You’re engaged! As you get used to that beautiful ring on your finger and upgrading your boyfriend to fiancé, it’s a good idea to start writing down the top ten most important items to check off your list before you finalize all the fun, little details. Here’s how you and your true love can handle all the planning that goes into setting the key components of your special day in motion.
The most difficult part of wedding planning starts in the beginning: coordinating your ceremony site and venue site. Although more and more brides and grooms are opting to get married at their venue, it’s still a good idea to book your church as soon as possible. The length of your engagement will depend on how quickly you need to start calling your church and inquiring about dates. Be sure to have two back up months and three dates within those months.
For the average bride and groom, three main factors go into choosing a venue: availability, cost and reputation. Knowing your budget and wedding vision will go a long way when touring reception sites. Do you want a catering hall or Gold Coast mansion? A winery or hotel ballrooom? Key questions to ask include: Is my date available? How many events at one time? What are the rates? (Friday night is less expensive than Saturday night, but Sunday afternoon is the best for the budget conscious) What kind of deposits are required? Must I use your vendors? Don’t forget to see where potential venues rank on popular websites like The Knot and Wedding Wire.
To many brides and grooms, finding a good photographer/videographer is the most important item to check off their list, as their wedding photos will last a lifetime. Visit photography websites to get a sense of the company’s style and find one that best matches your artistic vision. Do you prefer traditional imagery or a more modern, cinematic take? An engagement shoot is the perfect opportunity to meet your photographer and see what the wedding day would be like. Ask: Are you insured? How many other weddings are booked on our day? What kind of packages do you have? When will we receive our photos? Many couples book their photographer as soon as possible, as this is the vendor that is most important to lock in early.
It’s a good idea to shop around for your DJ about 8 to 10 months before your date. Attend bridal showcases to get a sense of how a DJ company is in a party environment. Your DJ is just as important as your emcee, so make sure they are engaging, fun and can get a crowd to its feet. A basic package ranges from $1,500 to $2,300 with add-ons like lighting, live musicians, a photo booth and extra time. Ask to see videos of other weddings during your meeting to get a sense of what your day will be like.
This is the one vendor that will help make your vision a reality. Many florists have their showroom decorated with different floral arrangements, but do your research beforehand. Do you want a tall votive of roses and lilies or a low centerpiece of hydrangeas and orchids? Are your flowers in season? How many deliveries will be made on your wedding day? Ask about cost. Some florists have a flat rate while others will charge more for a calla lily than a tulip. It’s a florist’s job to work from a blank canvas, but they appreciate clients coming prepared with pictures. Read reviews because there are some horror stories of flowers being dead on arrival or not showing up at all. Book your florist 8 to 10 months before your wedding to ensure that your tables won’t be naked.
If you and your bridal party require transportation for the wedding day, it’s best to book about 3 to 5 months before. Many brides and grooms leave their church in the classic Rolls Royce or Bentley, while the bridal party follows in a limousine. More modern couples have chosen to send their bridal to the reception in party buses, vans, or for something really unique, trolleys. Make sure your driver is licensed and that there will be someone else available on the day should an emergency occur.
Save the dates/invites
Sending out a save the date is crucial for destination weddings and couples getting married during a holiday or high season. Many couples choose photos from their engagement shoot and create a refrigerator magnet, card or postcard as a reminder of their impending wedding date. Save the dates should be sent out anywhere from 6 to 10 months before the wedding only to guests you plan on inviting to your wedding, sans a plus one. As for invitations, decide on whether you want something simple or intricate, as the design will depend on your time table. Be sure that all of the ceremony and venue information is included along with directions and an RSVP card. Address invitations to married couples or engaged couples only. For single friends, include “and guest” on the respective line. Send these out three months before the date.
When you invite your family and friends to be a part of the V.I.P. list that is the bridal party is completely up to you. Some couples as right away and others ask at around the 7 to 9 month mark. Don’t wait too long though, because dresses and tuxedos or suits need to be ordered no longer than 6 to 8 months before for girls and 4 to 6 months for guys. If you do not want a big bridal party or are unsure of who you would like to put in, include that person in another way. Have them prepare a reading, hand out programs, bubbles or escort guests to their seats. They’ll appreciate the gesture and you’ll still have them as a special part of your day.
For the bride to be, it’s all about the dress. If you have dreamed of your wedding dress from the day you made one out of bed sheets and curtains, then you already have pictures and styles saved. However, it’s a good idea to try on a variety of styles so there are no regrets. Book an appointment, although some salons take walk-ins. Check to see if the salon has the dresses you are looking for. If not, ask to see what closely resemble your dream dress. If you are an open minded bride, tell the consultant how you envision your look. Do you see yourself in an all-over beaded lace fit and flare or a satin ball gown? Do you want sleeves or a strapless neckline? Most importantly, know your budget and stick to it. Too often brides will fall in love with a dress that is out of their budget and chances are, no other dress will compare. Be sure to ask what the price is for alterations, how long they will take and what the timeline is for fittings. Brides should start looking 10 to 12 months before their wedding and say yes to the dress no later than nine months.
This is the first vacation you will take as husband and wife, so where do you want to go? Euro trips, tropical islands, cruises and road trips are all excellent honeymoon ideas and great places to distress, relax and enjoy time with your new spouse. Be sure to check the weather and time of year. For example, September happens to be hurricane season for many islands while the summer is high tourist season. If you can’t get away from work, you may have to take a delayed honeymoon and enjoy a mini-moon somewhere for the weekend. As for cost, many times the groom’s parents will pay for or contribute to a couple’s honeymoon as their wedding gift to the couple. If you are paying your own way, remember your budget. Indulge in massages, special dinners and excursions, but don’t vacation so lavishly outside your means. Treasure this time alone together and come back refreshed, renewed and ready to start your life as a married couple.