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Wedding Planning Guide

Sarah and Brent Photography

Step by Step Planning Guide

bridal portrait bride and groom kiss on the forehead under veil

We are Sarah and Brent, the husband and wife video and photo team for your wedding or elopement. We love helping couples live out their perfect wedding day. Over the last few years we’ve pieced together some areas where the planning process can get a bit tricky. We got married in 2018 and remember trying to figure out all the odds and ends of wedding planning. So, we’ve put together this wedding planning guide to help answer some common questions and get you started off in the right direction.

Wedding Planning Tip #1: Your Why

grand exit outside with bridal party

This day is not just another day. By sundown you will be bound by vows of love. Witnessed by nature or family and friends, your hearts are now linked forever. But the process beforehand is daunting.

It’s time to sit down and search your heart. What are your priorities for this day? Is your goal to celebrate with friends and family over a beautiful dinner? Looking to party hard on the dance floor, shots, and bomb tunes? Wanting to enjoy the sunset with your new spouse after the most perfect adventure? Now is the time to sit down and decide together what your priorities should be.

To – Do: Write out 5 priorities that you both agree on.

Wedding Planning Tip #2: Budgeting

Your guest list will most likely be your biggest expense if you’re going with a traditional wedding. Most venues charge per person for food and alcohol so cutting down your guest list is a sure way to maximize how far your budget will go. Don’t be afraid to ask who is paying for what or if anyone is contributing to your wedding. Family may be excited to help out where they can – even if they offer to DIY a few things to cut costs.

Getting married in large cities or at popular venues will cost a pretty penny. Explore your options when it comes to your venue. It never hurts to ask around. We’ve seen some beautiful weddings from LA mansions borrowed by family to little ranch farms complete with horses and rented tables.

Weddings have been averaging at about $30,000+ over the last few years. According to these are the average expenses of wedding vendors in the US:

  • Reception Venue $10,500
  • Photo/Video $4,200
  • Wedding/Event Planner $1,500
  • Reception Band $3,700
  • DJ $1,200
  • Florist $2,000
  • Wedding Dress $1,600
  • Wedding Cake $500
  • Catering (price per person) $70
  • Transportation $800
  • Favors $400
  • Rehearsal Dinner $1,900
  • Engagement Ring $5,900
  • Invitations $590
  • Hairstylist $110
  • Makeup Artist $100

Expenses Continued…

These expenses can be easily tracked using many free wedding planning services and apps. Make sure you add up EVERYTHING. The little things add up quick, so make sure they’re coming from their allocated fund so you don’t end up with a larger bill than expected.

Most of the time, weddings tend to go over budget. Make sure you have some wiggle room and plan for additional or unseen costs.

Finding ways to DIY your signs, florals, décor, etc will also help when cutting costs.

Remember: While nobody wants to spend their life savings on their wedding, it’s important to not get caught up in the stress of your budget. Money comes and goes, but your weddings day only happens once. You deserve a day as beautiful as your commitment. These will be memories you look back on for years to come. They’ll be seen by everyone you know and passed down to your children. Make sure you’re preserving them beautifully and timelessly.

Wedding Planning Tip #3: Theme

What is your vision for your day? Do you picture lots of dark woods and wildflowers? How about white roses and lace?

Your day should embody your personalities. A little of you and a little of them. Add a touch of Disney or a dash of NASCAR. Even if it’s subtle – make sure your true self pops through the glamour of the day.

Your Party

Picking your wedding party shouldn’t be too difficult. Your oldest friend, your best friend, your cousin or sister – they need to be your closest confidants and come with no added stress. Keep it small for added intimacy or make it big and include everyone. Your guys and gals do not need to be even. You can have one lady escorted by two men or have all the girls walk themselves down. You can also have two or three maids of honor – there are no wrong answers when you’re planning your special day.

bridesmaids helping bride into her dress

To – Do’s: Identify your colors or materials. (i.e. moss and wood) Determine your theme (i.e. desert, beach, forest). What are your unique touches? (Disney cake toppers, Raider’s pocket squares) Who will be included in your “No Drama” Wedding Party?

groom with bridesmaids

Wedding Planning Tip #4: Picking Your Date

Choosing a popular date like 10/10/2020 will surely make your planning process harder – and possibly more expensive. Try picking a date that means a lot to you. Your anniversary, your parent’s anniversary, or a month of the year that you love. Wedding season can be a bit different for every region but June – October is usually a popular time for weddings in California.

