OMG You’re engaged!!!!! Take a breath and let that set in…
(This is exciting – remember to breathe!)
Ok, now what?
Once you’ve told everyone who matters, whether it’s just a phone call to Dad or posting the ultimate ring selfie… it’s time to take a deep breath and dip your toe into the planning waters.
That said, please don’t feel like you have to “jump in” right away. Everyone has their own pace of planning their wedding. Enjoy the excitement and new-ness of JUST being engaged.
It’s ok to just daydream a bit, brainstorm, talk about “what ifs”. Maybe even make this a fun game with your partner! Or at least a romantic dinner out (or in!) to dream about all of the fun and crazy things to come.
Take it from me. In 2018, I got engaged and had an entire wedding in Bali planned in my head within a few days… only to realize later just how far away Bali is?! (And I’m a WEDDING PLANNER!) Yeah. Whoops. But still… fun to think about!
During this time of “enjoying your engagement”, don’t be surprised if you get a lot of unsolicited advice or questions about your big day.
If people start to get all up in your business and you’d prefer they social distance their thoughts about YOUR wedding, I recommend listening to Episode 77 of the Put A Ring On It podcast: How to Set Boundaries While Planning Your Wedding with Berlyn Martin.
Back to the fun stuff… PLANNING!
Step One: Determine your priorities
Daydreaming is not just for 6th graders thinking about seeing their boo at lunch after 3rd period. (If that was you, you are more than prepared for this moment)
Your first step when you’re ready to start planning your wedding is to discuss EACH of your priorities with your partner. (All that dreaming and scheming will be helpful here)
Knowing what you think you want, may want to look into, and what you don’t want is going to show you what type of event you want to host for your guests.
Through your discussion, you’ll learn two key things…
- What matters to you, might not matter to your partner.
- What doesn’t matter that much to you, might mean a WHOLE LOT to your partner.
Here’s the thing: Everyone’s definition of a “good time” is different. I’m challenging you to get clarity on what that means to each of you.
Is that great food and conversation? A chill night around a fire pit? A raging dance party? All 3?
Don’t worry too much about what’s traditional or what you should/shouldn’t do at a wedding. Yep, I said it. If tradition is important to you, then that’s wonderful. But if it’s not, I give you full permission to DO YOUR OWN THING and create an experience that you know your guests, you, and your partner will enjoy.
Step Two: Talk with all contributing parties about the BUDGET
Oh, The dreaded B-word! Did the tension in the room just elevate? Are your palms sweating? #guilty
I know that MONEY can be an uncomfortable conversation to have. But I have some tips for you when bringing this up with those who are contributing financially to your wedding.
- Use friendly words like: “financial comfort zone”. Maybe the “B” word is a little too harsh for some ears. You catch more flies with honey, right?
- Don’t assume. Oftentimes we assume in order to avoid having the conversation, but this never ends well – just ask Chrissy Snow from Three’s Company.
- If your parents offer to contribute, do your best to get a clear number (if you can) or a general ballpark of their “financial comfort zone”
- EVERYONE has a budget – even the Kardashians. Don’t accept the answer of “there is no budget” or “don’t worry about it”. That grey area makes for a very difficult place to make decisions.
Once you have your budget determined, you don’t have to whip out an entire itemized spreadsheet just yet (though if that’s your jam, by all means). But it’s a good starting point to see how many guests you can host (and want to host).
Because the next thing you’re going to do is…
Step Three: Build your guest list
Spoiler Alert: Your guest list is the #1 biggest contributing factor to your budget.
The higher your list number, the more you have to spread out your budget. The lower the number, the more you’ll be able to do with it. (Also why I secretly – ok, not so secretly – love Microweddings)Your guest list will also be a BIG factor in which venue will and won’t work for you.
Pro Tip: Please DO NOT secure a venue that holds much fewer guests than you have on your list. It’s not highly likely that all 100% of your list will come, but lists tend to grow and you don’t want to invite more than you can accommodate.
When it comes to people in your life who are contributing to the budget, it’s CRITICAL to know at this stage who they are expecting will receive an invitation. This may seem odd. I mean, I get it. It’s your wedding! But back to our tips above, assuming almost always causes tension and nobody needs that.
Step Four: Talk with a wedding planner
If you’re going to work with a full-on planner, hire them VERY early on. This means help right at the start which is crucial for you and your sanity (though you can hire most at any stage throughout the planning process).
A great planner will help you find the perfect venue in the same way a real estate agent helps you find a home. Yes, you can google until you’re blue in the face if that’s your thing. But not every venue is listed on popular wedding resource sites like The Knot. There are some amazing hidden gems out there and a planner is going to know the ins and outs of each one.
Online photos and reviews on websites can be VERY deceiving – another plus to having a planner with the inside dirt!
If you’re getting married in the Lehigh Valley, Bucks/Mont, or Philly area — I know a great planner who can really help you nail this step! ;)
Step Five: Choose your venue and wedding date
This is one of the more fun steps in my opinion! Start gathering a list of places you want to visit (again, having a planner for this stage helps a lot), schedule tours, and have fun looking at venues!
If you have a specific date or season in mind, the earlier you book it with the venue, the higher likelihood they have availability.
Pro Tip: For couples looking to get married in 2021, keep in mind that 2020 was a CRAZY year for weddings and many 2020 couples postponed to 2021. Availability is MUCH MORE limited for 2021 than it would have normally been.
We did some podcast episodes that I highly recommend listening to BEFORE you have your first venue tour so you know what to ask, spot any red flags, and know what to keep an eye out for:
Your venue ultimately determines your date because you have to work around their availability, or if there is a date you aren’t willing to budge on, your options could be limited.
Another Pro Tip: I don’t recommend booking any vendors “officially” until your venue and date are secured.
From there, you’re off and running, ready to dive into…
Building a wedding website, sending save the dates (which you want to include your wedding website link on), and of course, hiring your coordinator, photographer, and your other vendors. YEP. This is where it starts to feel real!!
Final Pro Tip: If you’re not working with a full-on planner, it’s still best to hire your coordinator early ESPECIALLY if they offer recommendations and guidance throughout the process
Last, but not least, one of the best ways you can kick start your planning is by listening to the Put A Ring On It Podcast!
We put out new episodes every other Tuesday in 12-episode seasons. We’re heading towards the end of Season 8 BUT we have over 90 episodes that you can go back and listen to any time you want. They’re all free and ready for you when you need them.
And if you like what you hear and want to get more tailored help and attention with figuring out ALL THE THINGS, head over to our Patreon and become a member! Joining the Ringer Club gets you exclusive access and a ton of helpful tools to guide you on your wedding planning journey.
LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE HERE: