Let’s be upfront here: wedding planning is a ton of work. Between choosing your vendor, creating your guest list, cake tasting, bridesmaid shopping, registering, finding your dress, etc. etc. there’s about a million and one things you have to do to prepare for the big day. Luckily, there’s an abundance of resources out there for you to find your perfect wedding inspiration. On the other hand, there’s often so much to look at that you can feel even more overwhelmed. So in an effort to help you narrow down your choices and help you find your perfect wedding aesthetic more easily, we've created a guide for everything from deciding your theme to choosing your colors!
Before you dive into planning the details of your wedding, it's important to know your timeline. You would hate to plan your perfect beach wedding only to find your beach venue isn't available! We love this super helpful chart from My Wedding Reception Ideas that really helps lay out all the details. Print this off and check off your tasks as you go!
Some guys don’t want anything to do with planning the wedding. But your groom-to-be should still be involved, at the very least for the budget talk. So plan to sit down with your fiancée and discuss the details, starting with the budget. Everything comes back to that dollar amount and you don’t want to way overspend. Did you know that the average American wedding costs 26,720 dollars? Some people can swing this amount, and others can’t so it’s important to set your guidelines.
When having the “budget talk” there’s a lot to consider. Will your parents generously pitch in to the fund? Have either of you saved any money specifically for the wedding? Keep in mind too that if you want to go on a honeymoon you will need to set aside some allowance for that as well. After you decide on the final amount, try and allocate how much money should be in each category. If you want to book a fancy venue in peak wedding season, you should expect to spend top rates and as a result should be ready to adjust your budget accordingly. Maybe you will then decide to buy your dress off the rack to have enough for the venue. And always, always set aside some money for the last minute extra costs that will sneak up on you. Read our blog on 37 Wedding Costs That You Need to Budget For.
After you and your fiancée decide on your budget (congrats!) Take some time to get his honest opinion. Does he want to have the wedding close to home or would he rather have a destination wedding? Does he care if it’s indoors or outdoors? What season? He may not care about the little details like what table settings you choose, but he may be able to provide some guidance for any venues he likes or colors he doesn’t like. Maybe he really wants to involve his collegiate basketball team somehow (we’ve seen this a lot!) Knowing this from the start will help you plan accordingly. And keep him involved as you continue to plan! You don’t want to leave him out, because it’s his wedding too.
This is a huge step in wedding planning because everything kind of revolves around it! The Wedding Wire suggests choosing your date about 11-12 months out. Check out their wedding date planning helper here for tips on everything from important holiday reminders to famous wedding anniversaries! There’s a lot of things to consider when choosing a date such as:
Venue availability. Perhaps the most important factor of all, finding a date when your dream venues are available is huge. If you have been dreaming about being married in a particular church or event center for years and you just can’t get married anywhere else, your wedding date will probably depend on when the venue is available. If you’re more flexible and can get married in a few different locations, you have more freedom here to pick and choose.
While having your wedding over a 3 or 4-day holiday weekend like Labor Day or 4th of July may sound like a great idea, a lot of wedding guests don’t appreciate it. Many people already have plans for these weekends that are booked far in advance, and may not be able to move things around for your wedding. Plus, travel costs are usually higher around these dates which adds another strain for your guests. Consider also that if guests need to find babysitters or pet sitters for the big day, these will be harder to come by and more expensive over a holiday weekend. On the flip side, I did attend a wedding on New Year’s Eve which was easily one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever been to, so there are benefits and downsides with this one.
How long do you need to plan? If you are someone like me who is kind of a perfectionist and doesn’t like to be rushed, you may want to give yourself over a year to plan for the wedding. Some people can pull off a wedding under a short time frame, but keep in mind that your dream vendors may not be available under short notice.
