I’m Engaged where do i start
You are about to embark on one of the most exciting journeys of your life. You’ve called your family and friends, posted the ring selfie, and are drunk in love! Take time to soak up all the feels and get ready to start planning the day of your dreams.
With so many elements involved in wedding planning you are likely thinking, “where do I begin?” I have created this Wedding Planning Checklist (which you can download for free) to help guide your process
Once you’ve shared your news you will inevitably be on the receiving end of a lot of well-intentioned advice about EVERYTHING wedding. It can be extremely overwhelming and feel like a lot of pressure, but you must remember one thing.
Your wedding is about YOU.
Maybe you are not big on flowers, maybe you think the garter toss is a tradition you definitely don’t want to follow. Hell, maybe you ain’t big on a big white wedding and that’s all OK! Think about your values and your vision and make authentic decisions based on your love story. If you want to climb a mountain and elope with it just being the two of you and your officiant, DO THAT!
Your wedding day isn’t a day for compromise. There were decisions I made that were influenced by others and, when looking back, those are the parts of my day that I would now change.
Don’t be afraid to keep searching for that dream bouquet, or pair of shoes, you’ll know them when you see them. When talking to your service providers, ask yourself if they truly understand your vision and if there’s a natural flow of communication.
This will be a day that you look back on for the rest of your life and choosing the right people to work with, and share that day with you, can make all the difference, not to mention life-long friends.
When it comes to the perfect venue, colour scheme, and all the various vendors, wedding planning can feel more overwhelming than enjoyable. That’s why I created a downloadable Wedding Planning Checklist to help guide you through the planning process with a 12-month timeline. Don’t stress if you have less time, this is just a guide.
Also, you are by no means required to check off everything on this list, if you don’t want to do it just score it off and watch your list get shorter!
If you feel stuck and that planning is taking over your life, hire a wedding planner, they have a wealth of knowledge that can really relieve some of the stress!
With that being said, let’s run through what to expect when you start planning your wedding.
1. 9-12 months before
The first thing you will need to do is set a budget, whether you are paying for the wedding yourself or your parents have offered to pay, knowing how much you have to work with will not only narrow your search but also help you decide on what to prioritise.
Don’t forget to allow for unexpected expenses.
Now the fun starts.
I’m engaged where do I start? 9-12 Months Before: First Steps
Start a Pinterest board or wedding folder and gather your inspiration. Maybe you already have your dream wedding planned, or maybe it’s something you haven’t given much thought to before. Keeping track of the decor, colours and dresses that inspire you will allow you to see patterns emerge, or maybe your ideas about the perfect wedding day change. You will be surprised!
You must also think about your wedding party. Who are the people, or person, that will support you throughout your planning process and on your big day? Remember, these will be the people that keep you calm, make you smile in the craziness, and celebrate with you the hardest. Whether that is family or friends only you can decide!
Then comes the task of deciding who to invite. The size of your guest list will be determined by both your budget and the venue. This is why it is so important to know how much money you are willing to spend on each element of your day. Maybe your ideal venue has a limited capacity, or while you are keen to have a more intimate ceremony your partner would like to invite their entire extended family. Time to grab a pen, paper, and maybe some wine, sit with your partner and jot down an approximate number.
When it comes to your officiant the type of ceremony you are looking to have will be the crux of your decision. Are you looking to have a traditional, religious ceremony? A humanist ceremony? Destination wedding? Make sure to take the time to really think about how you want to be married and the type of officiant that will support and value your beliefs.
Research. Your. Vendors. Look at your Pinterest board or wedding folder. Who are the vendors in your area that have a similar vision? With your venue booked you can reach out and ask if they have recommendations of vendors they have worked with before. Thorough research is vital. You want to ensure that your vision and your vendor’s style align, as trying to force a style on a particular vendor will only result in disappointment on your end, and leave your vendor feeling like you don’t trust their expertise enough to do a good job.
You’ve researched your venue options, made a rough guest list, and know the type of ceremony you want to have. Now it’s time to set the date and book your venue! First major milestone ✔
2. 8 Months Before
Your venue will be the first and foremost thing you secure before starting to plan your wedding in full swing, the reason for this is to make sure they have the date available that you chose and if not, figure out what the new date will be so you can plan everything else from there.
