Did you know that the average couple is only engaged for about a year before tying the knot?
When you consider just how much planning is involved when preparing for a wedding, that’s not much time at all. First there’s the dress and the venue, plus the guest count and catering. Oh, and don’t forget the bachelorette party, reception, decoration, and cake.
In order to not lose your mind in this planning process we’ve compiled a list of 12 must do’s in the first 3 months of your engagement. Trust me, a few months from now you’ll be so glad you started planning early.
12 Most Important Things to Start Now as Soon as You’re Engaged
Celebrate with Your Fiance
Engagement parties are quickly becoming more and more popular, and it’s easy to see why.
While the stress of a wedding day can often take away from the fun, your engagement party gets to be as fancy or low-key as you want. This event is super customizable, whether you want to meet up for brunch with your closest family or rent out a whole venue, the choice is yours.
Here are a few things to keep in mind for your engagement party:
- Choose a date that’s within less than 2-3 months of your actual engagement
- Decide who will host (you can do it yourself, or see if a family member or friends will do it)
- Choose a venue (this can be at someone’s house, a restaurant, or even a wedding hall)
- Send out invitations (the list can be small and intimate or can include everyone who will attend your wedding)
Miss to Mrs Box makes the most amazing engagement party packages, each month you’ll be sent a box filled with engagement party goodies such as cake toppers, thermoses, banners, etc. If you set your engagement party for three months after your proposal then you can stock up on three months of goodies to bring to your party.
Punch in your wedding date and get themed boxes through the entire process that will help you along with each stage of the planning process. But it's not all business---you'll get fun things to celebrate big milestones with your hubby and a few treats that are just for you.
Discuss Financial Expectation with Your Family
When it comes to those participating in the wedding (i.e. groomsmen and bridesmaids), there will be expenses such as:
- Hair/Makeup at the salon
- Hosting Duties (i.e. Bachelor/Bachelorette Party, Bridal Shower, Engagement Party, etc)
The average cost of participating in a wedding is around $1,200, so you’ll want to make sure well in advance that your family is prepared for that kind of commitment.
Here’s a quick little break down of the average expenses for family members:
- Bridesmaids Dress–$200
- Groomsman Tux–$150 (Rented)
- Travel & Accommodations–$200
- Hosting a Party–$800
This is why planning months in advance is important, you can divide the responsibilities up equally so one person doesn’t get stuck taking on more than they can handle.
Decide on Your Budget
The expenses can quickly add up when planning a wedding, that’s why it should be your first priority to organize the finances ASAP.
If either of you families has kindly offered to pitch in on the big day then add that number to however much you have saved and start planning from there.
The average wedding costs around $28,000 but keep in mind there are many people who opt for low key weddings that cost under $10,000.
Find a Venue and Choose Your Wedding Date
It goes without saying that the venue is one of the most expensive parts of the wedding, the average price ranging at about $10,000 per day.
However in recent years many couples have taken to finding a cheaper alternative, and they are very happy with the results. Let’s take a look at some alternative venue options and prices:
- Beach/Park/Botanical Garden–Free
- City Hall–$40-$95
- AirBnb Venue–$500-$3000
- Barn Venue–$5000,-$12,000
- Castle Venue–$15,000-$30,000
Keep in mind when choosing the date that the venue prices change drastically according to the time of year. With May-September prices being about 30%-50% more than the rest of the year.
As mentioned earlier, the average couple is engaged for about a year before the big day. However you can extend this as long as you like, if you’d like more time to plan then there’s no harm in tacking on a few more months.
Find A Ceremony Location (If Different from the Reception Venue)
If your ceremony will be held at the same location as the reception then you can breathe a sigh of relief and skip this step.
If you need a ceremony and reception location then there are plenty of options. First you’ll need to decide your general location, if the ceremony is on the beach then finding a reception hall close by is the easiest option
If you’d prefer your ceremony to be in an enclosed space (church, barn, etc) then hosting the reception outside is a great idea. If the thought of planning multiple venue locations is stressful then choose one where they’re combined.
Book an Officiant
Choosing your officiant can be an intimate process, this person will be a memorable part of your day for the rest of your life.
While some couples choose someone they know to be their officiant, many others find someone online who works locally. If you would like to incorporate your religion then you can hire a priest or a rabbi as well.
Here is a list of local officiants in your area that can help you find the perfect one for your day. These are all officiants who are ordained and legally prepared for this role. Their average cost of an officiant is around $300 and that usually includes the unique speech they’ve written for your special day.
Hire A Wedding Planner (If You Choose to Go That Route)
If the thought of planning a wedding has your palms sweaty and mind racing, then hiring a wedding planner may just be the way to go.
