Love is in the air! From Thanksgiving through Valentine's Day, more couples get engaged than any other time of the year. Now that engagement season is winding down, and the good news of your engagement has spread to your friends and family, we have our top five things you should do after the ring to set you up for success as you dive head-first into the planning process! In no particular order, all five of these bullet points are essential to heading down the right path in planning the biggest event of your life. We will be presenting an in-depth discussion of each of these points over the next several weeks as part of our #TuesdayTips. For the initial installment of our five-part series, here are your critical first steps to getting started:
1. Picking a Date
Consider what time of year will be best for you both, as well as the important members of both sets of families keeping in mind work schedules and busy times of year for certain professions. It is best to choose a range within a few weeks' time, or at the very least a couple of options for dates that work best for all involved, so you have an idea of what your target will be when inquiring with venue availability. If you are heading to a destination for your nuptial celebration, also consider the location's busiest season for tourists and keep in mind the cost of flights and hotel rooms for you and your guests during prime time for travel, which will be higher during more popular months with optimum whether. In New Orleans, for example, the most in-demand month for wedding dates is October when the temperature and humidity is moderate and rainfall is at its lowest for the year.
2. Selecting a Venue
Do you have your heart set on an intimate courtyard wedding with a reception celebration in another location? Are you set on a church ceremony and a seated dinner for 250 guests? Determine what you envision for your big day in order to help narrow the field of potential venue spaces based on your desires and needs. When it comes to the logistics of your event, we also recommend keeping an open mind and viewing properties offering many different options for your run of show. And the golden rule of real estate also rings true for your venue selection - location, location, location is key!
3. Establishing a Budget
This is a crucial step having perhaps the single most influential impact on each decision you will make throughout planning. Even if you don't have a finite number in mind, having at the very least a range (or even a "freak out" number that you do not want to exceed under any circumstances) will be tremendously helpful to your planner in giving you guidance from the start. Who is contributing to the budget (and in what amounts) will also be a guiding factor in establishing how you will allocate your expenses throughout your engagement period.
4. Drafting a Guest List
This goes hand-in-hand with establishing the budget, because the biggest expense you are likely to have for your entire event will be for food and beverage for your guests. You want to make this line item on the spreadsheet count! Like establishing the overall budget itself, this decision affects the allocation of your budget in other expense categories, your venue selection, and the service style of your event, among other things. And while there are national guidelines suggesting that 20% of your guest list invitees will politely decline your invitation, that is not the case for all markets! In New Orleans, our clients experience a guest attrition rate of closer to 95%, so make sure everyone you are inviting on your guest list are people you actually expect to attend - and can cover given your budgetary requirements!
5. Organizing your Deadlines
Once you've set the date, the budget, selected the venue and narrowed down the guest list, the next step you should take before moving forward is setting out your planning deadlines on a calendar over the course of your engagement period. We provide our clients with a custom planning calendar laying out all of the milestones for decision-making in order for our brides to be informed of critical target deadlines at the start of the process. Laying out these target goals throughout the planning process will help you pace yourself through planning and stay on track without getting behind the eight ball on booking particular vendors or placing orders before it is too late. Avoid the added stress of pressure in the weeks leading up to your big day and plan to have all of your details planned by the one-month mark to the big day. You will inevitably find yourself with a few loose ends to tie up at that point, but having the big-ticket items squared away well in advance will alleviate the pressure of having too much to do with too little time.