truth about wedding planning

You're Engaged, Now What?

First steps to take in the wedding planning journey after you get engaged

The moments after you get engaged are some of the most special and exciting moments that you’ll ever experience. Yet once the dust settles from the whirlwind couples are often hit with a wave of panic… “where do I start?”, “what is the first thing I should do to start planning my wedding?”... the list goes on!

You are NOT alone! This feeling you have is normal. What else in your life have you one day not been doing or thinking about and then the next day been thrown in the “deep end”? Kindergarten? The first day of a new job? A move? The first thing you need to do is accept that it’s ok to feel a little overwhelmed, you’re not abnormal because you instinctively do not know how to plan a wedding. We are here to help and outline the first steps to take upon saying yes!

First steps to take after getting engaged :: Ambler engagement session with Justin Johnson Photography :: Heart & Dash Wedding Planning

Photo: Justin Johnson Photography

Enjoy Being Engaged  

Avoid the Pinterest Rabbit Hole

You will have people asking you about your date, location, color palette, wedding party attire, floral inspiration, etc. on the same day you get engaged...don’t feel like you have to have those answers yet. And in our opinion don’t be afraid to set some expectations right off the bat — “we’ve been engaged for X days, we really are focusing on enjoying this moment versus rushing into the next”.


Starting Planning Too Soon

Sometimes, digging into planning too soon puts more emphasis on the ‘fanfare’ of the wedding versus remembering the significance of the day and why it’s important for YOU and your partner to begin this new chapter. That being said, if you’re the individual who is excited about research, spreadsheets, and vendor contracts, by all means dig in, but in the process don’t lose site of the bigger picture.


Create Alone Time

Make sure to set time aside for just you and your partner. Have a weekly date night! Oftentimes we see couples so consumed by the details right away they set their partner aside. Remember the wedding day will come and go, but the marriage and your relationship is what needs to stand the test of time!

Share your engagement with friends and family :: Philadelphia engagement session with Brittney Raine Photography :: Heart & Dash Wedding Planning

Photo: Brittney Raine Photography

Sharing Your Happy News

Spreading News of Engagement Far and Wide

Once that ring is on the finger or the question has been asked and you’ve said YES… it is a natural inclination to want to scream it from the rooftops! “FINALLY…. I thought it was never going to happen!” However, once that ring shot goes live on Instagram, keep in mind what will follow… attention. If you want to bask in all the well wishes, get all those Instagram likes, create jealousy and envy amongst your peers (exaggerating… a little) that is totally ok. But once the champagne is un-corked you can’t shove that sucker back in. So if you’re the type to avoid the limelight and want to curtail any unsolicited wedding advice, maybe consider keeping the big news and just sharing with immediate family and friends.

Don’t Rush Into Selecting Your Wedding Party

It’s common that once you’ve shared the oh so exciting news with friends and family, they’ll want to know, “who’s in your wedding party?” “I’m totally a bridesmaid right?” Remember once the invite is extended to be a part of your big day, you can’t easily back out of it without seriously injuring some feelings. Our suggestion to couples is to often pump the breaks, let people know you’re thinking about what you want for your ceremony versus jumping to hand out wedding party invites. Oftentimes couples don’t realize how expensive wedding parties can get. Especially in today’s wedding planning world where couples feel that by inviting people to be part of your wedding you’re responsible for covering everything (you’re not mind you… but that’s how a lot of couples view it). So having a smaller wedding party can be a great way to save money and reallocate it elsewhere.

Creating a wedding budget should be the first steps you take toward wedding planning :: Engagement session in Philadelphia with Viva Love Photo :: Heart & Dash Wedding Planning

Photo: Viva Love Photo

Create a Wedding Budget

A budget is a MUST and one of the first things you should do before delving into the details of planning. You NEED to have a number. It doesn’t matter if over time the number changes. Spoiler alert: it almost definitely will.

Why A Wedding Budget is Necessary

If you have a baseline number in mind, it will be your guiding hand throughout the many decisions you’ll have to make throughout the planning process. Every decision you have to make — selecting a venue, choosing a photographer, finalizing flowers — comes with a price tag. If you go into those decisions knowing what you can afford, it almost removes a level of stress because you don’t have to be wishy washy. Yes, I can afford that. No, that’s not in my budget. If during the planning process you choose to go over budget, say there’s a wedding lounge you’ve been eyeing up, if it’s more than what you anticipated you get to make a conscious decision about going over your budget versus retroactively looking back and feeling regret.

Wedding Budgets are Key to Decision Making

If you are lacking a wedding budget or just going off what you *think* your number there is a greater risk of making decisions along the way that you will come to regret. A great example of this is booking a venue. Couples often are SO eager to get the planning underway that they’ll start researching venues, pick one that they like, and book it without any consideration as to how that will affect other elements of their wedding. By booking that venue have you now so greatly reduced your floral budget that you won’t be able to have centerpieces? Have you booked that venue on a whim because you were so eager to ‘have a venue’ that you didn’t ask about additional costs or upgrades that might be necessary to execute your vision? Start with a budget, period!

