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How to Plan a Wedding

Now that you are engaged, you are probably wondering how to plan a wedding.

At first the thought of planning such an event may seem stressful and overwhelming.

However, if you are organized from the very beginning, the planning can be fun!

How To Plan A Wedding Budget

First, set down with your fiancé and start talking. Be honest and open about your wishes and dreams for the wedding.

Decide if you want a large or small event. A traditional or non-traditional ceremony. A religious or secular service.

Who Pays For What?

Traditionally, the bride’s family will pay for everything.

However, since the average cost of a wedding is over $20,000, the couple, the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents often agree to share the costs.

Click here for information on who traditionally pays for what.

Picture of couple planning a budget for their wedding

Create a realistic budget from the discussions that you have had with your fiancé and your parents.

Your goal is to really stick with this budget.

Here is more information on making a budget checklist.


Do you think you need a wedding planner?

If you feel that you don't have the time or knowledge, then you may want to consider hiring a planner. The planner will have information on the best sites and vendors and can save you a whole lot of time and headaches.

You will only need to tell them what ideas you have, and they can make it happen for you. Plus, they will make sure that you do not go over your budget.

However, with today’s economy, you may choose to save this money and spend it elsewhere in your wedding.

Many planners charge from 15-20% of the actual budget of the wedding as their fee. Others may charge a flat rate for their services. This fee will be based on the time that they have to spend on your event.


The Date

Most weddings occur during the summer months and on Saturday night. By planning a wedding in an off-month, like April or November and on a Friday or Sunday evening, you will have more choices and greater savings.

If you do decide on an off-month and day, try to negotiate a better deal with all your vendors on their fees.

Another great saving tip is to try to schedule your wedding at least three weeks before or three weeks after a holiday weekend to get better rates and better service.

Also, try not to schedule your wedding during special events, such as a super-bowl weekend.

The Bride's Attire

Your wedding dress can be one of the most expensive items in your budget. However, with a just little planning, it doesn't have to be.

When it comes to shopping for your bridal gown, time can be an important cost-cutting factor. Start shopping early for the dress of your dreams. This way you can shop smarter and stay within your budget.

Picture of wedding dress in window of dress shop

There are plenty of sample sales and clearance events for bridal gowns. These sales often include significant savings on designer gowns.

If you are planning an outdoor or more casual event and not set on the traditional white gown, then you might consider shopping in the bridesmaid's department. There are many beautiful gowns at a fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding dress.

You could also, consider purchasing a previously owned bridal gown or have a dress made exactly the way you want it.

All of these ideas can help you stay within the budget you have set and maybe save a little money to spend on something else.


There are two other major ways for you to save money.

  1. Cut the guest list.

  2. Cut the bridal party.

How To Cut the Guest List Down

Just remember that the more people you invite, the greater the cost.

So, if possible, try to cut your guest list down to 100 people or less. This will cut down the costs of your:

  • Invitations
  • Food and Beverages
  • Decorations
  • Gifts/favors

Small Weddings

Plus, the best thing about a small wedding is that it is the wedding that everyone remembers! Why?

  • Because it is easier for the guests to talk and get to know each other.
  • Because the bride and groom have more time to mingle with all of their guest.
  • There ends up being less stress and work for the bride and groom.

Your Bridal Party

Large bridal parties cause more expense and often times, more stress for the bride.

If possible, try to keep your bridal party small. Two attendants, on each side, is plenty.


Picture of church being decorated for wedding ceremony.

Many times couples overlook the planning of their wedding ceremony. But this is what the marriage is all about. Right?

Your main goal is to have an unforgettable and meaningful ceremony.

So, plan your ceremony from start to finish.

Decisions to Make Before Choosing a Ceremony Site

  • Make sure the location you have selected is the right size.
  • Check out the acoustics and lightening.
  • Are there music restrictions that would interfere with your choices?
  • Do you need approval for special vows?
  • Are there restrictions on flowers, candles or the photography inside the church?
  • Is there a place for the bridal party to get dressed?

As you research your location choices, be sure to find out what is and is not included in the price.

Once you have made your decision, don't delay in reserving the location.


Picture of wedding reception site with table decorations.

There are three things that make a good reception:

  1. Plenty of good food and drinks
  2. A great photographer
  3. Good entertainment

Catering Options

Feeding your guests will probably be your largest expense.

The time of day and what type of meal you serve can help you stay within your budget.

How to Plan a Wedding Brunch

Following an early or late morning ceremony a brunch is a great economical reception idea.

Fresh fruit, salads, omelets, Belgian waffles, croissants, crepes and hash browns can be served with plenty of soft drinks, water, mimosas (orange juice and champagne), hot coffee, and teas. A cake should also be served.

How to Plan a Wedding Lunch Reception

Lunch receptions are usually held around noon and 3 pm. They can be sit down or buffet.

Salads, pasta, chicken vegetables with dip are all common foods served for a lunch reception.

They can be started with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

And of course, there is the cake.

How to Plan a Wedding Tea Reception

Tea receptions are usually held between 2:00 pm and 5:pm.

Tea sandwiches, small desserts and a variety of teas, coffee and champagne or wine are generally served. Plus the cake.

How to Plan a Wedding Cocktail Reception

A cocktail reception is usually held between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. There is no seating for your guests.

Plenty of good hot and cold finger hors d'oevres are served on napkins. Usually champagne, wine, beer and soft drinks are served.

The food and drink will continue until the wedding cake is cut.

How to Plan a Wedding Evening Reception

An evening reception usually indicates a full meal.

Sometimes, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres are served during the first hour.

To help keep costs down offer wine and beer rather than a full bar.

The cake is the dessert.

How to Plan a Midnight Breakfast Reception

A midnight breakfast is usually served when the ceremony is held after 8:00pm.

Evening cocktails and hors d'oevres are served. At midnight there is usually a midnight breakfast with fruit, waffles, ham and eggs.

The cake will end the night.

If You Are Having A Sit Down Meal

If you are planning a reception with a sit down meal, you will need place cards, so your guests will know where to sit.

A reception for 150 guests usually last around 5 hours. One hour for cocktails and four hours for the dinner, dancing, and other traditional activities.

More wedding menu ideas.

Wedding Links

Below are some links that will help you in planning the wedding of your dreams:

Weddings to Dazzle - Every bride's guide to planning a unique, dazzling wedding that will awe her family and friends. This site is overflowing with imagination, creativity, ideas and pictures of centerpieces, flowers, cakes, decorations, themes, reception venues, money saving tips, wedding showers and honeymoon ideas.

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