Just Engaged? Where to Start Planning

You said yes. Now what? We'll tell you what you need to do first.

Imagine Your Dream Wedding

Since you were little, you've been dreaming of your wedding day. Now it's almost a reality! Sit down with your intended and jot down details of your ultimate wedding -- on the beach, in an adorable chapel, in your parents' backyard -- and think about the big picture. Your fiance might have a completely different vision than you do. Remember, it's a day for both of you.

Stay Organized

If you're super-organized, the first order of business is creating the ultimate wedding binder. We recommend buying dividers and splitting it into these categories: Guest List, Budget, Contracts, Dress/Tuxedo Ideas, Wedding Party, 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 events (watch out for big sporting events) in your city. Narrow down your options to three days that work best for you, your fiance, and both your 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 affects many areas of your planning, including your budget, your ceremony, and your reception. Ask your parents, future in-laws, and 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, so leave room for flexibility.

Send Save-the-Dates

Give your guests plenty of time to plan for the wedding. Sending save-the-date cards is a great way to get on their calendars. Plan on sending the cards about six months before the ceremony. 

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 your registry often and write thank-you notes as soon as you receive gifts.

Set Your Budget

Though it might not be glamorous, a budget is a must. First, discuss how much is being contributed. Are your covering the 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 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.

A casual outdoor setting can be the perfect backdrop for an engagement party. Here are some festive ideas to inspire your next event!

Don't Forget to Party!

From the moment you get engaged, it's easy to get caught up in instant wedding planning. First things first, though: Celebrate! Here are easy tips for throwing a casual yet elegant engagement party.

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 intimidating, but once you have your scheme you'll be able to pick your flowers, attendants' dresses and tuxes, and reception decor.

Ask Your Attendants

Ask your friends and family to be in your wedding as early as possible. Having bridesmaids and groomsmen 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 and Tuxes

It's never too early. 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, book a block of 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 a large number of rooms. Let your guests know about the hotel options on your save-the-date card.

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