Congratulations You're Engaged! Now What?

By: Meghan Cease, M. Elizabeth Events

Congratulations first and foremost! Try to sit back for a few weeks and truly enjoy the experience of being engaged! Then when you are ready to start your planning, here is a great “get you started” guide to being newly engaged!

A majority of the years engagements take place during these holidays and the average engagement time is 12 months. This is a good amount of time to allow for all planning and decisions without the added stresses of rushing or loosing the vendors you want to hire. With that said, here are the things that need to happen within the first month or so of being engaged to ensure you are going to have everything you envisioned your wedding to be and more!

1. Announce your engagement: Let everyone know that you gotten engaged! Etiquette wise, believe it or not, there is an order to do this.

First: Let your parents, siblings and grandparents know. DO NOT SEND A TEXT MESSAGE! Give them a call! This is a very special occasion and they probably want to ask you all the fun details! Then you can send an email or an engagement announcement to extended friends and family.

TIP: Keep in mind, when you send engagement announcements, those that you send them to, will likely expect an invite to the wedding. Be sure they do not mistake that for an invitation though!

Then: Publish an Announcement in Your Local Newspaper. Their requirements are usually listed online. It should tell you if they accept pictures, have any specific guidelines, deadlines, fees, or regulations about the announcement.  Typically, announcements include information on the two of you, including career and education credentials, and your parents names. If your parents live in a different town, you should also include their hometowns.

2. Pick a date: Pick Carefully!

There are a number of things you need to consider when picking a date:
    •    In Season vs. Off Season: These months will vary depending on which area of the world you pick. For Birmingham weddings,  in season months are: April, May, June, July, October and lately November is becoming quite popular. If you go to Seaside or Gulf Shores, your in season months would be different due to weather and tourism peak times. The biggest thing to note is that your wedding costs will typically be less during the off season.
    •    Location: What kind of atmosphere do you want for your wedding and guests? Do you want historic homes, museums, water access, mountains, etc? You should research the locations you are debating to the fullest. If you want to get married at a winery or on the water, unfortunately Birmingham wouldn't be the area for you!
    •    Weather: If you want the festivities to take place mainly outside, then I wouldn't recommend the humid, rain prone, or cold months! Every city and location is different, so do a little research on what the average weather report is for each month.
    •    Holidays: Will it be easy for your guests to travel? This can go both ways. On the up side, they would have more time to travel and make a mini-vacation out of it, but on the downside they can incur more costs due to high travel times.

3. Hire a wedding planner: A No Brainer!

The average wedding takes 250+ hours toplan and this day in age with the hectic schedules we keep, who has the time to do a thorough job? Think about how much you get paid for an hour of work, now think about how much you get paid per hour. By the time you add up all the time you spent researching vendors, sending emails, making phone calls, and tracking details you could have paid for 4 planners! As a wedding planner,   I not only offer my expertise and share priceless information and knowledge with you, I am a sounding board, friend and liaison when it comes to vendor details and negotiations. It is very hard planning a wedding from another city in which you are not familiar. How are you supposed to know, of the hundreds of vendors listed, which ones will provide you with the quality service you deserve? 

Wedding planners are also privy to discounts, that you as a private party wouldn’t normally be entitled to, based on the strong and constant working relationships they share with vendors. Thus, saving you even more money!  At the very least you should have a wedding planner for your day of. The last thing you want to think about when you are getting ready in your room, is whether or not the cake was delivered and having to get up extra early to lay linens and set your place settings. Just as you want to enjoy your wedding day, as do your friends and family. You want a professional who has experience with all the things that can and will go wrong, handle the most important day in your life.

4. Establish your Budget: Know your limits!

Before you can really start any type of planning, you really need to discuss this touchy subject with prospective contributors to your wedding budget. Your wedding planner can help you establish what you spend and which vendors will fit in your budget, based on what you have envisioned for your big day.

This will help determine decisions like:
    •    Reception space options (Hall, Ballroom, Museum, Historic Home, etc)
    •    What type of chairs you can rent (plastic, wood, chivari, etc)
    •    Band vs. DJ
    •    Passed Hors d’oeuvres vs. a Sit down Dinner
    •    Bar options
    •    Linen options
    •    and much more!

You really need a number in your head before you begin to book vendors. You do not want to be stuck looking and falling in love with venue spots that do not fit in your budget!

5. Start compiling your guest list: Be reasonable!

Knowing how many guests might attend will help determine what venues you can consider and how much you can plan to spend per person. I don't have to tell you that the less guests you have, the farther your budget will go. You know that! Wouldn’t you rather the fun details like beautiful chargers, luxurious linens, lush floral decor, dramatic draping, amazing lighting and one more course to your meal, rather than 50 more guests? I know I WOULD! But, I can tell you that having a large number of guests is exhausting for you and your fiancé. You will spend most of the night making sure you talk to each guest and less time dancing and enjoying the festivities! It is no fun talking to people you have met once in your life when you were 10 not to mention you are paying a pretty penny for them to be there.

TIP: Keep in mind this general rule of thumb--If your wedding is an out of town wedding 60-70% of guests will attend. If your wedding is an in town wedding, 70-80% of guests will attend. This number with the economy with the way it is now tends to lean more to the lower end of these numbers and holiday weekends will also affect your attendance.

6. Start your wedding website:The ultimate information source for guests.

The best way to keep your guests informed and actively involved in your wedding is to create a wedding website. This day in age, with technology at everyone’s fingertips, it is easy to make a one-stop-shop for your family and friends. There are a number of free wedding website options and ones that have a month to month or yearly fee. Depending on the features you are looking for out of your website, will determine  the price you will end up paying. I suggest you find one that has an online RSVP option, external links to your registries, enough pages to add for hotel, travel, timing, things to do, and gallery information. My favorites are Wedding Window, Wedding Wire, and MyWedding. Check back next week for a more in depth overview and comparison of the most popular wedding website options to help you make an informed decision!

7. Send out Save the Dates: A smart move.

I recommend, if you are planning a type of destination wedding where most of your guests will be attending from out of town, sending out a “Save the Date”.  Sending this card will allow your guests to make travel plans, hotel arrangements and make sure they mark their calendar to ensure no other future plans coincide with your wedding day! The more time they have to plan, the better the chance they will be able to come.

TIP: If you have a wedding website, be sure to add that to the card. Providing information on hotels, important times, travel options, and giving them access to wedding registries, will help you in the long run as well!

TIP: You might want to include some travel brochures and visitor’s packets of the city you will be getting married in. This might entice your guests to make a mini vacation out of your wedding weekend and will prompt more guests to attend. Your wedding planner can help you gather these from a the local tourism council.

I know it seems overwhelming, but it never hurts to get started early and ask for help! planning your wedding is supposed to be fun and stress free and I assure you, having a wedding planner will guarantee this!  So ask me how I can help you love every minute of your planning in