The First 3 Rules Of Wedding Planning

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If you're very recently engaged, you're probably floating on air, drinking champagne, and feeling like a princess with your sparkly new ring. Then again, if you're reading this post, you might be starting to sober up and wonder, "What the heck am I supposed to do now?"

Fear not. I will help you. Follow these three tips to get you started, and I promise you'll be well on your way to going down the aisle in style and with a lot less stress!

1. Know Your "Couple Priorities" 

The world of weddings is filled with endless ideas, options, and upgrades, all of which can make you crazy, confused, and broke. I suggest sitting down with your hubby-to-be and two sheets of blank paper. Each of you writes down the top five most important elements of your wedding. Is it the food? Time of year? Size of guest list? Budget?  Music? Once you've both made your lists, sit together and talk through them.

Use this list to create another list, your "shared priorities," of the five key parts to your wedding. Hey, teamwork! Communication! This is what it's all about. Use this list to guide your whole process, and when all those extras start to pop up, refer to it as a guide (and believe me, you will). If the item or element you're considering is not a priority, leave it until later when you sort out budget and other key factors. 


2. Talk Money Right Away

I always say that wedding budgets are like gardens in the summertime. They often grow faster than you expected, and they can quickly dry up if you don't keep your eye on them.

While traditionally the bride's family picked up most of the costs for the wedding celebration, these days a wedding budget is often made up of contributions from multiple sources (both sets of parents, and even the couple themselves, for example). Make an appointment to sit down together with anyone who will be contributing financially to the wedding and be honest about your expectations and your reality. Do not go into debt for your wedding!

One piece of advice: Open a special checking and savings account for your wedding expenses and deposit all the money there. Make a budget and write all your wedding expense checks out of that account so you have a record and can clearly keep track of your spending.


3. Get Organized (and Inspired)

Create a place where you can keep all your wedding-related contracts, receipts, and correspondence together. An email folder is great, but I recommend also buying or making a binder or folder where you can store things like invitation samples, swatches of fabric for your dresses and tablecloths, etc. Hard copies of all your signed contracts and payment receipts are also recommended, just in case.

On the inspiration side, pull magazine photos that appeal (and even pictures of things you don't like — after all a picture is worth, well, you know) to you and save it in page protector sheets. Take your binder with you to meetings with caterers, florists, and other wedding pros, and show them your inspirations. Write down specific adjectives that describe the mood you'd like to create — vintage chic? Classic romance? Zen modern?

If you need more hand-holding, or you're in the market for a binder, check out my Simple Stunning Wedding Organizer. It has everything there, from timelines, worksheets, and lists of questions to ask vendors to plenty of inspiration pages where you can staple swatches or make sketches... or just doodle while you're on the phone!

This article was originally published on February 20, 2012.