How Do You Plan a Wedding Step By Step: 2023 Edition

  • Publication date: 09/22/2023
  • Updated: 09/23/2023

Ever felt like planning a wedding is a tad more complicated than assembling that mystery piece of IKEA furniture? If you're neck-deep in Pinterest boards, frantically trying to decipher "How do you plan a wedding from beginning to end?", take a deep breath! We’ve got your back. Why stick to this guide? Because diving headfirst into the whirlpool of wedding planning without a lifeline can lead to some serious wedding faux pas. And trust us, no one wants to be that couple who forgot to order enough chairs! So, let's dig into your wedding planning checklist. Let the fun begin!

Dream Big! Start with a Vision

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Photo by @valoriedarling

The beauty of this initial stage of planning a wedding lies in its boundlessness. You’re not constrained by budget, logistics, or even gravity! Want a fairy tale wedding in a castle floating in the clouds? Dream it! This vision, as whimsical as it might sound, forms the foundation for every choice you'll make down the line. Whether you fancy a boho-chic beach bonanza, an elegant city soirée, or perhaps a rustic barn dance-off, this is the moment to embrace those fantasies. And hey, involve your partner too! It's surprising how different or aligned your wedding aspirations might be. 

Budget Before the Bling

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As unromantic as it sounds, setting a clear, comprehensive budget is crucial. Why? Because everything comes with a price tag, and it's better to know what you're diving into. Here's the breakdown of how to plan a wedding timeline with finances at the forefront:

  1. The Big Picture: Start by determining your total budget. This figure is your guiding light. Whether it's saved up, borrowed, or gifted, know your limit.
  2. Venue and Accommodation: Traditionally, this consumes about 40-50% of the budget. 
  3. Apparel: Allocate around 10% for that dream dress, suave suit, and any accessories. 
  4. Food and Drink: Another significant chunk, roughly 20-30%.
  5. Photography and Videography: Set aside 10-12% for this.
  6. Music and Entertainment: This typically takes about 5-10%. 
  7. Invitations and Stationery: Design, printing, and postage - aim to use about 2-3% of your budget here.
  8. Décor and Flowers: Beautifying your space can take up another 8-10%. 
  9. Rings: Allocate about 2-3% for these shiny tokens of love.
  10. Miscellaneous: Always, ALWAYS have a buffer of 5-10%.

Now, while these percentages are general guidelines, every couple is unique. Perhaps you're both foodies and want a more lavish spread, or maybe you've always dreamt of a designer dress. That's the beauty of a wedding checklist; it’s malleable. 

Guestimate Your Guests

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Photo by @haleyadellphoto

Deciding who gets to witness the most magical day of your life is not a task to be taken lightly. Here’s a deep dive into the art of guestimation, an essential part of how to start planning a wedding:

  1. Start Big, Then Trim: Initially, list everyone you can think of, from your third cousin twice removed to that friend you made at summer camp. 
  2. Prioritize: Once you have the 'universe' of potential attendees, divide them into tiers. 
  3. Plus Ones: A good rule of thumb is to provide plus-ones for those in serious relationships. 
  4. Kids or No Kids: Decide early on if your wedding will be a kid-friendly affair or an adults-only event. 
  5. Venue Constraints: Your dream venue might have space limitations. If it can only hold 100 people comfortably, inviting 150 is a recipe for chaos.
  6. Budgetary Considerations: Be realistic about what you can afford without compromising the quality of your guests' experience.
  7. Cultural and Family Expectations: In many cultures, weddings are large community events, and not inviting certain members might be frowned upon. 

Secure that Date

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Photo by @weddingbymd

Picking your date isn't just about circling a day on a calendar; it's the linchpin around which everything else revolves. Let's understand the nuances of setting the perfect date:

  1. Start with any dates that hold personal significance to you and your partner. Maybe it's the day you first met, your first date, or the day of your proposal. 
  2. Depending on where you're tying the knot, seasons can play a massive role. 
  3. The best photographers, caterers, and entertainers get booked fast. If you have your heart set on particular vendors, check their availability before finalizing your date.
  4. Ensure that your chosen date doesn't clash with essential personal or family commitments. 
  5. If you're jetting off soon after the wedding, the chosen date will also impact your honeymoon.

Once the date's in place, the rest of your wedding planning checklist will flow more seamlessly. 

Pick the Location

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Photo by @sherimcmahonphotography

A location can shape the mood, style, and memories of your big day. Imagine the difference between saying 'I do' in a bustling city rooftop versus a serene countryside meadow. Here’s how and why of picking the perfect spot for your love fest, especially when diving into how to plan a wedding from start to finish in 2023.

A Tale of Two Themes

The location you choose will often dictate the theme of your wedding. A beach location might inspire a laid-back, tropical vibe, whereas a grand ballroom could evoke a more formal, black-tie ambiance. Before you settle on a place, think about the kind of atmosphere you want to create and how it reflects your personalities.

The Convenience Quotient

Think about where your guests are coming from. If many are traveling from out of town, a location near an airport or with good transport links might be considerate. Additionally, if it's a remote location, consider accommodation options nearby. It’s these thoughtful touches that guests really appreciate.

