So - here you are! Engaged! 💍 First of all! Yay! Dreaming of dresses and venues and colors? Already addicted to Pinterest, searching for inspiration? But are you also you asking yourself, "now what do I do?" There are endless options for wedding planning checklists online - you've seen them! Oh yes, I have seen them too! They are long and honestly, they may tell you "what to do" but don't really tell you "how to do it!" Wedding planning is a journey and it's best navigated in sets of small steps! Let's start to walk that journey together before we start running in the wrong direction! I promise - you can do this!
1. First things First! (I bet you have already done a part of this!)
- Tell your family and friends! Soak up all the hugs and high fives, well wishes, and happy tears!
- Take well-meant advice, tips, and opinions with a grain of salt or a glass of wine 🍷 - whichever works best!
- Now... snuggle up, spend some time alone together, just the two of you, and find your wedding "big picture".
- Just the overall vision here. See if you can get on the same page - or at least in the same book!
- A big wedding or small wedding (and what does that look like to each of you)?
- An outdoor wedding or an indoor wedding (or a combination)?
- What is the ideal time of year for your wedding - favorite season?
- Don't worry about going further into details yet, just figure out the answers to those 3 above.
- Okay! That's it for step one! Kick back relax and watch your favorite movie! Step 2 is for another day!
- Work on this together and we are brainstorming here don't limit yourself.
- Best advice... keep this just between the two of you for right now...
- This is where you can list everyone without restriction. You can add all the kids, you can add those relatives you haven't seen in 5 years, you can add the friend from high school whose wedding you attended a few years ago, but haven't seen since. Just put them all on paper for now.
- This isn't the final list by any means so don't worry! But it helps to get your brain emptied out. Making more room for inspiration!
- This may take a day or two or longer - no worries!
3. Let's See How it Fits!
- Now it's time to try the list on for size so to speak!
- Total up that brainstorm list and grab your favorite beverage, find a comfy place to kick back, close your eyes, and picture your day! Picture the guests, not individually of course - who can stay awake that long kicked back with their eyes closed!?
- How does it feel? Too big? Too small? Just right? - Feeling a little like Goldilocks yet...!?
- Are there so many guests you won't have time to meet, greet, introduce, and thank them all for coming?
- What do you want to make sure that you have time for at your wedding - connecting with every guest or getting your fair share of time on that dancefloor - it's a balance!
- Do you want to have the biggest darn wedding this town has ever seen?
- Everyone's dream wedding is different - but this is a good way to make sure you are keeping with your overall vision - Revisit step 1 for a vision recheck!
- The guest list is an easy place to lose control of your vision and have wedding planning take on a life of its own!
- Now that you have finished that favorite beverage and adjusted to the brightness of the lights again, let's see where you are at!
- How did the wedding play out in your mind?
- Does it feel like the perfect number? Does it fit with your original vision?
- If so! Great - you can skip right over step 5!
- But I am guessing - if you really brainstormed and didn't limit yourself in the beginning - it might feel like it's a bit too much.
- Don't worry - the next step will help you get there!
5. Let's Color!
- We are going to "prioritize" the guest list! Feels better than "cutting" the guest list!
- Seriously - find 3 different colored highlighters - (or crayons - whatever, no judgment here!)
- You will need one color for you, one color for your fiance, and one color for you as a couple.
- Start with the "must-haves" first.
- These are the guests that you can't imagine getting married without!
- Take your "couple-color" and go through the list and highlight the guests that would be your mutual guests, these are most likely your common friend group - the people that are "yours" as a couple.
- Next, take your "personal-colored" highlighter and each of you goes through the list marking your next group of must-haves. These will likely be your family or people that knew you before you were engaged. If you have overlaps don't worry - just highlight them once or divvy up who marks who.
- No color is more important than another! The color coding will just help you get an overall idea of the guest list dynamics and help with seating arrangements later - a bonus tip!
- Now let's total up the must-haves. Did we hit your ideal guest list size already? Perfect - all your most important friends and family will be there with you to celebrate the big day!
- What if you have more room? This is how to navigate this and keep it light and simple!
- Go back with that "couple-color" and see if there are mutual friends that could be added next. These are your people, the ones you see pre- and post-wedding, those you will have fun reminiscing with about the big day! It more fun to have them there than the great aunt twice removed that you won't see again until your cousin gets married!
- Then go back with your personal-colored highlighters and start adding more there.
- maybe take turns adding a few each at a time (if you like to keep things even - it's up to you)
- Trying to decide if someone gets "highlighted?" Here is a good question to ask yourself, "do they know, or have they met my fiance?" If not... you probably don't have to highlight them.
- Once you have reached your comfort zone and like the feel of your list - You are done! You have your preliminary guest list! Yep, it's a "preliminary guest list"... it's not the final list until you actually send out the invitations. So give yourself grace - you may still add or subtract a few. But, you have done the brain-dump and made all that extra room for inspiration! Way to go!
- And here is the secret behind keeping the brainstorm list and highlighting part just between the two of you in the beginning... You now have a list you can present to the family if you want, proving you really did think of everybody! And you "didn't cross anyone off the list" - but you have highlighted the ones that are the most important to you and best fit your vision!
Now, I know what you are thinking..."We have completed all 5 steps and all we have is a guest list!" Remember the plan is to start walking down the wedding planning road in an order that will keep you from feeling like you are running all over the place, lost and bewildered! The guest list is key to starting! It is probably the biggest driver of the budget, determining the venue capacity, estimating costs for food and beverages, and even figuring out if you need one photographer or two! So many couples take off in all those directions without having the number needed to do the math. So trust me! It's worth it! And now... you have that done! Celebrate! Hang up your wedding planning hats for the night and go out to dinner! It's date night, you earned it!!
It's been fun! Thanks for hanging out with me!
Wondering what's next? Stay tuned to my blog for the next "set of steps" - Building a "Real" Budget!