But why is it important that you book your Photographer & Videographer before you book any other vendors?
I’m engaged where do I start? 8 Months Before: What to secure first
Your photographer is definitely the most important investment of your wedding day and also one of the things that you know you are definitely going to book. Most Photographers and Videographers are booked extremely far in advance, some of my clients have booked me up to 18 months before the wedding. And if you know exactly who you want to have as your dream photographer, you need to secure them before someone else snatches them up.
The next big bookings are music and catering. If your venue does not do the catering themselves, you can always ask them if they have recommendations of vendors they have worked with in the past to give you a starting point and you also know that they are familiar with the venue itself.
When deciding on your music there are two options: live band or DJ. Both have their pros and cons. Again, your budget will help guide you here. A live band will cost more than a DJ but you then cater for all guests by providing entertainment for those less inclined to get down on the dance floor. Depending on the theme of your wedding a live band can really tie everything together. Conversely, a DJ is cheaper and can allow for last-minute requests more easily from guests. Plus you know that any music requests can be dealt with at the touch of a button.
Time to check in with each other. Plan a date night and talk through your love story. What are the songs that define your journey? Was there a background song on your first date that still gives you goosebumps now? Are you more bluesy nights by the fire, or karaoke ballads on Friday nights? Or maybe there’s some local talent that you just know is the perfect match. The music that defines you as an individual, and you together as a couple, should be the driver of your choice of music for your wedding day.
Your wedding reception will be the first meal that you share as a married couple, and it should be perfect as a large chunk of your budget will likely go towards catering. Start researching caterers in the local area. Look through Pinterest, ask for recommendations and make sure you are reading reviews of any prospective catering companies. Think about the type of food you’d like to offer, are you going for formal, seated dining or buffet-style? Do you want to recreate dishes that are special to you as a couple? Are there any allergies to account for? Maybe vegan/vegetarian options for certain guests? When sourcing your caterer for your reception ensure that you have a list of questions regarding your expectations and that you feel comfortable with their answers.
Communication is key! Try to narrow your options down to 2 to 3 companies and get down to tasting!
If you need a little guidance on how to find the perfect photographer check out my post on How to Find Your Dream Wedding Photographer
SAY YES to the dress
There are so many wedding dress styles and it will likely be the most expensive item of clothing you have ever owned!
You may have been dreaming of your wedding dress for as long as you remember and know exactly what you want down to the last detail. However, it is worthwhile being open to new ideas. When it comes to trying on different wedding dresses you may find that the shape and silhouette doesn’t quite match the look you are going for.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Think about your theme, is it bohemian, fairytale, 1920’s glamour? One gem of advice that I wish I had known before wedding dress shopping is to focus on designers that you like over boutiques. Look for inspiration and note the designers that you really like, then find boutiques near you that carry their lines. You want your wedding dress to make you feel like the best version of yourself so don’t rush to choose. Don’t buy a dress you have to talk yourself into, when you find the right dress you will be immediately be smitten. So, gather your squad and get ready for a day…or days on the town trying on as many gowns as you need to find your perfect match OR find your dream design and turn to a dress maker that can create exactly that!
Accommodation. Yes, that comes down to you, in part. Many people will travel far to celebrate with you on your wedding day. Once you have secured your venue and your venue does not offer accommodation for guests, you’ll want to speak with nearby hotels to book blocks of rooms. Generally, hotels will be happy to work with you and can usually provide a discount for larger bookings. If you are unsure where to start speak with your venue and ask for their recommendations.
Time to start thinking about your wedding registry. A wedding registry is a curated list of gifts that helps to guide your guests and allows for those unable to attend to contribute to your journey into married life. Your wedding registry allows you to create a wish list that will help you and your spouse set off on the right foot. Alternatively, maybe you would prefer contributions towards your dream honeymoon or would like guests to donate to a charitable cause. The options are endless and they are all yours.
3. 6-7 Months Before
You are at the halfway mark and have made the major decisions that will impact your wedding day! Breathe a sigh of relief and know that you are doing great! So what now?
