Thanksgiving time to New Years (maybe even to Valentine’s Day) is typically called “Engagement Season.” I can attest that many of my Facebook friends have gotten engaged in the last couple of weeks. It’s a bit crazy. It can also be overwhelming when you’re in the midst of it. What should you do after you get engaged? I’m glad you asked!
If you are one of the lucky love struck couples that have just entered into the slightly awkward phase of your relationship called “engagement”, this post is for you. These are my top ten suggestions for those who are just starting off in the whole engagement/wedding planning journey.
1. Make Sure You Tell People… and Do It Well
Okay, this might seem really obvious, but still, it’s important. How you tell people is just as important as the information itself. For example, don’t let your best friends find out you got engaged via Facebook. That’s sad. Make sure you tell the people that are most important to you first before you change your relationship status on Facebook. No one wants to find out in their newsfeed that their bestie is getting married.
2. Pick a Date and Don’t Be Afraid to Be Practical.
As soon as you get engaged, I mean literally the minute you get engaged, people are going to start asking you if you’ve picked a date yet. I’m not joking. We went and got my ring resized the day after my now husband proposed and the lady at the jewelry store asked if we had a date yet (even though we had just told her he only proposed the day before). No lady, it’s been less than 24 hours and I’m still randomly squealing with excitement because we’re engaged, but thanks for putting the pressure on early.
It’s totally cool to take a couple days or even a week or more to figure out a general date (i.e. year/time of year/month) Keep in mind too that your actual date might partially be picked for you based on what venue you want. It is kind of a big decision. Don’t be afraid to be really practical about picking the date either, both for you and your wedding party/guests. Here are the key factors that affected our wedding date choice (in no particular order):
- My grad school schedule
- Weather conditions since most of our guests were going to be traveling
- Avoiding a wedding over Christmas break because that seemed to hectic for everyone involved
- Preferring warmish weather/and outdoor wedding
- Not wanting to both pay rent for separate places for too long
- Not wanting to put off getting married too long
- Me turning 26 and getting kicked off my parents’ insurance
None of those are very romantic, but they all played a part in picking our wedding date. Don’t be afraid to let practicalities influence your date choice.
3. Figure Out Your Wedding Budget
Weddings cost money. It’s just a fact. Don’t get yourself into tons of debt/trouble/drama by ignoring that fact. Figure out what your budget is early. If your parents are chipping in, find that out and find out how much they’re contributing. Decide beforehand how much you want to contribute personally. This budget will determine everything else that you do, so it’s important to figure that out very early on. This process can be awkward, especially since it might be the first (and maybe only) time you have to talk as a couple with both sets of parents about money. It’s a little awkward, but it’s good to lay it all out there and know what everybody is contributing and what everybody’s expectations are.
Once you’ve got your overall amount you can spend, you can look at wedding sites like TheKnot.com, MyWedding.com, and WeddingWire.com to use one of their wedding budget templates. Most of the time they also give a recommended percentage of how much of your overall budget you should spend on each individual wedding item (i.e. dress, venue, food, flowers, etc.), which is a good starting point for planning.
4. Get a Wedding Website
All the aforementioned wedding websites that have budgeting templates also allow you to create a unique wedding website for your special day. You can write up your story, post details about hotel blocks, the venues, etc. You can usually have people rsvp there too. I think people are getting used to couples having one of these newfangled things so make sure you set one up. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it can be super helpful to your wedding guests.
These sites are usually also helpful in that they provide you with checklists of what you should be working on/planning for based on how far out you are from your wedding date. This is super helpful since a normal person who’s never gone through the wedding planning process probably doesn’t know how far in advance to book a wedding photographer.
5. Get Engagement Photos ASAP
They don’t have to be, but most of the time engagement photos are pretty important. A lot of people put them on their save the dates. They should definitely be on your wedding website. Try to get those scheduled rather quickly. We didn’t do this, but it’s nice to have the same person do your engagement photos and your wedding (or so I’m told). That way you and the photographer get to know each other a little bit and you get a feel for what their pictures look like (better to find out you don’t like the engagement photos all that much and change photographers before the wedding).
I actually really loved our engagement photos, but the guy who did them charged more than we wanted to spend for wedding packages. We got a different photographer for our wedding and she was amazing. So it’s not necessary to have the same person for both. It can work out well either way.
