General wedding planning start: 1) Budget 2) Guest list/count 3) Venue & Date
If you have the budget, yes hire a wedding planner! It will save you so much stress down the road. If you can't hire a planner, organization is your friend. Find a wedding checklist, use google sheets/excel, whatever works for you to stay organized and on top of things. I know people who are great with binders, I am not. So I had a google sheet document with my budget, checklist, seating chart, full address book, song list, etc. I started my spreadsheets (specifically budget and checklist) before I even started venue hunting. It saved me so much stress.
If you have the money, you can hire a planner. I've been pretty laid back throughout the process. We just tackled 1 thing at a time. First, you want to figure out your all in budget. I would suggest looking online at some venues and things to get an idea of what things cost in your area. We had set a budget that we initially thought was realistic, but it was way too low (NJ is apparently the 2nd highest wedding budget state in the US after Hawaii so....yeah). We set the budget and figured out an approximate guest list so we could have a rough count for venues. We also decided that we wanted a summer wedding based on our schedules. After that, we started looking at venues within our price range. I found places online through The Knot, Wedding Wire, and Wedding Spot, and then made appointments to see them. Once we had our venue and date, we focused on the other primary vendors (DJ, photographer) and bridal party, attire, etc. I wanted to get the vendors that can only be available day of done 1st to secure top choices. After that, it's been pretty smooth sailing.
Budget, budget, budget! Do that before anything! Then see if you think a planner fits your budget. You do not have to be a bridezilla to plan your own, just organized. Color pallette and theme, number of guests, are some extra parts you'll want to know if you get a planner
The first thing i did was find a venue then a place for the ceremony (if they're different), Photographer, Bridal shower, DJ, Limo and that's where im at right now. Those were the most important things for me and my fiancé so we got that done first.
If you have the budget for a wedding planner... Do it. I wish I had the budget for it.
If you don't, set the guest list micro size. (20 or less). Micro weddings are still a lot of work but not as bad as small, medium, or huge. It's about 300-400 a head after micro size. Everything is cheaper and nicer at micro size. We can go to a restaurant or do nice take out at 18 guest. It's kinda like planning a small elaborate birthday party at this level.
Research the average cost in your area. And splurge on your top 3 and skimp or skip the rest. We splurged on cake ($750 2 elaborate cakes) because if we are going to eat junk food it better be darn good junk food and we semi skimped on my dress for example ($400 David's bridal). The top categories are different for everyone. Some people splurge hard on the dress and have a 3k budget for it which is half my entire wedding.