First of all, congratulations!
Being newly engaged is such an amazing time in your life. But we know that with the excitement also comes nerves. After all, you’ve likely never planned a wedding before! Figuring out where to start first can be daunting, but no worries babe! That’s what we’re here for. Before we get into it, our unofficial first thing to do when you get engaged is simply just enjoy it. It’s so exciting to jump into wedding planning, but take a few days or weeks to just revel in your love for one another!
Alright, without further ado here are the things you need to do first when planning your New Jersey wedding. Scroll down to read more on each item.
- Talk to family members about their contribution
- Settle on a wedding budget
- Compile preliminary wedding guest list
- Decide on time of year
- Hire a wedding planner
- Hone in on overall vibe
- Think about band vs. DJ
- Start researching wedding venues
- Book your venue
- Research and book vendors of distinction
Talk to family members about their contribution.
Have a sit down with your parents or any other family members who you think may contribute funds to your wedding budget. So many couples make the mistake of avoiding this conversation because, let’s face it, it can be uncomfortable talking about money. But even if their answer is “nothing” it’s best you know from the beginning so you can budget accordingly.
Settle on a budget.
Once you’ve had the conversation with your family and understand what you and your fiance are able to contribute, it’s time to nail down your entire wedding budget. Most of our New Jersey clients are spending between $80,000 – $200,000 on their weddings. The factors that will really drive your wedding budget are number of people, venue and catering, and whether you are having a band or DJ. Understand that most couples allocate at least 40% of their budget to their wedding to their venue and catering. If you need help building a wedding budget, reach out to Well-Dressed Events. We help couples create, allocate and manage their budgets to set them up for wedding planning success!
Compile preliminary wedding guest list.
This one lands high on our list because as mentioned above, guest list is a big factor when it comes to budget. It’s also a key factor when narrowing down wedding venues. We always recommend creating an A-list and a B-list to start. So who goes on which list?
A-list should be made up of your immediate family (parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and first cousins), closest friends and coworkers, and anyone else you see on a regular basis or have a strong relationship with. This is your non-negotiable list. You’re going to want to find a venue that can fit all of these guests should they rsvp yes.
B-list consists of your parents friends, any family members you’ve never met or haven’t seen in a while, friends and coworkers you like but aren’t super close with, etc.
This is also where you decide if you want to invite kids and give plus ones to your friends who are single.
Decide on time of year.
This is an important conversation to help manage expectations, compile a planning timeline and help narrow down venues. Have you always pictured getting married outside on the water? Great, then you probably want to look at June – August. Want a fall wedding with an outdoor cocktail hour? September or Early October is for you! Be realistic with your timing. If you got engaged in November and always wanted a March wedding, you may need to look at a 1.5 year engagement to accommodate the planning that has to be done. Another pro-tip: most of our couples are engaged for 1 – 1.5 years.
Hire a wedding planner.
We can’t stress this enough, and we’re not just saying this because this is our job. YOU NEED TO HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER. It doesn’t matter if you are super organized, have amazing style, or have been in 20 weddings in your lifetime–you will need professional support at some point throughout the planning and design process. That’s why we offer customized planning from day-of to full-service, and a la carte add ons like design, venue research and more.
Every single one of our clients have said that hiring a wedding planner was the greatest thing they ever did. If you’re not super familiar with what a wedding planner does or how hiring one can benefit you, we have a blog post about that! But in a nutshell, a wedding planner is your soundboard, your advocate, and your guide throughout the entire process. We’re here to answer those tricky etiquette questions (i.e. should we give my friend a plus one even though we never met the guy?) and keep you on schedule. The right planner will save you time and money by giving you access to their trusted vendors, reviewing your contracts and being honest about what to spend your money on.
If you’re thinking about hiring a NJ wedding planner, or just want to have a conversation to see if hiring a wedding planner is the right fit for you, schedule a consultation with us. We’re happy to walk you through the process!
Hone in on overall vibe.
Honing in on your overall vibe is another key step at the beginning of planning. Just like figuring out the time of year and guest count, your vibe will guide your venue selection. Pinterest is your best friend here. Just start pinning photos of different weddings and elements that appeal to you. Before you know it, you’ll have a curated collage of your wedding vibe. If you notice your board has a lot of tented weddings with organic florals and airy fabric, then maybe a romantic garden wedding is your vibe! If darker hues, tons of candles and dried florals are the star, then a moody winery wedding may be your style! Of course, a wedding planner can help you with your vibe in a lot of ways too. We offer full-service and lite design services to help couples curate their ideal weddings.
Think about band vs. DJ.
We’re not saying you have to find and book your wedding band or DJ just yet, but the choice between these different entertainment options influence your initial planning in two ways. First, it will affect your budget. Bands are traditionally more expensive than DJs, and the number of pieces in the band will increase the number as well. Second, bands take up a lot more space in your reception, so taking that into consideration while touring venues is key. You don’t want half your dance floor taken up by the band, trust us!
Start researching wedding venues.
Now that you are armed with your budget, guest count, vibe and ideal time of year it’s time to start hunting for venues! The Knot and WeddingWire are all great places to start as they allow you to search by location, price and style. Don’t stop the search there though. There are tons of amazing venues that aren’t on these sites that you don’t want to overlook! If you don’t know where to begin, hiring a planner to do venue research for you is a huge help. Well-Dressed Events offers a great venue research service which includes a venue research planning call, delivery of up to 3 venue options (including information and data on each venue customized to your wedding needs), accompaniment to up to 3 venue tours to assist in making your final selection and contract review and date securement with your final venue choice. Contact us today to learn more about this service!
Book your venue.
Once you find your ideal venue and have confirmed it fits your guest list and budget, it’s time to book baby! Be sure to review contracts carefully and enlist a planner to support if you aren’t familiar with this process.
Research and book vendors of distinction.
We consider vendors of distinction the bigger more pricey vendors like florist, photographer, videographer, entertainment. These vendors tend to book up faster so once you have your date and venue, you’ll want to move onto these next. Since Covid, hotels have also been booking up quickly so be sure to secure your guest room block earlier on. Then move on to hair and makeup, transportation, etc.
We hope you found this list helpful! Check out our website for more planning tips and reach out to Well-Dressed Events to help with all your wedding planning needs!