So, you said yes! Now that you’re sporting a new ring and soon-to-be a new title, you might be wondering: What next? Getting engaged is a whirlwind of emotions and, once the dust settles, there is still a lot that needs to happen before you get to walk down the aisle. Between dress fittings and cake tastings, there are many moving pieces that go into your perfect wedding so you might be wondering where to start.
We asked wedding professionals from across the industry for their top recommendations for newly engaged couples ready to embark on the wedding planning journey — here’s what they had to say.
Lean into the moment.
Instead of diving right into the weeds, spend some time enjoying the thrill of being freshly engaged! There will be plenty of time to dig into the details, as Sara Bauleke, wedding planner and designer for Bella Notte, assures: “The most important thing couples should do upon becoming engaged is take time to enjoy and celebrate being engaged! Well-meaning family and friends often start diving in with questions about the wedding, but being engaged is a special time and couples should relish that time before they begin planning their wedding. I always tell the couples I work with that, ‘We’re taking time to just enjoy being engaged,’ is a completely reasonable response when people ask you how your planning is going early on.”
Update your insurance.
If you’re donning a shiny new rock on your finger, it’s smart to get it insured before anything happens to it. Likewise, you and your partner may want to adjust your insurance policies now that you’ll be living until death do you part. Janice Carnevale, owner of Bellwether Events, elaborates: “If you don’t already have life insurance policies, look into them. And insure any special jewelry that you may now be flashing on the ‘gram. The jewelry will require an appraisal, and likely be an addendum to a home owner’s or renter’s policy – so if you don’t already have that, get it too!”
Before doing any research or reaching out to vendors, the first thing to do is establish an overall vision for how your wedding will look and feel. Loren Petrowski, owner of Marry You in Hawaii, encourages couples to make this a joint activity: “Have each person separately come up with three big things that are really important to them in the wedding, then come together and share them with one another. Hopefully, these things will not be in conflict with the other and you can make sure to honor each other’s three big wishes for the big day happily and without judgment.”
Danielle Pasternak, wedding planner for DPNAK Events, elaborates, adding how important this step is for a seamless planning process: “This is the time to dream big because it really helps to see what truly matters to each of you (aside from marrying your amazing partner). Talk generally about who all you’d want to be there, what kind of experience you want to have, and how you want your guests to feel. Because ‘having a great time’ means different things to different people. In my opinion, this is the best way to start off on the same page and avoid arguments or miscommunications down the road.”
Get your ducks in order.
Whether you hire a planner or not, an organized approach will make all the difference when it comes to how stressful the planning process will be for you and your partner. Establishing a few organizational systems will ensure that you can easily access anything you need along the way.
Jamie Chang, online wedding planner and creator of Passport to Joy, speaks to the importance of your inbox: “Of all things you’re going to use for your wedding, your email is going to get the biggest use during wedding planning. So, it’s important to create a system that helps you organize all those emails so that you can find them when you need them and ensures you respond to the ones you need to promptly (especially in these COVID times). You can create a special wedding email or just set up folders or labels for your current email address. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but come up with a system that works for you.”
You’ll also want to create a few spreadsheets to track things like budgets, booked vendors, completed tasks, and other important information, as Matt Campbell, founder of My Wedding Songs, suggests: “While spending money on your wedding is ongoing during the planning process, one way to save money is to utilize the free Google Sheets software. Couples can create a working budget to allocate funds towards vendors, decorations, and surprise expenses. Plus, you can track the actual money spent. This helps couples prioritize what aspects of their wedding are most important to them and verify they are addressed.”
Focus on top-priority vendors.
A great wedding involves many event professionals, but you don’t need to worry about getting them all onboard at once. Instead, prioritize those that are fundamental for planning purposes.
“Usually, the excitement of getting engaged leads to the searching for the first wedding pro to book which is the venue,” explains Shannon Tarrant, founder of WeddingVenueMap.com. “Couples often get right into looking and reaching out, but often forget to make an actual guest list first. They need to consult with both families and make their own priority list to figure out the right size of the venue to search for.”
Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates, adds: “Any vendor that can book more than one wedding in a weekend falls lower on the priority list, so things like cakes, décor, invitations, etc. can wait. Also, hair and makeup teams often have enough stylists within the firm that they can often wait, too.”
Prepare for COVID adjustments.
Unfortunately, COVID will continue to impact weddings in 2021 and couples must plan for the unexpected. “At a minimum, couples planning a 2021 wedding should create a contingency plan (or two),” states Nora Sheils, founder of Bridal Bliss and co-founder of Rock Paper Coin. “Plan on your original guest size, but be prepared to cut it down if mandates require it. Wait on sending save-the-dates out until there is a clear path, or plan on sending invites out a bit early instead. If a contract hasn’t already been signed, consider splitting your retainer(s) up over time to avoid a large deposit up-front.”
Juls Sharpley, founder of Bubbles & Bowties, suggests pushing off wedding plans if you’re not prepared for them to change at the last minute: “I think the number one thing couples must keep in mind when planning a wedding during a global pandemic is that flexibility is going to be key. If you are absolutely not going to be happy if we have to change the plans for your wedding in the 11th hour to adhere to current local, state, or federal guidelines and restrictions, then you should hit the pause button on planning and wait until we are fully in the clear.”
Planning a wedding is no easy feat, but it’s one that can be broken down into small, manageable stages. Take it one step at a time, focusing only on what needs to be done next. You don’t need to take on every task at once and, if it feels like too much, hiring a wedding planner is always the best option for a seamless, low-stress experience.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.
We’ve partnered with OFD Consulting to bring you this great advice from their collective of wedding professionals.