Congratulations bride-to-be! What an exciting time this is for you. You’re likely feeling many emotions–joy, excitement, anticipation, and maybe even a little bit of shock if you were completely blind-sided by your proposal. Speaking of being blind-sided, we’re sure you’ve been staring down quite a bit at your sparkly ring since the moment you got engaged. Once your initial shock wears off, you’ll likely be wondering, “What do I do next?” Here is a list of what you need to do to kick-start your wedding planning. We hope to set you on the path for a more enjoyable, less stressful wedding planning journey.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…Look At the Big Picture First
In addition to being a time of eager anticipation, the period of time from when you say, “yes, I’ll marry you,” to “I do” can be downright overwhelming! There are numerous wedding decisions you’ll have to make before the big day, from big decisions–selecting your perfect wedding gown, to little ones–yes or no to the bouquet toss? Before you begin to pore through bridal magazines and scour the web in a frenzy, STOP! Take a deep breath. Before tackling all the little details, think about the big picture first. Close your eyes and picture your ideal wedding. What do you see? Is it a formal ceremony in a century-old mansion? Is it a rustic, casual affair on an old farm? Or is it a romantic, candlelit ceremony on the beach? Don’t forget to get your partner’s input! Deciding on your wedding style first, will help determine all of your other decisions (type of flowers, cake, gown, etc.). Look online or in magazines for inspiration based on your specific style. For example, if you decide to have a rustic, outdoor wedding, and are looking online for centerpiece ideas, rather than searching for “reception centerpieces,” narrow down your search to “rustic wedding centerpieces.”
Make a (First Draft) Guest List
Once you have your ideal setting in mind, think about how many people you envision surrounding you on your day: all of your friends and family (the more the merrier) or just your closest friends and immediate family. You don’t have to compile a final, carved-in-stone list just yet, but you should have a general idea if your guest list will be 50 to 75 people or 200 to 350 people.
Set the Budget
Once you have your wedding style picked out and a general idea of how many guests you’re planning on inviting, you need to set a budget before you start booking venues and vendors and shopping for anything! Knowing how much money you have to spend from the beginning is imperative. There’s no sense wasting time (and being disappointed in the process) looking at a venue that charges $300 or more per plate, if you only have $ 150 to spend per plate. Sit down with your partner and, if appropriate, family members who will be contributing and figure out a budget range everyone is comfortable with. To help you stay on budget and monitor what you’re spending, consider opening a separate wedding bank account.
It’s a Date
After friends and family bombard you with well wishes and congratulations, and ask to see your ring (of course!), their next question will likely be, “When are you getting married? There are several factors that will play a role in determining your wedding date. First, think about what season you prefer. Focus next on a range of dates that will work with your schedule. Think about any holidays or family events that may conflict with your wedding date, and how long you think you’ll need to plan. Your budget will play a huge role in the venue you select. Have your heart set on a particular venue? Many times, the venue’s availability will dictate your wedding date. If you’re having a religious ceremony, you’ll have to make sure the person officiating your wedding and the reception venue have availability on the same day.
Book Your “Must-Have” Vendors Early
If you have your heart set on a particular photographer whose work you love, or a floral designer whose artistry you prefer, you’ll want to book them fast. Many popular, in-demand vendors book many months (sometimes years) in advance. Figure out which wedding detail is the most important, whether it’s serving the finest French cuisine or having your day documented by an award-winning photographer, and act fast to ensure your favorite vendors are available on your day.
Staying organized has gotten a lot easier for today’s modern bride thanks to technology and the many useful wedding apps. Hundreds of wedding apps are available (many for free) to help you stay on track, on time, on budget, and sane. Some great ones to try are: Wedding Budget (helps you avoid overspending) and TopTablePlanner (helps you figure out who sits where at your reception).
Don’t Do It Alone
If you’re an incredibly busy couple, have demanding jobs, or want an elaborate wedding, and are having anxiety about how to juggle everything, consider seeking help in the form of a professional wedding planner. A full-time wedding planner makes sure every last detail is taken care of from the beginning to the end. There are many options when it comes to hiring wedding planners. If you’re not looking for a full-time planner, you can hire someone to help you in the final weeks before your wedding. “Day-of” coordinators are also available to make sure your day runs smoothly. You won’t have to worry about making sure the flowers have arrived at the venue, or calling to find out why your wedding cake delivery is late.