In celebration of all of the couples who became engaged over the holidays, here’s my advice on the FIRST steps a bride should take after the proposal:
Bask in the Glow
Unless you’ve set a date one month away, there is still a little time to celebrate just being engaged. You have a gorgeous new ring to admire every chance you get, and plenty of family and friends that are eager to offer their congratulations (and wedding advice). This period can be as overwhelming as it is joyful. Before you dive head-first, take the time to enjoy being engaged and begin thinking about what you want for your wedding. Have some “just-the-two-of-you” planning sessions. Getting all of Facebook involved may provide some nice ideas, but you run the risk of becoming more focused on impressing others than having the wedding that YOU really want (and can afford). Not to mention that, for some reason, many may think that because you have them as a Facebook “friend”, they are automatically invited. Keeping yourself and your fiancé a priority during this time makes for a happier experience.
Look at Your Budget
It’s definitely not the “sunshine and rainbows” part of the planning process, but it is vital. Before you start putting down deposits and telling the world about your upcoming platinum affair, talk with your fiancé about your wedding budget. This will help you determine when to set your date (a longer engagement may give you more time to save money), and have a clear understanding of who’s paying for what, in case you will be able to have help from family. Please see my post, “Balancing the Budget”, for further tips.
Set a Date (or a few)
You may have particular dates in mind that are significant to you and your sweetie: the anniversary of your first date, a year-to-the-date of your engagement, etc. Choosing such a date is the perfect way to commemorate an event specific to the two of you. However, if you are open to any date, you may want to have several to choose from. I always suggest narrowing down to a particular month or season in which you want to have your wedding; once you begin searching for venues and vendors, you can narrow down to an exact date depending on the availability. If your heart is set on a particular venue, have a back-up date in case your first choice has already been booked. If you can, try to stay away from major holidays (except maybe New Year’s Eve). Out-of-town family and friends might not appreciate the elevated flight, gas, and hotel rates during a major travel holiday and you run the risk of not having full attendance if many on your guest list opt for family traveling and vacations.
Consider your guest list
Many brides begin making wedding plans – and paying for them – before they’ve even done their guest list! Honestly, not a wise move. It’s my job to advise my clients on ways to make their wedding planning process as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Stressful situations most likely will come; why not keep them to a minimum with aspects of your planning that you can control? Before you get deep into wedding plans, finalize your guest list – at least within ten to twenty people. Your headcount will help you determine the appropriate venue; after all, why pay for a huge ballroom if you want an intimate wedding of fifty guests? Most importantly, your guest list and your budget go hand in hand, since most vendors work on a “per head” basis. If your budget is $5,000, you may want to think twice about inviting 300 people. Once your guest list is set, try your best to not stray from it. Sure, you may invite an extra here or there; or there may be a few folks that won’t be able to attend. But let’s limit the drama – “You’ve been talking about your wedding for the past year; I assumed I was invited!” – and work on the guest list now, keeping it among your innermost circle.
Lastly, sit down with your fiancé and decide what elements of your wedding are most important to YOU. Whether it’s the unique, historic venue, or the beautiful flowers, or the exotic food, or the fabulous DJ; prioritize which elements you want to focus your budget on, and which elements are not as important. Hiring a wedding planner will help you keep those priorities at the forefront. He/she won’t be biased to a particular venue. They will make sure that you are staying organized and on budget throughout the planning process, hook you up with proven professional vendors, and ensure that you will have the wedding of your dreams.