I bet you $1 million that if you’ve recently gotten engaged and someone asked you how wedding planning is going you’ve answered with something like “it’s great, I just don’t know where to start!” Am I right?
If this is you, don’t worry, EVERYONE feels this way – especially during our current COVID-19 situation. But never fear, I’m here to walk you through some steps you can take to make some progress on Wedding Planning while Social Distancing!
Disclaimer: there are a lot more than eight steps involved with wedding planning, but it’s overwhelming to look at them all right off the bat, so we’re just going to start with the essentials and things you can do or prep for while at home.
Step #1: Set Your Budget
This is like the least fun part of wedding planning, but honestly it is one of the most important parts. And it’s an easy one to do while sheltering-in-place. If you and your fiance are paying for the wedding yourselves, sit down and look at your finances together. See how much “extra” money you can put towards your wedding each month and compare that to the average cost per wedding vendor in your area. You can look at pretty accurate costs per vendor in The Knot 2018 Real Weddings Study. Do keep in mind though that the closer you are to a large or popular city, the more expensive vendors will be. After you’ve figured out how much you are able to put towards your wedding, then you can figure out how long of an engagement you are going to need to make that happen.
If someone is helping you pay for the wedding, designate a time to sit down (or video conference) and have the wedding budget conversation. It’s good to designate the time so everyone can be prepared for the convo and it’s not a surprise! During the conversation, pull up some real numbers they can review to show them exactly how much they are going to be helping you (remember that the cost of weddings was A LOT less 20 years ago, so they might need help seeing that through some data). Decide early on whether they are going to be covering all costs, or if they are expecting to divide some of the responsibility up. Then, ask them how much time they need to make this gift happen.
Step #2: Tour and Book Your Venue
So now that you know exactly how much you have to spend on your wedding and it’s specific vendors, now it’s time to lock a venue down! I HIGHLY suggest doing this at least a year out, but of course that isn’t always possible (especially right now), it’s just a good goal.
So how do you narrow down venue choices while there is a global pandemic going on? Well, we do what we can!
- First, make a list of venues you are interested in.
- Then, check out their websites to see if they have a photo gallery or a virtual tour video. Makes some notes on what you’re seeing (or not seeing) and keep track for comparisons.
- Start your research on the logistics of each venue option. Do they have tables, chairs, and linens? Do they offer set up and clean up? Things like that. Do this by reading through the FAQ Page or giving them a call. You can use this list to help you out: Questions to ask your Wedding Venue.
- Lastly, after you’ve done your research, contact your Top 3 or 4 venue choices (more than this is overwhelming) to see how/when they are scheduling tours. Even if you cannot go tour in person until June or July, at least you’ve taken the first few steps in the process. That way, once you do go visit, you can make your decision much quicker!
Disclaimer* most venues do typically book about a year (or more) out, so don’t set your heart on a date until you actually speak with the venue to see if they are available. Your venue will also determine your available head count, the overall look and feel of the wedding, and other vendor choices. A lot of venues have a preferred vendors list that you have to hire from while others have onsite vendors built into their packages. You wouldn’t want to book a bunch of vendors and then find out you can’t or don’t have to use them!
Step #3: Book Your Wedding Planner/Coordinator!
I may be a little biased here, but I’m telling the truth. And to back me up, you’ll see this step listed in the first few steps of every “Wedding-Planning Checklist” you find on Pinterest. Hiring a planner is also super easy to do while stuck at home in quarantine. Most planners/coordinators do phone consultations anyway, so all you have to do is submit an inquiry and set up a phone or video call. During that call, you’ll ask all of your questions, get a feel for their processes, and most importantly, decide if you jive with her personality.
If you are planning to hire a wedding planner, you should do it early on. Not only do planners book out very far in advance, you want your planner to be in the loop from the very beginning. Even if you are only opting for a day-of coordinator, it’s great to be able to have your coordinator to turn to if you are stuck on a tough wedding decision. It’s also super helpful to update your planner periodically (even before your official times starts with her/him) so everything isn’t a total surprise when you start working together. You’ll also want plenty of time to get to know your planner/coordinator – she will be running your wedding the day of!
