Recently Engaged? Read This First!

Photo credit: Krysta Norman Photography

You said yes! And announced the happy news to your family, friends, and the world of social media. Without a doubt, some questions have come hurtling your way. “When’s the big day? Where are you getting married? Plated or buffet? Who’s your photographer?” Take a deep breath, and all the time you need. The planning process is a hefty one, with many questions and considerations. And while we certainly don’t have all the answers, our role as a coveted host venue has given us an insider’s view to wedding planning. Here are the top 5 decisions you should focus on first. These big picture items will help guide the nitty-gritty choices and put you on the fast track to wedding planning success. Love what you see already? Schedule a personal tour of Airlie.

Photo credit: M Harris Studios

1. Setting a Budget

While this seems obvious, it is so easy to get swept up in the excitement of wedding planning and overspend in a hurry. Before you even make the first phone call to inquire with a planner, visit a venue, or run out for a cake tasting, check your facts and figures. Knowing a clear bottom line will help you stay focused and take the guesswork out of what you can and cannot afford. The question that goes hand-in-hand with the budget is – who will be paying for a wedding? According to The Knot, only 10% of couples cover their wedding expenses in full (1). The other 90% have at least some assistance from their families. Keep in mind, that with monetary contributions may come input on the decision-making process. Be sure to have, what may be, tough conversations up front regarding how these two elements ultimately affect one another. Lastly, understanding your budget inside and out is imperative when it comes to your timeline (next on our list!). We recommend The Knot Wedding Budget Calculator (part of The Knot app) to help account for every penny.

Virginia garden wedding, Alicia Lacey Photography
Photo credit: Alicia Lacey Photography

2. Working a Timeline

According to WeddingWire, the average couple is engaged for 13 months (2). Perfect for giving you a few weeks to relax and enjoy your new status before transitioning to full-on planning mode. This is a great time to exercise your communication skills and be sure that you and your partner are on the same page about your chosen date, length of engagement, and planning expectations. After you’ve determined your budget, we highly recommend 1.) hiring a wedding planner, and 2.) choosing a venue. An experienced planner will understand every nuance of wedding planning, have the insight to anticipate your needs, and eliminate stress. Plus, a planner will own your timeline, and guide you through the decision-making process — from the tall to the small — to keep you on track. In addition, many venues will require you to have a professional planner as their role is limited to managing the on-site functions as host location. Choosing a venue is naturally the next step, as dates start to thin when booking inside 12 months.

Photo credit: Adam Mason Photography

3. Which Comes First: The Venue or the Guest List?

While determining a guest list and selecting a venue can cause temperatures to flare, a solid idea of how many people you’re inviting should always be in the back of your mind. But the question remains, will your guest list decide your venue; or will your venue determine your guest list? And while there is a loose equation to estimate the number of regrets you may receive, there is no way to tell until those response cards land in your mailbox – at too late an hour to make big changes. So, err on the side of caution. Overestimate. Another piece to the guest list puzzle – will kids be invited? Either way, this is a decision that should be made early on in the planning process, since parents will have to plan accordingly, especially if travel is involved.

Photo credit: Emily Alyssa Photography

4. Touching (or Touchy) Traditions

Ultimately, the incorporation of traditions may come down to control. How your wedding festivities play out, from the something borrowed, something blue to where your ceremony takes place to when the first cocktail is sipped – all may hinge on your (or your families’) thoughts on tradition. All of these seemingly small decisions will dictate the overarching story of your wedding day, and you want to be sure you are happy with them on the front end. As mentioned above, does a financial contribution by one family or another grant decision-making rights? This conundrum should be discussed at the outset of the planning process in the budgeting stage. While open communication may be more difficult for some families than others, the earlier those touchy conversations are opened, the better – for everyone involved. A good rule of thumb is to make a list of your deal-breakers, and what elements are negotiable. It will bring peace of mind when entering into the decision-making process.

photographer stephanie deePhoto Credit: Stephanie Dee Photography

5. Professional Prowess

Thinking that your fiancé’s cousin’s iPhone video skills can replace those of a pro? Think again. One of the biggest post-wedding regrets across the board is “hiring” a friend or relative to do the work of a professional. While budget savings ultimately wins out in these scenarios, the aftermath could lead to a strained relationship, flipping the script on “worth.” Seriously consider all aspects of the ask. In addition to performing a task, you are also asking for their timeliness, skill, and focus for part of or throughout your wedd&ing day – which at some point will conflict with their role as a guest. Refer back to your list of non-negotiables and alter your budget accordingly. And, if asking a friend for help is a must, be lenient with your expectations.



Straight from the Source
In addition to these 5 imperative elements of the wedding planning process, we also wanted you to hear from our Airlie couples about what they learned while planning their weddings this past year.

Photo Credit: Life Reflecting Images

“Always look at what you’re getting for the price. When looking at venues I thought it would be a bargain to do everything a la carte. Boy, was I wrong…going to a full service venue was the right move for me, and my budget. It was nice knowing that there was a team that consistently works together, rather than different vendors coming together for the first time.  I fell so hard for Airlie, I decided to work there!” – Lindsay & Michael Chelette, married on October 31, 2018

Photo Credit: Tim Souza Photography
“A tip I would recommend to brides is to relax.  If you don’t take a deep breath and enjoy the day knowing you have hired professionals that will take care of all the details the day will go by without being able to enjoy beautiful parts of the day. There is no need to stress or miss out on precious moments on your wedding day because of added worry.” – Mr. and Mrs. Ricky & Felicia Abel, married on September 28, 2018


Photo Credit: Stephanie Messick Photography

“Keep things simple so you can enjoy the day with your loved ones, the small things are the things you remember.”
~ Anne Clark & Adam Butler, married on April 13, 2018


Photo Credit: Alicia Lacey Photography

“Don’t wait until the last minute to map out your ceremony script. The vows and readings in the ceremony will be the foundation of your marriage – take time to think about what you want to say and who you would like to be part of those special words.”
~ Tori & Rob Stoeckinger, married on May 19, 2018

Congratulations, and best of luck with your planning. Interested in learning more about hosting your wedding at Airlie? Click here to visit our weddings page, complete with venue information and galleries for your perusal.

Ready to connect with our team and learn more about weddings at Airlie? Tell us your story.