The Ultimate Wedding Day Guide

You’re engaged! You’re feeling joy, you’re feeling excitement, you’re feeling . . . stress

Some good news: What you’re feeling? It’s totally normal. Getting married is a big deal. You’re about to plan one of the most important days of your life. 

And here at Perennial, we’ve got your back. 

What follows is the ultimate wedding day guide, and it includes everything you need to know to plan a wedding that runs smoothly and is authentically you.

We’ll cover:

  • Engagement essentials — photos, parties, and more
  • How to hire your big wedding vendors
  • Tips for choosing the best wedding location and venue
  • Handling your guest list
  • How to be sure you never miss an important detail

Most importantly, we’ll tell you how to organize it all so that you feel prepared and enjoy every second of this special time in your life. 

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • There are many special days leading up to your wedding you might want to document with photography, including your proposal and engagement celebration.
  • About 75% of couples now hire wedding planners or coordinators, and today there are many options available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Wedding planning involves lots of lists — guest lists, to-do lists, itineraries and more.
  • Your vendor team is like your wedding-day support team.  Be sure to choose vendors you feel comfortable with and trust.
  • Great photographers capture moments organically so you can be fully present.
  • There are lots of wedding traditions and norms, but no one says you need to stick to them. Plan a wedding that’s authentically you.
  • Most importantly, remember to slow down and enjoy the process.

1. Celebrate Your Engagement

After your engagement, it’s tempting to turn your thoughts right to the wedding. But before you do, take time to savor the excitement of being engaged!

Document the Proposal

There’s nothing like candid proposal reaction shots to capture all the feels about the journey you’re about to embark on together.

When you hire a professional to photograph your proposal, you don’t have to depend on your best friend hiding in the bushes with an iPhone or your mom’s blurry photo taken from a distance.  We’re pros at staying unnoticed, getting the timing right, and shooting all the right angles. Bonus: You can add an engagement shoot, too, as soon as the ring’s on that finger!

Woman crying as she notices man proposing to her.

Image by: Perennial Photography

Take Engagement Photos

An engagement session tells your love story through photos. You can choose a location that’s sentimental to you or just capture all the love you’re feeling as you plan for and look forward to your big day. Engagement photos are great to use for save-the-date cards, too.

And if you’re thinking of the kind of super-posed (and super-awkward) engagement photos that make you want to cringe, think again. A great photographer will make you comfortable and capture you as you really are together. Plus — it gives you the perfect reason to get dressed up and enjoy a night out together!

Smiling couple embracing in a natural pose.
Smiling couple embracing in a natural pose.

Image by: Perennial Photography

Have a Celebration

Your engagement celebration doesn’t have to be a party — although, if it is, that’s awesome too! The most important thing is that you take some time to celebrate with your significant other (and other loved ones, if you want) to really enjoy this first step on the wedding journey.

Here are some ideas:

  • A full-on party — invite everyone you love!
  • A celebration dinner with close family and/or friends
  • Dinner — just the two of you — to celebrate
  • A weekend away to bask in your new engaged-ness

2. Create Your Timeline

Now it’s time to get down to business. The first questions you need to answer to start wedding planning: When and where do you want to get married?

Of course, there’s no right answer to this question. Some couples want the traditional church ceremony and big reception. Others do it all in one venue. Some want to elope and get married on a mountaintop or at the beach. For some, a quick but heartfelt city hall ceremony is best.

Our advice: Don’t get stuck on an idea just because it’s what you pictured as a kid — or because it’s what you know mom, dad, or grandma want for you.

Take time to explore your options, talk to your partner about what they envision, and decide on something that feels right for you now.

3. Make Your Priority List

There are so many moving parts to every wedding. If it feels impossible to give them all equal priority, that’s because it is. To avoid feeling overwhelmed in the beginning and ensure you get all of your wedding day must-haves, start by making a good, old-fashioned list.

An easy example of what we mean: For some couples, their dream venue is the most important piece to their wedding puzzle. They’ll get married any time, as long as it can be there. For others, a special date is more important (like an anniversary or holiday), and they’re willing to be flexible about their venue.

Some couples want to make sure their favorite band can provide the entertainment, or have their hearts set on a certain photographer. You get the picture. The point is, you need to know your non-negotiables. Start with those and let the rest fall into place around them.

4. Set Your Budget

While weddings are mostly about dreams coming true, they’ve also got to be practice (for most of us, anyway). To avoid disappointment and/or overspending, work with your partner to outline your budget for the big day.

Remember: Your wedding is one of the most momentous occasions in your life, but it’s not the only one. 

Decide together on what you can or want to realistically spend. Think, too, about where you’re willing to spend more and where you’re willing to hold back (for example —a dream venue that’s more expensive in exchange for more affordable entertainment (like a DJ instead of a band)). 

Don’t forget to also consider other life expenses you’re planning for outside of the wedding, like a house, children, a trip, or anything else you’re dreaming up together!

