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."

Dress (Shopping) for Success

Erase the emotion. If you were the girl who pinned towels in her hair to play bride, you may need extra help with this step! Pulling the emotion out of the event and remaining level-headed as you shop will help you stay within the bounds of both budget and practicality. If it helps, bring a down-to-earth pal along with you.

Know what kind of shopper you are. Some brides relish the hunt for the ideal dress, and happily book a number of appointments at bridal salons. They like having a salesperson who offers ideas and selects gown styles for them. Others would really love to just slip into a store (a department store, a specialty boutique, a secondhand shop) and find their dress hanging there on the rack. Both ways are possible. Decide which kind of shopper you are, and work accordingly.

Don’t second-guess yourself. Think you’ve found The One? Then you probably have. Look no further—and relax.

Quick Tip: Buying single-use cameras for the reception? To avoid ending up with 300 nearly identical pictures, give guests a few ideas (print up a card to place on each table). Suggest one photo of each couple at the table, goofy dance pics and a surprise shot of their choice.

How Inviting

Your invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks before the big day, so work backward from there to be sure you order in time. The basic invite announces the hosts of the wedding (whether that’s the two of you, your parents or a combination) and the place and time of the ceremony. It may include a card that gives the reception details, a reply card and envelope. Have a sample of the invite in hand before deciding to use it—and proofread! Never include registry information with your invitation.

All About You

It’s easy to become so caught up in the planning that you forget one simple thing: You! No sense having a wonderful wedding, to which you show up looking exhausted and out of shape. So start now to create and stick to a self-care plan.

Exercise regularly and keep to a healthy diet. Even a 30-minute walk several times a week can be enough to keep you feeling energetic. To prevent fatigue, take a multivitamin everyday, especially if you’re skipping meals.

Get plenty of sleep. Most brides-to-be find themselves having some late nights, but try your best not to skimp on sleep; not getting enough contributes to lowered immunity, and you don’t want to get sick now. Plus, well-rested gals look their best.

Meet with a hairstylist. If you want to maintain your current cut and/or color, tell your regular hairstylist, and be sure you’re not due for an appointment the week before your big day (you should ideally have your hair cut and colored a couple of weeks prior). If this stylist will do your hair for the wedding, see her for a practice session or two to try a couple of hairdos. (If you’re wearing a headpiece or tiara, bring it along.)

Practice makeup. Most stores will give you free makeovers; tell them you’re getting married and they’ll go all out. Take pics of looks you like.