You’re engaged! Congratulations! You likely want to spend this magical moment gushing about how it happened with your friends and family and cuddling with your new fiancé. While there will be plenty of time for celebration later, there are a few things to think about as soon as possible to ensure that your wedding day is the perfect beginning to your happily ever after.

THE DATE

First, it’s important to nail down a date. The best venues and most popular dates (such as Saturday evenings) tend to get booked up quickly, so the farther out you plan your wedding, the more options you’ll have available to you. Find out what works for your families and plan around any potential scheduling conflicts, such as your sister’s final exams or your future father-in-law’s upcoming heart surgery. And make sure the two of you are on the same page about your budget and your potential guest list.

THE PLACE

Next, it’s time to research venues. Once you’ve narrowed down what size of wedding you want and what you’re willing to spend, consider whether you want a more urban or remote atmosphere as well as the travel requirements of your guests. Do some extensive research online or, if you have an idea of where you’d like to host your big day, call ahead to see what the venue’s availability looks like.

Some venues, like The Manor at Legacy Farms in Lebanon, Tennessee, have all-inclusive wedding packages that can make your wedding planning experience relatively stress-free. But if you decide not to go this route, you’ll need to figure out vendors for the logistical aspects like catering, music, flowers, and possibly transportation from the ceremony to the reception. If you’re considering hiring a wedding planner to do this work for you, be sure to do some research and ideally get a referral from someone you know.

THE FOOD

One of the most important things to consider during your planning process is catering—if your guests are traveling to see you on your special day, don’t they deserve the best meal possible? First, consider if you’d like a formal, plated dinner, or a more relaxing event with a buffet and other stations like an ice cream sundae bar. Consider not just what your favorite foods are, but what food could best accommodate your guests and what you know about their preferences (maybe your best friend from college is vegan and your fiancé’s brother is a picky eater). Finally, take the time to look at catering menus and their reviews to find the best possible choice for your event.

Wedding planning is no easy feat, but experiencing your happy day with your family and closest friends will make all of the stress worthwhile. By taking these steps right away, you’ll be off to a great start!

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