You're Engaged! Now what?

Congratulations on your engagement! I hope you've celebrated with friends and family, and you have popped more champagne than you could have ever imagined. It's important to soak in every single minute. After all, this is a huge milestone in your lives, as well as an exciting time for both your families. Your time as an engaged couple will fly by, so I encourage couples to do everything they possibly can to savor this special time in their relationship and to really enjoy planning for their special day.

It's no secret among anyone who's been there that engagements are full of emotion. Like, I'm talking a roller coaster ride full of emotions. Of course, the experience is different for everyone, but the basic emotions tend to be the same. First (and most importantly!), there's the extreme happiness knowing that you'll be spending the rest of your life with your best friend, experiencing all that life has to offer side-by-side. But, then once things settle down a bit you then start to think about actually planning for the wedding day, and you feel overwhelmed with where to even begin. Which can bring on the worry and fear that you want everything to be perfect, and for all of your guests to have fun at your reception, eating delicious food and partying all night long with a great band - but, how on Earth do you make this happen? There's the unique feeling of pure joy and anticipation when you finally find THE dress. There's the butterflies you feel as your wedding day get's closer and you arrive at your rehearsal realizing, "O-M-G. I'm actually getting married tomorrow!" And, of course all of the smiles and tears along the way. Regardless, it's a once in a lifetime experience that should be cherished and fun!

You're Engaged! Now What?

Pretty much every bride I come in contact with tells me the same thing - I have no idea where to begin with wedding planning. My response is, well why would you? I mean you've never planned a wedding before. So take some of that pressure off yourself and know that you're in the majority with that one - and, that's okay! Just like with anything else that is brand new to you, where you have no experience or information, research is key. You would do research before you buy a car, so why not do your research while planning for your wedding? It's pretty difficult to make a decision if you're not properly informed, so I encourage couples to do some reading - be a good consumer! - and look at real weddings so they have some sort of idea around the many, many, many options and decisions they're about to face.

So, you're engaged! Now what? Today, I'm sharing my top 3 recommendations to couples who are ready to start planning for their big day.

1. Determine your wedding planning budget. This is the biggest and most important step to getting started. I seriously cannot stress this enough, y'all. It can be a hard conversation to start, but it needs to happen before you can move forward with planning. If you don't outline a budget beforehand and know what you can spend, then how will you know how to make decisions? Once you have an overall budget set, a wedding planner can help you allocate your money so that you spend your budget in a smart and efficient way. Or your wedding planner can help you create a planning budget. Budget recommendations and tools from websites like The Knot can be helpful for some individuals, but it's not most. Each wedding is unique and each bride has her own set of priorities, so there is no such thing as a one size fits all wedding budget. That's where a wedding planner, someone who has an idea of what things actually cost, can help you budget your money efficiently so that all your needs are met. It's the first thing I do with my couples before moving on to step number 2.

2. Choose a few wedding dates. This can be tricky for busy couples, but it's important to have an idea of when you'd like to get married. Think of the time of year you'd like to get married and take into account things like national holidays, vacation time, family schedules, and yes, even things like sporting events/seasons and big conventions that can affect travel and/or accommodations. Once you've determined the time of year you'd like to tie the knot, then choose 2 to 3 dates - 1 date that is your first choice, but then 2 to 3 back-up dates incase the first date doesn't work out. Some venues can book up a year or two in advance! So, having those back-up dates outlined are good to have in your tool box, just in case. Then, you can tackle step number 3.

3. Get started on that guest list. Another difficult item on the checklists for brides and grooms, but one that will have a very big financial impact is the guest list. Long story short: the more people you invite, the more budget you will need to cover the cost of your guests. This is why setting a budget is an all too important first step. The number one way to cut costs when planning for your wedding is to cut your guest list. Obviously that can be difficult for couples with large families, but it's an important tip to remember when putting together a list of guests to invite to witness your marriage. If you need to be more budget conscious, consider inviting fewer guests to help keep costs low. There are a number of cost saving ways wedding planners can help couples who might want it all, but don't have the budget it afford it all.

Once you've checked off those three items from your list, then you can go on to look at venues and book wedding your vendors. If you're considering hiring a wedding planner, that should be the very first vendor you meet with after knocking out the steps above. Hiring a planner will give you the tools you need to have a stress-free, fun and organized experience planning for your wedding. A wedding planner is an important and valuable part of your wedding vendor team. The list of things a wedding planner handles for brides and grooms is not something a friend, mom, aunt or cousin can handle. For more information about getting started with planning your wedding and making some big decisions, I recommend starting here. Every wedding planner offers different services, and be sure to pay close attention to the wording being used - a wedding planner differs from a wedding coordinator. And not every wedding planner offers wedding design services. So if you're looking to hire a wedding planner, be sure to recognize the difference between the various types and choose the one that will serve you and your needs the best. You can read more about the various roles of wedding planners and coordinators: here and here and here.

The biggest tip I can give couples who are just starting to plan for their wedding is a simple concept at heart, but it can be hard to apply: "don't sweat the small stuff." Not everything will go as planned, not every dream will be realized, and it won't always be a fairy tale journey to the altar. But, who cares about any of that! The reason you're planning a wedding is to get married to the love of your life! As long as you two get married at the end of the day, then what else matters? So take it in stride if it rains on your wedding day and your outdoor ceremony is moved indoors. Don't stress out about the color of the napkins not being the same shade of pink as the flowers on the table. Let it roll off your back when family and/or friends give you grief over some of your decisions - it's your day, remember? And, look the other way when you realize that you don't have the budget for your favorite band AND a photo booth. None of that matters in the grand scheme of things.

You're engaged! Now start planning for your future together as Mr. and Mrs.! The Graceful Host offers full service wedding planning and design services - if you decide you need a little help. :) I'd love to talk to you about your wedding and see how I can help you plan for the best day ever. Come say hello!

XO,
A.