A Guide to Small Wedding Venues in CT

A Guide to Small Wedding Venues in CT

Picking the perfect CT wedding venue for your wedding day can be a challenge, especially if you are planning a small wedding in CT. With so many small wedding venues in CT to choose from, it can almost make your wedding day planning feel like a chore instead of a joyful and fulfilling experience.

That is just one of the reasons I created this resource outlining the best small wedding venues in CT for your intimate celebration. Each of these wedding venues in Connecticut comes with some of the best ambiance, elegance, and beauty that one can find in the state.

As a wedding photographer in CT, even I had a hard time narrowing down this list. Beyond just the normal wedding day that your venue provides, each of these venues provides a warm and personal setting that will maximize that feeling of closeness and intimacy you’re looking for when it comes to your wedding day.

Although not an extensive list of small CT wedding venues, this list hopefully will serve as a launching point for you to tell your love story in the most authentic and unforgettable way possible.

LUDINGTON HOUSE

Ludington House is an historic inn in Old Lyme, CT that is perfect for small weddings

Venue Type: Historic Inn

Address: 2 Lyme St. Old Lyme, CT

Website: Ludington House

The Venue:

Ludington House is a new wedding venue located in Old Lyme, CT. Well, new to weddings that is. The house has been a Bed and Breakfast for years and has earned quite the reputation as a sought after New England destination for weekenders wanting to enjoy everything that the Connecticut shoreline has to offer. If Ludington House looks familiar that’s because the home served as the manor home in the 2018 Hallmark Christmas film, “Christmas at Pemberly Manor.”

Ludington House is everything you’d expect a historic New England home to be – charming, warm, and oozing with turn of the century design and decor. Inside, the house features 9 guest rooms (3 of which are large suites), sitting room, large dining room, a cozy library, and beautiful foyer complete with a grand staircase (great for those iconic bridal portraits!). Outside, the house has a gorgeous wrap-around porch (perfect for a small wedding ceremony), garden area, an expansive lawn, and meticulously maintained grounds that offer plenty of options for outdoor bridal portraits.

Logistics are a breeze with a wedding at Ludington House. Convenient to I-95, the house is less than 2 hours from New York City and Boston. It is also situated just steps from two of Old Lyme’s Historic District churches (should couples want a more traditional wedding ceremony). But, hands down, the most appealing aspect of Ludington House is its ability to host you and your guests for the weekend making it a true destination for your wedding day.

My Take:

Personally, I believe Ludington House is a breath of fresh air for the CT wedding venue market. Small weddings are here to stay and Ludington House is simply the perfect choice for couples looking for the best of all worlds – destination location, historic setting, intimate atmosphere, and weekend accommodations. If you are planning a small, intimate wedding with less than 60 guests, visit the Ludington House website and inquire about hosting your wedding there. You’ll be glad you did!

Brooklawn CC

Photograph of a wedding reception at the Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, CT by Jeff Lundstrom Photography

Venue Type: Country Club

Address: 500 Algonquin Rd, Fairfield, CT 06825

Website: Brooklawn Country Club

The Venue:

Founded in 1895 and one of the earliest members of the United States Golf Association (USGA), Brooklawn has a rich history in the Fairfield County Community. The main dining room offers an elegant and intimate setting for your guests and cocktail hour on the patio features grand and sweeping views of Brooklawn’s pristine golf course. Brooklawn is an ideal choice for those couples looking for a warm and elegant setting for their wedding day. Accommodation for up to 120 guests.

My Take:

Country Clubs offer something no other wedding venue can – a sense of family. The couples who choose to marry at country clubs are often members themselves as are their family. So, for me, photographing a wedding at a country club is like photographing one big family session. And Brooklawn, being the institution that it is in Fairfield, knows how to take care of its family.

