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Engaged… now what?!!

Whew! 2010 started a steady surge of people around me getting married (myself included!).  I’m not sure how you all are handling it, but I went from being a begging-for-advice fiancée in August to a pro-planner bride by December.  Okay… maybe not ‘pro’… but you only get one go at it, okay!  The purpose of this blog is to help those of you out there that are happily engaged, but maybe just a little stressed as to how to plan that awesome day you’ve been dreaming of so long.

Keep in mind as you read a few of my suggestions that we were all into saving our money for the marriage part of life and not spending it all in one day.  Weddings can be gorgeous with this outlook as well as have happy & content guests.  While I know spending less is a good idea.. we found it to be harder than we thought!  Did you know the average money spent on a Nashville wedding is said to be around $19,000 – $33,000!  Wow-zahs!  Hopefully this little blog will help you have the wedding of your dreams as well as bring down that average 😉

Ideas for you, the future bride (and groom!):

1. Join a few ‘getting married’ websites. These ended up being loads of fun and I think I spent a little too much time gazing over cute napkin ideas and dress colors than anything.  Most of these websites provide information locally and globally as well as send you a nice weekly email with helpful tidbits.  You can even look through wedding themes and read endless forums on every subject.  There is a warning with this though… while these are a great ideas resource, most of the things that inspire you can be bought [or made] at a better price.  My favorite and one of the largest wedding websites: theknot.com.

2. Make a timeline! The websites will help you with this – most have a detailed checklist.  Figure out your big decisions first (will include a definite date, location, officiant, budget, basic outline, and attire/style).  You may be thinking that your dresses will be a breeze to find, but you really need to leave at least 10-12 weeks after you find them for the order to come in.  You also may have alterations to deal with.  Once you get these steps done, you’ll feel much more secure in what to do next.

3. Figure out and plan your wedding party! You need not only bridesmaids and groomsmen, but also ring bearers, flower girls, and ushers.  Now, you definitely are not required to include the kids (I didn’t) but it seems to highly depend on if you are an aunt/uncle or have a close little one in your life.  If not, no biggie, there’s no set rule.  Also, the groomsmen make fine ushers as they wait for the wedding to start :).  Here’s the reminder on this section: remember to get them all a little gift.  I made my girls hair flowers that they could wear at the wedding with a  little note saying how much they mean to me.  This doesn’t have to be anything big, just something to show your appreciation.

4. Guest List.  You’ll eventually have to sit down and make a guest list.  This will probably require getting names and addresses from both sets of parents (unless you know where Aunt Bernice lives!).  I started an Excel document so I could easily sort them in alphabetical order and could easily be found later for thank you’s :).  You can also check them off as you address your invites… which leads me to the 5th point…

5. Save the Dates & Invites. Save the dates all depend on the length of your engagement.  If you will be engaged for over 6 – 8+ months, you will probably want to send out save the dates.  For those of you with a shorter engagement (myself included), you can get away with notifying your friends through Facebook, email, or a quick call.  I think this is acceptable because you’re sending out your invites 2 – 3 months before the wedding anyway.  But enough with the logistics… down to what they should LOOK like!  My husband and I designed our invitations with a photo of us (this is why engagement sessions are awesome) – it was a simple front and back design with the photo and date on front and info on the back.  Along with the address and RSVP contact, we included our registry info.  I’ve been told this is tacky (by online wedding scholars), but we didn’t know how else to get the information out to everyone and our friends all told us how helpful it was to have everything in one spot!

6. Registry! As you think of where to register, consider where you would want to buy a present for a fellow couple.  While I may love things from Crate & Barrel and IKEA, I also don’t want my buddies spending all their money on a single spoon or having to pay for shipping from out of town stores.  Also, if you are having trouble knowing what to register for, take a deep breath and grab a parent to go along with you and your fiancé.  They have, of course, figured out the necessities of a household by now.  Another cool tidbit that someone told me when I was figuring all this out is to register at Amazon.com.  That allows those out of town folks that can’t make it to the wedding a way to get [usually] the best bargain out there.  Their registry works just like one at the store and people just search for your name to view it.

7. Acquiring Workers. As much as you would like, you CANNOT plan a wedding by yourself!  You need to acquire workers.  And by  ‘acquire’, I am speaking of friends and family around you that would be willing to help in some way.  After you come up with the list (and get the okay from them), you can start to delegate specific jobs to people.  It’s a lot easier for one person to be in charge of ordering flowers while another is helping decorate the reception site.  They can report to you with questions and ideas, but you at least have someone in that area willing to help.  We even had a coffee-snack-picker-uper the day of!

