Roadmap to the Big Day

Here's our step-by-step guide to everything you need to know, from the minute you're engaged to the moment you say "I do."

First Things First

roadmap to your big dayMake the announcement. Some couples don't feel "right" if anyone knows their big news before parents and other close family. If possible, tell the folks in person. If your parents don't live nearby, put in a special phone call.

Delve into dreams. Sit down with your fiancé—preferably over a candlelit dinner—and let the ideas, dreams, schemes and pie-in-the-sky plans fly. Think about the style you'd like, whether it's a beach bash, a sit-down dinner in a ballroom or a ceremony on a mountaintop. No talk of money. Yet.

Talk money. Oops, sorry. Dreamtime over (for now). It's rare these days that the bride's parents pick up the whole bill, so decide now on your bottom line. Find out from both sets of parents if or how much they can contribute.

Rough out the timing. While you don't have to set a firm date now, it's smart to at least have an idea of what month or season you want to marry in. That'll give you a sense of how long you have to get things organized.

Because your wedding's size determines where you'll hold the party, how much it will cost (prices usually rise by guest) and whether travel will be involved, creating a guest list is one of the first and most important things to do. So make your list; your fiancé and both families should do the same. You can, and likely will, cut later, but this first number will be your base.

Tame That Guest List

When you pay a caterer by the head, every guest is a ka-ching on the total bill—not just for the food and drink, but also for tips and taxes, which rise accordingly. Here are some ways to keep the list under control:

  • Don't invite the whole office—either just ask your boss and your closest friends at work or no one at all.
  • Don't dig into your old address book for blasts from the past; stick to those people you see regularly.
  • Rein in parents. They can invite their friends, but they don't have to ask the garden club and the tennis buddies and the old neighbors from two houses ago.