Just Engaged...Where to Start Planning

He's popped the question. You've said yes. Now that you're engaged, we'll tell you what you need to do first.

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Imagine Your Dream Wedding

    Since you were a little girl you have been dreaming of your wedding day. Now it's a reality! Sit down with your husband-to-be and jot down your ultimate wedding -- on the beach, in an adorable chapel, in your parents' backyard -- think about the big picture. Your fiance may have a completely different vision than you do. Remember, it's his day too, so try to let him give a little input.

Stay Organized

    For the super-organized bride, the first order of business is creating the ultimate binder. Your binder will become one of your prized possessions and you won't know what to do if it's not by your side. We recommend buying dividers and splitting it into these categories: Guest Lists, Budget, Contracts, Dress Ideas, Bridesmaids, Invitations, Flowers/Cakes, and Reception Ideas.

Pick a Date

    Start by choosing a time of year that works best for your location. Consider holidays or big events (watch out for the Super Bowl) that are happening in your city. Narrow down your options to three days that work best for you, your fiance, and the parents. Selecting three date options will give you flexibility when choosing a ceremony/reception location.

Make a First Draft Guest List

    Before you decide on an intimate beach wedding or a giant bash, determine a preliminary guest list. The number of guests you invite affects many areas of your planning including your budget, your ceremony, and your reception -- just to name a few. Ask your parents, future in-laws, and your fiance to give you a list of names that they want to invite. There's no need to collect addresses yet, just get your final number -- and remember it will probably grow by the time you have a final count so leave room for flexibility.

Register Early

    Yes, you can start registering right away -- especially if your parents or friends are throwing an engagement party! It's becoming more popular to give engagement gifts, along with shower and wedding presents. Make sure to update it often and ALWAYS write thank-you notes as soon as you receive a gift.

Set Your Budget

    Though it may not be glamorous, a budget is a must. First, discuss how much is being contributed. Are the bride's parents covering the whole event? Are you and your fiance paying? Your budget will shape the rest of your big day. The most important thing to remember? Don't go in debt for your wedding. You want to start your marriage off on the right foot so plan your wedding to accommodate your budget.

Find a Ceremony and Reception Site

    Ceremony and reception sites are filling up fast! Some locations are booked a year in advance -- no kidding! So find your location right away.

Consider Your Colors

    Start pulling images of colors you enjoy. Keep in mind seasonal colors such as pastels for spring, autumn hues for fall, or a traditional scheme of black and white. Choosing colors can be intimating, but once you have your scheme you'll be able to pick your flowers, bridesmaids' dresses, and reception decor.

Ask Your Attendants

    Ask your friends and family to be in your wedding as early as possible. Having bridesmaids by your side will keep the planning process fun for all!

Start Looking for Vendors

    Browsing vendors' sites is a great way to narrow down your options. You'll want to start booking your photographer, caterer, videographer, and florist at the 10-month mark. Remember to interview a few vendors so you can compare work and find one that fits your wedding best.

Look for Dresses

    It's never too early to start looking for a dress. Start shopping seven to 10 months in advance to ensure enough time for ordering and alterations. For the bargain bride consider buying a dress off the rack. Most of bridal stores will give you a discount on the dress and you'll have it in plenty of time.

Book Hotel Rooms

    To save your guests from the stress of finding a hotel, block off rooms for them. Try to find two hotels in a variety of price ranges for your guests. Most hotels will give you a discounted rate for blocking off a large number of rooms. Let your guests know about the hotel options on your save-the-date.

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