You’re engaged! Congrats! We only had a slight doubt you’d make it. Kidding, kidding. It was a solid doubt there for a while. Regardless, you’re here, you’re excited and you’re mildly terrified but hiding it quite well. Luckily, engagement doesn’t have to be nearly as daunting as it seems as long as you stick to your checklists and keep your head on straight. Still sound scary? Well, that’s why we’re here to help.
You’re going to get plenty of cliché advice from well-meaning friends and family. This piece of cliché advice, though, is absolutely true and worth taking to heart. It’s going to go incredibly fast and be way more work than you expected. Take that first week or two just to hang out, take it all in and take a deep breath before the work begins.
Take Your Time Shopping for Your Wedding Bands
Fellas, it’s not bad to just go with the classics. In fact, gold wedding bands have been a staple for guys since basically forever. And for good reason, at that! If you’re a tried and true, classic kind of guy, you’re set. If you want to experiment a little bit, there’s no reason you have to pick the first ring you kinda like.
Take your time, play around with some new styles and don’t rush it. Give yourself at least a few months before the wedding to buy your rings. You’re more than welcome to take even more time, though, to make sure you aren’t rushed.
Define Your Essentials Early
What are the essentials? Well, to a certain degree, that depends on you two and what you value. Generally, though, your wedding essentials are going to be your date, location and budget. Beyond that, wedding size, wedding party size and theme can also play prominently. Really though, this is going to depend on what you two value most of all.
Stick to a Budget
In fact, we implore you to do this. Wedding debt is a real thing, and it can be crippling. Weddings are expensive, man. Do not go into debt for your nuptials. There are so many cool weddings done on a shoestring, DIY ideas, money-saving hacks and all that other good stuff out there. If you absolutely want to have a wedding for the ages and you’re willing to budget for that, have at it. Just stick to your budget.
Another cliché piece of advice that actually rings true. While wedding planning isn’t stressful by necessity, it’s rife with potential for conflict. Can you have a peaceable, Switzerland-like wedding planning sesh with the fiancé? Absolutely. Is it much more delicate and difficult than total war or complete surrender? Well, yeah. Communicate everything you feel like you need to. Even if it seems stupid or small, err on the side of over-communicating.
Get Good Engagement Photos Taken
Look, your Instagram-savvy friend and her iPhone whatever-the-number-is-at-the-point-you’re-reading-this can take some great photos. You can seriously rival some professional quality on those bad boys. However, no matter how good our tiny pocket computers get, there’s no substitute for a pro photographer and a real camera. Spring for the professional.
From the wedding planning, that is. Unless you’re getting married to Owen Wilson (he is still single), this is not a Hall Pass scenario. Genuinely, build in some breaks and have a date night here and there — especially if you’re getting into the weeds of wedding planning and things are starting to get tense. That may sound like when you least want to go on a date, but it’s when you need it the most. Gotta cut the tension before it builds up too much.
It’s free stuff. Why are you not asking for it? Okay, yes, there’s some decorum required on your registry. The line is somewhere between one soup spoon and a condo, so adjust accordingly. Couples can feel awkward about registering and what they put on there and all that. That’s perfectly fair. However, these are people who love you and have disposable income, so let’s get a piece of that, huh?
Prepare for Compromise
You know the cliché saying “marriage is a compromise”? There’s some real truth there. You’re going to have to get used to compromise if you’re getting married, and that compromise starts well beforehand. You probably already know what we’re talking about if you’ve been together for a while.
You’re not going to get everything you want out of your wedding. By that, we mean you aren’t going to get every little detail to your exact specifications. That’s perfectly okay. If all you care about is the minute details of the ceremony, you might not want to get married. You might just want a big party in your honor. Just wait until your birthday and go wild if that’s the case.
Now, you obviously have your non-negotiables. Like we mentioned earlier, that’s a large part of communication. Let each other know what really matters to you, and you’ll have some guiding principles to work from when it comes to the nitty-gritty of planning. At the end of it all, your wedding is just the start, so don’t pin every one of your hopes and dreams on it.
You need a checklist, or your life will turn into a waking nightmare. You do not have to create a checklist completely from scratch, though. Can you? Sure. However, you probably don’t want to. Don’t completely copy one either, but there are a ton of great checklists out there you can use as a starting point.
Your Guest List Doesn’t Have to Be a Mile Long
Look, it certainly can be. There’s a great case to be made for inviting everyone you possibly can. Big celebration, more gifts, ya know? Okay, there’s certainly a less materialistic way to think about a long guest list, but the stuff is a good bonus.
There’s an equally good case to be made, though, for paring down your guest list. Do you need to invite your second cousins? Your old coworkers you still kind of talk to occasionally? Your dog-sitter? More people means more stuff, but it also means an increased cost. If you want everyone to be there, awesome. However, there’s certainly been a trend lately, pandemic notwithstanding, of small guest lists and more intimate weddings.
Invite Famous People
This is mostly a bit and kind of an urban legend. We’re willing to bet you won’t find this piece of advice on any other list of tips for the engaged couple: invite famous people to your wedding. Will the president show up to your wedding? Unlikely. Will Adam Sandler show up? Marginally less unlikely.
Mostly, you can score some cool autographed merch from a celebrity you like if you invite them. Now, note that that only happens every once in a while, but it does happen. Why not roll the dice if you’ve got some extra invite cards to send out? Heck, send them out to the PO boxes of companies you like, and maybe they’ll send you a little gift basket or something. Doesn’t hurt to try.
Consider Hiring a Wedding Planner
Do you have to do this? No, you definitely don’t. If your budget is tight, you may be better off doing it all yourself. However, if you’ve got extra cash or you’re willing to reallocate some funds, a wedding planner can really pay for themselves. This is especially true if you don’t know a lot of married couples – especially recently married couples who are going to be up-to-date on the realities of planning a wedding in the last decade.
Use Trends Sparingly
When it comes to what you’re wearing, the theme of the wedding and even the essentials like the women’s wedding bands you choose, trends are a risk. If you love the trend and are willing to run the risk, have at it. If you’re a little more risk-averse, you’re better off sticking to the tried and true classics that you know will always look good.
Everything Costs More Than You Think – Yes, More Than That, Too
Not sure if we mentioned it or not, but weddings are expensive. Do they have to be? No. Can they be? Absolutely. Just know that everything costs more than you think it will and then some.
There are some dicey practices out there in the wedding industry and some near used car sales level bait and switch on pricing. All this to say, when you’re choosing vendors, make sure to go with reputable ones who have a solid history. If you can get personal recommendations, even better.
Take Advice When Necessary
We say “when necessary” for a reason. Upfront, you want to define whose advice you’re going to listen to and whose advice you’re going to politely nod along with until they stop talking. Wedding planning can sprint headlong into a too-many-cooks scenario if you let it, so take advice sparingly. As a rule, unsolicited advice is rarely any good.
That said, seek out advice as often as you need — just stick to trusted sources. Ask your parents, your closest friends, older married couples you know well. Those people all have your best interests in mind (hopefully) and have the practical know-how to give you useful tips.
After all, it’s your wedding. You want to be smart about your planning and take tips when appropriate. Beyond that, accept that you’re going to make some mistakes, do your best and offer good advice to the next generation of newly engaged couples when they ask.