Wedding Planning Guide

Weddings are finally happening again, at full scale to boot!! But now with everyone rushing to plan their weddings, it can be a bit overwhelming. Wedding Planning can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be!

QUESTION: Have you already had the experience of going onto Wedding Wire or the Knot, put in your ideal wedding date and been told by their “expert” wedding timeline guide that you’re way behind. No one wants to see that!!

First, that is just a hook to get you to pay to see all of their venders. Second, this is your wedding, don’t let someone tell you you’re doing something wrong right off the bat! Check out a Wedding Planning Guide that actually has your best interest in mind!

San Francisco Wedding Planning

That’s Why I Developed a Quick Start Wedding Planning Guide for a Short or Long Engagement

PHASE 1: Venue, Guests & Planners

(Step 1) – Approximate Your Guest Count asap – Figuring out your guest count helps with your venue options. If you’re getting married quickly in 3 months or less, I would suggest keeping your guest count to 100 or less. You’ll have more luck finding available venues on a shorter timeline. Metropolitan wedding planning can get expensive for a larger guest counts, so keep that in mind.

(Step 2) – Choose your Venue or Location – Before your venue or location search, choose a few dates that you’d like to get married. Being open to a Thursday or Friday date will also open many more venue options for you as well. If you live in a metropolitan area like the Bay Area or Los Angeles, the sky is the limit as far as options go. From vineyards to hotels, to local community centers, churches, parks and even someone’s backyard. Be open minded and have fun with it.

(Step 3) – WEDDING AND BRIDESMAID DRESSES –Choosing a dress and tailor for your alterations can be so much fun. To special order a dress it can take 6-9 months, so be open to buying off the rack or even ordering an alternative online. There are amazing dresses that can be found on etsy shops, online retailers or even Facebook! Make sure to give your tailor at least 10 days to make alterations.

(Step 4) – SEND SAVE THE DATES – A great way to send time and money is to send out evites to all of your relatives. If some of relatives prefer the classic way then order a few from a local vendor, or just print them out yourself. If you special order these after you nail down the venue, and are getting married within a couple of months, just send out the actual invitations.

(Step 5) – FIND A PLANNER OR DAY OF COORDINATOR – First, the day of coordinator the venue provides usually provides a very limited service, if they offer an upgrade that includes handling all the different venders, consider upgrading! I promise the extra money is worth it! If you’d like to take the load and off need a professional who knows all the ins and outs and can save you money, considering hiring a wedding planner. They are real life savers to be sure, especially with San Francisco Wedding Planning!

PHASE 2: Photographer, Videographer & DJ

(Step 1) – HIRE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER AND VIDEOGRAPHER – In metropolitan areas there are many aspiring wedding photographers which are a great option for brides on a budget (less than 2K for your photography). If you’re looking for a more experienced photographer, like myself, they do book up more quickly, but you can still find a great photographer! I’ve been booked for a wedding that was less than a month out. Remember, if you have your wedding on a Thursday or Friday, your chances of finding an experienced photographer you love are much hire…along with every other vender as well.

If you’d like to check out our wedding page, feel free to click here! (it will open a new tab)

(Step 2) – HIRE YOUR MC/DJ – Often this is one of the last venders picked, but I put this hire up on the list, because I believe this is one of the most important venders. They can make or break a wedding. If you choose a company with multiple DJ’s you’re more likely to find one available on your wedding date. (Don’t skip over hiring a DJ, they keep the flow of the reception moving, not to mention the mic set up so your guests can actually hear the ceremony. Every time I’ve photographed a wedding where a family member stepped in do the sound system and music, there has always been issues. Unless your family or friend is a professional, hire someone!)

(Step 3, if needed) – CHOOSE A RENTAL COMPANY –(If venue doesn’t provide) If you’re choosing a local park, community center or backyard, a rental company will provide all the chairs, tables, linens, tents, twinkle lights etc…

PHASE 3: Caterer, Baker, Florist, & More

(Step 1) – CHOOSE A CATERER (if needed) –Many venues have catering included in the price, however if they don’t this is a great chance to choose a unique restaurant to cater your food. If you choose a restaurant they usually only do buffet style, which is lovely. If you’d like servers I suggest hiring a catering company. If your wedding is less than 3 months away try and be a bit flexible with options.

