First off, if you are engaged, congratulations!! When you get engaged, there are so many thoughts that may run through your head - how do you decide what to do first? Do you go and buy every bridal magazine you can find? Do you start scouring Pinterest (or add more to the Pinterest board that you've been pinning to for a while now??) Where do you start? I have put together a small list together of 10 things that I think will deinitely help you get started on the right track to planning. And if you don't want to start planning right away, that is perfectly okay as well! Bask in the enjoyment of your new engagement, and when you're ready, that's when the time is to start planning your wedding. Getting engaged is a time in your life to enjoy. Please don't feel that anything written below needs to be done immediately. Below is meant for you to use as a beginning guide - don't think you have to do all of these things right away! Take your time when doing everything - try not to rush, and try to make the decisions that you will be happy with at the end of the day. I hope that everything below is a great beginning point to help you to plan one of the best days of your life!
Absolutely #1, tell your family and close friends - with a phone call. Not a text message or an email.
You may want to immediately post it on social media, but those who are closest to you will want to find out from you - not from a Facebook relationship status update. They will love that you called them and included them in your excitement as well!
2 - Insure your engagement ring!
Add it onto your insurance, so that if anything happens to it, you are covered. You just got your sparkly beauty on your finger, so the last thing that you want is for something to happen to it.
3 - Chat about potential wedding dates.
It doesn't have to be the exact date by any means, but usually, you want to at least agree on the season you'll be married in. Do you picture a spring wedding or a fall wedding? Do you want to be surrounded by a wintery red theme, or have beautiful spring flowers everywhere? And, how long do you want to be engaged for? A few months, or perhaps a year or more? These are great conversations to have, especially because people usually ask when your date is after seeing your beautiful new ring!
4 - Purchase a binder of some kind to keep all of your wedding details together in.
If you hire a planner, (ahem, me for example), one may be provided for you (hint hint Pensacola brides! :). It will help you in SO many ways to have everything in one place. There are plenty of options available, from the packed to minimal. Barnes and Noble and Books a Million carry them, but I have to be honest here, the Southern Weddings Planner is one I am really looking forward to seeing since I am such a huge fan of their magazine already!
5 - Have a budget conversation.
This may be one of the toughest to have, but if you will be having someone in your family contribute to your wedding day, you will need to have this conversation sooner rather than later. You may hear that your budget is unlimited, or you may hear that your parents can donate a small amount, and you and your fiance will need to share the cost of the wedding as well. As challenging as it may be to talk about money, you want to have this chat to at least be on the same page from the beginning.
6 - Start writing down a preliminary guest list.
This doesn't have to be anywhere near to a final list - but at least know the approximate number of guests you want to plan your day for. Do you want to have an intimate wedding, with only family and close friends? Or, do you want to have a large reception with 2-300 guests? This may also go hand in hand with the budget conversation, knowing how many people you can afford to invite. A wedding for 200+ guests can potentially be a lot more than one for 40 people.
7 - Start thinking about the kind of wedding you want to have.
Do you want it to be filled with flowers or not have any? Do you have a particular theme that reflects you as a couple, or are there certain colors you want to be surrounded by? Do you want to have yard games and an outdoor ceremony, get married on the beach, or have a church wedding followed by a ballroom reception? These are the fun beginning conversations to have where you not only will learn more about each other, it will be a great way to get you both excited about your wedding day. This is also where a Pinterest board may be something you want to start - but, I would suggest to keep it secret so that your friends don't see everything wedding related, and you get to keep what you're planning as a surprise to your guests. That's part of the fun too.
8 - If you think that you possibly want to hire a wedding planner, research wedding planners in your area and set up a meeting with one or two.
Before you contact them, look at their website, read their blog, and learn about them and their wedding styles - every wedding planner plans weddings differently, and many have distinct styles that are reflected by the weddings that are shown on their websites. You will potentially be working together for a while, so you want to get to know them before hiring them. Planners know a lot when it comes to planning your wedding - from budget, to guest lists, to vendor details, and everything in between. We do many weddings a year, so chances are we will make it so much easier for you to plan an amazing day. Our job is to make planning your wedding fun and not stressful, helping with creative ideas and completely be there for you as you plan your perfect day. I would suggest contacting them and having a meeting with them before booking your venue or any other vendors for your wedding. This is not only because I am a wedding planner - but mainly because wedding planners work with a large variety of vendors, and can make planning easier from the beginning. Another reason to hire a planner before booking your venue is because if you have a particular look you're going for, they may know of the perfect venue to match it. Or, if you have a certain budget, they will know which venues to avoid, as a lot come with additional fees that can make sticking to a budget to very difficult.
9 - Start looking at venues!
The reason this doesn't come sooner is because you need to know approximately how many guests you'll have, as some venues can only hold 75-100 people, where others can hold up to 300. Some venues also book very far out in advance, so you may need to base your wedding date on the date they have available, if you find a place that you feel is the perfect place to have your wedding. Visit more than one before deciding, and if you choose to have your ceremony and reception in two different places, make sure that they aren't too far away from each other - you normally don't want your guests to have to drive more than 30 minutes to get from one to the other.
10 - After your venue is booked, ask if they have a preferred vendor list, and begin meeting with other vendors.
Start with your photographer and musicians, as the majority of them only do one wedding per day or weekend, and then contact your other vendors - your florist, cake designer, your caterers, etcetera. The word of mouth is a magical thing to use here as well - ask friends and family who they would recommend, ask other wedding vendors who they think would be a great fit for you, and create an amazing team of vendors that will help to make your wedding day incredible!
11 - Okay, so I know that I wrote that this was a top ten list. But, I had to add this final tidbit into the mix. As much as possible, relax and have FUN planning! Planning a wedding is something that you get to do, and you get to plan your wedding the way that you want to. Try to think of it like that as much as possible. There may be certain traditions that you don't want to incorporate on your wedding day - and that is perfectly okay! If you don't want to do a garter or bouquet toss, don't! If you want to do a first look, do a first look! And, when you're planning, just remember that as many opinions as everyone else may have, what matters is your own. The kind of day that the two of you want to have, is the kind of wedding that you will look back on and love.
Most importantly, what matters is that this day is the day you get to marry your best friend, the one your soul loves. This is the day that you get to celebrate that with your friends and family, and share the love you have for each other with all of them. Your wedding day is the first day of your marriage and life together - and that is what this day's adventure is all about.
If you want to have a handy dandy guide to help you remember what to do at the beginning, I hope this helps. If you have any other suggestions or tips to share, I'd love to hear them in the comments below!