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You’re Engaged, Now What? 10 Steps to Start the Planning Process!

He’s proposed. She’s said yes. And now you’re engaged! The big question, then, is what to do next? Or perhaps, better phrased, what to do first?

Out of the myriad of details that go into preparing for your nuptials, here are the first 10 steps you must take—at least loosely in this order:

Step1: Decide on the date - What will get the entire ball rolling is setting the exact date of your wedding. This will determine the pace and timing of all the other preparations, in terms of what season of the year it falls within, which family members and friends will be able to attend, and just generally how much time you have to get everything ready!

Step 2: Book the venue - If you’re eyeing a popular wedding venue in your locale, it’s best to reserve the place as much as a year in advance to be sure you get your preferred date. The same is true if you’re planning on using a garden or hall on someone’s property (including that of a family member), as there may also be issues of availability, repairs or renovations to be done, etc. It always pays to inquire early, so you have time to explore alternative locations if your first choice is already taken.

Step 3: Hire a wedding planner/organizer - You may still be undecided about whether you actually need or want a professional planner or organizer. But at the very least, contact a few (preferably recommended by couples you know) to learn about the range of services they offer and the costs involved. Most planners provide an array of packages—all the way from “the works” (meaning from scratch to the Big Day) to just a “day of” arrangement (meaning just on the actual wedding day). What may seem like an added expense is actually a huge help in shifting much of the pre-wedding burdens off your shoulders. So do consider it. But planners are much in demand, so set your appointments and make a decision early!

Step 4: Select and order the rings - Of all the elements in your nuptials, your wedding bands are perhaps the most meaningful and personal, since they’ll be daily reminders of your vows for the rest of your lives! Give them priority, then, by allowing lots of time to browse for ring designs on the web, in magazines, and in jewelry stores. Clearly, if you opt for a design that needs customizing, even more lead time is needed.

Step 5: Decide on your attire - It’s never too early either to start thinking about the all-important bridal gown and groom’s tux! Will you buy off the rack? Will you have your ensembles specially designed and sewn? Will you go with a classic style, or something non-traditional, edgy, or even avant-garde? If your wedding theme will be quite distinct, would you like your attire to be in sync with that motif? All these issues need to be addressed early on, since you’re likely to change your mind several times—seeing all the attractive options out there for both brides and grooms!

Step 6: Choose your wedding theme and color palette - With or without the help of a wedding planner, start narrowing down your choice of theme and color motif as soon as possible. As most couples will tell you, this process can sometimes take months of back and forth discussions before you decide. Plus, your wedding theme and color palette choice influences all the succeeding wedding components—from the invitations, to the flowers, to the ceremony and reception decor, to the guest favors, even to the wedding attire (as you saw in Step 5). Do note that you don't have to incorporate a theme as long as you know what the color palette should be and then base the decor on the seasonality of your event.

Step 7: Inform the members of your wedding party - Once you’ve got the date and venue down pat, you may now begin contacting the special people in your wedding entourage. If some happen to live out of state or even overseas, this allows you to see who will really be available to grace the ceremony. This is also when you can decide on the number of bridesmaids and flower girls you’ll have

Step 8: Design and have your wedding invitations printed - Start with your save-the-date announcements and send these out (via combined electronic and “snail mail” means) about 3 months before the wedding date.

At the same time, visit the social printer of your choice and order your wedding invites. Again, the range of designs is immense, as is the number and variety of possible inserts. (See our related article on How to Save on Your Wedding Invitations.) So allow lots of time for the selection process, as well as the actual printing. Finally, the envelopes need to be addressed and the invites mailed out. The target mailing date? Ideally, 2 months before the actual wedding—to allow for guests to RSVP and for you to make any last-minute adjustments in the reception arrangements as the number of expected guests firms up.

Step 9: Decide on and contract your wedding suppliers - Here comes the nitty-gritty of the wedding ceremony and reception. This is the point, too, when you’ll probably be so thankful for your wedding planner!

You’ll need to meet (likely several times) with the following wedding vendors over the remaining months to pinpoint exactly what each one of them will do for you. And here is where you’ll see how critical your early decision about the theme and color palette was, since all these suppliers will take their cue from there.

● wedding stylist/decorator
● florist
● cake designer
● caterer (if not in-house at your venue)
● party favor vendor
● photographer / videographer
● musicians, singers, DJ

Step 10: Book your honeymoon travel arrangements and accommodations - Don’t forget the honeymoon! In fact, considering that this will entail bookings for travel and a hotel or resort, you may need to bump this up to somewhere between Step 4 and 5 above to ensure you have your dream honeymoon!

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