Newly Engaged – The First Steps To Take When Planning A Wedding

Christmas is fast approaching! Between the holiday shopping and decorating your home, it really is a magical season filled with family celebrations and get-togethers with friends. It's a time when people are naturally brought closer together and look favorably towards the future. Therefore, it only makes sense that it's also the time of years when more couples get engaged than any other time of the year.

Newly engaged couples will rejoice in the holidays and be eager to share their good news with family and friends. People will admire the ring, and for most couples, they get caught up in the excitement and will want to begin planning their big day right away. Unfortunately, with all that enthusiasm, many couples make some costly wedding planning mistakes by making decisions and commitments before they are really ready to do so.

Here are some ideas from our expert team to help make the wedding planning process go much smoother.

Figure out the money before you start booking venues or vendors!

Figure out the money before you start booking venues or vendors!

1)  Determine The Budget: How much money do you have to spend? This is the first and most important question that needs to be answered before you do any wedding planning, or worse yet, put any deposits down on venues or vendors. When do you want to have your wedding? What are you realistically able to save for your special day between now and then? Are parents going to be helping out, and if so, how much are they willing to contribute? The amount of money you have to spend is going to seriously shape the way wedding is going to look and feel. You don't want to get locked into a venue that you can't really afford or overspend on your dress so you have to cut back on everything else.

To figure out your budget, begin with the following:

  1. Start with when you want to get married and count how many months that gives you to save.
  2. Multiply the number of months by the amount that the two of you are able to contribute and save each month to determine your wedding fund.
  3. Add to that any money that your parents are willing to contribute or any savings you have that you want to use towards the wedding.
  4. Subtract at least five percent of that amount for overbudget items. (You also have to remember about GST!)
  5. Voila! You have your wedding budget!

2)  The Guest List: There is no point of planning an intimate family celebration when Mom and Dad's initial list of attendess of immediate family and close friends is over one hundred and fifty. Sit down together with both sets of parents and begin creating a list of potential guests. This is't the final version, but it will give you an idea of how many people will be in attendance. Once you have this figured out, this will also help you determine the size of venue you need and how many people it will need to accommodate. It's also a quick way to figure out catering costs and whether or not you really want that big wedding, as big weddings usually equate big bucks! (Hint: Choosing to have a smaller guest list may mean you have a little more to spend on some of the "fun" details like your dress, decor, flowers, entertainment, etc.)

3) Create Your Vision: Sometimes your wedding vision is a work in progress, but you need to at least start with the look and feel you want for your wedding. If the idea of getting married in a garden in your parent's backyard sounds appealing, you will want to find an intimate reception venue that will match. As well, you would want to make sure that your wedding is scheduled for mid- to late-summer, allowing the flowers to bloom and for the garden to look its absolute best. Some types of weddings are really dicated by the time of year and/or the venue selected. It's a good idea to start thinking about what you both want your wedding to be like in order to make other decisions that will ensure your wedding plans match your vision and ideas.

4) Hire A Wedding Planner: There is nothing wrong with planning to do a lot of the work on your wedding yourself, but one of the most common things I hear from people in general when I tell them what my occupation is that they wished they had hired a wedding planner when working on their own nuptials. While it used to be considered a luxury reserved only for the wealthy and celebrities, the fact is that with so many couples both working full time and busy with their careers, having someone there to guide them through the wedding planning process has become a necessity. Another important point to consider is that for most couples, they are planning a wedding for the first time. They have no experience doing an event on this large of scale and are trying to sort through all the vast amounts of information. Having a wedding planner who has the experience, the contacts, and the expertise can be a lifesaver. She cannot only save you time, but also suggest ways to save money making it a "win-win" situation for everyone involved.  Here knowledge of details and how things work can also help prevent you from making costly mistakes or misunderstandings related to limited understanding of event contracts and expectations. Having her on side right from the very beginning ensures that your wedding will be a success.

If you don't think you can afford full wedding planning services, recognize that most planners offer partial planning programs or Day Of Coordination (which is more like Month Of Coordination). Many also offer a la carte options in the form of hourly consulting so the planner can help keep you on track, make suggestions for you to follow through on, help you with your budget, provide vendor referrals, and still give you some of that expert advice that will make planning your wedding so much easier. Also consider talking to the planner to see if it is possible to design a customized planning program that might not include everything, but only components that your require assistance with.


Wedding planners can be your biggest asset as you prepare for your big day. They can keep you on track, provide valuable information in regards to budgets and contracts, and basically save you money by helping prevent costly mistakes. This is your wedding. Does it not make sense to seek out the advice of a professional to prepare for one of the biggest days in your life?

Wedding planners can be your biggest asset as you prepare for your big day. They can keep you on track, provide valuable information in regards to budgets and contracts, and basically save you money by helping prevent costly mistakes. This is your wedding. Does it not make sense to seek out the advice of a professional to prepare for one of the biggest days in your life?


Getting engaged is such an exciting time! Make sure it's a process that you both can enjoy from beginning to end by making sure you take the first few steps in the right direction.

If you need assistance in planning for your upcoming wedding, or just want some advice along the way, don't hesitate to contact us at 1-888-790-6986 or (And yes, we do do customized programs, partial planning, a la carte options and hourly consulting!)




Photo: Svetlana Yanova Photography

Photo: Svetlana Yanova Photography

Cathy MacRae is a Calgary, Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise wedding planner in the business of designing customized weddings that make your heart skip a beat! She is the lead wedding planner and design coordinator for Creative Weddings Planning & Decor©, working with couples to plan chic and stylish weddings that make your heart skip a beat! Located in Calgary, Canada, she plans wedding for couples primarily in and around the Calgary, Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, and Fernie area. Her clients want a wedding that is all about romance, elegance and personalized style with meaningful and heartfelt moments that take your breath away and created an incredible guest experience. She has been in involved in the wedding industry for over eight years now. The foundation of her business has been built on developing relationships with numerous quality vendors that her allow her to best match them with her clients so the end result is a unique wedding celebration that tells a story and sets the stage for the couple's "happily ever after." As a destination wedding specialist, she also works with couples who desire to wed in various picturesque dream locations throughout the world. She had done weddings in various exotic locales such as Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, and throughout the Caribbean. She is available to plan weddings internationally.

She has earned her Professional Wedding Planner© status with the Association of Bridal Consultants, and is also a member of the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, the Calgary Bridal Alliance, and the Community of Wedding Innovators. In addition, she is a Certified Sandals Specialist and WeddingMoons© Specialist with Sandals© and Beaches© Resorts, specializing in romantic travel.  She was a founding board member of the Wishing Well Wedding and Event Foundation, Canada's first non-profit wish granting founding providing weddings for couples directly facing terminal illness, and continues to support the foundation in the role of a STAR vendor. Cathy also owns Consulting For Creatives, where she works as a business coach with both new and experienced entrepreneurs in the wedding and event industry with a desire to get ahead.

For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at 1-888-790-6986 or email her at

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