After the initial celebrations of a new engagement, reality quickly sets in. Questions of where, when and what begin to circulate as the big day requires big plans. You might feel overwhelmed, but take a deep breath and enjoy the process of planning! Top local industry experts are here to tell you what steps to take (and when) to ensure you can pull off the wedding of your dreams without losing your mind.
9 Steps to Take After Your Engagement
1. Make a list of priorities.
“My top piece of advice is to figure out how much you want to spend and how much you are able to spend on your wedding. Gather all the numbers from all your various sources, and add them up so you know how much you have. Then, make a list of priorities,” says Alex Vaughan, owner of FLWR Shop. “Is it more important to you that everyone is able to drink themselves silly? Or is it more important to you that everyone eats themselves silly? Or dances themselves silly? Maybe the most important thing to you is that everyone’s jaw drops when they walk into your ceremony or reception. Whatever it may be, write down your No. 1 priority and then your No. 2 and No. 3. Take a look at that list and decide which vendors are going to help you in making your No. 1 priority for your wedding a reality — and don’t skimp on that one thing. If your No. 1 is your guests dancing their butts off, make sure you’re willing to spend the money it takes to get the best band or DJ you can reasonably afford. Make budget cuts in other areas: your dress or your caterer or your venue. If your No. 1 is making your guests’ jaws drop, then make your No. 1 and 2 priorities your venue and flowers/decor. Let the other stuff be subject to budget cuts.”
2. Hire a wedding planner.
“Hire a wedding planner. They are indispensable!” says Kristen Winston, owner of Kristen Winston Catering. “A wedding planner will guide you through the planning process and the wedding day. They will help put ideas into action, select a venue and connect you with appropriate vendors (such as caterers!). A planner will help brides spend their dollars wisely and in the areas that are most important to them. Wedding planners are not just for brides with large budgets. Many planners will customize packages that work within budgets of all sizes. Hiring a professional will take a lot of the stress out of the planning process and wedding day. The only thing brides should be worried about on their wedding day is having a good time with friends and family.”
Jessica Clark, owner of Ink Nashville, agrees. “While I would love to tell a bride to go immediately to her local stationer, honestly, the most critical step is to hire a wedding planner,” she says. “Wedding planners have the benefit of multiple experiences. Planners know the details on the venues in town and can alert the bride to the added expenses and challenges that she might not consider (i.e. whether tables and chairs are included, whether free linen or napkin options are available). Stationers, bridal stores, floral designers and caterers are great resources for information about — and introductions to — planners. Those of us around the wedding business work with a number of planners and can share insights and provide feedback. I am often asked for wedding planner suggestions!”
Finally, Amos Gott of AmosEvents concurs on the importance of hiring a wedding planner. “The first thing you should do is hire a planner,” he says. “You and your mother may have planned events in the past, but probably not where you are the guest of honor and your family the host. By being your project manager, a planner ensures that everything will run smoothly so you and your family can enjoy the wedding weekend.”
3. Pick a venue.
“After picking your date, venues for the ceremony and reception are obvious next steps,” continues Amos. “Nashville is a destination city for weddings now, so this requires your immediate attention. The next most important steps are selecting the photographer, band/DJ and caterer as they are also high in demand.”
4. Head to your local stationer.
“Once the planner, venue and church (if needed) are secured then I, of course, think you should head to a stationer for your save-the-date announcements,” says Jessica Clark, owner of Ink Nashville. “Nashville’s increasing popularity creates challenges for engaged couples. Securing accommodations for out-of-town guests is becoming more difficult. Sending the save-the-date announcement early provides more options in our limited supply of hotels.”
5. Hire a calligrapher.
Nashville calligrapher Valorie Ward Cole of Valorie Ward Cole Calligraphy offers the following: “Have your list in order with only the necessary information (name and address). Look at your list before handing it over to make sure all information is transferred correctly from excel into label format. And, don’t email changes every day.” She also recommends that when placing your order that you order 10-20% extra envelopes. “Calligraphers will make mistakes, people move, divorce, etc.,” she explains. “Things change and it’s so much easier — and less expensive — to order extra envelopes on the front end!”
6. Choose your wedding party.
“Choose your wedding party soon after you set your date so you can include the date when you ask them,” recommends Allison Taylor, owner of Bella Bridesmaids Nashville. Additionally, Allison says there are some key considerations to take into account when choosing your wedding party. “Take into consideration the number of people you want to include. Do you prefer a small, intimate group? Or do you thrive with all of your friends and family surrounding you? It is also important to think about individuals who have been with you during important milestones in your life. Wedding planning can be stressful. Make sure your wedding party consists of people who are going to be loving, supporting and calming during such an important time in your life!”
7. Find a photographer.
“Next to your planner, the relationship you have with your photographer is the most important,” says Amos Gott of AmosEvents. “It’s important that you like the look and style of the photographer’s work. However, second only to your planner, you will spend the most time with the photographer. If you don’t like their personality or demeanor, you aren’t going to enjoy spending the wedding day with them as they give you directions for your photographs.”
8. Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses.
“At Bella Bridesmaids, we recommend shopping 6 to 9 months before your wedding (depending on how much time you have),” says Allison Taylor, who owns the Nashville boutique. “Your wedding party is truly your best accessory and can oftentimes set the stage for color, formality and style of the wedding. This gives plenty of time to shop for your dresses, design the look for the wedding party and give your friends time to order. Most designers take between 10 to 16 weeks to ship.” Allison suggests planning the purchases so the dresses arrive approximately one month before the wedding so there is time for any necessary alterations. “There are rush options for brides working on a tighter timeline options,” she shares, “but you may be a bit more limited.”
9. Schedule a makeup trial.
“Do a makeup trial at the same time you do the hair trial so that you can get the complete look,” suggests Valorie Ward Cole, who is also the co-creator of Daniel Cole Collection. “Bring photos (from Pinterest or of yourself when you felt great) to your trial to make it easier to express your desired look!”
Above all else, savor every moment of this joyous time in your life. Happy wedding planning!