5. Create Your Guest List

Your guest list can be a hefty undertaking, especially if you’re having a large wedding. This is one task that gives a lot of couples stress, but fear not! Remember, it’s your day, and you can do this. Here’s what we recommend:

Start by knowing how many people you want to invite based on preference, venue capacity, and budget. Then, perform a guest list brain dump. This means listing every single person you’re even thinking about inviting (even those on the fringe) without really evaluating a final “yes” or “no.” Just get them all out there.

Then, begin to organize by tiers. There’s your A-list that includes close family and friends. Next come people who aren’t as close but you know you’re going to invite. Then it’s time to make your “wish” guest list — people you don’t have to invite but want to include if you can. Prioritize them in a single list.

Plan to send your save-the-dates about 6 months before the wedding (or more if guests require traveling). Aim to send formal invites 8-10 weeks in advance if you can, and stagger them. Send all your “definite” invites 10 weeks out (or a little further in advance, if you can). Inevitably, some guests will decline, and you can then send invites to the next people on your “wish” guest list.

Be sure to get your second round of invites out ASAP as you receive declines so no one feels like an afterthought.

A rule of thumb: Try to be fair and reasonable (i.e. don’t invite five cousins from one family and skip the sixth, or every coworker but one), but remember that it is your day. Some decisions will be hard, and ultimately, you can just be honest with those who don’t make the cut.

Try this for anyone who asks: “We’re sorry. We really wanted to include everyone, but had to make some hard decisions based on planning limitations. I hope you understand.”

6. Choose Your Venue

Even if your venue wasn’t at the top of your must-have priority list, it should be one of the first things you book for your wedding day.

Many other details of your day revolve around your venue. For example, some venues offer bundled vendor packages (such as caterers and florists) that can be purchased when you book your venue. Venue capacity could impact the size of your guest list.

Your venue’s location will also impact travel details, like whether or not you need to book an overnight accommodations option for guests, whether you’ll need to pay other vendors for travel, and how much time needs to be blocked out on your wedding day for travel between locations.

Finally, your venue will affect the overall feel of your day. Example: rustic barnhouse, sleek hotel event space, or big, traditional ballroom — all totally different vibes. Choose accordingly to be sure your wedding day feels exactly the way you’re dreaming it will.

7. Hire Your Big Vendors

Your vendors are like your wedding day support team — they bring the knowledge and expertise you need about every important facet of your day. Your vendors should make you feel 100% confident they can deliver on your vision, fit within your budget, and be willing to partner with you to bring your unique vision to life.

Let’s talk about who should be a member of your vendor dream team.

Wedding Planner

Wedding planners aren’t a must, but many choose to hire one to help them stay organized, be sure they’re handling all the important details, and generally make the planning process less stressful. Once thought to be a luxury hire, today planners are more common and can be hired at a variety of price points.

In fact, a recent study done by Brides and Investopedia found that more than three-quarters of couples now hire a wedding planner (64%) or a day-of coordinator (41%).

A recent study done by Brides and Investopedia found that more than three-quarters of couples now hire a wedding planner (64%) or a day-of coordinator (41%).

Image Source

Here’s a quick list of what a great wedding planner can do for you:

  • Provide vendor and venue recommendations
  • Handle vendor outreach and hiring
  • Help you develop and stick to your budget
  • Build your day-of itinerary
  • Maintain planning calendars and checklists
  • Be the master of events on your big day

Photographer + Videographer

No matter how present you are, we promise your wedding day will feel a little bit fleeting. All those months of planning go by more quickly than you want them to, and you want to be sure your wedding photographer and videographer capture every moment you’ll want to relive.

It’s also essential that you feel totally comfortable with your photographer and videographer so they can catch you in your natural, joyful state of wedding-day bliss. Photographers and videographers all have their own style, too, so you’ll want to look for one that fits with what you envision for your day.

At Perennial, for example, we’re all about capturing moments in their truest form. We go beyond cookie-cutter poses and cliche wedding-day shots to document your unique story and capture your special day authentically.

Happy couple dancing and singing at their wedding reception.

Image by: Perennial Photography


Flowers play a big role in most wedding days — from bridal bouquets to groomsmen corsages to arrangements at the ceremony and reception venue, your florist is one of the people who ties together the details of your wedding day’s visual style. Whether you’re looking to go over the top to take a minimalist approach to flowers, hiring a professional will make them look more lively and elegant.

Stationery Designer

Your wedding involves more stationery than you might think at first — engagement announcements, save the dates, shower invitations, wedding invitations, and thank you cards are a few of the things you’ll likely be sending to your family and friends.

Many couples still choose to hire a professional stationery designer to truly personalize their invites and announcements, but this is also one place you can totally save on your budget thanks to guided do-it-yourself options like Snapfish or Target’s Photo Center (among many others).

Band + DJ

The music at your wedding is one of the things your guests remember most. It also determines whether people have a good time! In other words: This one’s pretty important.

