12 steps for stress-free wedding planning from industry experts
29 April 2017

12 steps for stress-free wedding planning from industry experts

Wedding Planning

Cover photo credit: Olive Photography and Bisous Events

Here's a step-by-step guide to plan a wedding day that will blow all your expectations, with advice from wedding pros across various fields including Ellen and Ofelia Haroutunian, co-founders of custom stationery brand Pink Peony Press; Jessica Hoang, lead planner at Bisous Events and Cyndy Neilly-Spence, wedding officiant, Ceremony Matters. 


1. Enjoy the moment and talk about what you each see for your wedding day

Getting engaged is a crazy, magical time. More so than most people ever expect. It's really moving and quite overwhelming with how excited everyone is for you, so enjoy it! Before you race into planning, soak it all in with your hubby or wife-to-be. Celebrate with friends and family and get super pumped about the years ahead.

You'll likely have lots of opinions and expectations from family while you plan your wedding. But before you start making any decisions, while you're still on the newly engaged buzz, talk to your other half. 

"Discuss your vision together - most people leave it to one person to take care of the planning and decisions, but yet still carry an opinion. It's very important to be aligned on your ideas," say Ellen and Ofelia of Pink Peony Press.

Make sure your fiance has a chance to blue sky their ideal day too and set out a common vision between you. Many guys in particular haven't really considered it much before they get engaged, so don't rush off and do anything that you aren't both going to love.

Photo credit: Mango Studios and Bisous Events

Wedding planning giftspaces 1 

2. Set your budget + draft the guest list

These two things really go hand-in-hand. There will likely be trade-offs and it's best not to do anything until you have these - it will only lead to disappointment. But keep in mind that how much you have to spend does not necessarily determine how big or amazing the wedding will be.

Write down each of your top three priorities, plus the things you're willing to sacrifice. If you want a big wedding but are constricted in this area there are options to consider such as a buffet, or a large informal garden party. Call on friends and family to chip in with various aspects - you will likely find people are more than willing to help out.

Sit down with your parents, family members, or just the two of you and figure out who is contributing, how much they can contribute, and what your total budget will be. Then move on. 

Wedding planner Jessica Hoang suggests creating multiple guest lists. "Create a list for “must invite” and “would like to invite” on both sides. Depending on how many give an informal RSVP from the “must” list, you can start sending out invites for the “would like to invite" list, which may include co-workers, semi-close friends and family. Obviously, the more people, the more it’ll cost. So start your list early and send your invites early!" 


3. Shortlist date options

To be safe, choose 2-3 possible dates to give you options when exploring venues and particularly if you have a large family to work around.


4. Decide on your wedding’s style

If you've completed step 1, you will already have an idea of what your ideal day will look like. In this step it's time to get serious. Of particular focus should be the type of venue you're after - home town or destination, church or civil ceremony, country or city.

"Don’t be too strict on traditions and do what feels right," says Jessica Hoang. "It’s about you two. You don’t need to do anything and everything; this includes wedding traditions, bridal showers, dresscodes, etc. There are so many seamless ways to incorporate your personalities into your big day."

This is the time to start some Pinterest boards to bring your vision to life. Vintage, modern, classic, eclectic, handmade, rustic…it will all help guide you with all the decisions you'll be making down the line. There are so many great wedding blogs to help you channel your personal wedding style and Instagram is also fantastic to get you inspired. Check out these 15 Instagram accounts for alternative wedding inspiration.


Photo credit: Mango Studios and Bisous Events

Wedding planning steps gift registry

5. Book your venue and send save-the-dates

It's time to start researching and touring venues. Call in advance to make sure your shortlist of dates are available, and also try to get as many costs as possible prior to visiting, so you know it's going to be within your budget range. It's a good time to reserve some rooms in a hotel nearby for out of town guests. 

Make sure you confirm your officiant at this time too. "Your ceremony is the most personal part of your wedding day and over time will likely be the most memorable.  As soon as you have your date and time, begin interviewing officiants to be sure to get “the right fit” for you as a couple," says officiant Cyndy Neilly-Spence.

"Your ceremony is the one part of your wedding day that can be truly unique – it is about the two of you!  Consider how you want it to feel and unfold, before you reach out to officiants.  You need to know what you want, to decide if an officiant will be a good fit," Cyndy says.

Once the venue's booked, save-the-date is sent and officiant is locked in, you can take a bit of a breather. These are big decisions and now that your guests are also in the know, you are well on the way to being a Mrs & Mr, Mrs & Mrs or Mr & Mr!

Photo credit: Pink Peony Press

Save+the+Date wedding planning


6. Lock in your vendors

The best place to start is to ask around family and friends. Chances are that within your network you have people who can recommend stellar vendors, or will be able to do things themselves! 

First up should be photographer, DJ / band and caterer, as good ones will need to be booked well in advance and these are critical decisions. Once you have photos, food and entertainment, move on to flowers, rentals, decor, invitations, cake, hair + makeup and favors. We can't stress the value of recommendations enough - make sure you thoroughly review portfolios, costs and fine print.

"Do your research!" is also the advice from Ellen and Ofelia of Pink Peony Press. "Reading blogs, looking up ideas online and visiting wedding shows are key to finding the best vendors that suit your style for your big day."

