After you've called mom and talked with family members you haven't heard from in years, you can start planning for the big day!
Stay relaxed, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you get overwhelmed. To get started, here are the first ten things you should do to plan:
As tempting as it may be to put off this uncomfortable conversation, the sooner you discuss the wedding budget, the better. Your wedding budget will guide all other decisions related to your wedding. Chat with your parents and fiancé to learn what amount you have to work with.
2. Dream a little!
Go out to dinner and daydream about your wedding. Learn about each other's priorities, as well as what you don't care for in a wedding. Knowing what each other values will help set expectations.
3. Choose a Placeholder Date
There is no pressure to have the exact date selected as soon as you get engaged! In fact, it helps to be flexible with your date to cater to when venues are available.
However, do keep in mind that everyone will be asking when you're tying the knot. If you can narrow it down to a season or month, people will appreciate feeling like they're in the loop.
4. Wedding Planner or No?
According to your budget, does it make sense to hire a wedding planner? Remember that they can help negotiate with vendors for the best prices, keep you from stressing and save you time.
If hiring a wedding planner would break the bank, a cheaper alternative would be to find a Day of Coordinator. There are many details on the day of that will need to be tended to, and it's necessary to delegate this position to someone other than yourself! Many venues include this role in their agreement, but if not, a kind relative may be willing to help out (thanks, Aunt Tammy!).
5. Guest List
This was honestly the most challenging part of my own wedding experience. Our venue had a maximum capacity of 100 (counting the bridal party and all vendors), and our ideal guest list totaled 150.
To get a realistic idea of how many guests you should expect, ask your parents who they'd like to invite. Be sure to tell them this is a preliminary list; and have them help to prioritize people into tiers. If you have to make any adjustments to your list later, doing this will be very helpful.
Also, as you're creating the guest list, keep in mind that catering costs can quickly become one of the most expensive line items for a large wedding!
6. Choose Your Bridal Party
Selecting your bridal party can be stressful. Don't let pressure, emotions or the "I was in their bridal party, so I have to have them in mine" mindset sway your judgment.
Choose people who mean the most to you and your fiancé, and consider giving anyone who may feel left out an honorary corsage or a role in the ceremony, such as an usher or candle lighter.
If your sides are uneven, don't worry, there are no wedding rules that say they must match! Imagine humoring your guests when a groomsman walks down the isle with not one, but two, bridesmaids on his arm, or how cute it could be to have a bridesmaid leading flower girls. There is no set way to organize a bridal party, so have fun with it!
7. Find a Venue
There are many things to consider when venue shopping. Set up dates to tour, and ask in advance about what is included in the cost. Some venues may charge for table cloths, chairs, set up / take down, etc. Catering options are often limited to a select list of providers, so know their regulations in advance.
Make sure to ask if the venue has a backup plan for inclement weather if your ceremony or reception is outdoors. Consider the needs of all your guests, including whether or not the venue is handicap accessible.
8. Book Your Favorite Vendors
As mentioned above (see #2), you need to decide which vendors are most important to you and your fiancé. If you've fallen in love with a specific vendor’s work, contact them first. Make note of a few backups in case your favorite vendors are already booked for the season.
Mind your budget and plan accordingly during this process. When calculating costs, don’t forget to account for service charges, gratuities and tax!
9. Premarital Counseling
I highly recommend premarital counseling for all couples. Even if you know each other better than the back of your own hand, counseling helps with the little details you wouldn't know to think of. It helps to set expectations for married life, and with it, you'll be putting your best foot forward.
Premarital counseling uses surveys, discussions, role playing and independent conversations to help prepare you for married life. It doesn't take up much time and costs little. My husband and I did ours through our university for free! Churches often provide these services, as well as other counsellors.
If you're in need of help finding a counselor that's right for you, ask other engaged and married couples you know.
10. Enjoy This Time!
Most importantly, enjoy this brief, but exciting, stage of life! Try not to stress out about the details of your big day (really, it will all get done in time), but instead focus on this special time!
What else would you add to this list? Add it to the comments below!