A Wedding Planner Turned Bride’s Journey Part 3: Taking The First Steps To Planning A Wedding

The biggest question every engaged couple has after they get engaged is where to start. How do you begin to start planning?

It’s like there is this vast ocean ahead of you and it’s massive.

And you can’t even see your destination.

You know you need to start in order to get there, but which direction do you go? And what’s the best way to get there (especially given COVID)?

This can be really overwhelming and you haven’t even done anything yet! So, it’s all about baby steps and starting at the beginning.

Or as I like to call it, the foundation.

Building your foundation is where you begin.

In this part 3 installment of a wedding planner turned bride’s journey, that’s what we’re doing, starting at the beginning.

By the way, make sure you check out part 1 of Stephanie and Kirk’s journey and what it’s like getting engaged during a worldwide pandemic. And part 2 all about engagement ring shopping online. There are some great tips to help you through your journey.

So, we’re picking up the story where we left off with the first steps to planning a wedding …


I don’t know if I’m supposed to admit this, especially as a wedding planner, but it’s been a struggle to get started with planning my own wedding.

I’ve just been more overwhelmed than I anticipated being.

On the one hand, there are so many options – how can Kirk and I choose?

On the other hand, there are so many restrictions due to the pandemic – will we be able to have any of the things that we want?

Perpetually ping-ponging between thoughts like these, I’ve been stuck at the starting line for a little while now.

But Kirk and I are still hoping to get married this year, so we have to move forward soon.

To make things slightly less overwhelming, my strategy has been to look at a few big picture questions before diving into the little details.

Having the answers to these general questions will make our subsequent planning more focused. This way, we don’t end up pursuing too many different options, like an intimate wedding at one venue in the summer or a larger wedding at another venue in the fall.

The goal is to make things more simple instead of more complicated.

*PRO TIP: Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, simplify. Remember, baby steps. Start with the basic decision and then go from there. It will help make it much easier to get to the next step.

So, these are the questions we considered and how we answered them…

Question #1 – Who do we want to invite to our wedding?

San Francisco wedding ceremony at Stern Grove amongst the redwoods planned by Destination wedding planner, Mango Muse Events creator of Passport to Joy
(Photo credit: Jerry Yoon Photographers)

This was an easy one! Well, sort of.

We knew pretty early on after our engagement that we’d have a very intimate wedding with only our immediate family, plus an aunt and uncle who I’m particularly close with.

This puts us at a guest count of 11.

Although we wouldn’t have planned a wedding that small if things were different, this was an easy decision to make.

Considering the safety of our loved ones, as well as the potential headache and heartache of predicting when restrictions on gatherings would ease, this just made sense.

We’ve been honest with friends and family who’ve asked us about our wedding plans.

And everyone has been understanding, even if they’re disappointed they won’t be able to be a part of it.

*PRO TIP: With or without COVID, it’s totally ok to just focus your guest list on the must haves. Never feel bad about making that decision.

Question #2 – Where do we want to have our wedding?

In a way, the pandemic made this question easy to answer as well.

While I would have loved a destination wedding if things were normal, Kirk was less keen on the idea.

But it didn’t really matter because neither of us was comfortable asking all of our guests to travel right now.

Having some travel is inevitable because we live across three states, but we spoke to my family in Washington and Kirk’s parents in Michigan to ask if they’d be willing to come to the Bay Area for our wedding.

Thankfully, they were all open to it. 

When we start looking at venues, we want to keep things outdoors as much as possible, again out of safety.

*PRO TIP: Given COVID, no matter how big or small your wedding, you’re going to want to pick your “where” with safety in mind.

We’re picturing a simple outdoor ceremony somewhere in nature, followed by dinner at a restaurant.

Budget-wise, a restaurant makes sense (or should I say cents) because it will be less expensive per person than off-site catering, especially due to our small guest count.

And hopefully, we can find a location with a private or semi-private outdoor space that has some kind of covering, in case it rains.

Question #3 – When do we want to get married?

Wedding reception table with an orange floral centerpiece for a summer garden wedding by destination wedding planner Mango Muse Events creator of Passport to Joy the online wedding planning course for couples
(Photo credit: Laver Photo)

Deciding when to get married was a little bit trickier because there were a couple of conflicting factors to consider.

In terms of vaccine availability, the longer we wait to get married, the better.

We want to make sure our older family members have a chance to be vaccinated before the wedding. Especially those who will have to travel.

Ideally, it would be great if everyone could be vaccinated. But it’s not necessary for us if we aren’t or if our younger siblings aren’t.

In order to dine together safely, I think we could try to quarantine before the wedding and ask our siblings if they could too.

But then there’s the weather.

Because we’d like our wedding to be outdoors, the summer would be the ideal time to get married where we live. However, in California, wildfire season seems to be arriving earlier and earlier.

This past year, it started in early September and lasted through October. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, wildfire season coincides with when the weather is warmest and driest.

And the past couple of years, wildfires have made going outside impossible, even if the fires aren’t burning nearby, because the air quality has been so poor that it’s dangerous to breathe.

Considering these factors, we decided that getting married in early August was our best bet.

It would give everyone a good chance of being vaccinated but also put us safely outside of wildfire season.

*PRO TIP: When you get married is a personal choice, especially now. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, just make sure you make the right decision for you.

I know that lots of other couples are probably reaching the same conclusions we are… So we’re open to getting married during the week or on a Sunday, if a Saturday isn’t available.


So we made some assumptions in making our decisions above, but there’s always the possibility that things won’t work out the way we thought they might.

Here are some ‘but what if’ scenarios that we considered as we thought through our choices.

But what if our parents aren’t vaccinated by then?

We really hope this won’t be the case, but if it is, we would have to reschedule.

Luckily my parents have started their vaccinations, as well as my aunt and uncle. So we’re hoping that Kirk’s parents should also get theirs in the next couple months.

Fingers crossed!

But what if we’re all vaccinated? Would we still wear masks and social distance?

In this scenario, I think we would speak with everyone and see what they’re comfortable with, at least within our group.

We’d still have to wear masks and practice social distancing with vendors and restaurant staff to keep them safe. So both things will still be a reality, whatever we decide to do with each other.

But what if everyone is vaccinated and California allows large weddings again?

Even if this is the case, we’ll stick with our small wedding plan.

We like the intimacy of it, and we don’t want to rework the whole thing if or when the rules change.

Plus, there’s always the possibility of an anniversary reception…but that’s a conversation for another time!

*PRO TIP: Thinking through the what ifs is so important right now. Because it prepares you in case something does change.


Now that we’ve narrowed down the general details of our wedding, there’s another question to answer. What comes next?

You’ll have to tune in next time to find out, but here’s a sneak peek…

For us, it’ll be two things – working on our budget and starting our venue search. Like many people, I’m not very excited about taking a look at the budget, but it’s important and doesn’t have to be too painful.

At least I’m looking forward to researching venues because it means we can start visualizing in a more real way how our wedding day will look!

See you next time with more details!

Stay tuned for the next installment in Stephanie and Kirk’s wedding planning journey! Till then, if you have any questions, please let us know in a comment below.

And if you’ve gotten engaged recently or a while ago, don’t forget we can help you get started! We have a whole section in the membership all about the first steps to planning your wedding. To learn more about becoming a Passport to Joy member, click here.

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