I’m engaged where do I start? 6-7 Months Before: Inviting the ones you love
Wedding invitations! You can choose to go DIY or you can book a designer. Maybe your budget means that you will be designing your own, luckily for you, there are so many online templates to help guide you. However, using a designer can really elevate your invitations by providing you with an invitation suite that can include different elements (vintage stamps, calligraphy, map of the day) which can be used for photos on the day. Everything comes back to your theme and your budget, and what works best for you. Remember this will be your guests’ first peek into your wedding day.
You can also decide to keep it green, and send out paperless invitations online or make use of a wedding website.
Need a break from all the planning? Feeling overwhelmed with all the decisions?
Time to focus on the honeymoon!
Start researching your dream honeymoon. Book some time with your future spouse and start looking at faraway lands, or places in your own backyard that you have been longing to see. Your honeymoon should be the BEST vacation of your life. Once you have discussed the details consider using a travel agent to help make your dream a reality, they have the business connection and local knowledge to turn an amazing honeymoon into an epic one!
FYI you do not have to leave for your honeymoon immediately. A lot of couples choose to delay their honeymoon for various reasons – season at the destination, work commitments etc. If you do plan on delaying your honeymoon, consider a post-wedding weekend away to allow for you to really relax and enjoy each others’ company after such a monumental day!
Now back to planning…
You’ve said YES! to the dress but what about your bridesmaids. Now that you know the season, your venue and have your own perfect dress, it’s time to pick out the dresses for your bridal party. Check-in with your girls, share your ideas with them and get their feedback, after all, you want your besties to feel happy and comfortable as well! Discuss colours and budget constraints. These days it is much less important to have everyone wearing the same dress. A great way to relieve stress and allow for everyone to feel comfortable is to give your bride squad a colour scheme and allow them to pick out their own dresses. That way everyone can work within their own budgets and wear what is comfortable for them.
It’s time to make it official!
Send your Save The Dates. This is especially important for those traveling from out of town, you can even give more time if you are having a destination wedding. Remember to include the date, time and location. Remember to be clear on who is being invited or you might end up with a few extra guests on the day.
Your florals will add that “Piece de Resistance” to both your wedding attire and your venue. Even the most accomplished florist isn’t a mind reader so take your inspirations with you and give as many extra details as you can about the venue and the vibe you are going for. Be prepared for minor changes and suggestions. Flowers are generally seasonal, and if you are looking for something out of season be prepared to spend a bit more!
Arriving in style?
This may be important to some and not important at all to others. How are you planning on getting to your ceremony? And your bridal party? There are so many options from vintage cars, horse and carriage, buses and bikes. Consider your dress, what the weather is most likely to be doing in that season, and access roads to your venue. Do you have a large bridal party that needs to travel together? Make a list of vital considerations and reach out to different vendors for quotes.
4. 4-5 Months Before
This is where you want to book your rehearsal and rehearsal-dinner venue, a small milestone that really helps alleviate the pressure.
Did you know you can have your cake and eat it too?! Especially on your wedding day!
I’m engaged where do I start? 4-5 Months Before: Cake, Make-up & Music
Now is the perfect time to start finalising your wedding cake. Take the time to consider your theme, the size of your venue, and roughly how many guests you are expecting. The cost of a wedding cake is generally determined by the number of servings and complexity of the design. Handcrafted sugar flowers will greatly increase the cost of your cake so consider alternative options such as using real flowers. Research the bakers in your area and find those that match with your aesthetic. Request your tasting. Most bakers will provide a tasting for a small fee that is deductible from the final order. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with flavours but be sure to confirm upfront any additional costs for premium flavours.
Looking and feeling your best is paramount on your wedding day! As with all your other vendors, you must do your research for your hair and make-up artist. You have picked the dress that makes you feel a million bucks so the rest must match! Make sure to take a mood board or examples with you to your consultation, and be clear about what you want and what you don’t want. There’s no sense in agreeing to a look that seems close enough as any doubt will show up on your wedding day and through your photos. Doing a trial for your Engagement photos is the perfect opportunity to see whether you like the look and the way it shows up on photographs.
