Planning your dream wedding can and should be a joyful experience but newly betrothed couples often find themselves feeling stressed out and overwhelmed with the many logistics and decisions that go into hosting this major milestone celebration. From choosing a date and setting a budget to booking vendors and nailing down your guest list, there is A LOTto think about when it comes to getting hitched. Here are the first steps you’ll need to take as you embark on your wedding planning journey. —Donna Wadsworth
First things first, don’t rush the process. Take time to really appreciate this special engagement period with your new fiancé(e) and get excited for the next chapter before diving head-first into planning mode. Sit down with your partner to discuss your shared vision for your wedding day. When it comes to executing a special event, there are a few critical areas you need to align on: when, where, with who, and how much to spend. Do you want to tie the knot in the springtime or have a romantic wintertime wedding? Are you dreaming of an elegant black-tie affair or a casual backyard ceremony? How many guests are you hoping to invite and how will you be paying for the event? Setting a budget is a critical first step in the wedding planning process, as finances will drive your decision-making on almost every element of your event. Discuss these important ideas and make sure you’re in agreement before connecting with individual vendors and suppliers. There’s no doubt you’ll have some minor arguments over the nitty gritty details like a first dance song and canapé choices, but having an open and honest conversation about your expectations upfront will help avoid major disappointment and disagreements down the road.
Once you’ve settled on a budget and a vision for your wedding, it’s time to get organized.
- To stay on track and on top of deadlines throughout the planning process, it’s a good idea to make a checklist of all the tasks you and your partner need to complete over the coming months. Use a shared document like Google Docs that you can both access and update as you go to divide and conquer specific tasks as needed.
- Build a spreadsheet to keep track of all of your event costs – both anticipated and final – to ensure you’re sticking to your budget.
- Create a virtual wedding mood board on Pinterest to collect inspirational ideas for the visual elements of your event such as wedding décor, flowers, food, stationery, and fashion.
- Set up a folder (either digital or physical) where you can store and access important materials and documents like vendor invoices, receipts, contracts, and your marriage license.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the event planning process, you may want to enlist the help of a professional. Engaging the services of an event planner is a great investment. A wedding coordinator can help you navigate the process and assist with choosing a caterer, florist, décor providers, entertainment, and more. They’ll also be able to help plan out seating arrangements, develop an event timeline, and coordinate with vendors on the big day to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Selecting your venue is arguably the most important decision you’ll make when it comes to your wedding – other than choosing your partner of course. The location of your ceremony and reception will set the tone for the entire event and will serve as the backdrop for all your wedding photos, videos, and lifelong memories. With that in mind, it’s important to choose a venue that not only reflects your shared vision as a couple, but also has the capacity and staff to execute the style of celebration you have in mind. From picturesque gardens and grand heritage buildings to modern waterfront venues and industrial-chic spaces, the Lower Mainland is home to a diverse array of settings and event venues that can accommodate weddings of all styles and sizes. If you’re not sure where to start looking, check out our list of favourite venues to help get inspired.
Start exploring catering options as soon as you have a venue secured. There are many important factors to consider when hiring a caterer, and you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to meet with caterers in your area, conduct tastings, and make any necessary menu adjustments well in advance of the big day. Think about the type of cuisine you want to serve as well as the style of service that you’d prefer, whether that’s a buffet, family-style sharing plates, a formal plated dinner, or a standing cocktail reception. Ask your caterer if they’re able to provide customized menu options, how they’ll handle dietary restrictions and allergies, and if the food will be prepared off-site or at the venue. And of course, don’t forget the bar. Discuss beverage options with your caterer to decide what type of bar service works best for your venue and your guests. If you’re sticking to a tight budget, ask if there’s a minimum spend and whether you can supply your own alcohol.
In-demand event suppliers are typically booked up months (sometimes years) in advance. If you have your heart set on a specific florist or wedding band, confirm their availability and put down a deposit as soon as possible – especially if you are getting married during a peak holiday weekend or summertime season. Consider what elements of the wedding are most important to you and your partner and let these personal preferences guide your approach when it comes to confirming high-priority vendors. Once you have the venue and caterer in place, we recommend booking your photographer, videographer, florist, hair and makeup stylists, and rental companies. You’ll also want to think about ordering your wedding attire, reserving hotel rooms, and locking in any live entertainment.
Once you’ve confirmed the big-ticket items for your wedding day, it’s time to start sharing the excitement with your friends and family. With the venue in place and the date confirmed, you can finalize your guest list, send out your Save the Date cards and invitations, build and share your wedding registry, set up a wedding website, and start the exciting countdown to your special day.
Remember, every couple’s wedding planning experience is different. Try not to get caught up in other people’s expectations and focus on your own priorities and vision. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and work together to design a wedding day that’s as unique and special as your relationship.
Savoury City Catering owner Donna Wadsworth has seen it all in her decades of experience running catering companies and working as a chef across Canada and internationally. To create perfectly orchestrated events, Donna lives by the motto “fail to prepare then prepare to fail,” paired with a meticulous attention to detail and the ability to perfectly envision the flow of an event from beginning to end.