01/12/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

So You're Newly Engaged... Now What?

By Katie Parsons for

Did your guy pop the question over the holidays? Though only 7 percent of Americans decide to get married in December, 16 percent of couples become engaged. If you are sporting a shiny new rock on your left ring finger, congratulations -– now it’s time to get to work.

As the engagement high starts to wear off, the task of actually planning the biggest event of your life may seem a little daunting (no pressure). There are hundreds of details that go into planning a wedding of any size –- so where does a bride-to-be begin?

Date and Venue First

Jennifer Harrup is the owner of Jennifer Laura Designs, a wedding planning business that specializes in design and styling. She says that before running out to search for the perfect bridal gown or taste-testing wedding cakes, brides should start with the practical details.

“If you are going to hire a planner, hire that person first to be with you every step of the way,” Harrup says. “If you aren’t hiring a planner, the first step will be finding your venue and selecting your date.”

After the venue has been booked for the day of choice, finding a caterer and photographer should be next on the planning to-do list, as both tend to book well in advance.

When it comes to flowers, consult a florist before setting your mind on a particular bouquet type. Kristen Janes of Kio Kreations recommends year-round favorites like hydrangea, orchids and calla lilies instead of roses.

Prioritize Budget

For most brides, money is at least somewhat of an object. The average wedding cost $28,400 but can easily top that if brides do not plan efficiently. Before spending a penny on any wedding costs, the engaged couple and their parents should decide on a budget and then what items to prioritize.

“I always recommend making a list of the wedding components, then listing them out from most important down to least important,” says Harrup. “Give bigger pieces of the budget to those items that made the top of the list.”
For those who do not have room in the budget for a wedding planner, Harrup recommends at least hiring a “day of coordinator” to make sure the ceremony and reception run smoothly. Often these professionals handle set up and tear down, too.

According to Harrup, “Having that person is a gift to your family and friends and will be worth every dollar on your wedding day.” She adds, “You will all be able to sit back, drink a mimosa and just relax!”

Enjoy the Ride

The planning is exciting, but can also get overwhelming. Professionals like Harrup that are around the wedding process every day see too many brides-to-be falling victim to burn out. The last thing that should ever happen to a bride is to look back on the wedding planning process with regret.

“Don’t get stressed! All of the decisions can be overwhelming but just take it one thing at a time.”

Katie Parsons is a contributor for She also hosts her own parenting blog and owns a freelance writing business.

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