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Just Got Engaged? 12 Things You Need To Do First

What to do after getting engaged

These are the top 12 things you need to after getting engaged

Pop that Veuve, you’re engaged! 🍾

After you’ve taken a moment to yourselves to really soak in that this shit is REAL, there are a few things that need to happen before you start up that Pinterest board and dive deep into planning your dream wedding!

**note – these first two tips I’ve seen on countless other articles about what to do after getting engaged but they’re important so I’m keeping them! Don’t dip out just because you’ve maybe read them before. Tip 3 and onwards are PACKED with info. I’ve been photographing weddings for 12 years so I’ve got a lot to say!

1. Tell all of the important people before blasting it on social media

I know it’s like a knee jerk reaction to post this exciting news immediately on social media, but it’s really important to call, video chat or in person tell the most important people in your lives before doing that – they want to celebrate with you!

Jay had asked my parents for permission months prior so they knew it was coming. We got engaged at Disney World and he asked me after riding the Haunted Mansion and I called my parents 5 minutes later when we were in line for Its a Small World. I remember still shaking from the surprise and having a wobbly voice!

I just got engaged

2. Get your ring insured

This is something that you’ll be wearing everyday and taking off at times so you want to make sure that its covered by insurance in case it gets lost, stolen or damaged.

I remember I woke up one morning when we were engaged and realized my ring had slipped off my finger in the middle of the night and I had a total meltdown thinking it was gone forever (to be fair, I had literally just woken up and hadn’t even rolled out of bed yet so my brain wasn’t quite awake yet) and I panicked because we hadn’t insured the ring yet! Well, and it’s an antique so I was never going to get another one like it lol

It turned out to be under Jay’s leg…so it was ok!

3. Talk to each other before you begin to dive into wedding planning

This step cannot be skipped. You need to sit down together and discuss not only what’s important to each of you for the wedding but what’s important to you in your MARRIAGE. These are two different things! The wedding day is the first day of your marriage…it’s a celebration of something amazing but its only for one day.

You both need to be on the same page about how you want the wedding day to look, feel and how you want it to be experienced. For your marriage you need to be talking about kids, finances, home buying, life goals and…any name changes!

For instance, right after getting engaged, I told Jay that as much as I loved him, I had absolutely zero interest in taking his last name. I offered to hyphenate but he said he was fine with me keeping my last name but this could be a deal breaker for one party!

just engaged tips

4. Create your wedding budget

I know talking about money can be very uncomfortable for some people but unless you’re going to the courthouse and doing literally nothing else, this conversation is going to be unavoidable.

How much are you spending on the wedding as a couple? Is anyone else going to contribute? If yes, what are your & their expectations for that money? It’s better to have a longer engagement and pay for it all your selves than to accept money from family only for them to demand you do things the way they want it done.

You MUST set expectations with anyone helping out immediately. This is your wedding, not your parents, even if they’re paying for the entire thing. You can give up control to them for things you don’t care about. For instance, don’t let your parents choose your photographer if photography is important to you…but if you don’t give a flying fuck about the wedding cake, why not let mom make the choice on how it looks & the flavor?

If you aren’t ok giving up any control and contributors are pushing back, its OK to have a longer engagement (or run away and have an epic elopement) to have the wedding day of your dreams that you pay for by yourself. Don’t start your marriage off on a sour note with a wedding that felt like someone else’s day.

5. Start your guest list …if you plan on inviting anyone

Does this seem weird to start the guest list early? Its not.

Your guest list directly ties into every single aspect of your wedding planning & the more people you invite, the more money you’re going to need. You’ll need to determine who gets a plus one: people in a serious relationship only? Or is everyone good to have one? Is this a kid free event? Do your parents get to invite anyone and if so, how many people are you going to allow them to invite?

Heres your permission from a stranger on the internet: you don’t have to invite every single person you know to your wedding. Sure, they’re your cousin, but you haven’t spoken to them in 10 years. They don’t need to come (and guess what? This happened to me & my other cousins for one of our cousins weddings! And no hard feelings were had between us)

Only invite the people who you WANT there to celebrate you & your partner. If you wouldn’t invite that person over to your house for dinner, they don’t need an invite.