8. Vendors… Choosing vendors can be scary, but even more scary keeping them in line.  You always hear of a bride finding this ‘perfect’ caterer and not until the wedding does she realize he only cooks Brussels sprouts.  Okay, maybe not that extreme, but anything can happen if you’re not careful.  Make sure to meet with your vendor so you both have an understanding of what the other is thinking.  Many will have contracts that you should read carefully, and feel free to ask questions before signing.  Your main vendors will be your caterer (or awesome friends helping with the food), cake baker, florist, photographer, and musicians/DJ.  You may also want to hire a videographer as well as someone to make you look good before you walk down that isle :).

Read below for a few specific vendor ideas:

  • Cake: As far as fun ideas as to how us ‘budget-minded’ people did it, we found out that those yummy, round decadence cakes from Publix are cheaper (and tastier) than buying an actual wedding cake!  They’ll even make one of them with plain white icing so you can decorate it to your wedding satisfaction.  A helpful reminder to me was to throw flowers and petals on and around it for a classy look.  
  • Flowers: I chose a petal theme, mostly because of my dress, but also for the ease of decorating.  Also, getting import flowers from out of the country allows you to get any flower in [pretty much] any season.  Beware of this though… you will be waiting on dear ol’ mail delivery on this one!  We ordered our petals from Ecuador but got our actual flowers at Import Flowers near West End… loved them!  
  • Photographer: Well, you know my suggestion of this one… ;).  But really, go for quality on this one.  While you may not always remember the taste of your cake, you will have your photos forever.  Make sure your photographer has shot weddings before and is comfortable with getting you your images all the way to the canvas wrap and coffee table book prints.  Beware of those friends that are just starting out and will do it for free.  Sure, let them practice, but hire a professional as well.
  • Make-up & Hair: If you have friends that are good at this, ask if they’ll do it for free or for a discounted price.  Keep in mind that this may be their job and try to not take advantage of them.  If they do give you a good deal, you can always give them a gift or buy some of their product – they always love and appreciate that.
  • Message me for any questions about these or the other vendors.  I’ll for sure have some suggestions for you, but this post is already getting terribly long.  cali@caliashtonphotography.com 😉

9. Legally Speaking: Getting engaged and walking down that isle is the fun part of it… even the planning is fun most of the time!  But there are some legal things you need to keep in mind.  You must apply for your marriage license no more than a month before your wedding date.  Do not go before or it will expire.  Nashville peeps, head over to the lovely John Arriola office in Metro Center after checking out this link.  Tidbit: going through marriage counseling will save you about $60.  You’ll also learn some good stuff, too :).

10. Random. I’ll list a few other things I did that was helpful below.  They didn’t really fit in one of the above paragraphs.

  • First off, keep a folder with all your receipts and borrowed items.  Use this folder to hold anything wedding.  Caterer info and song lists.  I also carried around a color swatch with my bridesmaid dress color as I shopped around for decoration.
  • Also… don’t forget the detail!  Keep your day original to both of you.  Have something that signifies that it’s your wedding, something unique to the bride and groom. We had photos from young and old with funny and sweet captions telling more about us.
  • Remember to get a haircut 2-3 weeks before as well as pack an overnight bag for your first night (nothing like forgetting a toothbrush or make-up remover to quench the mood!).  Saving food from the rehearsal dinner is a yummy way to fill your wedding-day-hunger afterwards!
  • I know some of you don’t have a wedding planner/coordinator, but you must choose someone (NOT a relative) for the wedding day to help keep everyone organized and on time.  This is a big job, but you CANNOT be worrying about this on your wedding day.  Figure out who would be good at this and approach them with the idea.  You’d be amazed at how many people want to help you!

Okay, I really could go on with the ideas but I suppose I’ll keep you in suspense.  Seriously… contact me if you have any specific questions and I’ll see what I can do.  Someone to just throw around ideas with is incredibly helpful.  Hope this helps you and sends you on your way to a wonderful wedding and an even more wonderful marriage!

(Since we had a fun photobooth at the reception, we were able to send out these awesome thank-you postcards!)

February 2, 2011 - 5:29 pm

Cara - Wow. I’m not even getting married and that was an interesting blog! Cute picture of you two, too! 🙂

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