If this is your first time reading this blog, then you probably got engaged over the holidays. If so, congratulations! Now that you are back at work, you might be sneaking a peek at all things weddings when no one is looking (don’t worry, I won’t tell).
But now that the excitement and newness has worn off (just a little) you might be wondering what to do next. You can find official sounding countdowns on what to do and when to do it on just about any wedding website – but they can be so full of to-do’s that they can be intimidating! Here are 15 things I think you should do within the first 3 months of your planning process – sooner if you are planning a short engagement.
1. Set a TENTATIVE date as soon as possible. Tentative? Why? Because probably one of your toughest tasks/decisions will be finding a venue. And being flexible (we are hoping to get married in the spring 2013) rather than steadfast (it must be April 24, 2013) can be a huge help. Especially if the venue of your dreams isn’t available on your exact date.
2. Hire a Day of Coordinator or Wedding Planner. Booking a DoC or WP early in your planning process will help you save the most in the long run (though admittedly having a firm date will help – and is okay if you don’t know where you want to get married). And for the busy working bride, having someone who you can discuss your dream wedding plans with can really help in the selection process – so you can steer clear of the perfect shabby chic venue when you are really looking for an elegant country club atmosphere. Or vice versa.
3. Set a budget. It is important to set reasonable expectations of what you can afford for your wedding day – and stick to it!
4. Start a guest list. It doesn’t have to be your final count but you need to have a solid idea of how many guests you can expect. You don’t want to try to squeeze 150 people in a venue that maxes out at 100. And don’t forget dates or kids – you don’t have to allow them but don’t forget to account for them if you are okay with them. Now is a great time to determine your wedding party – you will need bridesmaids, Maid and/or Matron of Honor, Best Man, and groomsmen. And you can easily add ring bearer(s), flower girl(s), junior attendants and ushers if needed. Be sure to include them in your headcount!
5/6. Book your venue/Buy your gown. If you know EXACTLY the type of venue you want then you need to find it now. Not sure what type of venue you want but know EXACTLY the gown? Then buy your gown first. One will dictate the other to a certain extent so figure out which is most important to you and do that next. Then the other.
7. Set your date. Now that you have your venue locked down you have your date – and you can start telling everyone you love. If you will be getting married during a holiday or it is a destination wedding for you or the majority of your guests, then you should send out Save the Dates.
8. Stationary. I don’t think all of your nuptial stationary needs have to match but they should coordinate well. They should tell a story and give your guests an idea of what to expect on your wedding day. Save the Dates should go out at least 6 months prior to your wedding with the invitations being mailed 4-6 weeks in advance. Don’t forget about response cards, menus, programs, and thank you cards.
9. Find someone to marry you (other than your groom). If you aren’t getting married in a church, then odds are you need an officiant. Though some officiants won’t book too far out, others will book a year in advance. And finding the perfect fit for you is essential – don’t settle for someone you aren’t 100% comfortable with on your wedding day.
10. Find a photographer. You can’t spend months planning your dream wedding and have it preserved by Uncle Bob’s shaky camera. Do your research and find the right photographer for you. I always say, love your professionals – and this can’t be more true than with your photographer. This person will be your shadow ALL DAY. So if you don’t really like him/her, your pictures will show it. And please do an engagement session. It doesn’t have to be cheesy but it is important for you and your beloved to become comfortable in front of the camera – and for your photographer to know which angles work best for you. Making your wedding day photos that much more beautiful and memorable.
11. Food and drinks. If your venue doesn’t include one, you need to find a caterer. While you’re at it, try to find a caterer that can handle your beverage needs as well. And you can’t forget your cake! Have fun and make sure you taste a lot!
12. Music. Determine the type of music you want for your ceremony and the feel you want for your reception. Whether you want a string quartet, a full band or a DJ make sure you allow plenty of time to find the right fit.
13. Stop and smell the roses…or any other type of flower. Though you certainly don’t have to have traditional bouquets, most brides use flowers in some capacity. And if you are one of those brides, be sure to find the best florist within your budget.
14. The finishing touches. And by that I mean your rental items (chairs, tables, linens), lighting/draping (any room can be completely transformed with the proper lighting and draping – but this isn’t essential), and decorations (be they floral or otherwise).
15. Dress your party. Now that you have your venue and gown and have determined the style of your wedding it is time to start looking for dresses for your bridal party. Then you can determine how you want the men to dress – you don’t want them to be in tuxedos if your bridesmaids are dressed casually – and you don’t want them to be too casual if the ladies are in very formal dresses.