My Wedding Planning Experience

There are so many wedding planning blogs that writing another is just shouting into the void at this point, but I wanted to catalog my experience for myself (and I have sisters that I know will ask for tips). I’m actually keeping a sort of wedding planning bullet journal as well, which I hope will turn into a fun keepsake. Anyways, if you happen to stumble upon this space, I hope you find something useful.

Since my platform isn’t wedding-related (or even a lifestyle blog), I’m only going to make one post about this. Most of the wedding planning blogs split their posts up by category, but I’ve always like the timeline posts best. “Do this at 12 months out, have this done by 6 months out, save this for the week before”, etc. I’m going to write about what I did in the order I did it, and comment on how the timing worked for me along the way.

About our wedding

We got engaged in December 2022, and decided to get married in summer 2024. It’ll end up being a somewhat long engagement, but since we both work full-time, we felt that there was no way we could get everything ready by summer 2023. At the time of writing this (May 2023), I have almost all my major vendors booked. Could I have pulled it off by this summer? Maybe, but only if all my bookings fell into place perfectly. I’m glad I have plenty of time–I’d be a little panicked right now if we were getting married in two months! My guests have also seemed to appreciate the way advance notice, too.

We decided to do a rather traditional wedding. My fiance is Catholic, so our ceremony will be in a Catholic church. We both have large families and wanted everyone there. We’re also on a budget, but I’ve been saving for this for a while. We’re paying for the vast majority of the wedding ourselves. We’ll definitely be cutting some corners and splurging in other areas.

Many of the wedding blogs recommend that each person pick their top three most important aspects of the celebration. Mine are the people (having everyone I love there and making sure they have a good time), the photography, and the food. My fiance’s are the people, an open bar, and the Catholic ceremony.

I (the bride) will also be doing the lion’s share of the planning because my fiance is a medical resident working crazy hours.

If any aspect of your wedding sounds similar, read on!

My first step: Buying a wedding planning book

If you’re a regular blog visitor, it’s probably no surprise that the first thing this reader did was find a wedding-planning book. I ended up buying two “workbook” type books, and listening to a couple other audiobooks.

The first book I purchased was The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner and Organizer. Like I mentioned above, we’re on a budget. I’m definitely looking for ways to save some money. (I have since realized that the author supports MLMs on her website and offers that as a viable solution for making more cash to save up for your wedding. I do not support MLMs, and this recommendation left a bad taste in my mouth once I saw it.) The book had some decent tips, but nothing that couldn’t be found online. I liked the “workbook” aspect of it, where I could write down what was important to me, cross off things I didn’t care about or don’t need, and highlight tips I liked.

I didn’t feel like I was getting a well-rounded view of wedding planning, though, so the next workbook I bought was A Practical Wedding Planner. At the same time I got the audiobook of A Practical Wedding from my library, and listened to it in combination with the workbook. This combination felt a lot more well-rounded to me. I wouldn’t buy both, since the information is the same in both versions. My recommendation would be to borrow some version of A Practical Wedding from your library, see if you like the information, and then buy the Practical Wedding Planner if you like the tips and want somewhere to take notes. Much of the information in both books is available on the APW website, too.

I mostly bought these books out of excitement to start planning and anxiety over having no idea where to start. I don’t think either were absolutely necessary to purchase, so if your budget is so tight that $20 makes a difference, grab a cheap composition notebook from Walmart and find this information yourself online. I abandoned them after reading the tips and creating my own spreadsheets and journal.

The most valuable resource I’ve used so far has been the r/weddingplanning subreddit, as well as the r/weddingsunder10k subreddit. It’s an incredible wealth of knowledge from a variety of people, including some wedding professionals that will chime in to answer questions. I absolutely recommend checking out all of the Weddit communities.

Budget, guest list, and expectations

We didn’t jump into hardcore wedding planning right away, but we did have conversations about what we each wanted and expected. This is when we decided on Summer 2024 to give us time to breathe. We made a list of our expected guests and broke it into A and B lists, determining that we were expecting 120 guests. I showed my fiance how much I had saved, and we discussed how much we could realistically save in time for summer 2024. Our budget is currently set at $25k, with a $5k cushion, by which I mean we’ve agreed on a plan to save $30k by July 2024 but are aiming for $25k in our planning process. I know unexpected items will crop up, and I don’t want to be stuck if we go over budget!

That’s a massive amount of money for us. We’ll have it in our accounts and won’t be going into debt, but it still hurts to fork over that kind of cash for one day. We both want a big party, though, and for what we want it’s not realistic to go lower.

Set up a wedding-specific email address!

Before you go any further with your planning, create a wedding-specific email address. We mashed up our two last names and the word “wedding” at You’re about to become inundated with spam from the wedding world–everyone will send marketing emails galore to try to sell you more and more. A wedding-specific email address keeps all that junk in one place, all your important contracts and contacts in one inbox, and allows both halves of the couple to access and respond to correspondence. When my wedding is over, I’ll be closing this email and won’t have to see the spam ever again.