Roger Sherman Inn

Photograph of the Roger Sherman Inn in New Canaan, CT by Jeff Lundstrom

Venue Type: Historic Inn

Address: 195 Oenoke Ridge New Canaan, CT 06840

Website: Roger Sherman Inn

The Venue:

Roger Sherman Inn is everything you envision when you think of a New England Inn. Historic, charming, quaint and the ideal setting for an intimate wedding. It’s one of the top CT small wedding venues for sure! Located in the town of New Canaan, CT, Roger Sherman Inn can accommodate up to 100 guests in it’s garden room. If you have a larger guest list, you can rent out the Inn’s additional dining rooms. The Inn also features 15 upstairs guests rooms as well as a separate guest house with additional rooms – perfect for onsite getting ready preparations. You can also have your ceremony onsite in the Inn’s garden.

My Take:

Roger Sherman Inn has a long list of amenities and conveniences like onsite getting ready, onsite outdoor ceremony, beautiful grounds, and an intimate ambiance. You won’t regret saying “I Do” at the Roger Sherman Inn.

Keeler Tavern

Photograph of the Keeler Tavern in Ridgefield, CT by Jeff Lundstrom Photography

Venue Type: Historic Estate

Address: 152 Main St, Ridgefield, CT 06877

Website: Keeler Tavern

The Venue:

Keeler Tavern is the quintessential wedding venue for intimate weddings. Built around 1915 by renowned architect Cass Gilbert, the Garden House at the Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center in Ridgefield, Connecticut, is unparalleled in it’s charm. The Garden House space offers the ideal setting for an intimate reception and the English styled garden is hands down the most romantic spot in Connecticut to say “I Do”.

The Garden House can accommodate up to 80 guests. There is also a seasonal tented area located off to the side and above the main Garden House which can serve as an open air cocktail space or a ceremony location in case it rains.

My Take:

For me, Keeler Taverns ranks as one of the best small wedding venues in CT. You can’t find a more romantic outdoor ceremony location in the entire state! And you simply can’t beat the reception space for it’s historic charm. It’s my personal favorite amongst CT small wedding venues.

Update:

Since Keeler Tavern’s on-site bridal suite is, shall we say, a little on the cozy side, I would recommend booking the newly opened Fountain Inn right next door to Keeler Tavern. The Fountain Inn is an old historic bed-and-breakfast and would be a perfect choice for your accommodations.

Rock Ridge Country Club

A firepit keeps guests warm during cocktail hour at Newtown, CT's Rockridge Country Club

Venue Type: Country Club

Address: 214 Sugar St, Newtown, CT 06470

Website: Rock Ridge Country Club

The Venue:

There are not a lot of wedding venues in Newtown, CT, but it is home to one of my favorite wedding venues in CT. Rock Ridge Country Club.

Rock Ridge is unique in that it doesn’t feel like your typical country club. It reminds me more of a summer beach home on the Cape. Not surprisingly, weddings at Rock Ridge have that same feeling – comfortable, relaxing, ‘go at your own pace’.

In keeping with the relaxed ambiance, the club’s main ballroom is an elegant space that can accommodate up to 150 guests. Just off the main ballroom, the open-air outdoor patio offers expansive views of the golf course as well as a large firepit for those chilly New England evenings.

When it comes to photos, Rock Ridge does not disappoint. The club’s tree-lined fairways, cart paths, and comfortable outdoor nooks offer plenty of options for outdoor photographs. If you are looking for a venue that has a relaxed vibe and can accommodate a small to midsize guest list, Rock Ridge is a great choice.

My Take:

I’ve lived in Newtown for over 10 years so I may be a little biased, but I love Rock Ridge and I love photographing weddings here. I just love its relaxed and elegant atmosphere. A wedding at Rock Ridge doesn’t feel like a day at the office for me. It’s an easy, go-with-the-flow kind a day that feels like a vacation. If that’s the type of wedding you are looking to have, then Rock Ridge is a great choice for your wedding venue.

The Townhouse

Wedding ceremony at the Townhouse in Greenwich, CT

Venue Type: Restaurant

Address: 35 Church St, Greenwich, CT 06830

Website: The Townhouse

The Venue:

First of all, can we talk about the atrium! A two-story foyer with vaulted ceiling that features a sculpted marble double staircase, a limestone fireplace, and an entire wall of windows that floods the room with natural light. What couple wouldn’t want to say “I Do” in this room!? It’s simply stunning – and the only room of it’s kind … that I’ve seen anyway … in Connecticut.

