Planning a wedding can be among the most exciting projects of your life. It also presents big challenges. No matter what kind of wedding you decide to have, the planning process will take plenty of organization and lots of decision-making. As you plan each detail of your big day, it helps to try to stay focused on your values and on what's important to you. 

Steps to take to plan the wedding that's right for you.

The big picture

Planning a wedding can take months, and it involves many tasks. If possible, spend a few weeks talking about your wedding with your fiancé and your families before you make firm plans. This will help you decide what you want before you commit to anything. 

You may want to write down a list of your wedding requirements to help both of you focus on the elements you "must have" at your wedding. This list will help you stay focused on your priorities. Keep in mind that you may need to make trade-offs to accommodate your budget, your families' wishes, and what's available in your community. Here are some things to think about: 

  • Location. Do you want to be married in a house of worship, on the beach, or at your home? Do you want to get married in your hometown, where you currently live, or in a completely different location?
  • Wedding type. Do you want a traditional wedding? A military wedding? A theme wedding? Will it be casual or black tie?
  • Season. What time of year do you want to be married? Are you interested in a fall or holiday theme? Or do you hope to get married in the spring or summer?
  • Time. Will you be married in the morning, in the afternoon, or at an evening candlelight ceremony?
  • Wedding size. Do you want a large wedding or a small, intimate one? What size wedding can you afford?
  • Personal touches. Will you write your own vows? Will you include cultural touches?

Consider, too, the number of events your wedding will involve. Most weddings include at least three -- a rehearsal dinner, a ceremony, and a reception. Today many couples also have a welcome party for out-of-town and other guests that replaces the rehearsal dinner, is added on to the end of it, or occurs a day or two before it. Or they may have an after-party following the reception or a brunch on the day after it. Any extra events can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a wedding. And there likely aren't any traditional etiquette rules about who pays for what. So your families will want to talk early on about the events you hope to have and how to cover the costs. 

If you need ideas for any part of your celebrations, think about what you liked and didn't like about weddings you've attended. You can also look through wedding magazines and books, attend a bridal show, and talk with married friends and relatives. You'll find additional ideas on wedding sites like The Knot ( and MyWedding ( and on the wedding boards on Pinterest ( 

Setting a budget

Before you start making wedding-day arrangements, know your budget. 

  • Determine your limit. Before you start spending, know who will pay for your wedding (and any related events) and what you can afford. Your funding may come from several sources, such as parents, you and your fiancé, or a low-interest bank loan. Talk with all parties involved so that you understand everyone's expectations.
  • Itemize. Once you agree on a limit, you can work on an itemized wedding budget showing how much you can spend on each part of your wedding. Make sure to account for all of the smaller items, such as tips, because these can add up quickly. You can download a budget checklist online or find one in a wedding planning book.
  • Stick to your budget. As you work through your wedding plans, try to stick to your budget. Keep track of how much money you've spent on each item. If you save on one item, you can apply it to another item for which you didn't budget enough money.
  • Try to avoid using credit cards to finance your wedding. Unless you can pay what you owe right away, you'll start married life with debt that could take years to pay off.

Getting organized

Being well-organized from the start can help your plans go as smoothly as possible. Here are some tips: 

  • Use a planning checklist. A planning checklist will help you cover everything in your wedding plans. Many checklists have tasks divided into timeframes so that you know how far in advance to make certain arrangements. You can find planning checklists in books and online. You might also download a wedding-planning app that will allow you to check off tasks as you complete them.
  • Keep all of your important wedding documents in one place. You might use a folder with pockets -- a great way to coordinate all of the paperwork, such as estimates and receipts. Or you might scan your documents and photos and save them on your computer. You can access these digital files from any device if you save them online with a file-hosting or file-sharing service, such as Dropbox ( or Google Drive ( You may also want to dedicate a large bin or box to other materials, such as bridal magazines, invitation catalogues, and honeymoon travel brochures.
  • Get ahead of the game. With so many details to complete, wedding planning rarely goes perfectly. Finishing each task ahead of schedule will allow for some breathing room if something doesn't go as planned. This can help you avoid some of the stresses that may arise during the planning process.

Getting started

Whether your wedding is weeks or months away, you'll need to arrange some things as soon as possible: 

  • Date. You may have to be flexible on this until you get your ceremony and reception sites reserved. Once you've got your sites booked, you can share your wedding date and time with family and friends.
  • Location. Ceremony and reception sites book up fast. When you call to reserve a location, have a back-up date handy in case your first choice isn't available. If you must have a certain date, you may have to look for a different facility that has availability.
  • Official. Decide who will officiate at your wedding. Make the arrangements as soon as possible so that the person will be available on your selected day.
  • Wedding planner. If you plan to hire a wedding planner, do so right away. Your consultant will be able to help you right from the start.
  • Caterer. If your reception site doesn't offer catering, you'll want to select a caterer as soon as possible. The staff at your reception site may be able to recommend caterers with whom they've worked.
  • Wedding party. Once you have a wedding party list, ask each person as soon as possible so that they can make arrangements with work, childcare, and other responsibilities.
  • Guest list. Start a guest list so that you have an idea of how large your wedding will be. You can always trim it if you find that your reception site or your budget can't handle the entire list.
  • Photographer and/or videographer. If you plan to use a professional photographer or videographer, start looking early so you have time to find one you like. Ask friends and family for recommendations and look at each vendor's portfolio before making a decision.
  • Transportation. If you'll be using hired transportation, such as a limousine or a horse and carriage, make your reservations early.
  • A tent or other special items. If you'll need a tent, reserve it when you book your location.
  • Music. Start looking for bands, musicians, or DJs right away. People who perform at weddings often book more than a year in advance.
  • Honeymoon. If you'll be taking a honeymoon, start thinking about where to go. Starting your plans early allows time for researching destinations, taking advantage of any special deals, and applying for passports if they are necessary.
  • Marriage license. Find out about local requirements for obtaining a marriage license.


 © LifeWorks Canada Ltd 2016