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Planning a Wedding: After the Engagement
Ready to Plan your Big Day?
Our progress from engagement to wedding
Nine Months and Earlier
Congratulations on your engagement! You are about to begin a wonderful journey with someone special! With a little effort and patience you can now begin to plan your big day and make it everything you have ever dreamed it would be!
Planning a wedding can be fun and stress-free but you need to be ready to ask for help. This is a big project you are undertaking and there is no reason to do it all alone!
Where to begin?
First things first, announce your engagement!
Let everyone know about this amazing milestone in your life. Many people still send their announcements into the local newspapers to help spread the word. Another way to announce your engagement is to send postcards with a picture of you and your fiance to your friends and family.
Determine the type of wedding you want to have
Ask yourself what size wedding you would like. Do you want a small, intimate gathering with your closest family and friends or would you prefer a large gathering with everyone you know invited? Remember, that you are going to be speaking in front of all these people and if that makes you nervous then smaller is better. However, if you want to be the center of attention and have everyone you know see you on your big day, then that is the way to go! Either way it is your day and it will be amazing.
Now what time of day do you think your wedding should be held at? An evening wedding with a fancy dinner and perhaps some candlelit dancing? Or afternoon wedding with cocktails by the pool and an amazing DJ? Or perhaps a morning wedding followed by brunch and mimosas.
Where would you like to get married? Do you see yourself in a church, a garden, or perhaps on a beach? Don't be afraid to do what you want, this day is to be an expression of who you and your future spouse are. If you want to have your vows in your backyard followed by a BBQ by the pool then do it!
What time of year would you like to get married? This often relies on your choice of venue. Obviously if you want a garden wedding with lots of flowers you can't get married in the middle of winter if the climate you live in doesn't permit that. Every climate has it's perfect wedding season. Where I live I don't think there is a bad season. Our spring and fall seasons are perfect for weddings being held outside while summer and winter are perfect for chapel weddings.
Determine your wedding budget
Now that you have decided how large of a gathering you want and a rough time frame you want to get married in, you can create a wedding budget. Call various venues and get a rough estimate of the cost per person. Call some florists and ask the average cost of a wedding. Decide what you need to include in your celebration and what is not as important. Is it more important to have all exotic flowers or to have the best DJ? Maybe having a great photographer and/or videographer is the most important thing to you. Decide what you must absolutely have and go from there.
Now that you have worked out your budget you can work on your guest list. You should create three guest lists to begin with. One should be friends that you and your fiance would like to invite. The other two lists should be made by your parents and your fiancé's parents. Be sure to tell them that this is a rough draft and that not everyone on these lists will be able to come due to costs. A very important thing to decide right away is if you will be having guests bring their children. If you are having a very formal affair you may want to leave the little ones at home. For our wedding we did not invite children under the age of 13, with the exception of the children in the wedding party. Do not be afraid to take this direction, many parents at our wedding commented on a having a nice childless evening with their spouse.
From these three lists you will break them into three categories, people who must be invited, people who should be invited, and people that it would be nice to invite. The first list should include close family and friends, people that you see rather frequently. The second list should include distant relatives, relatives you rarely see, friends you don't see too frequently. The third list should include coworkers, friends you haven't seen in a while and parents' coworkers.
Select the Ceremony and Reception Sites
Once you have decided how many people must be invited you can safely select ceremony and reception sites. If you must invite over a hundred people it makes no sense to fall in love with a venue where you can't have more than 75 guests. Some venues require a minimum head count and if you can't meet it then it would be silly to pay for a larger head count than you need. Besides that money can be used in other wedding details, like flowers or that amazing DJ! Be sure to sample the food at the reception site before you book it. You need to know what you're paying for and that it is worth every penny. Be aware of choices and things that you can upgrade or downgrade to allow you to stick to your budget.
Remember, if you don't like how they treat you on a tour then you won't how they treat you on the day of your wedding. Just because it's a fancy place and looks glamourous in pictures doesn't mean it's worth putting up with poor customer service.
Ask about wedding dates still available, due dates for payments and refund policies during your tour. After your tour send a follow-up email asking any questions you might have forgotten.
Choose a wedding date
Now that you have selected your venue you can pick your wedding day! It is important to pick your date after the venue in case the day you wanted isn't available. Once you have selected the wedding date, signed the contract and made your down payment you can begin to spread the word. If there is enough time and money in your wedding budget you can select and send save the date cards. Many people have started using wedding websites in place of this to keep their guests up to date. There are also digital save the date cards you can send for free. Just be sure to tell people that will need to travel as soon as possible so they can make the proper arrangements.
