Engaged? Start Planning Now!

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(Family Features) Preparing for the big day means planning a multitude of details; everything from the flower arrangements to that something blue must be decided upon well in advance of the ceremony. Here are some tips to help ensure your big day goes off without a hitch.

The Big Decisions
The decision to get married is the first of many big decisions you will be making in the weeks and months to come. Here are some things to consider right away:
• Pick a date. Talk with your fiancé and family (and your fiancé’s family) about potential wedding dates to ensure the important people in both your lives will be able to take part.

• Select your guests. The number of guests you invite will directly influence the cost of your wedding.

• Set a budget. Budgeting for your wedding is crucial, as this will have a great impact on every other aspect of your day, as well as your honeymoon. Plan for a little wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

• Choose a location. Because most popular bridal spots are just that — popular — you may want to start searching for a location quickly.

• Organize the bridal party. Make careful decisions about who you want supporting you leading up to the big day, and who will be displayed in front of everyone in your life.

• Pick a style. Many brides choose wedding styles that are reflected in their save-the-dates, invitations, ceremonies, receptions and thank-you cards. Choosing a theme and color scheme in the beginning will help narrow down options later.

• Hire a caterer. Take into account the dietary needs of your guests by offering a variety of menu options, including a vegetarian dish.

• Order the cake. Whether you choose a large multi-tiered cake or cupcakes, remember to keep your budget in mind-and pick flavors you and your fiancé truly enjoy.

• Make the announcement. Decide how you want to let the community know of your planned nuptials. Do you want to take professional engagement photos? Do you plan to contact your local paper? Will you include a link to a wedding day website on your save-the-date or your wedding invitations?

• Get the gown. On your wedding day, everyone will be awaiting a glimpse of your gown. Listen to your instincts and choose a gown that “feels right” and reflects your personality and style.

• Dress your party. Once you have chosen the wedding dress of your dreams, speak with your fiancé about his wishes for his suit, as well as the bridal party attire.

• Hire a photographer. Choose your professional photographer wisely. With a walk down the aisle, father/daughter dance and toast, your father is sure to get photographed, but your mother might get overlooked. Make sure to ask the photographer to get shots of your mother throughout the day as well.

• Choose your flowers. Once you set the date, discuss with your florists which flowers are in season to help narrow down your selection. You may love tulips, but if you have a winter wedding, they may be hard to come by, and may be more expensive.

• Book the entertainment. Do you want a DJ or a live band? Talk with your fiancé about your music preferences, as well as the types of tunes you want played at your reception to keep your guests on the dance floor.

Before the Big Day
• Create a website for your wedding to keep guests informed of events and for easy access to registry information. Provide accommodation information for those guests traveling from out of town.

• Insure your engagement and wedding rings against loss, damage, theft or mysterious disappearance.
According to a survey conducted by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, 44 percent of married women either don’t insure their engagement ring, or don’t know for certain whether their engagement and wedding rings are insured. For a free, no-obligation jewelry insurance quote, go to www.insureyourjewelry.com.

• Make sure your marriage license, travel documentation and insurance information are ready to go and stored in a safe place in advance of the wedding day.

• Practice reciting your vows and speeches until you feel comfortable.

• Wear your wedding heels around the house to “break them in.” Pack a back-up pair of flats to wear during the reception.

• Remember to ask for help. Designate members of your family or close friends to specific assignments.

Wedding Day Details
• Provide bottled water for your wedding party. To ensure no one gets over-heated, hide water near your bridal party during the ceremony for emergencies.

• Choose meaningful gifts for your wedding party. Necklaces, earrings or bracelets are great for bridesmaids; cufflinks are perfect for groomsmen.

• Create individual envelopes for tipping drivers, caterers, musicians, etc. Separate envelopes will help ensure you don’t forget anyone.

• Plan for weather:
In case of rain — Order a tent or choose a venue with indoor space for last-minute protection from the elements. Offer extra umbrellas to usher people from their vehicles to the venue.

In case of heat — Place fans throughout the venue and provide plenty of water for guests.

In case of cold — Space heaters can be placed throughout the space to warm up the room in advance of the event.

• Over-estimate the amount of parking needed for guests.

Following the Honeymoon
• Open wedding gifts and keep an accurate list of each guest in correspondence with their gift.

• Write thoughtful, personalized hand-written thank you cards.

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