Wedding 101: Engaged, now what?

Congratulations, you’re engaged! Now that the initial shock has worn off it’s time to sit down and start planning. To help you out, your favorite Chicago wedding photographers have compiled our top 10 tips to get the ball rolling.

Set a Date

Once you announce your engagement, everyone will ask the same thing, your wedding date. You’ll look at your calendar and pick the perfect date, however, you won’t be able to set an exact date until other major decisions—like choosing (and booking) your venue—are made. So spend some time looking at multiple dates that work for you. Think of the season and then cross check for holidays, and other family events that may cause a scheduling conflict. The average engagement lasts 14 months, so don’t feel rushed!

Think About Your Dream Wedding

Close your eyes and picture your dream wedding. What do you see? When you do this start imagining the details. How many people are there with you? Are you indoors or outdoors? Before you try on a single gown or book a single vendor, look at the big picture and imagine what kind of style and vibe you want to set for your wedding. Whether it’s, modern, classic, romantic, vintage, rustic or all-out glam. Fancy, casual or somewhere in between. Spend a little time as a couple and get a better idea of what you want (and what you don’t want). Check out wedding magazines, blogs, and real wedding photos online. You can find inspiration anywhere!

Set Your Budget

This is a very necessary and sometimes uncomfortable conversation to have. But, You’ll want to sit down with your families and figure out how much everyone is contributing. This number will affect every decision and purchase you make, so be sure to work out your budget before you start planning.

Draft a Guest List

As you begin to build your guest list, you’ll need to consider a number of factors. If you have a particular ceremony or reception site in mind, you’re going to be limited by how many people it can accommodate.  Would you rather have quality with each guest or throw an epic party for all your friends and family? Keep in mind that more guests mean higher prices, as catering costs are generally calculated on a per-head basis. So, in addition to location, your budget will have a big influence on the size of your guest list.

Register (Before Your Engagement Party!)

Don’t wait! With all the engagement parties, bridal showers and well-wishing relatives in your future, everyone will appreciate your foresight. Although gifts are optional for engagement parties, some of your guests may want to give you something to commemorate the occasion, so register for at least a few items beforehand so they don’t have to ask (or guess) what you’d like. One thing to note: Don’t include registry information in your engagement party invitations or in any other formal manner.

Insure Your Engagement Ring

No matter how careful you are, the peace of mind that ring insurance will give you and your fiance is worth it. There are two basic ways to do it: As an extension of your renter’s or homeowner’s policy (which would reimburse you for a set amount of cash if you lose the ring), or through a company that specializes in jewelry insurance (which might offer more coverage than a standard homeowner’s policy by replacing a lost or stolen ring). Check out for more insight on insuring your bling!

Choose Your Wedding Party

Now it’s your turn to propose to your wedding party. Remember, the earlier you ask, the sooner you can enlist their help. Keep in mind that your wedding party is agreeing to spend their hard-earned money and donate their precious time—be considerate and kind by informing everyone about all your plans, showing them a good time and making sure they know how much you appreciate them!

Consider a Consultant

Wedding planning will take over most of your free time, so before you get started, take into consideration what’s already on your plate. Do you have demanding jobs? Or maybe have big hopes and expectations for your wedding weekend. If any of these seem like a “yes” then you should hire a full-time wedding planner to help you prepare your entire event, from the announcement to the honeymoon. A part-time consultant can also aid in creating your wedding blueprint—including budget, schedule, and lists of recommended Chicago wedding photographers and wedding vendor and site choices—before you launch solo into the preparations. Another option is a day-of coordinator, who will make sure everything goes smoothly on your wedding day.

Book a Venue (and Set Your Date)

Your venue will become the backdrop for virtually all your photos and can influence everything from your budget and guest list to smaller details like your menu. Ensure that you get the look, price, and extras you want by scouring local listings, shopping around, scheduling visits and booking early. Bonus: By signing your venue contract, you will officially have your wedding date (congrats!)!

Hire Priority Vendors

If you just can’t imagine getting married without a live band playing at the reception or a photographer whose work you love, act fast. Many top Chicago wedding photographers and other in-demand vendors are hired more than a year in advance, and once they’re booked, they’re gone. Translation: Figure out what your highest wedding priorities are, whether it’s world-class catering or exquisite flowers, and snap up the vendors whose work you love.

Getting Married? Enter to Win our new $21,000 Wedding Giveaway!

Timothy Whaley is a 3rd generation photojournalist. His father, along with his grandfather, a Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame inductee, passed down a love for telling stories through pictures.

Mr. Whaley has taken this passion and assembled a group of award-winning photographers who are dedicated to providing couples with excellence and care. Visit us at to learn more.