“It’s all in the preparation,” or so they say… and it applies to weddings more than anything. Of course, you should take the time to enjoy being engaged first. Relish the moment; stare at the ring; write your diary. Tell your family. (If you’re going to do things the traditional way then you should both be present to tell both parents, and etiquette has it that the bride's parents get to know before the groom's.)
And then come down to earth. Weddings, delightful as the day may be, are hard work. Now’s the time to make some serious deadlines, and decisions, and stick to them.
Set the tone: formal or casual, at home or away, religious or secular? Set the budget: gone are the days when the bride’s father paid for it all. Today’s couples, who are often marrying later and who may well be living together already, usually make the major contribution to the costs themselves. Take a sheet of A4, or download a budget worksheet and assess how much you have, how much you could save, and how long you’ve got to do it in. If parents want to help, you’ll need to be direct in finding out exactly how much they’ll add to the pot. Once you have a total, you’re on the way to deciding what you can afford and when – and therefore what style of wedding you can have. You can go into debt, obviously, if you have dreams that your budget can’t sustain, but you may prefer not to start married life with an unnecessary financial millstone around your joint necks. The choice is yours.
Get the best man and the chief bridesmaid on board. They’re going to support you in advance and on the day, organise the hen and stag nights and generally keep you calm. Involve them now, and make sure they’re willing to clear their diary for whatever date you specify.
Choose the venue(s) for the ceremony and the reception. This is the point at which many of the best-laid plans start to unravel – venues are often booked a year or more in advance, so you may need to be flexible about date and place if you’re working to a shorter timescale. The further ahead you begin to plan, the more likely you are to get the time and date that you’d like, and be able to keep within that budget.
If you’re busy, or even if you’re not, think about enlisting help. It may feel as though no-one else has ever got married before, but nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a whole industry out there, pulsating with suggestions to make the process easier and more successful. Consider hiring a wedding planner, for example; it may feel indulgent, but a professional has contacts, knowledge, experience and time. In the long run you may even save money – and you’ll certainly save yourself from a nervous breakdown. At the very least, read a couple of books on the subject, ask friends and family, look online. Download a checklist to help you stay on top of it all – flowers, photographer, gifts, cars and cakes, dresses and suits and hats and… and…
Don’t expect to be able to have anything else in your life while your wedding is on the horizon. It will be stressful, exhausting, all-consuming – and you wouldn’t miss it for the world.