First things first. Congratulations!
Claire, BM editor here, as a fellow newly engaged bride-to-be, (that still sounds so weird to me!) I'm in the same boat when it comes to being a bit lost about how to start planning my wedding.
Planning a wedding is thrilling, exciting and romantic. But it's also a little scary, right?
Photo by Jose Villa via Style Me Pretty
Yes, as a wedding blogger, I know my David Austin's from my Dusty Millers (they both go in your bouquet, FYI) but when it comes to legalities, technicalities, and (sigh) budgeting, I most definitely come up short.
But luckily for me, and you, (and my fiance!), I have a very handy resource to hand – that would be Bridal Musings – with an abundance of expert advice and beautiful inspiration to help us on our way.
For starters, we've got more dedicated posts for the newly engaged here, here, and here.
Oh, and visit our A-Z of Wedding Planning to get a better idea of what you're in for.
But to kickstart your planning, we've come up with something of crash course for the newly engaged, just to get you on the right track…
Photo by Blackframe Photography via The Pretty Blog
Step One: The Inspiration
Now this one, I know!
While I don't have the foggiest on how to navigate rental agreements or negotiate corkage, when it comes to inspiration, I have it sussed.
Confession: I've had a wedding board on Pinterest since Pinterest began. If you're planning a wedding and you don't know where to start, start there, (and make like 3.4 million other brides and grooms and follow Bridal Musings!)
Before you start looking for venues, choosing a dress or planning your save the dates, you need to know what kind of wedding you want first.
You might have known exactly how you wanted your wedding to be since you were four years old, or you may never have even thought about it before.
It's easy to get influenced and swayed by vendors when you don't know exactly what you want, so having a clear picture of your dream day in your head before you get started, will help you with each and every decision along the way.
Photo Glass Jar Photographers by via Ruffled
Other places to find inspiration for the look and feel of your wedding day are…
– Our Real Weddings homepage. Search wedding styles to find destination weddings, DIY parties, sophisticated, chic celebrations, or rustic nuptials, along with lots of others. Play close attention to the advice from our brides and grooms, they've been there, done that, and worn the wedding dress.
– Our Film Gallery. A fabulous place to be inspired by not just the look, but the whole feel of a wedding day.
– Our styled shoots. These range from the most beautiful to the most bizarre, and give you a fabulous scope of ideas that you can alter and adapt for your own big day.
Of course, always remember, there are two of you in it. And before you do any research, you need to sit down together and discuss what you want.
My easy-going fiance Mark had no idea what he wanted, so we went through my Pinterest board together, and he said which things he liked and didn't like.
We now have a shared board, and while it has less anemones, and more pulled pork, it's a better representation of both of our tastes, and the kind of day we'll create together.
Check out more tips for finding wedding inspiration, using the internet to help, and defining your vision.
Photo by Sarah Love Photography via Bridal Musings
Step Two: The Money
Bleugh. I hate talking about money. I've been a bad budgeter since I started getting pocket money, and twenty-odd years later, nothing has changed.
But at the end of the day, whether your budget is massive or minuscule, many of your wedding decisions will be based on finances.
Getting the most from your budget is important, so decide what areas are significant for you, is it food, photography and music, or would you rather splash out on a gorgeous dress and an incredible honeymoon?
There are no right or wrong answers, but you need to decide together how much you can afford to spend, and how you want to spend it.
This expert advice on planning your wedding budget will help, along with a very handy downloadable budget spreadsheet!
Oh, and be sure to read our top tips for saving money on your wedding.
Step Three: A Few Particulars
Many of your decisions will depend on your exact date and your venue, but before you start approaching possible locations there are a few numbers you'll need to have to hand.
– A rough budget (see above!)
– An idea of your guest numbers – this doesn't have to be fixed, but having a ballpark figure is crucial for ruling certain venues out of your search.
Will you have anyone with special needs at your wedding? You'll need to check that with the venue, if you require ramps or an accessible restroom, likewise, if you're having children, it's handy to know this in advance, to enquire about how late children can stay on the premises.
A range of dates – okay so you may not get the exact date you're looking for (I've already had three venues tell me they've no Saturdays available for Summer 2016!) but you do need to have a loose idea when you approach your venue.
Keep it to a preferred month, or season if you can, and have an idea what days of the week would work for you.
Photo by Ashley Ludaescher Photography via Bridal Musings
Step Four: Get Your Plan On
While you might want to get started on the photographer or the dress, you really need to determine your venue first, as it sets the tone for the rest of your wedding, and means you have a date, time, and place to give other vendors when looking for quotes and making bookings.
To help you find the perfect place to party, check out Top Tips On Finding Your Perfect Wedding Venue.
Photo by Babb Photo via London Bride
Once you have your venue signed and sealed, and your date set, you can crack on with planning all the rest.
These posts should help you on your way…
Phew, it's a lot to think about, right?
But it doesn't have to be off-putting, simply take it task by task, have fun with it, and give yourself plenty of time to plan.
Photo by Mandi Nelson Photography
And when it comes to all the little details, like planning your playlist, choosing your wedding dress, undertaking some DIY projects, wording your stationery, and working out the murky world of etiquette, our (constantly updated) Step-By-Step Planning Page can help you every inch of the way.
We're so excited to share this awesome, exciting, (slightly terrifying) journey with you – and if there's anything you need help with, anything you can't find, or anything you'd like us to add to the blog, please do let us know in the comments below!