The First 10 Things to Do When Planning a Wedding

You're engaged—congrats! To help you ease into wedding planning, we’re here with a list of the very first things you should do once you get engaged.

By Emily Forrest

woman and man just after getting engaged in front of a sunset in a green field about to kiss
Photo by Zola

The question was asked… the answer was yes… and now a ring is bouncing light around the room from one of your fingers. You’re engaged—congratulations! But, now what? While you might have been dreaming about being engaged for months, now that you’re actually staring down the long road of planning a wedding (and, you know, a lifetime of marriage), you might feel a bit paralyzed.

Surprisingly, many couples feel just like you right after they get engaged. To help you ease into wedding planning, and to make sure you enjoy the process of getting married from start to finish, we’re here with a list of the very first things you should do once the ring is on your (or your partner’s) finger.

1. Share The News

After you spend some private time basking in the joy of your decision together, the first real action you should take after getting engaged is to tell your parents and other loved ones. Don’t immediately post a ring pic and have your mom or dad find out you’re engaged from social media. Share the news with your families in person if possible; a phone call is the next best thing. You don’t have to tell both sets of parents at the same time, but try to tell both sides relatively quickly out of respect. If one or both sets of parents are divorced, follow the same protocol: tell each side separately but relatively back-to-back to keep it even.

Were your family, siblings, and/or closest friends present during or shortly after the proposal? Congrats (again)—you can skip this step and move on to #2.

2. Enjoy Being Engaged

You’ll have plenty of time to stress over place settings and cake flavors—do yourself a favor and take a few weeks (months even, if you don’t have a tight planning timeline) to just enjoy the bliss of being newly committed to a lifetime together. Go on romantic walks, steal kisses whenever you can, treat yourselves to a fancy celebratory dinner, and try to get as much free champagne out of the deal as possible. These dreamy moments are the perfect opportunity to begin talking about your pie-in-the-sky wedding dreams (see #3).

3. Daydream Big

Before money, logistics, or even logic come into play, spend some time daydreaming together about your dream wedding. Discuss what you envision when you imagining saying “I do:” is it barefoot on a beach with only a handful of your closest friends and family to witness, or is it in a crystal-studded ballroom while violins play in the background? Try to hone in on the general mood, vibe, and location that makes you the most excited, and check out Zola’s Real Weddings to see examples from other couples. Here are some questions to ponder together:

  • Do we want a big or a small wedding?
  • Do we want to be close to home or at a destination?
  • Do we want to get married outside or inside?
  • What kind of mood do we want: casual and laid-back, or fancy and formal?
  • What kind of style do we want: romantic, rustic, modern, glamorous, beachy, boho…?
  • What are the one or two most important elements:
  • A delicious meal?
  • A rocking dance party with great music?
  • A jaw-dropping setting?
  • An incredible gown?
  • A feeling of intimacy?
  • Having as many friends and family there as possible?
  • An easy, all-inclusive venue?
  • A bouquet full of peonies?
  • Being outside?

If you and your partner have different wishes or opinions, don’t stress at this stage: this is all about exploring options. Talk through it and see if you can come to a compromise that feels right for you as a couple, and which you think you can reasonably pull off in the amount of time you have to plan.

4. Talk Money

After thinking big, it’s time to come down to earth for a moment. All of these dreams will require money to come to life, so before you get too attached to a four-course al fresco dinner in the Italian countryside, discuss with your partner what you are willing to spend on your big day. While tradition used to dictate that the bride’s parents paid for the majority of the wedding, this is no longer the case—thus it’s important at this stage to schedule separate conversations with all set of parents to discuss money. Ask politely if they intend to contribute funds to your wedding, and if so, how much they are willing to give.

Based on the total sum of funds you and any family members are willing to contribute, tally up your total wedding budget so you know what you have to work with as you begin making other decisions. Read up on How To Set Your Wedding Budget for further help.

5. Establish a Year and a Season

Now that you have a general wedding vision and budget, nail down the year and season in which you want to get married. After your budget discussion, perhaps you want to wait a bit longer in order to save up more money—or maybe you’ve decided to plan a simple celebration with a short engagement so you can move on to the business of actually being married.

It’s great if you can pinpoint the exact month now, but if you have flexibility and just know you want a fall wedding, for example, that’s fine too. An openness to a variety of months might even work to your advantage when it comes to finding and booking a venue. If you have a more finite sense of desired dates, read our advice for How To Set A Wedding Date to learn how to really lock it in.

