10 Tips for Your Season of Engagement
I’ve been mulling over the idea of this post of 10 tips for your season of engagement. When I first got engaged all of the overwhelming feelings hit me like a WALL. I was excited, nervous, and overjoyed, all at the same time. All I wanted to do was soak up this time of engagement with my fiancé. However, I felt like there was SO MUCH to do with little guidance on HOW to actually do it. Have you ever felt this way? Even though I have been in the wedding industry for years, I had never actually planned a wedding before. I had no idea where to start.
Over time, I made a lot of progress and prepared for “the worst.” I reminded myself that not everything was going to be perfect. I had a support team and checked nearly everything off of our lists. Unfortunately, I had NO IDEA the level of stress that was about to come our way…
A little backstory about my own wedding:
We had a two year engagement, and did our wedding planning from out of state. (We lived in Southern California but got married in Portland, OR.) Two weeks out from our wedding, we found out that we were displaced from our dream venue. Due to the Eagle Creek fire in the gorge, it simply wasn’t safe and they had to close down. We were absolutely devastated.
Within 24 hours, I had to fly up and walk through the few venues that had our date still available. We scrambled to re-plan our entire wedding, and had to update our guests and vendors, in just five days.
So many things went “wrong,” but we reminded ourselves: our wedding DAY isn’t what will make our marriage great.
The devastation of having to let go of my “perfect” wedding really helped reshape my mental state. It reminded me that the little details didn’t actually matter.
In the end, we had the most magical wedding because it was uniquely “us.” We were solely focused on celebrating our journey together – and ultimately, our love story. I believe that this is what weddings should really be about.
After photographing over 100 weddings and being a bride myself. (Especially one who had my share of having to go from plan A to plan B. Then to plan C, D… and eventually letting go and letting plan E happen however it wanted to). A really reliable resource for engaged couples is a goal of mine. I want to be a calm presence for those who find themselves surrounded by stress.
So, I put together this list as a resource and a source of encouragement. It’s a reminder that you are not alone, and that your wedding can be whatever you want it to be. You do you, boo, and surround yourself with the supportive people who will cheer you on in what you want. You’ve got this!
Are you thinking, “I’m engaged! Now what?” Then this post is for you.
* Not one link in this post is sponsored. I’m sharing because I personally recommend them. I believe they provide value. When you think others could benefit, it’s definitely worth sharing.
10 Tips for Your Season of Engagement
1. Resources for your relationship and communication:
Okay, this is number one because I think it’s the most important. The wedding day isn’t about your wedding day – it’s about your relationship and the start of your marriage.
Pre-marital counseling was an incredible experience for us. Even though we believed our communication was pretty solid, we went into counseling with open minds and came out so much stronger. They bring up conversations you wouldn’t have on a whim, and you’ll learn tools that you can use in your daily lives together. I’m a huge advocate for counseling even if you don’t feel like you “need” it, and pre-marital counseling is a great place to start!
The Marriage Journal: This is a weekly communication journal for your marriage. The foundation of the journal is 6 questions to ask each other once a week (and writing all of the answers down). It focuses on helping you to better understand and connect with your spouse on a deeper level. It also includes a short devotional to help remember the beauty of love. It’s one of the best communication tools I’ve found for the first year of marriage.
Podcasts: My personal favorite is The Fierce Marriage podcast. Ryan and Selena discuss all things marriage every Tuesday morning. They discuss sex, communication, finances, priorities, purpose, and everything in between.
2. Resources for planning and organizing:
There is no wrong way to plan your wedding. As long as you are moving forward and it’s helping, not hindering your dream wedding, then just let it keep doing it’s thang for you.
There are so many tools out there when it comes to wedding planning, it can be overwhelming to find the one that works best for you. It’s okay to try out a system and moving on to a new system if you realize it’s not quite clicking with the way your brain works. I, for one, didn’t use a physical book to help me plan, and did everything digitally instead. Others prefer to physically write everything down and keep a binder full of ideas and narrow their plans down from there! For this section, I’m focusing on some of my favorite online resources:
Wedding Wire was incredibly helpful for me when I was planning my wedding. Side note: I actually didn’t use it for any type of vendor search.
We allowed our guests to RSVP via our wedding website. No missing cards in the mail, and being able to update the list as needed was a high priority for us. We utilized their online checklist to keep track of what our vendors needed from us, as well as our own tasks. We utilized their budget tracker to make sure we were on task and to see when new payments were due.
All Seated was a GAME CHANGER by giving me the ability to create an online floor plan that I could easily shift and change as needed. There are quite a few venues who have the dimensions and information of their space already in the system, however there is also a blank slate option to make a fully customized space.
I made one for our original venue to showcase where our food truck, photo bus, and live music were all going to set up, as well as where the ceremony and dinner spaces would be. I made an additional one of the dinner set up (we skipped a seating chart and just did reserved tables for the bridal party). Having it mapped out like this allowed all of our vendors to easily be on the same page.
