How To Plan A Wedding | Featuring Laura's California Wedding

Yours truly has finally popped the question and you couldn’t be more ecstatic to say "I Do!"

Wow! You are getting married and you are beyond excited to begin your new chapter in life as a married couple! 

how to plan a wedding

In today's post, I will be sharing my sister Laura's wedding photos along with how she planned her wedding in Clovis, California.

Lauras wedding was absolutely beautiful and I was honored to be the maid of honor! I am excited to share her lovely wedding on the blog today! Laura is a guest speaker on this post today. 

I will also be breaking down the steps you can take to plan out a beautiful & effortless wedding, so you can spend more time enjoying the process and less time worrying! 

Let's dive in! 
how to plan a wedding

Determine a date

First thing is first! You gotta set a date! Setting a date in the most important step in planning a wedding. Once you have a set date, you can then start to plan the next steps. 

how to plan a wedding

How to pick a wedding date? 

How to pick a date for your wedding can be a tough one, but once it's done you will be able to move on to the actual wedding planning process.

Here are a few things to consider when picking a date. 

  1. Depending on the location of the wedding, you might want more time to plan a wedding so picking a date that is 1-2 years away can give you the ability to reserve your dream wedding event space or destination. 
  2. You may want to pick a date that doesn’t necessarily fall on any special holidays or dates. For example, getting married on your birthday. Unless you want to share your wedding anniversary with your birthday for ever after, it's a good idea to pick a time and date that doesn’t have any meaning to you -yet. 
  3. Consider both of your work schedules and what time of year it would be easy to get that PTO. After the wedding is over, you will likely be celebrating anniversaries for many years to come and picking a date where work isn’t  as busy for both of you could mean that you can get some vacation time in together for your anniversary. 
how to plan a wedding

Determine a budget 

Determine your wedding budget early on is important as it will help you to narrow down everything else that comes along with planning a wedding. 

Once you figure out your wedding budget you can then determine your values. For example, would you rather spend more on a grand wedding dress or a grand cake?

Maybe your budget allows for both, or maybe you would rather have your favorite artist play live at your wedding, so you will budge on both your dress and cake. 

The choice is yours and you get to determine where you spend your budget, and having a budget early on will help you to decide on what's most important to you. 

how to plan a wedding

Start a wedding inspiration board on pinterest

This is the fun part! To plan a wedding you need to get all of your ideas together and what better place to do that than Pinterest!

When you are in the early stages of planning a wedding, it can be a good idea to just pin everything you like to a board and just let your imagination fly high. 

PS. Pin your favorite images from this blog post to your board for later (;

how to plan a wedding

Take a look through your inspiration boards and begin to narrow down what you actually would like to have for your wedding based on all of the beautiful inspiration you have gathered together.

This will also help you to figure out what you value and want most, which can help determine where best to use your budget. 

how to plan a wedding

Here's what Laura had to say about putting her vision together. 

"I had so much fun creating my own vision. I started off on Pinterest and had printed out several images. I organized the images in a binder with labels and tabs for each section. Doing this really helped narrow down what I actually wanted to do for my wedding."

how to plan a wedding

Should I hire a wedding planner?

A wedding planner is someone who helps and manages all or some aspects of getting your wedding party together. They are usually a great recourse of information and guidance on how to manage a wedding.  

If you are confident and comfortable planning a wedding without a wedding planner, it is doable, but hiring one can definitely take some of the wedding party stress off your shoulders. 

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Get the invite list together 

Make a list of everyone you would like to invite to your wedding.  This will help you to decide how big of a wedding you will be planning. Some weddings are very small and intimate with a few close relatives and friends while other weddings are very large with over 200 guests. Either way, the choice is yours. 

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Choose your bridesmaids and bestmen

Decide on if you will have a wedding party and who will be in it. It can be both your friends and family. Generally your wedding party's consists of your closest Bffs! 

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Book a venue 

Once you have your wedding guest list and know how many people you would like to invite, you can pick out a venue that will be able to accommodate your guest list. Certain venues can only occupy a set number of people, so it's important to know how many guests you plan to invite ahead of time. 

Picking the right venue also depends on the type of wedding you would like to plan and what’s available in regards to your budget.

Are you looking for a beach wedding? A forest venue or maybe a city rooftop? 

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Here's what Laura said about booking her venue. 