Wedding Budget Tools

There are a lot of great tools out there to help with creating a wedding budget. While they are great tools, don’t take any one over the other as gospel. Look at them as a guideline where you can alter it to fit your needs. For example if typically florals are 8% of overall wedding budget and photography is 10%, but for you your priorities are florals over photography, don’t be afraid to adjust those numbers.

Do your research when selecting wedding vendors :: Engagement session at Bok Building in Philadelphia with Danfredo Photo + Film :: Heart & Dash Wedding Planning

Photo: Danfredo Photo + Film

Do Your Wedding Research

Information Overload

When you get engaged, an influx of information comes to you from not only the internet but friends, coworkers, family, friends, family friends, parents, parent’s friends’ children… you get the picture! You need to be aware of your personal limits and how much information you can handle before you reach that tipping point. If everyone and their brother is dolling out wedding advice and that is making you feel anxious and overwhelmed, then right off the bat you need to establish a way to shut that down. You can choose to listen and let it go in one ear and out the other of develop a little phrase that lets people you got this — ”you know what I’m sure that’s a great idea, however, we are really diving into doing our own research and embracing the process of figuring it out on our own”.

Selecting Your Wedding Vendor Team

As with all things wedding everyone in your life, on your Facebook wall, and at work is going to be oh so happy to share their wedding vendor recommendations with you. Couple that with the overwhelming amount of Google search results, Knot listings, advertisements in magazines… the wedding vendors that you just  have to. have will be coming at ya hot and heavy. As with all wedding advice and information you receive, remember to take things with a grain of salt.

Even though your best friend is RAVING about how phenomenal her wedding photographer is, while it doesn’t mean you can’t look into them, they might have a totally different aesthetic, personality, or price point than works for you. Sometimes turning to an unbiased third party — like your wedding planner or amazing photographer that you LOVE — can be super helpful.

Getting a recommendation from a vendor for another vendor is going to be based in more fact versus feeling. They’re not likely to recommend someone who is not trustworthy or whom they’ve worked with before and has been late to a wedding. Plus because you’ve already booked them, they have an idea of your price point and can make a more informed referral. Bottom line, wedding vendors are businesses, the information that you’re encountering on Google, their website, The Knot is carefully curated, which is perfectly acceptable but food for thought as you begin your vendor selection.

Being engaged is something to celebrate, you’re beginning a new chapter in your life and you get to write the narrative. Don’t let it be a story filled with stress, anxiety and a large dose of overwhelm. You got this and should you want a wedding planner to help guide you through the process, we’re here to help!

Pocono lakeside engagement session on Lake Wallenpaupack :: Heart & Dash wedding planning :: Viva Love Photo

Photo: Viva Love Photo


At Heart & Dash we love working with couples who identify as planning a non-traditional wedding. What that means to each couple is different, but no matter what it is that’s causing you stress, we’re here to help!

Click here for more information on how we can help create your perfect day.

Calling Bullshit: Common Wedding Planning Myths

My Take on Common Wedding Planning Misconceptions

There’s a lot of information out there when it comes to planning a wedding. Most of it is great and proves helpful...but there’s also quite a bit of misinformation that floats in the wedding sphere! Here, I want to help you weed through some of the less accurate information specifically regarding planners.

Debunking wedding planning myths :: Historic Yellow Springs Wedding with Danfredo Photo + Films and Heart and Dash

Photo: Danfredo Photos + Film


Word on the Street: Planners are a waste of money!  With all the DIY options out there why not just do it ourselves?
My Take: You could argue that any item outside of your marriage certificate is a waste of money. To get married, you need few things, you + your love. A planner is only a “waste” of money if you don’t perceive them as a value added. If you are a DIY couple and want to tackle the planning, great, there are many excellent tools out there to help you do so. A planner/coordinator can still help by bringing all the details you’re planning together. Keep in mind even though you might be super resourceful, it’s likely you haven’t done this before. For such a big and important day, having the aide of an expert can ensure things run smoothly. And while you can DIY a lot these days there are still vendors to be hired and managing those vendors should not fall to you the day of your wedding. You should be focused on you, embracing your day, the last thing you want is while you’re getting ready for your first look to be feeling like you have to run around and make sure your homemade table numbers are on each table!

Word on the Street: Wedding planners will try to push their own style onto your day.
My Take: While this might be true for some planners (maybe your BFF vented to you about hers…) it’s not our style. We LIVE for helping each of our couples bring to light their own unique style and vision. It’s just as special to us when you want to incorporate items of importance or want to try something you’ve never seen done before! We are not into cookie cutter weddings, so the chance to see something new and different is what keeps us coming back to work every day!

Wedding planning myths :: Philadelphia Wedding Planner Heart and Dash with Sarah Benner Photography

Photo: Sarah B Photography

Word on the Street: Only disorganized or easily stressed out  people can benefit from a wedding planner.
My Take: Absolutely not!  Even the most chill people are going to attain some level of stress because this is a NEW don’t do this every day. Having someone who does can take some of the overwhelmingness that is wedding planning off your plate. There are so many small bumps in the road along the way to planning your wedding and a planner is the best way to make sure that those bumps don’t turn into mountains.

