You Said Yes, What’s Next?

By Natalie Durham
and Kelli Barnes

Natalie Says…

Congratulations on your engagement! If you find yourself looking down at your sparkling new bling, you are not alone. The holidays are the prime season to get engaged and many new brides start the New Year planning a wedding. As with any new adventure, the first thing most brides do is google what to do as a bride. Better known as the wedding checklist, it lists pretty much everything you should do in order. What it doesn’t do is talk back with advice.

Photo by Amy Crawford

From the moment you say yes, you are well aware that you will be deciding on the majority of what you want and so the initial few items may not seem so daunting yet. One of the first things you should do is establish who will be contributing and how much will be contributed to the budget. To start from any other point truly leads to disappointment or over-spending. So trust us, sit down with those close to you, and plan out your exact budget parameters.

Next, you should decide on a wedding date and then start your search for a venue. It is critical that the date you choose vibes with your theme and the floral designs you are wanting. Take some time to figure that piece out and then begin your venue hunt. Once you have signed the contract for your location then it’s time to hire a wedding planner.

The big decisions following your venue such as a caterer, cake, DJ, invites, etc. will need expert advice on who to use and reviewing the contracts. Most planners will give you access to their preferred vendors, who have been vetted for superior work. Take advantage of that big perk from the get-go.

Now that you have a venue and wedding planner, the next few choices truly involve all parties who are paying. Interviewing caterers is not comparing apples to apples; unfortunately, it’s way more complicated than that. Each company charges differently, includes different items, and some extra fees you may not be aware of. Trying to decide on whether or not to have stations or a buffet and prime rib versus barbeque chicken may not seem like rocket science until you get to the contract, which will most likely determine your choice based on your budget. Here is where your planner will help you budget a percentage to go towards your catering bill.

Your next big decision will be one based purely on how much you like someone’s work. Photographers book up years in advance, especially the best ones, so you won’t want to wait to choose them. Reviewing portfolios to see editing styles is critical for you, as well as in-person interviews to make sure you jive with their personalities. A certain trust must be present for a smooth wedding day between you and your photographer. Booking them far in advance will sometimes result in a free engagement session or other perks.

Many brides these days use Pinterest to pin their favorite floral looks and designs. Spend time looking for local florists and talking to past brides who were happy and those that give reviews online. Once you have a handful to interview, begin showing them your inspiration board and see how that matches to what they have done in previous weddings. Not seeing any similarities to your look can be discouraging, so ask for references or move on to another designer. Compromising what you want should not have to happen in this department, maybe with the budget, but not with the look. Remember that. Any planner will tell you this and if there is a will there is a way.

Kelli Says…

You’ve set the date, booked the venue, hired a fabulous planner, and started working on the budget. What’s next? One of the most overlooked line items in your long list of #allthethings might just be one of the most important. Inviting all those near and dear to you to share in your wedding day deserves some forethought and planning.

Photo by Madison Colt Photography

You’ve most likely heard “it’s just a piece of paper” or “it’ll end up in the trash,” but an invitation is so much more. Your wedding is without question one of the most important and memorable days of your life. A heartfelt request to share in such a celebration requires more care and attention than a simple postcard in an envelope, don’t you think?

During your budgeting process, your wedding planner will tell you to set aside around 6% of your total wedding budget for invitation stationery. This will cover Save the Date cards and envelopes as well as your Invitation Suites. Other expenses to consider are postage, addressing services, and assembly.

Hire your professional designer or stationer six to nine months prior to your wedding date. The design process will take longer than browsing a website or flipping through a lookbook. All of the pretty looks you’ve been liking and Pinning on Pinterest will come into play here. Those quick glimpses into your personal styles can save a designer a tremendous amount of time when attempting to discern your style as a couple.

Be thorough in your hiring process. Always ask to see and feel an actual invitation sample piece, paying attention to its texture and weight especially. Inspect the print closely as well as the envelope. You don’t want to end up with flimsy cardstock or poor quality print with no time to fix it.

Discuss assembly and finished product expectations with your designer. Layered pieces and pocket folds mean a large amount of assembly required for the looks you love. You’ll want to know if you need to organize a weekend with your girls and a case of wine to glue all the pieces together. Most reputable custom designers will include assembly in their package pricing, so there’s no doubt that each finished suite will be perfect.

Now that you’ve nailed down a stationer and begun the design process, there’s the question of addressing. First of all, you need to get started on your guest list now. This seems to be a point of procrastination for most couples. Call your mom, dad, aunts, and grandmas and put them to work gathering addresses. Then it’s up to you to organize them. Your planner will offer a solution for inputting your guest list into an app or spreadsheet to track replies. This will save your sanity if you just do a few at a time along the way. Most systems (even the free Wedding Wire and The Knot sites) will generate a neat little spreadsheet of your guest mailing addresses. This list is pure gold!

Your stationery designer may provide an affordable solution for addressing all those envelopes. Digital printing is a budget-friendly option that’s as pretty as it is efficient. There are fonts and colors to match your invitation and even handwriting fonts that look so close to calligraphy most people can’t even tell the difference. Your envelopes could be printed in a day as opposed to weeks of handwriting them during a series of Netflix binges. Professional calligraphy is always a beautiful choice so if the hand-lettered look is your thing, be sure to book your calligrapher well in advance and set aside around $3.00+ per suite depending on the ink and style. However you decide to address your envelopes, you’ll be glad you have that typed list when the time comes.

Photo by Madison Colt Photography

Both Say…

So there you have it, your guide for your first few months of engagement. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is. Don’t let it scare you though. Surround yourself with friends and family who love you and professionals who can guide you through the planning process. You’re sure to come out on the other side feeling confident in your decisions. Enjoy this sweet time planning such a meaningful day because you have the advantage of professionals who are invested in your vision.

12 Months Before…

  • Engagement Party
  • Begin planning your guest list
  • Decide on a budget
  • Set the wedding date
  • Start the venue search
  • Start Pinning design ideas
  • Hire your wedding planner

10 months before…

  • Take engagement photos
  • Book your venue
  • Choose vendors and officiant
  • Hire your stationery designer
  • Order Save the Date cards
  • Start dress shopping
  • Keep Pinning and narrow down design ideas

8 Months Before…

  • Send Save the Date cards
  • Plan the bridal party
  • Book your photographer
  • Block hotel rooms
  • Select your wedding cake

Natalie Durham established Arranged To Eat in 2009 as an all-inclusive company offering wedding planning services, floral design, and style consulting. Recently voted The Knot 2018 Best of Weddings, featured on Chic Wedding Guide, and in Lanier Bridal magazine. Learn more about what a wedding planner can do for you by calling 770.842.9200 or visit us online at

Kelli Barnes owns Paper Made Lovely which was recently featured in Lanier Bridal Magazine. This full-service social stationer specializes in custom stationery and paper goods for weddings: invitations, ceremony programs, place cards, and more. Call 404.969.6140 to book your complimentary consultation or visit to browse styles and learn more about the custom design process.

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