What’s your budget? Friday weddings seem to be becoming increasingly popular as people realize how much cheaper it can be to book your venue for a Friday! This can literally save you thousands of dollars. If you are on a tight budget, also keep in mind that in-season vendor rates can be significantly more expensive (think June-August) than less popular wedding dates (like January). According to The Wedding Wire, 13% of weddings occur in May! So when do you think venues/vendors will be the most pricey?
Still having trouble deciding? Read an in-depth look into this topic with our blog “How to Pick Your Perfect Wedding Date.”
Okay, now that you’ve picked your date, you have one more decision to make before you start really seriously planning: do you want to hire a wedding planner? This can be a HUGE help, especially if you don’t like event planning. Read our blog “A Wedding Planning Guide to Hiring a Planner” if you need some additional tips on this subject.
Alright, now it’s time to dive right into planning!
Your venue is, arguably, one of the most important elements of your wedding day. It can totally determine the “vibe” or theme of your wedding, make or break your budget, and can make all the difference in your wedding photos! Now before you panic, décor can go a long way to spruce up a space if it’s not your perfect picture. Check out Wedding Wire’s vendor manager to look at venues in your area, read reviews, and see real wedding inspiration. Choosing your venue can be tough, so we’ve come up with a few guidelines to help narrow down your search.
What’s your budget? Again, it all comes down to that budget amount! (Which is why it’s one of the first steps you complete in your planning.) Maybe the fancy hotel isn’t in the cards, but the arboretum is. Check peak prices versus off-season prices, availability, and additional costs that might be tacked on.
What’s your theme? This is a big one here. You can always decorate your venue accordingly to fit the vibe you’re going for, but the theme kind of starts and ends with the venue. Need help deciding your theme? If you have a venue in mind you can start with the space and choose your theme based on it, or vice versa. Read on for some more venue/theme tips.
Rustic: This one might go without saying, but rustic themes work perfectly with a ranch or barn venue! This style is rapidly spreading, and rustic weddings are oh-so-cute. Have the reception in a barn, decorate with plenty of string lighting, mason jars, and florals, and arrive in a horse drawn carriage! I think the common misconception about barn weddings is that you have to include cowgirl boots and animals, but this totally isn’t true. You can go the more “elegant rustic” avenue and forego the DIY chalkboards for lace and chandeliers.
Whimsical: Wanting to express your free spirit? Arboretums, gardens or botanical gardens, country clubs, castles/mansions (wouldn’t that be awesome), orchards, or even a spacious backyard is perfect for this vision. Decorate with plenty of string lights and florals, but be prepared because these venues are often outdoors.
Black Tie/Formal: Black tie weddings can be an absolute blast. How often do you get to be so dressed up and classy? For a formal feel, your venue definitely has to convey your theme with this one. Guests will just not feel as fancy in a barn. Think country clubs, fancy hotels, wineries, mansions, historical buildings, or event centers. Depending on which venue you pick, this could be out of your budget so you may have to compromise with an out-of-season date.
Nautical/Beach: I think this one is kind of obvious…but I’m going to talk about it anyways. For a beach or nautical themed wedding, the best venues are near the water. Decorating with anchors and “sailing into married life” kind of décor will look out of place at hotel. Try to stick to venues that are at least near water, if not located overlooking it. Yacht clubs, your friend’s beautiful lake cabin, the beach, or a destination wedding are all great spots for this type of wedding. I live in Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes, so this theme is relatively easy to accomplish anywhere here.
Outdoorsy: This theme is great because if can be a less expensive option for your budget. Imagine celebrating your big day in a state park, cabin resort, garden, ski lodge (in the summer or winter), orchard, or winery. Some of these venues are often outdoors, but you can say your vows outside and then move the party inside. Tip: these venues can often be way less expensive than your country club, but be prepared to bring in your own electric capabilities and have a Plan B on deck for bad weather.
