first steps for planning a wedding

First Steps for Planning A Wedding

Client Resources


Congratulations!! You’re engaged and planning to marry your significant other!! I know this time is full of excitement and stress which is why I’ve put together a quick guide to the first steps of planning your wedding!

As a wedding photographer I see a lot of couples struggling to get started with the planning process.  Whether your vision is formal black tie, intimate backyard gathering, or adventure elopement this blog post is here to help you get started.

Step 1: Make a Priorities List
Step 2: Set a Budget

Step 3: How and When to Apply for Marriage License
Step 4: Find Support

first steps for planning a wedding

Step 1: Make a Priorities List

Before you contact vendors, set a date, or come up with a budget you and your significant other should brainstorm for a wedding priorities list.  Not only can this help kick start the planning process but it’ll help make sure you’re both on the same page for your wedding day.  You both are getting married and it’s important that the wedding day reflects you two.

Questions to get your list started:

  • When do you want to get married / Specific Date in Mind 
  • If no specific date, do you have a favorite season? I.e. Winter / Spring / Summer / Fall 
  • If you don’t have a favorite season, which would you prefer? Indoors / Outdoors Wedding (Outdoors = Warm months / Indoors = Colder months)
  • Close to home or Destination Location
  • Large Guest list or Intimate Wedding
  • All day event or just a few hours
  • Do you want to go Formal / Traditional / Unique
  • Theme in mind (love star wars, want winter wonderland, etc)
  • Religious vs Non Religious 
  • Wedding Party or No 
  • Mountain Views vs Beach Views 
  • DIY vs Paying someone else to do it 

This is not a comprehensive list of questions to ask by any means but some ideas to get you started.  Your list should help you both get an idea of what you each want for your wedding day.  Priority based planning can help you know where best to compromise and will make wedding planning less stressful. 

Step 2: Set a Budget

So you’ve got a list of your priorities for your wedding day.  Now it’s time to do some research on the average cost of those vendors and venues for the location you want to get married.  The cost of wedding professionals in Washington D.C. will be different from wedding professionals in Lynchburg, VA so make sure you’re looking for your wedding location.  

Below are some general things to consider for your budget. 

Traditional Wedding:

  • Venue and Rentals 
  • Catering / Cake
  • Florals / Decorations
  • Overnight stay (airBNB / Hotel) 
  • Music / DJ 
  • Photographer / Videographer 
  • Wedding Planner
  • Wedding Officiant
  • Wedding Attire
  • Rings
  • Cost per guest
  • Favors / Guest Gifts 

Your budget will change as you choose vendors and time gets closer.  I recommend creating a detailed spreadsheet (can use google sheets) to keep track of it all.  It’ll be a great go to whenever you’re questioning how much you’ll spend.

Step 3: How and When to Apply for Marriage License

This is one of the most important steps (how you legally get married) but before you rush and apply, know when and how to apply.  For example, in Virginia you have 60 days from the time the license is issued to get married.  So for most people starting the wedding process, you won’t need to apply for a few more months.  But make sure you have it marked on the calendar so when that time comes, you’ll already know how to do it and won’t feel stressed.

Step 4: Find Support

You do NOT have to do this alone! There are so many great resources out there for planning couples. Whether you’re going for the full on traditional wedding or you want to take the road less traveled, there are places for you!  As a photographer I offer complimentary wedding assistance but I’ll be honest, I’m not a wedding planner.  That’s why I do suggest hiring a planner if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process.

If you’re a Facebook user, simply go into search, type in wedding and look by groups, and you’ll see all the options possible.  I’ve put together a FB group specifically for Eastern US elopements and intimate weddings. There’s a huge support network for traditional weddings and Western Elopements but not so much for this side of the USA so I want to change that.

CLICK HERE to check out the facebook group

first steps for planning a wedding

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