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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Newly Engaged? First 10 Things You Should Do...

Lately I've seen lists all over the internet advising brides-to-be and grooms-to-be where and how they should start on the road to planning their wedding. Unfortunately, most of them are not posted by professional planners, and they're just not quite on point..... it kills me to see such bad advice! There is a definite order in which you should tackle getting started, at least from a professional wedding planner's point of view. Here's my take on the first 10 things you should handle when you begin planning your wedding:

1. Pick a wedding date. All details of your wedding planning will revolve around the date you choose, and that will be the first question any venue, vendor or guest will ask.

2. Hire a wedding planner. Not everyone will decide to do this, but if you're thinking about it then it's best to start with a planner from the beginning. Half of my clients begin the process by themselves and somewhere along the way they decide to enlist some help. At that point we're usually trying to stretch a dime because they are already over budget. A wedding planner can help you with everything on this list to get you started, including help you set a realistic budget....and then continue helping all the way through the wedding day. They will help you to avoid any planning mistakes or over-spending along the way. If you don't choose to have a planner help you with all the planning, at least book a consult with a professional planner to get you started on your way. You wouldn't buy a home or invest in the stock market without consulting a professional first, so make sure you treat your wedding just as importantly as other major life expenditures. We offer a package designed specifically for getting you started to plan on your own {DIY Bride's Planning Package}. Then, if you decide somewhere down the road that you do in fact want the full package, we apply the cost of the DIY package to your full package. You can see the details of the packages at

3. Decide on a budget. Once you have a date (and hopefully a planner) then you should decide on your budget. Do the responsible thing and set your budget first. You shouldn't create a guest list, you shouldn't book a venue, you shouldn't buy a dress, you shouldn't do anything until you know how much you can spend on it. Makes sense, right? I've seen too many couples set an unrealistic budget (either too high or too low) and then get stuck halfway through because the things they want cost much more than they anticipated, or they miscalculated their budget and don't have as much as they thought they did. Avoid putting yourself in this situation by figuring out how much you can spend before you start spending it.

4. Create a preliminary guest list. You'll need to know how many guests you want to invite in order to book a venue. I've seen it too many times.... a bride falls in love with this quaint, beautiful tiny little venue, but her parents want to invite 300 people to the wedding. Can't happen! You should at least have an approximate idea of how many people you'll be inviting before you can look for a venue with the ability to accommodate everyone.

5. Choose your colors, theme, decor ideas.... Once you know how much you can spend, then you can start the fun part of looking thorough all those millions of wedding photos online and gathering your ideas for all those amazing decor ideas. Some start with this right away, and of course that's're excited to be engaged and you jump right in with the fun stuff! (Tip: check out Pinterest site for tons of amazing decor ideas, and start your own pin boards to save your finds:

6. Book your venue and/or caterer. Once you know how much you can spend and how you want your wedding to look, you should book your wedding location before you continue with any other plans or bookings. Some venues can book up to a year in advance, so make sure to put a deposit down for the place you fall in love with before someone else does! The venue and catering are generally the majority of your budget, so it should definitely be decided on first. This way, you know what you have leftover in the budget for filling in the details. Most venues have their own on-site caterer, or a list of preferred caterers who can work in their facility, so choosing your venue and choosing your caterer generally go hand in hand.

7. Go out and find your dress! This is what we're all waiting for anyway...the DRESS! You can bump this up to #4 or #5 if it's very important to you, because for some weddings it sets the tone for the entire wedding decor and can also be a determining factor in selecting a venue. (For instance, one of our brides dreamed of having a huge ballgown, and the perfect one for a great price. Then, she discovered the aisle at the ceremony location she wanted wasn't quite wide enough for she and her father to walk together. The dress was more important to her in the end, so she chose a different ceremony location).

8. Create an online wedding website. With technology at the forefront in today's culture, having a centralized online location for all your wedding information is extremely convenient. You can introduce your wedding party, share photos of you and your groom-to-be, share directions and maps to your church and/or reception location, and most importantly you can share your gift registry information. It is not proper etiquette to include registry cards in your invitations, so this is the perfect place to share that information with your guests. You can also choose to accept guest's RSVP's online through your wedding website. There are tons of free options for wedding websites out there, as well as some that charge a fee, so take a look around and choose one that fits all the information you want to share with your guests.

9. Interview and book your photographer / Take your engagement photos. Find a photographer you love who is within your budget and put a deposit down. Most only do one wedding per day/weekend (unless they have an entire staff of photographers) and they can book up to a year in advance, so it's important to grab the one you love before someone else does. The everlasting reminder of your wedding day is your photos, so it's very important to make sure you choose someone whose work you love. One of the first things you'll want to do is get your engagement photos, and you'll probably get the best price by booking the same photographer for engagement and wedding. Some of the photographers I work with offer the engagement session for free with your wedding day booking. Not to mention, doing an engagement session with your photographer before the wedding will allow you to get to know each other and you'll be more comfortable on wedding day after having already worked with them. Don't forget to use those awesome engagement photos on your wedding website!

10. Decide on and book your entertainment. Entertainment can make your event one-of-a-kind. After your venue/catering and your photographer, entertainment is probably your next most expensive vendor to book, and most important from your guest's stand point. Keep in mind, entertainment can cover a wide range of vendors; you can choose to have a live band for your reception, or the less expensive option of choosing a DJ. You can choose to have ceremony musicians and/or cocktail hour musicians play for part of the event. You can book other entertainment for your guests such as caricature artists, magicians, themed performers, flash mobs, interactive entertainment such as photo booths or candy stations. Whatever entertainment you decide to have, make sure to keep your guests enjoyment at the forefront when you're planning!

Hope these tips are helpful for you! :)

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