Decide if you want a band or a DJ (or both) and definitely take time to go see them (especially bands) in person before you sign a contract. Bands put their best footage on their websites and social media, but you should see for yourself how they execute a full-length event and interact with guests.

Caterer + Bakery

Some venues come with in-house catering and a bakery for your wedding cake, so you can hire these vendors as part of your venue package. Others have them but allow couples to bring in outside vendors if they want, while still others offer neither and require couples to hire totally separately.

Keep this in mind as you choose your venue since it can have an impact on budget. If you are hiring an outside caterer and/or bakery, be sure your venue has the right equipment they need to prepare and serve everything on your menu (or make arrangements for it to be brought in).

Finally, have a tasting for both your dinner menu and cake. Not only does it ensure everything will be delicious, it’s also fun!

Hair + Makeup

You want to feel absolutely gorgeous on your day — comfortable, confident, and happy in your own skin. Your hair and makeup team plays a big part in making it happen, so make sure you find vendors you love. There are many directions you can go here: hair and makeup for the bride only, for your entire wedding party, and even for other VIPs (like mothers of the happy couple).

You can also choose to have a hair and makeup team come to you or go to their location the day of your wedding. Keep in mind that this definitely impacts the timeline and logistics of your day, so make your plan intentionally.

Be sure the vendors you choose have enough stylists and makeup arts to handle your party in a designated time frame. Always do a trial run and be honest (!!) about how you like the results so you know you won’t have to worry on the day.


Depending on your wedding day itinerary, your wedding party might have to travel between locations (example: from the hotel to church, church to photography location, then again to the reception venue).

Believe it or not, many couples report that this travel time contains some of the most memorable moments of their wedding. That’s because you get to spend it with your wedding party and others closest to you who are taking part in your wedding. Hire a transportation provider that will make the experience enjoyable for you.

Common choices include: trollies, limo buses, multiple limo cares, regular school buses, and even ferries if a water route is involved!


If you’re getting married in a church, the officiant is often determined for you. If not, you may hire a professional or have someone you love get certified to help you say “I do!” — anyone can do it, and it can be done online! The video below outlines how to do it:

8. Purchase Your Wedding Day Attire

Wedding-day trends have definitely changed. Not every bride chooses to wear the big white dress, and many plan wardrobe changes to stay comfortable throughout the day. Wedding parties are no longer so matchy-matchy, and some couples even encourage bridesmaids and groomsmen to wear their own styles (within certain parameters).

The point: Take the freedom to be you on your wedding day. Stick to traditional styles if you love them, or go a different route if that suits you more. But no matter what, plan well ahead of time and choose your wedding day attire in plenty of time for orders to come in and alterations to be made if needed.

9. Create Your Day-Of Itinerary

By now, you’ll have a good idea about the flow of your day and the order of events, but it’s still important to document them. We recommend using a shared online document of some sort — a Google Doc or Google Sheet does the trick perfectly.

Share it with anyone who needs to be in-the-know about the day-of logistics: your wedding planner, wedding party members, parents, ceremony participants, etc. Use it as the centralized resource for all of your day-of details, including:

  • The day’s schedule (include arrival, departure, and travel times)
  • Who should be present at each event
  • Ceremony and reception schedule (i.e. cocktail hour, introductions, speeches, etc.)
  • Names and contact information of important people (ex: vendors)
  • Links to other important documents (for example, contracts or guest RSVP list)

The goal is for your itinerary to be a one-stop-shop for any information you need about your wedding day and resources for answering every question that arises leading up to it.

Iron Out Final Details

As you get closer to your wedding day (a month or 2 out), you’ll want to iron out all the small details that are on your list but haven’t been finalized. Here are some examples:

  • Your song playlist for the band or DJ
  • Guest seating charts
  • Programs for the ceremony
  • Signature cocktails
  • Must-have photo list (your photographer can help)
  • Social media hashtags

10. Create a Post-Wedding To-Do List

Proactively planning your to-do list for the days and weeks following your wedding eliminates stress and helps keep some of the post-wedding blues at bay.

Take care of things like ordering thank-you cards, arranging pet sitters for your wedding day and honeymoon, sorting vendor tips, and making legal appointments (think name changes and the like) well in advance of your actual wedding day. Then you can check those post-wedding to-dos off your list without worry.

11. Take it All In — and Enjoy the Process

Last but not least, remember that the journey from your proposal to your wedding day is just as memorable in many ways as the big day itself. It’s a time that’s filled with tasks, appointments, and planning — it can be hectic, and if you aren’t careful it all flies by before you know it. If there is one piece of advice to take with you from this guide, it’s this:

Take time to stop and enjoy the process. Even the stressful moments. Even the hard decisions. After all, they’re all leading up to one of the best days of your lives. It’s a time you’ll look back on forever, and you want to remember it well.

Never Miss a Moment with Perennial

At Perennial, we make it our goal to capture every important moment of your special days so that you can be fully present. All you have to do is just be you, and we promise the memories you get back will tell a story of your wedding that’s unique, personal, and real.

Book a discovery call to start planning your vision.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *