Congratulations on your engagement! This is an exciting time in your life, and the next few months will be filled with a lot of planning and preparation. With the help of our wedding experts, we put together a step-by-step guide to help you navigate this thrilling – and occasionally stressful – process with ease. 

Step One: Celebrate!

Before you dive into the world of party planning, fabric, color schemes, vendors, and pricing, the first thing you should do after getting engaged is to celebrate! Whether you keep it just you and your partner, or include family and friends, take some time to plan a special dinner, pop open a bottle of champagne, or have a small party to mark the occasion. This is an important moment in your life, and you should savor the joy of the experience. 

Step Two: Set a Budget

Once you’ve celebrated, it’s time to start planning. One of the first things you should do before you start shopping for a dress, a DJ, or any other major wedding item is to set a budget. This will help you determine what you can afford and what you can’t, saving a lot of stress down the line. Make a list of all the things you want for your wedding, from the venue to the flowers to the dress, and assign a rough estimate of how much you’re willing to spend on each item. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust your budget as you go along, so be flexible. If you’re anticipating financial support from family, either yours or your partner, now is the time to clear the air and set expectations from the beginning, so you aren’t surprised before a bill comes due.

Step Three: Start Planning the Guest List

This can be a daunting task, but before you choose your venue and catering options, it’s important to get a rough estimate of how many people you’ll be inviting. Start with a list of immediate family members and close friends, and then move on to extended family and acquaintances. Don’t forget about plus-ones and children (if you choose to include them)!

Step Four: Choose a Date

Once you have a rough idea of your guest list, it’s time to choose a date. Keep in mind that certain dates, like holidays and popular wedding months, may be more expensive and harder to book. Consider factors like the weather and the availability of your preferred venue before settling on a date. If you’re looking for a way to stretch your budget, or if your ideal time of year is a popular option, weekday weddings are a great place to start! 

Step Five: Choose a Venue

With your budget, guest list, and ideal date in mind, it’s time to start looking for a venue. Whether you want a traditional ceremony, an outdoor option, or something in between, there are a lot of options out there. If you’re looking for a modern take on timeless elegance, Crystal Gardens has the only open-air chapel of its kind in Michigan, with seating for up to 170 guests. 

Photo Credit: T. Rosa Studios

Step Six: Book Your Vendors

Once you have a venue, it’s time to start booking vendors. This includes everything from the caterer to the photographer to the DJ. Ask for recommendations from friends and family, and make sure to read reviews and check references before hiring anyone. Keep in mind that some vendors, like photographers and videographers, may book up quickly, so it’s important to secure them early on. Still feeling overwhelmed? Check out our list of preferred vendors for recommendations on flowers, invitations, music, photographers, and more! 

Step Seven: Choose Your Wedding Party

Once you have your vendors and venue booked, it’s time to choose your wedding party. This includes your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and any other attendants you may want. Consider factors like personality, availability, and willingness to help before making your final decision. Planning to include a flower girl or other young children in your wedding? Don’t forget to talk to their parents to make sure everyone is comfortable and excited!

Step Eight: Buy Your Dress and Tux

For many brides, this is the pinnacle of wedding planning – shopping for your dream dress! Make appointments at several bridal boutiques to try on different styles and find the perfect fit. Keep in mind that alterations may be necessary, so factor that into your budget and timeline. For a step-by-step guide to finding your perfect style, we shared our top tips here. And if you’re a non-traditional bride, we want to celebrate that too!  No matter what style or color you choose, you should be wearing something that fits your personality, makes you feel beautiful, and of course, something you’ll be comfortable in.  

Send Nine: Send Save-The-Dates

Finally, once you have everything in place, it’s time to send out save-the-dates. This lets your guests plan for your big day and make travel arrangements, request time off, and arrange care for young children (if necessary). You may also hear from friends or family who know they’ll be unable to attend, which can help with your budget and planning purposes as you get farther along in the process!

Once you get through these nine steps, you’ll be well on your way to a joy-filled, stress-free day celebrating your wedding to the love of your life. For even more timeline tips, we’ve got you covered here. And if you need the help of an experienced wedding professional, our talented team is on your side. Contact us today to speak with our experts!