Laura Kelly Photography

So, you’re freshly engaged. You’re sporting some sparkly new bling on your left hand and you’re ready to jump into wedding planning. We don’t blame you, you’ve got plenty of fun times ahead of you, from cake tastings to outfit try-ons. But before you dive too deeply into the wonderful world of taffeta, tulle and table linens there are a few things you should hash out. Think of these as the foundation for your wedding and give them the TLC and time they deserve.

Here’s what you need to know before booking your wedding vendors.

Budget
Let’s start with the big one: your budget. Yes, setting your budget is probably one of the least enjoyable parts of wedding planning, but it needs to be done early on (especially if you want to stay out of debt). Have a meeting with all the people contributing funds to your big day - this may be just you and your soon-to-be spouse, or it could involve a few kind relatives - and hash out all the monetary details. If you need help divvying up your budget between vendors, try out our budget tool.

Guest Count
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll know the exact number of people you’ll be hosting this early on in the game, but you should be able to offer up a ballpark figure. Your vendors’ costs and workload will fluctuate depending on the length of your guest list, so you should be able to give them an educated guess on your guest count. While it’s fine for your list to go up or down by ten or twenty, you should avoid changing it with massive leaps and bounds. Tip: if you need help sorting out your guest list, use our handy dandy tool.

Date
When I say that you need to have a date I don’t mean a vague idea like “sometime next spring” or “maybe August?” - you’ll need to have the day, month and year nailed down. If you’re looking into hiring the cream of the crop they probably have pretty hectic schedules, so they’ll need plenty of time to plan ahead. You definitely won’t be able to sign any contracts without a firm date, so make sure you choose yours ASAP.

Location
Your wedding vendors are going to need to know where their services are needed, so figure out your venue before you dive too deeply into the rest of your wedding planning duties. You should have your exact location set it in stone - venue contracts signed and deposit submitted - before ordering any cakes, caterers or centerpieces. Remember, if you’re heading far from their home base, you may be looking at additional travel fees.

Style
No, you don’t need to have every little decor detail sorted out before you start hunting for vendors, but you should know the general style you’re going for. Write down a few keywords, make a good old fashioned vision board or create a Pinterest page to get your ideas down. Once you’ve compiled a few terms and pictures, you should be left with a pretty clear image of what you’re wedding theme will be. Maybe you’ve pinned images of barns, wildflower bouquets and vintage lace gowns? A rustic chic affair is probably in your future. Keep clipping pics of sleek and sophisticated decor? Perhaps you should be leaning toward something more modern.

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