I’m not going to lie, I’ve been putting off writing about my wedding planning because 1. there’s so much to cover and 2. I’m just freaking lazy.
But okay. To start off, I was never one of those girls that fantasized about my wedding. I wasn’t even sure if I ever wanted to get married until recently (obvs). So now that I’m in the planning process, I thought I’d share some advice. You can take it or not, I don’t care. Wedding planning is unique and personal to everyone so these are just my steps:
ONE | get surprised like a muhfkr
The manfriend had all our close friends over to the house for a BBQ and popped the question in front of everyone. I was utterly shocked to say the least. I mean, lookatmyface:
That is the look of fear mixed with “WTF-just-happened.” You see, he’s been claiming destitution for many months so in my head I’m thinking, this dude is too broke to propose aaaaanytime soon. And then he proposes outta nowhere! I was in shock for 2 weeks.
TWO | take a break
While many women are eager to look for white dresses ASAP after a proposal, I decided to chill and take a month off before I even start. No looking at or thinking about anything wedding-related. What is my reasoning for this? … I have no idea. I just felt like it. Maybe because I knew that once I got into it, it would consume my life so I wanted a break beforehand. Hmm, that answer sounds legit. Moving on.
THREE | get sticker shock
Budgeting is the worst but the most important part of planning a wedding so my advice is to do it FIRST. Do it before you look at gowns or fantasize about the flowers and place-settings you pinned on Pinterest. Control yourself! You gotta do some research and crunch some numbers first. The average cost of a wedding in the US ranges from $25,000-$30,000. And with most weddings being completely or partially funded by the couple themselves nowadays, that’s a lot of zero’s. It’s easy to think “Oh, my wedding won’t cost that much!” because that’s what I thought. Totally wrong. So figure out who is contributing what and have a figure in mind that you’re comfortable spending before you start planning.
Now double it. Realistically, that’s what your wedding will actually cost. With most people, they don’t realize how much vendors, venues, and etc. cost. My initial budget was too low in almost every category. Granted, there are exceptions in every case, but the majority of couples go over their budget. By a lot. Major props to anyone who is able to stick to or stay under their initial budget! Also, the budget is also great for setting your engagement period. If you need time to save up for the wedding, consider a longer engagement.
Lastly, if you’re saving up, it’s helpful to set up a separate bank account so you and your fiance can contribute to it each paycheck.
FOUR | hone your negotiating skills
Unless you are just filthy rich, you probably want to not get ripped off by everyone. The wedding industry is pretty saturated so use that to your advantage. Narrow down to your favorite vendors and then just pit them against each other. Most vendors are willing to price-match. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount. The worst they can say is no. I found a GREAT resource for a letter template for negotiating with venues by the lovely Kristen of Who’s Watching the Baby. Speaking of venues…
FIVE | find a venue & caterer
This is the first thing I did because popular venues book up fast and obviously you’re going to need a place to get married at before you need anything else. You have the option of a venue that has open catering, a venue that requires you to use their own catering or choose from a list of preferred caterers, or an all-inclusive venue (they cover rental, catering, and decor). I chose an all-inclusive venue because I’m lazy and I want them to do all the work for me. Also I didn’t want to have to deal with a million vendors at once and all-inclusives usually throw in a wedding coordinator, too. Score!
If you’re good at negotiating, you can probably get an all-inclusive for less than a regular venue + catering. And just to throw some numbers at you, popular wedding venues in Atlanta run on average $6000 to rent and that will include the space, chairs, and tables. Catering runs roughly $50-$80 per person and an open bar is usually around $30 per person. So you’re looking at roughly $100 per head. Pricing will vary though, depending on the time of year, day, and time that you want to have your wedding. And also, how far in advance you’re booking too. If you want a winter wedding on a Sunday morning, you’re going to get a great price on a venue. If you’re living on the edge and your wedding is say, 3 months away sans venue, and the venue that you’re looking at still has that date open, you are going to get a steal. You could probably negotiate the shit out of them because they will be desperate to sell that date. Also look at out-of-the-box places for wedding venues. Restaurants and government buildings are good places to check because they won’t have such high rental fees as normal wedding venues.
SIX | photo & video
I think photographers and videographers are the most important vendors at your wedding because everything else will come and go, but photos and video last forever. So in my opinion, they are the vendors most worth splurging on. I put this task ahead of the dress because talented people book up fast but the dress will always be there, ready for you to blow your money on it. A good photographer in Atlanta will run you $3000+ and a good videographer will be at least $2000+. The sticker shock never ends, my friend.
SEVEN | finally, the dress
Because I am very picky, I visited almost every bridal store in the metro Atlanta area. I went to at least 3-5 appointments every weekend for a month until I found the one at a trunk show. [FYI, trunk shows are sales where a designer shows their newest collection and typically their entire label is on sale in the store and if you're into designer gowns, definitely look up when your favorite designers are having trunk shows]. You can also find discounted preowned designer gowns at websites such as PreownedWeddingDresses and OnceWed as well. There are some majorly discounted nice dresses on there! I almost purchased one before I found my dream dress that I am paying both arms and both legs for :(
EIGHT | bridesmaid dresses
Your bridal salon should have a selection of bridesmaid dresses to choose from and they will usually be discounted if you get your wedding dress there as well. David’s Bridal is of course a good source for affordable dresses but I would definitely suggest getting a fabric swatch of the exact material and color because certain materials (such as crinkle chiffon) look really cheap in lighter hues. Another good resource for bridesmaid dresses is Weddington Way. They have a huge selection and they make the process of picking a dress super easy. One last idea is to rent a BM dress via RentTheRunway. You get designer dresses for way less than a regular BM dress and honestly, do you think they will ever wear it again? Probably not.
NINE | extras for guests
These are totally optional but if you are thinking about providing something extra, a photobooth is pretty standard these days at weddings. They are really fun for guests and can also double as favors. Other ideas are hiring photographers who take candids of guests and turns them into magnets for them to take home, or a caricaturist, or hire someone to BE your dessert table. That really exists.
Okay this is it for Part 1 because this is all I’ve done so far. I just tell ‘em like I see ‘em. Hopefully this was helpful to some of you. Stay tuned for Part 2 which probably won’t happen for a long, long time. Just being honest.