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  • Writer's pictureTamara Merri

"I'm Engaged, Now What?"

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

Chances are you're reading this blog because you recently got engaged, or you're a super planner and want to be on top of your ish once that ring is on your finger. Regardless, I AM HERE FOR YOUR PLANNING, ORGANIZATIONAL HEART! There is really no wrong time to start wedding planning. Along the way you'll get a better idea of when to progress, and when to dream. Creating a wedding planning timeline can greatly reduce anxiety and get you excited to plan the day!

Check out this free downloadable PDF checklist for everything you need to keep in mind when planning your wedding.

I recommend getting a wedding planning book/binder (maybe someone will gift you planning materials!?), using a wedding planning app, or wedding planning website. That way, you remember your wedding planning ideas, reduce stress, and have a planning guide to follow!

1. first, don't forget to take time to celebrate.

There is going to be so much on your I-do-to-do list that you'll want to start off on the right foot. Get excited, get pampered, and dream a little. Round up your besties to pop some bubbly, get a manicure to show off your left hand's bling, and enjoy the newly engaged bliss with your boo.

2. set a budget.

Talk with your partner about a realistic budget and where your priorities are for wedding items; ie: venue, food, photographer, etc. What is the most important aspect of that day that you want to allocate the most money towards? Make sure you're on the same page to avoid hard discussions later on. Now, there is a lot of fluctuation for the "average" wedding budget depending on what you're googling. Make sure you're following a planning path that really resonates with your relationship and your vision. Nerd wallet has an excellent wedding budget calculator to help.

3. create a wedding theme.

Speaking of vision, try to come up with a theme for how you want your wedding to feel- both for yourself, and for your guests. Do you want a cozy mountain vibe? Beach luau? Vintage? Bohemian? Modern classy? The more detailed you can get with the vibe you want, the easier it will be to make decisions about everything else wedding related starting with your venue and ending with your party favors. Having a reason behind why you're doing something will make you more decisive than just because "it looks pretty". And trust me, you'll need to be decisive with all the options out there!

4. make a guest list

Between you and your partner, list out every friend and family member. If you parents are helping to pay, you may want to also include some of their friends. This will be your list A. Then, condense the list a little and make some cuts for who you wouldn't necessarily miss. That will be your list B. Do this once more for a list C. That way you have your priorities for which guest count is the MOST important when touring venues.

5. tour wedding venues.

Before you can set a date, you need to find a venue who has availability for the season you want. Now that you have the theme of your wedding in mind, schedule venue tours to see if it is in-line with your wedding day vision. You'll want to have your guest-count size in mind when looking at venues to ensure it can accommodate all your favorite people. Many popular wedding venues book up two years in advance, so if there is a specific venue you have your heart set on, make sure you tour it ASAP. It is also good to note here that you need to have everything paid off BEFORE your wedding day. So if you need a year to save up to pay for your wedding, you'll need to keep that in mind when setting a date.

6. plan the parties.

At this point you may have already had an engagement party. BUT, sometimes it is easier to wait to plan one so everyone and their mother doesn't ask you when and where you're getting married when you have zero idea. If you've already had an engagement party, next up is the bridal shower. The shower is usually 2-3 months before the wedding. This is usually planned and hosted by the brides family. Drink, eat, and get presents. Then of course planning the bachelor/ette party. This is usually planned by the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Make sure to communicate who you want to come, as well as if you want to travel or not. Last "party" to keep in mind is the rehearsal dinner.

7. share the details.

Create a wedding website to share details of your date, tell your story, and collect RSVPs. Popular wedding planning website hosts are,, and Send out Save The Dates so that your guests can make sure to be available on your wedding (you may want to wait until you have your engagement photos taken). Save the Dates are sent out roughly 8 months in advance. A formal invite will follow about 2 months before the wedding day.

8. hire wedding vendors.

Next up, it's time to find quality vendors to help make your day amazing. You could consider hiring a wedding coordinator or planner to help plan the wedding. Many coordinators come with vendor recommendations to help ease the search! If not, you can either google vendors, ask friends for recommendations, search tags on Instagram (#austinweddingphotographer), or use the websites provided in #7. Here's a list of which vendors you'll most likely need to search for:

- attire shops; dress & suit

- photographer and/or videographer

- DJ or band

- caterer

- bartender if their not included with catering

- florist

- hair and makeup (optional: lashes, laser hair removal, manicurist)

- cake/dessert baker

- stationary/invitations

- officiant

- jeweler

- event rentals (dinnerware, furniture, decor, etc)

- favors

- transportation

- lodging

- related: Do I really need a wedding planner? -

9. do a test run with vendors.

It is important to make sure your expectations are clear. Take advantage of the opportunity to work with your vendors that can provide a service ahead of time. Get a hair and makeup trial to ensure you will like the look. Do an engagement session with your photographer to make sure you like their work and that you get along. Do a cake taste testing. If your DJ hosts public events, go to one to witness their vibe. Make sure to follow all of your vendors on social media to keep up with their work and to get inspired for some ideas for your own wedding.

10. get prepared.

- Create a timeline for the day, starting with when vendors arrive and ending with your departure time. If you have a coordinator, they'll create this for you.

- Get your marriage license!

- Wear your wedding dress! The majority of brides only wear the dress standing still when they get pinned during alterations before their wedding. Put it on and move around. Sit. Dance. Just don't spill on it. See where it gets loose, where it might rub wrong, and figure out how to use boob tape (and how to hide it well).

- Prepare for the unexpected. Especially if your wedding venue is outdoors, make sure you are aware of the rain plan. This is where having a coordinator in place makes all the difference. You wont have to lift a finger on your wedding day if something goes wrong. Half the time, you won't even know that something went wrong! However, if you're relying on family and friends to bring the day together, talk to your VIPs to get everyone on the same page for what to do if something happens.

- Get/make signs for the seating chart, ceremony area, card table, etc.

- Get last minute details like a guest book and frame engagement/bridal photos,

11. spoil your fiancé

If you're writing your own vows, make sure to write them on something nice. I recommend getting vow books. Aside from showering them with loving words, get them a gift open the morning of the wedding. Most of the time, brides gift their groom's either a nice watch or cufflinks. Men gift their bride's jewelry to wear that day. Don't forget a card! If you're not seeing each other before the ceremony, having this little love note beforehand goes a long way to calm the nerves.

Have more questions? Email me at



©ALP - Tamara Hanley 2023 -420_websize.jpg

I'm Tamara!

I'm a Massachusetts wedding & elopement photographer. I'm the voice behind this blog and the girl behind the camera. 

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