I love this time of year. It’s one of my favorite times of year, work-wise. I know, it doesn’t seem like I’m up to much, but this is one of my busier seasons. It feels like every day, I’m opening my email to new inquiries and I’m meeting with potential clients all the time. They tell me about their engagements, their love stories, and their wedding plans. And then I get so excited for wedding season and shooting their weddings. Maybe it’s all the chai tea I’m drinking at those meetings? Nah. :)

One of the things I noticed at the Spokane Bridal Festival was the number of people who’d just gotten engaged. The bridal show is timed so that all those newly-engaged people can come and plan, but sometimes it’s a bit too soon. You’re not sure of anything, and here’s a deluge of information. Getting engaged is amazing and overwhelming. The day we got engaged, I couldn’t sleep. Seriously. I woke up H in the middle of the night to tell him, “I can’t believe we’re engaged!” and he looked at me like I’m crazy. I was (and still am) crazy. Friends bought me bridal magazines and asked me about wedding colors. And then I panicked. And tried to rationalize to our families the beauty of eloping. So here’s some advice, from someone who’s been there, and someone who’s in the wedding industry.

Red Barn Studios Chehalis // Emily Wenzel Photography

First things first. Take some time to enjoy it. H told me I wasn’t allowed to start planning until we’d been engaged for “at least a couple weeks”. So I sneakily read those magazines but tried not to make lists (I love my lists) or plan too much. [Although we’d made some plans about possible dates & locations before we even got engaged. Yeah…] Take time to enjoy this moment, because it’s going to fly by. Really enjoy it. If I have one regret, it’s not spending more time enjoying being engaged. I spent most of my time stressing about getting everything planned out.

When you do start planning, start by making a budget. Do not start looking at venues, photographers, dresses, or anything else before you have a rough budget. Get an idea of how much you want to spend by looking at how much you can afford to spend. Your budget (and your guest list) dictate a lot of your future decisions. Make a budget, and try to stick to it. However, don’t feel like you have to set your budget based on a formula from some website. Often, those budget calculators give you a budget based on percentages of each category, ie: you should spent 10% on photography. Some will give you a good idea of average costs, but if you want to blow your money on a venue, a photographer, the flowers, a dress, etc., and you can work that in your budget? Do it. Get your budget figured out, and decide what is important to you. For us? It was the photography & honeymoon. And I have no regrets.

After you’ve got a budget, work on a guest list. Getting an idea of the guest list, along with your budget, helps you find a venue (and a date), which is what you need for most everything else. [I need to note one thing. There are times when your date will be the first thing you pick, because of the availability of your venue (especially popular churches — I’m looking at YOU St Aloysius!) or a particularly special date. That doesn’t mean the budget and guest list shouldn’t be a big first consideration.] Your guest list also plays a big roll in your budget. A $10,000 wedding for 25 people will look a lot different than a $10,000 wedding for 250 people.

Now that you’ve got a budget, find some wedding planning sites you love*. My favorite local site is Apple Brides, which is great for Spokane area weddings, because there aren’t many resources for Eastern Washington. My favorite non-local site? A Practical Wedding. This site is great because it’s full of reminders that weddings aren’t just about favors and dresses and pretty little details — they’re about a marriage! If you’re worried for your sanity during the wedding planning process, I highly recommend A Practical Wedding. I still read it, because it helps me stay grounded when the wedding industry threatens to take over my mind.

Lastly, I want to remind you that, no matter how long or short your planning journey is, you need to take time for other things. Set aside time each week where you don’t talk about wedding planning or work on wedding crafts. See friends, work on a hobby, and spend time with your fiance doing things that don’t involve the wedding. Being engaged and getting married is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But you need to be careful not to let it consume you.


*I feel like I need to be honest here. I am a sponsor on both Apple Brides & A Practical Wedding. I strongly believe that both sites are helpful to couples planning a wedding, otherwise I wouldn’t be part of their community.


I’ve been there, and now, I see it every day with the couples I work with. This is the first in a series of posts aimed at helping brides & grooms navigate the wedding planning process. If you have something you’d like me to address, let me know in the comments!