If you’re interested in the Jackson & June team planning, coordinating, or designing your big day, click here for more info!
Also, if you’re still on the fence on whether or not you need a planner or coordinator, read more here :
Step #4: Prep for Wedding Dress Shopping
Wedding dress shopping while sheltering-in-place is very similar to booking your venue – you really need to do it in person, but you can use this time to prepare.
Previously working in a bridal shop taught me so many things about the dress process – most importantly: it takes a long time. It takes a few weeks to get everyone together and schedule your bridal appointments (you will need appointments for most places), then you actually have to find the perfect gown.
You’ll want to have time because most wedding gowns take at least 6 months to arrive after it has been ordered from the designer. Then, after the dress arrives, you will 100% have to have alterations, which takes another 8-12 weeks. Keep in mind that everyone has to alter their wedding gown- they are actually made to be altered so it fits each bride perfectly!
So during this COVID-19 down time, do some research and make a list of bridal shops you’d like to go shopping in. Pick 3 to 5 shops to start out with- jamming any more than that into one shopping day will be exhausting. Give them a call to see what designers they house and how/when they are doing appointments and how many people can join. After you have this info, talk with your shopping buddies and narrow down a weekend within the timespan the shop recommended. Then, if you feel confident, book that appointment!
Step #5: “Propose” to your Wedding Party
“Proposing” to your wedding party can really be done whenever you want (with time to order their dresses/tuxes of course) but it’s super helpful to get it done early on. Then you can have people to turn to when you need help or to vent!
And you can be REAL creative and do something super fun with this during social distancing! You can mail them a cute box with goodies, or show up in their yard and ask them from the sidewalk! Seriously, this will provide some light and happiness to your favorite people during this not-so-fun time.
Step #6: Hire a Photographer/Videographer
These are two more that are easy to book from afar! Like before, make a list of some photographers and videographers that you’re interested in. Research their websites and social media pages to see their photography style, their pricing and packages, and to see if you like their tones. Once you’ve narrowed that list down to 2 to 4 of both photographers and videographers, submit inquiries so you can set up consultation calls.
During your calls, ask them how many hours they offer for wedding day (I recommend at least 8 hours), if they bring a 2nd shooter (YES TO THIS), and if they offer any other services with the package. Some offer packages that include engagement, bridal, or boudoir sessions – this is a good deal and will guarantee a consistent style between all of your photos!
Step #7: Start your Guest List!
This is a great activity to do while stuck at home. Open up Excel and get to work! It would also be a great opportunity to start reaching out to people to grab their addresses – and you can say hi while everyone is bored!
For more guest list tips: Click here!
Step #8: Hire a Caterer/DJ/Band
Caterers are another vendor that really needs to be tried out in person, but again, we are using this time to prepare.
Once you have your venue locked down and a round-about idea of your headcount, start reaching out to caterers to get quotes and schedule a phone consultation. It’s great to get your caterer list narrowed down to 2, then look at both proposals side by side. Once you decide which caterer is the better option on paper, let them know you’d like to scheduling a tasting as soon as they open back up!
If your venue has in-house catering, replace this step with booking your DJ or your Band. The good ones book out far in advance and let’s face it, good music can make or break a reception. These guys are easy to book from afar too, just use their websites/YouTube to check out their musical abilities, then schedule consult calls to get your questions answered and to see if you mesh with their personality.
You can do this! Even in quarantine!
Seriously, I know you are probably panicking about getting wedding plans started right now, but if you use this time wisely, you can jump back in full force when things open back up. You will be ready to roll and make up for all the lost time! And after you’ve marked these few tasks off the list, you will have the majority of the things necessary to make a wedding happen!
You’ve got this.
Stay home and wash your hands,