Congrats! If you’re reading this article, it’s highly likely that you are one of those lucky humans who, against all odds, has found someone you hope to spend the rest of your life with — and you’re excited AF. There are lots of decisions to be made, and everyone (repeat: everyone) is going to want to be involved in the wedding planning process. But before you freak out, remember this one truth: Your wedding is about celebrating the love you and your partner share for each other. This is your new motto. Read that sentence again if you must.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk logistics. After the Champagne bubbles have fizzled and the engagement party has come to an end, it’s time to start thinking about how you picture your big day unfolding. Don’t get swamped in all the nitty-gritty details just yet. Before you start researching garden wedding venues, here are the 11 important things every couple should immediately discuss after getting engaged.
1. Pick where the wedding will be. His family lives in Chicago, you met in New York and you’ve got two grandmothers in Virginia. Sound familiar? If you and your spouse-to-be aren’t from the same state, one of the first things you need to decide is where to host your wedding. The location will determine your budget, the expected number of RSVPs and give an estimated travel cost for your guests.
2. Ballpark your guest list. Dun, dun, dun. Creating a guest list is easily one of the most difficult and political parts of planning a wedding. The traditional way to divvy out invitations is to give the couple half of the list, while each set of parents gets a quarter. That means if you want 100 people in attendance, you’d invite 50, while your parents and your fiancé’s parents would both invite 25. But many couples opt for the less stressful option of splitting the guest list evenly between all three parties — especially if your families are contributing financially. And while it’s important to have an estimate, you won’t need a final count for a few months. So grab a glass of wine and stop stressing! You can decide if your estranged uncle from Canada makes the list at a later date.
3. Discuss your budget. No, it’s never a fun subject. But creating a budget (and sticking to it) is a huge part of wedding planning. If your parents are chipping in, be sure to sit down with them and have a formal discussion about everyone’s expectations. A few other big tips: Pick three or four factors of the celebration that you really care about — photography, the reception tent, catering, etc. — and plan around those big ticket items. Before you reach out to vendors, be sure to start an expenses spreadsheet with your partner and break down your expected costs. Lastly, remember to account for unexpected splurges along the way. It happens to even the most well-organized brides.
4. Sent a tentative date. The first thing people are going to ask you after you’ve gotten engaged is, “Have you picked a date?” You don’t need an exact day, but it’s a good time to start thinking about what season you want to get married in, how long you want to be engaged and how much time you’ll need to plan your epic event. The timeline will also depend on your location. For example, if you’re getting married in New York City, you may have to book highly-coveted venues a year and a half in advance. Another factor: Subtly poll the bridal party for dates that will and won’t work. Is the MOH supposed to have a baby the week of your tentative wedding? Yikes! That’s something to consider.
5. Have the families meet. There are going to be a LOT of people to see on your wedding day, and the rehearsal dinner won’t be much better: Your grandparents will drive in from out of town, your aunt will fly in from London and all of your BFFs will be dying to catch just of glimpse of you. So if your parents haven’t met your soon-to-be-spouse’s parents yet, consider introducing them before the big day. That way, you can guide conservation without feeling completely overwhelmed. If that’s not a possibility, try connecting them on Facebook so they can start building a solid relationship.
6. Choose your style. Have you always dreamed of a garden party wedding under a white tent? Then make your style preferences known early on. Forming the “big picture” will also help guide you throughout the engagement period. For instance, if you lean toward a funky, whimsical vibe, this will dictate other decisions, like the formality of the bride’s attire. If you hope to throw a black tie affair, the number of guests you are able to invite while staying under budget might be much smaller. It’s better to discuss your ideas right away so that you, your partner and both of your families have similar expectations.
7. Register for gifts ASAP. The months leading up to your wedding are all about celebrating. There will be an amazing amount of engagement parties, wedding showers, bachelorette shenanigans and more. So that you don’t wind up with two toasters and a bunch of not-so-chic crap, make a gift registry or “honey fund” soon after you’re engaged. Be sure to include at least one national brand (think: Macy’s or Bed Bath & Beyond) so guests from around the country can easily order your wedding presents.
8. Get the ring insured. Ah, ah… Don’t skip out on this chore. Sure, it’s not a thrilling task, but it’s one that could prevent some serious drama later down the road. If your bling slips off your hand on the beaches of St. Lucia or goes tumbling down the kitchen sink, the right insurance package can help replace your loss. Do some research, find a provider and get an appraisal. Then, reappraise your small investment a few years after the wedding.
9. Make your partner feel included. Whether your fiancé has grandiose wedding fantasies or no opinions whatsoever, it’s vital to understand how involved your S.O. wants to be in the planning process. Do they only care about the bar package and the venue? Then listen to their ideas, and get your wedding day dreams in sync. Do they prefer not to chat about the wedding at every meal? Then understand that you’ll need to set aside specific times to discuss the upcoming par-tay. Every couple plans differently; accept that fact and enjoy the journey.
10. Decide on a wedding planner. If you’re someone who loves to plan, can handle lots of details and has a strong vision for your wedding day, you may not need to spend the money on a wedding planner during the entire length of your engagement. Not the event-savvy type? Then hire someone to help you get organized before you get too far along in planning. Pro tip: Whether you go with a full-time coordinator or not, be sure to have someone (that’s *not* your mother) assisting with setup and managing vendors the day of the wedding. It will ease your stress, and give your family plenty of time to enjoy the soirée.
11. Make your Pinterest board. Now, it’s time for the fun part. If you’re looking for a way to keep all of your amazing ideas organized, turn to every bride’s best friend: Pinterest! Share boards with your bridesmaids, brainstorm centerpiece ideas and keep a digital look book of wedding dress possibilities. And (shameless plug) Brit + Co has a TON of wedding ideas on Pinterest, covering everything from bouquet types to budget decor — so get pinning!
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