[And welcome to my little blog.]

I'm Amanda! So happy you are here. Grab a glass of wine, read along, and let's be friends.

So you're engaged. Now what?!

Sunday, April 10, 2011
Spring is definitely in the air.  I had three friends get engaged this weekend!  Congrats Nina, Jenni, and Lindsay (and Robert, Mikey, and Chad too). So excited for you all!  Here are some pictures from last night at DJ's dugout where we met up with Nina and Robert and their family and friends right after their engagement.

Isn't Nina's ring gorgeous?  Square radiant cut diamond.  Nice work Robert!

Here's Robert telling the story of how he proposed:

All these engagements got me thinking back to when Kevin and I got engaged.  I remember knowing that there was so much to do and plan, but how do you even begin?

So here you go my friends.  I'm definitely no expert, but here is my personal advice on what to do next:

     1)  Start a gmail account.  Then get yourself familiar with how Google Documents works.  Create a folder called "wedding" and use it to keep all your important documents in one place.  The great thing about this is that you can share your "wedding" folder with your new fiance, your parents, and anybody else that is helping with the planning.  Whether you are planning at work (over lunch of course...), or if planning at home, it's nice to be able to access everything from anywhere.  I didn't start doing this until months after I started wedding planning and I really wish I would have done it earlier.  Also, if you give me your email address I can share my "wedding" folder with you.

     2)  Get your guest list 90% finalized.  Create a spreadsheet in Google Documents to start your guest list.  Before you can decide on a reception site (or sometimes even a church) you have to know how many guests you're expecting.  In your Google Document spreadsheet start with the following columns:  guest name, number of adults, number of children, and ranking.  Put an A next to guests that you would absolutely not get married without (parents, wedding party, immediate family, extremely close friends).  Put a B next to guests that you really, really, really want at the wedding, but you would not change the wedding date if they were not able to come (close friends, extended family).  Put a C next to guests that you would like to have at the wedding if budget and space allows (your new work friend, distant family friends, etc.).  Have your parents and soon-to-be parents do the same.  Total the number of A, B, and C guests to get an idea of the range of people you're considering.  Don't move to step three until everyone has agreed on a rough number of guests.

     3)  Decide on your budget.  Talking money is not fun.  It also can get pretty tricky, especially if a bunch of different people are paying for it.  For our wedding, we were lucky enough to have our parents and Kevin's parents paying for most of it (thanks again mom(s) and dad(s)!), but that doesn't mean it was always easy.  My best advice for how to tread these waters is to talk to each of your parents (in person and over a nice dinner in public if possible) to decide what amount they would like to contribute.  I think deciding on a number upfront works much better than talking about categories of things to be paid for.  For example, if your parents say something like, I'll pay for the wedding dress, the cost of that can obviously vary drastically.  A wedding dress can cost $300 or $30,000.  Keep in mind that you'll probably have different ideas about what is reasonable.  Even if your parents are going to pay for the whole wedding, I think it still helps to budget on a specific number. 

Although awkward and sometimes stressful, I think this makes things a lot easier down the line.  Once we had a number from my parent's and Kevin's parents I plugged this number and the number of guests and size of the wedding party into The Knot's wedding budgeter.  It then recommended the amount of money you should plan to spend in each category (reception, ceremony, flowers, decor, etc.) in order to stay within your budget.  The reception site rental, catering, and drinks only accounted for 50% of the cost of the entire wedding.  Obviously none of these amounts are set in stone and you choose how to spend your money based on what is most important to you, but it does give you a good starting point.  

     4)  Pick your wedding date.  Once you know the number of people you want to attend, and your budget, you can begin working on picking a date.  Start with the most important thing to you (and your fiance) when picking a date.  For most people that is probably either the church or the reception site.  Kevin and I knew what church we wanted to get married at.  It's the church my parents got married at and where we are members.  Since the church only had three dates available, this really narrowed down our decision.  The next most important thing to us was the reception site. 

I divided the list of potential reception sites into three lists.  I gave my mom a list, Kevin's parent's a list, and myself a list.  We each called the vendors on our list to ask whether they were available for the three dates we were considering.  If the site was available we also asked basic questions like: capacity? rental fees? catering options? catering price range? drink options? miscellaneous fees?  Based on our guest list we estimated the amount that each reception site would cost.  There is a really good local magazine out there called Nebraska Wedding Day that has a lot of basic information on reception sites if you are planning on getting married in Nebraska.  Click here.  There is also a similiar list on The Knot, but I don't think it's quite as comprehensive as the Nebraska Wedding Day list (I think vendors have to pay to get on the Knot's website).

For our wedding, the rental fee and catering ended up costing us about half of what the entire wedding cost (just like The Knot budgeting tool predicted).  So in order to decide whether a reception site is within your budget, I'd recommend you look at your final number from step 3, and divide it in half.  I'd also highly recommend that you don't even go to visit reception sites that don't fit in your budget.  Once we knew the availability and rough costs we were were able to narrow down our list to a few that we wanted to look at in person.  We looked at the Livestock Exchange Building, Paxton Ballroom, 1316 Jones, and Tiburon Golf Club before making a decision.

Also, don't be afraid to negotiate.  Even if you have your heart set on a reception site and it fits within your budget, make sure to tell the reception that you are considering several options.  Ask to speak privately with your parents and fiance before deciding.  If you all agree that it is the perfect site, get back together with the person that's showing you the reception site and tell them that you really like the site, but that it is a little out of your budget and nicely ask if they could waive the rental fee (or waive some other cost if there is no rental fee).  Or if you can convince your father or father-in-law to do it, that's even better (than you don't look like the bitchy bride).  Low ball them.  They'll probably come back with a revised offer.  Don't take it.  Have one of your parents point out all the things they like better about another reception site.  Low ball them again.  They'll either come back with an even lower offer or tell you that's the best that they can do.  Once you feel like you have a good deal, cut the check, and sign on the dotted line.  We saved about $1,000 on our reception site because we negotiated.  With weddings I found that almost everything was negotiable.  Be nice about it and remember the worst that can happen is they can say no.

     5)  Keep it in perspective.  It's one day of your entire life.  The important thing is that you've found someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.  Regardless of how much you spend, how much you plan, or what the weather does on the day of the wedding, you got married to the love of your life with your closest friends and family around.  Don't go into debt to do it.  It will be an amazing day.  

Here's a link to some of the pictures from our wedding.  I'd also be happy to lend anything out that you want to borrow... ring bearer pillows, earrings, etc., etc.... just ask!

Does anyone else have any advice to share?  Anything you wish you would have known when you first started planning? 

Congrats again and happy planning!


Anonymous said...

Love, love, love! We'll chat more over lunch!


Anonymous said...

I think you should have put the entire Paragraph 5 in quotation marks and given me credit... ;) But I have to admit, even though it was "just one day of your entire life," it was pretty incredible, thanks to your planning prowess and the help of many who love you and Kevin.


Stacie said...

Amanda - I just had a thought! We should write a wedding planning book! We're so smart and insightful! :)

Amanda said...

Haha!!! Thanks again for the comment. You're amazing!

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