How to Plan a Wedding: Practical First Steps

Putting together a wedding can be overwhelming, especially when balancing work and life. Whether you’re hiring a planner or taking the reins yourself, understanding how to plan a wedding can help you feel more in control and bring your vision to life. With the right guidance, navigating this journey becomes easier. Whether you’re dreaming of a vibrant urban celebration or a charming Colorado venue, these practical steps will help you craft a day that reflects your unique love story and personalities.

How to Plan a Wedding: Step by Step

  1. Communicate – Get on the same page with your partner. Communication is everything, especially in marriage, so this is a great way to practice. Share your concerns, listen to each other’s ideas, and be willing to compromise. Start and share a wedding email!
  2. Define Your Vision – Talk about the atmosphere you want and the guest experience you envision.  Consider the vibe. Additionally, are you drawn to modern, artistic aesthetics with a touch of whimsy? Do you prefer vibrant colors and unique urban backdrops? Do you prefer an intimate wedding or a more extravagant wedding with all your family and friends?

Tip: Start a Pinterest board to gather and organize your ideas and inspiration.

  1. Create a Budget – When planning your wedding, consider potential financial support from your families, especially if they are affluent. Use costofwedding.com to estimate your wedding costs. Discuss finances openly with your families to set a budget. Use A Practical Wedding’s (APW) budget breakdown spreadsheet to allocate funds. Plan a wedding that reflects you regardless of financial support and communicate openly with all parties involved with funding.
  2. Create Guest list – A guest list will largely affect the next step, so think about the number of people you want to include. My husband and I used Excel and literally started listing family first and then friends. Remember to include SOs. And depending on your family relationship, send your list to your parents and make sure you’ve included all the family (especially if you want to make this a big wedding). Keep in mind that the larger the guest list, the larger your budget will need to be.

Bonus: You can add addresses and phone numbers to the columns and save the list for holiday cards!

5. Priority List Vendors – Make a list of your highest-priority vendors from highest priority to the least. Use this list to allocate a budget. For example, if the location/venue is the most important aspect of your day, start researching venues and allocate funds accordingly. Then go down the list from there. Example: 1. Venue, 2. Planner/Coordinator, 3. Photographer, etc….

Tip: When researching venues, tour them at the same time of day that you plan to have your wedding. Use sites like The Knot and WeddingWire to find venues. Create a spreadsheet to compare key details such as:

  • Travel Time from Home (e.g., capped at 1 hour max)
  • Getting Ready Space On Site (Yes/No)
  • Outdoor or Indoor Ceremony Options (contingency plan for bad weather?)
  • Outdoor or Indoor Reception Options (contingency plan for bad weather?)
  • Maximum Occupancy (to fit your guest list)
  • Pet Friendly (Yes/No, if you want to include pets)
  • How Late the Party Can Go (to avoid venues that end too early)
  • Open Catering (Yes/No, if you prefer choosing your own caterer)
  • Cost For Hours Wanted (I recommend about 10+\- hours to include for prep/clean up)
  • Overall Impression from Online Photos (rated 1-5 stars)
  • General Notes (e.g., “super ugly carpet,” “ocean view,” etc.)

(you can use similar questions for other vendors) 

  1. Plan Decor and Details – Planners/coordinators are invaluable for their rental connections. Align your decor with your theme using vibrant colors, creative elements, and personal touches like custom signage and unique table settings. For DIY ideas and professional help, visit Etsy and Minted. For local small businesses, check out Crushed Velvet Rentals and Boco Designs.

Tip: You can DIY some elements if you want to add a personal touch, but also know when to hire professionals for more complex projects.

Follow These Practical Steps to Plan a Wedding:

  1. Communicate – Get on the same page with your partner. 
  2. Define Your Vision – Create a Pinterest board to gather and organize your ideas and inspiration.
  3. Set Your BudgeUse a wedding budget calculator to help track expenses and adjust as needed. Create a customized budget tracker using Excel or Google Sheets. 
  4. Guest list– Think about the amount of people you want to include, keep in mind budget. Use Excel or Google Sheets
  5. Priority List VendorsMake a list of your highest priority vendors from highest priority to the least. Use WeddingWire’s Venue Finder for a comprehensive search tool
  6. Plan Your Decor and DetailsDIY some elements to add a personal touch, but also know when to hire professionals for more complex projects. For DIY inspiration and professional help, visit Etsy and Minted. To support local business check out Crushed Velvet Rentals and Boco Designs.


    By following this wedding planning guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating a wedding that’s not only wonderful but also a true reflection of your love and personality. Remember, when learning how to plan a wedding, it’s all about celebrating your unique story in a way that feels authentically you. With this approach, you got this!

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