13 Steps for Planning a Wedding:
Learn How to Plan Your Own Wedding

Learn how to plan your own wedding successfully by following the below steps for planning a wedding.

Think of this page as your wedding plan HQ, bookmark it and return here after you've finished each of the steps. Saving money on your wedding starts with a solid foundation. By carefully planning your event, unexpected costs and last minute purchases are less likely to rear their ugly heads and blow your wedding budget.


Step 1: Get it together

A solid wedding plan starts with wedding budget planning to determine how much money you can realistically spend on your wedding day.

This couple is smiling because they followed the steps for planning a wedding

Next, figure out a rough division of this money by looking at the wedding costs breakdown for the average American wedding. Plug your personal breakdown into a wedding budget sheet, but don’t get too detailed. Right now you’re just roughing the numbers in based on percentages. This task is the most important of all 13 steps for planning a wedding. Now make your wedding guest list. You will see this several places on this website (for good reason): the size of your guest list has the biggest impact on the budget. Once you have a rough draft of your guest list, shift focus to choosing a wedding date, actually several wedding dates, you will need options.

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Step 2: Get organized

Now that you have an ideas of when you would like to get married, make your wedding planning timeline (use the wedding timeline template and adjust to your date and needs). A wedding planning timeline is basically a task list working toward the wedding date. A timeline will keep you sane and on-track. Don't skip this task in the steps for planning a wedding, I promise we'll get to the fun stuff soon!

Step 3: Brainstorm wedding ideas & themes

You can't move ahead with your wedding plans until you clarify your vision for your wedding day. Brainstorming wedding ideas that appeal to you and your fiancé, and then deciding on your style or wedding themes will simplify the rest of your wedding planning decisions. If you already know you are planning a beach wedding, there are specific considerations you will need to take into account.

Step 4: Plan to save money

when wedding planning on a budget, come out of the gate with money saving strategies. This is much easier than trimming the fat from your plan later. From figuring out a plan for your budget wedding food, to cutting corners with delicious but cheap wedding reception menu ideas and estimating wedding cake prices, plan to save from the beginning. You can also plan beautiful, but cheap beach weddings.

Step 5: Decide where you will have your wedding ceremony and reception

Follow the steps for planning a wedding ceremony and reception

If you already know where you are getting married, you can skip this part of the steps for planning a wedding and get on with planning the party! Otherwise... First, brainstorm all the possible types of wedding venues that fit with your vision for your wedding day and personal style. Drill down for more specific wedding venue ideas. Spring or summer wedding? Consider several unique outdoor wedding ideas. Small wedding and very small budget? You need backyard wedding ideas. Before meeting with location managers, read this wedding venue advice.

Step 6: Plan your wedding ceremony

First, brainstorm wedding ceremony ideas and make a rough plan. Next, decide which wedding traditions will be a part of your day and plug them into your wedding ceremony outline. Looking to step a little outside tradition? Here are unique wedding ceremony ideas and unique wedding readings. Church wedding? Plan your biblical wedding readings. Check the marriage license requirements in your state and hire your wedding officiant. A few months to a month before the wedding, plan your wedding rehearsal & wedding rehearsal dinner.

Step 7: Plan your wedding reception

Follow the steps for planning a beautiful wedding ceremony and reception

Of all the 13 steps for planning a wedding, this one is the most fun. First, start with the basics of wedding reception planning. If you haven't done it already, read wedding traditions to keep or cut. Decide how you will serve your wedding reception food (much depends on how formal your wedding will be)and brainstorm wedding reception menu ideas. Really need to save more money? Check out budget wedding food ideas and cheap wedding reception menu ideas. Learn how to find and hire a wedding caterer for your event. Choose from wedding cake designs and learn average wedding cake prices before settling on a design. If you are planning to DIY the cake, here are tips for making a wedding cake. Will you be hiring a band? A DJ? Mixing your own wedding playlist on an iPod? Decide how you will provide music now (the songs can be worked out later). The photographs are how you will remember your wedding day. Take your time choosing the right photographer and planning your wedding photography shot list.

Step 8: Plan your wedding party attire

How formal are you really? The appropriate wedding attire for your event will depend on how you answer this question. So you know how formal you are and what season and time of day you will have your wedding, check the wedding attire etiquette guide for ideas. 

Sane Wedding Planning eBook: Learn how to save time and money on your search for affordable bridal gowns.

 Step 9: Plan your wedding flowers and decorations

Decided on your wedding attire? Good. Now you can plan your wedding flowers, centerpieces and decorations. Beach wedding? See these ideas for beach theme wedding decorations.

 Step 10: Plan your wedding invitations and other printables

Now that you've chosen a date, a style & theme, and a venue, it's time to choose your wedding invitations and wedding printables. Where will you get your wedding invitations? Check out wedding invitation ideas for tips and don't forget to review wedding invitation etiquette.

 Step 11: Plan your wedding gifts

When you get married, you give gifts to your wedding party, wedding favors to guests, and you will receive gifts. Make sure you get what you need by making a thoughtful wedding gift registry checklist.

 Step 12: Take care of business

Success is in the details, and sometimes the details are boring. Working out how much wedding insurance you need, having a plan for checking out wedding vendors, and deciding if you need or want a wedding website are all necessary tasks. It may not be exciting, but these details are an important part of the 13 steps for planning a wedding.

Learn how bride Lisa Spooner saved $22,000 on her dream wedding


Step 13: Make your wedding day timeline/itinerary, checklist and other details

Even for a small at home wedding, there will be a lot going on at the same time on your wedding day. Stay sane as you plan your own wedding by making a detailed wedding day timeline (this sample wedding itinerary should help) and wedding day checklist. Next, plan the bridesmaid luncheon. After the wedding, make sure there are no loose ends by making a post wedding checklist and if one of you plan a name change, check the post wedding name change checklist.

These 13 steps for planning a wedding are detailed, but the closer you get to your wedding day, the more you will appreciate the fact that you did the heavy lifting early in the planning process.

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