Congratulations on your engagement! You're in love, and you're embarking on a life with your soul mate. Right now you're on cloud nine. On your finger rests the promise of the future. I bet you've never felt so alive. What should you do next? After helping hundreds of couples plan their weddings, here is my best advice:
LIVE IN THE MOMENT: Enjoy the feeling. Revel in the joy that you and your fiance are feeling AT THIS MOMENT. For now, simply enjoy the outpouring of LOVE from all of your family and friends. Show off the beautiful engagement ring. You're still staring at it....aren't you? Good, that's what you should be doing.
DREAM: Once the dust has settled and you've shared the big news with everyone, start dreaming. Buy magazines, surf the web, imagine yourself as a bride. Two of my favorite websites for inspiration are www.projectwedding.com and www.weddingwire.com They both have great ideas and photo galleries to get you started. Another great resource for inspiration are wedding blogs. My favorite is www.styleunveiled.com
ORGANIZE YOUR IDEAS: Make an inspiration binder. Use the tabs for categories such as gown, venue, decor, music, food and beverage. Pull pages from the magazines, and print photos from websites. Now start filling your binder. Having your ideas organized and in one place will save your sanity. There is no reason to keep stacks of magazines filled with inspiration you don't need. Only keep what you do need and discard the rest. When you get rid of the clutter, you avoid confusion. With so many decisions to be made, confusion is your enemy.
START A PINTEREST BOARD: Start a board just for your wedding. This is a page you will share with your planner and floral designer. Knowing exactly the look you're trying to achieve will save you and your vendors precious time. Worried your friends and family will see all the top secret details of your wedding? Never fear...Pinterest allows you to create a secret board that you can share with only those who need to see it.
BUDGETING: Next step is setting a budget. Not fun and pretty, I know, but it's necessary. Get the money issues out of the way and let the fun begin. Before you can start planning your dream day, you must know what you can and can't afford. The budget will be the roadmap for every single decision you make. Whether you're paying for your wedding yourself, or getting support from your family members, you must decide what the overall budget is. Only then can you begin choosing venues, vendors, and even your wedding gown. Don't blindly think you can begin spending without knowing if you can afford it. Once contracts are signed, there is no turning back. Especially where venues are concerned...they often require food and beverage minimums. You don't want to figure out later that you can't afford your dream gown because you've gone over budget at the start.
Don't trust a budget tool on a planning website to know what YOU want. Thousands of other brides, using that tool are NOT YOU. You're an individual. While your priority may be food and beverage, another bride may be more focused on floral decor. Planning websites use a standard formula based on the national average to break down your budget. Are you average? I doubt it. I haven't met one couple yet whose budget is the same as another.
HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER: The earlier the better. By getting a jump on the planner's experience, you'll avoid costly mistakes. Her fee will pay for itself when she helps you to make every penny of your budget work for you. As a planner I know how to take your budget, your priorities, your individual style and theme, and break down your budget. This means you get the absolute BEST for your hard earned dollars. Allocating your dollars to the proper categories, shows me which vendors are "right for you". A planner's years of experience and respect in the industry will also garner YOU preferred pricing and extras that you likely couldn't negotiate on your own.
These are just a few tips to get you started. My heartfelt congratulations to you and your fiance. Now....go stare at that shiny ring some more, and shower your fiance with love and kisses.