6. Work Together
Engagement is kind of an awkward season. You’re getting married but you’re not married yet. You’re right on the cusp of your new life together. Planning a wedding is kind of a great introduction to living together. You’re having to work on some really practical skills together like budgeting, making decisions, prioritizing, working with your extended family, among others. Make sure you’re both included in the process.
One of the best parts for me of planning my wedding was seeing how involved my now husband wanted to be in parts I didn’t think he would care about. We worked together to plan everything out. Sure, there were some parts he was more involved/interested in than others, but he was very involved in the whole process and proved before we were even married that he would be a super helpful husband. Plus, there were some things that he did better than I did (like evenly cut fabric squares for table centerpieces).
7. Think of Your Mom.
Okay, here’s the deal. Your wedding is your day. It’s all about you and your soon to be spouse. However, it’s also a big day for your family, especially the moms. I’m not saying that you have to ask them about every little thing, but don’t forget about them. Make sure the day is special for them too. Your mom will want to be connecting with family and crying and dancing with your dad and eating the overpriced food she helped pay for.
Make sure the day is enjoyable for her too. Don’t overload her with a wedding day to do list. One of my goals was that my mom did as little as possible. She’s a helper by nature and I knew she would sneak in some tiny tasks (which I know she did), but I particularly told my Day of coordinator and my bridesmaids to keep her from doing things. That brings me to my next point:
8. Have a Freaking Day of Wedding Coordinator
I didn’t have a wedding planner. I’m cheap and I was not going to pay for that crap. I knew I could handle the planning and such. However, the venue where my husband and I got married required me to have a Day of Coordinator. Thank God! Best idea of all time.
The Day of Coordinator makes sure that you (and your mom/family) aren’t bugged with tiny little things you shouldn’t really be bugged with during the Wedding. You don’t have to pay a bunch of money for this either. I had one of my roommates as the official coordinator and my other roommate as her assistant. We hadn’t known each other long enough for them to be in my bridal party, but I wanted them to be a part of my special day too. Plus, they were both pretty detail oriented and I trusted their judgement to make decisions on my behalf.
You could have a friend, aunt, or someone along those lines do this important task. I made a detailed scheduled of how I wanted things to go on the day and my coordinator made sure that happened. She also helped with the tables/reception set up (so I and my mom didn’t have to), setting up the sound system, and a bunch of other little tiny things that I didn’t want to get forgotten but also knew I wouldn’t be able to do myself. Get you one of those!
9. Don’t Go Overboard on Pinterest
Pinterest is great. I actually refused to get a Pinterest until I got married because I didn’t want it to be a huge time suck for me (because I like cooking and I knew the endless stream of recipes would become a black hole I could easily be lost in forever). In retrospect, that was a great idea. Still, Pinterest is great for helping you come up with cute, cheap, unique wedding ideas. There are a ton of great tools too for those who are planning their own weddings. It’s just so great. But it’s also a black hole.
You can get on there looking for centerpiece ideas and end up realizing that you should have sent all your bridesmaids personalized “will you be in my wedding” gift boxes complete with wine, chocolate, jewelry, and tickets to Maui. Don’t get sucked in or feel like you have to do every good idea that you find. You can’t do that. It will drive you insane. Pace yourself and be realistic. Make sure the decorations, activities, ideas, etc. fit your budget, your family and friends, and especially you and your future spouse. Just because “everyone” is doing whatever it is doesn’t mean it fits you.
10. Most Important: Do Some Kind of Pre-Marital Prep
At the end of the day, your wedding is just a fun party. It’s not the goal. It’s just the beginning of a marriage that (Lord willing) will last a lifetime. The wedding will only last a couple of hours. Make sure you spend some time preparing for the marriage too. Some people do premarital counseling. A lot of churches offer that or could refer you to a professional counselor.
Our church actually does a premarital class, which I think is awesome. It’s a little less intense than one on one counseling (which was great for my rather reserved husband). Pre-marriage prep (whatever form it takes) is a must.
There are some really serious and important things that you may not have talked about that you need to talk about. In good pre-marriage prep, you’ll go over the less than romantic but important things like how are you going to handle your money? What is your relationship with your in-laws going to be like? What expectations do you have for marriage? Do you both have the same expectations and if not, how are they different? When do you want to have kids? How often do you want to have sex? These are important (and sometimes awkward) conversations to have. Make sure you have them and that you have a voice of wisdom speaking into your marriage.
So there you have it, my two cents on what you should concentrate on first and not forget in the midst of the crazy season of engagement. If you’ve got anything else to add, leave a comment below!