Congrats on the engagement! I remember feeling very overwhelmed when we just started planning, but don’t worry – you can totally do this on your own! And from my experience, it’s nice to be in charge of your own planning, since you can do what you and your Fiance want without having to take into account 10 other opinions 🙂
The Knot checklist helped me a lot in terms of figuring out what to focus on first. Some tips to start with:
1) Figure out what’s most important to you and Fiance – maybe it’s venue, photography, food. Maybe it’s getting married outside. Maybe it’s keeping the celebration intimate or, conversely, having all your friends and family there. Having our priorities clear upfront helped us a lot.
2) Figure out who’s paying and how much you can afford. This doesn’t have to be a specific number, but a range is helpful.
3) Check with VIPs about potential dates. I think it helps to choose a few time periods when you would want to get married. You might find that due to availability, budget or even weather, a certain day or month doesn’t work for you. Or, maybe it doesn’t work for your parents or his for a legit reason. (I.e. black out periods at work, college graduation, etc – we had to deal with quite a lot of this).
4) Venue is usually the first thing to nail down. Different brides have different approaches to looking online vs. visiting places in person, but just to give you an idea, I looked through around 200 options briefly on major sites with venue databases. I had a list of about 50 that interested us and contacted most of them for information packets. It was pretty easy to eliminate most (not responsive, we didn’t like food choices, too expensive, too out of the way, etc). We ended up visiting 4 venues over one weekend and choosing one.
5) Once you have your venue, they’ll likely recommend vendors and you can start nailing down the major pieces like photography, DJ, etc. Once those are set, you can work on smaller details.
Hope this helps and good luck!