by Celia Mulder
The other night I was out celebrating one of my friend's engagements. Her now fiancee popped the question on New Year's but it took us a few weeks for our schedules to sync up and allow us to get together. I was, of course, beyond excited for her. This engagement was a long time coming and it was finally here! We toasted champagne and oohed over her sparkly diamond.
Once the excitement calmed down (a bit), she fixed me with a serious look and said, "But, what do I do now?"
I knew what she meant. Now that she was engaged, how does one go about planning the actual wedding? What are the first steps? It's a common assumption that engaged couples start by picking a date but there are actually a few couple of decisions to make first. As I talked this through with my friend, I came up with this handy little list of the things do to before setting a date .
1. Celebrate! A lot. Call your parents, go out with your friends, make sure Grandma knows. Bask in the excitement because the next months of planning are going to be busy.
2. Sit down with your fiancee and decide what both of your must haves are for your wedding. Do you absolutely want to get married in the spring? Have you always dreamed of a beach ceremony? Or a huge cathedral wedding with everyone you know? Is it important to your fiancee that you get married near their family cottage or in their hometown? This will help you determine if a certain place or season is important to one or both of you and help you get an idea of where and when you have your wedding.
3. Determine your budget. Before you start looking at fairy tale venues with huge rental fees, figure out a budget that works for you both. Are your families contributing? How much? It's an awkward conversation to have but an important one to do early on. Your budget determines everything from your dress to your vendors, even to the time of year you get married (some venues have off season wedding discounts). You need to know if mom and dad are pitching in or if you'll be footing the bill.
4. Figure out a guest count. You don't have to know exactly who's getting an invite but a rough idea of how many guests you'll have will greatly influence your venue options. Most venues (particularly indoor venues with limited space) have a max number of people they can fit and going over that number can make for a squished, uncomfortable experience for your guests.
5. If you're going to hire a full-coordination wedding planner, this is the time to do it. You have an idea of when and where you want to get married, what your budget is, and how many people you're inviting. Wedding planners can take this information and help you find the perfect venue to fit your requirements and vision.
6. If you don't hire a wedding planner, now is the time to start looking for venues. Remember to have a couple of dates in mind, even if you're looking a year in advance. Venues, especially popular ones, book far in advance and your first choice may be taken. Also remember to bring along your list of must haves and ask lots of questions about what the venue does or doesn't allow. Maybe you want to have a cigar bar but one of your potential venues has a no smoking policy. You'd want to know that before you hire someone to handroll cigars at the reception.
Congratulations on your engagement! I hope this list helps you transition smoothly from the "I'm getting married! What do I do?" phase into the planning phase.
Celia Mulder is the editorial director for Simply Blue Weddings and an event coordinator with Sincerely, Ginger Event Design & Production. When she is not immersing herself in weddings she writes comedy romance novels, makes terrariums, and works on her multitude of creative projects. She loves the moment at a wedding when the bride first sees her vision come to life.