How to Start Planning The Wedding Day You Really Want

Thinking about how you want your wedding day to go may seem straight forward – get up, get ready, get married, celebrate! But before you get into the nitty gritty of when your hairdresser is arriving and what time the first dance is, let’s give some thought to how you want your day to be. (Of course you’ll probably want a detailed timeline of the whole day eventually, but thinking about how you want the day to feel, and how you can be happiest and enjoy the day the most is something it’s never too soon to start thinking about!) Don’t worry, I promise this isn’t yet another item to add to the seemingly endless to do list. This is big picture thinking, and while it will help you narrow down the specifics, most importantly it will help you have what we are all about here at Snippet & Ink – a meaningful wedding day.

So, let’s break it down loosely into what it’s worth thinking about for the two major parts of your day: (a) getting up and getting ready and (b) getting married and celebrating!

Photo: JOSH GRUETZMACHER, from Molly & Austin’s wedding.

Getting up and getting ready

Step 1 – How do you want this time to feel?

This really comes down to thinking about you and your partner’s personalities, as you plan the parts of the day you will spend together and the parts you might choose to spend apart. Do you thrive on being surrounded by lots of people, and feel a bit listless when you’re alone? Then the way you want to orchestrate your day is going to be very different to the person who enjoys quiet time, and needs it to help them relax.

Even if you think you are definitely an extrovert or introvert, remember that it’s not just any special occasion – it is your wedding day. (For instance, I have seen friends with big personalities surrounded by all of their bridesmaids suddenly get irritable and stressed, realizing they need some time to themselves as the emotions of the day hit them.)

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Getting ready with just your very closest friends might be an ideal compromise between alone time and it feeling like a Friday night getting ready in college! Photo: JEN HUANG, from Elise & Rob’s wedding.

When I was a bride, I had spent hours putting together a fun getting ready playlist, but I ended up wanting to read in silence for a little while. So think about how you’re likely to feel, and then give yourself options in case that feeling shifts on the day. Remember, do whatever works for you!

Photo: Jonas Peterson

Step 2 – who do you want to spend your time with?

It’s super important you both give this some thought, because it’s going to dictate a lot of the practical decisions you make, like:
– where will you spend the night before the wedding?
– who is getting ready where?
– where will your families be?

And it’s worth considering early on if there are special ‘getting ready’ moments you’ve always imagined. (For instance, do you want your photographer to capture your dad seeing you in your dress for the first time? If so, you better plan for your dad to be getting ready nearby, and be dressed before you are!)

It’s also really important to be clear on what you both want as soon as possible (and ideally before you start discussing potential plans with other people) to avoid any hurt feelings. I promise, having a conversation with your mom  about why you want to get ready with your partner is going to be much easier than having her sobbing the day before the wedding, when she suddenly realises she won’t be doing up your dress!

Ultimately, your wedding day is for you and your partner, and you need to do what is right for both of you. However, unless you’re eloping, there are going to be other people involved in your day who you also love very much. It’s going to make for a much happier day if you think through what time you want to spend with which people and why, and then start the conversations early so expectations can be adjusted.

If you’ve always envisaged a beautiful moment like this one between you and her mom, make sure to include it in your plan for the day! Photo: KRISTIN SWEETING, from Curry & Will’s wedding.

Getting married & celebrating

Step 3 – think practically

Now comes the time to be practical, and to make some potentially tough decisions. Just like your marriage to come, this is going to be all about but knowing yourself, and also about making compromises. If you have your heart set on certain elements of the formalities that are going to be tricky to co-exist (for example, a religious ceremony in a church that closes at midday, and a multi-course dinner reception), you need to think about which ultimately matters most to you. My best advice here: trust your gut. One element of your day will be the most important to you, and it will probably be clear pretty easily as soon as you start talking about it. Then, once you settle on the basic timing of the ceremony and reception you want, you can work backwards from there as to how to spend the rest of the day.

And one particular practical point you should think about? Your photos, aka consider the light:
do you want to see each other before the ceremony? If not, you’ll want to think about building in time for photos after the ceremony, and may need to adjust the ceremony time accordingly. (Our photographer advised us to shift our spring evening ceremony forward by a whole hour, and it would have been pitch black for our portraits if we hadn’t!)
– do you want lots of formal group picutres? Remember, this takes time both to shoot but also to organize people: Great Aunty Jean wandering off in search of cocktail hour can hold up a lot of group shots if you were counting on her being in all of them!

So think through what is most important to you for your ceremony and reception (especially important if you’re set on either of them happening at a certain time of day), think through when your photography will fit in around these, and voila – you have yourself a loose timeline.

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If you want to marry right at sunset, you’ll need to plan your whole day around it to get that timing just right. Photo: SEAN MONEY + ELIZABETH FAY, from McKenzie & Ryan’s wedding.

Step 4 – build in a timing cushion

My husband and I thought we were oh so organized, and you know what? I was still late to the ceremony. Our planner tried to get us to build in an extra 90 minutes to our getting ready time, and it just seemed too silly. Guess what? The professionals are right! I would have loved to spend more time with my family having a glass of champagne, instead of just having to be glad I’d remembered to go to the bathroom before I put my dress on. Build in more time than you think you need to all of your plans for the day, and just accept that even doing this, you’ll run out of time somewhere.

The great thing about giving yourself extra time is it will be easier to roll with the punches, and actually, y’know, enjoy your wedding. Because it’s not just unexpected tricky moments that crop up, but also some unexpected special ones, and you can open yourself up to experience those if you’re not fixated on everything happening according to a too-tight timeline.

Even though we were running a little late, because we’d built in a cushion there was still time for our photographer to capture my dad and I arriving at the ceremony – one of my favorite photos of the whole day. Photo: Jonas Peterson.

So make some time with your partner to go have a glass of wine and a good thinking session. Come up with a loose plan for the whole day, that’s based on what you want out of the day, and any hard and fast timing you’re set on (i.e. sunset ceremony). I promise it’s going to be the best start you can make to having the meaningful (and fun!) wedding day you want. And please let us know in the comments how you planned out your own day, or if you have any questions – we’d love to help!


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