Visual Vibes

Picture your wedding photos. Locations with natural beauty or architectural charm can elevate your wedding photos from nice to jaw-dropping. These memories last a lifetime, and a stunning backdrop can make all the difference.

Hire a Pro (If You Want!)

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Photo by @bebavowels

When you dive into how to plan a wedding like a pro, the idea of a wedding planner often pops up. These seasoned pros come equipped with experience, a list full of vendor contacts, and the knack to stretch a budget in ways you didn't even think possible. They’re the unsung heroes who iron out the creases, often becoming mediators, time-savers, and sometimes even therapists. But, here's the crux: a planner is there to guide, not overshadow. This is YOUR big day. Whether you want to be hands-on or hands-off, a planner can adapt. Think of them as a support system, ready to jump in when you want a break from the whirlwind or just need an expert's touch. 

Say Yes to the Dress... and Suit!

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Photo by @josevilla

Some folks have had their wedding outfit sketched out in their minds since they were playing dress-up, while others are entering the game fresh. Both are perfectly fine! The wedding fashion universe is colossal, bursting with styles galore. From old-school elegance to contemporary chic, relaxed boho flair to classic sophistication... well, you get the drift. And let's not sideline the fellas - whether it's a sharp tux, a suave three-piece, or even a laid-back ensemble, it's all about letting your spirit shine.

Now, let's be real: you've got a long day ahead. Between the dance-offs, cheeky toasts, and endless selfies, comfort is king. While looking like a million bucks is the dream, feeling top-notch is equally vital. Shoes, sparkly bits, fancy ties, or even those understated cufflinks – they all come together to elevate your outfit. 

Nourishing the Crowd

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Photo by @charlottewisephotography

Food isn't just about filling bellies—it's a flavorful journey of passion, heritage, and imagination. Whether you're leaning towards an elaborate multi-course dinner, a hip food truck stop, or a buffet filled with grandma's cherished recipes, making sure no guest goes home hungry is the name of the game.

The Tasteful Palette

Start with understanding your and your partner's preferences. Are there dishes or cuisines that have sentimental value or hold memories? Incorporating these can add a personal touch. But balance is key. Offer a variety of dishes that cater to different tastes and dietary restrictions.

Remember the Dietary Restrictions

In today's diverse world, many guests may have dietary needs, whether due to allergies, religious beliefs, or lifestyle choices. Vegan, gluten-free, nut allergies—the list goes on. A thoughtful host considers these needs in advance, ensuring everyone has something delicious to savor.

Drink Up

From sparkling champagnes for toasts to crafted cocktails and mocktails, and even a coffee bar for late-night sippers, drinks enhance the dining experience.

Snap Happy: Hiring a Photographer/Videographer

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Photo by @rebeccasearlephotography

Photographs and videos become the timeless keepsakes that allow you to relive your wedding day over and over again. However, this isn't about just pointing and shooting a camera. It's about understanding angles, lighting, moments, and emotions. The best professionals know when to be in the heart of the action and when to be invisible, capturing candid moments. It's a mix of artistry and technical skill.

When you're browsing portfolios, look beyond the posed shots. Delve into the candid captures, the stolen glances, and the spontaneous laughter. This gives you a feel of the photographer or videographer's style and if it aligns with your vision. Always have a chat with potential candidates, ensuring they understand your expectations and preferences. 

Fine Tune with Florals

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Photo by @danandtyler_photography

Flowers have a way of breathing life and color into any wedding setting. When you're navigating through the step-by-step wedding planning checklist, choosing the right floral arrangements can be both exciting and overwhelming. From bouquets to centerpieces, flowers set the tone and mood for your celebration. Think about your wedding's theme and venue when deciding. Are you going for a rustic look? Soft wildflowers might be your go-to. If it's a more elegant affair, roses or lilies can elevate the ambiance. The right florist can guide you, turning your floral vision into a blooming reality.

The Soundtrack of Your Love

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Photo by @alexwysockiphotography

Music isn't just background noise; it's the heartbeat of your celebration. Deciding on the tunes for your big day is a journey through your shared memories and dreams. Whether it's a live band, a DJ, or a playlist curated by you and your partner, the music should reflect your love story. Think of the songs that marked milestones in your relationship or those tunes you can't help but dance to. And don't forget those tear-jerking moments; the songs that play during key moments like your first dance or the parent dances. 

Invites & Stationery

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Photo by @kdimeg_photo

In the digital age of 2023, there's something undeniably charming about physical wedding invitations. It’s the first taste your guests get of what to expect from your big day. Crafting the perfect invite isn't just about the words but also the design, paper quality, and even the envelope. As part of your planning a wedding guide, consider the tone you want to set. Is it casual, formal, whimsical, or traditional? Also, remember, it's not just about the invitations. Think save-the-dates, thank-you cards, and ceremony programs. Each piece of stationery adds a layer to your wedding narrative, making the entire experience cohesive and memorable for your guests.

