You’re engaged! Most little girls dream about their wedding day, and now you get to plan yours! Even through all the excitement, there are other emotions you’ll feel that come along with a new engagement — stressed over choosing the perfect “I do” dress, indecisive on the number of guest, or who to invite and overwhelmed with the thousands of questions rushing in at you all at once. Although these feelings are unavoidable, it’s so important to take a little “us time” and just enjoy your engagement with your new fiance. Take a couple weeks to just be happy about your engagement before you get down to the nitty gritty of the planning.

Even though you might want to begin planning everything at once, there are some things you’ll want to check off your list right off the bat. From my personal experience, I’ve compiled a list of the top five items you’ll want to tackle first (in no particular order).

Figure out a season (month) you want to get married in.
I always new I wanted a summer wedding. I’ve always pictured my wedding day as a sunny summer day. Since two of my close friends had weddings in June (one of which I was a bridesmaid), so I decided on August. I figured it would give me a month to breathe after being in full wedding mode for the entire month of June, and it opened up a couple more options as far as the venue, DJ, and florist, and I didn’t feel so confined. On the other hand, if you don’t have a preference for a specific season but have your hopes set on a specific venue, approach the venue and consider choosing your date based on their availability.

Research photographers and makeup artists.
This was one of my very first considerations when I first became engaged. These two vendors book up fast — sometimes years in advance, so it’s important to have your top three choices narrowed down, so when you decide on your wedding date, you can immediately book your photographer and makeup artists. If you are having a hard time finding backups after your top choice falls through, ask that vendor if they have any recommendations. Many times, they can lead you to another great option.

Set a budget.
This might be one of the most difficult starting points of planning a wedding. With your budget set, it’ll drive who you book for your photos, it’ll put a cap on your wedding dress and it’ll even impact the small details, like your bridal party gifts. When determining your budget, don’t forget about vendor tips (20% is standard) — that’s an unexpected cost that’ll add up quickly if left out. Sticking to a budget will also defuse any unnecessary arguments you and your fiance may have.

Choose your bridal party.
This can be a wonderful experience or a daunting task. We took about 3 months to actually ask our bridal party. Before you ask anyone to be a part of your wedding, have a conversation with your fiancĂ© about his or her thoughts on who they’d like to include — friends? Family? Your second cousin? Then, create a list and narrow it down. Remember that your bridal party won’t just be involved on the day of your wedding, but leading up to it as well. Be sure to choose people you can rely on and those who will be by your side from the day you ask them to the day you become Mrs. Try not to stress on the number. There are other great ways to include family in friends in the wedding without having them in the bridal party.

Find your dress.
We all don’t have that magical Kleinfeld moment of trying on one dress and knowing it is THE ONE. And for that reason, you’ll want to get on dress shopping right away. Even if your wedding is over a year away, it can take multiple appointments to even figure out the style of dress you want. And, depending on the designer, your dress could take up to nine months to be shipped to the bridal shop. Always allow yourself as much time as possible when choosing your dress. And, keep in mind, you’ll need at least two fittings before your big day!

To keep all of your planning in order, it’s a great idea to invest in a planner, like this one from The Knot. As you plan your perfect day, don’t get caught up in the tiny details. This will be one of the biggest days of your life, and at the end of the day, you’ll be married to your best friend! The day flies by and most of the things you stressed over, won’t even matter the moment you walk down the aisle.

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