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Title graphic for Be There Invitations' article on wedding planning.   Be There Invitations is an online shop operated by Janusian Gallery offering custom wedding, party, and event invitations featuring unique photography.


So you're engaged

(First in a multi-part series on wedding planning.)



Don't get swept up by hype! You can have a perfectly lovely wedding without putting yourself at the mercy of the bridal industry marketing behemoth. Smart brides and grooms not only know how much things cost, but have decided how much they want to spend. We're here to give you the straight talk you might not read elsewhere.

Keep in mind that many of the traditional "six months out", "nine months out" checklists are based on a 16-18 month engagement and old schedules predating online shopping and e-commerce. You may have a three-month engagement or a three-year engagement. You may have to bump your wedding ahead or postpone it for serveral months due to life circumstances.

In many cases, it really doesn't matter whether something gets done at 12 weeks or 10 weeks. Once you gain a general understanding of the wedding planning process, you'll be able to customize a schedule to meet your unique needs.

This article discusses some things you should do when you first get engaged and shortly afterwards. Much of it involves taking a realistic assessment of your financial situation and keeping an eye on the legal issues involved in getting married. (Don't worry: we're planning future installments discussing the fun stuff... like cake sampling!)



Say "yes" to a real proposal. (Seriously!)
Tell your family and closest friends about the engagement. They'll probably want to know all the details: the date, wedding party size, location, etc. Tell them that you have not planned all the details at this point, but that you'll keep them in the loop and share information as you can. Then distract them with the story about how you got engaged.


Sit down alone with your fiance(e) and decide what kind of wedding you'd want if price were no object. In most case, that won't be the wdding you'll actually get. But if one of you wants a destination wedding in Tahiti and the other of you has his or her heart set on a rustic wedding at a horse farm, now's the time to hash it out. Are you thinking about a pre-nuptial agreement? They're not just for rich people. Now's the time to raise the issue and address the likely feedback. Also, have an honest discussion with your spouse to be about sharing costs and paying wedding-related bills in a timely manner.


Spreadsheets and smartphone apps are your friends. They'll help you stay on budget and meet your deadlines. Develop a system to keep you organized and sane, even if it's just a three-ring binder.


Create Pinterest boards for your dream wedding. Do not order anything at this point, no matter how tempted you may be. Live with the designs. Print them out and hang them on your wall. Circulate them and ask for input from people you trust.


Begin researching how much things cost. Add everything up. You will quickly learn that you probably can't afford your dream wedding. (We know it feels bad, but it's better to have a reality check now than to run out of money two months in and not be able to afford to get married at all.)


Review your own finances and credit score. How much can you realistically spend on your wedding? And of that amount, how much do you want to spend? Do you have competing priorities, like saving up for a house? What's more important to you: a more modest wedding and a downpayment or a Kardashian-style bash? Be honest: we won't judge you.


Establish an initial budget, with a generous amount of padding. "Generous" is a relative term and is unique to each couple. Just keep in mind that things will cost more than you planned and leave some room for unexpected costs.


Be sure you know how you're going to get the money to pay for your wedding. Don't count on it coming from wedding gifts: you may end up with another blender instead of the $100 bill you hoped for. Don't spend any money you're not 100% sure you have (or can get).


Decide whether to hire a wedding planner. While planners can remove much of the stress of dealing with vendors, you'll still have to handle the planners. A good planner can save you money and suggest vendors you may not know about.


Prioritize your dream wedding list (with your planner, if any). What are the "need-to-haves" (an officient and a marriage license) vs. the "nice-to-haves" (like a Cinderella open-air carriage).


Start researching specific vendors: photographers, videographers, bakeries, florists, DJs, musicians, event supplies, etc. Don't look just at price. What are their reputations? Can they provide you with reference lists? Check online review sites, but be aware that some unscrupulous vendors write fake reviews promoting htemselves and/or trashing the competition. The people you already know are your best reference sources.

For online vendors, you'll likely have additional concerns. How long do orders take to arrive? What forms of payment do they take? Do they have sales / promotions? If so, when? Will they price-match? How easy is it to reach Customer Service? What is their return policy if you don't like what you ordered or simply changed your mind?


Can you can get what you want at a lower price? (Getting married somewhere different, at a different type of year; purchasing "wedding packages"?)


Narrow down possible dates. (You want to have options in case the ceremony or reception venue you want isn't available on your first-choice date.)


Decide upon and reserve your ceremony and reception venue.

Do not sign any contracts without reviewing them, fully understanding them, and agreeing with their terms. For example, what happens if you need to change the date or cancel the reservation? Make sure that any change to the standard contract is in writing and signed/dated by both parties. (Also, make sure that the person you're dealing with has the authority to make your requested changes.)

Pay any corresponding deposits. are they refundable? If so, within what window?


When you visit your vendors, remember that it is their job to upsell additional products and services. They are not your friends, no matter how friendly and helpful they may be. If someone tries to pressure or intimate you, get up and leave (even if they've been workign with you for the past hour).


As soon as you start spending money for your wedding, consider adding your spouse-to-be to your life insurance policy (or get a policy if you don't already have one.) Have him/her do the same for you. If you love this person enough to get married to him/her, you want to protect their financial future if something were to happen to you. We know that an untimely death before the wedding is not "romantic" to think about, but neither is getting stuck with tens of thousands of dollars of wedding expenses and burial costs.




We know that an entirely stress-free wedding is an aspiration, not a reality, for most people. If all else fails, look around you at all the married people. They got through their weddings; you will, too. Visit Janusian Gallery and Be There Invitations again to read more about the process of ordering the "fun stuff", like cakes, dresses, and, of course, invitations.

- Lynne Guimond Sabean



How is your wedding planning going? Do you have any stories to share about your wedding? What are your favorite tips on wedding planning and reducing stress? Send us an e-mail.



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