10 Actionable Steps to do After Getting Engaged

I remember getting engaged was one of the best moments in my life, and also one of the craziest because I had never planned a wedding in my life, and at that moment, I was not a wedding photographer and I was not involved in the wedding industry at all! That being said, I get how you can be stressed out about what to do next following your engagement.  With that in mind, I created The top 10 things you need to focus on right after you get engaged to get you organized and on the right path to a successful wedding planning experience.

1. Soak it all in!

This might sounds like a contradiction to everything you hear out there, but seriously, take a couple of days to connect with your significant other and be in the moment. If you are anything like me, you might feel like you need to start planning right away, but I encourage you to stop and take it all in, before you know it you will be in the middle of planning wishing you would have taken a couple of days to relax and enjoy the fact that you just got engaged.

2. Get yourself organized.

Grab a binder or an expandable folder that closes to keep everything (ideas, magazines, contracts, information) together in one spot. I also recommend getting a wedding planner/organizer so that you know what to expect and can keep organized.

3. Come up with 3 ideal wedding date options.

Sit down together, and come up with 3 date options for your wedding date preferably one year out. The reason why I say this is because most wedding venues book at least a year in advance, and most vendors do as well. When thinking of a date for your wedding, consider the location and the time of year especially if you want to have an outdoors ceremony. For example, in Florida, it rains late spring and most summer afternoons and the heat is almost unbearable during the summer, so a fall or early winter wedding is ideal. Also, consider the day of the week. A popular day is Saturday because most people don’t work weekends and you will have Sunday to recoup from the party the day before ;). For the same reason, Saturdays get booked faster and venues tend to charge more for a Saturday wedding. Venues tend to charge less for Friday or Sunday weddings, but something to consider would be that it might be somewhat of an inconvenience for guests because of work or travel arrangements so there is a possibility that some of your guests might not be able to attend.

4. Get an idea of what your wedding budget is.

It is completely ok to feel lost when thinking of a wedding budget, but getting and idea of how much you are able to spend since the beginning will save you so much time in the end. I suggest starting with how much you and your fiancé are able to contribute monetarily, then reach out to both your families if you know they are going to help out. Here, on The Every Last Detail, is a great guide on how to create a wedding budget.

5. Get an idea of your guest count.

This is a crucial step as it will play an important part on how much money your wedding will cost in the end. If your guest count is big, know that your wedding will end up costing more as you have to provide food/drinks, tables, gifts, a bigger venue, etc for all of your guests. If you are on a tight budget, maybe having an intimate wedding with your closets family members might be a good idea that way you don’t sacrifice quality of the vendors and details.

6. Establish your Wedding Style.

Start thinking of the style you want for your wedding. A great place to start searching for ideas is Pinterest, and starting a Wedding Pinterest board to get your inspiration all in one place is a great place to start. There are also great wedding magazines out there with beautiful inspiration so a trip to your local Barnes and Noble to check them out is a great idea (bride and bridesmaid’s day out…heck yes!). A word of advice would be to gather inspiration, but think of ways to make the ideas your own and unique by not copying exactly what you see, but rather taking the overall concept and adding your personal style to it. To get you started, check out my Wedding Details Pinterest board here.

7. Consult with and hire a Wedding Planner.

It is a great idea to speak to and hire a wedding planner earlier in the game rather than later. I recommend setting up an in person consultation with your top 3 choices to make sure you are a great fit with whomever you choose. Make sure they answer all of your questions. A good wedding planner will guide you in the process, will help you establish a timeline, will help with allocating your budget correctly, and help alleviate stress and even save you money in the long run. Hiring a wedding planner before choosing your venue is recommended. As Shannon and Jenna, with The Busy Bee Events and Design explained, “Our best recommendation would be to hire your wedding planner prior to selecting your wedding venue so you can utilize his or her expertise in choosing a space that will complement your design aesthetic while also falling within your wedding budget. Plus, it will save you the time needed to research and narrow down options.”

8. Book your venue.

After narrowing down your venue options with your planner, schedule a time to see each venue. Make sure to ask what is included/excluded in the price, sometimes venues include catering, chairs, tables, etc. Make sure you scout the location for the ceremony and reception and make sure you like what you see aesthetically as you will be taking photos in and around the ceremony and reception space. Make a list of pros and cons of every venue, discuss with our wedding planner, and book your venue. Most venues book at least one year in advance, so make sure to have your 3 wedding date options ready.

9.Consult and hire your Photographer, Videographer, and Caterer.

As I suggested earlier, try to meet in person with your top 3 from each category, and narrow down your choices from there. They should be able to answer all of your questions and ease any worries you might have. A word of advice is to focus on quality of work rather than what they charge (within reason of course!) especially when it comes to a photographer and videographer. They are the ones that will capture/film all the moments of the day and you need to make sure you hire them based on their work and experience. Start with your photographer, videographer, and caterer as they are the ones that usually book faster. I suggest hiring the rest of your wedding team as soon as possible to make sure you are hiring the team you want and not compromising on quality because you waited too long. Make sure to check out my top tips for booking the right wedding professionals here.

