Newly Engaged?

(MS) — Making the commitment to live life with another person is a large step. It marks the beginning of your future together.

Planning a wedding can be big undertaking. Many times the course of planning from the moment of engagement to the wedding day can stretch over several years. It requires patience, budgeting and organization. A wedding binder or filing system can help keep receipts and information all in one place. Additionally, use these steps as guidelines for your own event.

Whats the Next Step?

1. Engagement party: Many couples enjoy having an engagement party to announce that theyre planning a life together. Engagement parties are receptions on a smaller scale. Its not necessary to invite all of the guests youd be inviting to the wedding unless you have the budget to do so. Keep it to immediate family, including grandparents, aunts and uncles and first cousins. You may also want to invite close friends. If finances are an issue, consider a brunch or a cocktail party with passed appetizers instead of a full sit-down dinner.

2. Set the date: Once you decide youre getting married, you should consider when you want the big day to occur. This can depend on what month of the year you enjoy or when you think you may have saved enough to cover the cost of the wedding itself. Prime months include the spring and summer. If you want to have your wedding relatively soon, you may find that certain dates are already booked up for houses of worship and reception halls. Choose an off-peak time of the year, such as January, March, November or December, instead.

3. Establish a budget: The scope of your wedding will depend largely upon what you can afford. Many of today’s average weddings range from $25,000 to $35,000. Make a list of all the costs you will have: wardrobe, clergy fees, reception hall, flowers, photography, gifts for wedding party, transportation, honeymoon, etc. Figure that the majority of the costs will be around $2,000 each (excluding the reception site, honeymoon and ceremony). Seeing the end cost will help you develop a plan for saving. Keep in mind that many of the payments and deposits are made over time, so you won’t have to come up with the lump sum all at one time.

4. Wedding sites: Once you have a date and budget, your next step is to make arrangements with the church, synagogue or other place where the ceremony will take place. Most houses of worship prefer you secure the day with them before booking your reception site. Many places book a year or more in advance, so it is important to shop around and secure your locations as soon as possible. When looking at reception locations, it helps to have a preliminary idea of how many people you’ll be inviting to the wedding so you can compare costs and decide on room sizes. Certain places offer lower rates for Friday and Sunday than Saturday night. This can help to keep your reception more budget-friendly.

5. Photography, Music, Flowers, Limos, Hairstylist: Some wedding vendors book up as fast as reception sites, particularly if they come well recommended. Secure your date for services with these people shortly after you reserve your ceremony and reception site. Vendors will likely require a deposit and balance paid before the wedding.

6. Wardrobe: The ladies in the wedding will need to browse for and decide on gowns roughly 6 to 8 months before the wedding. This allows time for the dresses to be ordered and alterations to be made. Gentleman can typically shop for tuxedo rentals a month before the wedding.

7. Registry: If you want to select gifts from a specific store, register for them as far in advance as possible. This way if people want to give you gifts from the registry in advance of the wedding, they’ll know what to choose. Definitely register by 2 to 3 months before the wedding, because this is when the bridal shower is typically held.

8. Stationery: Order your invitations, save-the-date cards, etc. 5 to 6 months before the wedding so you have time to check the proofs and ensure they’re printed correctly. Wedding invitations are usually mailed out 1 to 2 months prior to the event. It is customary to stamp the RSVP card so that guests simply put it in the mail.

9. Religious requirements: Some houses of worship require classes or retreats before a wedding ceremony to prepare the couple for marriage in a religious sense. Make sure these tasks are completed.

10: Honeymoon: It used to be the groom’s task to book the honeymoon, but most couples do it together these days. Book the honeymoon and apply for passports if necessary, several months in advance.

11. Seating arrangements: This can be one of the most challenging parts of wedding planning. Once the majority of your RSVPS are in hand, you’ll want to think about seating. Most reception halls will give you a seating map that you can use to determine seating. If you are a visual person, you may want to enlarge the map and actually cut out the names of guests to stick and re-stick in different areas of the room until the seating is just right. There are also computer programs that can help you with seating tasks.

12. Balances due: In the last months to weeks before the wedding, most balances will be due for the services. The reception hall will want a final seating count and you will be picking up your gown. When paying these balances, it’s also a good idea to confirm with musicians, photographers and limo companies.

13. Rehearsal: Set a rehearsal a week prior to the wedding or within a few days before. This gives everyone a trial run. A dinner is customary following the rehearsal.

14. The big day: Rest up the night before and organize all of your wardrobe, honeymoon packing and then get set for one of the most momentous days of your life.

CAPTION: From the moment you get engaged to to enjoying a bite of wedding cake there are many moments in between that require careful planning.