Jour L'Amour Blog
First 10 Things to do When You Get Engaged
I quite often hear new brides say "I'm so excited about getting married, but where the heck do I start?" So I wanted to provide a bit of insight to get you going in the right direction. To get the best choice of vendors, I recommend starting at least 12 months in advance. Here's what you need to do in this order:
Hire a wedding planner – We can help in more ways than you may realize at first.
Start a wedding binder - Organization is the key to planning the perfect wedding without getting overwhelmed. I suggest a 2" 3-ring binder that has inside pockets on both covers. Include tabbed dividers for each vendor: Ceremony Venue, Reception Venue, Photographer, Videographer, Caterer, Florist, Bakery/Confectioner, Stationer/Calligrapher, Bridal Attire, Jewelry/Accessories, Bridesmaids' Attire, Groom's Attire, Hair/Make-Up, DJ/Band, String Quartet/Vocalist, Rentals, Transportation, Gifts/Favors, Hotel, and Honeymoon (optional). Include your original budget with a breakdown of how much you're allotting for each vendor at the very front, but keep a digital copy you can update as often as needed.
Work out your budget - Keep in mind the approximate cost is $150/guest just for the reception. That does not include things like the cost of your bridal attire, transportation, hotel, florist, DJ, etc. If you would like family members to contribute, make sure you discuss exactly how much each person will contribute, or what they will contribute before moving forward. For example, if your mom wants to buy your wedding gown, be sure you get an estimate from her before going shopping. Dresses can range from $99 to $50,000 with the average being $3,000. Will she also be purchasing the veil, shoes, & other accessories? Being upfront about these details can save lots of hurt feelings and disappointments down the road.
Pick your wedding party - You are responsible for paying for their bouquets. There are a couple options: limit the number of Bridesmaids and give them fabulous bouquets OR have as many BMs as you'd like and either give them small bouquets or a bouquet alternative (fans, parasols, etc.). Make sure your wedding party is also aware that they will have responsibilities.
Pick your tentative wedding date - I say "tentative" because as you're venue shopping, if you fall in love with a place that already has your preferred date booked, it's best to be flexible with the date. Maybe they have a spot the weekend before or after your preferred date. Nearly every vendor will charge more for Saturday evening weddings, especially venues & caterers. To save money, consider Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons. You'll get the least expensive price for weekdays, but who wants to get married on a Tuesday at 2 pm, right? Conversely, a wedding on a holiday can nearly double your cost! Be sure you discuss all these options with the venues you're considering. Etiquette note: avoid dates that already fall on a very close relative's birthday. I did a wedding that was on the brides' sister's birthday and at the reception she acted out by having a few too many cocktails and jumped in the pool to regain some of the attention.
Start the guest list - Etiquette note: If any of your relatives will be contributing financially to your wedding, be sure you check with them to see if there's anyone they would like to invite. Also, create an A list and a B list. You'll send your A list invitations out a bit early and if 10 can't make it, invite 10 people from your B list. That way you make sure all the people closest to you are there and if you're over your limit (venues do have limits to the number of people they can accommodate), you already know you won't be able to invite your B list. However, if you still have room to fill, his college buddies and your fellow SPCA volunteers can come after all!
Reserve your ceremony venue - When picking one, make sure you know the capacity and exactly what's included in the price. Altar arrangements, on-site coordinator, bridal suite, musician (organist/harpist), etc.? If it's not included, make sure you figure out the cost of those things to see if you're getting the best deal.
Reserve your reception venue - Knowing the capacity and exactly what's included in the price is important (Tables, chairs, centerpieces, linen, cake, waiters, valet, etc.). Just as with the ceremony venue, if it's not included, make sure you figure out the cost of those things to see if you're getting the best deal.
Research Photographers, Videographers, Bands, Florists, & Caterers – Ask your ceremony & reception venues for their preferred vendors list, check out potential vendors’ online reputations, and ask recently married friends & family if they have any recommendations. And, of course, Jour L'Amour has a list of reputable vendors to refer you to that will give you exactly the products and services to fit your needs.
Schedule engagement photos - If you want to use them for invitations or Save-the-Dates, do some backwards calculating. Find out from your Photographer how long it will take to get the pictures back and figure out when you'll need to send the invitations/STDs and then you'll have a good idea on when you'll need to schedule the photos. Also keep in mind the season & weather if the photo session will be outside. You'll also need to coordinate professional make-up for the shoot. Professional hair styling is optional, but if you want to include it, that's something else you'll need to coordinate.