If you have the budget and would like to go a simpler route, hire a planner to do it for you. Wedding planner Jessica Hoang has seen first hand the added stress that managing all vendors can cause couples. "Even as a certified wedding planner, working with new wedding vendors can be a delight or a headache. Let a planner find the best vendors that are within budget, have great service, understand your wedding style and can execute on the day of and clean up at the end of the day without you even putting down your champagne glass," she says.


7. The dress and bridal party

This is the exciting part! Get your mom and girls together for a day of bubbles and bridal gowns. Again, ask around for recommendations on stores and call ahead to make sure they have the designers you want (if you know!) Do as much research online as possible before you go.  Make sure you have your top budget in mind beforehand too - and don't try on dresses outside of what you can spend. Also, check out online stores and used dresses - you may find your dream gown for a fraction of the price. Etsy is a great place to find unique and affordable dresses and suits for you and your bridal party.

Most bridal shops recommend starting your dress search at least six months prior to your wedding date to accommodate ordering in your size and as many fittings and alterations as might be needed. Check out these beautiful gowns for under $2000 and our guide to wedding dress shopping to suit all tastes and budgets. 

Photo Credit: One Fine Collective Team

wedding style bridalregistry2


8. Choose your Wedding Registry

Many couples getting married already have traditional gift items like homewares and towels. We think gift giving at the time of a wedding should be about more than "stuff". It's about helping a couple start their next phase of life, whatever that may include. Giftspaces enables you to list anything you want, from multiple vendors, including non-traditional items such as help towards a honeymoon, home down payment or a beautiful piece of art. The sky's the limit! See what's trending on GiftSpaces registries now.

For the more traditional couples, The Hudson Bay Company is a tried and true option in Canada. You can also set up a Bridal Registry with Plan Canada if you aren't looking for gifts for yourselves, but would rather have guests donate to communities that Plan Canada work.

Need a bit of inspiration for what to put on your gift registry? You've come to the right place!


9. Create a website and send out invites

A wedding website will be a huge help for your guests and you - a place to house all the details of not only the day itself, but any events you might be planning around it. Some of the best wedding planning tools can be found on The Knot, and Wedding Wire.

It's recommended that you get your invites out a minimum of four months in advance, earlier if you are planning a destination wedding. Paperless Post is also awesome if you want to go paperless (and save the world!) or check out custom Canadian designers like Pink Peony Press. Remember to include your registry details on your website and invites, relying on word of mouth can be risky for such an important occasion.

Image Credit: Paperless Post. Rifle Paper Co.

Wedding invite gift registry

10. Design & detail inspiration

You should already have a really good idea of your wedding style given the previous steps you've gone through.  This is where you get into all the finer details and where your personality can really shine through. Place settings, hair pieces, signage, favours. Keeping image boards of all your ideas will also be a huge help to any vendors, to ensure they are able to help you nail your big day! Pinterest reigns for photo inspiration, DIY ideas, decor and more.


11. Vows and Wedding Rings

In all the flurry of arranging your wedding logistics, don't get lost in the detail! Remember to come up for air and reconnect as a couple within the circus of wedding planning. A great way to do this is to start writing your vows and shop for wedding rings. These are two of the most personal and emotional tasks that you will do during the lead up to your wedding, so take your time and focus on why you are entering a life-partnership with your BFF.

For something a little different in the ring department, Anne Sheffield has some incredibly unique stacked wedding rings.

And when it comes to the ceremony, consider your options, says officiant Cyndy Neilly-Spence. "Officiants offer many types of ceremonies and services at different fee levels.  What is best for you as a couple?  Do you want to have a “Quick I-Do”ceremony, a ceremony with personalized elements or a fully customized ceremony written just for you?  Be sure to leave space in your budget, to get the ceremony you envision."


12. Honeymoon

Last, but definitely not least, start thinking about your honeymoon! Once the excitement of the wedding day is over you'll need some rest & relaxation and some alone time with your other half. Just like your wedding, make sure it reflects the two of you and enjoying making new memories. Research different options and get inspired by these unique honeymoon destinations, until you find the one that best represents you.


About our contributors:

Pink Peony Press create beautiful bespoke stationery to capture the special day and vision of engaged couples. Their invitations are handcrafted and printed in house using the highest quality of environmentally friendly products. Instagram: PinkPeonyPress 


Bisous Events is a Toronto-based boutique event and wedding planning company that offers full or partial wedding planning, coordination and design. Jessica Hoang leads the team as creative director, owner and lead planner of Bisous Events. “Our goal with every wedding is to always make sure our clients are happy and have the freedom to enjoy their special day!" 


Cyndy Neilly-Spence is a Master Life-Cycle Celebrant® who specializes in the art of ceremony design and is registered to perform weddings in Ontario. Her company is www.CeremonyMatters.ca 


If you enjoyed reading this, you may also like: 

  1. Alternative Gift Registry Ideas for the Modern Couple
  2. A Look at Some of the Best Contemporary Wedding Styles
  3. Not Your Mom's Wedding: 15 Instagram Accounts for #AltWedding Inspiration
  4. 10 Canadian Wedding Blogs to make Planning Your Big Day a Breeze


Here at GiftSpaces, we are dedicated to helping brides-to-be, new parents, honeymooners and all those celebrating life's special moments turn their visions into reality through the power of community. GiftSpaces allows users to curate one registry with anything from anywhere and have friends and family contribute financial gifts.

Create your own GiftSpace registry for free here.

Ready to get started? Create your GiftSpace

Create a GiftSpace