Hello there. You, with the giddy but somewhat tense smile, with the new ring on your finger and a heart full of questions: welcome. You’ve come to the right place. Even now in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m Meg Keene, and I’ve written two best selling wedding planning books, and helped millions of couples plan their weddings over the last 13 years. Yup, that’s a lot of people and a really long time. And while absolutely everything is different right now, I’m leaning into a decade of experience researching and writing about, yep, practical weddings, to get this party planned. Because while you have a lot of decisions in front of you (and much more complex wedding planning decisions than folks have faced in generations) you have totally got this. Or at least, together, we’ve got it.
Before we get into any of that—literally, before you do anything, be sure to toast your engagement… several times. Pause, celebrate, breathe, repeat… all before you make a single decision. Your engagement will only come around once, so take some time to fully enjoy being engaged, because the next bit… wedding planning during a pandemic… probably isn’t going to feel like the giddy buzz of joy and champagne. So soak that up before you move on.
But now! If you’re off work for the holidays, and you’re ready to get your research on… let’s go. First up, you should start with this Wedding Planning During COVID post, and download the e-book we created for wedding planning during this tumultuous time.
As we’re looking toward the horizon of doom and hope that seems to be the 2021 mix, the one constant you can count on is going to be, well, inconsistency. As this last year has proven, nobody has any real idea of what comes next. But if I had to make a prediction, I’d guess that the beginning of this year is going to be really dark, the vaccine process will feel hopeful (but happen more slowly and with more hiccups than we want), and by the end of the year we’ll return to some kind of normal… that won’t at all feel like the old normal. Suffice to say: this is wedding planning in a brave new world, and things will be easier when you lean into the fact that there is no clear way to predict the future, and that’s ok.
We’ve partnered with our forever favorites at Squarespace to put together this initial getting started guide just for you. Sure, you could spend your holiday free-time digging through the archives of APW and the depths of Pinterest, and land yourself with an overwhelming to-do list. Or, you could refer to this post for the tools and steps that will help you just get the ball rolling, while also kicking back and enjoying your new-found engaged-ness and the holiday season.
Organize Your wedding planning tools
All that said, it’s EXTRA important in 2021 that you invest some time upfront in organization. I, once upon a time, planned my wedding budget with a post-it on my desk at an investment bank. (Do as I say, not as I do.) And while that barely cut it then, it is absolutely not going to cut it now. Given that the only given is that nothing is given, you’ll want a place to keep things organized, as well as solid sources for expert advice.
the APW books that will help: You’re going to spend a lot of this season of planning on Google. And, spoiler, Google isn’t going to be as helpful as it once was, since so many wedding resources are going to be tailored to the Before World. And while we can’t tell you which florist is still in business and knows how to properly wear a mask in your particular city, the APW books can save you from having to Google where to even begin. The first book will walk you through what you need to know to save time, money, and sanity, and the A Practical Wedding Planner can basically plan your wedding for you (okay, fine. It can’t do the planning, but it will give you the tools you need to get your wedding planned).
Your wedding website is an indispensable tool: A lot of wedding planning, in normal times, is spent updating family and friends on what your wedding plans are. If you’ve been engaged longer than a week, I bet you’ve already had to field the start of the endless questioning. Our #1 suggestion to combat the endless interrogation? A wedding website. Hop over to Squarespace and make yourself one—it will save you tons of time and energy. Not sure what to put on it? Check out our list of top priorities for your wedding website, and you can even steal wording directly from us.
PRO-TIP: If you’re at all interested in snagging a custom website domain for your wedding website (like: mrandmrbranson.com instead brand.joeandbrad.com) you’ll want to do that like… yesterday. 😉 So, go do it now. Snag the domain name of your dreams—you can use it for your wedding website, sharing wedding photos, and even turn into a family sharing site later on. If you get the domain from our friends at Squarespace you can get 10% off with code APW2020!
do your homework
Once you’ve gathered some basic tools, it’s time for you and your partner to sit down and discuss what kind of wedding you want to have. The A Practical Wedding Planner provides a handy worksheet about priorities for you and your partner, and we’ve got a copy of it for you right here. Pick a quiet night, pour yourself a drink of your choice, and get to Venn Diagramming. What are your absolute priorities for this wedding? What are your partner’s? Where do those priorities overlap? Once you’ve worked through that, consider drawing up a simple wedding mission statement. This is a statement of what you want from your wedding, that you can come back to over and over again when planning gets tough. A Practical Wedding Planner can walk you through this process (and more) in great detail, but for now…
print out or make a digital copy of this getting started packet of worksheets (and get cracking)
And if you also want a hard copy checklist you can print out and hang on your fridge, we’ve got you covered with our complete wedding planning checklist, and yup, we’ve for sure included a #covidcouples checklist, that includes the tricky health and safety decisions you’ll need to make during this progress. Plus, we actively encourage you to cross off all those things you don’t care about on the checklist. That’s important in normal times, but doubly important now.