Upstairs from the foyer, the architectural grandeur continues with The Penthouse, The Townhouse’s main ballroom. With marble floors throughout, a marble fireplace, exquisite chandeliers, and one of the biggest bars I’ve even seen, The Penthouse will wrap you and your guests in an intimate and elegant ambiance you’ll never forget.

The Townhouse can accommodate up to 100 guests.

My Take:

The Townhouse is the epitome of what great design can do for a space. On it’s own, The Townhouse serves a nice little niche as a small wedding venue. But the design makes it transcend its function into what can only be described as an architectural work of art. Think I’m being a little extra? Go see for yourself – The Townhouse is open for dinner until 10pm Tuesday – Thursday and 11pm Friday and Saturday. Check out the menu.

Small Wedding Venues in Connecticut FAQ

How many guests is considered a small wedding?

The numbers may vary a little depending on what part of the country you’re in, but, in general, a small wedding typically includes 50 people or less, a medium wedding has a guest list of anywhere from 50-150 guests, and a large wedding has over 150 guests.

What is a low key wedding?

Generally, a ‘low key’ wedding refers to a more casual wedding celebration. People may dress a little more informally, the ceremony may be a little shorter, there probably aren’t any bridal party attendants – or at least not a full wedding party, and the guest list tends to be on the smaller side.

What is a realistic budget for a small wedding?

Your guest list size will determine how much you’ll need to save for your venue, food, beverages, invitations, favors and anything else you plan to give guests. As a general rule, plan to budget at least $100 per guest.

What is the average cost of a wedding in Connecticut?

If you live in Connecticut or any of the surrounding states (NY, MA, RI), then it’s not surprise that Connecticut is fairly high on the cost scale. The average wedding in Connecticut comes in around $38,500

What is a very small wedding called?

While they are sometimes used interchangeably, “microweddings,” “elopements” and “intimate weddings” are all used to describe weddings with less than 50 guests. 

Is it OK to have a smaller, intimate wedding?

It’s not just ‘OK’, I love intimate weddings! Smaller weddings tend to have a more concentrated focus on your friend and family and less on all the details of the day. An intimate wedding really allows for more quality time spent with your guests than a larger wedding. 

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I photograph weddings of all sizes so if you are looking for a wedding photographer for your intimate wedding then fill out the form below and let’s chat!

Guide to Madison Beach Hotel Wedding Venue in Madison, CT

Guide to Madison Beach Hotel Wedding Venue in Madison, CT

A Madison Beach Hotel wedding is in a class all by itself. As one of the only luxury hotel wedding venues the Connecticut shoreline has to offer, weddings at Madison Beach Hotel are like a destination wedding – but without the need for plane tickets and passports!

The hotel offers couples the perfect mix of a relaxed beach wedding vibe and a premier luxury hotel and resort experience. Perfect for a beach wedding in Connecticut! 

Part of Hilton’s signature Curio Collection, the four diamond Hotel takes the utmost pride in offering unparalleled service to its guests. The event staff puts the same amount of care into your wedding day ensuring that you (and your guests) will be well taken care of.

Table of Contents

History of the Madison Beach Hotel

The hotel has quite a long and storied history. The original Madison Beach Hotel was built in the early 1800’s as a hostel for shipbuilders. West Wharf Beach, original site of the hotel, was one of two shipyards in Madison, CT. The hotel underwent a variety of alterations and changes through the years and was completely renovated in 1982. Many items from the original hotel were utilized in the new hotel to keep its spirit and history alive.

In October 2006, the Duques family, longtime residents of Madison, purchased the hotel and restaurant. Their goal was to maintain the traditional beachfront atmosphere while adding updated amenities and, of course, offering a unique and luxurious space for weddings.

What I Love about Madison Beach Hotel Weddings

A bride and groom post for a stunning wedding portrait a top a massive rock at the Madison Beach Hotel.

