When a couple becomes engaged, there is a lot of love, passion, and excitement involved. After the initial excitement fades away, however, there is a lot of overwhelming planning, stress, and general anxiety on the way to the big day. If you recently got engaged, you may be experiencing this stress already. Even if you’re familiar with the varied components of a wedding, you may not be sure about the most beneficial order in which to plan the event. This timeline will provide some structure while you plan one of the most memorable days of your life.
First Things First
The first thing to do after getting engaged is, of course, to celebrate your engagement! It’s important not to give in to the planning stress too soon; there’ll be plenty of time to worry about everything. Once you’ve celebrated and shared the news with your family and friends, you can get down to the hard work. Every engagement is different, particularly in length. Today, the average engagement between a couple in America is somewhere between one year and a year and a half. This may seem like a lot of time to get things done, but most married people will tell you that it certainly is not. A year can fly by when you’re trying to coordinate several different aspects of one special day.
Before you book or plan anything, try to organize the numerous opinions you probably have about what you want your wedding to be like. Do you want to stick with a theme? Are there particular colors you want involved with the decorations and flowers? In which season would you like your wedding to take place? Do you want to get married early in the day, or at sunset? Will the ceremony or reception be outside? Ideas and inspirations can be found in wedding magazines, books, and websites, but one of the most popular organizational tools for brides these days is Pinterest. Pinterest is like an online corkboard, to which you ‘pin’ websites, photos, or anything else that looks cool and interesting to you. Weddings are huge on Pinterest right now; there’s a great variety of things to look at, and the website allows you to keep everything you’re considering together in an organized way. If you’d rather leave the Internet out of your plans, there’s always a notebook or large binder, though it will require a bit more organizational work on your part.
The next step is figuring out your budget, which is admittedly the least fun part of the entire process. Putting a cap on what you’re willing to spend in the early stages will really help you out later on in the planning process, even if that cap is negotiable. Are your parents involved, or your fiancé’s parents? Are you funding this entirely by yourselves, or are you sharing the bills? Who is paying for what, specifically? Getting all this out of the way early is always a good idea.
Now is also the time to decide if you want to hire a wedding planner. This is something many engaged couples debate about. Wedding planners are expensive, but they can also save the day if you run into any kind of emergency or conflict on your way to the altar. If you do decide you want a wedding planner helping you along, get one now, before you hire anybody else, and especially before you pay for anything. A wedding planner may have connections to some of the vendors you’re interested in.
The next step is deciding who will be in your wedding party. This includes selecting a maid of honor, a best man, bridesmaids, groomsmen, a flower girl, and a ring bearer, as needed. Think about the size you’re most comfortable with for your wedding party. Do you want to have the same number of bridesmaids and groomsmen, for symmetry’s sake? This is also the time to decide if anyone else will be involved in the ceremony—some people involve their children, and even their pets.
Another number to focus on now is how many people you want to invite, versus how many people you can afford to invite. Make a list of the guests you definitely want at the wedding, as well as a list of people who are tentatively invited, depending on the budget and the venue.
And, in order to move forward with any other part of the plans, you have to choose a venue for your wedding, and a date on which you’ll get married. This becomes a little more challenging if you don’t plan on having the ceremony and reception in the same place. The time and place of the wedding are the most important choices to be made in the planning process, and booking the venue and the date leads to every other choice you have to make. Following this decision, you’ll want to figure out who is marrying you. This could be a justice of the peace, a religious figure from your place of worship, or anyone ordained. All of these aspects of your wedding should be decided on and confirmed with at least nine months to spare before the big day.
The Big Details
Once you know when and where you’re getting married, there are still a lot of different aspects that have to come together to make the day go well. These include:
- Meeting with photographers, choosing one, and booking him or her for your date
- Meeting with bands or DJs, choosing one, and booking him or her for your date
- Meeting with catering companies, choosing one, and booking it for your date
- Deciding who will provide your wedding cake, and booking them for your date
- Finding a dress, and making sure it can be altered and fitted to you in time for the wedding (This includes finding suits for the groomsmen and dresses for the bridesmaids)
- Finding a florist, and creating arrangements for your bouquet and for display at the venue
- Registering for wedding gifts
- Buying and ordering invitations, and sending out save-the-date cards
- Thinking about honeymoon plans, and all practical matters involved in taking a vacation
- Planning how the ceremony will proceed with the officiate
- Renting anything you need to provide for the ceremony (like chairs or a tent in the case of an outdoor wedding)
- Choreographing and planning your first dance
Almost every one of these decisions will require a lot of research. Additionally, a deposit or down payment may be required for many of these vendors to guarantee that everything will be in order for your big day. The budgeting discussion from earlier will definitely come in handy at this point. All of these preparations should be finalized with three or four months to spare before your wedding.
When there are about three months remaining until the wedding, you’ll want to address and plan the following components of the event. During this time period, you should:
- Arrange the rehearsal dinner, including who will attend and where it will be held
- Buy wedding shoes if you haven’t yet
- Schedule two or more dress fittings
- Arrange your hair and makeup plans for the big day
- List the music you’d like played at the reception
- Finalize the menu you’ll be offering to the guests
- Buy the rings, leaving time for engraving and sizing
- Touch base with the people you’ve hired so far
- Send out your invitations six to eight weeks before wedding date
These should be planned and confirmed with at least a month left to spare before the wedding.
The Final Month
Once your wedding date is one month away, most of the planning should be taken care of. There are only a few things left to do before you walk down the aisle:
- Come to a total head count for the reception now that everyone has (hopefully) RSVP’d- most venues will allow you to change the headcount up until 72 hours prior to the wedding.
- Obtain your marriage license, and any other paperwork required
- Attend your final dress fitting to make sure everything looks and fits the way you’d like it to
- Pay as many people/vendors in full as you can, so you don’t need to worry about it on the day of the ceremony
- Write your vows- give yourself time to perfect these
- Get your hair colored or cut, leaving time to get used to any drastic changes
- Finalize your seating plan and place cards
- Break in your wedding shoes, to avoid slipping or blisters the day of the wedding
- Make any last minute honeymoon preparations
Get Married, and Relax
Planning a wedding is definitely a monumental task. However, if you get all of these things done in a timely fashion, then with any luck, by the time your big day arrives, there’ll be nothing left to do but get married and celebrate. When you’re enjoying your reception, worry-free, you’ll be glad you planned accordingly and followed an orderly timeline.