And sometimes, that means no one is invited! You’re allowed to get married just the two of you or keep it super intimate and just having your parents & some close friends involved.

We had 5 people at our wedding in Charleston because that’s what felt right for us as a couple.

tips for making your wedding guest list

6. Determine WHERE you’re having your wedding

Is it going to be local to where you live? In another Country you’ve always wanted to visit? Back home in your parents backyard of the house you grew up in? What are you dreaming of?

And make sure you do lots of research – every city, State & Country has their own rules for getting married. Some States require a blood sample. Some require witnesses and others don’t. For a destination wedding in another country, you need to make sure you have all the right documents and all your ducks in a row. Some countries require you to be in that country for a certain number of days prior to getting your marriage license. Some times, you have to get legally married in your own country but can have the wedding in another.

how to choose your wedding venue

7. Research the average cost of a wedding in that area

If you look up “average wedding cost in X Country” you’ll get a random number, but that doesn’t mean that number is accurate for where you picked to get married at, not to mention your guest count & your own wants are going to play a huge role in the cost of your wedding.

As an example, if you live in New York City and your wedding budget is $100,000 and your guest list is 150 people, your wedding will most likely have the bare minimum in terms of decor & probably no personalized experiences involved.

But if you live in NYC and take that same $100,000 budget and have a destination wedding to Charleston, you’ll get way more bang for your buck simply because it costs less to have a wedding in Charleston vs NYC.

And I know that for a fact because most of our couples live in NYC and tell me they get way more of an unique wedding experience in Charleston for the same price!

what is the average cost of a wedding

8. Research venues

Once you have a good idea of your guest list count, its time to research your wedding venue!

If you plan on inviting 15 people, a ball room wedding wouldn’t be a great fit. That large room would feel extremely cold and empty. On the other hand, trying to cram 200 people into a small space would be a nightmare.

Your wedding style, budget and guest list should come into consideration. If you’ve always dreamed of a fairytale wedding, maybe don’t host it on the beach. A castle like venue such as the Biltmore Estate or an actual castle in Scotland or Chateau in the South of France might be your best choice or a dreamy forest in the PNW would work too!

Every venue has a guest limit which is why knowing how many people you plan to invite is so important before booking your venue anyway. It would be a shame to book a venue that only allows 80 guests when you wanted to party with 125.

OH and just for funsies, your venue can also give you some fun ideas to personalize your wedding day! Let’s say you’re getting married on Kauai in Hawaii, you could sprinkle in some Jurassic Park details (subtle or not, thats up to you) since a lot of famous scenes from the movie were filmed there.

Or maybe the venue is located in a town, city or region that’s famous for something. A lot of weddings here in Charleston serve chicken and waffles during the cocktail hour because it’s a Southern comfort food!

fairytale wedding venue the biltmore estate

9. Narrow down the Season and Dates

Some couples want a special/significant date and that’s wonderful (we HAD to get married on the 13th so we’re those people haha) but that can also limit you on availability when you aren’t willing to be flexible on the date. Popular dates get booked up very quickly and so do the best vendors. Or if you want to get married on a Holiday, be prepared for a lot of “Regretfully Decline”‘s.

Do you want a Spring wedding full of colorful gorgeous blooms? Or a Summer wedding where you jump into a pool at the end of the night? Are you dreaming of a Fall wedding in the mountains with all the leaves turning and toasting smores over a fire? Or a snowy Winter wedding bundled up in fur?

If your date is flexible, pick a Season instead and choose your date based on the availability of the most important (to you) vendors.

The Season can also determine the look of your wedding in terms of decor and colors as well as any Seasonal fun activities for your guests to enjoy! It will also help you narrow down your wedding attire (wearing a full ball gown in Summer sounds like misery).

how to determine what season to get married

10. Envision how you want your wedding to look & feel

These are two different things and honestly, one is going to stress you out and the other is going to make you happy.

The way your wedding looks is the colors and the decor. Will you have a floral arch for the ceremony or let the venue do the talking for you? Patterned plates or solid chargers? Are you going to include any of your culture or religion into it? The look is also your wedding attire and invitation suite and lounge furniture.

The way your wedding feels is the flow of the day, the people involved & the experiences you have. Do you want a rigid and structured timeline of events filled with traditional wedding things or do you want some main events to happen at certain times and everything else is go with the flow with your focus being on your relationships and the emotion of the day?

