• {Planning Tips} I’m Engaged! Now What? The Five Things To Do First

    Welcome to our first official Planning Tips feature (although I have done many planning tips features in the past, they just weren’t “official” per this new schedule I’m trying out).  I’m really excited to do this weekly feature, because I feel like as a former bride and wedding blogger I can really help with some of the logistical, practical, planning type of things that the newly engaged have no idea about.  I know I didn’t!  And I’m also taking reader questions, so if you have a problem or a planning question you need help with, please leave a comment or email me and I’ll try to answer it during one of these weekly features.  First up, I’m sharing the five things you should do first when you get engaged.

    {one} set a budget
    After you call your parents and friends to share the news and celebrate your newly engaged bliss, the first thing you need to do is set a budget.  This will determine everything else you do, decide on, and choose.  Are you paying for the wedding yourselves or will your parents contribute?  How much will be contributed?  The best thing you can do is figure this out before anything else, and then stick to your budget. 

    {two} make a guest list
    Each of you should make a list of who you would like to invite, and you may want to let each of your parents do the same (especially if they are footing the bill!)  Then you’ll have an anxiety attack when you add them all up to 500 people!  Trust me when I say that this will not be your real guest list.  You will cut cut cut until you reach a more realistic number.  This can be hard when you include everyone’s friends, family members, work colleagues, and your mother-in-law’s second cousin twice removed.  So set rules: no extended family (meaning parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, and first cousins only), no people from work, no kids: these are a few ways to cut the list if you are comfortable with it.  And this is just a starting point to give you a good idea.  You can always add or subtract as needed.  REMEMBER – THE MORE PEOPLE YOU HAVE, THE MORE MONEY YOUR WEDDING WILL COST.  This is why step one is so important!

    {three} find a venue
    Warning: for me, this was the hardest and most stressful part of wedding planning.  Finding a venue that meets your budget, finding a venue that fits your guest list, finding a venue that doesn’t make you cut off the music at a ridiculously early hour, finding a venue that isn’t booked for two years… these are just a few of many frustrating parts of your venue search.  My husband and I also really wanted to get married on a particular date, and this made our search hard as well.  Once we let that go, the possibilites opened up for us.  That’s why I didn’t say “pick a date.”  It is much better to be open to any date in the month or two you prefer to be married.  Once you find a venue you love in a location you love that works with your budget and guest count, the hardest part of your wedding planning is behind you!

    {four} think about your wedding style
    Let me repeat, THINK about your wedding style.  Don’t decide on ANYTHING.  You will change your mind 500 times.  Also, repeat after me: I WILL NOT BUY ANYTHING YET.  You will change your mind, and have wasted your money (learn from my mistakes!)  Just start looking at some wedding blogs, pick up the latest Martha Stewart Weddings, look around your home (because your wedding style should reflect YOU and what YOU love), bundle things on lover.ly, create a pinterest board, and start thinking.

    {five} take a breath and relax
    Once you have gotten the big things out of the way, stop planning for a little bit (depending on how far away your wedding date is).  Getting wrapped up in the planning can get you frustrated, scare and confuse your soon-to-be groom, and get overwhelming real quick.  Having a budget, an idea of your guest list, a venue (and therefore a wedding date), and thinking about your style is enough for now.  Although every city and location is different and demand for other wedding vendors is higher in some places than others, everyone should have a little breather before you move on to the rest of your planning.  Enjoy being engaged.  Celebrate.  Go on a date and don’t talk about the wedding.  It is refreshing!

    While these are the first 5 things you should do, you may also want to start looking at vendors you like when you are perusing the wedding blogs.  Many of us (me included) have vendor guides to help you.  Plus, at the end of every wedding feature all of the vendors are listed, so if the feature is in your area and you like the photographs or florals from that wedding, you may want to consider those vendors.

    So tell me, who out there is planning a wedding right now?  Are you just starting or well into the planning?  Do any of you disagree with these tips or have others you think should come first?  Do you have any questions you need answered or areas you would like to hear tips for?  Let me know!

    {photo by Jennifer Roper}

    leave a comment.


    1. Posted Jun 21 at 4:41 am | Permalink

      This is great advice. I wish I would have relaxed a bit more during the planning of my wedding.

    2. Posted Jun 21 at 4:52 am | Permalink

      Great tips! Can’t wait to read more of your wedding planning feature!

    3. Posted Jun 21 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      Love this new official feature! Excited to read more. :)

    4. Posted Jun 21 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      I love your posts, Chandra. ALMOST as much as I love your face. Which pales in comparison to how much I miss you. :)

    5. Posted Jun 22 at 5:05 am | Permalink

      Already married, but had to weigh in to the great advice! Flexibility in dates is huge. Our celebrant decided to visit his home country for 3 weeks the month we wanted to get married. I was really happy in the long run that we changed to accommodate his schedule because he was one of our “must-haves”. I was also lucky we made sure to check with him before we paid for a venue!

      One thing I would suggest is to keep an eye on your time line for the dress. Some take 4-6 months to come in once you find it, and you want about 2 more months for fittings and alterations so you don’t have to push it. Also, sometimes once you know your venue and your perfect dress, it can help define the rest of the style :)

    6. Ansley
      Posted Jun 26 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      Became engaged a few short days before this post! What perfect timing and wonderful advice. Things are already falling into place! Thank you for sharing :)

    7. Vannah
      Posted Jun 30 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      I’m getting married next May, on memorial day. I’m not goting to lie, we already picked the date, and I’m determined not to change it! These tips have calmed me down a lot, I’ve been really stressed about the planning. WE’re getting married on the beach ((My fiance’s only MUST HAVE pertaining to the wedding)) and we will be having the ceremony/reception a beach house, where we will also be staying for our honeymoon. Do you have any tips on a beach wedding? Or ideas on having the ceremony/reception in the same area?

