Skip to content

Wedding planning: Phase one

December 8, 2011

I posted on this topic a couple of months ago but I thought it’d be helpful to reprise it a bit now that we’re in the middle of the holidays ENGAGEMENT season! First off, if you’re newly engaged, I send you my sincerest congratulations and excitement. You’re in for a wild, and utterly fabulous, ride. Our good friends got engaged last week and we celebrated with bourbon and cake {that’s right, I said bourbon and cake} last night. We’re so, so happy for them and can’t wait to see what they dream up for their wedding.

And speaking of the wedding, where in the world should you start planning?! Here are some initial steps for Phase One.

Plan the budget

Yes, this part does include asking your families how much they can contribute {and, yes, that part can be a bit awkward} but it has to be done, right? And it has to be done now. There’s no sense in planning anything before you know what you can afford. Setting your budget gives you guidelines for researching your vendors and selecting your overall style so it’s wise to do it first. I have a lot more to say about budgeting–read this post for more.

Discuss & select a few possible dates

Most couples think the number one task is finding a venue and although that’s probably number one when it comes to selecting the actual components of your wedding, you need to do some initial brainstorming before you head off on your search. So, discuss with your betrothed your ideal season for your nuptials and the ideal time frame for planning. Check with your families/wedding party for any major conflicts. Then choose a few dates to keep in mind when looking for a venue. Oftentimes {unless your engagement is well over a year}, your date will be determined according to what’s available at your site.

Gather the guests

To select the right venue, you need to know your budget, a few possible dates, and how many guests you’re planning on inviting. So, open up that Excel, start a new spreadsheet, and start typing away. Have your fiance/fiancée do the same. You may even need to include your families on this as well {in case they have people they must invite}. From this, you’ll gather a rough guest count but remember you can, and probably will, make some cuts.

Start the great venue search

This part can be a bit stressful but it should also be fun. Remember that. I know it feels like your ENTIRE wedding depends on WHERE you have it and, sure, location does matter. Location, location, location they say. But I promise you, you will find something. Start your search online. Get a feel for everything out there–ballrooms, clubhouses, lodges, barns, backyards–then start condensing. Make a list of places you like, jot down questions to ask, and call/email to see what dates are still available and whether you can make an appointment to visit. Then, visit away! But, hey, don’t visit too many–make sure you’re only looking at places you’re really serious about. Too many choices equals crazytown. Believe me.

Draft a timeline

You’ve already been thinking about how long you need to plan the wedding–that was one of the factors when you decided on possible dates. So now that you have a few dates to work with, go ahead and draft a timeline. You can search online for help with this but keep in mind that most of the timelines are about a year in length. Have no fear–if your engagement is shorter, simply condense the tasks. If it’s longer, stretch them out. If you hire a planner, this is something your planner can help you with {or just do for you}. Your timeline will probably change as you move forward but I think it helps to know what needs to be accomplished at the get-go.

Get inspired

This is the fun part. No, the REALLY fun part. Where you get to brainstorm ideas on style, theme, colors, dresses, flowers, food. Lucky for you, there are so many ways to find–and now collect–inspiration. Go for it. Go for it all. the. way. Start a Pinterest account, sign up for, search the new Colin Cowie Weddings. Read wedding blogs {check out my list of favorites to the right}, buy some wedding magazines, and dream, dream, dream away. Oh, and make sure you do this as a couple. I’m telling you, not only is it good practice for the future but it’s also really exciting, memorable, and FUN.


Again, many, many congratulations to those of you who are newly engaged–and especially to our dear friends, Brett & Christine. Enjoy the ride, my friends. Enjoy ALL of it.

PS. When you join Pinterest, look me up!


Pretty little church via Style Me Pretty


Inspiration board: Brunch reception

December 7, 2011

Row 1: Juice dispensers, pancake bar, tablescape, invitation

Row 2: Table setting, syrup decor, individual OJs

Row 3: Coffee mug favors, Bloody Mary bar, coffee sign, omelet bar

I had no idea how colorful a brunch reception could be until I put together all these pictures. And I gotta say I’m loving it! Seriously, omelet and pancake and Bloody Mary bars? Yes, please. There really is so much you can do with a brunch reception. Have you been sold on this one yet?


Fighting fair: Express your feelings

December 6, 2011

It’s Tuesday which means it’s time to get back on track with our Fighting Fair series. You ready?! To catch us up a bit, we started with an overview of the Eight Ground Rules then jumped into Softening your Startup and Avoiding Blaming Statements. Today is all about feeeelings.

The rule is that it’s better {and more fruitful} to discuss your emotions, or how you feel about a situation/event/issue, rather than the details of what happened. Couples, even friends and relatives, can argue ad nauseam about the details. He said, she said. You did this, no I actually I did that. This is what happened, no this is what happened. Around and around and around they go.

