Happy Friday, dear readers!!

For our inaugural post in {the nuptial primer}, I thought I’d start from the beginning: the engagement.  Your sweetheart has proposed and you are elated; the engagement period is one of such bliss and joyful anticipation.  Once you are engaged, however, I know the instant pressure from loved ones can bring on some serious stress.  You are bombarded with questions about when and where you will have the wedding, who’s invited, who’s not, what you’re wearing, what colors your bridesmaids will wear… and on and on.  I know how overwhelming the initial months of engagement can be.  Although the length of your engagement will vary, here is my advice on how to get down to wedding planning once YOU and your sweetheart are ready.

photo by our dear friend, hugh forte.  bouquet by the always amazing hollyflora.  consider this a sneaky peek of a stunning 2011 wedding you haven’t seen yet…

1. First and foremost, take some time to just enjoy the engagement.  Whether it’s a couple weeks or a couple months, don’t feel like you need to start planning immediately.  Of course, if you want to stop by Barnes and Noble and buy every wedding magazine on the stands on the way home from your engagement, go for it!  🙂  Just don’t think that you have to hit the ground running once the ring is on your finger.

2. Determine a budget.**  I actually think this should come before you decide where the wedding will be or even who will be invited.  Why?  Because your budget is going to give you a reality check on what is really possible.  As with anything in life, it is important to have information before setting up your expectations.  I know better than to drive over to the Mercedes dealership to ogle at G-wagons when I have no means of buying one.  Likewise, before you write a list of 500 of your closest friends and pick the perfect private island for your fête, it is wise to first determine what you want to spend on the wedding.  If you and your sweetie are hosting, plan a chat to discuss an ultimate “ceiling” figure.  I tell clients (especially those who say they don’t have a budget, per se, and will just spend as they go on what “feels right”) that you NEED to determine an ultimate spending ceiling.  Without one, you are going to end up spending a lot more than you would have… If others (like parents) are chipping in to fund the celebration, you may want to politely ask if they can estimate the amount of their contribution.  It would be somewhat heartbreaking to receive an extra $10,000 after you’ve booked some vendors, for example, if you had *just* passed on many of your favorites due to an inaccurate budget estimate.

3. Start writing an initial guest list.  Now that you know how much you have available to spend, you can draft a guest list with your sweetie.  I always suggest starting over-inclusive and then eliminating from there.  Make sure to also check in with your parents to see if there are certain friends and colleagues that they’d like to invite (who you may not think of right off hand).

4. Begin the venue search!  There are many ways to research wedding venues far and wide.  Of course I love the site Here Comes the Guide, which is an excellent search engine for various types of locations.  You may also peruse wedding blogs and magazines, chat with recently married friends, or my personal favorite — contact a wedding planner and get signed up.  😉  I LOVE helping clients find their ideal venue.  A planner’s experience at many different sites will be helpful as you weigh pros and cons of each.  My clients will usually ask me about things like associated costs, hidden fees (if any), logistical concerns, etc.  Keep in mind that the venue you select may affect the ability of some guests to attend.  If you have your heart set on a destination wedding, for example, consider who (if anyone) on your guest list may not be able to make the trip (due to travel costs or mobility concerns, etc.).  If there is a VIP guest you need to consider, put that on the top of your venue search list before you fall in love with that out-of-state site.

5. Determine the date + venue + estimated guest count.  This all goes together.  🙂  Once you have honed in on your favorite venue (or even venues), re-evaluate your initial guest list and determine if there is one site that is better suited for your approximate guest count.  Always OVER-estimate how many invited guests will attend.  As I tell my clients… once you invite someone, you can’t uninvite them.  If your site has a max. capacity of 100 guests, I would NOT advise inviting 150 and hoping that 50 will decline.  What if 110 (or even 102) RSVP?  You will have a very sticky situation on your hands.  Likewise, if you know your overall budget is approximately $500 per guest, you may need to pare down your guest list in order to be able to sign with the venue of your dreams.  Only you and your sweetie can make the call on what the priority will be (i.e. location, guest count, budget).  Once you rank those priorities, adjust the other categories accordingly and get your wedding on the calendar.  🙂

**An IMPORTANT BUDGET NOTE: When booking the venue, you may be lost on how much to allocate for the site rental fee.  Some venues (e.g. hotels) may provide the site along with catering, some amount of rentals and staffing.  Other sites (e.g. private estates) charge you flat fees that include nothing but the use of the property.  Before you sign away half of your budget to the magical Napa vineyard you discovered (and find yourself left with barely enough to cover the remaining “necessities,” let the alone gorgeous details you imagine…), it is a good idea to create as complete a budget as possible.  I will write about this in a future post.  For now, let me simply say that many “budget estimate tools” found online or in books are not all that helpful or realistic based on today’s wedding market.  🙂

And then… you’re off!!  Once the venue and date are locked in, you are ready to dive head-first into the wedding planning process.  I look forward to sharing lots more about that along the way in future installments of {the nuptial primer}.

Until then, I’d LOVE to know if you have any wedding planning questions for us to answer here.  🙂  We will do our best to address them here on the blog for the information of all of our readers.

Thank you for stopping by — we hope your weekend is positively lovely!  What will the Love & Splendor ladies be doing?  Consultations with potential clients, some creative projects, and for *this* pregnant lady… practicing my patience as I await the arrival of little Miss Olive!  I will try to squeeze in a final pregnancy update on the blog sometime soon, but for now I’m focused on squeezing into what’s left of my stretchy wardrobe. LOL

xoxo, Angel

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Comments (8)

  1. anna: February 17, 2012

    umm, my fiance will 100% agree that first, you want to enjoy being engaged! don’t worry about anything! unless you’re in some big rush, take time to be excited!

    that’s where we are at right now. that, and getting ready for premarital counseling! 😉

  2. admin: February 19, 2012

    🙂 couldn’t agree more! xo

  3. Rachel (heart of light): February 17, 2012

    We got engaged at Thanksgiving and told everyone we wouldn’t be planning at all until the new year. It wasn’t totally true (we did have a lot of wedding discussions just between the two of us) but it made it feel more intimate and REALLY cut down on the number of difficult family opinions that were offered. Family (and random coworkers) tend to have lots of opinions at first, but if you give them that cooling off period then they relax a lot by the time you actually get started. It was perfect.

  4. admin: February 19, 2012

    rachel — that is brilliant! obviously it worked out very well for you two. 😉 xoxo

  5. michelle: February 22, 2012

    i couldn’t agree more with anna and rachel! enjoy this time and don’t worry about the next step just yet. you will have plenty of time for questions and answers from loved ones. take this time with your own loved one and enjoy saying you’re engaged!

  6. kristin @ petal and thorn: April 9, 2012

    just sent this to helen. did i tell you she and jordan just got engaged? this will help her out a lot!

  7. Jen: July 24, 2012

    Great nuptial primer! Just sent this to my girlfriends who’ve all gotten engaged this year.

  8. admin: July 24, 2012

    thanks, doll! more entries coming soon! 😉 tell them they can always comment with questions they have or topics they want to read about! xo

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