(Step 2) – CHOOSE A BAKER/CAKE DECORATOR – If you’re on a time crunch a small simple cake decorated with live flowers is a great option. Guests can have cupcakes or a fun desert bar. If your heart is set on a beautifully decorated cake for all, make sure and choose a baker at least a month before your wedding, if not sooner.

(Step 3) – PICK YOUR FLORIST…OR NOT – If you’d like to save some money you can order beautiful faux bouquets, corsages and center pieces on-line. If, like me, you love real flowers, there are a plethora of florists in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are even larger companies you can choose from, although I prefer supporting the smaller companies. If your wedding is less than a month away be prepared to a bit of searching to find an available florist, especially during the busy season.

(Step 4) – ORDER INVITATIONS – From DYI invitations to local print shops to ordering online, the sky is the limit. If you’re wedding is 4 weeks away I’d suggest doing a rush order on. You of course want to mail your invitations out at least a month in advance, but if you sent out the save the date cards ahead of time, it’s not a huge deal if they are sent out a little later, so don’t stress.

(Step 5) – WEDDING BANDS(RINGS) – Jewelry shopping time!! It’s time to choose the prefect wedding bands for both of you. Every person’s style is different so enjoy this time.

PHASE 4: Car Service, Invitations, Officiant

(Step 1) – RENT A LIMO OR CAR SERVICE – In the photo above is a convertible classic car, absolutely beautiful! Of course the limo is a classic option, but an amazing getting away car for your farewell adds a bit of uniqueness to your wedding!

(Step 2) – SEND INVITATIONS – If you haven’t already, make sure and send those lovely invitations out. Get some help to address those envelopes.

(Step 3) – WHO WILL BE YOUR OFFICIANT? – I have always loved the idea of choosing a friend or family to officiate, but there are many professional officiants as well as pastors that one cane hire, or of course choosing a church for the ceremony is a time honored tradition. However, if you’re getting married at a church, make sure it is chosen around the same time as the venue.

PHASE 5: Final Details

(Step 1) – FINALIZE THE SMALLER DETAILS – This would include wedding favors for the guests. If you’re looking for special order gifts, I’d suggest ordering these 6-8 weeks ahead of time. Don’t forget the bridesmaids & groomsmen gifts as well!

(Step 2) – ACESSORIES – Finalize and order your jewelry for the wedding plus of course your shoes, both the fancy shoes and your dancing shoes, and don’t forget your garter!

(Step 3) – PAMPERING – Make sure and schedule your facial, manicure and pedicure the last couple weeks before your wedding. Trust me, you’ll need to relax a bit. If you’re planning a spray tan, make sure and do so at least 5-7 days before…I’ve seen a few orange glows in my day. A facial should be done 5-7 days in advance to, as sometime skin reacts a bit funny.

(Extra Items to Consider) 

  • Do you need to book a hotel room to get ready in, or are you getting ready at your venue? If you’re booking a hotel, I recommend at least 4-6 weeks ahead of time.
  • Flight and accommodations for family members. Personally I think they should be handling their own affairs, but I understand if you decide to go the more traditional route by helping out with putting them up and flying them out here for the wedding 3-4 weeks before the wedding.
  • Bridal Shower – Usually the bridal shower is planned by the brides immediate family and the maid of honor. I suggest having the shower 3-4 weeks ahead of time.
  • Bachelor/Bachelorette Party – The made of honor and the best man are usually responsible for planning the party, however make sure that you discuss your wishes, desires and especially any boundaries you have.


San Francisco Wedding Planning


I hope this wedding planning guide was an eye-opener and empowered you to take control of the planning process. All the options can be overwhelming, but I promise it doesn’t have to be. With a bit of strategy, knowledge and planning, you can have the wedding of your dreams!

If you’d like to get more tips like this as well as access our 3 month wedding planning guide, please join our private Facebook Group below! I can’t wait to get to know you better in the group!! Plus there is a chance to win a 3 night beach stay for referring other engaged couples so don’t miss out! I hope you enjoyed our San Francisco Wedding Planning Guide!

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I am so happy that you're here! My name is Crystal Summer Bear, I am an avid traveler, solopreneur and boutique portrait and wedding photographer. 
I love to share tips, tricks and beautiful stories that connect us all. 
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