Wedding Planning: How to Get Started. And What 3 Vendors to Hire First

You’ve found your person, they popped the question, and now you’re engaged – congrats! 

But now, wedding planning sits before you like a big, never-ending to-do list. 

Your wedding is not like any party you’ve ever planned before. So, where do you even start? Between creating a guest and picking a date, it’s all feeling a bit overwhelming – and those are just the first couple of tasks to tackle!

But I’m here to help! Read through my wedding planning tips before you decide to wave the white flag in surrender. And learn how to get started on the right foot and which three vendors will get you there.

Step 1: Get a Sense of the Big Picture

Perhaps a bit of a surprise, the average couple in Australia is engaged for 21 months. But if you’re planning your wedding in 12 months, or even less, there is still plenty of time to think about how you want your wedding to look and feel. 

Take your time gathering inspiration from wedding magazines, social media, and real wedding photos. And look outside of the wedding world too for what sparks your interest and creativity. For me, it’s travel and good food and drinks. Which means my dream wedding (if I could do it over again) would be an intimate, tropical destination wedding with our closest friends with a great dinner and delicious cocktails.

Think about the style, feel, and experience you want you and your guest to experience. This part of the planning process isn’t so much about getting into the details just yet. It’s more about getting a big-picture vision. Like:

  • Where do you see yourself getting married (outdoors or indoors, ballroom or barn)?
  • How many people do you want to invite?
  • Do you want a one-day event? Or would you like an entire weekend’s worth of celebrations, including a rehearsal dinner, bridal luncheon and/or post-wedding breakfast?

Try to describe what events your dream day includes. Remember, this is what YOU want. When you’re daydreaming, don’t get bogged down by obligations or the inner critic telling you something isn’t realistic. You’re dreaming at this stage. So let yourself dream!

Step 2: Make a List of What’s Important

Establishing your priorities will help guide your decisions and budget and keep you and your partner aligned on what’s important. 

After you’ve had time to dream about your wedding day, decide on the must-have details and non-negotiables. For example:

  • Photographer
  • Live entertainment
  • Beach venue
  • Plated dinner
  • White bridesmaid dresses and pink bouquets
  • Time together with family and friends

To help stay organized, consider starting a few Pinterest boards with all of your favorite details. Pin images that reflect your wedding style, real wedding photos you love, and locations you’re swooning over. And to help you determine what dress or stationery design to go with, look for the patterns in the images you save. 

And if you start feeling overwhelmed by everything and feel lost in the sea of options, revert to your list of priorities and remember your original vision.

Step 3: Set a Budget 

Okay, time to come back down to earth. But don’t let this step dishearten you. Setting a budget is essential because it gives you direction and allows you to move forward confidently. The budget will be your compass along the way and will continue to help you make decisions as you go. 

You’ll also need to have a guest count in mind, as these two go hand-in-hand. It wouldn’t make sense to budget for 12 guests and invite 50. So go ahead and have a good idea of your guest count before you have the cost talk. 

Then sit down with your families and find out if anyone will contribute financially, and if so, how much. Once you know how much you have to work with, take your list of what’s important and start plugging in the numbers.

Step 4: Book Your Vendors

When it comes to booking your vendors, you’ll want to book the ones that can only do 1 wedding per day first. Vendors like your venue, photographer, and planner. Then vendors like entertainment, florals, and decor. And lastly, hair and makeup and, if needed, transportation. 


I recommend booking your venue first because you need a date to hire anyone else. 

It’s also a good idea to book your venue first because it will 

a) have the most significant impact on your budget

b) set the tone for your event

c) become the backdrop of your event – and your photos

Needless to say, the venue plays a significant role. So book it and lock in a date at least 12-15 months out from your wedding. If it’s a popular location, you may want to play it safely and book earlier. For an elopement, you can be a bit more flexible and book 6-12 months out. 


Photography is typically the next in line, as we book out well in advance. This is especially true for couples currently planning 2023 weddings, as COVD has caused a backlog of weddings. Vendors’ schedules are filled to the brim, and getting your preferred date may be tricky. 

I’d say 12 months out is safe when booking your photographer. But it never hurts to add on a couple more months if you’re requesting a particularly popular time of the year. 

And if you really want to be safe (and are absolutely head over heels in love with a photographer), check their availability before you even pick your wedding date. If wedding photos are on your priority list, make booking your photographer a priority. 


A wedding planner can help out with so many things that make planning feel overwhelming and stressful. I suggest hiring one if you are unclear on your vision, need guidance and direction, or want someone to take care of the heavy lifting because you don’t have the time to put it into it. 

Even if you do have the time, having the expert guidance of a planner and designer can make the process more enjoyable. Wedding planning is a full-time job for a reason! There are so many things to do, many moving parts, and challenges to navigate. If you can make it work in your budget, you won’t regret hiring such an invaluable team member. On average, a planner should cost about 10% of your overall budget.

As with the other vendors, book your planner at least 12 months prior so you can both get started on all the details.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Make This Planning Mistake

The most common mistake couples make as they begin planning their wedding is taking on too much advice from the wrong people. Maybe it’s from well-intentioned family and friends who haven’t gotten married. Or they have, and they’re trying to make your wedding day just like theirs.

Remember, this day is about the two of you!

If you find yourself drowning in “advice,” go back to your list of must-haves and what YOU want your day to look and feel like – not what others want. Stay true to yourselves and what you wish for your day.

It can get quite overwhelming planning a wedding, and making sure you have the right people/vendors on your side is super important. I’d be thrilled to be a part of your team. If you need a professional photographer who has your back 110%, let’s chat.

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Whether your love story is one blossomed from elegant romance or one of epic proportions, I am so excited to be a part of this journey with you and can’t wait to get to know you more. I am a fine art photographer providing my services all throughout NSW, Australia and destinations worldwide. Passionately devoted to capturing the beauty of your special day. 

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Sheri Mcmahon

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