I'm Engaged! Now What?

He popped the question, and you couldn't be more thrilled. And a little overwhelmed. There's registries to create and guest to invite and venues to book and bouquets to choose and cake to taste and music and photos and dresses, on and on and on. By the time a wedding takes place, a couple has made hundreds if not thousands of decisions.

"There's just so much to do, I don't even know where to begin," a bride lamented to me over the phone the other day. It's a common feeling. As a wedding photographer, I get to be a part of every aspect of a couple's big day. Let me help the decision-making feel a little easier for you.

Step One: Choose a Relative Timeline

This doesn't mean you have to know the exact date of your wedding right away. It does mean narrowing down the season you want your wedding to be in will go a long way in helping you make some preliminary decisions. Plus, it will help put future guests at ease to be able to mentally mark something off on the calendar. Is your soul made of sunshine? You'll want to plan a summer wedding. Drawn to the vibrancy and new life of spring? Tell your friends and family you want an April or May wedding. You can pick a definitive date a little later.

 Tyler and Brenna had an eight-month engagement before their stunning Dallas wedding.

Tyler and Brenna had an eight-month engagement before their stunning Dallas wedding.

Step Two: Hone in on a Style

Your personal style is a huge reflection of your personality. Are you fun and casual? Elegant and sophisticated? Traditional or trendy? Are you drawn to vibrant tones or monochromatic ones? Glitter and sparkles or natural elements? You want these things to jive on your wedding day, so sit down with a few wedding magazines and dog-ear the pages you like. Start a Pinterest board for inspiration. Think about colors that you feel work well together. The more you search for inspiration, the more confident you'll begin to feel making decisions.

 Deep shades of purple complemented this bride's style for her September wedding.

Deep shades of purple complemented this bride's style for her September wedding.

Step Three: Gather Your A-Team

My mom was an enormous help before and during my wedding day. I knew the big decisions I wanted to make, cake flavors, dress, catering menu, flowers, etc. I defaulted to her for the little ones like whether the guestbook should be ivory or white linen.  Similarly, you're going to want someone whose judgment you trust helping you make the decisions of the wedding day. Are you going to hire a professional wedding coordinator or rely on a sister or trusted friend? Also, who will be standing beside you as you say "I do." The people you surround yourself with on your wedding day will make all the difference in your level of comfort and confidence on your big day.

 Amber's mom Debby helped plan every detail of her rustic Portland wedding.

Amber's mom Debby helped plan every detail of her rustic Portland wedding.

Step Four: Budget, Prioritize, and Save

This is one of the most important steps because the decisions you make here will determine every aspect of your wedding day. You'll need to answer some important questions, like how much both of your families are contributing and how much you'll personally be able to kick in. You should open a wedding savings account so your finances are all in the same place. Next, make a list of the top things that matter to you on your wedding day. I won't tell you what should be on your list, but some examples are photography, decor, venue, dress, cake/catering, music, flowers, etc. Then put a percentage by how important these things are to you. Again, this should be a reflection of your personality. 

Here's an example: Dress 10%, Flowers 10%, Cake/Catering 15%, DJ 5%, Venue 20%, Photography 20%, Decor 15%, Invites/Paper goods 5%

The items that have the highest percentages should be the first place where you spend your money. 

Did anyone notice that not-so-subtle plug for photography? I'm a wedding photographer, so obviously I believe in the significance of photography. But here's why you should. Because after the dress is dirty, the flowers have dried up, the cake is eaten, and the venue has been returned to it's normal state, photos are the only thing you'll have to remember your day by. I'll try not to tell you how much weight to attach to that area of your budget, but please don't wait to book a photographer if photos are important to you!

 Joe was teary as he gazed at his new wife, Melanie, during their Kalispell wedding.

Joe was teary as he gazed at his new wife, Melanie, during their Kalispell wedding.

Step Five: Savor the Excitement

You're in a pretty fantastic season of your life where everything is new and wonderful. Take the time to enjoy it with your fiancé. There will be time to plan, but don't forget to relax and appreciate this stage. I like to give my couples an excuse or two to go on a date before a wedding. Sometimes they receive gift cards to coffee shops or restaurants with little notes attached, encouraging them to take a break from planning. By the time the wedding rolls around, couples are often at ease, which registers in their photos. 

 Kelly and eric's new year's eve wedding was as romantic as it was festive.

Kelly and eric's new year's eve wedding was as romantic as it was festive.