The holidays are an obvious time of year to pop the big question. Gift giving abounds, big family gatherings and holiday parties make the perfect setting for an elaborate proposal. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's are the most popular time of the year for engagements.
Keep in mind, the minute you say are getting hitched you are bombarded by wedding planning questions, options and suggestions. It can be overwhelming even to seasoned wedding professionals.
We see so many brides and grooms (usually in early January and February) come in with glazed, slightly frantic looks on their faces from the anxiety of planning a wedding. They don't know what to do first or exactly where to start, they just know that everyone wants answers and they have already forgotten the whole reason why they are planning the wedding in the first place... they love each other and have chosen to make a lifelong commitment! Take time to think about what works best for you as a couple and for your families and then jump into the pool with a clear direction and a joyful vision.
Savor the moment: First and foremost, enjoy it! Although it is so tempting to run out and start planning your wedding the day you say "yes!" you will have plenty of time to plan. Take a deep breath and bask in the joy and glory of your newly engagedness for at least a week before you run out to try on dresses and definitely before you put down any money on anything.
In my own engagement, my husband proposed on Christmas Eve and we were excited to share the news with BOTH our entire families who would be together on Christmas Day. By the end of Christmas Day we had a fully formed guest list, an ideal location, type of music and menu already chosen by our families. And while it was fun to have the input, my husband and I never really had a chance to just enjoy being engaged and not planning a wedding. I know my New Year's was ruined frantically looking for locations for not only a reception but also for a rehearsal dinner.
Get a manicure: Show off your new ring because it is a fun and special time and, although it's weird (or at least it was to me) that everyone wants to just see your ring, it is true they really do. So feel great about it and enjoy being pampered for a moment.
Be cool: I have even heard the suggestion of not telling everyone right away. Although I admit for most of us we are so excited to share the good news it would be impossible to keep the secret for very long. A wedding planner recently told me some sage advice: it is worth it to take your time so you are sure you can enjoy the process and take pleasure in ruminating on the right decision. I agree with that only if you are not the type of person who will make yourself crazy over every single decision and then spend the next 18 months making yourself, your fiancé, and your friends insane over the minute details.
The big downside to telling everyone about the wedding you are going to have is that then everyone thinks they are also invited. Which is a really fast way to mushroom your guest list and your budget through the roof before your even start planning. One recent client of ours sent a save the date to about 200 guests and then realized that they were caught up in the frenzy of a big wedding which really wasn't what they wanted. So they ran off to elope and had to send an "oops, don't save the date, we've changed our minds" card.
Start with what you know: Think about the weddings you have been to, talk to friends who have gotten married, and look at a few magazines or websites. But please do not stop doing everything else in favor of wedding planning right away. Your really don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of people who have walked this path before and use their wisdom, experience and references. Think about what are the meaningful, important elements. What does it mean to you to get married? What do you want to make sure to include in your ceremony and in your day? Who do you want to honor, who do you want to invite, what is the message you want to send to your family and friends? Discuss these questions together and give some real thought to what is most important to both of you.
Have a meeting of the minds: When you are ready, in a week or so, sit down with everyone involved. This might just be you and your fiancé, or parents and siblings, or a wedding planner if you are hiring one. Have a meeting of the minds; a frank, open conversation about everyone's wishes for your wedding day. Usually that includes the bride, the groom, all involved parents, and anyone else who may be contributing financially. Discuss openly your visions, your hopes and, yes, your limitations, such as budget, location, menus, etc. The key to this is to let everyone contribute to the conversation. Get everything out on the table. Remember, this is an important day for EVERYONE and the entire planning process will be so much more enjoyable for all if you try (as hard as it may be sometimes) to accommodate something that is really important to each person. While you may think putting "steam-punk attire" on your invites is a great idea, your parent's friends probably have no idea what that it.
Get it all down: Now that you have everyone's input, try and create a clear vision in your mind of your day and the elements that are important to you and put it on paper. You can do this with tear sheets, a list of four or five inspirational adjectives, and a few favorite color choices. Don't forget to EDIT! Less is more and while there are a lot of beautiful things out there, you can't have it all combined in one event.
Take this time to define your realistic timeline, design vision and BUDGET before you delve into your location search. It will help in the planning process to weed out what is not right for you and help guide your way through the very overwhelming world of wedding planning and really save you time in the long run.
Pick the location first: It is so tempting to run out and start trying on dresses but as a wedding planner recently told me, in her excitement she bought a dress before choosing a location. And ultimately the dress she had already purchased was way too formal for the location so she had to buy a new dress.
How many people, and what are the demographics? Do you have many relatives who are elderly and will have trouble with long flights of stairs or many friends with small children who you need to accommodate? Is there air conditioning? Enough offsite lodging? It is well worth your time to think these things through before you rush out and sign a contract on a location that might not fit you in the long run.
Relax!: Keep in perspective the difference between a wedding and a marriage. The wedding is a party -- a significant day celebrating the most important relationship of your life; a fabulous, fun and memorable milestone. Don't sweat the small stuff, enjoy that you have found love, revel, and celebrate your union, and remember to have fun!