wedding reception place setting with vintage goblets

Planning Your Wedding

Bride and groom at Mesa Verde Country Club

YAY! You’re getting married! Congrats!!! Planning your wedding is exciting! You have so much to look forward to, so much to think about, and so sooooo much to plan! Ugh. Now it can get super overwhelming, but luckily for you, this is where I come in with this awesome post to help you figure it all out! So let’s get started.

Choose a Wedding Venue

The first thing on the agenda is to lock down a wedding venue. You have to do this first because in order to book basically every other vendor, you have to know your wedding date. Your venue can be anywhere though. A beautiful country club, a nice hotel, the beach, a park… There are multiple venues that are specifically made for weddings, or you can rent a private estate, or have it at your home or a friend’s home. As long as you find a place that you like, and you’re able to guarantee it’s available on the date of your choice, the rest of the planning can be a piece of (wedding) cake. Planning your wedding in Santa Barbara or Ventura? Check out this post on Perfect Wedding Day Venues.

Choose Your Key Wedding Day Vendors

All the vendors that are going to be a part of your wedding are important, but there are a few that will really make or break the experience. These vendors tend to also be the ones that book up first and are some of the more crucial elements for your wedding.

Santa Barbara wedding photographer captures night time reception photo of bride and groom sitting at their table and kissing surrounded by florals and twinkle light above them

1. Wedding Planners & Coordinators

A lot of people try to plan everything themselves to save costs. Now I totally get it, weddings can be expensive, but you also want the experience to be pleasant. Sometimes that means paying a little more, relinquishing control, and letting someone else deal with all of the stress. Hiring a planner or coordinator can also help since they are excellent at helping you find all the other needed vendors.

2. Photographer

Once again, you’re in luck. You’re on my page so you don’t need to look any further for a photographer… unless of course, I’m unavailable. 😉 Choosing your photographer and locking them in for your wedding should be the next thing on the list. Photography is one of the only tangible things you will have from your wedding day. You are going to put so much of yourself into this experience, you’ll want to make sure you have a talented, responsible, and experienced photographer there to document the day for you.

3. DJ/MC santa barbara greek orthodox wedding photography

Partying can be pretty lame without some good music to get the room dancing! And an iPod just doesn’t cut it. There will be awkward pauses and no one to change the music up to match the mood of the crowd. A good DJ will keep the party going and motivate those who are usually not big dancers to get out there and have some fun. MCs are super helpful at keeping the evening on schedule, and announcing important moments so your guests are aware of what’s going on and when. I love working with so many different DJs and MCs, but my personal fave is In the Mix Events!

4. Caterer & Bakery

People gotta eat. You can’t have an amazing wedding without feeding your guests. You do have a lot of options here though.


There are caterers that offer a waitstaff where each dish is plated and presented. It’s a more luxurious option and is convenient as it keeps your guests all seated so no one misses any special moments, like the first dance, or speeches. You can do family style. It’s similar to the plated option, but instead, the waitstaff would place a large plate in the center of each table for guests to serve themselves and share. Buffet style is always good and is usually a bit more cost-efficient. Usually, the MC will announce when it’s time for each table to go stand in line to get their dinners. This choice is popular but it does take people out of their seats for a while so the scheduling of key events needs to be thought out more. Some couples will have food trucks, and some keep it more casual and just serve hors d’oeuvres.

There’s really not a wrong choice. Just choose one that fits your style and budget. I love everything from Plated Events! Their food never disappoints!


Also having dessert is pretty necessary if you’re serving food. A giant 4 tiered wedding cake, a single cake, a donut wall, a dessert table, an ice cream bar… you can really do almost anything, as long as it satisfies a sweet tooth. For a super talented and delicious bakery, check out Sweet Art Bake Shop.

Planning what food to serve at your wedding can be extra fun since it often involves going to yummy tastings! Mmmmm!!!

5. Officiant

It’s kinda hard to get married without an officiant. I mean technically you can’t get married without one. Or at least not without someone to sign off on the marriage license. A good officiant will help you both feel more comfortable during the ceremony. They will have a clear voice, know what to say and when, and get out of the way for the first kiss photo! 😉 Well, preferably anyway! Check out Wedding Officiant Julia, Julia is awesome and personable, and hides for the first kiss!

6. Invitation Suites and Signagewedding invitations and envelopes with the wedding ring in a pink box

How are people gonna know you’re planning your wedding if you don’t send them an invite?! It’s gonna be this giant, amazing, fun-filled extravaganza so you can’t just send them an email, text, or call them! I mean yeah, I guess you can, but that wouldn’t be nearly as cool as receiving a beautiful invitation in the mail! Regardless, you gotta let them know the whens and wheres! I’d highly recommend Fla-de-Dahs. She does amazing work creating the perfect invitation suites that will complement the look you have in mind.