Wedding planners are well seasoned, and prepared for any obstacle that may come about. Not only will they deal with booking the ceremony and venue locations, they can also negotiate a discount oftentimes.
Book Your Photographer and Videographer
You’re not going to want to rush when choosing who captures photos of your big day. Each photographer has their own unique style so it’s important to find someone whose style you love.
Remember, these pictures cannot be retaken once the day is over. (So this isn’t the time to hire your friend from High School who has become an amateur photographer in their free time).
A videographer isn’t necessary however they’ve become increasingly popular in recent years, and if it’s in your budget it’s a great memory to re-watch again and again.
Both a photographer and a videographer cost about the same, which is $1,500-$2,000 per event.
Let’s break down the three different types of wedding photography so you can get a general idea of which one suits your taste.
This style has a focus on the lighting and landscape to create the perfect image. Usually it includes being semi-posed but also a mix of candid. The photographer will mainly focus on the bride and groom, and after the ceremony will have them tour the grounds to take pictures in aesthetic locations.
The end results will have an emphasis on the fashion, lighting and main events. This style is a safe choice if you don’t want your pictures to look too stuffy, but not too spontaneous either.
If you love candid pictures then reportage will be right up your alley. This unique style has become more popular in recent years, the photographer almost takes on an invisible role and secretly snaps photos when guests are least expecting it.
This style is more raw and authentic, capturing the genuine laughter and joy of the day. The end results will not only be of the ceremony but also little snippets of cousin John on the dance floor, or Aunt Mable showing off her pearls.
Last but not least is the classic traditional photography. If you’ve ever flipped through your parent’s old photo album you’ll likely have seen very posed wedding pictures, and that’s exactly what traditional photography is.
If you’re planning on framing lots of pictures and want to make sure your whole extended family is in them, then traditional photography is an excellent choice. Usually the photographer will have large groups of guests line up next to each other, then smile while looking directly into the camera. This style is a great option if you don’t want to take any risks and enjoy knowing what kind of results you can expect.
Book Your Caterer
The average cost for a wedding caterer is about $75 per plate, so if you have 100 guests then you’re looking at a $7,500 budget for food.
There are a few options if according the style of your wedding and budget:
- Buffet–on average a buffet plate can cost about 30% less than a normal plate.
- Plated–this traditional option allows guests to choose their meal in advance while sending in their RSVP.
- Cocktail Style–the catering service will have servers circle the reception area passing out hors d’oeuvres and drinks.
- Family Style–large plates of food will be set on the table and guests can customize their meals with whatever they want.
Start Planning Your Guest List
Planning the guest list can be a bit scary at times, of course you’d love to invite everyone you and your partner know, but that just isn’t practical.
Ask yourself a few questions before planning your list, such as: how many guests can we afford? Is the reception area big enough? How many people do we have time to interact with?
If you feel overwhelmed then this printing off a wedding guest list template might ease your stress. It’s important to keep track of who you’ve invited, who has accepted, if they have any dietary restrictions and the seating chart.
It’s also important to note the location of the wedding relative to where everyone lives, if they live over two hours away it may be best to call them in advance and ask if they’re comfortable making that drive.
Get Inspiration From Pinterest
This part may actually be more fun than the wedding day itself, (joking, just a little).
Make sure your phone is fully charged because once you dive down the rabbit hole of Pinterest wedding inspo, it’s hard to get back out.
The best way to start is by typing in a theme you’ve been thinking of, for example “vintage wedding inspo, beach wedding inspo, barn wedding inspo.”
Make sure to save any inspirational photos that you’d like to recreate, with just a little research you can oftentimes find the same decorations at a fraction of the cost.
Research Wedding Dresses
Time to pop open a bottle of bubbly and start looking for your dream dress. Many brides-to-be make the mistake of putting this off too long, only to realize that it actually takes much longer than they anticipated.
There are 8 wedding dress silhouette options:
- Empire–cinched under the bust with a flowing bodice and skirt.
- Princess–-a large flowing skirt that flows outward (think Cinderella).
- Mermaid–cinched around the mid-shin area, giving it a mermaid tail appearance.
- Column–a classic structure that keeps a consistent width from top to bottom.
- Bateau–a wide cut through the neckline that spread from shoulder to shoulder.
- Trumpet–cinched just above the knee then dramatically flaring out, giving it a trumpet like appearance.
- Ball Gown–similar to the Princess style but with a fuller skirt and more fitted bodice.
- A-Line–a more plunging neckline that curves in the shape of an “A.”