Madison Beach Hotel in Madison, CT really stands out for its location, its relaxed vibe, and its luxury experience. From a photography standpoint, I love photographing weddings at Madison Beach Hotel. The guest suites are well appointed, aesthetically decorated, and have plenty of window light. The main ballroom is a warm, intimate space that allows you to feel close to your friends and family throughout the evening.

Outside, the beachfront is perfect for ceremonies and portraits. For portrait locations, you can choose from the manicured lawn right near the beach, the sandy beachfront itself, or, if you are feeling really adventurous, you can even venture onto the enormous rocks jutting out into the sound. And since you are on the beach, the sunsets are gorgeous! And make for some seriously romantic mood lighting for portraits.

It’s just a perfect, laid-back setting for anyone wanting a destination-like beach wedding right here at home in Connecticut.

Getting Ready Accommodations at Madison Beach Hotel

A suite is included in your Madison Beach Hotel wedding package so you can have your (and your bridesmaids) hair and makeup done on site at the hotel and won’t have to worry about traveling off the property to a salon. In keeping with the luxury brand of the hotel, the bridal suites are very spacious, meticulously appointed, and, well, luxurious! You’ll feel like you are on vacation.

The groom and his groomsmen typically get ready in one of the hospitality rooms the hotel has available for their getting ready preparations. The hospitality rooms are like small conference rooms/ballrooms and make for a comfortable setting for putting on your suit and tie … and maybe enjoying a beverage or two before you walk down the aisle. 

You can always book a room (or rooms) for your groom and groomsmen preparations as well. 

Ceremony Locations at Madison Beach Hotel

The hotel has its own private beach area for ceremonies so you can get married right on the beach! One of the few wedding venues in Connecticut that offers a true beachfront wedding ceremony. Should it rain, ceremonies are moved inside and held in the Grand Ballroom.

Wedding Receptions at Madison Beach Hotel

Wedding receptions are held in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom which features 180 degree views of the Long Island Sound. It is truly a stunning location! You can also take in the ocean front views from the balcony off the ballroom. The ballroom space has a luxurious yet laid-back feel. You can comfortably mingle with your guests while also letting your hair down on the dancefloor. 

 

Madison Beach Hotel Wedding FAQs

 

How much does a Madison Beach Hotel wedding cost?

Madison Beach Hotel works on a food and beverage minimum. The minimum spend is $26,000 for weddings May through October with two packages available – $225/guest (116 guests to reach minimum) or $255/guest (102 guests to reach minimum). Each package includes valet parking and a hotel suite for the couple. Obviously, you will want to discuss the package options in more detail with the hotel wedding sales staff. 

There is also a $2500 site fee to reserve the hotel for the evening and $2500 ceremony fee should you choose to have your ceremony on site. Off-season rates are available November through April and are listed as $15,000 Food and Beverage Minimum; $1000 site fee; $1000 ceremony fee.

*Prices listed are per the Madison Beach Hotel pricing information available on the venue’s Knot Listing and are for weddings in 2023 and 2024.

 
Madison Beach Hotel Wedding Reviews
There are over 80 5-Star review on The Knot for Madison Beach Hotel. Wedding Wire also has over 80 reviews for Madison Beach Hotel.
 

Madison Beach Hotel Wedding Photos

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Do you want to spend your wedding day celebrating with your friends and family?

Then you’ve come to the right place!

CT Beach Wedding // Jacky Durrell Pavilion // Fairfield, CT

CT Beach Wedding // Jacky Durrell Pavilion // Fairfield, CT

JACKY DURRELL PAVILION WEDDING

Amanda and Mike’s Jacky Durrell Pavilion Wedding was a beachfront soiree like no other! 

Every aspect of their day was a quintessential Connecticut beach wedding  – their intimate ceremony on the pavilion deck overlooking the Long Island Sound, their open-air cocktail hour, their bride/groom portraits on the beach, the free-flowing, inside/outside reception party, even the after-party at Fairfield Beach’s own Seagrape Bar .

The beach vibe wasn’t just limited to their ceremony and reception. Amanda and Mike both got ready at The Inn at Fairfield Beach just steps down the street from Jacky Durrell and adjacent to the Seagrape which made it the ideal location for walking to and from their wedding to their hotel to the after-party. It was like a summer getaway weekend in The Hamptons!