Conversely, when you discuss your feelings, you’re not only taking responsibility for yourself, you’re also getting to the core of the issue. And, really, it’s the core–whatever was stirred up for you in that moment or whatever sensitivity was triggered by the event–that matters. It’s also important to be aware of how you’re feeling in the moment. While you’re talking to your partner, are you feeling angry? Frustrated? Flustered? Pointing these emotions out can help to steer an argument away from the content and point towards the deeper issues as well.

It’s important to note that the key is self-disclosure. You’re not pointing out how your partner is feeling. You’re owning your own emotions. Even more, you’re attempting to explain why those emotions came up for you and how you can avoid that sensitive spot in the future. Remember The Feedback Wheel?

So, the next time you’re stuck in an argument or find yourself going in circles with your partner, take a step back. What’s really being discussed? Is it content and details? If so, attempt to redirect the conversation to a deeper level and focus more on expressing your emotions. It may not avoid conflict or magically solve the argument but it will have positive effects–on you personally as well as your relationship. Talking about feelings is good for you. I promise. 🙂


In case you missed it + your weekly roundup

December 3, 2011

It’s a rainy Saturday in Chicago but, hey, at least it’s not snowing! Although, between you and me, I’m looking forward to the first snow. Being a California girl, snow will always hold some magic for me.

In case you missed it…

Your weekly roundup…

Oh Lovely Day provides some really great ideas on how to honor your loved ones at your wedding.

Not only is this bride’s dress to die for, the couple’s story is so, so sweet on The Landlocked Bride.

Love, love, love this newlywed holiday photo shoot on The Sweetest Occasion. The hubs & I need to find some lights and snow stat.

The Perfect Palette gets us into the Christmas spirit with oh-so-perfect red and white.

Lauren’s Thursday Tips are all for the newly engaged on Every Last Detail.


By the way, I took a bit of a break from Every Last Detail but will be back next week so make sure to find me over there. I’ll see all your lovely faces back here on Monday {well, not actually but you know what I mean}. Have a pleasant, relaxing, and fun weekend!


Photo via Elizabeth in Love & styled by Hey Gorgeous

Holiday gift guide: My wishlist

December 2, 2011

(1) A sparkly gold miniskirt via Zara (2) Botanicals Collection set of notebooks via Rifle Paper Co. (3) The perfect carry-all bag via Madewell (4) 2012 planner via Laurel Denise (5) A chunky necklace via Anthropologie (6) Super comfy men’s sweater via L.L. Bean Signature


I’ve been so inspired by all the gift guides I’ve seen that I decided to do one of my own. But instead of gift ideas for your mom or best friend or special guy in your life, I decided to make one for myself. Way to get into the season, right? But seriously how cool are these gifts? I’ve been swooning over them for weeks now.

OK, because I feel bad posting a gift guide for myself, I’ll do one for the hubs next. Deal? You don’t think I’m such a horrible person anymore, do you?

What’s on your wish list this year?


As seen on Style Me Pretty

December 1, 2011

First things first. How in the world is today the beginning of December?! Do you feel as though these days/weeks/months keep flying by? I’m pretty sure that’s a side effect of getting old but I’m just gonna breeze past that fact. Besides, I have some exciting news to share with you all today.

Our wedding was featured on Style Me Pretty!

OK, maybe it’s not as exciting for you but it was such a thrill to see our photos up. I hope you’ll go check it out if you haven’t already. Maybe even leave a comment? Check out the extended gallery? Come on, you know you want to. In all honesty, though, I’m honored to be featured on SMP since I owe so much of my own wedding inspiration to their site.

Aaanyway, I also wanted to give you all a little update on the personal side of things. I know I’ve been light on posting the last couple of weeks. The reason for that is, well, a) it was Thanksgiving, and b) I’ve been working on designing the website for my new business which I hope to have launched by the end of this month. You all would be so proud of me though–I’ve been learning website design and coding and putting every ounce of brain power and effort into this project. It feels good to see it come together. I’m almost there! So, bear with me as I finish up, k? I promise I will be back in FULL force once it’s done.


Photo taken by Megan Anderson Photography

Inspiration board: Afternoon tea wedding

November 30, 2011

Row 1: Ceremony decor, tea cups, tea tin, tablescape

Row 2: Tea candle, sweets, place setting, seating chart

Row 3: Centerpiece, ceremony decor, tea tin, seating cards

As promised, an entire inspiration board dedicated to a different type of reception. This one may be my favorite: an afternoon tea wedding. I love the idea of using tea tins as centerpieces, tea cups as seating cards, and beautiful vintage plates, saucers, and cups as table settings. Isn’t it so romantic?


PS. I know I missed our Tuesday preparation post. I’m going to attempt to double post today {or perhaps Friday} to make up for it. We’ll be continuing with the Fighting Fair series. I know you’re all very excited. 🙂