Just got engaged? Start here.

The holiday season is the most popular time of the year for couples to get engaged. I should know as my husband proposed to me on Christmas Eve in 2014. The holiday season, with all the lights and gathering with friends and family, is so magical so it’s no wonder many choose this time of year to pop the question.

As we head into 2016 there are undoubtedly a number of you getting ready to plan a wedding. I think there is a misconception that most women have been planning their weddings since age 6. Yes, a lot of us women, have certainly given thought over the years to what our wedding day will be like, but that is a far cry from planning the actual event.

With the creation of Pinterest, it became an even bigger joke that women, in particular, have their entire weddings planned out and aren’t even engaged or don’t even have a significant other in their lives. Yes, Pinterest is full of great ideas and lovely images of weddings. I, too, had a Pinterest wedding board long before I was ever engaged. Again, looking at pictures online or even a magazine is a long way from actually planning the wedding.

I have offered some wedding planning advice before, but below are a few more tips to those of you just getting started in this process.

1. Enjoy the process. Your wedding day is one of the most special days in your life and trust me, the actual day will go by so incredibly fast you won’t know what hit you. So, between now and the big day, try to relax and just relish in the mundane joys of planning your wedding. Now is the time to start going through that wedding Pinterest board you made three years ago and decide what things you really want and what you can live without. Planning can be stressful because you want everything to be perfect, but try to relax and enjoy it as much as you can.

2. First things first. Choosing a wedding date is the obvious first step and believe me, as soon as you tell people you’re engaged, it’s the first thing they’re going to ask. Nevermind he just popped the question yesterday, they want to know today, “when is the big day.” The actual date holds special meaning for many couples. Morgan and I started dating six years ago on July 29, and while that was not an option for our wedding date in 2015, August 29 was, so we went with that. You may have just a certain time of year in mind, for example maybe you like the idea of a Christmas wedding. Just know that whatever date you pick, there are likely to be some on your guest list who can’t make that date for whatever reason. We had several people comment on the “bad timing” of our wedding. Frankly, while we certainly wanted our loved ones there, we weren’t able to coordinate with every single person’s schedule when picking a date. Just know you aren’t going to please everyone and choose a date that works best for you, your spouse and immediate family. As you are selecting a date, at this point you will also want to start asking your friends that you want to be in the bridal party so you can make sure they are available for that date.

3. Saying yes to the dress. Choosing my dress was one of the very first things I did in my wedding planning process. If you just got engaged over Christmas this is a great time of year as many shops offer special sales in January. I would highly recommend going as soon as possible to start picking out a dress. Choosing a dress can be an overwhelming process and you may want to go to multiple shops, multiples times so the earlier you start this process the better off you are. And just remember to keep an open mind. I said for years that I never wanted to wear a strapless wedding dress because I worried I would be tugging on it all night. Of course, the dress I fell in love with was strapless. If the gown fits you correctly though, you shouldn’t have to worry about tugging on it to keep it in place, even while dancing. On this note, I will also add that you may want to shop around for alteration pricing. I purchased my dress during the annual sale at David’s Bridal, but the alterations were going to cost me nearly as much as the dress itself. Luckily, I found another seamstress who worked on bridal gowns at a much better rate. I also found better pricing online for some of my accessories, including my veil.

4. Location, location, location. The next major step in the process and one you will want to do early on, is choosing your wedding venue. If you are getting married in a church or special events venue, you will want to book your date as soon as possible. Remember, Christmas is the most popular time of year for engagements so you may be competing with other newly engaged couples for the perfect venue. If the location you choose does not offer in-house catering you may also want to go ahead and book a caterer before their schedule fills up as well. If you plan to hire a professional wedding planer you may wish to go ahead and book this person now so they can begin helping you get prepared.

5. Make a list and check it often. You’ve got the ring, you’ve picked a date, you’ve found your dress and booked your venue. Now, you can breathe a little bit. Of course there are many more things to plan out and decide upon, but once you have these major decisions made, it’s time to celebrate a little. I do recommend keeping a list, you can even do this on your smart phone. Keep this list with you at all times so when you get a great wedding idea you can jot it down quickly and come back to it later in the planning process. Once you get down to the nitty gritty of planning, a spreadsheet can also be helpful.

For those of you newly engaged, congratulations! Best wishes for a wonderful wedding day and a long and happy marriage.

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