Engagement To-Dos: First Wedding To-Dos

You said yes -- what now? Read on for the first things you need to do have the wedding you've always wanted.
Proclaimed your commitment to one another? Congratulations! Once the initial shock wears off and you peel your eyes away from that sparkly diamond on your finger, many decisions will need to be made. When should the big day happen? Where will it be? Who are you going to invite? Here are the first ten things to do.

Linger on Cloud 9
Delight in that oh-so-delicious feeling of being madly in love by keeping your engagement a secret between the two of you for up to 48 hours. When your feet hit the ground again, the first thing to consider is how long your engagement will be. This will depend on a couple of factors, such as your ideal wedding date and how much time you'll need to prepare. A typical engagement lasts from six months to a year, but many couples stray far and wide from those boundaries -- if you want to get married next Tuesday or two years from today, do it!

Note: Before you buy or book anything, you'll have to determine the dollar amount allotted for your big day. Don't know where to begin? Based on who's financing the festivities and the monies available, figure it out: What's your basic budget? How much are you going to allocate to each area? Who's contributing? Maybe you'll need to save money before you can afford the wedding you want.

Tell Your Parents
Share the news with your immediate families first. Unless your folks are already great friends, your best bet is to tell each set of parents separately so that they 1) will be able to express their emotions freely, and 2) won't have to deal with the surprise of the engagement and the possible discomfort of having to hug all their future in-laws simultaneously. Traditionally, the bride's family gets first dibs on the news. (If your fiancé's a traditional lad, they may already know!) The best way to let Mom and Dad in on your big secret is for the two of you to tell them together, especially if they know and like your sweetie. Just invite them over for dinner and blurt it out. In your perfect universe, they'll leap from their chairs to hug you both while crying tears of joy. Of course, if you live too far from your loved ones, a phone call will do just fine.

Envision the Event
The formality of your wedding will be reflected first and foremost in the location. Luxury hotel or friend's loft? Backyard barbecue or exotic beach bash? If you're going all-out formal, you might appear in a classic long gown with train, he in white-tie tailcoat -- with guests in evening dresses and tuxes. At an informal wedding, almost anything goes. If you throw a raucous dance party reception for all your friends, the city you now call home is the logical choice. A cozy family wedding, on the other hand, will most likely take place in one of your hometowns.

Decide on a Budget
In the end, dollars, not dreams, are the determining factor for what you'll have at your soiree. So, what affects the price tag? Formality: the more formal the fete, the more expensive. Ultra formal affairs take place in the evening, and you'll have to match the site, food, and music to the overall upscale tone. Date and time: Certain months and times of day tend to be pricier. Food: Dinner usually costs more than breakfast or lunch, and seated service is more than a buffet. If you're hell-bent on an evening affair, do the funky chicken: fowl costs far less than lobster tails and filet mignon. Location: Some cities are just more expensive than others. Celebrations in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are obviously going to cost more than those in Des Moines. But small towns can be pricey too, if things like flowers, produce, and a DJ must come from afar.

Choose Your Attendants
It's time to honor friends for sticking by you through thick and thin, and pick your teams of bridesmaids and groomsmen. The earlier you ask, the earlier you can enlist their help. While asking is a tribute unto itself, it's even more special when someone accepts the new position as your attendant. So whom do you choose? People who mean most to you, those you want to be part of your day: best friends, childhood buddies, siblings, a mentor or coach, even your dog can do the wedding-aisle walk. Keep in mind that your wedding party is agreeing to spend their hard-earned money and donate their precious time -- be sure to give consideration and kindness due by informing everyone about all your plans, showing them a good time, and making sure they know how much you appreciate them.

Determine a Date
Choosing a precise wedding date can be an elaborate production. The exact day you select will depend on several variables: How much time will you need to prepare your dream wedding? Are any loved ones having a conflicting graduation, birthday, or pregnancy due date? You may want your wedding date to have sentimental value, commemorating your first kiss, your grandparents' anniversary, or Valentine's Day. If you have your heart set on a particular place, caterer, band, or photographer, the availability of these crucial vendors may play a large part in your decision. Try to avoid dates of large conventions or other crowd-drawing events if you'll have visitors in need of hotel rooms.

Announce Your Engagement
Call your local newspaper, your parents' hometown rag, your alumni magazine, and anywhere else you want your engagement announcement to appear. Find out the name of the appropriate editor or department and ask for writer's guidelines or a standardized form, if available. Also ask if there's a fee for publication.

Gather a Guest List
As you begin to build your guest list, you'll need to consider a number of factors. If your vision includes a dream ceremony or reception site, for instance, you're going to be limited by how many people it can accommodate (you can't squeeze 300 people into a lighthouse). Is it more important for you to have one-on-one time with each guest or to throw a once-in-a-lifetime party for all your friends and family? If Mom and Dad are adamant 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. Obviously, the more relatives you must invite, the larger your list will be. And more guests means more cash, as food and liquor costs are generally calculated on a per-head basis. So in addition to location, your budget will be a strong determiner.

Consider a Consultant
Wedding consultants are professionals whose lives revolve around all things nuptial. If you're the super-busy sort, hiring a full-time consultant to help you prepare your entire wedding, from announcement to honeymoon, can be a lifesaver. 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.

Get a Gown Game Plan
It's never too early to begin thinking about your gown. Start by figuring out which style will look best on you. How? Learn the lingo before stepping foot in a salon. Read up on silhouettes, necklines, trains, and shades of white that might flatter you. 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 fabrics will keep you warm. Satin, shantung, silk, and tulle are perfect year-round.


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