Where do you start. Well the best way to start is to think of what you want, and who is going to pay for it. Write down you vision, do you want a large (300+) wedding with a sit down meal or a small intimate cocktail hour. Figure out how much you, your parents, your in laws are willing to spend. If you only have a $10,000 budget you won’t be able to have a large wedding with a sit down meal, and you need to figure that out in the beginning otherwise you will disappoint yourself.
Set your priorities. Is photography your number one priority or is the venue, or something else? You could have a sit down dinner for $10,000 if you sacrifice the amount of people coming. Your vision can happen on your budget, but you have to figure out what you are willing to sacrifice in order to obtain your vision.
Once you have a vision, priorities and budget, you can move on to the fun things. First and foremost pick a date, each vendor has many inquiries each day, and they will ask you your date. It is hard to give a quote to someone if they do not have a date, because the vendor may not even be available thus wasting your time. Your best bet is to ask if they are available first and then price. And the first vendors I recommend starting with are your venues, photographer, and wedding planner (if you choose to do so). Those are usually the most important, and the ones that usually book up the quickest.
A few more tips:
Keep a binder with contracts
Get EVERYTHING in writing, even small amendments
Keep on top of your budget
Email is a great way to communicate (emails hold up in court – just in case)
Ensure you have a contract with the vendor and make sure you receive a receipt
Google the vendor, see what comes up (company and personal name)
Ask for references