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Free Wedding Planning Guide

wedding planning

Congratulations. You and your true love have just become engaged to be married! Your dreams are coming true and you want the whole world to share in your excitement. So, what do you do next?

The good news is that there are many resources available to the newly engaged couple. With the increased accessibility of the Internet, there is more information, more ideas and more places to shop than ever before. However, when there is too much input, things can seem confusing and complicated and the last thing anyone wants on her or his wedding day is confusion.

Fortunately, as with most things in life, much depends on the attitudes of those involved. So why not relax, enjoy this special time together and take everything one step at a time? One of the best ways to begin planning your big day is with a simple list. The list will change as the wedding preparations evolve. A good list will help everyone involved stay organized and focused as the excitement builds and the wedding day approaches.


Here is a basic list of some of the major items to be considered when planning for a wedding- yours or someone else's.

  • Announce the engagement

  • Select the photograph to be sent to the newspaper.
    If the couple does not have a photo that they like, there are many places where a good photo, suitable for publication can be taken at an affordable price.

  • Send or deliver the photograph to the newspaper with the engagement notice

  • Decide on the wedding date

  • Determine the budget and decide how the expenses will be shared

  • Consider hiring a professional wedding coordinator

  • Determine the formality and the type of wedding

  • Decide (often compromise) on the number of guests and begin to write a guest list

  • Decide the time and the location of the wedding

  • Make all necessary reservations

  • Selecting and reserving the officiant

  • Select and order the bridal gown and headpiece

  • Determine the colors and theme

  • Prepare to write the invitations

  • Select the florist and order all arrangements

  • Choose a DJ - We have several tips and ideas.

  • Choose and hire the photographer

  • Order the wedding cake

  • Select the maid of honor, bridesmaids, best man, ushers and any flower girls, ring bearers, etc.

  • Obtain all necessary documents including passports, visas, birth certificates, etc. for the marriage and any intended travel

  • Begin writing your wedding vows


Many couples celebrate their engagement with friends and family. At this point, they may not have even begun to decide when they will marry, how formal their wedding will be or even how many people they will invite. It is, however, considered good etiquette not to invite anyone to the engagement party who will not be invited to the wedding. One way to help accomplish this is by choosing to celebrate this occasion with your closest friends and family in a small, possibly informal, affair.

The engagement party is a celebration for both the bride and the groom. Naturally, both should be present. It is generally not expected for guests to bring gifts to an engagement party. Nonetheless, engagement gifts, given at a time other than during the party are always welcome.

Anyone can host an engagement party, however, it is often the bride's parents who assume this responsibility. Whether or not to send invitations for the party would generally, as with most considerations, depend upon the formality of the occasion. For a formal dinner party, invitations may be expected. For a more casual gathering, at someone's home or in a local bar or restaurant, a telephone call or email would be appropriate.



A cocktail party is a great idea for a relatively large gathering. It is much easier to arrange than a dinner party. The main ingredients for success are a good atmosphere, pleasant music, good drinks and tasty, substantial hors d'oeuvres.


If you are a lover of the outdoors and decide to have an outdoor celebration, you will naturally hope for a day with good weather. But since weather is impossible to predict from one day to another, be sure to choose a spot for your party that includes some type of overhead shelter.

A brief, cooling shower on a hot summer day can be very pleasant when waiting for it to "blow over" while gathered with friends and family under a cozy gazebo or picnic shelter. But being caught in the pouring rain with no protective shelter, will surely ruin hairstyles, make-up and some clothing.

If you are having a very informal affair, and your guests are unbothered by the elements, then a shelterless picnic may be just what you're looking for. If not, a shelter is highly recommended.


A dance party is another great choice for a relatively lively gathering. No matter how much assistance the newlyweds have in getting ready for "the big day", it is still usually quite a bit of work for all concerned, especially the bride and groom. Why not use the engagement party as an opportunity to relax & "let loose"?

Determine the wedding budget. DETERMINING THE BUDGET

The budget that is available for the wedding will affect almost everything else and should therefore be one of first matters for consideration.

Traditionally, the bride and her family were considered responsible for the most of the expense, planning and preparation for the wedding. However, just as times change and the husband is no longer assumed to be the sole bread winner of the family, so too, is it no longer automatically assumed that the bride and her family will be responsible for everything.

Expenses are often shared between the families of both the bride and the groom. There are also those instances in which the bride and/or the groom do not have families to assist with the expenses and/or preparations for the wedding. Often, in this kind of circumstance, other family members can fill in for the parents and some of their responsibilities, although they may not be able to assist financially.

