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Wedding Planning Series: The First Conversation You MUST Have

Photo by Randy & Ashley Studios
You just got engaged… now what?

First of all, congrats! This is a super-exciting moment in your life, so don’t make light of it! Pop the champagne, phone all of your friends, and put an adorable pic on Instagram ASAP! Bask in this glow for a little while, and enjoy the newness of everything.

But after a few days (or maybe weeks, sometimes it’s months), you will inevitably feel the pull to start planning. Heck, maybe you already have the whole shebang planned before the question was even popped! So, where do you start?

I’m actually going to start with a list of DON’Ts, so apologies for being the Debbie-Downer so quickly into the post. Here are somethings you should not immediately do:

  • Create several Pinterest boards and invite all of your friends to contribute
  • Attend one (or several) local bridal shows
  • Buy a huge stack of wedding magazines
  • Declare that you already know who, what, where and when everything is happening

Why? These all sound like very reasonable things to do as you start planning your wedding, considering every bride needs a starting point for inspiration, right? WRONG! I’m telling you to hold off on the Pinning for just a little bit until you have had the first and most important planning discussion with your partner (and probably your family)!


The first thing you need to decide and plan for is your budget

A lot of what you see on Pinterest and wedding websites these days are gorgeous, fabulous photos that have been meticulously styled by incredible wedding experts. They are freaking gorgeous, but frankly my dears, they are usually pretty damn expensive.  And I don’t want you to fall in love with a certain look, design, dress, venue, anything that could be out of your budget (haven’t we all seen an episode of Say Yes to the Dress that depicts this?).

Sit down at a big table, grab your smart phone (for the calculator and your contact list), and a big glass of water. No drinking, you need a clear head for this. Here are the questions you need to answer (and answer very, very honestly):

  • What is the absolute most amount of money you feel comfortable spending on a wedding and are actually capable of spending? Not a range, but your LIMIT.
  • Is this amount of money displacing something potentially more important (bills, mortgages, rent, down payment on a house, etc)?
  • Do you need a significant amount of time to save towards this budget?
  • Will you be getting any additional funds from other sources? Parents, grandparents, other relatives? An unexpected inheritance that may or may not come doesn’t count.
  • What does this budget cover? Who specifically is paying for the dress, the planner, the booze, the postage, the fees, etc.?**

Answering these questions should start to give you a ballpark figure. If a relative is giving you a general lump sum of money, great! But some people might be choosy and say, “I’m only giving you money for the alcohol because there must be an open bar all night.” But at the end of this budget discuss, what is a reasonable budget to have?Well, it really comes down to the area of the country you live in (or wherever it is you want to have your wedding), and the number of people you are inviting.

Right now the average cost in the US is about $26K. Cost of Wedding, has an amazing feature to show you the averages of your local area, and by the number of guests.  I live in Los Angeles (where the average cost of a wedding can vary by tens of thousands of dollars just based on what side of a street you may live on), but $26K can get you an awesome wedding (my version of “awesome,” being very subjective) for about 75-100 people, most likely on a Saturday during the “off-season” (December-Memorial Day). That money can be spent very differently in a different state with a different guest count. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a great wedding for under $10K, I’m just trying to warn you that it won’t look like 95% of the images on your Pinterest board.

So, I hope you sit down and have that awkward-difficult conversation with all of the necessary people and that you have it soon. I know you run the risk of some dreams maybe being dashed (having doves released at your ceremony can cost around $400), but if you go into the next phase of planning with a clear budget and a commitment to stick to it, the process will be much, much easier. Because that will lead me to next week’s post, about how it is also important to have limiting factors (like your budget) during the planning process so you don’t go crazy. Good luck, this is the first major hurdle in the process!

**Want a comprehensive view of all of the potential wedding-related costs? Take a deep breath and check out some of these good lists (You can ignore the percentage breakdowns, for now at least):