10. Choose your bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Now that you have an idea of your budget, know your wedding date, and have booked your venue, you can choose who will be part of your wedding party. Take your time choosing as they will be the ones there to support you during the wedding planning process, and will be by your side on your wedding day. After you choose your wedding party you can think of cool ideas on how to ask them to be your bridesmaids/groomsmen. After your bridesmaids have been confirmed, you can have a girl’s day out to go shopping for your wedding dress! Here is an editorial shoot we designed along with an amazing team to give brides an idea on how to ask their bridesmaids to be a part of their wedding.

I’m so happy you are getting your hands on this checklist! I wish I had a checklist like this one when I got engaged 13 years ago! Hopefully with this list I can help ease the stress a bit and get you on the right track to start your planning with a clear view of what’s to come. I have also created a downloadable version so you can start your planning today. Grab it here, and feel free to share it with your friends!


Is a First Look Right For You?

A First Look is when the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony on their wedding day. It is a term that has become more and more popular in wedding terminology, and it is a decision most couples have to make when discussing the timeline of the day with their wedding photographer. A lot of couples struggle with whether or not having a first look mainly because of tradition, and usually they do not know the background behind this tradition and the reasons why it was put in place.

In the past, the groom waited to see his bride until she was walking down the aisle; a tradition that originated with arranged marriages. In fact, the bride and groom did not see or meet before their wedding day at all so they wouldn’t have be able to back out once they saw what each other looked like. Crazy right!? I believe that is a couple’s personal decision whether or not to have a first look, and I also believe in educating and preparing my clients so that they can make the best decisions related to their wedding. Even though I waited to see my husband until I walked down the aisle 11 years ago, I wouldn’t have done so if someone would have taken the time to explain the real purpose behind this tradition, and the benefits of having a first look. Also, all I wanted to do when I walked down the aisle was to hug him, kiss him, tell him how much I loved him and how handsome he looked, ask him if he liked how I looked and just be together. Instead, all we got to do was hold hands and the ceremony began. Based on my experience as a past bride and as a photographer, I strongly believe having a first look is the best option for several reasons. Here are a few:

1. You get the chance to share a special private moment of connection between the two of you…

One thing any wedding vendor knows for a fact, is that a wedding day is hectic, especially after the ceremony, and most couples do not get to stop and talk to each other privately and share the emotions and feelings they are experiencing. Once you walk down the aisle every moment is very scheduled and sometimes even rehearsed. Every time that I shoot a First Look it’s so special because the bride and the groom get to express their feelings without all the guests present and looking which puts pressure on the couple. It is one of my favorite moments of the day because the moment is that special and the connection I get to capture is so real! After the First Look we usually take photos of the bride and groom during and after so that your couple portraits are out of the way. We also like to photograph the bridal party right after the First Look; that way the bridal party can get to enjoy the cocktail hour.

2. Enjoy more time…

You can get your formal photos out of the way before the ceremony. After the First Look, we usually take photos of the bride and groom so that your couple portraits are out of the way. We also like to photograph the bridal party and your family right after the First Look so that way the bridal party and your family can get to enjoy the cocktail hour. The bridal party and family can wait in transportation or meet the couple at the First Look location.

Below are two scenarios showing a schedule with and without a First Look…

Photography portrait schedule if you do a First Look:

– (2.5 hours before ceremony) First look then Bride & Groom portraits alone
– (1.5 hours before the ceremony) Bride & Groom portraits with bridal party
– (1 hour before the ceremony) Portraits with families
* You will be done with portraits approximately 30 min before the ceremony giving you time to freshen up and get ready to walk down the aisle.

Photography portrait schedule if you don’t do a First Look:

– (1 .5 hours before ceremony) Bride and Bridesmaids portraits
– (1 hour before ceremony) Groom and Groomsmen portraits
– (30 min. before the ceremony) Pause portraits to give you time to freshen up.   At this time guest start to arrive.
– (Right after the ceremony) Family portraits
– (30 min. after ceremony) Bridal party portraits
– (1 hour after ceremony) Bride and Groom portraits alone
– (1.5 hours after ceremony) Done with portraits

3. You will be able to attend the cocktail hour…

One of the main concerns of couples that choose not to do a First Look is not being able to enjoy the cocktail hour and greet their guests, and that is a legitimate concern because most likely they will not be able to do so due to time restraints. When we do the majority of the photos before the ceremony, the schedule opens up more allowing you to attend some if not all of the cocktail hour to enjoy some time with your guests, bridal party, and family.

4. You will feel more relaxed and able to you enjoy the rest of your day and soak it all in…

One of the things I hear the most from my couples is that after the First Look their stress went away and that their nerves were gone for the ceremony. Like I mentioned before, a wedding day is very scheduled after the ceremony, and most couples do not get a chance to soak it all in by themselves. A First Look allows you to do that, and in addition, you will get beautiful photos of that special moment.

Those are my top reasons why I believe a First Look is the way to go based on my experience as a bride first and as a photographer; it is now up to you to balance the pros and the cons, and see if a First Look is right for you. If after balancing the options, you are not set on having a First Look, then make sure you communicate this to your photographer so that they can help you come up with the best wedding day timeline. As for myself, I go with what your wishes are, so if a couple decides they don’t want a First Look, I will help them come up with the ideal timeline that accommodates their wishes as best possible; after all it is your wedding and I am there to guide, support you, and capture all the beautiful moments of your union.

Talking about beautiful moments, here are some photos we have captured of our couples during their First Look…

I would love to hear your comments and questions in the comments section below!

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 xo, Ly Sué