Where Do I Start?
You said yes. You hugged and kissed, you cried,
you called your parents. You felt like you were on cloud nine� only to have
your friends and family pull you back to earth with their many questions:
"where are you going to get married?" "are you going to have a big wedding?"
"who's going to be your maid of honor?" "have you set a date yet?" And
pretty soon you're beginning to wonder if getting married is such a good
idea after all!
First of all, relax. What you're feeling is totally normal. Planning a
wedding is an overwhelming process, especially in the beginning - after all,
it's something you've never done before! Follow these 10 steps, though, and
you'll feel like a pro in no time.
1. Take A Deep Breath
Seriously - take a deep breath and think back to how excited and giddy you
felt when he asked you to marry him. Now remember that feeling and savor it
for the next week or so. Yes, there's a lot to do� but be sure to enjoy the
moment before you get totally caught up in all the planning.
2. Figure Out What's Most Important to You
Before you book anything, sit down with your fianc� and figure out which
elements of the wedding are most important to you. (You should also consult
with both sets of parents). For some couples, what is most important to be
married somewhere special to them or at a certain time of year (or even on a
specific day!). For others, the music might be most important, and so they
plan their wedding around when their favorite band is available.
"My husband and I met in college, and we knew that we wanted to be married
at the church on campus. The next best date available was an evening in
June, so a lot of things fell into place from that. Where we got married
determined when we got married, and together those determined the style of
my dress, the size of our wedding party� the whole style of our wedding,
really," says Sarah from San Francisco.
Prioritizing what is most important to you will ensure these elements are
included in your wedding. It will also help when it comes to planning your
budget. (To determine what's most important to you, use our
3. Establish A Budget
You might want to refer back to step number one (Take A Deep Breath) for
this one - determining a budget is often one of the most difficult aspects
of planning a wedding. However, it's also one of the most important. Wedding
costs can easily get out of hand, so set a budget early on and stick to it.
Commit yourself to following the budget from the beginning, and it will
actually make decisions easier.
To help determine your budget, consider the priorities you just established,
which will help you answer How Formal Should My Wedding Be? Also refer to
Who Pays for What for some general guidelines and our
4. Start a Preliminary Guest List
This goes hand-in-hand with determining a budget. You won't need a detailed
guest list for quite a while yet, but many things (the ceremony and
reception sites, the caterer and cake) will depend on the number of people
attending your wedding. At this stage, you don't need to know who is being
invited to your wedding, but you do need to have a rough idea of how many
5. Let the Planning Begin!
With your priorities and budget in hand, it's time to start planning! Act
first on the elements you determined as most important to you. If you know
the photographer you want, get him or her on the phone to figure out
available dates. If you decided you want to be married in an outdoor garden
(a great way to save money!), then focus your energies on finding a garden
with a spring or summer date available.
Don't be worried if you don't have a specific person or place in mind - ask
your friends and family for recommendations. You'll find that everyone is
very willing to help, so if they don't know a photographer (or caterer, or
church�), they'll surely ask one of their friends who was married recently!
Another great resource is other service providers. They will have the
"insider scoop" on who is the best.
6. What Next?
After acting on those top priorities, the first thing to figure out is when
and where (unless, of course, those were your top priorities!). Most
ceremony and reception sites book very far in advance, so don't delay. See
The ABCs of Picking Ceremony & Reception Sites for more tips.
You should also start looking for your wedding gown soon, for two reasons:
first, it often takes quite a while to find a dress you're really happy
with; and secondly, most designers require an average of six months (some
longer) to make your dress. You'll also need to leave time for alterations.
Refer to Gown Shopping 101: Tips from the Pros and
What To Expect When Shopping for Your Gown for more information.
In general, you should book things like your photographer early, since he or
she can only photograph one wedding at a time. Read How to Choose a
Photographer for tips on this important task. You can wait a little longer
to find things like your florist or cake, since they can handle more than
one wedding in a day.
Use our wedding planning timeline to make sure
that you don't forget any of the little details -- and above all, remember