For brides and grooms who are newly engaged, here is a road map to the first things you’ll want to consider. And, congratulations! (Which, yes, is appropriate to say to a bride-to-be these days.)
Tell Your Friends & Family
Most brides find it hard to contain the news that they are engaged, and I was no different. Over the course of three days, we made calls to our closest friends and family – the ones we wouldn’t want to have hear our news from anyone but us. We also asked that they wait to tell anyone else or post to social media until the following weekend to give us time to make all of our calls. After that, it was fair game!
Pick a Date and Place
You don’t need to hop on the phone with the florist within days of saying “yes,” but within the first couple of weeks you’ll want to talk about dates (or at least a date range), as well as where you might want to be married. This will start to give you an idea of how quickly you’ll need to act, and what kind of financial plan you might need to think about.
We briefly debated getting married in Italy in June as we had a vacation planned there with my immediate family. It made sense in some ways – do something special while saving money for more practical things like a house. But a friend gave me some great advice: “Whatever you do for your wedding, make sure it will really make you feel married.” To me, that meant seeing all my friends and family right afterward. As much as I love Italian food and a pasta dinner for five, being thousands of miles from home just wasn’t going to cut it.
Determine Your Budget & Create Your Guest List
As you start thinking about possible dates and venues, think about finances, too. If you know you will pay for your entire wedding yourselves, this means talking about how much you are prepared to pay and towards what. You will likely find, as we did, that your conversation about spending limits will be layered in with venue considerations.
If you plan to talk with your parents about help financing the wedding, start with a request for a time to talk, rather than expecting them to be prepared to discuss committing to what could be quite a lot of money out of the blue: “Mom, Josh and I are hoping we could talk wedding finances, if you’re interested. Let us know a time that might work for you and Dad.” Traditionally, the bride’s family paid for the wedding and reception and the groom’s family for the rehearsal dinner. Today, there is no longer any obligation for anyone to pay for anything, so be sure to be appreciative of any offers of help and respectful of any limits.
This is also a good time to make an initial draft of your guest list. The size of your wedding may be determined by the venue you choose or your available spending limit. Controlling the size of your guest list is one of the best ways to keep a handle on overall expenses, as a large portion of most wedding budgets is taken up by food and alcohol. Put together your initial thoughts regarding the guest list, and ask for the same from your respective parents. You don’t need to have the list finalized at this point, but you’ll want to have a ballpark idea of numbers.
Find the Perfect Venue
We found that starting to look for a venue in November for an August wedding put us at a disadvantage – so many were already booked. We quickly discovered that we had no time to waste in finding our location. It was either that, or wait over a year and a half to have first choice of all the best venues and vendors. We opted to take the challenge.
When looking at venues, be sure to ask about restrictions: maximum number of guests, required vendors, time limitations, areas of the property that are off-limits, and liquor license requirements. Answers to these questions can quickly rule out an otherwise appealing setting.
Shop for Your Dress & Invitations
If you are like me and are on a tighter schedule, I suggest thinking about your dress and invitations sooner rather than later. These are two items that have to be set in motion well in advance, so count back for each to know your deadlines now. Dresses take quite a while to make once ordered, and can require an additional few months for alterations. The same can be said for invitations, which need time to be designed, proofed, printed, shipped to the calligrapher or whomever will be hand-addressing them, and finally, mailed eight to ten weeks before the wedding.
Pamper Yourself (and Your Engagement Ring!)
Everyone is going to want to see your ring, so treat yourself to a manicure. Also, note that many jewelers who sell engagement rings offer free cleaning to keep your diamond sparkling like it did the day you said “yes.”
Photo by Walters + Walters