Hey, you, congratulations! Your left hand is now a little bit heavier, and everyone you know is stoked that you two are officially tying the knot. It’s hard to resist immediately diving into planning mode, but before doing so, pump the brakes and make sure to do these five things:

1. Brainstorm the ish out of this wedding.
Timing: within the first month

ri wedding planner

Erica Ferrone Photography

You may think you know everything about your significant other (ohhhh the things you’ll find out!), but just when you think your fiancé could care less about eggshell vs. ivory napkins, all the opinions start coming out. The goal here is to look at the bigger picture: do you two prefer a small, intimate wedding or a huge, epic party? Is one of you super into bold, romantic vibes while the other wants an all-white Scandinavian feel? Did he have his heart set on getting married in a church, while you had always envisioned an outdoor seaside ceremony? Best to hash this out from the get-go. Having a clear plan in place will make your venue search so much more efficient. Not only does having a clear and specific vision make vendor decisions easier, it’s useful so that when others share their opinions (we see you, Aunt Martha), you can stick to your guns, ensuring that your day is YOURS and no one else’s. 

private estate wedidng

Henry and Mac

An important thing to note here is that, absolutely, under no circumstances, pretty much no matter what, should Pinterest be involved in this step (or any of these five steps, if we’re being honest). Pinterest is where original ideas go to die — it’s essentially a giant collection of other people’s wedding ideas, which is a surefire way to inspire already-done ideas for your own wedding. 

TLT tip: Spend time thinking about what you want the wedding weekend to feel like for you and your guests. How do you want to feel that day? What do you want your guests to be experiencing throughout your wedding weekend? What will they be talking about after it’s over?

coastal maine wedding

Lindsey Ocker Photography

2. Draft a guest list.
Timing: within the first month

One of the first and most crucial decisions you’ll make is how many guests you’ll have at your wedding and who will make the list. Your guest list affects almost every other aspect of your wedding in some way! But don’t let it stress you out: If deciding who’s coming and who isn’t threatens relationships you have with your family, friends, or each other, scale back. Additionally, once you’ve decided on a number, make sure you set clear expectations with your families — from the get-go, identify how many guests they can invite, and make sure everyone is clear on this. 

Guest List

First Mate Photography

TLT tip: Draft an initial list and, every week or so, revisit it. If you’re aiming to keep things as small as possible, shave a couple people off the list each time you revisit.

3. Decide your budget.
Timing: within the first two months

wedding boston public library

First Mate Photography

Prior to making any big decisions, you two need to identify a range you’re willing to spend within, and whether or not your families will be contributing. It’s important, if not absolutely crucial, that you and your fiancée are in complete agreement about your priorities before while finalizing your budget (and before bringing in anyone else, like your parents).

Keep a range of $10,000 between your ideal number and your “do not pass” number, and aim for the lower end! It’s best to keep your overall budget as a range rather than a set number. This acts as a safeguard for price creep later on. You can be comfortable knowing that, as you work through the details (and probably fall in love with an idea that wasn’t built into the budget), no add-ons or significant changes will push you over the edge.

TLT tip: The easiest way to cut down on the amount of money you’re spending is to cut down your guest list! Let’s put it this way: eliminating just eight people removes an entire dinner table, a full centerpiece, square footage from tent and dance floor, eight meals… and leaves you with eight extra slices of cake. 😉

boston public library wedding

First Mate Photography

4. Choose your top priorities.
Timing: within the first two months

Decide, together, on the 2-3 most important places for you to invest in your wedding. Do you want a wild party on the dance floor all night long, or would you prefer that an intimate tasting-style dinner be the major event of the evening? Will you use a wedding planner to help you stay on course or are you willing to go it alone at the risk of your sanity? Do you want the most incredible band, or a killer view? Make a list of your highest priorities and build your budget around them. Once you’ve identified them, revisit your budget and make adjustments where needed to ensure you’re putting your resources into places most important to you.

Donut Wall

Zac Wolf Photography

TLT tip: Revisit these priorities often! When you start to get bogged down in the details and have to make a million decisions, keeping the bigger picture in the forefront makes decisions easier.

5. Pick a venue, then pick a date; or pick a date, then pick a venue.
Timing: as soon as you’re finished with numbers 1 through 4! 


First Mate Photography

It’s a longstanding myth that one has to come before the other. The truth is that whichever is more important to you should come first. For example, do you two share a special day that means a lot to your relationship? Is there a date that is of great importance to you and your family? Or, alternatively, is the venue most important, and the date is flexible? 

TLT tip: Be careful not to jump the gun here. Make sure your venue is in line with your decisions 1-4, but most importantly, in line with your budget. Consider hidden costs: If you’ve budgeted a modest amount for rentals, then you’ll need to book a venue that comes with items in-house. If you’ve budgeted nothing for transportation, you’ll need a venue within walking distance for guests. Is the gorgeous open-space venue you just booked going to need two back up generators? Will you have to bring in restrooms? Is the in-house catering contract for the bare minimum, when you know you’ll want upgrades?

We see so many couples book a venue before fully understanding the hefty costs that’ll come with it later on. We’ve found our TLT Wedding Coaching to be extremely helpful in these scenarios, as we know that every couple deserves to have a solid sense of what they’re getting into before booking their venue.

new england wedding planner

Henry and Mac

Once you’ve got these five steps nailed down, your next move is locking in top priority vendors. One thing to keep in mind: in-demand venues and vendors book up early – sometimes a year and half in advance! Don’t force it, but strap that saddle on and get moving! Once you’ve covered these first five steps, you’re well on your way to a successful planning experience. Best of luck! Your wedding is going to rock… we just know it! xo


Newly engaged? Here are the first five things you should do.




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  1. Rachel Winkler

    February 22nd, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    This is such great advice! I wish I had read these when I got engaged. Also love the photos!

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