Just got engaged? You’ve decided to say yes to a lifetime together – you’re engaged! Now what the heck do you do next? After you’re done soaking in that just-got-engaged excitement, it can feel SO overwhelming to think about the next step: planning a wedding. Wedding planning is a whole new world, especially because you probably haven’t planned one before. No worries! Here are the top 10 steps to do FIRST after you get engaged.
1. Just got engaged? CElebrate your engagement
Before you do anything else, make sure you take a moment to celebrate. Before you dive into the abyss known as wedding planning, take a moment to share your happiness with your loved ones. The first days after getting engaged are some of the best in the wedding planning process because you’re spending a lot of time going, “OMG IS THIS REAL?” Make sure to enjoy those moments.
2. Get your ring insured
If you haven’t already (and you have a ring that is!) make sure to immediately insure it and have it sized. Usually a good jeweler will encourage the person who bought the ring to bring the wearer back to check on fit (at least that’s what happened to us!). They resized it in a few days, no biggie, and this is the PERK to using a LOCAL jeweler (in Metro Detroit, I love Miner’s Den).
Add your ring to your homeowner’s insurance policy — they’ll ask for an appraisal to do this and likely you have one from when it was purchased — or you can get a separate policy if you prefer that. It was easy to add to my homeowner’s policy and the piece of mind is super important! I have heard stories of ring loss and you just want to be able to replace what is usually a large value item that you wear daily!
3. next, after you get engaged, Figure Out Your WEdding priorities
Asking yourselves, “What type of wedding do we want?” and “What’s important to us in a wedding?” are important questions that will inform your wedding planning. Weddings can be small and simple, large and elaborate, or something in between. There is no right or wrong way to get married.
Having frank discussions with your partner about what priorities you have for your wedding day can help create a wedding vision before you even book anything. Knowing what you want to focus on will help inform your budget.
For some people, they want a traditional larger wedding with everyone special to them in one place. There’s something to be said for that! But others would rather just keep the focus on the two of them and have an elopement or intimate wedding. Whatever your priorities, make sure to keep that at the center of your planning.
4. Think Through a Wedding Budget
No matter how you get married, it does usually cost money. Even a courthouse elopement costs something. Figuring out an overall wedding budget is helpful before you start diving into wedding planning. It keeps you honest when looking for vendors.
After setting your priorities, I recommend first setting an overall wedding budget, maybe after consulting your parents (if they are involved in the planning/paying process), and then allocating estimated budgets for each vendor: venue, photography, videography, planning/coordination, florals, decor, cake, attire, entertainment, invitations, etc. Doing some basic research in your area or where you’re thinking of being married can give you an idea of estimated costs.
There are a wide variety of wedding vendors in every budget and some DIY options too. In my experience having planned a wedding and being a vendor in the industry, you truly do get what you pay for when it comes to wedding vendors. If you’re more on a scrappy budget, go back to your priorities and decide where you want to allocate the most funds. If you’re able to, find professionals who will be worth every penny!
5. Just got engaged? Vision board Away
You just got engaged, but maybe you’ve been pinning wedding pins on Pinterest since you’ve been a teen. Or maybe you have never even thought to do that. Either way, use Pinterest or don’t, but it can be fun and helpful to get inspired by looking at other weddings and ideas!
This might seem overwhelming for some or create unrealistic expectations for what weddings look like. I’m a photographer and I know it happens all the time. But if we view Pinterest and other weddings as INSPIRATION and let it inspire our own vision, that’s perfectly acceptable! One of the best blogs to look at REAL weddings is A Practical Wedding. These posts include budget breakdowns and most of these weddings are NOT high, luxury events. It can also be helpful to search venues in your area and look at photographer’s blog posts, just to see what other people do locally.
6. Decide on a season
After you just got engaged, I don’t recommend going into the venue hunt with a strict date. No one wants to fall in love with a venue, then they don’t have your intended date and it’s a huge bummer! Some couples are attached to certain dates due to anniversaries or other milestones. That’s totally fine, but my recommendation is to pick a season you’d like to be married in and be a little flexible with the exact date.