Hair & Makeup

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Photo by @sebastian_paynter_photo

Every bride, groom, or member of the wedding party deserves to feel like a million bucks on the big day. The right hair and makeup team can transform your wedding day look, ensuring you're camera-ready and oozing confidence. While some prefer a natural, understated look, others might want full-on glam. Plus, it's crucial to have trial sessions. This ensures you and your glam squad are on the same page. Don't shy away from speaking up about what you love (or don't). 

Officiant: Crafting the Ceremony

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Photo by @mirandastokkel

The person who officiates your wedding plays a pivotal role, guiding you and your partner through the most intimate moment of your union. Whether you're having a religious, spiritual, or civil ceremony, it's essential to find an officiant who understands your vision and values. In the maze of your ideal wedding planning timeline, take time to meet with potential officiants, discuss the flow of the ceremony, and ensure they're open to incorporating personal touches. 

Save a Slice: Choosing Your Cake

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While some see it as a dessert, many view it as a centerpiece of the reception. The design, flavor, and size should mirror the vibe of your celebration. Do you want a classic vanilla, a rich chocolate, or a zesty lemon flavor? Fondant or buttercream? Multi-tiered or a more minimalist design? Collaborating with a skilled baker can ensure your cake is not only a feast for the eyes but also tantalizes the taste buds. As you cut that first slice as a married couple, it should taste as sweet as the moment feels.

Rehearse and Dine

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Photo by @antonovakseniya

The rehearsal dinner isn't just a pre-wedding get-together; it sets the tone for the main event. This gathering is a fantastic way for families and close friends to mingle, break the ice, and build excitement for the big day. While the wedding may be more formal, consider keeping this dinner a bit relaxed. Use this time to express gratitude, share stories, and spread love and joy before the main event.

Book Accommodations

When you've got friends and family coming from near and far to celebrate, ensuring they have a comfortable place to rest is paramount. Research and book accommodations that cater to a range of preferences and budgets. 

Gift Registry: No More Guessing

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Photo by @hellochloemay

The solution to the age-old question, "What do they want?". Setting up a registry eliminates the guesswork for your guests and ensures you get items that fit your needs and tastes. Whether you're setting up a home, thinking of experiences, or even just having some fun wishes, a gift registry is your playground. As you journey through this step-by-step guide to planning your dream wedding, we strongly advise you to spend a date night with your partner browsing and selecting items or experiences that resonate with you both. 

Plan Your Honeymoon

After the whirlwind of wedding planning, you'll need a getaway. Ensure this dreamy escape fits into the timeline of planning a wedding.

  1. Start by brainstorming locations together. 
  2. Determine how much you want to spend. 
  3. Ensure passports are up-to-date, apply for necessary visas, and keep a tab on travel advisories or required vaccinations for certain destinations.
  4. Check the best times to visit your chosen destination. 
  5. Look for honeymoon suites or special packages. 
  6. Plan activities that both of you will enjoy. 
  7. Depending on your destination, make a checklist of essentials. 
  8. It's always a good idea to get travel insurance. 
  9. Research local customs, essential phrases in the local language, currency details, and any other pertinent information that will help you navigate and respect the local culture.

Remember, your honeymoon is not just a trip; it's the beginning of a new chapter. Make it memorable, filled with love, adventure, and a touch of the unexpected!

License to Wed

Before the grand celebration and the dreamy honeymoon, there's a very pragmatic step that couples need to take: securing a marriage license. It's the legal proof of your union and a must-have in most places around the world. Research the requirements specific to your city or country. Often, you'll need to apply a few weeks before the wedding, and there might be a waiting period. You and your partner will usually have to apply in person, bringing along necessary documents like birth certificates, photo IDs, and possibly even proof of marital status or divorce decrees from previous marriages if applicable. 

Vow to Wow: Writing Your Vows

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Photo by @allisondelperdang

While traditions are beautiful, creating custom vows allows couples to communicate their unique journey. When approaching this step, set aside quiet moments to reflect. What does your partner mean to you? What promises can you make that capture the essence of your bond? If you're feeling stuck, think back to memorable moments in your relationship or consider promises that reflect both the joys and challenges of lifelong commitment. 

Schedule the Day

Your wedding day, while filled with love and joy, can also be a whirlwind of events. Planning a wedding day checklist can be the lifesaver that ensures everything runs smoothly. Start by listing down all the major events – from getting ready, the ceremony, reception, to the after-party. Allocate realistic timeframes for each segment. For instance, if you've planned a photo session after the ceremony, factor in the time it'll take for guests to move from one location to another. Share this schedule with your bridal party, vendors, and close family, so everyone's in sync. But here's a golden nugget from us: take out at least 15 minutes just for you and your partner amidst the chaos, a quiet moment to soak in the day's magic.

By now, we've traveled the long, winding, sometimes chaotic road of wedding prep together. With this complete guide to planning a wedding tucked under your arm (or saved on your phone), you're set to take on the world! But let's not forget, amidst all the planning craziness, to take a beat. Pause, breathe, and remember the giggles, the missteps, and those heart-fluttering moments. Because, at the end of the day, it's all about love, laughter, and that awesome party you're about to throw!

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Natali Grace Levine Editor-in-Chief

Manages The Wezoree's content strategy
Writes and edits articles for the Inspiration Blog