Are the people you invited actually excited to be there to celebrate you? What about your vendor team, do you feel like they GET you and what your vision is? Are you leaving your ceremony site in style on a boat in Lake Como Italy while popping a bottle of champagne? Do you want your wedding to feel like a classic wedding, a really wild backyard celebration or an intimate day just the two of you, spent together doing things you love that bring you happiness?

So…how do you want your wedding to feel?

These are important distinctions but how you want your wedding to feel is probably more important than how you want your wedding to look.

how to enjoy your wedding

11. Hire your Wedding Photographer & Planner

Ok so you’ve got the budget, the location, the venue and an idea of how you both want this day to look & feel like! Now it’s time to book these 2 big ticket vendors.

🌙 Your wedding planner, whos going to keep you on budget & bring your wedding to life, not just in the way its looks and the design, but they’ll help you come up with fun experiences for you and your guests as well as make the day flow as naturally as possible.

Fun fact: we hired our wedding planners before we even knew who we wanted as our wedding photographer! And again, we only invited 5 people. At the time we hired them though? We planned on inviting NO ONE. So even if its a tiny wedding, we know that a planner will be essential!

🌙 And your wedding photographer (heyyyyy lets chat!) who’s going to help you not only remember how your wedding day looked (decor) but how it felt (the emotions, the hugs, the vibe of the day) through the photos, which is your only wedding purchase that grows in value as time goes on. The older you get and the longer you’re married for, the more valuable your wedding pictures become to you.

Even if photography doesn’t seem important to you, I can assure you that if you spend $5,000 or $500,000 on your wedding day, bad photos will make you feel like you WASTED all of that money. Hire a photographer who’s style you love and who you vibe with as a person so that you’re willing to open up and be vulnerable in front of their camera to really capture the true essence of your wedding day.

These two wedding vendors are the ones you really shouldn’t try to save money on – go for your dream team because they can make magic no matter where you get married at, in what ever attire you wear and with who ever you want there to celebrate you!

12. Figure out the most important things you want to experience at the wedding

Are you foodies or big music lovers? Are you both into fashion? Do you loveeee flowers?

Write down what’s most important for you to experience at your wedding. My childhood best friend is a huge foodie and a chef, so having a unique menu & food trucks that served dessert and coffee at the reception was really important to her.

My other best friend wanted a super intimate wedding at Disney World where they spent an entire week hanging out with their 25 guests at the parks making memories together and hosted their wedding reception on the back patio at the Grand Floridian specifically so they could watch the Wishes fireworks show (her absolute FAVORITE thing at Disney….RIP Wishes) with everyone they love.

If you want your wedding reception to feel like a pop punk concert where you and all your friends are belting out Fall Out Boy & Blink 182 songs then you need to find the best DJ for that who won’t play typical wedding music. Or maybe you love live music and want a big 10 piece band to cover all your favorite songs.

For my fellow fashion lovers, splurge on your outfits! Wear that pink cape Monique Lhuillier gown you saw at NYC Bridal Fashion Week! Or get a custom suit that fits you like a glove and makes you feel like a million bucks. You also don’t have to go to “wedding stores” to get these outfits. There are plenty of gown and suit shops for formal events that have incredible designs that make you feel like…you!

Flowers are the one detail that I personally think can really make your wedding design feel luxurious. From lining your ceremony aisle to hanging over your head table, they can totally transform every space.

Figure out whats important to you both and spend your money on those things. Anything that isn’t important to you (and it could be anything, including the stuff I just listed), save your money or ditch them all together.

Thats whats so great about weddings: there are literally no rules (save for the person marrying you has to be legally ordained to do so lol) to how your wedding is supposed to look or feel – its just up to you!


important wedding planning tips

Katie + Jay of Catherine Ann Photography are Charleston SC Based Wedding & Elopement Photographers showing your marriage story through bold, fun & candid photos with an editorial approach so you’ll always remember how it felt!  

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Catherine Ann Photography are husband + wife wedding photographers in Charleston SC creating effortless, dreamy, colorful wedding photos for playful, fashion forward couples hosting a fun & memorable wedding weekend in Charleston, NYC and beyond!

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