Whatever the circumstances, it is wise to discuss the financial details as soon as possible. Granted, the newly engaged couple may not want to jump right into such planning the same day they become engaged. Nonetheless, potential misunderstandings can usually be avoided if the bride and groom decide between themselves, from the beginning, on the most important issues- before receiving input, wanted and unwanted, from friends and relatives.

Sometimes parents and others have preconceived ideas of what their loved one's wedding day should be like. Perhaps the mother assumes that the bride will wear the same gown that she wore. Or the father may assume that the couple will have a large church wedding. On the other hand, the couple may prefer a small, intimate celebration. The family of the groom and the family of the bride may be very different from each other and have very different ideas of what is "right" for their child.

Of course, if the families of the couple are paying for most or all of the cost of the wedding, they may also expect to assume a larger role in the planning. Whatever the circumstances, it is clear that the couple must ultimately decide for themselves what they want, what is most important to them and how much they are willing to compromise for the sake of others.

As soon as the guest list has been decided upon, it is necessary to write down every item that is needed for the wedding and which has a cost associated with it. There is plenty of computer software available to help with these tasks and to make the planning more efficient and fun.


Once your budget has been determined, you will be in a better position to consider whether you would like to hire a professional to plan and coordinate the details of your wedding. The advantages are obvious and a little research will show that there are also many perhaps not thought of reasons to consider have an expert "design" your wedding day.

The size of your guest list, your budget and the amount of time you each have to devote to the details of planning your wedding may help whoever is planning the affair decide. By hiring someone else to take care of the details, the more time everyone will have to enjoy the celebration.

By hiring a professional, you can devote your energy and resources to choosing a good wedding planner and coordinator rather than having to arrange for every single detail and hire every person involved in the wedding such as the photographer, chauffeur, caterer, dj or band, florist, etc., etc.


It can be good idea to talk about what pre-nuptial parties may be given for the couple and how they feel about these. As with most things, it is usually much easier to discuss personal matters alone first and well before they actually occur. No matter how long a couple has been dating or living together, they may as well start practicing the increased level of compromise and communication that will become more important than ever after the couple have become legally married.

In the past, at least according to legend, marriage was easily summed up. Women sought a husband for security, commitment and children. Men, on the other hand, were, or acted, less enthusiastic about marriage because it meant a loss of freedom. To this day, many women have bridal showers where they receive gifts, plan, and fantasize about their new life. Men, on the other hand, often have drunken stag parties designed to help ease the transition to married to life and to talk about all that the groom will be sacrificing when he becomes a married man. In case the husband-to-be needs visual assistance in understanding the true nature of his sacrifice, his "brothers" will often host the party in a strip club or hire their own exotic dancer.

In contemporary times, some women also have drunken parties with male exotic dancers. Some couples decide not to celebrate in this way and choose their own kind celebration. As with everything, the wife and husband-to-be should always do what feels right to them. It is, after all, their wedding, their marriage & their lives.


A bridal shower is an opportunity not only for the bride to receive gifts but also attention. It is a chance to celebrate with her friends and family and for the bride to be the sole focus of attention. Bridal showers are often held a month or two before the wedding.

As with an engagement party, anyone can be the hostess. Very often, the bridesmaids or Maid of Honor give the party. Traditionally, not everyone who is invited to the wedding is invited to the shower. However, everyone invited to the shower should also be invited to the wedding.


The wedding day is a time when it is wise to make a separate list of things that must be done as well as things that you would like to get done but are not essential. Try to prioritize starting with those things that are the most important and those that must be done first. Also, be sure that everyone involved in the wedding understands the wishes of the bride and groom, including the officiant of the ceremony. Here is an expanded page of wedding ceremony traditions.

Traditionally, the best man assumes responsibility for the groom- for making sure that he gets to the place where the ceremony will take place and on time! He is also usually asked to be responsible for the rings. Meanwhile, the bride is being whisked away and hopefully, everyone will arrive in plenty of time. In a large church, there may be other weddings held on that same day and not everything will happen as planned. Yet if everyone can manage to be where they are supposed to be, without being rushed, the wedding day is sure to be a much more joyous occasion for everyone.

