How to Plan Your Wedding Like a Pro

How to Plan Your Wedding Like a Pro
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Fact—hiring a wedding planner will take unnecessary pressure off of you. But that, of course, comes at a price, very often in the several thousands of dollars.

So if you are on a tight budget, or just have a type A personality and don't mind all the work that goes into planning a wedding, why not do it yourself? If you get enough of a jump on it (at least eight months) and are good in negotiating contracts, then you might actually end up enjoying the process. To help you get started, we asked two professional wedding planners to shed some light on what it actually takes to pull off a beautiful wedding celebration.

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1. Spend wisely.

Every couple has a wedding budget, and knowing how to work within its limits is a balancing act that requires you to make every dollar count. "Always be on the hunt for discounts. This is especially handy for online invites or favors," says Kellee Khalil, founder and CEO of virtual wedding planner app Loverly. "Sign up for email newsletters offering ten percent off your purchase when buying online."

She also suggests designating a wedding credit card through which you can earn cash back or airline miles for your honeymoon. Just make sure you pay off the balance in full, so you don’t incur additional fees.

VIDEO: Tips for Planning a Wedding on a Budget

2. Negotiate.

"If a vendor is out of your price range, see how you can skim down the scope on their services," suggests wedding producer, Allison Aronne of Fête New York. "A photographer's package becomes much less expensive without the albums. You can always create an album down the road, but capturing beautiful images on your wedding day is what's paramount."

Another way to be able to afford the photographer of your dreams is to see if they are able to shoot for six instead of eight hours and give you a discount for that, according to Khalil.

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3. Read the fine print.

Once you've decided you're going to work with a specific vendor, don't sign a contract until you've read every single word on it.

"Many times there are additional labor fees, such as security or coat check, or service charges that are hidden within a contract. Many venues charge a service fee, which is not a gratuity, that can run anywhere from 18-23 percent on top of the contract fee," says Aronne. So it's important to understand (and calculate) how those extra fees will impact your budget.

4. Know the square footage of your venue.

Decking the halls with boughs of holly | Photo: #PhilipAnema for #ChristianOthStudio

A photo posted by Christian Oth Studio (@christianothstudio) on

This may sound too technical, but a lot of venues claim they can fit a lot more people than is actually comfortable in the space. Aronne's general rule of thumb is: Have 10-15 sq ft per person for cocktails, and 20-25 sq ft per person for dinner and dancing to allow for bars and a nice size dance floor.

And speaking of venues, your ceremony venue is just as important as your reception space. "Revisit potential venues during the day of the week or time of your wedding if you can. This way, you can make sure there isn’t a train that roars by right as your ceremony is set to begin, or major traffic on the street outside, which can be super irritating," adds Khalil.

5. Do some video research before hiring an officiant.

If you don't have a friend or a family member whom you've already asked to officiate your ceremony, you have to make sure you're getting the right person to do the job. These days literally anyone can get ordained to perform weddings so you don't want to end up with someone who doesn't have the necessary experience or is bad at it.

"Before booking an officiant, or even meeting them, check online for any YouTube videos of them performing ceremonies, or ask if you can get a few referrals and speak with past couples," suggests Khalil.

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6. When do you give someone a Plus One?

Unless someone is married or in a very serious relationship, the Save-the-Date mailing is too premature to give your guests plus one, according to Aronne. She says that the purpose of the Save-the-Date is to notify your guests of the date of your wedding and to give some basic information about the celebration.

"It's better to reassess the guest count and budget closer to the formal invitation mailing to make sure there is room for the plus-ones," she adds. And don't forget that once you've officially offered a guest to bring a Plus One, you shouldn't change your mind.

7. Make it personal.

If you are going to invest so much of your time and money into planning your wedding, you'd probably want it to be a memorable event not just for you and your husband-to-be (that's a given), but also for your guests.

"If you want to get your guests excited for the big day, ask a fun question on your RSVP card in addition to accept/decline and meal choice," suggests Khalil. "Not only will you have fun reading their answers—like 'What song do you want to hear at our wedding?'—but you’ll also get some insight on what your guests think, too. These little connections will make your wedding feel that much more memorable."

 
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