When I got engaged, my head as spinning so fast I thought it might twist right off my neck, and I was smiling so hard my mouth felt like it would rip. All I could think about was how excited I was to finally be engaged to the man I loved. And how deliriously happy that made me. And how much I loved the ring he picked out. And how all my friends and family would finally stop asking, “Is he ever going to propose?” And how….
Suffice it to say, all that was going on in my head was a lot of mish-mashed thoughts that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
But I got organized quickly. I wrung advice out of previously married friends, and I turned to the wedding timelines that come in bridal magazines and fill websites like theknot.com. Then I started my own list of the First 10 Things to do When You Get Engaged:
1. Tell Family and Friends!
This one sounds like a no-brainer, but in this electronic day and age, I had to be careful to make sure everyone who needed to hear the news from mewould hear it before word got out on Facebook or Twitter or via the vast textverse.
Danny and I spent some time with my family that night, and I called my longtime friends — the girls I’d pegged as my future bridesmaids way back in middle school. Once I’d spoken in person with everyone I thought would be offended if they heard the news from someone else, I happily changed my status to “Engaged” on Facebook and let the World Wide Web help start spreading my joy. (Ha.)
2. Get Your Ring Sized!
My ring was beautiful — everything I’d ever wanted in an engagement ring and then some. Danny wisely chose a sparkling round brilliant solitaire, which perfectly suited my small fingers. Even the size of the stone was perfect for my hand. What wasn’t perfect was the size of the ring: it slipped off my finger if I didn’t keep my hand balled into a fist. I went straight back to the jeweler two days after the proposal and left my ring with them for a couple of hours while they cut and soddered down to the tiny 3 and 3/4 size I needed.
Make sure you get your ring to fit your fingers now. Sure, like your waist, your fingers might not always be as slender as they are now, but you can always have your ring re-sized again in the future. That’s a much better option than risking losing your ring now!
3. Begin Thinking About Wedding Dates!
With a handful of weddings to attend in the months after our own engagement, Danny and I decided to get at the back of the line and set a date after the last of our engaged friends got married. That just happened to be the exact time of year I wanted to get married, and gave us a not-too-long, not-too-rushed 10 month engagement.
Talk with friends and family to find out if there are any major events that would keep your VIP guests from attending — say a graduation, a birth, an annual family reunion. Then pick a time of year you love, or a time that works — springtime if you hope for a garden wedding, summer or winter break if you’re a student, etc.
4. Begin Thinking About Venues!
It’s never too early to start scouting potential wedding and reception sites. One of my friends actually booked her reception site, a very popular yacht club, before her official engagement. When I got engaged in January and wanted to book the same spot, it was already full every Saturday from September through November — except Halloween.
I got lucky and found another venue that I liked even better, but it’s a good idea to start looking early. The most popular venues are popular for a reason, and they fill up quickly, sometimes as far as two years before an event. On the flip side, many venues will not book events that are farther than a year and a half away, so keep that in mind, too, if you’re planning a long engagement.
5. Look Into Premarital Counseling!
Although not all couples go through counseling before their marriage, many choose to, and many ministers, priests, and rabbis will not perform weddings for couples whom they haven’t also counseled. Counseling can be as short as a few sessions over a few weeks, or as long as the couple and their counselor wish. It can be religious in nature or strictly secular. Either way, discussing the challenges and realities of marriage early on will help couples face the problems that arise once the wedding is over — and sometimes even problems that arise during the wedding planning.
6. Pick Your Wedding Party!
This can be a touchy subject. When it comes to choosing bridesmaids, groomsmen, maids of honor and best men, it’s not hard to hurt feelings. Maybe you don’t feel very close to your high school cheerleading friends anymore and you’d rather have your sorority sisters walk down the aisle with you. Maybe your fiance has a cousin with whom he really clashes.
Whatever your circumstances, weigh the pros and cons of each potential member of your wedding party. Have you gone through major life events together? Have you stayed involved in one another’s lives? Will excluding someone truly damage your friendship? Only the bride and groom can really decide who they want in their wedding party, but choose carefully!
7. Begin Thinking About Engagement Pictures!
Doing an engagement shoot was one of the most fun, memorable mornings I’ve ever had. For every girl who’s harbored secret dreams of being a model, this is one step along the path to your wedding that you will not want to skip over! Scout out locations that are meaningful to you, or that you think would make a great backdrop for you and your fiance. Danny and I began our photo shoot at the park where we went on our very first date, and ended up at the beach where we walked and talked for hours before we began dating.
Put some thought into your outfits as well. Although you don’t need to be matchy-matchy, wearing clothing that doesn’t stand out is a good idea, because your glowing faces are supposed to be the center of attention!
8. Announce Your Engagement in the Newspaper!
This was one step Danny and I did skip — ironically, since I’m a correspondant for our local newspaper. But it can be a fun way to get the word out to old friends you’ve lost contact with. Just think of your kindergarten teacher reading about your upcoming wedding, or your old gymnastics coach recognizing your picture. Plus, the clipping can provide a fun keepsake from your engagement.
9. Decide if You Want to Have an Engagement Party!
Engagement parties can be as fancy as a dinner at a four star restaurant, or as casual as a night spent playing games with friends at your house. No matter what kind of engagement party you’re thinking of, if you want to have one, make sure to get it planned soon, especially if you’re not having a long engagement. As it’s name suggests, an engagement party is a celebration of the couple’s engagement — so it needs to take place closer to the proposal than to the wedding.
10. Envision Your Wedding!
Now, putting this step at number 10 might seem kind of silly: you’ve probably been envisioning your wedding since traipsed around the house in your mother’s heels and lipstick. It isn’t the first thing you need to do when you’re engaged — but it is something you’ll do the wholetime you’re engaged! Envisioning the feel and flavor of your wedding also has to happen before you plunge into the nitty-gritty details, like gown shopping, selecting your music, and deciding on food and decorations.
Make sure you’re examining your own dreams for your wedding day and not just trying to please the people around you. Aunt Jane might think your idea of a black-sashed wedding dress is positively immoral; your single bridesmaid might not like your budget that doesn’t allow her to pluck a guy off the street to be her wedding date. While trying to keep the peace, remember that this is your wedding — and you hope it will be your only wedding! So choose your battles, but fight for the things that are most important to you. And good luck and happy planning!