Congrats! You’ve said yes to a life of love. Now you’re expected to say yes to a year of planning, shopping, re-planning and taste testing. Even if you can get on board with the free shrimp balls, all that checking and double-checking can seem pretty daunting. Fortunately, with a dash of help and a twinge of organization, you can breeze right on past all that pre-wedding stress and on to the good stuff. After all, a wedding is a celebration of commitment and love – you should focus on the goal and enjoy the ride.
the engagement party - breathe in ...
Any excuse to get down and dapper with loved-ones is a good excuse. Celebrate your engagement with as much elegance or down-to-earthiness as you like: BBQs, cocktail parties, and sit-down dinners all work just fine. Of course, close friends and family are crucial invitees. Etiquette warns against calling on friends who aren’t invited to the wedding, or those out-of-towners already making the trek, (unless these be the parents.) Try and throw the bash/carousal one year before the ceremony; one to three months after the proposal. If you don’t have the luxury of time, six months before the wedding is totally, acceptably appropriate.
the wedding - step by step
If you’re already overwhelmed, first thing’s first: take a deep breath. Remember that if you get organized early on you can take your sweet time making decisions and preparations, plus, you’ll avoid brown-bagging-it last minute.
1- getting started
Mood’s priority number one, so use it as a launching point. Ask yourself, do I want an exotic affair or down-home wedding? Would I rather elope in Vegas, or have a blow-out bash? The location you choose should, above all, suit your personality.
Next, draft a guest list of must-haves and maybes. It’s imperative you get your numbers down right away, so as to avoid unseen catastrophes like missing chairs or a Jordan almond shortage.
2- creating a checklist
Purchase a folder (or binder!) with pockets and separators. Organize your thoughts with pizzazz: include pictures of you and your fiancé, magazine cut-outs, dried flowers and inspiring quotes. Down the line, this could become a nice keep-sake to show your kids.
The first page should include a checklist of all the things you need to do before the big day. Divide your parts as follows, and take everything one step at a time:
Photography & Video (Picking The Right Photographer)
Decor (10 Signs Of A Great Tablescape)
Wedding Dress (Dress Designers & Trends)
Bridal Party Attire
Hair & Makeup (Picking The Right Hair & Makeup Artist)
Transportation (limos & novelty cars) (Ticket To Ride - Limo Alternatives)
Equipment rental (audio-visual, projectors, screens, special effects, etc...)
Invitations, Favors & Labels (P.S. I Love You)
Calendar/ Schedule of events
Registry (Registry Revived - Creative Ideas)
Honeymoon (Honeymoon Destinations)
3- implementing the checklist
Start with the most time-consuming or challenging steps, such as picking the right caterer or reception hall. In fact, you’ll want to book the wedding venue before anything else. Most couples will snag their dream location at least six months in advance, making room for others sparse.
If ordering a custom-made dress, invitations, or favors, you’ll need to give at least 3-6 months advance notice, so it’s best to make these decisions early on.
Hair and makeup is also best booked in advance, as beauty stylists get backed up fast.
Pick Your Bridal Party
Traditionally, the maid of honor and best man are siblings of the bride and groom. Ushers and bridesmaids are siblings, cousins or close friends. You will also need to decide who’s escorting you down the aisle. Go traditional and link arms with dad, or add mom to the mix for a modern twist.
Don’t be a mouse: recruit family members or friends for some much-needed help. Chances are, friends and family will be more than happy to contribute to the big day. Of course, we all know what happens when we assume things. Before dishing out to-do lists, decide what you’d like from each person and ask whether they’d be interested in planning the engagement party or lending their tongues to seal the invites. If they say they’re busy, respect their time and space and move on to the next (hopefully) eager-beaver.
Send Out Your Invitations
Etiquette states you should get your invitations out 6-8 weeks before the wedding date. This gives your guests enough time to respond, and is still close enough to the actual day so they do not forget. The much-coveted well-wishers (out of town aunts, life-of-the-party cousins) should be warned even before the invites make it to the mailbox, as this will give them more than ample time to save the date.
Review Your Checklist
The first few months of wedding planning will be hectic with scheduling appointments, deciding on various themes and venues, trying on wedding dresses and meeting with photographers, florists and entertainers. You’ll notice that a few months before the wedding things will start to calm down. It’s crucial to make sure all the elements on the checklist are taken care of at least one month prior, as you will be busy with bridal showers, bachelorettes, receiving out-of-towners and planning the rehearsal dinner.
Remember to confirm the guest list. Then you can contact your caterer and rental supplier for the final count.
4- rehearsal dinner
Rehearsal dinners are critical in ensuring that everything on your wedding day goes down smooth and glossy. It will help you and your bridal party envision how the actual day will proceed. It’s also a good time to pass out a schedule of events so that everyone is aware of their tasks ahead of time.
5- relax and enjoy!
A mix of excitement, adrenaline and wedding-day jitters are going to make the day whiz by, so take a minute to stop and smell the jewel-encrusted tea roses. You’ve worked hard for this day- now enjoy every moment of it!
the post-wedding brunch ... and exhale
After a host of hosting duties, organizing a next-day brunch may not seem totally appealing. But if you keep everything simple- the budget, the guest list, the setting – it can be a great opportunity to relax and spend quality time with those you “whizzed by” on your busy day. This goes double for outsiders who are soon to be boarding the plane back home.
If your bridal party’s mostly holed up in one hotel, see if they offer brunch and request to have a few tables sectioned off. Otherwise, a local restaurant will do just fine. If you plan on stuffing faces at your place, make it as stress-free as possible: buy bagels, cream cheese, lox, fresh fruit, pancake mix, and breakfast meats, and serve it all buffet-style. Make sure to schedule the brunch for the late morning, giving everyone a chance to sleep in, pack, recuperate and nurse that morning-after hangover.
Go on! Get out of here!
(This guide will be updated ever and again, so check back for more tips, tricks and treats!)