6. Get a Rough Guest Count

You don’t have to start categorizing your friends and family into A and B lists yet, but at this point you’ll need to know approximately how many people you plan to invite to the wedding. Since wedding costs increase by number of guests (many vendors, such as caterers, charge on a per-head basis), it’s best to do this step after you’ve calculated your rough budget so that you have a clear sense of how many guests you can afford to host. Sit down with your partner and draft a running list of people you know you want to invite, and ask both families for their must-invite lists as well. You can (and most likely will) shorten this list as your planning evolves.

Knowing the general size of your wedding guest list helps you move on to other important steps in your planning, such as choosing a venue.

7. Set Up Your Zola Account

Staying organized is crucial to surviving (and hopefully enjoying) your wedding planning experience, so do yourself a favor by setting up your organizational systems through Zola as soon as possible. Once you create a Zola account, you’ll be able to start using all of these incredible helpful planning tools:

  • Zola Inspiration: browse millions of photos from thousands of real weddings, save your favorites, and check out the talented vendors in your area.
  • Zola Checklist: with this roadmap for your entire planning journey, you can personalize your own wedding to-do list and receive updates and reminders to keep you on track.
  • Zola Guest List: start plugging those names into this extremely intuitive tool, which will help make keeping track of head counts, gathering contact information, and tracking RSVPS incredible simple and streamlined.
  • Zola Registry: it’s never too early to register! Especially if you expect to receive engagement gifts, set up your registry as soon as possible to make sure you receive the kinds of gifts you really want.
  • Zola Wedding Website: your wedding website is a vital rutool for sharing important information with guests, so get started on it right away. Beyond just a communication tool, your website will spark guests’ excitement about your wedding and bring them one step closer to getting to know you and your partner. Personalize your Zola wedding website with photos and stories, integrate your Zola registry, and even collect RSVPs for different weekend events.

8. Announce Your Engagement

This one is optional, but some couples like to more formally announce their engagement to the great, big world apart from the excited phone calls and texts sent right after the proposal. You might choose to make your own announcement with a well-crafted post on social media, or go the more traditional, formal route with an announcement in the local newspaper. (Either family may also choose to make a formal announcement in this way.) Contact the newspaper to find out their specific policies and requirements. Here are some questions you should ask:

  • Is there a standard form I should fill out, or can I write my own announcement?
  • Is there a charge?
  • Do you accept photographs? If so, in what format (digital or print copy)?
  • Do photos have to be black and white?
  • Will you return my photo to me?

9. Insure Your Ring

If you’ve received an engagement ring during the proposal, be sure to insure this recent investment. There are two methods for insuring engagement rings: you can either add the the ring as an extension to your homeowner’s or renter’s policy, or you can purchase stand-alone ring insurance through a special jewelry insurance company. In the event that your ring gets lost or stolen, you would receive a set amount of money as a reimbursement from your homeowner’s policy. A separate ring insurance policy might offer more coverage by actually replacing your ring.

10. Consider Hiring a Planner/Coordinator.

There are many advantages to hiring a wedding planner: not only do they take the majority of wedding planning work (and stress) off your plate, but their insider knowledge and vendor connections can actually help you save money. They’re also especially helpful (perhaps even necessary) if you’re having a destination wedding and know little about the landscape where you plan to marry. Here are some situations in which you might consider hiring a wedding planner:

  • You’re having a destination wedding and cannot make frequent planning trips.
  • You and your partner both work full-time.
  • You won’t be receiving any logistical planning help from family members.
  • You have a very specific and/or elaborate wedding vision in mind, and need help pulling it off.
  • Your budget allows for a full planner.
  • You’re prone to anxiety, have trouble making decisions, and want someone to help alleviate your stress.
  • You have a very strict wedding budget, and want assistance making it stretch as far as possible.

There are different degrees of wedding planning assistance: full planning, partial or month-of planning, and day-of planning. Make the decision to hire a full wedding planner early, as this person should be involved in your big decisions from the get-go. Search for wedding planners in your area, then check out photos of their work and read reviews from other Zola couples.

We recommend at least hiring a day-of coordinator to manage the timeline, logistics, and vendor communications during the wedding weekend—you want to spend your wedding day soaking in every moment, not worrying about the timing or details.

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