Research talented makeup artists in your area. Studios should have recommendations. Check with photographers for recommendations. It is better to spend some money up front on a few trials to find a photographer who helps you feel like a more beautiful version of yourself rather than someone who looks nothing like you. An engagement photo shoot is a great time to try out a makeup artist.
Choosing a caterer is a key part of your celebration. Whether you choose to bring in your own food, hire an experienced caterer or something in between, you need to think carefully through the logistics. Who will plate the food? How will your guest get through the line in a timely manner? Who will serve the cake? Will there be enough food?
Before interviewing a caterer, do careful research and have a list of questions for them. Interview more than one caterer. Be sure to arrange tastings and have all details are spelled out in your contract. Some of the most crucial details are whether there will be enough servers, whether they can serve good food in a timely manner, and whether they will arrive on time. If you have concerns, talk to your coordinator or your other vendors as they should have valuable insight and recommendations.
The registry is either a super fun or a super tiring part of the wedding planning process. Going to a big box store and scanning everything you want with scanner guns is fun but couples can find themselves overwhelmed with the possibilities, the prices, and the daunting process of choosing what will actually be useful. Take time together as a couple before heading out to register and research the different options. Consider return and exchange policies, shipping costs, ease of access for guests, etc. Consider registering at multiple stores - perhaps your favorite store, a big box store where out of town relatives will find it easy to shop, and an online store like Amazon with a great return policy.
Make a list with your significant other of all things you will need to start your life together. Try to have a good amount of gifts in every price point to encourage friends and family to shop on your registry. Aim to have 1-2 gifts per invitation that you are sending out.
The wedding dress is one of the most exciting decision of the wedding planning. Many brides remember choosing their perfect dress as the moment when the wedding day finally became real for them. Before choosing your dress, decide on your wedding budget and your absolute limit for dress costs. Be sure to factor in the cost of a veil, accessories, undergarments, alterations, fittings, taxes, and dry cleaning if your dress will need it.
Visit multiple bridal boutiques and be sure to ask many questions of the sales people. Be prepared to be pressured you to buy immediately by being told your dress might not even come in on time, or to be pressured to spend much more than your budget. Unless you are 3 months out from your wedding date, do not feel pressured. Research bridal sample sales in your area in your favorite designers for a bargain.
Your guest list can be one of the more stressful parts of your wedding planning. How many are invited? Who are the parents going to want to invite? Will everyone need a plus one? Start your guest list early and communicate with parents and family who might have an interest regarding their expectations. It is better to communicate up front rather than finalize your guest lists and have family throw it into flux after the fact. The Knot offers some helpful guidelines. Keeping your list in a Google Doc is very helpful as it will allow you to run a mail merge for printed labels, share it easily with a calligrapher, sort it if needed, and assign priority to lists. A guest list can be a stressful process - a wedding coordinator can help you ease some of the tensions if you expect difficulties with family or friends.
Booking a venue is one of the first, and biggest, decisions of your wedding. Be sure to visit multiple venues, compare prices, and discuss availability with the venue coordinator. It is important to take a list of questions with you so you fully understand the unique rules of each venue. We recommend visiting venues and understanding date availability before you decide firmly on a date for your wedding. Remember that you should have all details confirmed in writing.
There are some great venue interview lists out there, here are ours:
- What dates are available during the month we would like to be married?
- How many weddings will be booked on the same day?
- How many guests does the venue accommodate comfortably?
- Is pricing based on guest count?
- Are children allowed at the venue?
- Do you offer discount rates for off season weddings or weddings on a day other than Saturday?
- How and when will payment and deposits be expected?
- What costs should I expect besides the basic fee? Are there charges for gratuity, cleaning, overtime, etc. that I need to plan for?
- When is the deposit due? Is it refundable up to a point?
- What is the policy for cancellation?
- What are vendor restrictions? Can I bring in my own vendors?
- Does the venue hold liability insurance?
- Is dancing allowed? Is there a dance area or will a dance floor need to be rented?
- What equipment (sound, lighting, tables, chairs, dance floor) will be provided and what will need to be rented?
- What are the noise restrictions?
- Are bathrooms available for guests?
- Is there a bridal room?
- Is parking available? For how many cars? Is a valet required?
- Will rain affect the venue?
- Can we use candles? Flowers on the floor? What other restrictions do you have?
- What time can setup begin? What time must everyone be gone?
- What are the responsibilities for cleaning? Can cleaning be done the following day?
- Is any decor provided? Is there an extra charge for setup or teardown?
Food & Drinks:
- Is there a venue caterer? Am I allowed to bring in my own caterer? Are there limitations on who we can use?
- Can I bring in a cake from outside? Is there a cake cutting fee? Is the fee waived with an on-site cake?
- Do you have a liquor license? What is your pricing?
- Will you allow us to bring our own liquor? Is there a corkage fee?
- Is there a food or drink minimum?
- Do you have reviews or recommendations for your caterer?
- Do you provide event staff? Is there an extra charge?
- What are their duties on the wedding day? Do they assist with setup or tear down?
- Who will be our point person on the day of our wedding?
RealSimple provides a great budget worksheet. Remember, when putting together your wedding budget, the suggested percentages are just that: suggestions. The most important part of the budget is that you start by including everything and then work to make sure it all fits within the money you have. If you START by choosing which parts of your wedding are more important and should be allotted more of your budget, you will avoid the tragedy and stress of having to slice important details later. A wedding consultant is a fantastic resource in setting up a reasonable budget and helping you think through where money could be saved.