If your date is flexible – make sure you communicate that to your favorite vendors when reaching out. Having your dream florist may be more important than getting married on the third Saturday of the month.

Getting married on a weekday usually ends up being cheaper. If you’re worried about friends and family having work off, try planning for a national holiday like Columbus day.

bridesmaids helping bride into wedding dress

Wedding Planning Tip #5: Venue Shopping

Tour some venues and find out what they offer. You can create a spreadsheet to compare the venues you like and what is included in their pricing. Make sure they’re available for your chosen date or they give you a few options to pick from. Also, be sure you get all your information on insurance, restrictions, parking, and set up times.

Questions to ask about the venue:

  1. Is your venue available on your date?
  2. How many guests can they accommodate?
  3. Price per person or flat rate? What’s included?
  4. Will you be the only event on your date?
  5. Bathrooms? Bar? Bridal suite?
  6. What time can you start setting up? Tear down? Total hours?
  7. Restrictions?
  8. Cake cutting fee? Corkage fee?
  9. Sound system and quiet time?
  10. Rain plan?
  11. Parking?

Wedding Planning Tip #6: Selecting Vendors

california mission wedding venue

Make sure you book your dream vendors first. Your priorities should be at the top of the line. If you know music is going to be the biggest make or break for your wedding, then book your favorite DJ first.

Typically, the photographer and coordinator will be the first people you book after your venue. They often will help you navigate the early stages of planning and have recommendations for vendors that’ll fulfill the vision for your day.

Most vendors will require a non-refundable deposit to hold your date. This protects them from flakey clients and protects you from a double booked day.

Read your contracts. Familiarize yourself with what happens if the vendor can’t make it, if the wedding gets postponed or canceled and your payment schedule.

Some vendors may allow you to create your own payment schedule so you can figure out what works best for you. We like to work with our clients to create a payment plan that works for them.

If you’re interested in working with us you can fill out our contact form at

Wedding Planning Tip #7: The Details

burgundy wedding colors, burgundy boots wedding shoes

The details are what make your day truly unique. You’ve probably dreamt about the details since you were a little girl. This is the fun part. What kind of dress are you going to wear? What will your bridesmaids wear? And your flower girl? Decorations? Signs? Centerpieces? Pinterest is truly your best friend when it gets to this stage of the process and everything is starting to feel real.

Getting Ready Items

  • Robes
  • Perfume
  • Comfy shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Gifts for parents/bridesmaids/etc…
  • Letter to the Groom/Bride


  • Runners
  • Candles/Lantern/Garlands
  • Personal Vows
  • Basket for the Flower Girls
  • Pillow for the Ring Bearer


  • Centerpieces
  • Cake Topper/Knife
  • Gift Table Decorations
  • Champagne Flutes

Tip: Don’t forget to pick out your wedding bands and get your marriage license!

Wedding Planning Tip #8: The Party

The time to choose what you’re going to include in your reception!

Bouquet Toss

Some people cut out the bouquet toss, but it’s a fun way to get your girls dancing with you for a minute and make someone’s night as they catch that bouquet. Another idea is to honor your grandparents or whoever has been married the longest with a couples dance that ends with the longest married couple standing – you can give them your bouquet as a prize.

Garter Toss

Today many men choose to opt out of the garter toss. We’ve seen some super fun tosses though that have left us doubled over in laughter. It can be a highlight of the evening if done right. It’s completely up to you!

The Grand Exit

The grand exit is your last farewell before you head off for the evening. You can always do a grand exit earlier then your departure if your photography team isn’t staying the whole evening or have a last dance instead.

Grand Exit Ideas
  • Sparklers
  • Light Sabers
  • Glow Sticks
  • Bubbles
  • Human Hand Tunnel

Tip: Once you cut the cake, that is typically the end of the scheduled evening. Parents with small children or older family members may head home. Plan your cake cutting accordingly.

In Conclusion

The reality is that there are many steps to take and tasks to check off when it comes to planning a wedding. The key is to enjoy the process and understand this is a journey that you’re on together. The most important information from all of this to remember is to make sure you prioritize what matters to you most. If that is your photos then spend the time finding that perfect photographer. If you are still looking for a photographer and you feel we might be a good fit for you, then send us a message!

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