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Op-Ed: Wedding planning: where to begin

The average American wedding is expected to cost couples upwards of $26,000 in 2015, according to data from research company The Wedding Report, as cited by CNBC. And this number is up by $2,000 from the year 2014. But, while wedding planning can be an overwhelmingly daunting process, it should also be enjoyable. If you have no idea where to start, consider a few of these wedding planning starters.

Choose a date and location first
Before you schedule your cake tasting and bridal dress fitting, try to lock down a date and location. Not only will this help in the planning process when booking vendors, it will also help you budget since venue takes up part of the largest portion of the budget at about 40 to 50 percent when combined with catering.
If you wait too long to choose a specific date, you may not get your dream location so instead of choosing a season or a month, lock down a date. After choosing a date, you can more easily book a location too. Another tip; weekdays, as well as Sundays, are going to be cheaper days of the week to get married than on a Saturday or Friday night. Wondering what time of the year is cheapest? May through October is peak wedding season, so any time before or after these months is going to be your best bet for a more inexpensive venue cost.

This sounds like common sense, but when the excitement of wedding planning gets started, it’s hard to hit the brakes and budget so after choosing a date and researching your ideal location, it’s time to budget. Going into it, try to set a limit on each individual component rather than a blanket amount. For example, don’t just say you will not go over $15,000; budget specific amounts such as $1,000 for a dress, $5,000 for catering, etc. Of course you will need to research average costs for these components of the wedding to know what’s reasonable, but by starting with specifics you may be less likely to go over your overall budget.
It’s also a good idea to start getting organized by using a wedding budget worksheet or spreadsheet that you can share with your fiancé and family members who will be paying for the wedding. If you include family in the budgeting process, you won’t have to surprise them later with excessive cost and it will also make them feel more in control of their own money to hopefully avoid conflict.

Attend a trunk show
A trunk show is a showing and sale of an entire designer’s collection of clothing, jewelry, etc. Bridal trunk shows have many advantages if you are prepared and know what to expect. Two advantages are price and selection. At a trunk show, designers offer their entire collection so you have more choices than you would at a typical retailer. Designers also offer discounts and incentives to get you to attend the show, with many retailers offering free or discounted alterations and custom changes to the dresses. However; with more choice can also come additional difficulties in decision making so before attending a bridal trunk show, do your research! Know what style you prefer, what fabric, etc., along with price. What’s your budget and how much are you willing to spend if you find the perfect dress? Finally, make an appointment if offered and understand that sometimes retailers will limit dress fitting appointments if there is a high volume of attendees to the show. Bottom line: it can be a fun and exciting process that could save you big money if you come prepared!

Attend a Bridal Show
Winter is a big time for bridal shows that seemingly pop up every other week. Bridal shows can be great for inspiration in the early planning process, but it can also be overwhelming. To avoid getting overwhelmed, look up bridal shows in your area and attend just one or two that you feel are worth your time. Look up vendors in attendance, cost of tickets, etc. Bridal shows can be an excellent resource to get deals, research pricing and make connections, but attend these shows early so you have time to compare rates and prices to other vendors that might not be in attendance.
Another tip? Bring your fiancé instead of a group of girl friends or your bridal party. While it may be fun to go with a group of friends, including your significant other in the planning process can help to avoid conflict and make the process fun, and a time for bonding. This is not to say you cannot bring friends or family, but including your fiancé in the process can alleviate stress.

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