You're engaged, congratulations! You're about to enter a year-long (or longer) whirlwind. Get started on the right foot by making sure you follow these tips:
You found your person, your lobster, your best friend. That's pretty cool. In a whole world of people the two of you found each other. Let that wash over you. Smile to yourself and remember that through all the chaos that's about to ensue - you two and your love for each other is the reason it's all happening.
2. Go Old School: Pick Up the Phone
Chances are you each have an army of people who are going to stand up and cheer when you announce your engagement. That army will be significantly smaller and more ticked off if the important people learn about this monumental life event through the grapevine, or worse, social media.
Pick up the phone and CALL your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles, and long-time friends. Anyone who would be seated in the first few rows at your wedding deserves to hear the news first hand. Once all the main people know, you can prepare to put it out there for the rest of the world.
2-ish. Get a Manicure / Get Your Ring Sized
This obviously doesn't apply to every engaged couple so it's only a "ish" step. If you were given an engagement ring you need to get camera ready. Start by getting your ring sized. Trust me on this, there is NOTHING more uncomfortable than wearing a ring that's too small just because you're excited to be engaged. You need a finger for your wedding band so let's not cut off the circulation before we get down the aisle. Don't forget to call your homeowner/renters insurance and have your ring added to your policy.
While your ring's at the jewelers take a break and get your fingers on point. You'll be showing off your hands a lot for the next few weeks both in pictures and in person. Don't let that beautiful new bauble be outshone by raggedy hang nails or chipped polish.
3. Come Up With a Script
The questions will start immediately:
"Have you set a date?"
"What colors are you thinking?"
"Can I be in your wedding party?"
"Can I bring my kids?"
Avoid making commitments in the early days before you've made concrete decisions. Talk with your future spouse (FS) and come up with a stock answer you can give to anyone who asks about your wedding planning. Your statement should be brief, acknowledge their excitement, and reassure them they'll be kept in the loop when you finally do start making decisions.
Want a quick way to avoid follow up questions? Turn the tables by asking them a question about when they were married or a wedding they attended.
You can use the same tactic for other sticky subjects like, "Can I bring my kids?". Example, "We love <CHILD'S NAME> but we were hoping to have you all to ourselves that night."
4. Money Talks
A well defined budget is the most powerful tool in your arsenal (equal only to a team of qualified vendors).
Before you do ANYTHING sit down with your partner, your parents, and anyone else who will have a vested interest in your wedding and have an honest conversation about money. How much will people contribute? How much influence over the event does the contributor expect to have?
Money is a tough conversation, but setting clear expectations will save you from awkward moments down the road and arm you with the knowledge to approach appropriate vendors; saving you the heartache of falling in love with a venue that will bankrupt your budget.
Get inspired! Pinterest is a great tool, but it's not the only place to find ideas. Check out blogs like Green Wedding Shoes, Whimsically Wed, and Oh! The Heart for new trends and real weddings. Go to the store and grab a stack of magazines. Visit bridal shows and wedding showcases to meet a lot of vendors in a short amount of time.
Ask yourself these questions:
What size wedding do we want?
Are we religious?
Will we incorporate any traditions in our ceremony/reception?
When you picture your ceremony, where does it take place?
How formal (e.g., casual, beachy, formal, black tie) do we want to be?
Are there any special people, places, food, drinks, or hobbies we want to incorporate in our big day?
Also, and this is important, do this together. It's important that this day is representative of the two of you, both together and as individuals. Upfront, one of you will probably be WAY more into this wedding planning thing than the other. If you find yourself frustrated with your partner's perceived disinterest, relax.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Ask if they aren't contributing because they feel like their opinion won't matter or because they genuinely don't care. If it's the latter? No biggie. If it's the former, time to have a different conversation.
6. Look Into Premarital Counseling
"Relationships are work." You've heard it a million times. People think you go to counseling to fix your problems. The truth is, counseling is more useful to help PREVENT problems by identifying areas you may struggle with and empowering you to find common ground.
Premarital counseling is offered in a number of capacities: religious vs. secular, group vs. individual, online do-it yourself programs. It all comes down to communication. Learning to speak each other's language and getting on the same page about the biggest issues couples face today (sex and money in case you wondered) will improve your life and strengthen your bond as a couple.
Premarital counseling may not be for everyone. Some people are put off by discussing intimate subjects with a third party, they feel like it's invasive and weird and that's okay too. Just know it is a resource that is available to you.
7. Compile a Preliminary Guest List
You, your partner, your parents, their parents, and any other key decision makers should sit down and make a list of everyone they would like to see invited. After the initial list is made ask each person to go through and divide their main list into "A", "B", "C", and "D" lists.
A-Listers are exactly what they sound like, very important people who you simply cannot imagine not inviting. B-Listers are the people you'd really like to include if budget and space allows. C-Listers are the acquaintances and old friends you haven't spoken with in years, etc. D-List is, again, exactly what it sounds like.
More and more couples are opting to shrink their guest list in favor of providing a better experience for those they invite. Math is about more than money. In a perfect world you could invite everyone you've ever known and loved, throw an awesome party, and still have time to catch up with your best friend from high school. In reality a 5 hour reception with 200 guests, after cocktail hour, dinner, cake cutting, and a few judicious bathroom breaks, equates to less than 1 minute with each person. Not to mention how much each guest will add to your total bill. Strive for quality over quantity.
8. Hire a Wedding Planner
It seems like a shameless plug, but the average wedding now costs over $35,000! There is so much time, money, and effort invested in your wedding - hiring a professional ensures all of it is executed exactly as intended.
The sooner you hire a wedding planner the more value we can provide. Don't get me wrong, a good planner brings value no matter when they're introduced but if you're starting with a truly blank slate that's where we shine. Wouldn't you rather be on track from the beginning than get halfway through the planning process and realize you're in over your head?
Hiring a planner may seem like a huge chunk of change but you can save hundreds of dollars and countless hours of research by leveraging your planner's industry knowledge and connections. They'll serve as a guide throughout the process, anticipating your needs, and making sure no detail is overlooked.
9. Say "Thank You"
If anyone has been particularly supportive or wonderful now's the time to remind them they're appreciated. It doesn't have to be big, just a call or text but especially when we're stressed it's often the people closest to us who catch the brunt of our frustrations. Don't give anyone the opportunity to say you were rude. Be gracious and grateful, always.
10. Start Looking At Vendors
After your wedding planner, book the Big 3 first:
Your venue selection will inform almost every choice you make including: what day you get married, the maximum number of guests you can invite, types of caterers you can hire, decor you'll need, etc. One of the most frequent mistakes newly engaged couples make is underestimating the cost of other services and signing a contract for a venue that consumes their budget.
The earlier you book your photographer/videographer the better. The good ones can book up over 18 months in advance. Check out a bunch of photography portfolios and define a style you like (e.g., dark and moody, light and airy, photojournalistic, etc.) then find photographers that have portfolios similar to that style and reach out to request pricing and schedule consultations.
Remember, just because someone has a great Instagram feed doesn't make them a good wedding photographer. Find someone familiar with the demands of a live event. Look for a style you will be happy to look at for years to come. You shouldn't need to schedule more than 3 consultations per category.
A wedding planner can evaluate your budget and recommend venues and vendors that fit your price range and style. They can also provide a reality check about how signing with an expensive vendor will impact other aspects of your event down the line.
That's it! Thanks for hanging in there to learn about The First 10 Things to Do After Getting Engaged. Can I answer any questions? Don't hesitate to reach out.