"Booking a venue took several months alone. I spent a lot of time researching online and eventually found a place I liked, but after visiting the location I found out I wouldn’t be able to get my date reserved for two years, and we wanted to get married earlier than that.

Thankfully, we had a family friend who owns a beautiful home in the hills with stunning views and a gorgeous gazebo. We decided to have our wedding in our family friends back yard, and it was a great choice for us."

Some of the benefits of a backyard wedding: 

  • Don’t have to deal with extra location costs
  • You could DIY everything and do it exactly how you want
  • It's close to home 
how to plan a wedding

Destination wedding VS local wedding

Laura chose a local wedding over a destination wedding. She says "Throwing our wedding at a nearby location was the most important part of our decision."

Here are a few reasons why Laura went with a local wedding over a destination wedding.

Local wedding Pros:

  • Local weddings cuts travel costs
  • Its less stressful because I can be there at the location to check in anytime 
  • No need to drive or travel means saving time, money and easier to manage
  • Wedding details are more likely to turn out as you had planned
  • Guests are more likely to show up 
"Our wedding was in the countryside which we absolutely love. We wanted vast open spaces and rolling hills. It fit what makes my husband and I happy." 


how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Book a photographer

Next you will want to find a wedding photographer that fits both your style and budget. Stalk their instagram accounts, websites and blogs. Get in contact with your favorite photographers to check rates and availability. 

Laura said "I spent a lot of time researching photographers that I liked, but in the end I actually went with a photographer that my sister in law highly recommended. I first talked to him on the phone and then broswed his website and loved his photography style. I am pleased with out wedding photos that we got and will cherish them forever." 

how to plan a wedding

Book a caterer

Depending on your venue, you may have to book a caterer. You can find local restaurants who are willing to accommodate larger orders.

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Book the music

There are pretty much three options here. You can book a DJ, a live band or you can hook up speakers with your own wedding playlist. 

Laura said "I first started with a google search and asked for recommendations from friends and family. I ended up going with the DJ that my wedding planner had recommended to me. Before I booked our DJ I met him in person. It is a good idea to meet with everyone who will be at your wedding in person, because you want to make sure you click with everyone who will be with you on your wedding day."

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Time to book the florist 

Wedding flowers are generally the main decorations and heart of any wedding party! It's important to book a florist several months in advance. You will want to know what style flowers you would like and can set up a meeting with your flosit.  

You will want to discuss with your florist your wedding date, the venue, the colors and your wedding party members. Remember that pinterest board you created at the beginning? You will want to show your florist all of the flowers you have in mind. 

Forever Dolled Up Boutique
how to plan a wedding

Laura said "I found a local florist in Old Town Clovis, which my wedding planner had also recommended. The florist and I had completely clicked! She assured me that she would make everything to the best of her ability so that I could relax and enjoy being a bride. I felt really assured by her and knew she was the florist for me."

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Book your cake tasting

The best part about picking out a cake is the cake tasting! You will probably try flavors you never have had before and it can be a really fun experience! Have some cake photos ready as examples to show your baker!

"We had ordered our wedding cake and cupcakes from Chiffonos and had the BEST experience we could ask for. We were gives full sized cupcakes to sample which had all tasted amazing! The baker was friendly, affordable and made the best tasting cupcakes id ever had. It was a no-brainer." -Laura

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Book an officiant

You will want to book an officiant who can make it to your venue, or book your place of worship to officiate your ceremony. You will also want to look for an officiant who can do the type of ceremony you wish to preform. 

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Laura said "This was easy for us because we married at our church. There were two priests and they were both on stage with us. It comes with the territory of going to a church of your own." 

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Book tables, chairs, and tableware rentals 

If your venue doesn’t already come with tables and chairs, you'll need to rent them. 

how to plan a wedding

Laura's experience "I told my wedding planner exactly what look I wanted. I wanted rich dark wood picnic tables that gave a feeling of enchanted coziness. I had pictures to show of my vision.

My wedding planner had 3 different locations where I could potentially get these items. While these wood picnic tables were pricerier than the other tables, this was one of the more important features so I went ahead and paid the higher price for the ones I wanted."

how to plan a wedding

"When it came to booking tableware rentals, I had to go through 2 separate rental vendors and still I had to purchase some items from stores such as Hobby Lobby, Joans, Target & Amazon. Both of the rental vendors still did not provide the amount of items I needed. Be aware of this if your wedding is going to be larger." 

how to plan a wedding

The bridal parties outfits

It's important to order bridesmaid dresses & best men's tuxedos several months in advance to insure enough time for them to be delivered and altered. 

