January 11, 2022

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Helpful Tips

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How to Start Planning Your Wedding

Chicago Proposal Kate Kaplan Photography

YOU’RE ENGAGED!!! Congratulations, friend. You are stepping into a wonderful whirlwind season of your life and I am so happy for you. I have so many of my own sweet memories from that time in my life and I love photographing couples who are making their own memories! 

I tell all my couples that planning a wedding can often take a lot of time & effort – but as long as you are planning the kind of day that you’re both excited about & looking forward to – all that planning & prep will be SO worth it. Also, you’re not alone in this. You have each other to lean on, and you should also have an amazing team of vendors to lean on and guide you through with expertise!

So if you’re recently engaged and wondering where to start… read on!


1. Wedding Date Night

When you’re feeling ready, start by setting up a date night where the main topic of discussion will be your wedding. I’d suggest going out to your favorite restaurant & discussing your ideas over cocktails (or beer, or tacos, whatever your thing is!) This will make planning your wedding feel like something fun instead of overwhelming work – it IS something to celebrate after all! Talk about what you both envision for the day – what is important to each of you. Make sure you’re on the same page about things like the style of venue, possible dates, and how you’ll share the planning tasks. But don’t forget to have fun with it, too! This is a whole event in celebration of your love! So do you want a packed dance floor? A photobooth? An ice cream sundae station? What will make it feel like the best day ever for you two?

Michigan Beach Engagement Photos

2. Talk about the thing no one likes to talk about

Did you guess money? You’re right; it’s money. It’s a difficult subject for pretty much everyone except accountants. Wait. I bet if two accountants were marrying one another, even they would have trouble with it. But, it is VERY important to communicate and be on the same page when it comes to what you’re comfortable spending on your wedding day. Look up the average cost in your area of venue, photography, flowers, and other vendors. This will help you start off with more realistic expectations. 

I believe your wedding day should be what YOU want it to be. Wedding days happen with a million dollar budget or a shoestring budget, and everything in-between. You set your budget and make it happen. 

3. Determine the size of your wedding

Start by making a list of any family and friends that you want to be there in celebration with you! Discuss if this number aligns with the kind of day you had in mind. Were you picturing an intimate gathering? Or a big bash? Discuss and see if you need to make cuts or adjust expectations.

Chicago Wedding Venue The Joinery

4. Look for the perfect place

Venue is typically the first piece of the puzzle that needs to fall into place. Once you agree on a style of venue (ballroom, conservatory, city loft, golf club, etc.) do some research and make a list of places you’re interested in. Make sure the venues you’re looking at are big enough to host your guest list and keep budget in mind, too. Couples often spend about 50% of their budget on the venue.. Venue fees can almost always be found on their website. Once you have a list of 10 or so options, it’s time to reach out to see what dates they have available. If a venue has several dates available that work for you, set up a time to tour the space with your fiance. 

5. Talk to your friends

Word-of-mouth is still a powerful source for referrals when wedding planning. If a friend or someone you know had a positive experience with a vendor – that’s a great place to start! Ask around and wait to hear the rave reviews from folks you trust. Set up times to talk to these vendors so you can make sure it’s a good fit. You should be excited and feel comfortable with all your wedding vendors. If you want to hear advice specifically on searching for a wedding photographer, read this blog post.

6. Meet with planners

If you’re considering hiring a planner to assist with your wedding, ask your friends for some references and set up meetings to see who might be a good fit. This is something you want to do earlier in the process (if your budget allows) so you can benefit from their assistance ASAP.

7. Gather inspiration & organize ideas

Pinterest & Instagram are amazing sources of inspiration when planning your wedding. Find and save ideas that spark joy! Organize these ideas within Pinterest boards or Instagram saved folders. Create a folder on your computer or in Google Drive to save important documents & files related to your wedding.


8. Get a wedding website and email address

We used Zola to build our free wedding website when we were getting married and we loved it! Zola allows you to create a customized website for sharing info about your wedding with your guests. You can also host your wedding registry on Zola! 

With all the emails that will be going back and forth over the next several months, it’s a good idea to make a new wedding-specific email address.


There’s certainly a lot more that goes into planning a wedding day, but I hope this list helps you get started!

–Kate

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