The A to Z Guide to Planning Your Wedding

Need a jump start on your to-do list? Take our crash course in wedding know-how. It's as easy as A-B-C!
By: 
Kristen Finello

Getting engaged couldn't be more exciting, but once you actually start on the task that lies ahead of you, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. There's so much involved in planning a wedding: Should you have an outdoor event? Should you send save-the-date cards? When do you mail your invitations? Do you really need to have an open bar?

Your head might start spinning as you ponder the difference between an escort card and a place card. Relax—here are all the basics you'll need to help you pull together a memorable wedding.

fairytale wedding
Photo Credit: Mango Studios

Ambience

Close your eyes and try to envision your perfect wedding. Is it a bold-colored blast with a trendy fusion menu? Or perhaps a relaxed, nature-inspired affair in stunning shades of green? Zeroing in on the type of ambience you want your event to evoke is the first step in making your dream wedding a reality.

For inspiration, grab a stack of magazines (wedding, home and travel mags work best) and tear out any photos that catch your eye. Lay them side by side and look for the common thread—serene blues and greens, for example. Chances are these colors will create the feeling that's right for you.

Attendants

The number of attendants you choose is up to you. You can keep it small and ask just your closest sibling or best friend, or extend your entourage to include more pals or family members. Remember that you aren't required to have the same number of bridesmaids and groomsmen, so don't feel compelled to ask someone to join your bridal party just to keep the sides even.

Budget

Developing a realistic budget is admittedly not the most romantic part of planning your wedding, but you certainly can't do much of anything before you figure one out. To get a sense of how much dough you have to work with, determine how much you and your fiancé have available and sit down with both sets of parents to find out what, if anything, they are able to contribute.

B-List

Second, avoid putting people who know one another well on separate lists. If a B-list coworker happens to compare notes with an A-lister, for example, she'll likely realize that she didn't make the top tier. Ouch!

Ceremony

This is just what it sounds like: a list of guests who will score invites to your wedding if any guests on your A-list decline. Here's how to carry this off without offending anyone. First, send your A-list invites out eight to 10 weeks before your event so you have enough time to get responses and move on to the B-list. (You don't want your B-listers receiving their invitations suspiciously close to your wedding date!)

This is really the heart of your wedding day, and there are lots of choices when it comes to what's best for you. You can opt for a religious ceremony at a house of worship, a legal ceremony at city hall or a courthouse, or a spiritual ceremony in just about any location, from a tranquil garden to an elegant ballroom or private home. If you and your future husband are of different faiths, consider an ecumenical or interfaith ceremony that incorporates elements from each of your religious traditions.

ceremony
Photo Credit: Mango Studios

Destination wedding

If you're thinking about tying the knot across the country or even halfway around the world, you're right in style. Destination weddings are getting more popular all the time. If you want to get hitched abroad, be sure to thoroughly research your dream destination's marriage requirements. Some mandate that you must be in the country for a specific number of days before the wedding, for example. Another option: Skip the hassle of foreign laws, marry officially in the U.S., and then have a religious or spiritual ceremony and a reception at your destination.

Emergency kit

Don't leave for the ceremony without an emergency kit packed with essentials for tackling common wedding-day mishaps like torn hems or broken heels. Some must-haves: double-sided fabric tape, a small sewing kit, superglue, deodorant, breath mints, clear nail polish, moleskin and tissues.

Engagement parties

These are entirely optional, but they can be a fun way for the bride's and groom's family and friends to get acquainted before the wedding day. Any willing friend or relative can host an engagement party, but if more than one is planned, the bride's parents get the first shot if they wish to host. The party can be a traditional cocktail party, a laid-back barbecue or a buffet brunch—anything goes!