Last but not least, put together your playlists. Those songs you set over dinner and reminisced over, write them down, give them some structure. Try to make a final decision on your song for walking down the aisle, leaving your ceremony, and your first dance.
5. 3 Months Before
Almost there! Can you feel the anticipation building?
Things are getting very real and now you are on the final part of your journey to your dream wedding! Time for finalisations.
I’m engaged where do I start? 3 Months Before: If you like, put a ring on it!
How are you commemorating your wedding with your guests? Think about your love story, chat with your partner, is there something that you can give as a wedding favor that people will instantly associate with you as a couple? Are you both crazy for spicy food? Have a sweet tooth? Highly involved in charity work? Don’t stress over your favours, keep it simple and keep it authentic to you.
Choose the readings and readers you would like at your wedding. What verses/poems, or songs represent you and your partner? And who do you entrust to take this role on for your big day?
Finally, BUY YOUR RINGS!
These bands will signify your bond and vow to one another for the rest of your life. Have a fun day out with your partner and try on all the rings! You deserve a break and a treat after all your hard work 😉
6. 2 Months Before
Time to check in with your vendors and ensure that everything is on track and iron out any last-minute wrinkles.
I’m engaged where do I start? 2 Months Before: The Nitty Grittys
Create a family formals grouping list. This means specifying who is in each group of family photos – by name. For example, “brides immediate family (Betty, Mark & Josh)”. This will save your photographer from running around looking for “Josh’s grandma on his mother’s side”. It’s also important to note any family members that aren’t to be photographed together for whatever reason, this will avoid any awkward situations on the day itself.
Then, send those beautiful invitations!
7. 1 Month Before
You’ll be receiving your RSVP’s back so keep track to know your final guest list.
Don’t forget to apply for your marriage license, it can be so easy to overlook this vital detail with all the chaos of planning.
I’m engaged where do I start? 1 Month Before: The moment of truth
Send out your rehearsal dinner invitations, and start planning your seating arrangements. This can take more time than you’d think. With so many guests from different places and times in your life, it’s important to try and group your guests – work friends, high school friends etc. That’s not to say everyone must sit in their group but it will give you an indication of who might know each other and already get along.
Time for your final dress fitting! take your MoH with you so that they can learn how to fasten you in if needed, complicated buttons/does it need bustling? And don’t forget to ask any questions for on the day. What happens if you mark or spill on your gown? Are there products you should/shouldn’t use? What if the dress wrinkles? Can you iron it? Steam it? Knowing the answers to these questions will help avoid panic on the day, and allow you to enjoy the pampering of a lifetime.
If you are choosing to buy bridesmaids gifts, now is the time. Think about your friendship with each member of your entourage. You’ve chosen these people for a reason. A personalised gift can show your gratitude for all their help and support over the last year and on the day itself.
8. 1 Week Before
Almost there love! Everything is finalised. Your dress has been fitted, rings bought, cake designed, RSVP’s collated, seating arrangements, flowers, transport accommodation…look at what you have accomplished! It’s hard to believe the big day is just around the corner!
I’m engaged where do I start? 1 Week Before: The Final Countdown
Confirm arrival times with your vendors, you want all your planning to run seamlessly on the day and ensuring everyone is on the same page will help make this reality, especially if you don’t have a wedding planner or a ‘day of’ coordinator.
It’s not only your vendors that need a timeline but your bridal party. Provide them with a timeline of the day so that they know when and where to be to provide you with the most support, calming energy, and glasses of bubbly!
Pick up your dress and break in your shoes! The last thing you want are shoes cutting into your heels or nipping your toes on the day, a simple but incredibly important detail that is often forgotten.
Send your finalised guest list to your caterer and venue, make last-minute adjustments to the seating plan if necessary.
Pack for your honeymoon and don’t forget to hold and love your partner, after all, you’ve had a whirlwind of a year that’s about to culminate in the BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE!
I really hope that this post helped you find some direction as to where you should begin after getting engaged. If you are planning on getting married in the Garden Route area, Here is A FULL LIST OF REPUTABLE SERVICE PROVIDERS THAT deliver outstanding service and can help make your wedding day a dream come true.
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