In Michigan where I mostly work, our peak wedding season is May through October. Every Saturday is usually filled with weddings during this five month stretch as late spring, summer, and fall are usually the most gorgeous times to be married in our state. However, winter weddings are still beautiful, you may just have less options. Spring tends to be cooler, but in summer there’s endless daylight. Fall tends to bring beautiful colors (that never last long), but also rain in Michigan. For winter, there’s less competition for venues and vendors, and snow is magical, but some people hate the cold! There are pros and cons to every single season.
7. Find a venue & pick your date
You may have your eye on the perfect florist or the most incredible photographer for your event, but likely they won’t send you a contract when you don’t have a date or place to hold your wedding. The very first vendor to book is your VENUE. Obviously if you’re opting for a backyard wedding this is super easy, but if you’re hoping to host your wedding at a venue, this (in my experience) was the heavy lifting part of wedding planning.
I was someone who explored over 20 venue options when I was engaged. I had a spreadsheet that included information about the venue and the average cost so that I could quickly compare. I did not visit every venue on my list and was able to eliminate some of them based on certain criteria (i.e. they didn’t fit my intended guest count, they were too expensive, or they weren’t really fitting our overall vision). Set up visits at the top spots first. Make sure to ask questions you might have and ask about availability! It’s okay to ask about costs and talk numbers. The venue is usually one of the more expensive parts of a wedding.
I will say if you’re planning on hiring a wedding planner, it can be helpful to hire the planner BEFORE finding a venue as they do can do that work for you!
8. Start researching other key vendors
After you have the date and venue locked down, it’s time to start finding other key vendors. Usually, for most couples, this is the photographer, the officiant, band, and sometimes videographer and planner/coordinator. These vendors can usually only book ONE wedding per day (sometimes officiants can do more than one), so reaching out to them first can be helpful. Usually florists, rental companies, DJ companies, photobooth companies, etc. can either do several weddings per day or have more than one person on staff!
When you find a vendor you love, book them! Photographers like myself usually start booking 12-18 months out. My calendar is usually full for the following year by the end of the current year. Key dates in May through October always go first, so if you’re having a Friday or Sunday wedding, it’ll probably be easier! And if your favs are not available, I bet they can refer you to someone just as incredible.
9. Create a guest list
I think no matter the size of your wedding, creating a guest list can be difficult. Perhaps you already did this exercise before venue shopping (it’s always good to have a general idea of headcount BEFORE you book a certain size venue). The easiest way is to create a spreadsheet and first list everyone you initially would want to share this day with you. Your partner and you should do this TOGETHER FIRST. Assume that about 80 percent of those invited will be able to come.
If you are choosing to involve your parents or others in your decision making process, consult them and ask for their list. Compare it with yours. Discuss changes with your stakeholders (partner and parents). Take deep breaths.
Refer back to your wedding priorities. If you do not want a large wedding and an intimate vibe is important to you, stick to that. If you really want everyone who has ever known you there, then do that! There are no right and wrong answers, and keeping your desires as a couple at the center of the conversation is key.
Use your spreadsheet to track addresses and RSVPs. I used ours after the wedding to keep track of our family and friends’ addresses, and I get it out every holiday season for our cards!
10. Take engagement photos & Send save the dates
There is no right or wrong time to take engagement photos, but most couples usually take them around 9-12 months before their wedding. This gives plenty of time to use photos on wedding websites and save the dates. But if you are having a shorter engagement, you can take engagement photos any time!
Taking engagement photos is one of the most fun parts of wedding planning. Maybe I’m partial because I’m a wedding photographer, but it’s a great time to focus on each other and it’s always super fun! You get to hang out with your photographer (highly recommend using the photographer you’ll use for your wedding so you can really establish a relationship) and you get great photos that document this unique chapter of being ENGAGED! I personally love our engagement photos and used them to decorate our house too.
After you get your photos back, send save the dates to your guest list so everyone blocks off that date on their calendar! Some great places to get Save the Dates include: Minted, Costco, Shutterfly, Etsy (print at a local shop or Vistapint works), or check with your photographer as they often offer them too!