The first step in the wedding planning process — after basking in the moment with your beloved and calling all your closest family and friends — is choosing the date for the big day.
Don’t rush out those save-the-dates just yet. Here are a few things to think about before marking the day in your calendar:
Unless you’re quite sure they’d be delighted to share your special day, steer clear of dates that are already important to your family. These include happy days like the birthdays and anniversaries of parents, siblings, grandparents and other close relatives, as well as less pleasant dates like the anniversary of a death.
For couples who want a Valentine’s Day anniversary or Christmas-themed event, you can definitely have a holiday wedding that will be fondly remembered for decades. But there are considerations to make before choosing a holiday for your wedding date.
Who are your absolute must-have guests? How will they feel about using a holiday for your wedding? People may already have holiday plans, vacations or traditions they won’t want to sacrifice for your event. You’re also more likely to have fewer “yes” RSVPs across the board if your big day overlaps with a holiday weekend.
What is the vision for your event? If your beloved is in the military and you want to show your patriotism as a couple with a red, white and blue July 4 event, full steam ahead. But if you’re choosing a holiday for convenience, think again — besides the possible annoyance to guests, holidays often see spikes in tourism and travel, as well as celebratory events. You could be dealing with more people in town and fewer vendors and hotels available to book.
Which also brings up the budget: with more competition and demand often come higher fees. Venues and vendors that are highly sought-after for holidays may charge more for private events during that time. Are you willing to pay those higher fees to make your holiday vision happen? Even if you want to, can you realistically afford that?
It has become common industry advice in recent years for couples looking to save money to choose Fridays or Sundays for their date. This is often true. Saturdays are simply most popular and therefore more likely to get booked early and at full price. However, discounts aren’t a given. Many venues still charge the same price regardless of date. Ask before assuming booking Sunday will get you a discount.
If an off day will net a price cut, make sure the savings are worth it. Booking a Friday or Sunday means some guests will be required to use more vacation days to attend; some may simply choose to decline instead. You and your beau will also need to look at your own schedules to allow enough days around the wedding for your plans. Another note: clean up and set up times are an important part of touring and booking any venue, but pay special attention to any schedule differences if you’re looking at non-Saturdays.
Another cost-saving tip is often booking during the off season. For many wedding venues, the busy season begins in May and ends in October, with June, September and October often being the most popular months. Booking outside that window can sometimes get you a lower rate, or at least more personal attention and less stress, since there will be fewer weddings booked in the same time period as yours. Just make sure that all the support and amenities offered in wedding packages apply to off-season dates. It’s also worth noting that “off season” may not be the same for every venue — some indoor event centers are booked all year round, and a ski lodge will be far busier in January than June.
No matter what date you choose, always remember to think about the weather. For outdoor weddings, consider that July heat in Georgia or a November cold snap in New York could prevent your 93-year-old grandmother from being able to attend at all, while making many of your other guests uncomfortable.
Indoor events are less dictated by the weather, but still raise questions. Is your venue air-conditioned and/or heated? How comfortable and reliable is that system? How does inclement weather, like pouring rain on the roof, affect sound quality inside? How far is parking from the venue? Is there an indoor or covered parking structure? Is outdoor parking paved, or will mud be an issue?
One important factor for every wedding: what will travel conditions be like, and how will that affect your guests? A winter wonderland may be your dream, but if that’s the path you pursue, make sure to plan ahead in case of blizzards, travel advisories and grounded planes.
Choose more than one “final” wedding date. Once you have chosen a few dates — and checked them against family days and religious and federal holidays — shop your venues. See which venues have your dates available, and if you’re looking for those off-season or off-day savings, ask about those, too. Consider all of your options, even that not-your-favorite backup country barn, before making the decision. Once you’ve chosen and booked the perfect spot for your event, then you have your final date.
Now you can send those practical save-the-date magnets or environmentally friendly e-cards. Bask in the excitement as wedding planning approaches!