Wedding Wednesdays: Where Do I Even Begin Planning?!?

Welcome to Wedding Wednesday! Today we’ll be covering where the heck to even begin when starting your planning process. We’ll do a deep dive into the most important things to take into consideration first and foremost to ensure a smooth and seamless planning adventure!

Today’s beer pairing is the ever-delicious Delirium Tremens. Delirium Tremens is actually a psychotic condition involving tremors, hallucinations, anxiety, and disorientation, and if that doesn’t describe the leap into wedding planning, I don’t know what does!

As far as wedding planning goes, some people start super early and some people do it in just a few months but the list of TO DO’s is usually the same regardless of timeline. If you have a choice, always air on giving yourself more time than less. Planning a wedding is a BIG job and you’ll spread out any potential stress over time if you simply spread it out. This also allows you the time to search for your ideal vendors and it ups your likelihood of them having availability on your date.

If you can’t give yourself all the time in the world, which occurs for a myriad of reasons, don’t stress! There are lots of amazing venues and vendors that are constantly trying to fill calendar dates. You will absolutely be able to find the perfect mix of people to make your day awesome.

Now we’ll get into the nitty gritty! We won’t cover EVERY aspect of planning today because it’s just not possible, but what we will cover is the beginning of the madness, how to stay focused, and how to prioritize. When starting to plan, we’re going to use, what I like to call, THE WEDDING TRIAD. The wedding triad consists of three things (shocker):

Budget. Venue. Guest List.

All of these things are heavily intertwined and let me explain why. Your budget, which is arguably the first thing you should start with, will determine what your venue choices are, your venue size and style will have an effect on the length of your guest list, and your guest list will have a massive impact on the remaining budget. Similarly, it goes the other way as well. Your budget will determine your guest list, your guest list will determine your venue choice, and your venue choice will factor into your overall budget. These things are the trifecta of wedding priorities because you can’t really move forward with décor or styling or dates without having an idea of where these things land.


This is arguably one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning, mainly because most people don’t know how much everything costs upfront. But with a little google research and a few phone calls you can get a good idea of prices in your area and start to gain a really realistic understanding of what you will be spending.

All of this becomes infinitely easier when you have a wedding planner. They can give you a great idea of the costs associated with everything and get you the best deals through their connections and experience. It is inevitable that as you start planning, you’ll have to start reining in some of your wedding dreams as your budget becomes clearer. Now, this isn’t to say you have to give up things on your must-haves list, but I am saying that once you start to realize that puppies for every guest will cost you about $500 per person, you’re going to start to slow down.

Along with budgeting, I highly recommend making a list of your top priorities for your wedding (you must have seafood, you’re not willing to cut guests out, and there HAS to be a bounce house). You’ve got to hone your interests so you can allocate budget funds effectively.

In order to get a clear idea of how and where you want to spend your money, you MUST know where your money is coming from. Are you paying for the event yourselves? Are your parents helping? Did Auntie Linda send you a sweet 25th birthday check and now you’re ready to cash it? These are all considerations for your day. Now, this broaches the ever-dreaded subject of potentially asking your loved ones for money. In my personal opinion the best way to figure out this part of your budget is to treat the conversation like a Nike ad: JUST DO IT.

Honesty and transparency from all sides is super important! Say something along the lines of “I’m not asking or expecting you to help, BUT if you’re interested in helping with wedding costs please let me know how much or in what capacity you’d like to be involved so we can create a budget and start making plans.” This takes the pressure off both of you and creates a situation where at worst they decline and you know for certain you’re paying for it yourself and at best you’re receiving help and are able to channel that into your planning. It’s a win-win as far as planning is concerned.


Once your budget it set, you know where the money is coming from, you’ve made a plan based on what you make, what you’re willing to spend from savings, etc. then it’s time to look for a venue! 90% of the time, your venue will be your top priority. It guides the entire look and feel of your day so it’s pretty important to most people. Also, it’s fairly hard to get married anywhere. Even a courthouse wedding requires you to go in person to the building, so the venue should be pretty high on your list of things to settle on first.

Along with being aesthetically aligned with your vision, you need to look at functionality as well. Some venues are super cheap to rent the space but you have to then gather everything else to make the wedding happen and let me just say, it’s a TON of stuff. On the other hand, other venues are thousands of dollars, maybe 10’s of thousands, but come with catering and furniture and they look incredible without you having to provide décor as well as everything functional being included.

The decision about which works best for you is one that only you can make. Some people get really sticker shocked at some of the big venues that are out there, but if you really look into the value of your time and the hassle saved then what they’re offering may be worth it. By the same token, if you are a DIY and planning guru then you might be more comfortable ordering and organizing everything yourself.

When you choose the venue, you’ve also got start thinking about the date. Now, the date could be considered another prong of the triad, making it a quad, but it’s wrapped up pretty immensely with the venue so we’ll go ahead and cover it here.

