Ten Things to Do When Starting to Plan a Wedding

My dear friend Kelly, of PeanutButterandKelly.com, recently became engaged to her boyfriend Steven aka Schmidtty. Here they are right after he popped the question…in Vegas!

Adorable, right? Kelly quickly reached out to me for help figuring out where to begin with planning her wedding. See, her and her Schmidtty are moving to AUSTRALIA (so jealous!) and need to get as much planning done for their Chicago nuptials before heading down under around the holidays.

Just going through the wedding planning process, I sent her some thought starters to get the whole process going. So here are my 10 things to do to start planning a wedding:

1. Celebrate!! Take AT LEAST a week or two to enjoy being engaged.

2. Figure out where (city) you want to get married. This should involve a discussion between you, your fiancee and parents (if they’re paying).

3. Decide on a season you’d like to get married in. I’m partial to Spring since it’s before all your friends get inundated with weddings and it won’t be unbearably hot! Fall is also a great time too.

4. Make a rough guest list to give yourself an idea of the capacity your venue will need to hold. Task your parents with helping list out family and friends. Or better yet, get your married siblings old lists!

5. Determine what’s more important to you: the venue (church or reception site) or the date. If it’s the venue, then call them immediately and see when they’re available. If it’s the date, then crowd source places you like to see if any fit your calendar.

6. If you don’t have a place in mind, then the next step is to figure out some venue options. The Internet is a great resource for finding ideal wedding locations. You can also look on local photographer’s websites to see where other couples have gotten married (that way you can research photographers AND venues at once).

7. Before setting your date in stone, research the weekend to make sure there aren’t any major conferences, sporting events or tourist traps taking place in your city that weekend. If there are, keep in mind hotel prices may be sky high and flights for guest pricey.

8. Research and book the vendors you care most about. If you have your heart set on a photographer, certain band or make up artist. Call them to lock in their availability right away. You’ll have more time to think about the auxiliary players you care less about.

9. Search for hotels close to your reception site and begin negotiations with them for a block rate. Make sure you read the contract carefully, or you might end up in a debacle like we did!

10. Set a timeline for getting your dress, bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen attire. Sometimes dresses can take up to six months, so if your engagement is short, you’ll want to start dress shopping right away.

Getting these first 10 things checked off your list will help ensure you’re is a really good place for your wedding planning. Once the above is figured out, the rest of the details will fall into place and you’ll have some time to relax and enjoy the process.

Would you guys add anything to my top ten? Rearrange the order? Let me (and Kelly) know!

PS- Congrats Kelly and Schmidtty! So happy for you guys.

Guest Post: MOMZILLA

I love my mom — but I’m a bit scared of my MOMZILLA.


Before I get into all the details, I should probably preface this by disclosing my guest blogger status — I would hate to tarnish Liz’s mom’s good name. You can call me Guth, since that is what most of my colleagues like to shout-out when barking orders in my direction — just kidding, friends!

All right, back to the good stuff. I am newly engaged (three weeks tomorrow) and thrilled say I get to marry my LOVE. Although we had talked about spending our lives together almost every day for the past year, my fiancé managed to totally surprise me with his proposal. You can read all about it on our Knot Web page. It was quite the perfect night…but it also was the night I witnessed the birth of something unlike anything I had ever seen — the MOMZILLA.

Yes, we’ve all heard about the BRIDEZILLA, but MOMZILLAS are a rare breed. According to the Urban Dictionary, they are “highly controlling of the many elements to a wedding. Everything must be perfect for her child’s day.” I know her intensions are pure and true, but man, she jumped on the crazy train way earlier in this process than I would have expected!

You see, my fiancé had invited our families to celebrate with us the night of our surprise engagement and my mom arrived with a binder for my future mother-in-law, one for me and talked of the one she had rolling at home — the night of the engagement! The very next day, I came to learn she had already been through the third draft of her guest list…third. Now, I understand that I am the oldest daughter and I am all for being organized and prepared…but third?

Immediately following the engagement, I was inundated with at least ten phone calls a day. “We must lock-in a venue…I’ve already talked with Father Jerry…how many people do you think his family will want to invite…you guys are going to need to work on cutting down that list, ASAP!”

Luckily, we were able to come to a quick decision on the date and venue, but I am a bit frightened of what is in store for me over the next year. I post this entry in hopes that readers out there will have tips on how to tame this rare creature we call the MOMZILLA and how to tactfully deal with issues without causing WWIII. This bride-to-be needs some advice from the experts…or a tranquilizer gun.