When I had to re-plan our wedding in 5 days, communication was KEY. I whipped up this beauty to showcase the new dinner seating arrangement, as we were now in a tighter space than originally planned.
Facebook: HUGE for the wedding world right now. There are a million Facebook groups out there, but finding a local one full of vendors and/or other couples in your area can be really helpful in the planning process of your wedding. Need a reliable vendor for your big day? Post and ask for personal referrals from other couples and hear their experiences of working with that vendor. You can ask for the vendors directly, as well, in most groups. You’ll be able to find those who are available for your date and within your budget. (No idea what your budget is? You can also use the responses to gather a price range vs. portfolio/experience so you can figure out what your budget should be!)
3. Take Pinterest with a grain of salt:
Pinterest is a helpful online resource when it comes to planning your wedding and could easily be included in my previous point – but I believe it deserves it’s own point because I happen to have some very strong opinions on the subject.
Pinterest: Yes, it is a great way to share a vision and a mood/vibe with your vendor team. It’s a great way to see photos from past weddings at your venue, as well as finding great photographers, florists, and hair/makeup styles. It’s even great at seeing color schemes.
Pinterest is going to throw a lot more at you than just 10 tips for your season of engagement. Don’t let it overwhelm and overcome you. Boundaries are our friend.
I definitely used Pinterest to help plan our wedding BUT it was difficult to not compare OUR real-life wedding vs. a heavily stylized shoot that is 100% Pinterest-perfect with paid models. It’s really easy to feel pressured by the latest trends and lavish, expensive things you feel like you should have but don’t actually add value for you.
Also –please don’t get sucked into the “the top 1,000 photos you MUST share with your photographer,” but instead, chat with your photographer and build your own trust with them. We are here as a witness to your day and to anticipate moments and document them as they unfold in front of us. If you hand us a giant list like this that we are required to keep up on, (especially of moments that happen organically anyway – like your first kiss during the ceremony), it’s going to take us away from our creative vision and the organic storytelling of YOUR day. I don’t want to miss a moment because I’m checking things off of a list, you know what I mean?
Let’s seek out what is real and what is important to you. Leave the comparison at the door, and your day in itself will feel timeless.
4. Figuring out your wedding budget:
According to The Knot’s Worldwide 2019 Global Wedding Report, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is at $29,200.
Honestly, I’m having a hard time with this point. When it comes to figuring out the overall budget for your wedding day and then HOW to actually send that money – we’re all wired a bit differently. How you set up your budget should feel worthwhile and fulfilling to your priorities. We all have different priorities and we all have a different income structure and plan for our finances. So, I’ll just share this:
Prioritize your vendors: Find out what is most important to you, and prioritize your budget accordingly. Do you want an all-inclusive venue that handles the staff, set up, food, etc? How about an AMAZING wedding photographer? Feeling like you need to secure a killer DJ asap so your guests will be partying on the dance floor all night? Are elaborate and epic flower arrangements or bouquets important to you? Do you want a coordinator to help you plan all of the little details so you can continue living your life stress-free?
All of these things are good things! But the point is to find out what vendors do you feel would make the biggest impact on your day to YOU, then prioritize your budget towards them. The rest will fall into place as you start checking things off your list.
Do your research: Do some research to find the average cost per vendor, and decide what amount would be reasonable for you to spend. Ask friends and families who got married about their favorite vendors and who they would recommend. As I mentioned before, Facebook groups can be a valuable resources as well. Most vendors will list starting prices on their website, but reach out to a few favorites directly to gather some personalized quotes.
Keep in mind that the cost of a vendor can be less due to their lack of experience, and you really do get what you pay for. This is why it’s so important to prioritize the ones who will provide a service that is most important to you, so you will feel less of the risk in case it’s subpar.
Write it out: Get it out of your head and on to paper! Grab a notebook or make an excel sheet to track EVERYTHING. Write down some quotes and average costs per-vendor prior to booking, then change the amount once you’ve finalized the contract. You might find yourself compromising on a few things such as cutting out save the dates to save money for more formal invitations. If your parents are helping, add the amount/vendors they’ll be helping to pay for so you know everything that will be covered.
Writing it all out will keep you on task to not go over-budget. You’ll instantly be able to review how much you need to save leading up to the big day, and how much you have left to spend.
Have the tough conversations: It can be so stressful figuring out an ideal budget when you have your future-spouse or family members who may have differing opinions. This is where those communication resources I shared can come into play! It’s so important to make sure you’re on the same page and have the same goals when it comes to your wedding day. Don’t be afraid to have those tough conversations so you can come to a mutual agreement and/or compromise as needed.
5. Prioritize your vendors:
Sit down and chat with your future-spouse about what aspects of your wedding day are the top priorities to you both. Then, write down those vendors in order of importance.
I just talked about this in my last point but I think it’s worth having it’s own section, too.
