by: Lauren

Okay, so I have a confession to make… it takes everything I have when a friend/acquaintance of mine gets engaged to NOT send them a message/email listing what they should do first, give them a full timeline of when to do everything, warn them about what not to do, and tell them to hire a planner.

There- I said it. I have wedding-planning-advice-logorrhea. But what can I say? I eat, breathe and sleep weddings, and I want EVERYONE to have amazing weddings. But alas, I just tell the newly engaged friends congrats and move on (okay, I might send them a link to a blog post too). In most cases they have no idea what I *actually* do for a living anyways- they just know I post links to things about weddings all the time. ;)

Anyways, my point with this “confession” is this: How do you really know what to start with when you first get engaged?

Engaged? The 5 Things You Need To Do First! via

I myself- yep you guessed it… had NO clue. You do what you think you’re supposed to do, right? Right away, you buy a wedding magazine or two or five. You look at their outdated planning checklists and inaccurate budget recommendations, and immediately develop the feeling that you need to get everything done right away. In some cases, this would be necessary- like if you decided you wanted to get married in less than 4 months. But in most situations, wedding planning happens kind of like a roller coaster.

[Tweet “The process of wedding planning happens like a roller coaster.”]

You do stuff for a few weeks, and then you have a break. A  few weeks/months (depending on how long you have until your wedding) later, you have more things to check off your list, and then you have another break. And there you have it- a really fun, pretty, and happy roller coaster ride known as planning your wedding. ;)

So back to that question of what you *actually* need to do first when you get engaged. In my years of working in the wedding industry, I’ve developed my own realistic and honest take on what needs to be done first- aka pretty soon after you get the ring. But first and foremost, I must remind you to ENJOY being engaged! Revel in the feeling for a little while- it’s so fun! You’ll never be “newly engaged” again! But once you’ve gone through all your congratulations and made all of your phone calls, people will start asking you all about what you’re planning. And that’s where that question of where to start comes up!

Essentially you can’t really get anything else done without doing these things listed below first, and they do in fact all pretty much happen at once. Heck, you could even sit down for a few hours and have just about all of these things done!


 1: Set a budget

You really shouldn’t do anything before deciding on your budget. I know it’s a tough conversation, but it needs to be discussed and decided on before anything else. Figure out who is contributing, how much they can contribute, and what your total budget will be. Then you can move on to…

 2: Choose 2-3 possible dates

Yep, to be safe, choose 2-3 possible dates to have your wedding. Think of what time of year you like, the weather, work schedules/vacation time, holidays, and yes, even football (or whatever sport your fiance is crazy about) schedules. Then choose your #1 preferred date, and have a #2 and #3 available in case your preferred date isn’t available. Because I’m going to be honest- venues don’t wait around for you to get engaged and decide on your perfect wedding date. Some venues even book up to a year and half in advance!

 3: Start your guest list

This is another toughie because yes, of course you want to invite everyone and their uncles to your wedding. I’m warning you. You’re going to list everyone you know, friends you haven’t seen in years but still “know” thanks to Facebook, coworkers you don’t even like, and I’m sure your mom will want her friend Sue to be on the list too. But in reality, the more people you have, the more you have to spend. This is why you do your budget first.

Example: You want to have 200 guests. Your budget is $20,000. This means that you will have $100 per guest. Well, that really ritzy hotel you love? Yeah they’re not even going to be close to $100 per person- and that’s not including flowers, dress, and all your other vendors.

So starting your guest list and knowing your estimated count early on is imperative. And keep in mind- nothing is set in stone. Guest counts normally go down by the time the wedding day comes around anyways- and believe me… it’ll get reeeeeally easy to cut those people you haven’t talked to in forever. But it’s crucial to have an estimation of how many people you’re planning on so you can make some decisions! :)

 4: Decide on your wedding’s style

Ah, there I go again on wedding styles. If you’re new here, you’ll find out that I’m HUGE on knowing what style of wedding you want. Vintage, modern, classic, eclectic, punk, rustic… there are SO many styles. Most styles also coincide with decor and details too. But none of that has to be decided on right away. Just know the general “gist” of the style of how you want your wedding to be. Once you know that, it’ll be easier to decide on your venue. Which brings us to…

