Planning a Wedding in St. Louis
Congratulations on your recent engagement and the sparkly new addition to your wardrobe!
Planning a wedding in St. Louis at first may seem a little overwhelming. This post was created to remove some of the stress. Please consider this guide to be a good overview. Sure you could add more things to your to-do list, but that’s why guides from The Knot exist. Those are awesome, but according to their timeline, you’re probably already behind.
In our experience it’s possible to plan a beautiful wedding in four months or in four years, so you won’t find a specific monthly timeline, just a suggested order of operations.
[Disclaimer: We are NOT wedding planners. We are venue owners and the advice below is based on our own personal knowledge and experience. If you’re looking for an all-encompassing list, we’ll leave that to the pro’s like our friends over at Style: Altar’d.]
What should I do first?
First, take just a moment to breathe and to celebrate. Wedding planning can sometimes be all encompassing and stressful. Before you dive in head first, take a few days, or few weeks to just enjoy your newly engaged Facebook status and chance to say “my fiancé.”
What should I do next?
(Hint: the answer is NOT to choose a date.)
So often folks come to us with a specific date for their wedding and unfortunately that date may not be available. Said couple may spend a few weeks checking around to see who does have the date available, only to come back to one of their top choices to find out more possible or ideal dates have been snagged up. The more open you are to different dates, seasons, and days of the week, the better.
Instead of setting a date, start by setting a budget.
PLANNING STEPS — THE ORDER OF OPERATIONS
SET A BUDGET
- It’s hard to start off the big day planning talking about budget, but if you skip this step it’s easy to get your heart set on something, only to have to change your plans later in the process because the numbers don’t work. This can be a costly and heartbreaking mistake.
HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER (OPTIONAL)
- If you feel lost in the planning process and your budget allows, hiring a wedding planner early will help you get as much bang for your buck as possible and possibly relieve some stress.
START YOUR GUEST LIST
- This step is critical early on in the process. Just like budget, it’s important to understand your expected guest count prior to looking for venues.
DECIDE WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT
- It’s sometimes difficult book all of your favorite vendors, so start with what matters the most to you. In our experience most folks book their venue(s) first and often their photographer soon after.
GO DRESS SHOPPING
- Surprisingly, sometimes the lead time on wedding dresses is exceptionally long. Go dress shopping early in the process to get a better understanding of whether you’ll feel comfortable buying off the rack or if you’ll need extra time for your dress to be made for you.
CREATE A ROUGH SCHEDULE FOR THE DAY
- Talk to your venue and see if they have a suggested schedule for the day of the week and time of year you have selected. This will help in your communication with vendors about their arrival, at event schedule, and departure.
LOCK IN YOUR VENDORS
- Some venues are one stop shops and include several services. Others, like ours, allow you to choose you’re the service providers to make your day magical such as DJ, photographer, etc. If your venue allows you to select your own, begin your reach out to vendors with limited availability, such as photographers, soon. You can find some of our favorite vendors here.
Vendors to Book: Photographer, caterer, officiant, DJ, videographer, florist, beauty
SEND SAVE THE DATES (OPTIONAL)
- Sending a notification of your wedding date isn’t required, and can be as casual as an email or formally through the mail. If you’ve selected a date on a holiday weekend, or other busy time of year, guests appreciate the chance to pencil in your date on their calendar. Save the dates are generally sent about 6 months in advance, sooner if you’ve selected a holiday weekend date.
BOOK A HOTEL ROOM BLOCK
- This is usually easy and cost-free for you to do. Make sure to ask if you are charged for any un-booked rooms, and if there is a day that unbook rooms will be released so that you can communicate the deadline to your guests. You can find contact info for hotels near our venue here.
SELECT AND ORDER BRIDAL PARTY ATTIRE
- This can also take longer than you think. Don’t wait until the last minute if you want everyone to match. (PS — Bridesmaids love when they get to pick their own dress style and bonus points if it is something they could wear again in the future!)
SCHEDULE TASTINGS WITH CATERER(S)
- This part is lots of fun! Don’t forget to include cake tastings. You can find contact info for our caterers and bar service here.
SELECT YOUR DÉCOR
- Some venues provide décor options, others are a blank slate where you bring in your chosen décor, and ours offers a hybrid approach. We have hundreds of items to borrow for free in our inventory, which you can find here, and we also welcome décor of your own.
- Generally invitations are sent approximately two months before the big day.
FINALIZE THE DETAILS
- Reread Your Contracts. The last thing you want leading up to your big day is a surprise. As the wedding day approaches, take a few minutes to reread your vendor contracts and ensure that you’re plans follow the stated rules and that your timeline matches with your contracted time.
- Create a Wedding Day Schedule. Make sure the bridal party and important family members know where they need to be and when. (Putting this in writing is a GREAT idea.)
- Decide if You’ll Have a Seating Chart. If you’ll be maxing out your venue capacity a seating chart may be helpful to your guests. In cases where capacity isn’t an issue, we don’t recommend assigned seating. Instead consider having several extra available seats and let guests select where they will sit. It’s far less stressful for couples to have open seating, and you can always reserve several tables for immediate family.
- Confirm Final Payments. Double check that you know when all final payments are due to your vendors and if you plan to offer tips, sort that out prior to the big day.
- Finalize Your Music Selections. Select music for the ceremony and reception dances and double check that your DJ has them all available.
- Nominate a Wedding Day Decision Maker. Make sure this is NOT the bride or groom! Select someone you trust to make decisions for you and give their contact information to your vendors.
The big day is here and it’s time to make it official.
The day will go by in a flash. Make sure to steal a few minutes alone and uninterrupted before or after the ceremony to reflect on the day together.
Also, remember not to walk too quickly back down the aisle after the “I do’s” so that your first picture as a married couple isn’t blurry!
Whew! The big day has come and gone faster than you ever imagined. Now it’s time to wrap up a few loose ends and start looking for a new hobby (with all that newly-found free time!)
Don’t forget to take time to update official records and change your name in places such as:
- Social security card
- Driver’s license
- Bank accounts (including checking/savings accounts and CDs/bonds in your maiden name)
- Employer records
- Post office
Your guests will surely appreciate thank you notes. Ideally, you’ll have them in the mail within a month of returning from your honeymoon. It can be a big task, so break it down and consider having a goal of a few each day.
For more articles like this one and hundreds of inspirational wedding photos, please visit the Haue Valley blog. Do you have a suggestion to add to this article? Send us a note at email@example.com.