My personal opinion: I recommend to book your venue first since this determines your date. Then, snag your photo/video team (since we typically book 1-2 years in advanced). If you want some extra help organizing and finding other vendors, I highly suggest you book a coordinator. They’ll change your LIFE when it comes to organization and task delegation. From there, I believe you’re good to book everything in the order of what’s important to you.
Easy peasy, right? Haha. I know it’s a lot – just take it one vendor at a time. You’ve got this!
6. Stop talking about it:
This was some advice a friend shared with me when I got engaged, and now I’m here to yell it from the mountain tops.
Set up a date night each week with the agreement that there will be NO wedding talk. Yes, you read that correctly. Stop talking about it, just for one night. I think we’re often so eager to jump ahead that we don’t stop to just sit in the moment together.
You’re ENGAGED! It’s romantic and fun and exciting, and I think it’s important to enjoy this point in your relationship and the milestone you’ve reached. Celebrate it without the stress of the overall planning, making millions of tedious decisions, and compromising of where the budget should go. That can wait until tomorrow. For now, just take a break from it! Go out and enjoy each other’s company.
Your relationship is what you’re signing up for, not the event. Use this time to grow together in more ways than just one.
7. It’s never too early for engagement photos:
Do I have a bias opinion about this subject? Probably. ;) But I think I have a pretty good reason behind it.
Even if you don’t have a date set yet or if you’re thinking about having a 2+ year engagement – it’s never too early for engagement photos.
If your fiancé had a photographer there for your surprise proposal, that’s GREAT because you already have photos to cherish. But one thing I come back to is allowing the other person to prepare for the photos to be taken too. What if they didn’t have their nails done? What if they didn’t like the outfit they chose to wear that day? There is nothing wrong with having another session where you can both know it’s happening.
If you only ever splurge on high quality photos for your wedding day, you miss out on really beautiful photos of you NOT in your wedding attire. It’s a whole different vibe. I believe that you can never have enough photos of your milestones and memories. They’re SO worth celebrating and documenting. Don’t let judgement of others saying “it’s too soon” hold you back. If you want them? Get them. You’re going to love them forever.
PRO TIP: Many photographers will include a complimentary engagement session in with their wedding packages.
8. Weddings make families crazy:
A small tip to remind yourself in this entire process – weddings make families crazy.
It’s as simple as that, really. I don’t think this topic is talked about publicly too often. Unfortunately, family madness is pretty normal. Fortunately, it’s a good reminder that the crazy your family might be throwing your way is totally normal.
Families can also feel a lot of pressure on a big event like this. There are a lot of expectations that suddenly come into play, financial or otherwise, and that can be overwhelming and stressful. The “crazy” might be inevitable.
With that being the case, I think we just have to embrace the crazy. Remember that most of the time, it is coming from really good intentions. They’re just excited! But this is also a chance for you to set boundaries. Now is not the time to get sucked into the drama that doesn’t actually concern you. Leave the drama for yo mama and focus yourself on the bigger picture.
9. Delegate, delegate, delegate!
Let me just keep reminding you: You are NOT alone in this!
I definitely am one to try to handle every task myself, but I’m not here to tell you that’s the healthiest option. When it comes to your wedding day, delegate the things that aren’t as important to you. Allow yourself to give out tasks to those willing to help without feeling the need to micromanage them.
Some ideas of what you can delegate to family/friends who ask to help: Choose a color scheme for your bridal party and allow the girls to go get their mismatched dresses. They can shoot you a text of the dress they’re considering so you can have the final say. If you don’t have a calligrapher, you could receive some help writing out all the envelopes for your invitations. Are you DIYing some of the florals? Have your bridal party create the table arrangements the night before and set up the tables the morning of.
You don’t need to delegate out the really big, groundbreaking things. There are plenty of little tedious small tasks to go around for everyone.
My personal opinion: When it doubt, hire it out. Find vendors you trust to handle everything you need day-of. You, your family and your bridal party did all the work leading up to the day. Now it’s time for the professionals to take over. They won’t be distracted because your guests are not their family/friends. Their sole focus is on you and what you need done. You deserve to have less to worry about.
10. Take a deep breath:
Your day is here. YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED. Now it’s time to sit back, let go, and enjoy it. Just like Jim and Pam, who are #goals.
We’ve made it! You’re at the end of the 10 tips for your season of engagement post. And now you’re here on your wedding day!
You’ve budgeted, compromised, delegated, dealt with some crazy, and made a TON of decisions that lead up to this day. Hopefully you carved out some time to have some fun along the way, too.
Now it’s time to just soak in every moment. This is a once in a lifetime experience and it’s worth taking every moment possible to simply slow down and pause. At the end of the day, your marriage is the primary focus. Let’s start it on the right foot.
10 Tips for Your Season of Engagement
Thank you so much for reading! I hope this post added value to your season of engagement. Do you know someone who could benefit from this post? Feel free to share it using the links below.