      • Posted Jul 3 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        Hi Vannah-
        I’m not sure if you want beach inspiration or logistical tips, but email me and I’d be happy to help if I can. And I LOVE having the ceremony & reception in the same area. It is more affordable, saves time from moving from one place to another and lets you enjoy the party more, and is easier on you and your guests. I highly recommend it! Hope that helps.

    8. Posted Jul 3 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

      Hello there! I found your post VERY interesting. My fiance and I, engaged almost a month now, want to get the big stuff done first. Like you have said here. 5 of 8 posts/magazine articles I have read have said the same thing you did. So, we are getting our budget set, we have our guest list started and we are looking for ceremony and reception places. I feel as though if we get a good idea going of what we want and where we want we’ll have less stress as winter comes and we can’t go out and see the places we might want. Thanks so much for your post!

      • Posted Jul 3 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

        Heather, I’m so glad you found the post helpful. I just speak from my experience as a bride and having been in 10 other weddings. Best of luck to you!

    9. Posted Jul 10 at 5:17 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this post. I just got engaged two weeks ago. I’m just waiting on the budget from my parents, so I can start venue hunting. Looking forward to more of these posts.

    10. Posted Aug 1 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      Perfect timing! I found your post on Pinterest and I have been engaged since July 4th! I am very happy to report that I have all of your 5 tips crossed off my to-do list except the final budget, mainly because my parents are paying and I don’t want to ask!! I feel pretty lucky to have my venue for rehearsal, ceremony, and after party all in one location. My parents live on a golf course which includes a historic plantation! We are getting married May 26th of 2013. YEA!!!
      I also have my photographer in line and our engagement photos are this weekend! I have been to 2 bridal shows, one at a local boutique was great, another at our city event center was a WASTE! Now I just have vendors emailing me and calling to tell me I have “won” things! I likely will not do any more of those, but I am glad I got the experience. I also have used etsy.com to get my Save the Dates going and I have created my bridesmaids gifts. PHEW! Needless to say, I am a go-getter and I have been busy. I am also a teacher, this is just how we roll! Plus, come 5 days and my life is dedicated to young minds!
      I have a suggestion to add–Start a wedding website. It is manageable to work on piece by piece until you are ready to publish and share with everyone else. It also helps you organize your thoughts and store everything in one place. I have also already completed my 3 registries and they are posted on my website. I used WEDDING WIRE and am very pleased. I do wish the page templates were more flexible and that design templates were color scheme customizable, but, its FREE!
      Also, upon engagement I bought a wedding planning book for me, my mom, and my MOH. It was a special treat I gave them as we celebrated over lunch and they have both jumped in feet first. I cannot express how much their excitement for my happenings has meant to me. I feel pretty lucky to have some AMAZING people in my life! The wedding planner I ended up buying had great checklists, budget ideas and an accordion file for papers, etc. attached to it. It is “The Ultimate Wedding Workbook & Organizer” by Elizabeth and Alex Lluch. If you can see past the bright pink, it really is great!
      I spent a lot of time, and continue to search stores and the internet for my color scheme. I have chosen coral and turquoise, to be most specific, “coral reef” and what I call “tiffany green”. Brushed gold and ivory will also be used!
      Things I still need to do—Find a florist, decide on band or dj and then find one, attend a few bridal gown searches, and a bridesmaids dress hunt, mail my save the dates, and finish the guest list for our engagement party! I’ll sleep when I die, but I do agree on the relax part! My fiance got me a massage for vday, and I just used it today…it helped me relax. However I will enjoy relaxing come next Feb. when I am not stressing and cramming!!
      I hope your heads aren’t spinning too fast! Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!
      Good Luck ladies!!

    11. Posted Sep 28 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Excellent advice – and as with so much of good advice…. its hard to follow. In dreaming about dresses, stopped to just try one or two on. Now i have the dress of my dreams. And damit – the rest of the wedding will just need to fall in place around it.

      Agree with no tossing/thigh biting/trinkets that are expensive and half are left at the table.

      This time I picked a venue first…. 1700-1800 women wore full skirts on boats – if they can do it, so can i. Venue dictates size, and to some extent food and time.

      This isn’t my first round with this so i’ll offer lessons I learned from the rearview mirror… they rather agree with the above!:
      1. Logical does not always mean its right.
      2. Pay attention to the details… (example a: didn’t see the cake toper in action and it looked like a floral volcanic eruption. example b: didn’t ask what the JP would be wearing cause he was a friend of the family. he arrived in a blue suit with american flag tie. Alzheimer’s was diagnosed shortly after. quite sad really)
      3. Don’t get talked into more than what you want!!! Have a vision- write it down/draw it/whatever- refer to it often because everyone and their cousin will have an opinion and its very very easy to get swayed. Then the day comes and you look around and wonder whose wedding you are at b/c its so different from what you initially wanted.
      4. It will NOT go as planned – just relax and enjoy what happens. Life rarely works out the way one imagines and its all quite good just the same.

    12. Ashley
      Posted May 16 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      I just got engaged this week! I’m so happy that I found your post. These tips are so great. I’m gong to try very hard to stick to these five for a while. Our wedding isn’t until next spring, so I should have plenty of time for more planning later. I think relaxing for a while is the best tip on that list. I’ve been thinking and talking wedding non-stop since Tuesday. Hopefully there are some relaxing days in my future! Thank you so much for the advice!

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