Jacky Durrell Pavilion is one of my favorite beachfront wedding venues in Connecticut. It is the only venue, that I know of, that feels like an old, family summer beach rental house, but with a large enough space to accommodate all your friends and family. It is truly unique in the beach club/waterfront wedding venue category and a must visit if you are envisioning an intimate beach wedding in Connecticut. 

Guide to The Branford House Wedding Venue in Groton, CT

Guide to The Branford House Wedding Venue in Groton, CT

Branford House weddings in Groton, CT are in a historic mansion on the campus of the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point. Built in 1902 for Morton Freeman Plant, a local financier and philanthropist, as his summer home, Branford House is one of the premier mansion wedding venues in CT.

Everything in this article is written based on information from the venue itself and my 15 years of experience as a CT wedding photographer.

 

Table of Contents

What I Love about Branford House Weddings as a Photographer

The Branford House has it all. The grandeur, the location, the history. It’s truly in a class by itself. And, as the only mansion of its kind that sits right on the shores of the Long Island sound, it’s a photographer’s dream. The deep rich wood interior together with the home’s floor to ceiling windows create some very dramatic lighting conditions. Outside Branford House there is no shortage of locations for photographs – courtyards, balconies, walkways, and of course, the massive sprawling lawn that extends right up to the shores of the Long Island sound.

For all of its luxury and grandeur, weddings at Branford House feel relaxed and intimate. You and your guests can enjoy the comfort and the warmth of the main ballroom, the open space of the grounds, and, last but not least, the stunning view of the Long Island Sound.

And with multiple options for your reception and ceremony, Branford House offers something for everyone – large outside tented receptions or smaller, more intimate gatherings inside.

Ceremony and Reception Locations at Branford House

Branford House offers a few options for your on-site ceremony. You can have your ceremony inside in the East Room, the center Grand Ballroom, or outside on the patio off of the West Room. Inside ceremonies tend to be more intimate with smaller guest counts. If you are planning a larger wedding (100+ guests) then you may want to consider having your ceremony outside on Branford House’s sprawling lawn. What better place to say “I Do” than on the rocky shores of the Long Island Sound!

For an indoor reception, the Grand Ballroom and the East and West Wing rooms comfortably accommodate up to 200 guests for a full-course dinner or buffet. For events hosting more than 200 guests, Branford House staff suggests a tent on the lawn. Tented receptions on the lawn of the Branford House are simply breathtaking.

Getting Ready Accommodations at Branford House

Branford House features a bridal suite so you can have your hair and makeup done onsite as well as store away any of your personal items during the day. Having an on-site getting ready option is really nice convenience for brides and their bridal party making your logistics of the day much simpler and less stressful.

The groom and groomsmen can put on their finishing touches in the upstairs area inside Branford House. This balcony area overlooks the main ballroom and has a seating area as well as an alcove just off the balcony for privacy.

Branford House FAQ’s

What does a typical Branford House wedding cost?

According to Here Comes the Guide, The peak season rental rate (May 1 to Oct 31) for Branford House for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, is $6100. There is an additional $2,000 lawn usage fee for tents over 1,600 square feet. There is also a $500 fee for patio or lawn tents (rented from an outside vendor) that are 1,600 square feet or less. I suggest contacting Branford House to further discuss your wedding day plans and get a more detailed estimate inclusive of catering, bar, and entertainment options.

Branford House Reviews

You can read Branford House reviews on The Knot and Wedding Wire

Hotels near Branford House Groton, CT

Located between New London and Waterford to the West and Mystic to the East, Groton has plenty of hotel options for you and your guests. From Hilton and Marriott to more boutique choices, like the Inn at Ocean Avenue, there is something for everyone.

Is there parking at Branford House?

Parking is pretty limited so couples will need to arrange for transportation for their guests.

Branford House Wedding Photos

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Do you want to spend your wedding day celebrating with your friends and family?

Then you’ve come to the right place!

5 Tips for Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

5 Tips for Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

5 Tips for Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

I’m going to sound a little like Captain Obvious with this, but when you are looking for a photographer for your wedding day, you want to be sure that you choose the right person for the job. 

