written & photographed by lexi alexander of lra photo
It’s the best time of the year! Not only is it the holiday season, but it’s also engagement season! Not sure what engagement season is? Let me explain! Most everyone in the wedding industry considers engagement season to occur between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. This is when most proposals take place throughout the year. It’s a great time to propose because there are several holidays where you might celebrate with friends and family throughout these months.
Let me start by saying congratulations if you receive a sparkly engagement ring in the next few months! This is such an exciting time in your life, but it also might be a little stressful. You might be feeling overwhelmed, wondering what you should do first. So, let’s talk about what’s important after you’ve gotten engaged!
One of my first pieces of advice would be to soak in this special season of your life. Celebrate with your friends, family, or just the two of you! I recommend you take some time before wedding planning because you’ll often be overwhelmed with questions once you start to announce the news.
The very first thing on your wedding planning to-do list should be deciding on a budget. Discuss with your fiancé how you’ll be handling the costs of the wedding. This step is critical because you shouldn’t book any vendors until you know how much you can spend!
After you have figured out your budget, I suggest deciding on a wedding date. Have a date in mind that you desire, but also have a backup date. Vendors can book up fast! If you are planning a wedding this year and you have a dream venue or photographer that you want to book, but they’re unavailable for your desired date, then you can always see if they’re open for your backup date.
Once you have your budget and date set, there are three key vendors that you should book as soon as you can. The first is your wedding venue. There are many wedding venues to choose from with different kinds of environments, styles and amenities. Before you decide on a venue, talk with your partner about what kind of theme you want to achieve. Do you want a rustic or modern look? Or do you wish for a fancy or romantic venue?
Once you have a list of the venues you like, I highly suggest taking a tour! It’s essential for you to see the entire venue, meet their team, and get a price from them. If you are planning a destination wedding and can’t see the venue, I suggest having them give you a tour via FaceTime or Zoom.
Some of my couples have told me that as soon as they walked into their venue, they knew it was where they wanted to get married, but others said they had to keep searching.
Here are five important questions you should ask when inquiring about a wedding venue:
- Do you have my date available?
- How many hours are included in my rental?
- What is the capacity for the venue?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- Inquire about an in-house caterer and/or bartender. If the venue has one, what is the food and beverage minimum?
After your wedding venue is booked, I recommend hiring a wedding planner or coordinator. Your decision to hire a wedding planner might be up in the air, but it’s worth it! You can hire a planner for the whole planning process, a few months before the wedding, the month of coordination, or even the day of coordination. Whoever you hire will help alleviate stress on your big day. They will take care of all the little details that you won’t have time for.
A common misunderstanding I’ve found is that people get confused if their venue offers a venue coordinator. That’s an excellent service to offer, but I'll let you in on a little secret. The coordinator at the venue is mainly there to make sure everything runs smoothly on the venue side, not always as the coordinator for you.
Here are five important questions you should ask when speaking with a wedding planner:
- What services do you offer?
- How does the entire process work?
- Have you planned any other weddings at our venue?
- How many staff members will you have with you on the day of the wedding?
- Are we required to only book vendors you recommend, or can we hire vendors you’ve never worked with?
The third vendor you should book as soon as possible is your wedding photographer! Just like picking a venue, you need to ask yourselves what kind of look you want for your photos. Do you prefer light and airy, dark and moody, or somewhere in between? Do you want your photos shot on film in addition to digital? Once you figure out the look and feel of wedding photos you want, then start looking for a photographer at your price point. One of my most significant pieces of advice when picking a wedding photographer is making sure that you click with them! They will be with you during your wedding planning journey and will even be with you more than your fiancé on your wedding day!
Once you find a photographer you’re interested in, get in touch with them through their website. I suggest booking a call with them or meeting up for coffee. This allows you to interact with them and get to know them on a more personal level.
Here are five critical questions you should ask when inquiring with a wedding photographer:
- How many photographers do you shoot with?
- Do you have dual camera slots, and if so, do you photograph on both cards?
- How will you backup my images?
- What happens if you have an emergency and can’t photograph my wedding?
- Do you have a payment schedule?
We covered some great content about your first few steps after getting engaged. I always tell my brides to enjoy the wedding planning process and try not to get too stressed out. If you have any questions, I would love to chat with you!
Lexi Alexander is a wedding photographer and owner of LRA Photo based in Columbus, Ohio and also serves the Savannah, Georgia area. She delivers beautiful imagery that captures one of life’s biggest moments for the elegant and romantic brides. One of the most important things is that she wants all of her couples to be comfortable during their engagement session and wedding day. She wants to be that friend you can lean on during wedding planning, and an extra bridesmaid the day of the wedding.