You're Engaged!

February 11, 2019

10 Tips to Start Your Wedding Planning

I have seen it way too often. It’s that deer in headlights, petrified look I get from engaged couples, parents, and members of the wedding party when I give tours at The Sutherland Estate and Gardens. When guests come to visit me to tour the property as a potential venue for their wedding, they are confused, overwhelmed, and scared because they do not know what they are doing. PSA: You’re not supposed to know what you’re doing! Chances are, you have never done this before! So, sit back, relax, and let me help you! One thing I absolutely love about my role as a Wedding Planner at The Sutherland, is helping couples learn how to navigate through the stages of planning their wedding. Here are some tips to guide you along the initial steps of getting started. Plus, here are some tips on what to avoid; ensuring you are using your time wisely.

Photo by Olivia Suriano, Nancy Ray Photography

1. Decide what area you would like to consider getting married in.

There are a few different considerations to take into account when deciding where to get married. Traditionally, weddings take place in the hometown of the family paying for the majority of the costs. However, this is 2019 and your wedding should be what you want it to be! It is important to choose a location that has special meaning to you as a couple whether it is at “home” or at a destination that is sentimental for you.

2. Decide what season you would like to get married in.

I have heard all sorts of reasons why couples prefer a certain time of year to get married in. Whatever your reasons, pick a season and day of the week you would like to get married. Narrow down your options to a 3-month period that is most ideal for you. You may also want to rule out certain times of the year that will not work for you.

Photo by Ashley McGrath, Ashley Louise Photography

3. Formulate a starting budget.

There are many different approaches to paying for a wedding in the 21st century. With the average age of engaged couples rising to the mid-30s, it is not uncommon for the couple to assist with paying for the wedding or even paying for it in full themselves. In recent years, 40% of Millennials, 65% of Generation Xers, and 60% of LGBTQ couples have paid for their own weddings. Sometimes, the cost may be split 3 ways. Decide how you will pay for the wedding and choose an overall budget to start allocating to each service.

*Statistics provided by WeddingWire.

Photo by Autumn Harrison Photography

4. Prioritize your must haves and deal breakers for potential wedding venues.

Make a list of all the things which are important to you that the ideal venue must have. It is also a good idea to consider what you are willing to compromise on.

Photo by A.J. Dunlap, A.J. Dunlap Photography

5. Tour and consult with venues who check off your priority list.

One you have determined the criteria of the most ideal venue for your needs, search for venues that are in line with your priority checklist. Narrow down your choices to the top 3 and schedule tours at those venues.

Photo by Michael A. Anderson Photography


1. Do not be too specific about a certain wedding date unless you have a significant reason for sticking to one single date.

Try to avoid only considering a single date or even only a few dates unless you have a valid reason which places restrictions on your wedding date. For example, some couples want to avoid certain seasons such as storm season for coastal destinations. Some couples choose summer because they are students or are in a profession where getting married on a school break works best. Military couples may be confined to certain times due to deployment schedules.  Unless there is a very valid reason which sets limitations on when you can get married, the best strategy is to tour venues which meet your needs and find out what dates are available in the time frame you are interested in.

2. Do not peruse and start exploring venues until you have completed steps 1-4 above.

While I completely understand you are so excited with the initial engagement jitters and just can’t wait to start planning, it will not be the best use of your time to start researching venues or other vendor services until you determine the criteria of your priorities. Once you have determined your ideal wedding location, time of year, budget, and priorities in a venue, you will be able to narrow down your search to fit your needs.

Photos by Bowtie Collaborative Photography

3. Do not inquire with a venue requesting for a tour without collecting any information first.

Everyone has their own work schedules, fitness routines, social activities, hobbies, etc. While adding wedding planning on top of your busy schedule can be daunting, it is important to take the time to do your homework. By doing the research ahead of time, you will be able to consider a few suitable venues and save yourself time in the long run.

4. Do not consider any venues that do not check off your priority list and cannot fulfill your needs.

Make a list of things of the things that are non-negotiable for you. Do not compromise on the things that are absolute deal breakers for you. Do not waste time touring venues that cannot provide the things that are important to you.

Photo by Jillian Knight Photography

5. Do not book a venue above of your budget; making you “venue poor”.

Don’t consider any venues that cost more than the range of your predetermined budget. If you choose to tour venues that are more expensive than what you have to spend, you run the risk of making an emotionally and financially irresponsible decision for your wedding. You will also be creating a situation in which you have to compromise and cut back on other services that may be important to you for your ideal wedding day. This will be disheartening for you later on down the road.

Finally, do a little more research before you attend tours at each venue. Arrive prepared, with a list of questions based on your priorities, compromises, and deal breakers. Make sure you ask each venue the same questions. This way, you will be able to collect the same information and get as close to a side by side comparison as possible. It is a good idea to make a spreadsheet so that you can compare the answers from each venue you are considering.

Photos by Bowtie Collaborative Photography

Once you have determined a wedding date and secured a venue, take a breather! Relax for a little while. You will have peace of mind in knowing where and when you are getting married. Enjoy the moment a bit before you proceed on to the next steps. Good luck in your search!

If you need assistance with approaching a certain planning task, we would love to hear from you! We are always brainstorming on topics to write about to help engaged couples navigate through their wedding planning journey. Please email us and it will be our pleasure to post on the topic!

With Love,

Christy Ethridge

Certified Wedding Planner

Associate Event Producer

The Sutherland Estate and Gardens

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