7. Wedding Day Attire

Unless you’re nudists and are getting married in a nudist colony, you will need some type of clothing. There are several local wedding boutiques where you can find gorgeous dresses and gowns, like Bella Mucci’s Bridal Couture. Guys can either rent or buy their attire from a tuxedo store or several men’s apparel shops. Friar Tux is a great place to check out.

8. Flowers

Having beautiful flowers at your wedding is kinda like painting the walls in a new home. Without pretty florals, your venue can look kinda plain and boring. A beautiful arrangement can compliment the mood of the day, and make your entire vision come to life. I ALWAYS love what Unique Floral Design comes up with. They are truly talented and having them help will definitely make your wedding look even more amazing!


9. Makeup & Hairsanta barbara el paseo wedding photography

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up on your wedding day and have someone else help beautify you? I wish I could do that every morning! I’d look so much better than my usual look of day-old mascara, and a messy bun. Don’t worry, I clean myself up when I leave the house! 😉 Hair and makeup artists can make you look flawless! They can erase tan lines, fix fly-aways, hide tattoos, and make you look even more beautiful. I love working with Fairytale Hair & Makeup. Their makeup brushes are like magic wands – which is probably where their name comes from.

10. Rentals

This is something you might not need to worry about when planning your wedding day. It depends on the venue you end up going with. Some venues will supply all the tables, linens, chairs, and dishware, but some won’t provide any of them. Also, some venues that do provide a lot of the items may not have the look or style you want. So it may be best to visit a rental company and see what they can offer. Ventura Rental has a great selection, and you can go to their showroom to get some ideas!

More Wedding Planning Thoughts

There are still other things to think about when planning your wedding and other vendors you’ll want to include. Here are a few more:

Wedding Rings

If you followed the traditional route, you already have the engagement ring. Now you’ll want to get some beautiful wedding bands for each other. Check out Fox Fine Jewelry


Photos are awesome, but videos can also whisk you right back to your favorite moments. A highlight reel edited to your first dance song can really showcase the feeling of your entire wedding day. I offer videography add-ons with my photography packages, so now you can get both all in one place. Check out some video samples!


They are LOVED by guests! And having one also gives you a fun photo keepsake of lots of the people who were at your wedding, and them being extra goofy too! Oh Snap Studios has a super cool booth setup!

Calligrapher & Signage

Sign placement helps your guests know where to go and what to do. Pretty signs look better and still help your guests know where to go and what to do. Have Letter Bliss help create some signs for your wedding!


Some venues provide one already, but if not it’s definitely something you’ll want to look into having at your cocktail hour and reception. I love working with Cali Sol Cocktails for some equally tasty and beautiful drinks.


Need to get from the ceremony to the reception? Or maybe you want a getaway car. Waiting for an Uber might not be ideal, and there are so many cool transportation options, why not get there in style? I recently went on a wine tour with my family and we used SB Limos. They were fast to respond, had competitive pricing, and were very communicative. Our drive was great as well!

Child & Pet Sitting

If your guests can bring their children, they are much more likely to attend your wedding. But do you really want everyone’s child running around and screaming during your wedding?? There are child-sitting services that come to you and will look after the kids while the parents let loose. Also for your pets. Maybe you want your furbaby in some of the pictures but not for the entire wedding. Pet sitting services will take care of them until you’re ready for their closeup. Check out this post on how to have your dog at your wedding!

Guest Accommodations for your Wedding

Airbnb always has a ton of great options for places to stay. I use them whenever I travel. Look around and see what kinda places there are available. Or look at the hotels near your chosen venues and reach out to them for their room blocks. It’s nice if most of your guests – or at least your wedding party are staying at the same place.

Planning Your Wedding in Santa Barbara, or SoCal

There are probably some other elements to be prepared for that I’m missing here, but every wedding is different. You might find yourself just saying “screw it” and eloping to a luscious, tropical island. Which is always a great option and I’m happy to travel! 😀

If you still have more questions about planning your wedding and aren’t sure what you need, let me know, I may be able to give a little more advice. And when you’re ready to make sure you have a kick-ass photographer there for you, get in touch with me!

Elizabeth Victoria Photography is a Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer based in Southern California and Western Pennsylvania. I photograph weddings primarily in Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, and Los Angeles counties, and in Pittsburgh, PA. I love to travel and am always looking forward to an adventure. I’d be happy to photograph your destination wedding!

If you’d like to learn more about me click here. I’d love to hear about your wedding photography needs! Call or text me at 805.410.0721 or send me a message!

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