This tip is especially important if you plan on attending any bridal shows.

Choosing a wedding website

There are tons of options out there for wedding websites. If you’ve been to a wedding in the past ten years, you’re probably familiar with a few of the big-name ones. It all comes down to personal preference and what you want to get out of it.

Since many of the popular wedding websites are free, I signed up for a couple (using my wedding-specific email address) to get a feel for each of them. I tried The Knot, Zola, and Joy, but eventually chose Joy for my public website.

I chose Joy because it’s the only no-fee cash fund, and I liked the guest list and built-in RSVP features.

Cons: There are no “group gifts” in their built-in registry. I’m less inclined to register for items that are more expensive if multiple guests can’t (easily) chip in together–like a $1000+ Miele vacuum that I really want but would never buy myself. Reordering items on the registry is also difficult–you have to manually drag the item to where you want it, compared to Amazon’s “move to top” and “most wanted” features. The other con is that I can’t find a drag-and-drop way to reorder my guest list.


I got so stressed out looking for venues. We live in upstate New York, which is where everyone from NYC goes to get married. Venues in the Hudson Valley are extremely expensive to begin with, and then they add a 22% wedding tax on top of that. I’m still not sure what the wedding tax is for other than “because we can”. It’s not a state tax, it’s not a service charge that would take the place of tips, it’s just “standard”. I got so grossed out by all the shady venues being cagey with their prices. I made a huge spreadsheet to price out the hidden fees, wedding taxes, state taxes, and expected tips, and when all was said and done, you could expect the cost to be double what the venue advertised. Not to mention how I had to pull teeth to get a baseline cost in the first place!

Nothing turns me off to a vendor faster than them refusing to quote me a price. I know it’ll vary, just give me a baseline so that I know if it’s worth pursuing!

All-inclusive vs. DIY

I spent some time going back and forth as to whether I wanted a DIY venue, an all-inclusive venue, or something in between. I made another spreadsheet to price out venue cost, rentals, bathrooms, decor, catering, and everything else, and as far as I could tell, I wasn’t really saving any money by going the DIY route in my area. We don’t have a family member with a plot of land, and rentals were SO expensive.

The other large consideration for us was the proximity to a hotel and to a Catholic church. The closest hotel to where we live is a 30-minute drive away. There are a handful of beautiful venues close to our house and my fiance’s beautiful church, but no hotels and no Ubers. We didn’t want to make our friends spend a bunch of time driving and have to worry about DDs, and paying for transportation proved to be out of our budget.

Eventually, we started looking at venues in Western MA. There was still a wedding tax, but it was around 12% instead of 22%. The state tax is lower, and the venues in general seemed to be a little cheaper since it’s further from NYC but not too close to Boston.

Our Venue

Finally, we found a beautiful venue that fit our needs. The venue itself is a historic boutique hotel, so guests can choose to stay right on the property or at a cheaper hotel a short walk away. We don’t feel the need to provide transportation. There’s a Catholic church right across the street, as well as a bustling little Main Street where guests can kill time. It’s all-inclusive at a reasonable rate (it’s actually the cheapest all-inclusive we looked at).

I’ll come back and name it after my wedding date (I don’t want to put out too much personal information about where I’ll be when), but if you’re looking for a venue in Western MA, comment and I’ll message you!

The contract we signed was for around $18,600, and includes catering, an open bar, a wedding cake, floral centerpieces, built-in tips, a day-of coordinator, a bridal getting-ready area, a separate room for the cocktail hour, and all tables, chairs, linens, and dinnerware. The catering includes six different passed hors d’oeuvres and a cheese and fruit table during our cocktail hour, a plated three-course meal, a dessert table, and all drinks. It also includes peace of mind–I don’t have to worry about all those moving parts anymore!


Our venue recommended a handful of local photographers, which gave us a good place to start as far as what to expect for rates. Photography was another area in which the pricing was not as transparent as I wanted it to be. We ended up shortlisting our photographer because her pricing was straightforward, all-inclusive, and she didn’t charge separately for download rights to the digital images. We just had our engagement session with her, and I’m very happy with her work and how comfortable she made us feel.


I was on the fence about whether or I not I wanted to spend money on a DJ. I’m still on the fence, but we decided to go with it. Neither of us are really music people, so I didn’t trust myself to curate a good Spotify playlist to fit our mood. It will also be useful to have a Master of Ceremonies to keep us on track. My DJ will cost just under $2,000.

The DJ we chose also offers lighting and photobooth options. I’m opting not to do any special lighting besides what the venue offers. For a photobooth, we’re considering DIYing one with an iPad and a photobooth app that will text pictures to guests and store them for us. If we decide to go this route, I’ll update. It would cost $1000 to run a photobooth through the DJ, which is definitely out of my budget.

Enjoying my recap?

Stay tuned, I’ll update more as I accomplish more tasks on my to-do list.

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