Word on the Street: Our venue has an on-site coordinator - that’s basically a built in planner!
My Take:  It is awesome if your venue has an on-site coordinator! An on-site coordinator is a huge help in making logistical choices, they will know how best to use every nook and cranny of your venue and if are representative of the catering company will make sure food service is on point. Their primary responsibility, however, is making sure their venue/business shines.  A planner’s responsibility, on the other hand, is to you and making sure your overall vision is is being executed. We ensure that all that is invested in your big day comes to fruition as envisioned. For example, while your on-site coordinator is working with the kitchen to make sure salads go out on time, we are with you making sure everyone is lined up for announcements or ensuring dad hasn’t wandered off prior to his welcome speech!

Photo: Justin Johnson Photography

Photo: Justin Johnson Photography

Word on the Street: A backyard wedding is less expensive than a traditional venue.
My Take: This is a tricky one… typically, no. While there are always exceptions, essentially building a venue at a private residence tends to be more expensive. When you pay a fee for an event space or a rental fee, this is really because they’re providing you with a “completed” space.  Especially in areas where weather is ever changing (particularly our lovely Northeast) weather backup plans are necessary. So while your family home might boast a large picturesque pasture that you envision not needing a tent to dine under… reality is, you’re going to need a tent as a back up.  What it really boils down to is that with a private residence wedding there are a lot more logistical issues (restrooms, heating or cooling, kitchen setup, etc.) that can arise that will need money dedicated for them if something doesn’t go according to plan, especially at the last minute. All of this isn’t to say backyard weddings aren’t possible and simply lovely, just know that reality is a little different than the picture painted.  

Word on the Street: You should only book vendors who are familiar with your venue.
My Take: False! I don’t like being ruled out as a planner because I haven’t worked at a particular location before. Hiring an educated and experienced team of vendors means you’re hiring teams that have worked enough weddings to be able to adapt to any location. We know the right questions to ask when working at a new venue to become acquainted with the space ensuring we aren’t missing a thing. Plus, we like a little variety in our lives! Working at a new space allows us a fresh perspective, a blank’ll be getting a vendor who maybe sees things differently and through a different lens. That ultimately is a benefit to you if you’re looking for something a little different than what you’ve seen in the space before!

Word on the Street: Wedding vendors are overpriced and won’t even try to negotiate with us.
My Take: There has been a lot of conversation in media recently about wedding prices being exorbitant and couples being quoted different prices for a wedding as opposed to other events (say a birthday, for example). Well of course a wedding is going to be more expensive than a birthday! We have birthdays every year, but a wedding… typically a more rare occurrence. Vendors are fully aware of the pressures that come with these types of heightened expectations and so more time, precautions, and a more elevated level of customer service is provided. While there are always what some term as “shady” vendors out there, there are an abundance of trustworthy and hardworking ones, which is why it’s so important to do your research prior to booking. Book your vendors based on evidence… what have past couples said about them? Read their blog and review their social media accounts to get a sense of who they are. Get referrals from friends/family who have been through the planning process. Hire a planner whom you connect with and trust and rely on their recommendations.

Regarding negotiating, negotiating is ok! Keep in mind though, negotiating and haggling are two different things. The first thing is making sure you are honest about your budget up front. It’s a possibility that they might be willing to cut or reduce their services in order to fit into your budget, though realize the answer might be no. Most vendors put a lot of research, trial and error into their pricing, it’s not an arbitrary number that they are able to reduce without adjusting the inclusions of a particular package.

Photo: Michele Suits Photography

Photo: Michele Suits Photography

Word on the Street: Hiring semi-professional friends is cheaper and they’ll do the same job as a professional vendor.
My Take: Will hiring a friend as a DJ, photographer, officiant be cheaper/free? Probably! But does that alone make it the right decision? More often than not, sadly, the answer is no. Weddings are a monumental and emotional day, with a lot of high expectations in place. While you’re friends may have skills, they may not be equipped to handle certain challenges in a wedding scenario. You can always find ways to incorporate friends’ talents, but there are ways to do this on a smaller scale so they’re not the primary person responsible for major aspects of your day.

Word on the Street: You can’t have a great wedding without details, so wedding planners will push you to spend money on them.
My Take: Disagree wholeheartedly with this one! You don’t need a SINGLE detail to get married. A wedding is about two people coming together and being surrounded by those important to you. Details are just the icing on the cake (...literally sometimes!) and that’s only if you want them. You should choose details that are meaningful and have value to you. You don’t have to have something at your wedding just because it’s “tradition” or “expected”. It’s your day and if you have details they should be there because they are special to you.

Bottom line... trust your gut. I know wedding planning can be overwhelming with all the NEW things entering your new realm of reality and every.single.person has a different opinion, so just stay true to you and your fiancé and you'll be set!

Wedding Planning Myths