I know what you are thinking –  “Duh!”

There is obviously more that goes into choosing a wedding photographer (and we’ll get into that shortly), but photography is unlike any other service you’ll be hiring for your wedding day. 

Professional photographs are an investment in your memories and give you something tangible to look back on in the years to come. That’s why it’s so important to hire a photographer who can not only capture the images you want, but, more importantly, make your whole photographic experience completely effortless – because, let’s be honest, you have better things to do on wedding day than to be preoccupied with your photos.

Okay, enough chit chat, let’s get to the tips ….

Determine your budget and what type of package you want

Before you start your search, determine your budget range. Prices for wedding photographers can range anywhere from $2,000 to over $20,000 depending on what market you are in, what type of wedding you are planning to have (large, small, destination, etc.), and what type of package you book. Having been in the local Connecticut market for over a decade, I can tell you that most experienced, skilled wedding photographers start in the $3,000 range for wedding day coverage and digital files. Most will have larger packages available as well with more hours, multiple photographers, an engagement session, a wedding album, etc. So, your final costs will largely depend on what you’re looking for. 

Know what style of images you want

Every photographer has a different style. Are you looking for more candid, photojournalistic photos? Do you want more posed portraits? What type of aesthetic are you looking for in your photographs? The popular light and airy? The trendy dark and moody? Maybe you love the look of film? Or maybe you are more traditional and want more of a classic look to your photographs. Whatever you want, it’s important to know what style and type of images you’re looking for, so you can choose a photographer who can meet your specific needs. 

*We tend to fall into that classic, traditional style with a mix of candid and posed photos. We like to think of our style as warm, candid, and elegant.

Can you see yourselves in the photos? 

Looking at website after website, gallery after gallery, and Insta after Insta can cause some serious brain fatigue and make you feel drained, exhausted, and overwhelmed which can cloud  your judgment when it comes to choosing a photographer. There’s a better way. As you are looking through a photographer’s photos, ask yourself “Can I see myself (and my fiance) in these photos?” “If I were in these photos would I look like myself?” Example – if you come across a photographer that has a lot of styled, posed, fashion-y type photographs and that’s not your style then you’ll know the answer to these questions really quickly. 

Make sure you’re a good fit

Sometimes personalities mesh perfectly and you become instant friends. Sometimes you and another person are just too different to work comfortably together. If you and your photographer don’t mesh, your wedding day may be awkward or just no fun and that’s the last thing you want. You can tell a lot about a photographer in how they write. Be sure to visit their About page and read through it carefully. Visit their Instagram and browse through their posts paying special attention to their captions. Photographers share certain photographs and write about those photographs for a reason. Personally, I share a lot of ‘moment driven’ photographs of people having fun and celebrating as well as moments that tug at your heart a little. I do that because that’s what I love to shoot. Weddings are emotional and I love to capture all those rich, palpable feelings. I also love to photograph all the pretty details like the dress, the cake, etc. but moments are my jam. So pay attention to the photos a photographer posts. They will give you important insight into their personality and help you understand if they are the type of person you’d like to work with.

*I can’t emphasize enough how important fit is. Remember, you will be with your photographer ALL DAY on your wedding day and before you wedding day if you are doing an engagement session and even after your wedding day if you have an album in your package. Bottom line – you will be spending a lot of time with your photographer so make sure they are someone you have a good rapport with.

Meet with your photographer before you hire him/her

Hi, Captain Obvious again 🙂 I think this goes without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway – make sure you meet with your photographer in person before you hire him/her. Obviously, nowadays meeting over Zoom or over the phone are acceptable options if an in-person meeting isn’t feasible, but, whatever the medium, make sure you talk to your photographer live before you hire him/her. There is no substitute for a live conversation when you want to get to know someone. The added bonus of an in-person meeting is having the opportunity to touch and feel the physical products that they offer that you may want in your package (items like wedding albums, engagement albums, prints, frames, wall art, etc.) 