 5: Decide on your venue

So all of the previous 4 steps, like I said earlier, can essentially be done all in one sitting. Pretty cool, right? Once you’ve laid the “foundation” for your wedding, you can start researching and touring venues. When you’re researching and you’ve found one you like, I recommend emailing or calling and asking if they have any of your possible dates available. If they do, then go ahead and schedule a meeting to tour the venue! Give yourself a few (1 to 3 max) weeks to tour all of your possibilities (depending on how long you have before your wedding date of course), crunch numbers, envision and dream of your wedding, and then pull the trigger on your venue! Once you have your venue booked (meaning deposit made) and your date secured… well woo hoo! You are getting MARRIED! ;)


Once you’ve completed all of these, you’re good to go for a few weeks! Now you can tell everyone about the wedding date and start researching for your next steps! My quick suggestions for what’s next: planner (if you haven’t already hired one) and photographer!

If you’ve already done all of this and are on to the next steps, you can find more on our Newly Engaged page! Oh, and also, here are the 5 Things To Do NEXT!

So brides and grooms, raise your hand (aka comment) if you’re newly engaged!! And if you’re not, where are you in your wedding planning “roller coaster”?

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Engaged? The 5 Things You Need To Do First! via


Founder & Editor at Every Last Detail
Lauren Grove is the editor and owner of Every Last Detail. A clueless bride-turned-wedding planner, Lauren uses her experiences and knowledge to educate and inspire brides all over the world.

25 responses to Engaged? The 5 Things You Need To Do First!

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  1. Rochelle

    Great advice! Thanks for sharing your insights and helpful hints.

  2. Natalia

    I got engaged two weeks ago, and man! I am so glad I am on track. We took awhile to officially decide on a date (this last monday) and we got a photographer, a type of style we want and already have family friends who have awesome “backyard” for receptions. me, my groom and each of our parents met together to put together a budget (since it will be three receptions, yikes!) But I am so glad I read this, I haven’t even started thinking about a guest list or all the venues I need to think about, but I will tell my groom that its important to fit with our budget to only have the people there we want to (not all our facebook friends and their dogs). Thank you so much for this post!

    • Lauren Grove

      Great job Natalia! And yes, definitely remember when you’re working on your guest list that people understand if they’re not invited. Heck, it costs a lot for someone to even ATTEND a wedding, so nowadays, they definitely understand. ;) But have an “A List” and a “B List”, and if you find out that someone from your A list can’t make it, then you can invite some from the B list!

  3. Kristine {In Love, Engaged}

    I completely agree that the budget should be number one. It’s so important to know what you’re working with and to develop realistic expectations up front. And of course to ENJOY it. REVEL in it. Let it all soak in. Two of our good friends got engaged last night–I love engagement/holiday season too! :)

  4. Cara

    Love the advice!

  5. Abby

    I just got engaged over thanksgiving! So excited to see this great list, especially about the guest list!

  6. Tracey

    great article!! I love that engagement ring do you know where it’s from?

    • Lauren Grove

      Hmm, I’m not sure about where it’s from- it was taken by one of the ELV photographers though. I’m going to shoot her an email and see if she might know, because you’re the second person who’s asked! :)

  7. Jaide

    Wow! These tips were super helpful, you don’t find this many places! I was engaged on September 29th! yay!

  8. Kelly

    Thanks for the resources!!!! This is super-helpful. My fiancee and I just got engaged on Nov. 10. Although I’m a wedding planner by day, it’s still such a crazy transition into being a bride… happy to see your helpful words of advice!

  9. Canryn

    Where is this ring from?

  10. Megan

    To those who are newly Engaged: Beware of sending out save the dates to everyone because then you won’t be able to easily delete people from the guest list as the wedding approaches…. Since we have a 1 1/2 year engagement, I figured Save the Dates would be a good idea, and they are, but some people I sent them to I’m not that close with anymore because a lot can happen in a year’s time… anyways, just wanted to put that advice out there!

