• Keilah Stallsmith

How to Start Planning Your Wedding

Updated: 7 days ago


photo: Kuburas Photography


You’re engaged!


…now what?


There are so many exciting emotions surrounding weddings and engagements. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what to do first. Tour venues? Start shopping for your dress? Ask your wedding party?


Before you get too caught up in the details, I want to set you up for success by giving you a rock solid foundation for planning a uniquely you wedding.


First, hi there! If you don’t know me, I’m Keilah. I plan, design, and coordinate weddings in Kansas City, so I know a thing or five about creating beautiful celebrations from the ground up. If you want to know more about what I do with Bespoke Socials Small Wedding Planning, head here. Otherwise, let's just get started! As the resident do-er around here, I can’t wait to show you the path to wedded bliss.


Step One: Enjoy Your Engagement

photo: Beth Hektoen Photography


Before the world of weddings takes over, get in touch with who you and your partner are as a team. Tap into what makes life magical together. Bask in the monumental beauty of the decision you’ve made.


The goal here is to get rooted in what's amazing about the two of you and the life you are building. You want to turn that into a celebration. You want the story you tell to be a beautiful homage to all that you have created and all that is to come. Weddings are all about amplifying joy and kicking off the next chapter with wild optimism for the future.


So... what does your forever look like? For many of my couples, it's beautiful environments, inside jokes, and quality time with their favorite people. For others, it's one big wild adventure or ambition to leave the world a better place. Spend some time dreaming. Include your priorities and aspirations, and what you're looking forward to.


Here are some questions about your partnership that will make wedding planning easier:

  • What makes a community? Who is in yours?

  • What's worth splurging on?

  • What does a good time look like to you?

  • What are some of your favorite memories?

  • What are your love languages? How do you like to express them?


Go on more awesome dates, notice the little things that make you smile, try something new. This will help you plan your wedding thoughtfully as well as make initial decisions with clarity, joy, and peace.


Homework: Go on at least two awesome dates before you start wedding planning. Make one something you’ve never done before, and the other something you know you’ll enjoy. Note what was awesome about it.


Step Two: Describe Your Day

photo: Silk & Thorn


Now that we know more about you and your love story, let's nail down the big picture.


When you think of your wedding, what first comes to mind? Is it walking into your fully decorated reception? Dancing in your dress? Saying your vows under string lights? Walking down the aisle with your partner? These initial dreams will define your priorities. Write down the top three things you want to see, feel, and/or experience, and build the rest of your day around that.


Next, the vibe. Some weddings are over the top and glamorous, while others are super laid back and chill. Some are big on cool experiences in unique settings, while others prefer tradition. How about you? What sounds like a great time?


Here are some quick ideas to help you determine the feeling of your celebration:


Elevated or Chill?

Natural or Curated?

Traditional or Unique/Unexpected?

Romantic or Wild?

Open or Tight Knit?

Warm or Cool?

Serious or Fun?

Sacred or Secular?

Light or Heavy?

Sexy or Conservative?


This should help you narrow down the type of environment you want to create and give you an idea of the types of spaces you want to consider. Are you imagining an entire weekend at a vacation rental? A fancy affair at a downtown venue? A relaxed day in nature? Write it down, and be specific.



Step Three: Create a Budget



Now let’s start to put some real parameters on this thing! Start with a total wedding budget and work backwards to create a line item budget.


First, total wedding budget. The average cost of a traditional wedding is around $30,000, the average cost of an intimate wedding is around $18,000, and the average cost of an elopement is around $10,000. As a smallest realistic budget, cut those numbers in half. For more of a luxury experience, triple them. To determine your budget, evaluate your plans and circumstances.


As for circumstances, who is paying for your wedding? If it’s you, how much do you have now, and how much can you save during your engagement? Almost all of your vendors will allow some sort of payment plan leading up to the wedding. Are you willing to take on any debt to cover expenses? If so, how much? Is anyone else contributing? If so, does it come with strings attached or expectations that you are willing to meet?


Because money is emotional, mindset work can also be helpful. Are you typically more thrifty or splurge-y? Do you trust your financial decisions or do you often make decisions you later side eye? Do you feel embarrassed by spending a certain amount on your wedding? Money is often a tricky step in wedding planning, so be kind to yourself as you explore.


Next, create a line item budget starting with your priorities, then fill in with things you need. Finally, fill in with "nice to haves". Do some research to get an idea of what things and services might cost, or consult with a wedding planner to make this step super easy. There's no reason for guess work or anxiety! Many wedding planners like myself offer affordable and easy consultations for purposes just like this. Check out my "Pocket Planner" consultation service here if you need help creating your budget.


Step Four: Create a Guest List

photo: Katie B Photography


Your ambiance and budget will create parameters for a thoughtful guest list. Remember that everyone you invite to your wedding you are committing to. You aren't only enjoying the event, you are hosting it! You need to take care of each guests' needs for the day, spend time with them, and communicate with them while you plan. This comes with very real restrictions on your time, money, and energy. Save it for the people you're most excited to celebrate with!


When creating a guest list, it's common to start with everyone you know. I recommend a different approach. Refer to this blog post for my suggestions on the best way to create a thoughtful guest list. As an intimate wedding and elopement planner, this step is close to my heart!


Step Five: Book Your Space

photo: Skyline Rooftops


With this solid foundation work in place, you are finally ready to start making your plans a reality! It's time to start calling venues and scheduling tours.


Unique, fun, and upscale? Try looking at rooftops, art galleries, and lounges.

Outdoorsy, warm, and romantic? Try bed and breakfasts, lodges, and campgrounds.

Sentimental, connected, and curated? Try a private property wedding.


If you’re looking for intimate wedding venues in the Kansas City area (intimate venues are tricky to find, but far from impossible!), I put together a list of some of my favorites here.


Your venue will open and close a lot of doors for your wedding and set the entire tone for your celebration, so take your time! Be sure to tour the place in person, ask plenty of questions, and read your contract. Make sure your space fits your needs and have fun.


Once you’ve booked your venue, consider your wedding official! Build the rest of your vendor team, your evolving budget, your attire, and your timeline around the space.


Conclusion


I hope this article helps you begin planning your wedding with heart, joy, and intention. It's exactly how I help unique couples create an amazing experience that feels like them. Please share it with someone who needs help with their first steps!


If this whole thing seems a little overwhelming, don't stress! You can find out more about working with me here and reach out here. I can help you create a one-of-a-kind celebration without the headache or the guess work. I’m on the search for more beautiful love stories to tell, and I'd love to get started on yours.


All my best,


-Keilah

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