He finally proposed! The ring is on your finger, all of your single friends are seething with jealousy, and the initial celebrations are through. Suddenly begins the time when the initial joy and excitement gives way to planning the big day. As with any important event, it is vital to have a solid plan in place. Know exactly what details need to be considered and give yourself a reasonable timeframe to accomplish your goals. If you are a student, work full-time, or have other responsibilities that require much of your day, schedule wedding planning accordingly. Wedding planning can already be quite stressful; causing more anxiety by overbooking an already hectic schedule is not helpful to anyone.
Decide what style of wedding you want. Will you have a casual daytime wedding or an elegant evening soiree? Will the wedding be religious or secular? Do you wish to be outdoors or inside? Do you want a theme for your wedding? Are you considering a destination wedding or elopement with a large reception back home? Don’t forget to consider your budget throughout this planning process.
Once the basics have been handled, the planning can truly begin:
Choose a date for your wedding, but be flexible. You may need to choose several dates prior to reserving the venue. In wedding planning, rigidity is not your friend.
Pick attendants and ask them to be involved. Let them know precisely what their responsibilities are as far as tasks concerned (will they be expected to help decorate?) and financial contributions, including any travel expenses and cost of wedding attire.
Find a venue for the wedding and reception and reserve it as soon as possible. Wedding venues are often reserved for six months to a year before the date. To get the location(s) you want, you must be willing and able to make the down payment right away. When reserving the space(s), find out the exact details, including whether you can use the space for rehearsal, when you are allowed to start decorating, if cleanup is your responsibility, how many guests can be seated, etc.
Make a guest list. Your venue should be your guide to how many guests can be invited. Some couples decide to save money by inviting only a select few to the reception after the wedding. This is in bad form and should not be done. If you cannot afford to feed all of your wedding guests, either pare back the guest list or have a smaller reception.
Determine who will perform the wedding ceremony. Discuss vows with your fiancée; will you write your own or use the traditional vows? As far as the ceremony is concerned, will you choose to use standard readings and format or do you have other wishes? If you will have readings, decide who you will ask to conduct these.
If you will have music during the ceremony, as most couples do, find the pieces of music that are important to you as well as the musicians. Many couples prefer to use individuals they personally know, though others are more comfortable hiring a pianist or string quartet.
Decide on the color scheme for the wedding and reception as well as the types of flowers, if any, that will be featured. Meet with the florist to discuss arrangements.
Make final decisions on the wedding gown, bridesmaids gowns, the groom and groomsmen’s attire, as well as clothing for any other attendants.
If the reception will be catered, meet with the caterer to decide style and menu. If serving alcohol, decide on an open bar or cash bar. Don’t forget to ask about servers and cleanup crew; some caterers provide this service as part of their fee, but many charge extra.
Decide what flavor and style the wedding cake and the groom’s cake will be. Don’t be afraid to let the groom show his personality with his cake, and don’t be weary about thinking outside the box by serving cupcakes, cheesecake, or even pie.
Meet with photographers and videographers. Have your engagement picture taken and secure the contract for the ceremony and reception.
Order and address invitation and, if you’re using them, save the dates. Invitations should be mailed about six weeks before the wedding. Don’t forget to pre-stamp the RSVP cards this may also be a good time to design and print your wedding programs.
Purchase all of the smaller, but still important items. This includes any chair or pew decorations, an aisle runner, a signature book for guests, and gifts for all of the attendants who will be there for you on your big day.
Find out the marriage license requirements for your state. Some states require the application be filed at least one month before the wedding and in some, if the application is filed too soon, it can expire.
Schedule a meeting with your hairdresser to try different styles for the ceremony. While you are there, schedule a spa day for yourself. By this point you will have spent months planning your wedding and you need the relaxation so that you can truly enjoy your special day. And last but not least, make sure to enjoy your special day and take it all in!
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