I'm Engaged... Now What?
So my fiance and I took a trip to Italy in August. While on a gondola ride in Venice, he proposed to me. The feeling was indescribable and I swear it feels like your body is malfunctioning- you're smiling and crying and you're happy but you can't seem to find the words to express yourself. Of course, after you calm down and compose yourself, you take a picture of the ring. You send the picture to your friends and family and everyone is excited. Then, the questions come at you- when is the wedding, who is invited, what are your colors, where are you getting married, who is in the wedding party, etc. It is a mess. Suddenly, you find yourself asking: what in the world do I do now? Here are the first twelve things that you should do after getting engaged.
Step 1: Calm Down. Breathe. It can all be overwhelming at first. But, just remember that this is about you and your fiance. You will have to remind yourself of this quite often, but it helps. You need to make this process fun for you and not overly stressful.
Step 2: Figure Out Your Budget. This is the most important part of the planning process. Once you know how much you are willing and able to spend, things will be a lot easier. Your budget will determine the major aspects of wedding planning such as the venue you can afford, the guest list, and your dress.
Step 3: Insure Your Ring. I know, this sounds like such a “mom thing” to say, but it’s the responsible thing to do. You will be glad that you did in the long run.
Step 4: Pick a Date. Now that you know what your budget is, you need to figure out what you can save by when. You should choose a date that gives you enough time to save the money that you need so that you can meet any payment schedule deadlines. Also, I swear this is the question people asked the most! It was a relief to be able to tell them the exact date. If you do not know when you want to get married, you can always call venues to see which dates they have available and choose from those.
Step 5: Guest Count Estimate. You should have an estimated guest count before going to see venues. Each venue has a capacity level and they need to know how many people you have in mind so that they know which rooms and areas to show you during your tour. It is alright if you do not know exactly who you want at your wedding, but it is good to have a general idea. If you tell the wedding coordinator at a venue that you want a small wedding (0-50 guests), a mid-sized wedding (100-200 guests), or a large wedding (200-300 guests), that helps them out a great deal.
Step 6: Research Venues. Once the other steps are completed, you can start researching different venues. If you are not sure how to find different venues, websites and apps like The Knot and WeddingWire are super helpful and provide recommendations. Make a list of the venues that you like. Once you are satisfied with your list, start making calls. The first question to always ask is: Is my date available? This question saves so much time on the telephone. You also don’t want to get a great price for the wedding package of your dreams only to find out they are booked for the next year or two. Yes, I have called venues that were booked solid for two years because they are so popular. If the venue is available for your chosen date, then you should ask about pricing. Most, if not all, venues have a price range that they already know to provide. You should then ask what their wedding packages include. Is the price just for the venue? Or, does it include food and bar? Once you speak to the venue, you can determine whether you should keep the venue on your list or cross it off. The ones that make it through the “elimination round” will be the venues you schedule a tour for.
At your tour, it is important to see a cost breakdown sheet- the cost of the venue itself, meal options per person, beverage options per person, etc. Some venues have a meal/drink minimum (e.g. must spend at least $10,000 to book your wedding here). So be aware of any of those. You should also see whether the venue will provide a planner to help. It is important to ask whether the venue supplies the table decorations for your reception and/ or ceremony. If they do not, you will have to add that into your budget.
Step 7: Book a Venue. Once you have taken all of your tours and asked all of your questions, book the venue. Make sure to read over the booking agreement carefully. Some places will not give you your deposit back if you change your mind. Most agreements will also provide the payment schedule if you are not paying the balance all at once. Make sure that you will be able to meet the payment schedule or you could forfeit your spot.
Step 8: Choose the Wedding Party. Now that you know when and where you are getting married, you can choose the wedding party. You should know who your Maid of Honor and Best Man are going to be first. Then, you and your fiance can determine how big you want the wedding party to be. Once you agree on a number, you can pick friends based on that.
Step 9: Find "The Dress". Budget and venue are two of the BIGGEST parts of wedding planning. Now time for the fun part- wedding dress shopping. Look at different styles online. Find out which ones you like and which ones you definitely do not like. David's Bridal is always popular. But, if you wanted something a little more unique, try looking for local boutiques. Yelp and Google will be your best friends when looking for boutiques. Usually, if you tell the employees your budget, they can steer you in the right direction for dresses in your price range. You should get the dress early enough for them to order it and then make any alterations afterwards, if needed. Also, bring your bridesmaids and mother to help. Or, go alone if you prefer to do this yourself. Some brides prefer that so they can choose a dress that is more "them" and less what everyone else wants them to wear. Then show your bridesmaids and mother after you pick it out (but before your buy it).
Step 10: Create a Registry. I know it can be kind of awkward asking people for gifts, but I swear this is another common question I was asked. Literally a week after I got engaged, people were asking me where we were registered at. So, I went with two options: I created a registry and also created a website where people could make donations for a charity instead of getting us a gift.
Registry: We chose to register at Macy's. Mostly because everyone knows what Macy's is and there is usually a Macy's at every major mall. The website is also pretty easy to use. We have a lot of older guests coming and Macy's is familiar to them. Also, Macy's has just about everything you could think of. Some couples have decided to register at two or three places. That is becoming a trend now and it is totally ok! It gives couples and guests more gift options.
Charity: I created a wedding website through The Knot and I was able to link my registry to a local charity. This is also a good option if you feel like giving back to the community. Not everyone needs a new food processor or blender. If this sounds like you, choosing a charity might be a better option.
Step 11: Download Wedding Apps. These are lifesavers! If you are having a hard time figuring out what to do next, these apps can help. Many of them include budget features for you to input your budget. They also have a guest list feature for you to add in your guests and their contact information. Some also include a timeline for you so that you know what to do next at all times. I use The Knot's wedding timeline to figure out what I should do once these major steps are completed. It includes the little things that you wouldn't have even thought of!
Step 12: Join Wedding Groups and Follow Wedding Pages on Facebook. I have joined two super helpful groups on Facebook. One of them is a local wedding buy/swap/sell page. Brides sell their gently used decorations, dresses, etc. Vendors are also allowed to sell services on there (e.g. DJ, photographer, makeup artist, etc.). Another group I joined is somewhat like a bride support group and it is awesome. There are brides from all over the world who post and it is comforting to know that brides have the same stressful issues everywhere- it's not just you.
I hope these helped. Happy planning!