Wedding Planning Guide: Part 1

So you just got engaged, but you don’t know what to do next. If you’re anything like me then you’re probably completely overwhelmed with emotion. It took me at least 30 days to just get used to the fact that I was actually engaged. But I’m here to share my experience with all my newly engaged babes and provide all the tips and tricks I learned along the way:

  1. Guest list

Start out with all the people you know MUST be invited. This is family, the friends you’re closest to, and possibly the family friends you see at almost every family gathering. Then get with your parents for their input on who they absolutely need to have invited and who you could probably cross off or move to your B list. For us, this was CRUCIAL. Tim and I have huge families. We could have easily been at 125 on our families alone. Unfortunately we couldn’t invite them all and we knew we wanted to minimize our guest list as much as possible, but we needed to discuss this decision with our parents before moving forward.

Then get your B list. I know it doesn’t seem practical to do this now, but once you start touring venues and you start hearing the minimum amount of people they require (yes, this happens and a lot too) you need to know what kind of wiggle room you may have.

When compiling your list try and keep them organized in groups based on relation. For example, keep all groom’s friends listed together and all the bride’s friends together. Doing this will help you immensely down the line. I know this isn’t a fun first step but it’s the first question you’re going to be asked by all your potential venues and vendors and it leads you to step 2.

  1. Budget

I’m sure my husband will read this and scoff at my giving budget advice, but the best advice I can give on this subject is setting a budget that’s realistic to what you’re looking for while obviously taking into account what you are able to spend. It’s just not possible to have an elegantly styled wedding for 200 people with all the works in Los Angeles and keep it under $20k. Do your research on the average cost of weddings in the location you’re looking to get married and start your budget there. Then adjust based on the items most important to you. If you want to focus on florals, but maybe you don’t care about an open bar make sure your budget reflects your specific focus.

And here’s the hard part, talk to your family about contributions. This conversation is definitely uncomfortable, but it’s likely they want to help. Start by delegating a category they could potentially help with, like florals or the rehearsal dinner. This can serve as an ice breaker to other categories they may want to be involved in, or an equally easy way for your families to say they can’t help. The main take away is to ask in a way that is easy for you as the couple without making your families feel like they are obligated to or you are expecting them to.

  1. Venue

This is where my husband and I really struggled. We looked at 15 venues before we found THE ONE. This is partly because we were undecided on location and theme and partly because we hadn’t nailed down our budget before we started looking. When we first got engaged, we were set on getting married in Palm Springs. We’ve shared so many memories there and is a very sentimental place for us that we thought it would be a perfect place for us to get married. Once we realized that every wedding guest would have to stay overnight, we decided against it. We wanted to give our guests as many options as possible. With that said, it didn’t stop us from looking at a couple venues in the area.

My advice when venue hunting would be to start your venue search 9 months to a year out from your desired wedding date. To give you a time frame, we started looking in May 2017 for a potential wedding date in September 2018. Since we didn’t find our venue, The Walnut Grove, until January 2018, we were basically left with “picked-over” wedding dates. At that time, our venue only had THREE Saturday dates available for the entire 2018 wedding season. The dates were in April, July, or November. We decided to go with July, because we knew planning a wedding in under 3 months would be too difficult and didn’t want to risk rain in November. This wasn’t necessarily in line with our original idea, but sometimes things don’t go as planned and we just had to keep moving forward.

WeddingWire, Wedding Spot, and Here Comes the Guide were all useful to help me scope out prospective venues to tour.

Here are all the wedding venues we looked at. Maybe one of these might work for you:

  1. The Franciscan Garden
  2. The Villa San Juan Capistrano
  3. The Parker
  4. La Quinta
  5. The Colony
  6. Calamigos Ranch
  7. Carondelet House
  8. Saddlerock Ranch
  9. Cielo Farms
  10. Malibu Rocky Oaks
  11. Hummingbird Nest
  12. Maravilla Gardens
  13. Hartley Botanica
  14. Los Robles Golf Course
  15. The Walnut Grove

These first three steps are, in my opinion, the most challenging. So take your time, don’t rush, and complete each step on your own time. Any extra pressure will make these steps way more difficult. Trust me, I’ve been there.

While you’re waiting to pick your venue, you might feel compelled to cross one thing off your to do list, like booking a photographer or DJ, just to have the sense that things are moving in the right direction. However, your venue will provide you with a list of their recommended vendors, and oftentimes they will even offer incentives if you book with them. Plus it gets chaotic for your vendors if you are still waiting to finalize the location and the date. So hold tight, securing your vendors will be in Part 2 of my Wedding Planning Guide.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and let me know if there’s anything specific you want me to cover. I also included my Wedding Planning Guide Excel Spreadsheet. This thing kept me organized and sane!


Alyssa Ren

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