Envision the StyleYour wedding style will be reflected first and foremost in the location, whether it's a luxe ballroom or an intimate backyard reception. Discuss with your fiance where your wedding will take place (in one of your hometowns or in the city where you currently live, for example), and then start scouting sites that can accommodate your wedding style. Use theknot.com/local to find reception venues in your area.
Set Your BudgetIn the end, dollars, not dreams, are a main determining factor for the size and style of your wedding. So, what affects the price tag?
Determine a DateChoosing a wedding date can be tougher than you'd think. There are a few things to consider: How much time will you need to prepare for your wedding? Do any loved ones having a conflicting graduation, vacation, or pregnancy due date? If you have your heart set on a particular place, caterer, band, or photographer, the availability of these crucial vendors may also play a large part in your decision. Try to avoid dates of big conventions or other events that draw large crowds, since that might make it harder for out-of-town guests to get hotel rooms. Find out more wedding dates to avoid here.
Announce Your EngagementCall your local newspaper, your alumni magazine, and anywhere else you want your engagement announcement to appear. Find out the name of the appropriate editor or department and ask for the writer's guidelines or a standardized form, if available. Also, ask if there's a fee for publication. Here's what you need to know if you want to have an engagement photo session, plus a list of contacts for major newspapers.
Choose Your AttendantsIt's time to honor your closest friends and family members by picking your wedding parties. Remember, the earlier you ask, the sooner you can enlist their help. (Here's help if you're not sure who to choose.) Keep in mind that your wedding party is agreeing to spend their hard-earned money and donate their precious time -- be considerate and kind by informing everyone about all your plans, showing them a good time, and making sure they know how much you appreciate them.
Make a Guest ListAs you begin to build your guest list, you'll need to consider a number of factors. If you have a particular ceremony or reception site in mind, for instance, you're going to be limited by how many people it can accommodate (you can't squeeze 300 people into a lighthouse). Would you rather have one-on-one time with each guest or to throw a once-in-a-lifetime party for all your friends and family? If Mom and Dad are adamant about inviting throngs of friends and family, you'll have to hear them out -- especially if they're footing a major part of the bill. Obviously, the more relatives you must invite, the larger your list will be. And more guests means a bigger bill, as catering costs are generally calculated on a per-head basis. So, in addition to location, your budget will have a big influence on the size of your guest list.
Consider a ConsultantIf you're a super-busy couple, hire a full-time wedding consultant to help you prepare your entire event, from the announcement to the honeymoon. You can also hire a part-time consultant to devise a wedding blueprint -- including budget, schedule, and lists of good vendor and site choices -- before you launch solo into the preparations. Another option is a day-of coordinator (which we definitely recommend), who will make sure everything goes as planned on your wedding day.
Start Gown ShoppingIt's never too early to begin thinking about your wedding dress. Start by figuring out which style will look best on you. How? Learn the lingo before stepping foot in a dress salon. Read up on silhouettes, necklines, trains, and hues that might flatter you. Season will also affect your choice. Getting married in the sweltering summer? Go with lightweight fabrics such as chiffon, linen, or organza. Having a winter wedding? Brocade, faux fur, and velvet fabrics will keep you warm. Satin, shantung, silk, and tulle are perfect year-round.
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