It’s All About the Details

Working in PR and planning events for my client means I have to pay extra special attention to the details. Forgetting one tiny thing could mean the difference between a successful event and a disaster, because trust me, a client notices everything- even the small stuff.

If you look at any bridal magazine, blog or website, you’ll see that modern brides as well are going the extra mile to put the finishing – and personalized – touches on their wedding. Everything is monogramed with the couple’s initials, vintage centerpieces adorn the tables and homemade favors like wine and jelly are all the rage.

Obviously, I want my wedding to incorporate little details that make our guests say “wow,” but it can be hard when you have a budget. Getting married in Chicago is already a stretch financially, so there’s no way we’re springing for those expensive “vintage” centerpieces! I could probably stalk around to antique stores looking for less-expensive options, but who has the time (or inclination) to spend their weekends doing that?

I’ve found a solution for thrifty, time-challenged brides like me, just visit Etsy.com! If you don’t know what Etsy is, it’s an online community of hand and homemade items for sale. You can find everything from jewelry, paper goods, decorations to accessories. They have a whole section dedicated to wedding items, most of which are totally making me swoon!

Here are some of my favorites:


Whimsical. Fun. Festive. These party poms could be a great (and economical) way to decorate for a bridal shower, reception or rehearsal dinner. Five poms are just $25.


How adorable are these love bird cake toppers? You can get them customized in your colors and monogramed for $45.

necklaceI am IN LOVE with this lace-inspired necklace. You can even get the end stone in your color of choice. All for $40!


Talk about making a unique statement- these pinwheel bouquets would be so cute at a casual, outdoor fete. At 5 for $50, this bride must have saved oodles on flowers.

You can check out all the amazing wedding handmade items for sale at http://www.etsy.com/category/weddings. Happy surfing!

Wedding Hotel-Block Debacle

So far the majority of our wedding planning has gone smoothly. The vendors we’ve wanted have been available, I found a dress I’m in love with and our families have been supportive of our decision to get married in Chicago. Unfortunately, we ran into our first snafu this week with our hotel block.

From the beginning booking a block of rooms at a hotel near our reception has been a nightmare. It turns out there is a huge kitchen and bath conference in town the same weekend as our wedding and hotels across the city are holding rooms for the attendees at very high rates.

Being an avid traveler and frequent hotel stay-er, Luke graciously agreed to take on working with a hotel to book a block of rooms. We were thrilled to find a Marriott three blocks from the reception that would give us a rate of $149/night. The only glitch was that we could only book 15 rooms at a time.

After verbally confirming with several of their sales people that we would keep the $149 rate for any additional rooms beyond the first 15, we locked in the block and immediately emailed all our out-of-town guests to ask them to resreve rooms quickly. We filled those first 15 rooms within a week and called to have an additional 15 opened.

That’s when it all went downhill. The Marriott sales person we were working with informed us that the rate was jumping to $200/night!! Umm, excuse me? Didn’t we go over this several times before booking?? I immediately called the head of sales for the region to figure out why the rate we were promised was now off the table.

We were told that it was a system mistake that we were given the original rate of $149 because with the conference in town, the hotel wasn’t supposed to go below $200. Annoyingly enough, they even tried to flip the scenario by telling me that we were “lucky” that we got the lower rate for our first 15 rooms. Let’s just say they didn’t get too far with that positioning.

After arguing with the sales person on the phone, it became clear that we were screwed out of luck and there was no way the remainder of our guest could book at the $149 rate. I couldn’t believe Marriott offered NO solution to the mistake THEY made! No points, no budging on the new rate, no comp meals- nothing.

Being the problem-solver that he is, Luke contacted Hilton sales and we were able to book a block of rooms at an Embassy Suites close to the reception for $179/night. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best rate we can find. Plus Luke says Hilton has been a dream to work with. We wish we had gone with them in the first place since now our guests will be split in two hotels.

I was really upset when this all went down- because I felt really taken advantage of by Marriott and even moreso, I felt guilty about the increased rate our guest will have to pay.

We chose to get married in Chicago because it’s where I feel the most connected to my church (I sing in the choir), it’s where Luke and I fell in love and as the youngest, my siblings have already done the big wedding back home. However, I know that asking my guests to make the trip to Chicago for our nuptuals is a big undertaking both financially and time wise. I really wanted to make it as easy as possible on everyone.

Anyway…..I’ve decided to let it go and go back to focusing on the fun and exciting parts of wedding planning. If some people can’t make our wedding because of the cost, I’ll completely understand. For those who do come, we’ll just have to make sure it’s a really fun weekend for them!

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest! :)