  11. Janet

    LOVE this article! I’m engaged since this past thanksgiving and according to this i am right on target! We chose a date that just so happens to be his parents wedding anniversary, i had no idea when i picked it out, but now its on to touring different sites. i will definitely be returning to your website! Thanks for all the helpful advice!

  12. Joey Davis

    This was so Helpful! I was engaged a week ago and feel so much better after reading this since i have done all of the above and am going to look at venues this weekend! Like you said when I was looking at all of the magazines, the timelines made me feel behind, but i feel so much better now.

  13. Jillian Nicole

    What great advice! Especially about working out your budget right away–a must do!

  14. Janice

    Newly engaged and definitely enjoying it… Working in the industry has given me a huge advantage:) and dont you worry I’m sure I’ll be emailing you Oma regular bases!! Thank you thank you for all the great advice!

  15. Anon

    I think this is great advice, but I would like to caution brides on one more thing.

    When you are excited about your engagement, are you more excited because you are engaged, or because you will be married to the love of your life?

    I was engaged once before. I wanted to get married for the sake of saying I was married at a certain age, and finally getting the chance to plan my wedding. I was so caught up in all the details, the ring, the photographer, I was so excited to get married, that I failed to realize I didn’t actually want to marry the guy I was with.

    It’s harder to break up with someone once you’re engaged (everyone, I’m sure, is familiar with the celebrity wedding of K to K; and the inevitable remorse that followed). But that doesn’t mean you should talk yourself into a relationship. If you find yourself doing that, it’s best to take a step back, take a break. That’s what I did. I took a break. I then realized I HATED the guy I was with and even had dreams of running away at the altar.

    So before you set a budget, think about your life. If you have any pause about the direction of where things are headed, stop and think about it. Talk it out with friends and family, make sure it’s a legitimate concern. Even then, don’t let group-think influence you if you don’t think it’s the way to go.

    I hate to be the party pooper on this post, but I want everyone to learn from my disastrous experience.

    I’m now with a guy that I TRULY love, with no rush to get married. Luckily I’m a wedding vendor so I can look at wedding magazines without him being none-the-wiser. ;)

    Even so, if you have any interest in planning your wedding, there’s no harm in that. Just make sure that whatever you decide, you know in your heart that you are saying “yes” to the right person.

  16. seo

    Thank you, I have been searching for info about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I’ve found so far.

  17. Amanda

    Well! Am I happy to have stumbled upon your page!
    We got engaged on December 10th, and we are also in the process of buying a house right now, so the wedding things have been put on hold for the time being. However, this week, I have had a couple dreams about our wedding. The first one was a few nights ago, I told my groom-to-be about it, and he really didn’t have a whole lot to say. Then last night, I had a different one, again about our wedding, told him about it this morning, and he says “You do need to start picking out colors that you want”. What?!?!! I wasn’t expecting that. I had no idea where to start, but I didn’t think colors were first priority. So again, thank you for having this page! I cannot wait for him to get home tonight, so I can sit down & talk to him about my findings!
    I will most certainly be returning back to you for my questions!
    Thank you so much!

    • Lauren Grove

      Welcome to ELD Amanda! :) Definitely come on back after you’ve done these first 5 things! Let’s make those stressful dreams go away! ;)

  18. Stephen Dohring

    The first thing you should really do is to get a manicure because you will be showing off that ring! :)

  19. Linda

    Thank you so much for this information! I am more than a little overwhelmed at doing this myself. Having a starting point like this is giving me something to grab on to. even though our wedding isn’t until april of next year, it seems like it is right around the corner

  20. Julie

    Thanks for writing this article! It helps remind me to not sweat the details at first and focus on the big stuff. I love your writing style too so you will definitely be one of my Bridal Bible Bookmarks ;)

  21. Isabella (just curious)

    Very informative article, thanks. I would add a 6th point that it’s vital to book the wedding photographer in as early as possible, as the good ones get snapped up very far in advance. Also make sure you enjoy the experience and don’t allow yourself to get stressed with the planning! Delegate jobs to friends, family and bridesmaids in particular!

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