Not long ago, we talked about what to do when you first get engaged. Based on those tips, hopefully you have made some decisions about your budget, invite list, and where and how you want to get married.
This blog post will help guide you through next steps of planning, including what is a priority versus what can wait a while.
Finalize Your Guest List
It may be tempting to put this off until later, but it’s important to have a thorough guest list before deciding on a venue. Why? Because you need to make sure your venue can hold all your guests!
You and your fiancé should write out your list of family and friends who should be there (I recommend making a digital, easy to share list using Google Sheets). It helps to share the list with your parents to make sure you didn’t forget any relatives. Plus, they may be able to help you collect addresses for everyone.
Don’t forget to account for dates and children that may be invited to get a total count of how many guests you are inviting.
Location, Location, Location
The venue (and date) sets the tone for your wedding day and really plays a big part in all the other details you will plan for your wedding, so it’s a good idea to lock in a location first.
Some couples only need one location to cover all of their wedding events, but many need to coordinate separate venues for ceremony and reception. You will want to make sure both locations have your date available before signing a contract with either one.
The first question most venues will ask is how many guests you will have – that’s why we finished our guest list first! A good rule of thumb is that 10-20% of those you invite will decline your invitation, so that should give you an accurate range for your guest count. Some other things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you know about any hidden costs that may pop up later – ask your venue exactly what they cover and what costs you should expect to pay.
- Minimums, maximums, and guarantees – discuss what happens if your guest count changes and how that affects what you pay.
- Food is often the most expensive component of a wedding. Does your venue have their own catering? If not, they should recommend catering companies who work well in their space.
A few key vendors are important to lock in right away. A good way to decide if you should book now or wait is to decide if that vendor can book more than one wedding per day. For example, your bakery and florist probably have several weddings in one day, while your officiant and photographer can only be in one place at a time.
Photographers, videographers, officiants, and musicians can book up early and have limited availability, so they are the ones you want to book right away. This is especially true if you have a specific style or vision for your photos and music. The most popular bands, DJs, and photographers can be in high demand, so don’t wait to reach out to your favorites.
It’s All About the Dress
The wedding dress may be the one item that needs the longest lead-time to be ready for your big day. In most bridal salons, your dress will take 7-10 months to come in after you order it. After that, you should allow for at least 1 month for alterations to be made.
Don’t have that much time? That’s okay! Make sure your stylist knows your wedding date so they can help you find a gown that can be ready by your big day. You may need to choose a sample dress that’s for sale, or they may have some designers who can rush the dress for you.
Don’t worry, this shopping trip won’t cost you a penny!
It’s never too early to start a wedding registry. You can go into a store like Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, or Pottery Barn and scan away, or browse from the comfort of your couch from online registries like Amazon, Zola, or Wayfair. So many stores offer wedding registries, so choose one or two of your favorites and find all those items you’ve always wanted to complete your household.
Already have everything you need? Sites like Honeyfund allow you to ask for cash gifts that go towards your honeymoon, house, or anything else you need.
It’s a good idea to have a mix of items on your registry in terms of price and function. Etiquette dictates that you should register for 3-4 items per guest attending your wedding, and you should register within a few months of getting engaged.
Some Things Can Wait
Once you lock in the key details, most other things can wait until 4-6 months before your wedding day. Your rental company, favors, bakery, florist, bridesmaids dresses, and invites can often be booked and organized on short time frames.
Soon, you will want to finalize your wedding party and let people know about your plans, but for now you can take a break and bask in your engagement glow!