Select Officiant and reserve them for your wedding day
Now that you have picked your venue and date you can book your officiant. For some people this will be the easiest part of planning their wedding, they will simply choose a pastor/priest that they already know. For others it may be a little more involved, maybe you have moved recently or do not have an affiliation with a church or synagogue. No problem, there are several places online that you can find the perfect officiant for your wedding.
You can use various search engines like weddingofficiants.com. I also like the Journeys of the Heart, we even interviewed a woman from this site. They are very knowledgeable and come with a lot of information for you. If you don't know where to start they are a very good starting point!
Perhaps you know someone that you would like to have as your officiant but they are not ordained. No problem! Have them get ordained at the Universal Life Church! It only takes a few minutes and the website has a lot of resources for new ministers. It's a very simple process, I have been ordained since 2009!
The most important thing is that your officiant listens to you and knows what you want out of your wedding ceremony. Will they perform a hand fasting or the breaking of the glass ceremony? If they can not perform the ceremony you want then they are not the right officiant for you.
Select and book your photographer
Choosing your wedding photographer is a very important ordeal. The photographer you choose will create lasting memories of your big day. We were lucky because I went to high school with a woman who became a fabulous photographer. The pictures above were all taken by her. You can visit her website if you would like to see more of her work.
If you are not lucky enough to know a great photographer begin by asking around. You never know who may know the prefect photographer until you ask. Be sure to see samples of their work and read testimonies from clients. See what packages are offered and if there is any flexibility for the packages offered. If possible do a "trial run", ask the photographer to do an engagement shoot with you and your fiance`. This is a great way to see how they work and if the chemistry is right. Getting these pictures done should be fun and effortless, not uncomfortable in any way.
Remember to be mindful of your budget when it comes to your photographer. Some photographers want thousands of dollars and will restrict how you use the photos you buy from them. As with any vendor you hire, be sure to read contracts completely through and clarify any questions you may have after reading them.
Choose wedding colors
Choosing colors is probably one of the most important choices you can make about your wedding. The color scheme effects every single aspect of your wedding. What the bridesmaids wear, flowers, cake colors, center pieces, table cloths, napkins, the list goes on and on.
So how do you choose a color scheme? Choose a favorite color and go from there. My favorite color is blue and my engagement ring has sapphires in it so I went with a cobalt/sapphire blue. A few months before the wedding we decided to do a Scottish wedding and, lucky for us, my mother-in-law's clan tartan had that very blue in it! You can read more about how we planned our wedding here.
Things to keep in mind relating to color scheme:
What time of year is it? While red and green would be a little out of place for a summer wedding they would be wonderful for a December holiday wedding. If you add in orange or yellow you could create a lovely fall palette for your wedding.You could also lighten or darken the shades of your chosen colors to reflect the time of year. Pink and a light green make for a beautiful spring wedding.
What time of day is the ceremony? A black and white wedding is charming at night but may seem a little out of place in the earlier hours of the day.
Still can't narrow down that perfect palette? Pull out a color wheel and look at various shades and how they look next to each other. Go to a local paint store and look at paint chips.
Select your wedding attire
A wedding dress sets the tone of the wedding. Are you having a traditional wedding or a backyard bash? Knowing these things you can pick the length and cut of your dress. Do you want your wedding colors in your dress? Are you wearing one dress the entire evening or are you planning on changing into a reception dress? Do you want a designer dress or something unique and handmade?
Watch some wedding shows, I was addicted to Say Yes to the Dress, and learn what styles are out there. Be brave and try lots of dresses on! I found out that my dream dress was not the dress I thought I wanted but it definitely was the perfect dress for me.
Also remember to check out wedding magazines. They are amazing resources, some venues will even give certain magazines out for free when you visit.
Select bridesmaids and groomsmen
Choosing your attendants ahead this early is important for several reasons. Being in a wedding requires a lot of time and effort. Letting these people know they will be a part of your big day will give them plenty of time to make any arrangements necessary to be there. If they need to travel to reach the wedding location they will have time to plan their trip. They will also need to be able to pay for their attire and will be able to make plans accordingly.
Do not feel obligated to have everyone involved as an attendant. The larger the bridal party the harder it will be to coordinate everyone. We had three attendants each, a flower girl and two ring bearers. Everyone got along and had a great time. Be sure to pick people who mean something to you and your fiance`, don't pick people just because they want to be a part of your day. Just because they aren't in the bridal party doesn't mean they won't have a good time at your wedding.
Well now you have a good idea of where to start. There are nine months to go! Don't worry you'll be fine! Remember to relax and have fun. Any time you are stuck for an idea do what I did, visit theknot.com. They have many pictures and articles to help you plan your big day! Be sure to read my other hubs on planning your wedding as I add them on. Also be sure to read the next hub that covers your next timeline. Good luck!