Engaged?  You’ll need to stop gazing at that sparkly new jewel on your finger briefly so you can begin planning the wedding you’ve been dreaming about since childhood!

Engagement season is in full swing.  Wedding Wire says the recent Christmas holiday is the number one time for engagements.  We are fast approaching number two, Valentine’s Day.  There are a lot of brides and grooms trying to plan their dream weddings, so you need to get busy!

Engaged couples need to enjoy the wedding planning process.

Photography by Jessica Strickland Photography

Planning can be time-consuming.  Experts recommend starting about 16 months before your target wedding date.  Here are a few guidelines to help you get started.

  1. Enjoy the fact you are engaged!

Take some time to enjoy your newly-engaged status and have FUN!  Throughout the wedding planning process, try not to become so overwhelmed you lose sight of the magic of this time of your life and in the lives of your family and friends.

  1. Start a Wedding Binder

Buy a notebook or binder where you can begin to store all your wedding details. Be sure to divide it into sections such as “Ceremony”, “Reception”, “Photographer” and “Dress.”  This will serve as a one-stop-shop for all your wedding plans, contracts and wishes.  It will carry you right up to the big day!

  1. Build your Budget

It’s the one factor that will rule every decision you make – budget.  Have conversations with both sides of your families, as well your fiancé, to ensure that you know exactly how much money you have to work with and who will be paying for what.   This may not be the most fun or easiest part of wedding planning, but it is the most important.

The earlier you have these talks, the better it will be AND the more time you will have to save for those lavish touches you can’t live without.

  1. Draft a Guest List

Write down everyone you feel like you want to or should invite and consult your families for additional names.  Obviously, not everyone will make the final invite cut or be able to come.  But this will give you a good idea of how many guests you could have and help you decide which venues you should look at.

  1. Pick the Wedding Party

Speculation on your maid-of-honor, best man and other attendants starts among friends and family as soon as you announce you’re engaged.  Decide how many attendants you want and exactly who they will be as quickly as possible to end the mystery and gossip.

  1. Go Pro!

If you plan to hire a wedding planner, this is the time. You’ll need the planner to help you narrow down possible venues and their expertise to find the photographer, florist and other key players.

  1. Decide on a date

Do you want a holiday wedding complete with festive decorations and poinsettias? Have you always dreamed of a June wedding under an arbor covered in flowers? Narrow down what season you want to target and then select possible dates.

Next, check with your families to see what dates are off the table.  Having several possibilities will help you ensure you have the perfect venue, with the perfect people, at the perfect time of year.

Once you have a list of a few possibilities, you can start the next step…

  1. Picking the Venues

Will you have the ceremony and reception in the same place? Will you have a church wedding followed by a reception at a separate location? It’s time to start investigating venues! Your guest count and budget will be starting points.  Then, venue availability on your target dates will help you narrow down the perfect spots.

  1. Book your Venue

The look and feel of your venue will impact multiple decisions in your wedding, such as the dress.  For example, you probably wouldn’t wear a heavy satin princess gown for a beach wedding.

The venue’s size and style will also affect your guest count, menu and even your color palette.

  1. Lock in Others

Once you have the venue, you want to be sure your top photographer, officiant, band and DJ choices are locked in for your wedding date.  Don’t wait too long or they might be booked!

  1. Remember to breathe!

Try to keep your stress in check by remembering the love that got you here! Take the time to enjoy your engagement, the romance, and prepare for your marriage and new life together.

To keep you on track, we also like this wedding checklist from Real Simple.

The coordinators at The Crane BayThe Willows and Crystal Catering plan fabulous events every day and they can help take some of the pressure off your shoulders!  Don’t hesitate to contact them to help make your special day the magical one you’ve been dreaming about.