Wedding planning is no joke. There are a million things to think about and only 24 hours in any given day. I don’t know how some people manage to do it so effortlessly. The math just doesn’t add up.

Back in June, and a little over a year after he popped the question, my fiancé and I decided that it was about time that we start wedding planning – otherwise it probably wasn’t ever going to happen and we would stay forever engaged. Jk. I think? Now it's full on September (what even???) and we have made some serious headway. Here are a few things I’ve learned firsthand in the first couple months.

  1. Create a wedding Gmail. Do you even understand how many people you’re going to be emailing? How many contests you’ll suddenly be motivated to participate in? Think about the free engagement sessions, honeymoon flights, and cash prizes people give out at to brides and grooms. All of that is super great and I totally encourage everyone to participate. But, if we’re being honest, you do not need your inbox spammed two years from now because the unsubscribe button didn’t work or your email was sold to a company trying to "gift" you a "free" cruise vacation.
  2. Google Sheets is your best friend. But wait, I thought that was your maid-of-honor? Nope. While you’re at it, go ahead and use that new wedding Google account for planning purposes too. I’ve always been a sucker for writing things down on paper but, let me tell you, Google Docs – and more specifically, Google Sheets, is the way to go. If even just so that multiple people can be in on the know at the same time. My fiancé and I are currently using our sheet to document everything and pretty soon, I’ll be bringing my maids-of-honor into it so we can get a second and third set of eyes to point out things we might be missing. Right now, our Google Sheets contains the following pages:
  3. Vendor Information: Contact name, role, business name, phone number, email address, social media, and notes
  4. Invite List: Name, email, total invites, address
  5. Sample timeline *This is something I offer couples and is based on weddings I've shot and styled shoots I've organized. The closer we get to the big day, the more personalized this will get!
  6. Budget: Item (or service), quantity, projected cost, actual cost, notes
  7. Q&A Checklist: Broken down based on category and vendor
  8. Surround yourself with people who love you but aren’t going to blow smoke up your ass. The girls who are standing by my side on my big day are some of the greatest people I’ve ever known. They’ve been there for the big things and the little things and have stuck around through the crazy. But the maids-of-honor? They come with extra backbone and sass. They’ve listened to every pie-in-the-sky idea and let me get it out of my system before bringing me back down to earth. And they’ve gently reminded me of the implications of each decision we make on not just them, but on anyone who is attending. Having their collective voice of reason has made me a better friend, a better fiancé, and a better host. The conversations aren’t always easy but, believe me, they are necessary and I’m so grateful to have them. It’s super easy to get carried away. The day is 100% about you and your love but it’s also so important to keep in mind all that everyone else is doing to be there for you! And the easiest way to do that is to have a support system to remind you.
  9. Get a good credit card. This is easily the most money I’ve spent in the shortest amount of time in my entire life, and we’re only a few months in. Do some research on cards and read all of the fine print. Figure out what you value most and find a card with benefits that will help you achieve your goal. Maybe for you its cash back to offset some of the outrageous costs (seriously, that better be a damn good cake). For us, it’s travel. We found a card that earns us 2x the miles on all purchases with a solid sign up bonus which will probably end up paying for at least our honeymoon travel - maybe even the trip itself. Get a credit card and use it for everything. Just be sure pay it off each month. Weddings are fun, but not worth ruining your credit for.
  10. Beware: Everyone is going to give you advice. Hi, over here (oops, lol)! Listen to it. Take it in. Process it. But don’t feel like you need to follow it. Everyone – okay, most people – are going to come to you with the best of intentions, hoping that whatever nugget they share will make things easier for you. And a lot of times, the advice is sound and should be considered. But remember that every love story is different, and every relationship comes with its own set of quirks. Your wedding should and will be yours. You don’t want to regret spending extra money on postage for return envelopes that could have been allocated for your flowers because your grandmother thinks it's classier that way when in reality you could have just had people RSVP online. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the mistake I fixed before I made it. Except the pressure wasn't coming from my grandmother. She's the best. ;)
  11. Find a photographer you love and trust and listen to them. Your photographer can give you some key advice when it comes to vendor research and planning in general – you just need to ask. Think about it. This is their world. Your photographer will know what it’s like to not just photograph a wedding, but also work with vendors behind the scenes. Need advice on video? Ask your photographer – you’ll end up with a team of people who work well together (maybe your photographer also offers video *she says, desperately raising her hand into the sky). Can’t find the right florist? Ask your photographer who is going to make your dream a reality. Not sure about hair and makeup? Your photographer knows what translates best on camera and is going to be able to point you in the direction of the perfect stylist and artist. Your photographer should be one of the first few vendors you book – use that to your advantage and become friends with them. Because that chemistry will translate on camera, too. ;)

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it definitely should get you started in the right direction. Make sure to check back in November to see where we are in the planning process! There’s a lot happening in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to share it all! In the meantime, see the sparks fly at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum elopement shoot below! Vendors listed below the photos, as always!