wedding day at a reception hall with bride and groom dancing after wedding planning

When to Start Wedding Planning (and Where to Start)

“When do I start wedding planning?” is a wedding planning question that inevitably pops into your head—sometimes even before you’ve uttered yes! Even if you don’t ask the question, get ready for a barrage of questions from friends and family.

When to Start Wedding Planning

The best answer to the when question is when you’re ready—but with the disclaimer that if you wait too long you may not get your ideal date, wedding venue, or vendors. Planning your big day starts—surprisingly!—with a conversation with your fiancé.

Do we have a special date we want to get married on? Or a time of year?

The good news: you don’t need to have a set date before you start contacting venues and vendors. Some couples have a date in mind for months or years before they get married, while others set the date based on venue and vendor availability. If you’re in the latter camp (no date), you can use these tips for setting a wedding date or contact wedding venues and ask for open dates.

Either way, this is your time to discuss not only the date but how long you want to be engaged. There are some advantages to a long or short engagement. A long engagement gives you plenty of time for wedding planning, while a short engagement gets you down the aisle and into wedding bliss quickly (use these tips if you’re getting married in six months or less).  

Where should we get married?

Just as important as the date is the where of your wedding; this question can start as broad as choosing between a destination or hometown wedding. Once you’ve narrowed down the city, it’s time to start thinking about wedding venues in your desired location.

What is our wedding budget? How are we going to pay for our wedding?

A wedding budget gets your wedding planning kickstarted off on the right foot, giving you and your fiancé the chance to discuss your finances and financial means. This is also your chance to make sure you are allocating money for big-ticket items that make a big impact on guests (i.e. venue, food, entertainment); a wedding budget checklist can be a big help during your discussion.

Do we want a large or small wedding?

Your guest list count doesn’t need to be final, but an estimated guest count is big part of choosing the right wedding venue and setting a wedding budget. Because of the implications on budget, it’s okay to flip flop these questions and decide on how many funds you have first—and how much you want to spend on each guest.

Do we want to plan the wedding ourselves? Or do we need help?

There is no doubt that wedding planning is a big undertaking, so it’s a good idea to decide on how much of it you want to tackle yourselves. This is an opportunity to review your available time and support system, and decide if you need a full- or part-time wedding planner or can take the wedding planning checklist on yourselves. If you decide you want wedding planning help, it’s time to decide if you want to hire a wedding planner from your wedding venue or a professional with an independent business.

What is our style? What do we really want from our big day?

Your style as a couple gives you direction as you plan—and your discussion gives you the chance to get on the same page about it! In addition to the wedding style (i.e. elegant, traditional, rustic, casual, natural), this is your opportunity to voice any preferences you really want on your big day. Your fiance’s answer may surprise you!

First Wedding Planning Steps

Once you’ve discussed the important details, decide if you want to start wedding planning now or in the future. If you’ve decided on a long-term engagement, start booking the big details now (i.e. venue, caterer, entertainment). You can get to the rest of the checklist later!

Get organized.

The very first step is to get organized, with a binder or paper-free. Either way, take a few minutes to kickstart your wedding planning with the app, wedding checklist, deadlines, and tips that keep you organized as you plan your big day.

Set a date.

Your wedding date is a core detail that is going to be brought up with almost every vendor, so it makes sense to set a date as soon as possible. This can be done by using a special date (i.e. when you met, a signature family date, your first kiss, etc.) or contacting venues to see what dates are available.

Research and choose a wedding venue.

The process for choosing a wedding venue is worthy of a full multi-step venue guide, especially because the wedding venue is the foundation of all your other details. Once you’ve decided on a location, it’s time to search for wedding venues near you (or in your chosen location) and narrow down the options based on style and the venue’s answers to your wedding venue questions.

Start interviewing vendors.

Some wedding venues require that you use certain vendors, while others have an open vendor policy that allows you to choose your favorite caterer and vendors. If you need recommendations for vendors, don’t hesitate to ask the venue staff and start contacting them with vendor questions.