The bride and grooms attire. THE BRIDE AND GROOM'S ATTIRE

Most often, the groom and his best man and any groomsmen, ring bearer, ushers, etc. rent their attire from a formal wear shop where everything including shoes can be rented. Unless you are a person who has a great need for formal wear, renting will be your best option. Renting is also a way for everyone to be assured on having attire that is fashionable and coordinated with the bride and groom. It is advisable to not wait until the last minute to select a reputable formal wear shop, which offers quality clothing. Start shopping way in advance for the best deals. Many formal wear shops give discounts and special offers for putting down a deposit well in advance of your wedding date. Always ask for any special discounts or offers they may have running. Your groomsman will appreciate you saving them some money.

Naturally, the bride and groom first decide what they would like their attire to be and then coordinate everyone else's attire with theirs. Today, there are many designs from which the bride and groom can choose. Some couples will choose a very old- fashioned wedding. Some will even choose a Renaissance wedding- a celebration that has become increasingly popular along with Renaissance Festivals. Or they may have a ceremony that celebrates one or both of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds such as Celtic, African or Native American. Their celebration can be totally unique- a one-of-a-kind celebration, as all weddings are when the bride and groom instill their own personalities and dreams into their special day. bridesmaids

Remember that the wedding day is often a long day and it is very important for everyone to feel comfortable. The more comfortable everyone is, the more they will be able to enjoy themselves. That means shoes that feel good, waistbands that don't cut into the waist, jackets and shirts that fit comfortably- clothes that people can move around in- and have a good time!


Many receptions are catered by professionals. This not only frees everyone else to enjoy the celebration and not have to stand in the kitchen but it also helps assure that all details will be taken care of and that the quality will be good and look good. Of course, the caterers do not have to be total strangers and friends or friends of friends can be hired for the special occasion.

Choosing the correct music for your reception can set the exact tone you are looking for in your wedding theme. Experience counts when choosing a band or a DJ. Make sure to go over the type and style of music you like to make sure the band or DJ plays exactly what you are looking for. Example: Do you love or hate country music? Make sure your band or DJ knows this. Are there any songs you do not what to hear on your wedding day? Example: Your ex's favorite song, then also make sure they know this.

What type of beverages will be available? The bar tab can be a big part of the overall wedding budget depending on what you choose. Sit down and figure the possible costs keeping in mind a few things. Are many of your friends and family moderate to heavy drinkers? Do they commonly drink top shelf liquors? If you have a tight budget one option many choose is to have beer, wine, and low end liquors for free, and have top shelf liquors as a cash option to the guests.


Wedding favors can come in many different shapes and sizes. You can make your own or purchase items depending on your budget. Items range from such ideas as mints, candles, cigars, soaps, bath salts, wine bottle stoppers, and candies.

Most any of the above are appropriate, but check the number of guests and the cost per item to make sure you stay within your budget.


Honeymoons are one of the biggest and best parts of the whole wedding process.

Make sure your choice of honeymoon destinations will allow you to relax as a newly wed couple after all of the work from the wedding. Try to make sure that your trip will not be stressful, because you have been through enough stress already and need to wind down.

    Important things to check when planning your honeymoon:
  • Check if you will need passports for your travels and that they are both valid and current.

  • If you have any pets find someone to watch them.

  • Make sure to bring important phone numbers, ID's, credit cards, traveler's checks, money for tips and emergencies, passports, driver's licenses, medical insurance cards, and any prescription medications.

  • Depending on the length of your flight or cruise you may want to bring Dramamine, aspirin, and anti-acids.

  • Try to find a direct flight, because layovers can sometimes become extended and disrupt your plans.

  • Try to find a rental car agency located at the airport, because it may be a long shuttle bus ride to the rental car agency from the airport.

  • Check with your credit card companies to see if they have rental car insurance built in if you use their card to rent the car.

  • Have small bills ready for tips where ever you go.

  • Make sure the hotel is located close to most of the places you want to visit and spend the most time at.

  • If the trip is all inclusive see if it includes all of your food and drink.

  • Call ahead for a show tickets and reserve them if possible. Especially in places like Las Vegas certain shows may sell out in advance.

  • If you are planning on renting jet skis, a boat, or something similar call ahead for prices so you know what expenses to prepare for.

  • Remember the more time spent preparing in advance will help to make your honeymoon much more enjoyable and trouble free.


After the excitement and tasks of the wedding day have passed, it is a good time to:

  • Send thank you cards
  • Update legal documents
  • Order pictures
  • Relax and rejuvenate
  • Begin enjoying being married!
wedding pictures

These are some of the most important days of you will ever have, so don't miss any of them.

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