Just Engaged: Wedding To Do’s

 Once the initial shock of being engaged wears off (and  you take a second to peel your eyes away from that sparkly ring on your  finger!), you’ll need to make a lot of decisions. Here are the 11 most important  things you need to do to really kick off your wedding planning.

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Set a Timetable

The minute you get engaged, everyone will be asking for  your wedding  date. But in reality, you won’t be able to set an exact date until other  major decisions — like choosing (and booking) your venue — are made. So first,  focus on determining a range of dates that will work for you. A typical  engagement lasts anywhere from six months to a year and a half or more, but also  think about what season you’d prefer, any major holidays or family events you’d  like to avoid conflicting with, and how long you predict you’ll need to plan.> See the wedding  dates you should avoid.

Dream Up Your Style and Pick a Location

Before you try on a single gown,  book a band or sample a bite of cake, look at the big picture and imagine what  kind of style and vibe you want to set for your wedding — and where you want to  hold it. Close your eyes and picture your fantasy wedding. What do you see? Is  it a candlelit ceremony in a mansion? Are you walking barefoot on a beach in the  tropics? Or maybe it’s in your hometown’s botanical garden. While you’re  picturing your perfect wedding, here are some key questions to consider: Big  (everyone you know) or small (just close friends and family)? Outdoors or in?  Home (one of your hometowns or your current city) or away (a destination  wedding)? Modern, classic, romantic, vintage, rustic or all-out glam? Fancy,  casual or somewhere in between? To help you get a better idea of what you want  (and what you don’t want), spend some time gathering inspiration. Check out  magazines, books and real wedding photos online, but don’t limit yourself to the  obvious sources. Something as unlikely as a wallpaper pattern, a scene from a  favorite movie, or a family heirloom can spark your creativity. Bottom line:  Always keep your eyes open for inspiration.

> Search 35,000+ real wedding  photos by color and style.

Set Your Budget

Sit down with your families and figure out how much everyone  is contributing. This number will affect every decision and purchase you  make, so be sure to work out your budget before you start planning. It can be an uncomfortable  conversation, but it’s better to get it out of the way now.

> For interactive budgeting help, use our online  wedding budget tool.

Draft a Guest List

As you begin to build your guest list, you’ll need to  consider a number of factors. If you have a particular ceremony or reception  site in mind, for instance, you’re going to be limited by how many people it can  accommodate (you can’t squeeze 300 people into a lighthouse). Would you rather  have quality one-on-one time with each guest or throw a once-in-a-lifetime party  for all your friends and family? If mom and dad won’t budge about inviting  throngs of friends and family, you’ll have to hear them out — especially if  they’re footing a major part of the bill. Keep in mind that more guests means  higher prices, as catering costs are generally calculated on a per-head basis.  So, in addition to location, your budget will have a big influence on the size  of your guest list.

> Create and manage your online  wedding guest list.

Register (Before Your Engagement Party!)

Worried that you’ll look  gift-grabby if you register?  Don’t! With all the engagement  parties, bridal  showers and well-wishing relatives in your future, everyone will appreciate  your foresight. And although gifts are optional for engagement parties, some of  your guests may want to give you something to commemorate the occasion, so  register for at least a few items beforehand so they don’t have to ask (or  guess) what you’d like. One thing to note: Don’t include registry information in  your engagement party invitations or in any other formal manner. Stick to using  word of mouth or links on your wedding  website.

> Get our ultimate  registry checklist.

Insure Your Engagement Ring

No matter how careful you are, the peace of  mind that engagement  ring insurance will give you and your fiance is worth it. There are two  basic ways to do it: As an extension of your renter’s or homeowner’s policy  (which would reimburse you for a set amount of cash if you lose the ring), or  through a company that specializes in jewelry insurance (which might offer more  coverage than a standard homeowner’s policy by replacing a lost or stolen ring).

> See 200+ wedding  ring photos.

Choose Your Wedding Party

Now it’s your turn to propose  to your bridesmaids and groomsmen.  Remember, the earlier you ask, the sooner you can enlist their help. And keep in  mind that your wedding party is agreeing to spend their hard-earned money and  donate their precious time — be considerate and kind by informing everyone  about all your plans, showing them a good  time and making sure they know how much you appreciate  them.

> Search 1,000+ bridesmaid  dress photos.

Consider a Consultant

If you’re a super-busy couple, have demanding jobs  or have big (read: complicated) dreams for your wedding weekend, then you should  hire a full-time wedding planner to help you prepare your entire event, from the  announcement to the honeymoon. You can also hire a part-time consultant to  devise a wedding blueprint — including budget, schedule, and lists of good  vendor and site choices — before you launch solo into the preparations. Another  option is a day-of coordinator, who will make sure everything goes smoothly on  your wedding day.

> Find a consultant in your area with our local  wedding vendor search.

Book a Venue (and Set Your Date)

Your reception venue will become the  backdrop for virtually all your photos and can influence everything from heavy  hitters like your budget and guest list to smaller details like your menu (if  you choose a venue with in-house catering). Ensure that you get the look, price  and extras you want by scouring local listings, shopping around, scheduling  visits and booking early. Bonus: By signing your venue contract, you will  officially have your wedding date (congrats!)!

> Browse reception  venues in your area.

Hire Priority Vendors

If you just can’t imagine getting married without  a certain local  band playing at the reception or a photographer whose work you love, act  fast. Many top wedding  photographers and other in-demand vendors are hired more than a year in  advance, and once they’re booked, they’re gone. Translation: Figure out what  your highest wedding priorities are, whether it’s world-class catering or  exquisite flowers, and snap up the vendors whose work you love.

> See our complete listing of  wedding vendors (search by city!).

Shop Dresses!

Begin your search by browsing dress photos online (and  saving your favorites — you’ll want to take them with you to your  appointments). Then, learn the lingo before setting foot in a dress salon. Read  up on silhouettes, necklines, trains and hues that might flatter you. The  season will also affect your choice. Getting married in the sweltering summer?  Go with lightweight fabrics such as chiffon, linen or organza. Having a winter  wedding? Brocade, faux fur and velvet will keep you warm. Satin, shantung, silk  and tulle are perfect year-round.

Read more:  Engagement To-Dos: First Wedding To-Dos- Getting Engaged- Engaged http://wedding.theknot.com/getting-engaged/engaged/articles/first-wedding-to-dos.aspx#ixzz2H2Mo2CBk

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