Rule number one when picking a date: is it available at your venue? Can’t get married at your dream castle in the sky on a day someone else is getting married there. Having flexibility with your date can really open up your options when looking at venues. If you’re willing to do a date any time in the Fall vs. just the first weekend of October, it’s going to be easier for you to pair up your venue with the perfect day.

Some people have a date they MUST get married on; an anniversary, birthday, or a date your psychic told you was lucky, right? If that’s the case, it’s fine! Just open yourself to some flexibility regarding venue in case your first or second choices aren’t available. This also ties into getting an early start on these decisions so you have a better chance of snagging the spot you want.

Rule number two with choosing a date is convenience. This means convenience for you AND your guests. Choosing a timeframe that matches up with your school schedule, military leave, health concerns, and family obligations is important so you’re not adding on additional stress. I would not recommend getting married during your finals week or on Christmas day. These kinds of dates can be HECTIC to work around.

This brings up the point of holiday weddings. I won’t go too deep into it, but just think… if it’s a day people would most likely be spending doing something special regardless of your wedding, I would not recommend getting married on said day. Major holidays are generally NOT the best time, not just because it might disrupt someone’s holiday, but because travel, accommodation, and scheduling all become infinitely more difficult and often more expensive. Some hotels won’t rent room blocks over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many vendors charge additional fees for holiday weddings. It tends to create more stress for you and more stress for your community, and why pile that on when you could just pick another day?

Rule number three when choosing your wedding date; having a concise timeline. If you’re going to throw an all night rager with an afterparty and nothing but tequila shots, you might not want to get married on a Sunday evening. If you want golden hour sunset photos directly after your ceremony and sunset as you walk into your reception, you may not want to get married at 1:00pm in the middle of August. If you want calm skies and sunshine, you’re not getting married at Ocean Beach. During any season. No matter what. lol

All the nuanced things you want from your day are important to prioritize and consider when choosing a date. It should also go without saying that if you want a full house and no delays getting from point A to point B, you may not want to get married in Downtown SF during the Warriors NBA champs parade. Maybe the parade could be your reception, but there’s not getting around a street blockade. Same goes for Pride or Jazz fests, holidays (as mentioned before), or even just weekday evenings. You don’t want to lose all the time you were going to use taking photos sitting in traffic. As a photographer, we know lighting is finite and that’s why we always suggest leaving plenty of wiggle room in your day just in case. We’ll talk more about timeline specifics when we come to our timeline chat another day.

Guest List

The last part of this conversation is about your guest list, and let me tell you, this is the piece that will require the MOST planning where you are expected to take other people’s considerations into account. You need to decide very early on who is A List and who is B or even C List. This may sound harsh, but we all have to do it if we plan a wedding.

A List people are MUST BE IN ATTENDANCE OR IT’S NOT HAPPENING people. Family and friends that are integral to your relationship and your joy on the day.

B List people are people you love but are also more obligated to invite. Extended family, long-time family friends, friends of parents, etc.

C List people are people you enjoy and would be fun to have there but you wouldn’t perhaps keel over and die if they couldn’t come. This might be some co-workers, college friends you haven’t seen in a while, or people you don’t talk to on a fairly regular basis. A good rule of thumb is, if you haven’t spoken to them for 6 months or more, they might not be on the list. Obviously, this takes a lot of yes-ing and no-ing and input from parents and in-laws, but keep in mind that it’s your day and you CAN say no even when someone you love really wants someone there.

A guest list is especially important for sticking within that budget. When you start looking at catering options and venue rentals and all that kind of stuff, you’ll see your budget number skyrocket as your guest list gets longer. According to The Knot, the average overall cost of a wedding in CA in 2019 was $39,000 and had a guest count of 131 people. A quick number crunch will tell you that that boils down to $297.71 cents per guest. So if you’re not willing to spend $300 on them, don’t put them on the list.

Of course, this isn’t every wedding. Couples are finding it easier every day to DIY, count on the venue for rentals/décor, and find tricks to keep costs down. But even a 125-person wedding at $200 per guest would average out to $25,000, and that’s still a massive chunk of change. Having a clear idea of exactly how much money you can/will spend over the amount of time you’re booking and paying for services is KEY to not wiping your accounts dry and having a heart attack over those final payments.


Ok. So. Those are the basics of starting your wedding planning journey! Of course, that’s simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything you need to do, but if you can do these things you should be well on your day to planning an AMAZING day at the venue of your dreams, without breaking the bank, and with everyone that you love in attendance.

If you have questions regarding planning or are interested in chatting about your wedding photo and video needs, send me a message and we’ll connect! Stay warm and dry out there, happy Wedding Wednesday!

About Kate

Kate Cohen (she/her) is an International LGBTQIA+ wedding photographer based in Northern California who is focused on storytelling, candid captures, and iconic portraits of couples all over the globe.

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