Our next article in this series will be “Questions to ask your photographer in your consultations”. Included in that, will be a tip on what NOT to say when sending your initial inquiry email to your photographer. That alone will make your photographer hiring process a lot smoother. We’ll be posting that tomorrow so check back for those so you can have a meaningful interview with your photographer. 

Until tomorrow, Happy Planning 🙂

You’re Engaged! Now What?

You’re Engaged! Now What?

You’re engaged! Now what? 

It’s that time again! The start of a new year – Hello 2022! – and the beginning of a new wedding planning season. Did you know that 7 out of the 10 most popular days to propose take place in the month of December accounting for over 19% of all proposals!? That’s A LOT of bending knees! 

Since a significant amount of proposals take place during the holiday season, it stands to reason that those same couples are just now coming out of the starting gates for their planning – whether a 2022 wedding OR a 2023 wedding.

So, to all the couples reading this …. Congratulations on your engagement! You’re likely feeling all kinds of emotions and maybe a little overwhelmed by the wedding planning ahead of you, as well as the huge, exciting change about to take place in your life. There’s nothing wrong with being a little nervous—in fact, it’s totally normal! It can be daunting to know where to begin once you’ve said yes (or popped the question yourself), so we put together this little guide to help you take things step by step.

1. Celebrate!

Take advantage of all that excitement and start calling your peeps! Notice I said “call”. This is a monumental moment in your life and shouldn’t be relegated to a few lines of text. Call your parents, call your siblings, call your friends. Let those closest to you revel in this moment with you. You’ll likely be asked about a date or even where you are thinking of having your wedding day. To minimize the stress levels at this early juncture, we recommend responding with … “You know – we really aren’t sure yet. We’re just enjoying this moment right now. We’ll start our planning really soon and make sure you have all the details (obvi)!” This helps to ward off any potentially tense conversations about planning and any potential ‘opinions’ about the planning process as well … you know what I mean 😉

2. Take a deep breath

Before you start putting lists together or asking your friends for ideas, take a breath and enjoy this time. You will have PLENTY of time to plan, but only a short time to be engaged. Take advantage of it. Take a weekend get-away somewhere, make a reservation at your fave restaurant, or maybe just stay in with a nice dinner for two and a bottle of wine. Whatever you do, be present and enjoy this time.

3. Have your engagement ring insured

Maybe not the first ‘to do’ on people’s list, but make sure you get your engagement ring insured. It’s always a good idea to get your engagement ring insured, just in case it gets lost or stolen at any point in the future. Insurance is the only way to replace your ring without having to pay for an entirely new one, so you should definitely take the time to make sure your precious new piece of jewelry is covered. The peace of mind you will have is priceless.

4. Your wedding day vision and selecting your date

Naturally, the first question people will ask you after your engagement is When’s the big day? Since selecting your wedding date will dictate every planning decision thereafter, there’s a lot riding on it. To make choosing a wedding date a little easier, we suggest you determine what kind of wedding you want first. We call this your wedding day vision. Do you want a bright, colorful, outdoor summer wedding? A cozy, indoor fall wedding? Big guest list? Small guest list? Somewhere in between? Are you thinking of something more formal? Or maybe a little less formal? Once you have your vision set, your date will be easier to choose because you’ve narrowed it down to a setting and a season/time of year. 

6. Securing your wedding venue

Okay. You have a couple of dates in mind – now comes the fun part, choosing your wedding venue! You know the saying “Location, location, location”, right? Well, it’s true for weddings as well. Your wedding venue is the cornerstone of your wedding day vision and will likely be the first decision you make in your planning process. It’s also the one vendor with the least amount of flexibility – there are only so many wedding venues available and most venues can only accommodate one wedding per day. So, choose your venue wisely, early, and quickly! Even if you decide to have a private home wedding, rental companies are in high demand (e.g. tents, tables, chairs, linens, etc.) so you’ll want to reach out to them as quickly as possible. 

Once you have your wedding venue and your date reserved, THEN you can start to move down the rest of your wedding vendor list.

