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So, the question has been popped, someone said “Yes,” and now you have no idea what you’re doing. Well, you’re in good company, because most people don’t!

That’s why we’re here to help you get started.

Planning a wedding is far from easy. Few other things in life require you to begin planning a year or more in advance, spend thousands of dollars, and fit a whole lifetime of meaning into one day! No pressure, huh?

But while there may be a million little things to take into consideration when gearing up for your nuptials, there are a few core actions you need to take in order to get the ball rolling, especially if you intend on being your own wedding planner.

These are the foundational steps that everything else will be built upon—this is how you get started. We’re going to help you get ready for one of the most important days of your life with a crash course in planning your wedding.

Create a Budget

Laying down a budget may not be the most glamorous task, but it is the foundation of planning your wedding. Everything you do from here on will be decided based on this task.

Often, when couples are caught up in the high of the engagement, they skip this step, rushing headlong into the details of their dream wedding, only to run out of money about halfway through.

But you’re going to be smarter than that!

Sit down with your significant other and figure out exactly how much you’re able to spend. Remember to speak with anyone who plans on contributing to your budget so that you can come up with exact dollar amounts.

Plan out a maximum amount that you’re willing to spend on every detail of your wedding. List out each element you’re including in your wedding and assign each a maximum cost. As a rule, the reception is the most expensive part of a wedding, taking up nearly half of the budget. After that, things like attire, flowers, entertainment, photography and videography take up around 10 percent each. Smaller items, like stationary, transportation and parking, gifts, and the ceremony, itself, take up around 2 percent each.

If you have a year or two before the date of the wedding, start putting away round 20 percent of your monthly income, if possible, and limit your spending as much as you can.

The sooner you start thinking about all of this, the better, so get budgeting!

Know What You Want

Now for the exciting part. Get with your future spouse and start dreaming. Think up the most perfect wedding you can imagine—one that fulfills your every desire.

Start a wedding binder! Include clippings from lifestyle, bridal, fashion, gardening, design, and food magazines, showcasing exactly what you want. Work out a rough estimate of what this dream wedding might cost.

Don’t forget to work out any disagreements with your loved one at this point so that there won’t be any unforeseen bumps in the road later on.

And now for the less exiting part: start swinging the budget axe. Apply your previously-made budget to your dream wedding and start figuring out how you can fit your dreams into reality. Carefully examine each aspect of your perfect wedding, its cost, and what you can substitute in order to afford it. This might mean having a slightly smaller venue, forgoing that nice hotel ballroom for someone’s nice home, or even using simpler stationary.

Once that’s done, you’ll find yourself at the intersection of what you want and what’s possible—a very nice place to be.

Figure Out the When, Who and Where

Now is the time to solidify your plans by firmly establishing three vital things: your wedding date, guest list, and venue.

It is incredibly important to establish your wedding date early—this allows you to go ahead and start hiring contractors and solidifying plans.  It also ensures that all guests can take whatever time off may be needed for them to attend, and that they’ll have the opportunity to prepare for airfare, driving costs, or anything else they may need to take care of beforehand.

You should also come up with a solid head count that you can use throughout the process of planning your wedding. It may help to use Microsoft Excel to do this so that you can create columns for their contact information, whether or not they’ve been sent their RSVP, and anything else that may be relevant. Having an accurate guest list not only allows you to budget more accurately, but will save you headaches as your wedding date approaches.

Finally, you need to establish the location of your wedding as early as possible. Some venues are in high demand, and must be booked a year or more in advance. You’ll need to also decide if the ceremony and reception will be at the same place, or if they’ll be held in different areas. Once you do this, you can go ahead and start printing those invitations!

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