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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Websites for the newly engaged

IMG_3541Christmas is the most popular time of the year to get engaged. I should know, as my husband proposed last year on Christmas Eve. The holiday season is so magical and it becomes even more special when your love pops the question.

So if you said “yes” this holiday season, here are a few of my favorite websites to get your started with the wedding planning process.

Before you delve into all these wonderful sites, however, I have an important piece of advice to share. The internet (and books and magazines in print) are full of literally millions of amazing wedding ideas. The bottom line, however, is that at the end of the day you need to choose things for your wedding that make you feel happy and are special for you and your future spouse.

Of course along with all these wonderful ideas can come lots of price tags. Don’t get too overwhelmed with all the wonderful ideas. Just find what is special for you and your wedding day is sure to be amazing!

 

Weddings Link Roundup

Here a few sites I used while wedding planning. Purchasing an actual wedding magazine was something I really planned to do, but with a scary budget already looking me in the eye, I couldn’t bring myself to shell out the $10 for the magazine.

The Knot is a good place to start. I will admit I found it a bit overwhelming though I did use it to make our wedding website.

The Broke Ass Bride is one of the cutest and most creative wedding websites I came across. I recommend the book and the website.

If you want to look at beautiful wedding pictures to start getting some ideas of what you want your wedding to look like, I recommend Style Me Pretty. 

If you’re style runs a little more to the eclectic, you’ll love The Rock and Roll Bride.

I also enjoyed The Wedding Bee. You can ask questions in the forum section and get real answers from other brides.

Getting help and advice from friends and family is really what made my wedding come together so beautifully, but the internet was a good place to start getting ideas.

Best of luck to all you new brides and grooms to be!

A bride’s confession about thank you cards

I have a bit of a confession to make in the wake of all the wedding excitement, and hopefully my confession will serve as some helpful advice for other newly engaged or married folks. My confession is in regard to thank you cards. Now, from a young age, my mamma instilled in me the importance of sending thank you cards.

While I think there are many traditions or protocols relating to weddings that can be ignored based on personal preference, sending thank you cards is definitely not one of those things. And when I say thank you card, this does not mean a text message, an email or a Facebook message. This means an actual handwritten, personalized, stamped, mailed, signed, sealed and delivered snail mail thank you card. I personally think handwritten thank you cards should still be sent for any gift you receive for any reason, but bridal shower, wedding and baby shower thank you cards are a definite must!

According to the Emily Post Institute, a couple should send out thank you cards no later than three months following the wedding. However, etiquette also indicates that should that deadline pass, the cards should still be sent no matter how late. Weddings are a busy, hectic time and settling back in following the honeymoon can be crazy too. I imagine people are understanding when it comes to receiving that thank you card several months after the fact.

Another part of traditional thank you card etiquette involves mentioning the specific gift received. At

the bridal shower one of my bridesmaids took copious notes on who gave what. We registered on a honeymoon site that conveniently tracked each monetary gift we received towards our trip and even had a handy downloadable spreadsheet which included the gift and address of the person who gave the gift. I digress again here to say that I highly recommend a honeymoon registry, especially for couples who have everything they need as far as housewares.

After the wedding and reception my new husband and I got into a limo, our heads buzzing with excitement (and some champagne) and headed off for our honeymoon. At this juncture we were handed a stack of cards from our wedding guests. In our excitement we tore open the cards. To our delight there was money in the cards. In our excitement we did not even think to take note of who gave what. So my confession is that I cannot be as specific as I would like in some of our wedding thank you cards. What we should have done is put each card back together with its enclosed gift and waited until we were at the hotel so we could make notes on each gift. So, brides and grooms, if you can contain your excitement when you get into your limo to head off for the honeymoon, try to remember to do that.

A popular new tradition when it comes to wedding thank yous is to take a cute picture of the newlyweds either at the wedding or on the honeymoon holding a sign that says thank you. We did not do this, but I think it’s a really cute way to say thank you. We did however have a photo card made with one picture from the wedding and two pictures from our honeymoon. This is particularly nice to send to any family members or friends who may not have already seen the 600 plus honeymoon photos on your Facebook page.

When it comes time to send out those thank yous, just parcel it out a few cards at a time if you don’t have time to sit down and write them all out at once. Some may be particular that the addresses should be handwritten also, but that’s one tradition I do ignore. I suggest printing address labels for the cards, which can save you a lot of time. You can really save time if you sit down as a couple and do them assembly line style with one person writing out the cards and the other labeling and stamping them. I love printing out labels on the Avery site. There are cute designs to choose from so the outside of your card still looks very personalized. I even printed return mailing address labels that included a tiny picture of me and my groom.