set a budget: Setting your budget can feel like you’re just making up numbers… but it doesn’t have to be that way when actual couples break down what they really spent on their recent weddings. Armed with that info, you can decide how much you can spend on your wedding. Then, you need to discuss how much you want to spend on your wedding.
To help you out, we have sample budgets for $2,000 to $30,000 weddings, with advice on figuring out your own wedding budget. Plus, we have a guide on how to stick with your wedding budget when Pinterest is right there taunting you, and which wedding details are actually worth it. You can also look at some examples of 2020 COVID weddings to see how folks just like you have made it work over the last 9+ months.
PRO-TIP: Lots of things about wedding planning are going to be… well, different… right now. We’re all collectively holding our breath and hoping that the calendar change will bring with it hopeful and positive changes for weddings, too. If COVID wedding planning has you in a panic, click right here to find all our resources just for you—from a virtual ceremony guide to monthly planning open threads just for you, it’s all there.
Spreadsheets: You won’t need them quite yet, but get these spreadsheets saved now, so you have them when you’re ready. Again, organization is going to be what helps you keep your mental health in order when things KEEP CHANGING. We’ve got you covered on everything from your wedding guest list template to your vendor contact list to your day-of wedding timeline. You’ll thank yourself later.
PRO-TIP: Some folx love spreadsheets (not I), and some just… don’t. So if you need something creative and fun to get your wedding planning party started? Why not dive right into a wedding website. It’s a fun way to start thinking about color, style, and vibe. And even if you don’t have a date or details set, you can get the framework made so that finalizing it later on will be oh so easy. (Head to Squarespace for an easy-to-make, customizable, and highly-functional wedding website. Check out our 10-step-how-to guide. Oh, and use code: APW2020 for a deal! Plus, they have a free logo maker to really customize your look, which I could spend hours playing with.)
talk to your families AND FRIENDS: Okay, you know how you want the wedding to look and feel. Now it’s time to sit down and have a chat with your families. Are you asking for financial contributions? (Staff and readers discuss the pros, cons, and alternatives here.) Have you thought about what kind of input you want them to have? Are there traditions you want to include—or traditions you want to eschew? Are you going to have a bridal party? We discussed wedding parties in the time of COVID here because y’all… everything feels different these days.
Honestly, friends, if you’ve just gotten engaged, that list is enough to keep you busy for weeks. But if you’re looking for more information, you can start browsing here:
- Check out our wedding vendor directory, full of folx committed to diversity—we’re biased, but truly believe the members of our directory are the best in the business, and it’s a great place to start exploring and searching for your wedding dream team.
- Browse our real weddings—and peruse our most recent real weddings that have happened since the pandemic hit, in our COVID Weddings section.
- Start a wedding website—in pre-pandemic times, we might have told you this could wait, but these days, you’ll want easy ways to communicate with your people—plus, this is a fun and creative task, and we all need those. Don’t fret, we’ve got guides for every step of wedding website creation! Head over to Squarespace to get started.
- Make your guest list—or, as Alyssa and her fiance have done… make a dream guest list, and also make a few versions like: ‘we can have only 5 people there’ or ‘we can have 30 people there’. This part is weird feeling, and everything is so unsure, but it might help your mental health to have this much of a ‘plan.’
- Find a venue—this is sort of like the guest list… it may just have to wait, if you’re hoping for a more traditional post-COVID wedding. But, you can start researching, dreaming, and reaching out to potential venues to see what your options might be.
But most of all, come join us here in January, where we spend our days talking about and helping you plan your bad-ass egalitarian wedding, even mid-pandemic. We’ll see you then!
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. Squarespace makes beautiful wedding websites happen in a matter of minutes, thanks to their user-friendly software (full of features) and modern, minimal template designs (and really great wedding-specific templates, at that.) Click here to start a free 14-day trial and get your custom wedding website URL today. APW readers get 10% off yearly subscriptions when you use the code APW2020 at checkout.