Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Your Wedding

There's a ring on your finger. Now what? Read on: Perfect planning starts here.
By: 
Denise Schipani

Managing Your Budget

green place center

No matter what your wedding budget may be, here’s a rough idea of how much is typically spent in each category. Keep in mind that the numbers are not hard and fast. Some couples may, for example, choose to spend more on photography and less on flowers. It’s up to you!

  • Reception: 40%
  • Honeymoon: 14.5%
  • Photography and videography: 10.5%
  • Wedding attire: 7%
  • Engagement rings and wedding bands: 6%
  • Flowers: 5%
  • Music: 5%
  • Invitations: 2%
  • Miscellaneous: 10%

Wedding budgets have a way of expanding like a balloon. Keep yours from popping (and give yourself some wiggle room for those unexpected expenses or must-haves) by reining in spending. Here, six smart saving tips:

Borrow. Did you totally love the tiara your sister wore? Borrow it for your ensemble! You can borrow jewelry (just like the stars do at Oscar time) and other accessories, honeymoon luggage (no reason to splurge on new suitcases if your parents have good stuff), vases for centerpieces (if you’re doing these yourself) and so on.

Use people’s DIY skils. If your aunt is a sewing whiz, she can create a veil or even do alterations on your dress. A skilled artist can create wonderful personalized invitations. A crafty pal can come up with a fun favor. An avid scrapbooker can put together an album for you. Just tell them this is their gift to you.

Create a signature drink. If you’re tempted to save by having a cash bar, stop! Instead, cut down on liquor costs by offering one signature drink (like pitchers of a gourmet martini) along with beer, soda and juices. Another idea: Buy cases of a local wine and serve just that. 

Limit the limos. It’s nice to pull up to the ceremony location in a sleek limo or classic car, but consider skipping the rides elsewhere to save money. Instead have your brother or a cousin chauffeur you and your new hubby to the reception.

Don’t go flower mad. There are plenty of ways to keep your bill from blooming: Buy flowers wholesale and give them to a florist to work with or create centerpieces that use candles and just a few beautiful blooms. A profusion of blooms looks lush and lovely, but you can get the same effect with fewer flowers than you think.

Avoid impulse buying. Got everything on your list? Then stop shopping. If you’ve already bought your bridesmaids lovely shawls, and you see pretty handbags that would match…and sparkly earrings…put them down.

Quick Tip: It’s likely everyone will be going snap-happy with their camera phones. To avoid ending up with 300 nearly identical shots, give guests a few ideas (print up a card to place on each table). Suggest one photo of each couple at the table, some goofy dance pics and a surprise shot of their choice—all to be shared later.

Photo Credit: Sherman Chu

Taming Your Guest List

wedding guests
Photo Credit: Weddings by Chris Sherburne

When you pay a caterer by the head, every guest is a ka-ching on the total bill—not just for the food and drink, but also for tips and taxes, which rise accordingly. Here are some ways to keep the list under control:

  • Don’t invite the whole office—either just ask your boss and your closest friends at work or no one at all.
  • Don’t dig into your old address book for blasts from the past; stick to those people you see regularly.
  • Rein in parents. They can invite their friends, but they don’t have to ask the garden club and the tennis buddies and the former neighbors.

Sending Your Invitations

wedding invitation
Photo Credit: Richard Israel

Your invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks before the big day, so work backward from there to be sure you order in time. The basic invite announces the hosts of the wedding (whether that’s the two of you, your parents or a combination) and the place and time of the ceremony. It may include a card that gives the reception details, a reply card and envelope. Have a sample of the invite in hand before deciding to use it— and proofread! Never include registry information with your invitation.

Next: Your wedding-day beauty plan ►