You should definitely take your time celebrating your engagement—but when you're ready to officially start planning, here's how to dive in.
The minute you get engaged, everyone will be asking for your wedding date. But in reality, you won't be able to set an exact date until other major decisions—like choosing and booking your venue. So first, focus on determining a range of dates that'll work for you. The average engagement lasts 12 - 15 months, but also think about what season you'd prefer, any major holidays or family events you'd like to avoid conflicting with, and how long you predict you'll need to plan.
Your Wedding Style
Before you try on a single gown, book a band or sample a bite of cake, look at the big picture and imagine what kind of style and vibe you want to set for your wedding—and where you want to hold it. Close your eyes and picture your fantasy wedding. What do you see? Is it a candlelit ceremony in a mansion? Are you walking barefoot on a beach? While you're picturing your perfect wedding, here are some key questions to consider: Big (everyone you know) or small (just close friends and family)? Outdoors or in? Home (one of your hometowns or your current city) or away (a destination wedding)? Modern, classic, romantic, vintage, rustic or all-out glam? Fancy, casual or somewhere in between?
For the LOVE….Set Your Budget!
Sit down with your families and figure out who is contributing and how much. This number will affect every decision and purchase you make. It can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but it's better to get it out of the way now so you have a realistic picture about what you can spend.
Draft a guest list - As you begin to build your guest list, you'll need to consider a number of factors. If you have a particular ceremony or reception site in mind, for instance, you're going to be limited by how many people it can accommodate (you can't squeeze 300 people into a lighthouse). Would you rather have quality one-on-one time with each guest or throw a once-in-a-lifetime party for all your friends and family? If mom and dad won't budge about inviting throngs of friends and family, you'll have to hear them out—especially if they're footing a major part of the bill. Keep in mind that more guests means higher prices, as catering costs are generally calculated on a per-head basis. So, in addition to location, your budget will have a big influence on the size of your guest list.
Choose Your Wedding Party
Now it's your turn to propose to your bridesmaids and groomsmen. Remember, the earlier you ask, the sooner you can ask for their help. Keep in mind that your wedding party is agreeing to spend their money and donate their time—be considerate and kind by informing everyone about all your plans (including costs for attire, bachelor and bachelorette parties and more), showing them a good time and making sure they know how much you appreciate them.
Hire Priority Vendors
If you just can't imagine getting married without a certain local DJ playing at the reception or a photographer whose work you love, you better act fast. Many top wedding photographers, planners and other in-demand vendors are hired more than a year in advance, and once they're booked, they're gone. Figure out what your highest wedding priorities are, whether it's amazing catering or exquisite flowers, and snatch up the vendors whose work you love.
Shop Dresses & Say “YES” To The Dress!
Begin your search by browsing wedding dresses online and in magazines. Be sure you are saving your favorites—you'll want to take them with you to your appointments. Then, learn the lingo before setting foot in a wedding dress boutique. Understand silhouettes, necklines, trains and hues that might flatter you. The season will also affect your choice. Getting married in the sweltering summer? Go with lightweight fabrics such as chiffon, linen or organza. Having a winter wedding? Brocade, faux fur and velvet will keep you warm. Satin, shantung, silk and tulle are perfect year-round.