Need other wedding theme inspiration? We have an entire blog dedicated for “25 Ideas for an Unforgettable Themed Wedding”
Now that you’ve picked your theme, you color palette should naturally follow more easily. Some palettes work naturally with some themes, such as blush pink, sage green, and gold for a rustic wedding. Other themes you will have to decide for yourself! Wedding colors is a whole other overwhelming beast on Pinterest that you can quickly get lost in. Slate blue or cornflower blue? What color complements my lilac bridesmaid dresses? This can so quickly become stressful. Narrowing down your choices can help immensely.
Sit down with your fiancée and ask him what he wants. I talked about this earlier, but you could be surprised with how much help you could be! And even if he is able to say “I don’t like yellow” or “I like outdoor weddings” this could really narrow down your Pinterest feed. Besides, it’s his day too and he will probably want some say in it.
After you consider your fiancée, the next most important factor is the season. If you have picked your wedding date and know what the weather is generally like, your wedding palettes have already been thinned down for you! Searching “late summer wedding color palettes” is a whole lot easier than just “wedding color palettes.” I like using Wedding Wire’s color generator because it considers your season when providing you with color combinations.
After I chose Fall as my season, I could choose between cranberry, plum, champagne, and orange for my primary color. Then Wedding Wire provides 6 sample color combinations to look through! Now, being able to search “cranberry, emerald, and gold fall weddings” in Pinterest just made your search that much easier.
What is your personality like? If you are a peppy and bubbly person who loves bright colors, then you should consider combinations like raspberry, gold, and orange. Laid back and casual? Consider more neutral and earthy colors. Consider what colors you usually like or gravitate to. Do you wear a lot of navy blue shirts? Is your kitchen decorated with hints of sage green? Personally, I love the color sea foam blue and know I would try to incorporate it into my wedding palette.
Keep the important things in mind. Did you always dream of having baby breath flowers in your bouquet? Do you picture your bridesmaids in blush pink dresses? Starting with these type of priorities will be a whole lot easier than trying to fit them in at the end. You don’t want to run with a theme and color palette only to realize later the brown wooden lanterns you bought, specifically for the wedding, don’t match!
Choosing your wedding aesthetic can be tough. There’s so much inspiration out there, and narrowing down what you actually want can seem impossible. If you are feeling overwhelmed, that’s totally normal. Talk with your fiancée, set a budget, determine your priorities, choose your venue, and the rest will follow more easily. Your theme and color palette is huge part of your wedding vibe, so consider what you naturally like, the season, and what you want your wedding to reflect about you and your partner.
Remember that it’s easy to get lost in Pinterest. Sometimes you just need to log out and take a break. While your wedding aesthetic is important, remember that some details are less important that others and that your gut feeling is usually right. Good luck!
How did you choose your wedding theme? Did you always have a specific vision, or did you have to search through Pinterest for hours? What advice do you have for other brides? Let us know in the comments below!
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Taking Your Measurements
For the most accurate measurements, do not measure over your clothing. Your measurements should be taken while wearing undergarments similar to the ones you will wear with your dress. The measuring tape shouldn’t be pulled too tight or have too much slack, and should always be parallel with the floor.
Wedding apparel is typically sized differently than retail clothing, so keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to find yourself requiring alterations.
Compare these three measurements to the Kennedy Blue size chart above. It is very important that you order the largest size that corresponds to your measurements. For example, if your bust measures 40.5” (size 12), your waist measures 31” (size 10) and your hips measure 41.5” (size 8), we advise that you order a size 12, and get your dress altered down to custom fit your body.
Wrap the tape around your back and under your arms at the fullest part of your bust (not underneath the bust).
While standing up straight, bend at the waist to one side. Take the measurement where the natural crease happens in your side. This should be a few inches above your belly button. Stand up straight and do not “suck in” when taking this measurment.
Standing with your feet together, wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips and butt to get this measurement.
Depending on the fabric, a dress can be altered down up to 2 full sizes, but can be very difficult to let out as there is only about .5 inch of fabric to do so at the seams.
Ordering anything smaller than a size 12 would not fit in the bust area. Please note: Our bridal gown size chart is different than the bridesmaids sizing and is listed below.