Laura's experience  "I found the most stunning glittery dark green bridesmaid dress which was under $100! The bridesmaids and I all agreed it was beautiful so we went the dress. Ordering the dress extra early is also ideal for try on purposes, incase the size needs to be exchanged or tailored. The mens tuxedos were all done at men’s warehouse. All of the men had easy access to it, especially since some of them lived out of state."

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Book your makeup and hair appointment

Make sure you book your beauty appointment for your big day! 

Laura's experience  "I 100% went with word of mouth from a lady who is a wedding planner from our church. Although she was not my wedding planner, she had been doing the job for years so I decided to take her word on it. 

I booked makeup 7 months ahead. It was one of the first things I actually booked. I found this part to be vitally important. I wanted my makeup done in a way that would look flattering in pictures and that it would last all day long! 

I wanted the day of my wedding to be as relaxing as possible, so It was nice to sit back and have someone do my hair and makeup."

how to plan a wedding

Design a wedding website 

There are various free wedding websites that allow you to design a free wedding website page. This is totally up to you to do or not, but It can be a fun and easy way to share information about your wedding as simple as sending a link in a text to your friends and family. 

Laura's experience "I went with Zola to design my wedding website. It was free, and I could get wedding invites from them as well. The invitations they had were really pretty. I could do everything from wedding registry to posting all our beautiful engagement photos. I spend A lot of time editing our website and spell checking. It took me 3 months to get it right before making it public."

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Create a wedding gift registry

You can create a wedding registry at places like target or amazon, or request a honeymoon fund. 

Laura said "We kept this sweet and simple with a honeymoon fund." 

how to plan a wedding

Mail out wedding invitations 

Time to get the wedding invitations ready and mailed out!

Laura's experience  "We sent out 200 invitations by snail mail. I bought hundreds of stamps and sent the invites out at our local post office but some were returned back to me which meant I had to contact the guests and get the right address.

I had to prepare an Excell sheet with hundreds of different address and phone numbers before sending out the invites. I got a lot of the information from family members but I still had to cold call our guests to verify the information. By the end of it all I had sent out 200 invitations."

how to plan a wedding

Wedding Guest Dresses 

You can add to your wedding guest invites the dress code by mentioning a line or two such as "dress to impress or black tie, or formal, or dressy casual" You can find the prettiest dressy casual dresses at the Forever Dolled Up Boutique & shop them HERE

how to plan a wedding

Book a wedding rehearsal dinner date 

Usually you book the rehearsal a night or two before the wedding so that everyone remembers what they are supposed to do and when.

how to plan a wedding

Put together a seating chart

Get your seating charts in order! This is not a must, but if you prefer to organize  where everyone will sit, now is the time to get it done. 

Laura's experience "The only seating chart was the spot my husband and I sat at, and our immediate family got front row in the church and at the reception dining tables. We kept it very simple and let people decide where to sit. There was no pressure."

how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding
how to plan a wedding

Get your marriage license 

Dont forget this part! It might be the most important piece of all! 😉

how to plan a wedding

Book a honeymoon

After all of that planning and work, you definitely deserve a vacation! and of course time to start your newlywed life on the right foot, that is in the sand-if you catch my drift. 😉

  • Book a hotel
  • Book honeymoon restaurant
  • Book honeymoon activities 
  • Relax and enjoy your special day! 


 "At the end of the day everything we did felt so worth the work! My husband and I spent over a year behind the scenes setting things up.

If you want a very specific wedding, I would rec starting a year ahead minimum. I learned so much about how to plan a party. Organization is vital to maintain the chaos that can occur when planning a party for 200 people.

Along the ride I realized I am a much more creative person than I had ever given myself credit for. I have a new found confidence to throw more sophisticated parties if I wanted to.

Before this experience, I knew nothing about catering, fancy cakes, how to organize big events, and vendors for party items. I was at a complete loss at the beginning. Although, I could never in a million years be a wedding planner, this experience made me realize that I would enjoy creating smaller family gatherings where I can bring out my creative side." -Laura 

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