Featured weddings and sessions, resources, travel guides, and my own personal musings.
Congratulations on your engagement! As the fog of that fantastic moment lifts, yes that shiny new ring is real, and no you are not dreaming. (!!!!!). These next few months are going to be some of the most memorable of your life! Be sure to enjoy the process surrounded by the love of your better half, family, and friends. If you’re wondering what to do first now that you’re engaged, you weren’t the first to not know where to start. We’ve got you covered.
The best time to announce your big news is on your way to getting your beautiful new ring insured. As you proudly show off your new ring, video call your friends and family. Let them share in your excitement while you take care of some necessary paperwork. Whether the ring is a family heirloom or bought especially with you in mind, you need to get insurance for it! (I know because I actually lost my engagement ring, and luckily my jeweler’s insurance covered a replacement in full.) This extra safety gives you peace of mind in case something happens to it!
The next big financial step to take involves sitting down with your better half, and maybe your parents. It’s time to crunch the numbers! Make sure both of you are awake and clear-headed before heading into this discussion. Setting your wedding budget isn’t the most fun part of planning, but it is the most important, as it determines every next step — your guest list, your venue, etc. Your budget is the first building block to designing your vision for your big day. As you set your budget, ask yourself who is paying? Are you following tradition and letting your families help pay for things? Another option is having the two of you pay for everything. Set a firm number stick to it! You want to enjoy your dream day without living with the nightmare of cost regret.
Do a quick search, and you will find an astronomical number of search results. Do not let this overwhelm you! Instead, start with some trusted sources such as the Knot and build from there. The next time you are at the store, stop by the magazine aisle and look. If anything calls to you, grab it! You’ll start to see what your style is, whether it’s an outdoor garden wedding, a classic city wedding, or something bohemian and coastal. Organization is vital as you design your day. A traditional three-ring binder with dividers is a great way to keep your ideas on hand. A digital option for organization is creating one or more boards on Pinterest. Some board suggestions include dress options, florals, decoration, and bridesmaid outfits. For more inspo, check out our blog post on organizing a cohesive style for your wedding day.
Send out an email to your favorite photographer right off the bat! You can not only get pricing and touch base, but feel free to ask them for recommendations based on their style of photography that you love. For example, we have plenty of recommendations to offer, from venues, planners and florists, to smaller details like how to choose your getting ready location, and more! We recommend jumping on a call or video conference to really get to know each other and make sure you have the right fit. Have fun with these meetings; don’t hide your true personalities. Instead, let them know what you are envisioning. They’ll eventually need to know where your celebration is taking place in order to reserve your date. If you’ve always envisioned working with one particular photographer, don’t be afraid to let them know the dates you’re interested in; you can always pick your wedding date based on their availability. There are so many incredible photographers out there to choose from, so ask them lots of questions if you’re on the fence! If you’re interested in more advice on how to choose your wedding photographer, be sure to check out our tips!
Once you are engaged, you have many important decisions to make including where you are getting married. If you are not getting married where you live, make sure you check the licensing requirements. Some cities give you your marriage license the day of your ceremony. In other countries, language and officiant requirements may be imposed!
After you decide on the geographical location, it’s time to determine the venue. Where we’re from in South Jersey, there are a variety of exciting venues for your special day! As you look at your potential site options, consider the number of guests you are inviting. Chat with the venue and see what services they offer for your day and what is included versus costing extra. Some locations take care of everything while others provide you with more options and flexibility, which might also mean more decisions for you and your planner.
It’s time to sit down with your fiancé and family again! This time the discussion topic is your guest list. When you first write your list, do not set it in stone — consider making a back-up or “maybe” list. Many couples try to split the list up in thirds, so everyone has an equal share. (1/3 the couple’s friends, 1/3 for partner A’s family, and 1/3 for partner B’s family). After that, you can narrow down that first list until everyone is comfortable. Remember, the larger your guest list is, the more expensive your day is, and certain venues may have guest list minimums and maximums. Keep your budget in mind as you set your guest count for the day.
If you get overwhelmed, consider eloping to save stress!
The first decision you need to make to really get the ball rolling for your wedding is the date and venue. The date lays the foundation for the rest of your planning and the venue will help determine the style of your wedding day. After you have the date set, you can start securing other vendors like the photographer, music, and flowers. The season and venue you choose will help guide you through the rest of the details, like colors and your dress. Have fun choosing a venue! Make a list of some that you like, schedule visits and tours, and narrow them down based on style and budget. You can make a date or fun occasion out of each venue visit! Choosing a date with your venue before anything else sets the focal point and helps narrow down choices for the rest of the planning. You can then send save the dates out, book your vendors, and then have fun with the details like dress shopping and colors of details!
Another fun aspect of wedding planning is setting up your registry! Register early, but update the registry often. Make the day you start this process an all-out adventure for you and your better half. Turn it into a date day, have lunch, and enjoy figuring out what you need, want, and like. You can also enjoy registering online, cuddle up on the couch and shop from home on sites like Zola.
Once you register, make sure your guests know where they can find you. Post this information to your wedding website (we love Zola because it offers a free website & registry!) and include the information with your invitations or save the dates. You can also share this information on your favorite social media platforms! We made a private Instagram account to update our guests with information for our destination wedding.
Images from Catherine and Ryan’s surprise proposal at Terrain Gardens!
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Whether you’re working with a wedding planner on a multi-day event or you’re planning an intimate affair, you’re still dealing with many moving pieces right up until your big day. Having photographed more than 200 weddings, we’ve come up with the answers to our most frequently asked questions and turned them into this guide, from day-of timelines to inclement weather, from engagement sessions to first looks.
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