7. Selecting your wedding vendors

This is where the proverbial “rubber meets the road”. You could be looking a hiring over 10 different vendors for your day – Venue, Getting Ready Hotel, Planner, Day of Coordinator, Cake, Photographer, Videographer, Caterer, Florist, DJ/Band, Formal Rental, Church, Officiant, Transportation, Hair Stylist, Make-Up Artist, and any other vendor that you might be interested in hiring like dance lessons or a cigar rolling station at your reception or maybe a Food Truck or Pizza Delivery for late-night munchies for your guests. The point is that there are quite a few vendors that you’ll be considering for your big day. 

So, what is the most efficient way to search for, interview, and ultimately hire your vendors? 

There are a few ways to go about this …

  1. Google
  2. Knot/Wedding Wire
  3. Referrals from other vendors
  4. Referrals from your friends/family

Google

I like to call this the ‘at your fingertips’ option. Why? Well, Google is readily available to you right at your fingertips. So, in that respect, it’s a good option because you’ll get a list of vendors right away to start reaching out to. The downside to Google is that your results will largely depend on how up to date each vendor is with their SEO and, if I’m being honest, not all wedding vendor professionals are well-versed in search engine optimization nor do they have the time, as mostly sole proprietors, to keep up with the volume of content required to rank well on Google. So, bottom line, you’ll get a lot of options, but those options may not represent the whole market.

Knot/Wedding Wire

The Knot/Wedding Wire have been the market leader in online wedding vendor advertising for over a decade. The plus side of using the Knot/Wedding Wire is that you’ll have no shortage of listings to research. It’s also nice that you can tailor your search by vendor category and by your geographical location (similar to Google) and read real reviews by real customers. The downside is that there are a TON of vendors listed on Knot/Wedding Wire and sifting through the volume can be overwhelming. Plus, while the reviews can be helpful, should really rely on the opinions of someone you’ve never met?

Referrals

My personal favorite … and what I recommend to all engaged couples. Why take a stranger’s word over a trusted friend’s? Or a trusted vendor that you’re already hired? Referrals (i.e. word of mouth) are hands-down the best and most efficient way to secure your wedding vendors. You don’t have to wade through a bunch of google pages or Knot listings. Instead, you get a targeted, short-list of vendors to contact that have already been vetted by someone that shares similar style and interests as you do. 

Which one is better, you ask? A referral from a friend or from another wedding vendor? I like both for different reasons. A referral from a trusted friend is great b/c you get their unadulterated opinion of their first hand experience being a client of that vendor. That’s priceless. A referral from another wedding vendor that you’re already hired (your venue’s preferred vendor list or a referral from your bridal gown shop or from your planner) is also gold because as industry-insiders we have worked with a lot of different vendors across all different categories and can provide our personal recommendations based on experience.

8. The importance of priority setting

As the Rolling Stones so eloquently said “You can’t always get what you want, but, if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” As you begin your planning, it’s very important to determine what your priority areas/vendors are. Is having an amazing band at your reception a ‘must have’? Do you want the top of the line wedding gown? Do you want only the best wedding photographer to capture your wedding day? Knowing (and reminding yourselves) what is most important to you and where you want to prioritize your budget will help when it comes time to choose between competing wants or wishes in the planning process.

9. Pace yourselves and stick to your vision

Wedding planning is a marathon and not a sprint. Decision making can be stressful. If things get too much, then take a step back and do something fun to take your minds off of planning. It’s also important to stick to your vision for your wedding day. Remember, this is your wedding day. I can tell your from experience, the quickest way to wedding planning purgatory, is to try and please everybody around you and their opinions/ideas. Yes, of course, you want your friends and your family and your guests to have a good time at your wedding, but don’t let someone else push you to do something you don’t want. Stick to your guns!

10. Photography last forever

And lastly, a little shameless plug. The flowers wilt, the food gets eaten … so does the cake …, the music ends, and the dress goes into storage. All you have left of your one momentous day is your photographs. With the right photographer, you will have the power to relive your wedding day again and again. So, make sure you hire the very best photographer you can! We like to think we are pretty easy to work with and that our work isn’t half bad either. If you’d like to have a chat with us about photographing your wedding, send us an email at info@jefflundstromphotography.com or fill out our Contact form.

Happy Planning 🙂