The average cost of a wedding dress is around $2,500. Keep in mind that finding the dress isn’t the only important task, you also have to figure out what to do with it when you’re done.
Some people choose to sell their dress online and get back some of their money, while others opt to preserve theirs as an heirloom. Preservation kits cost around $300 on average and involve putting the dress in a vacuum sealed bag that removes all the oxygen and replaces it with nitrogen. This will keep mold, yellowing and moths from affecting it in case you’d like to pass it on years from now.
Planning a wedding only has to be as tricky as you make, just remember to prioritize these steps for a smooth wedding experience:
- Plan your budget in advance
- Decide on the guest list
- Choose the wedding date
- Book your photographer, officiant and venue months in advance
- Find your dress at least five months before the wedding in case it needs alterations
Definitely agree with having the financial discussion and figuring out your budget early on in the conversation. This really helped set expectations and make sure we weren’t overly ambitious with what we wanted to do.
Love all the great ideas!
This article was really helpful to break things down when your stressed before even starting.
The hardest part was the venue for me.
After we finally decided on that everything else seemed easy.
I can’t get wait!
This is great information
It has been eye opening for me with how many people are so willing to help and be involved, and some the opposite. These people have made hiring a planner/coordinator unnecessary!
I agree with every single thing on this last. We have set our date for April 15, 2023. We got engaged on my 33rd birthday on October 16th. The past month has been stressful but we have a ton of help to pull off the most perfect day.
Deciding on a budget is so important. It must be something that both parties agree on. Family contributions should also be factored so the parents must be included.
I agree with dissecting your guest list early on. We originally had 500 people on our guest list and finding a venue to hold that many around us isn’t possible. If you find a venue that you love I wouldn’t give it up just so you can invite those distant 5th cousins you only see at Christmas time.
Great information! I needed to see all these steps.
What an exciting but stressful time! In the first few months of being engaged, lots of tears have been shed: both happy and not so happy! We have our venue, photographer, wedding planner, and I even found my dress!
The guest list. How exciting to finally go through who I want at my big day, but also thinking about those things mentioned. Who can I afford? One thing I tell myself is “In 10 years, will these people still be apart of my life?” This question is more or less for the friends I am inviting, not so much family members.
Wow I wish I had seen this article earlier! To be honest it’s been 4 months since I’ve been engaged and I’ve only done about 6 of these things. However, creating a budget was most important! Every decision we make is based on that 🙂 thank you so much for sharing!!
The first month of engagement has been a whirlwind. We’ve been together for over 6 years so we aren’t waiting long to get married which means not much planning time!
Wow this article was extremely helpful, Kate! Right now we’re in the process of looking for a photographer and videographer, and it was very difficult for me to come with reasons why I liked their photos and videos. I’ve learned terms like reportage and contemporary photography 🙂 Thank you!!
Budget is def where to start! Thanks for sharing!
My fiance and I have been engaged for almost 6 years now, we got engaged kind of fast and then wanted to take a year or two to save and plan. We had our daughter, then Covid and now our son who just turned a year. We are finally getting the Chance to plan everything and finally get married. We were planning on just taking our income tax and using that for the wedding which would give us a total budget of 10,000. We have the date and venue booked, we’re having the ceremony and reception in the same place. The problem we are running into is that income tax isn’t until March or April at the latest and we are getting married in September. I’m trying to get prices in order and figure what everything will cost but a lot of places don’t want to speak with you until you have the money in hand to say yes to them. How can I get people to talk to me about my wedding if i’m waiting on my budget to technically come through? We don’t have family that can or will help us with financial anything for the wedding. The only one who would is my mom but she is disabled and doesn’t have any money which is completely understandable. I’m already overwhelmed and almost don’t even want to get married. It’s like you have to be rich just to want a nice little wedding.
Wow! Thanks for these tips. I’m glad you talked about the different kinds of photography. I keep seeing, “Know your style.” I don’t even know what the styles are. It was helpful. P.S. I have been all over Pinterest since I got engaged in September.
I love the Airbnb idea ! I want cheaper option, but not just the courthouse either. Me and my fiancé have been engaged for an about a year and we still have over a year before we get married on our 10 yr anniversary.
Celebrating with my fiancé was a crucial step! I was very easily swept away with starting to plan everything, and while I’m glad we have so much done already in just the first month, it would’ve felt more special and less stressful if the first thing we did was celebrate. We ended up celebrating like a week later, which was still nice, but it would’ve been better for both of us to stay in our little celebration bubble before planning away.
Has only been a few weeks…and I never thought I’d be getting married (way older than normal ladies) so totally starting from ground zero. lol