and a leg when you mail out 300 of them. Talk to the post office and the person designing the invites to make this cost effective.
10. Prepare to be Rejected
Its general rule of thumb, that about 30 percent of the people you invite will not attend. Obviously, this depends a lot on the location of your wedding (destination weddings may have less guests), how many non-locals are on your list, and the timing of the event (some guests may have an annual holiday or other summer plans).
11. Make a Uniform Kids Policy
You have four choices: You can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an “adults only” wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide day care either at the reception space, in a hotel room or at a family member’s home. To prevent hurt feelings, it’s wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).
17. Prioritize Your People
Pare down your guest list with the “tiers of priority” trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends you can’t imagine celebrating without. Under that, list your parents’ friends, neighbors, coworkers and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.
18. Take It One Step at a Time
Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don’t take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don’t hire any vendors before you’ve confirmed your date; don’t design your cake before you’ve envisioned your flowers; and don’t book a band before you’ve settled on a space.
21. Provide Accurate Driving Directions
Make sure guests know where they’re going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong or there’s a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts or digital copies of recommended driving directions and even test out the routes yourself. Then include the best directions on your wedding website or email them to your guests to print out if they’d like.
22. Keep a Paper Trail
Get any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, “Hello, just confirming that you’ll keep the venue open until 2 a.m. versus midnight.” Don’t just assume everything’s all set—sometimes, by the time the actual day rolls around, your contact for a certain may no longer be working there to vouch for you.
23. Schedule the Setup
You must make sure there’s ample time for setup. If you’re renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask what time people can come in to start setting. Preston Bailey, author of Preston Bailey’s Fantasy Weddings, recommends seeing if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event starts.
25. Go Over Ground Rules
Be prepared—ask the manager of the house of worship or site where you’ll be married for the list of restrictions (if any). For instance, is flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you’re exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often not allowed)?
26. Classify Your Cash
Wedding budgets are all about balance. Start your budget planning by making a checklist of the crucial details, like the music, your wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers and the photographer, and assign a number to each—one being the most important and three being the least. Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can’t fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food are what really matter, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.
27. Help Guests Pay Attention
Make sure your guests can both see and hear from their seats. If people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium, consider renting a mic and a riser. This could range anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the equipment used. You’ll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.