You’ve said “Yes!” But what do you do next?
If the wedding planning process has you befuddled and you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Getting your wedding plans rolling is as easy as asking yourself a few questions. To make it even easier we’ve conveniently listed those questions below.
STEP ONE: Determining the Basics
- QUESTION ONE: What size wedding do we want? Determining your guest list is the very first thing you must do when planning your wedding. Either your guest list will determine the size of your wedding or you can be proactive and decide “Small, medium or large?” and adjust the guest list accordingly. A small wedding would include less than 100 guests (only immediate family and a few close friends), medium 100-250 (add on more friends, co workers and extended family), and large would be up to 500 (or more!) guests (you’re literally inviting everyone you know and making it a huge party!) If you’re not quite sure what you want, start a “must invite” guest list (those people who you KNOW have to be there), then taper it into a secondary list of additional friends and extended family you may want to invite. Remember, children should be included in your count unless you’re planning an “Adults Only” event! Your guest list will work hand in hand with your budget to determine most of your plans, from where you will host to how much you can afford to spend on your dress. It’s fairly simple, the more people you invite, the more expensive the wedding becomes or the less elaborate it will have to be.
- QUESTION TWO: What is our budget? There are many costs involved with a wedding that you may not realize (which is why we’re here to help!), but that doesn’t mean your wedding should be a spending free-for-all. Wedding costs can be controlled and kept within a pre-determined budget if you plan properly. Be realistic about what you can spend and how you will pay for your wedding. Are you paying for the wedding yourself? Do you have money saved already or will you need to start saving? Will family be helping with the costs? If so, find out now what they’re planning to contribute in specific amounts so there are no surprises. Once you have your total budget, you can start “assigning” portions of that budget to the various elements of your wedding. Our NOW Planner has a budget page to help you keep track of these amounts – be sure to download your copy with the link at the bottom of the page!
- QUESTION THREE: What is our style? Are you a formal hotel ballroom kind of couple or does the term “block party” more fit your personality? Are you foodies with gourmet palates or is a crawfish boil at the lakefront more your speed? There are no right or wrong answers. Your wedding will be most memorable if you are true to yourselves, so think about what celebrating means to you. Once you know what type of event you want, how many guests you will have and how much you can spend, all you have to do is find the places and vendors that fit all three!
STEP 2 – Logistics + Scheduling
- In New Orleans, it is crucial to check all upcoming events, conventions, celebrations, etc. (seriously, we have a lot going on here!) prior to choosing your wedding date, especially if you’ll be choosing to celebrate in the French Quarter or in the city of New Orleans itself, where, say Mardi Gras parades or festivals may gum up traffic. Do your homework. You can check upcoming events at sites like NewOrleansOnline.com and New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. Find out next year’s Mardi Gras parade schedule at MardiGrasNewOrleans.com. Each spring you can check game schedules such as Saints games and college football that may conflict with traffic and planning for your big day.
- Weather in New Orleans can be somewhat unpredictable, with heat and threat of hurricanes in Summer to random cold snaps in the middle of Spring. April/May and October/November tend to have milder temperatures in general. Whatever you decide on though, be mindful of your guests’ comfort with appropriate climate control. If you envision an outdoor wedding, plan to have a tent or alternate location scheduled as a backup just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
- Timing – Determining the time of day to host your event may seem easy (daytime or evening?), right? Be sure to consider Daylight Savings Time and sunset time when scheduling. To help with this, check timeanddate.com to learn when sunset is on any date anywhere in the world!
- Considering “logistics”, or the location(s) you will be using for your wedding, is always a good idea. You will want to consider accessibility for guests with disabilities, parking, and traffic in the immediate area and between the “getting ready” sites and the ceremony and reception locations. Ask your site coordinators for guidance on these matters when setting your start and end times.
STEP 3 – Researching Wedding Vendors
(Click on the vendor category types below to search the NOW List!)
- WEDDING PLANNERS. If you hire a wedding planner, you can get a ton of great advice and assistance in navigating all of the “one way streets” not only in New Orleans, but along your wedding planning route! Some planners will organize your entire wedding, some can be hired as “day-of” coordinators, and there is just about everything in between. Find the planner who fits well with your personality, because he or she will end up being your confidant through this process!
- BOOK YOUR VENUES FIRST. Before you book anything else, you should start looking at potential venues. Do you want a church wedding and a reception hall? A courtyard wedding and reception in the same place? These are great questions to ask yourself prior to setting out and making appointments. It’s best to research online initially and gather information on several venues that fit your style, budget and guest list before scheduling site visits. While some venues charge per person and include a minimum food and beverage cost, other locations provide the room for one set cost, and you can bring in your own vendors for services. Make sure to ask about this, as some venues only allow their in-house chef to cater their events, for example. Once you choose a date with the venue, you can begin searching out other vendors to provide the services and items needed to make the day a success.
- PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO should be next on the list, as many book a year or more in advance. You want to make sure you hire someone who is within your budget and also fits your style. Again research their work online and make appointments to meet your top 2-3 candidates in person.
- STATIONERY. “Save the Date” cards can be mailed out as soon as you are 100% sure your date is booked and the venue has your deposit. Many photographers will offer engagement portrait sessions as part of their packages, and you can use one of those photos on your Save the Dates. Your wedding stationery will require invitations with matching envelopes, and should also include an RSVP card so you can get an accurate headcount for your venue/caterer.
- ENTERTAINMENT. Outside of good food, good music is essential if you’re looking to dance the night away. If your budget allows, contact a band who can entertain the crowd, or hire a DJ to play all your favorites and traditional wedding music. In addition to music, there are other forms of entertainment you can add in. Many brides are now hiring live painters to capture their day on canvas or photo booths that both entertain and create great favors for your guests. Don’t forget about planning your Second Line Parade, which can be scheduled immediately following your wedding ceremony or after your reception ends. Make sure to contact a reputable band and secure permits with the City of New Orleans to assure your parade is in line with ordinances. You can find all the information you need about permits at the OneStop Events page.
- DECOR, FLORISTS, CATERING/BARTENDING, BAKERIES, HAIR & MAKEUP, TRANSPORTATION and other vendors will need to be called and scheduled following the above services, if your venue does not already provide some of these services.
- WEDDING ATTIRE. By now, you may have already been to bridal boutiques to seek out that perfect wedding dress. If you haven’t started, now would be the time to begin. Some gowns take time to come in if they have to be special ordered (depending on the style you want), and oftentimes gowns require multiple fittings as your day draws near. You will need to find bridesmaids dresses, tuxedos for the guys, and if there are children in your bridal party, they will also need to be fitted.
- ALL THOSE ACCESSORIES & EXTRAS. There are so many extras! You’ll need umbrellas and handkerchiefs for your second line, a great pair of wedding day shoes (and maybe some cute but comfortable ones for the reception!), a cake topper of choice, thank you cards, and more.