Newly Engaged? A 10-Step Guide to Planning Your Perfect Wedding in NJ

Getting engaged is one of life’s most exciting and memorable milestones- and the best part is that it’s only the beginning of much more to come.

Once you’ve celebrated your engagement, it’s time to start planning your big day. See our checklist below to find out what you need to know to start piecing together the wedding of your dreams!

[Photo by Ann Coen Photography]

1. Guest List

Who’s coming? First, sit down with your significant other and begin listing all of the people you cannot imagine your big day without. A good starting point is generally the bridal party & groomsmen, immediate family and best friends, then it’s time to start considering plus ones for your guests. A good rule of thumb is 15% of invited guests will have to decline.

[Photo by Brittany Raine Photography]

2. Venue/Style/Vibe

Where do you imagine saying your “I do’s”? Is there sand between your toes with the salty air softly blowing through your beachy curls? Are you exchanging vows in front of vineyards in the country rolling hills and sitting for dinner in a rustic barn? Do you see the landscape views through floor to ceiling windows in private event ballroom? Narrowing down your vision to a very specific theme and setting will give you a running start to picking a venue. The best part about New Jersey is all of these styles of venues are right here! From The Taylor Pavilion, located directly on the beach in Belmar, with views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Silver Lake on the other – to the Neshanic Valley Golf Course with a panoramic view of rolling green hills and the nearby Sourland Mountains, you don’t have to go far to find your perfect setting.

[Photo by Ann Coen Photography]

3. From Venues to Menus

What’s one of your favorite parts of a wedding? The food – of course! A great caterer provides much more than food and beverages. Full-service caterers like Merri-Makers can help you connect every element of your wedding for a flawless reception. And, because we are preferred vendors to venues like The Taylor Pavilion, Neshanic Valley Golf Course, Ashford Estate, and Bonnet Island Estate we are familiar with the unique opportunities to personalize these iconic venues for your wedding.

[Photo by Ann Coen Photography]

4. Attire

Now it’s starting to feel real! Once you’ve booked a venue and sent out save the dates, you can get to the really fun stuff. Gather a few of your best friends and set out to find the perfect outfit. In the meantime, make sure your fiancée is actively planning their attire as well and not waiting until the last minute.

5. Photographer

The top wedding photographers book up well in advance, sometimes more than 12 to 14 months in out from the date. It is best to move this up a little higher on the list than you might think. Also, we highly recommend hiring a videographer to record the big day. Many couples find their wedding video to be their most precious memento from the occasion, because video captures moments like no other medium can. Another unique way to capture your day is through drone photography- a bird’s eye view of all the action. You can get a quick idea of wedding photographer prices by visiting The Knot here, or simply call us!

6. Entertainment

The music you choose will help to bring your party together. Some couples choose to do a combination of live music for ceremony and cocktail hour, and then have a DJ for the reception portion of the evening. Others go with live music throughout the party. Don’t forget music for the ceremony, cocktail hour and after party! Whether you choose live music or a DJ, be sure to have a selection of your favorite songs to dance the night away.

[Photo by Ann Coen Photography]

7. All the Details

This is the part where you get to have some fun personalizing all of the details to your liking. From picking out backdrops for photo booths and funky props to deciding the perfect favor for your guests. From the officiant to the flowers to the room block and much more, a wedding brings a world of details to consider and confirm. Getting Real Simple provides a fantastic tool for checking off the menial but meaningful items leading up to wedding week. Don’t worry- we will help you think of everything.

[Photo by Ann Coen Photography]

8. Floral and Décor

From floral centerpieces to lanterns to wood carvings and candles, this is the place to really make the day your own. A good idea is to start viewing Pinterest or follow event décor pages on Instagram to start gathering some inspiration. We love florals for our weddings by @KatyDidFlorals, so check out their page! It’s helpful to follow hashtags like #weddingdecor, #weddingdecorations, #floraldecor, #weddingflorals & more to get an idea of what the trends are in the social space. Many florists can help bring your vision to reality and even take care of placing them throughout your reception as well as taking care of your bridal bouquet, bridesmaid’s bouquets and boutonnieres for the groom squad. If you’re looking to save both money and space in your home in this department, there are also many florists and event décor specialists that rent out items for your big day. What were you planning on doing with that 8 foot tall Birchwood arbor when you were done with it, anyway?

9. Gifts

There are many gifts involved throughout this exciting time and the engagement ring is the kick off to the gifts. Many brides choose to give their chosen bridesmaids a small gift when they ask for their besties to be by their side. The bride and groom also generally choose to give a gift to their bridal party the day of the wedding as well. For some groomsmen, a customized flask, socks or watch. For some bridesmaids, a necklace or pair of earrings, just to name a few.

Some couples also opt out of receiving monetary gifts from their guests and instead ask that a donation be made to a charity on their behalf. This is especially popular for couples who may have been living together prior to their nuptials.

[Photo by Ann Coen Photography]

10. Event Planner

Why deal with every detail separately? Did you know your caterer can also be your event planner? Merri-Makers has been helping newly engaged couples plan magnificent NJ beach weddings, estate weddings, farm weddings, ballroom weddings and more for more than 40 years. Being a design caterer means we build creative and custom menus, in addition to providing complete wedding planning services with our trusted venues, vendors, and partners. Learn more about our NJ wedding catering packages.

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Ashford Estate

Surrounded by hundreds of acres of preserved farmland.

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