After the ‘yes’: Advice for the newly engaged

WASHINGTON — “To everything there is a season,” the Bible tells us, and that includes engagements.

While some of you have been stressing about baking pies, shopping for gifts and then exercising off all that pie, others have been dropping to a knee, Putting a Ring on It and making big plans.

Yes, we are in the midst of proposal season, which unofficially runs from November to February. It’s all due to the recent holidays, said Ivy Jacobson, senior digital editor for the wedding-planning website The Knot.

“With Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and Christmas and New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, there’s a lot of great opportunities to propose, because your family’s around,” she said. “It’s a festive time.”

For those blissful couples, getting engaged marks the beginning of a lifelong commitment. It also starts a loudly ticking countdown toward The Big Day — for which the happy couple generally has to help plan.

And while planning a party is one thing, planning a wedding is a next-level project. But with a little honest preparation, a happy couple can mitigate any stress, stay out of debt and make the big day one to remember.

Begin with a celebration 

First of all, savor the moment and celebrate, Jacobson told WTOP.

“Take the time to share the happy news to have a party or two. Tell everyone,” Jacobson suggested. “Just because when you do start planning, it is buckle-down time. So make sure you really soak in that newly engaged feeling as much as you want to.”

Go out for a nice dinner, for instance. Or do a spa day. Or get out of town for the weekend. Or just Netflix-binge in your pajamas for a solid week. You do you, boos.

Early, honest conversations 

Like a relationship, a successful wedding plan is built on good communication. Begin with an honest setting of expectations, not only for the big day but also for the marriage itself, said dating and relationship expert Andrea Syrtash, author of “Cheat On Your Husband (With Your Husband).”

“Put uncomfortable topics on the table like finances and how much you want to be involved with your families,” Syrtash wrote in an email. “These are things that should be discussed and negotiated early on.”

To that point: When reconciling a budget with a potential guest count for the wedding, an honest conversation is especially essential. Begin with the money matters “because those are usually the hardest talks to have,” Jacobson said. This includes how much, if any, both families may be able to contribute to a wedding budget.

After that, move on to refining the guest list. Realizing what your partner and their family wants, she said, is good to know early on so everyone is on the same page.

Just be ready to make cuts.

“Usually, both sides of the family will have guests that they want to invite, you’ll have your friends and family you want to invite — and before you know it, you could have over 200 people and you want to keep it to 100,” she said.

Once the list is narrowed down, it’s time to dive into the nuts and bolts of wedding planning: announcements, the registry, a venue, a caterer, an officiant, a hotel, a rainy-day plan B, etc.

Fortunately, there are tools out there to help strategize, such as The Knot’s all-in-one Wedding Planner app. Available both for iOS and Android devices, it provides an exhaustive to-do list and can help couples start a registry and even put them in touch with potential vendors.

Trimming the wedding budget

Expenses can add up fast while plans are made. Here are a few easy ways to keep them reasonable.

Schedule the big day on an off-peak date. In other words, avoid summer and fall. The weather may not be optimal, Jacobson said, but it could mean affording that dream venue.

Don’t schedule on a Saturday. As they’re the most convenient day to have a wedding, they’re also the most expensive and harder to book. A Friday and Sunday date affords some convenience to guests while trimming costs a bit.

Consider alternatives to floral arrangements. Local, in-season greenery is cheaper but still gorgeous. “A lot of people just skip florals entirely and decorate with candles or books or stones or things of that nature,” Jacobson said.

Don’t hesitate to shorten the guest list. “If everyone is a hundred dollars a head and you cut 10 people, you’ve just saved $1,000,” Jacobson said. “So sometimes you have to be a little cutthroat with your guest list just to make more room in your budget.”

A few other things

To avoid any friction later on, both spouses-to-be should identify the three top things that he/she really wants in a wedding early on.

“So say you value the venue, the caterer and music, but your partner values the flowers, the dress and the invitations,” Jacobson said. “You’re on different pages and you need to come together and mutually decide what are your top things that you want to focus on or spend money on.”

As the couple proceeds with reconciling these priorities and doing the planning, Syrtash said, be prepared for outside pressure.

“Milestones can be exhausting,” she said. “In addition to your own high stakes around the event, friends and family may also put on extra pressure, and/or it may trigger lots of judgments and reactions from people who think they have a say in your special occasion.

“It’s important to set boundaries early, so that you and your partner can focus on serving each other’s needs first,” Syrtash said.

And while you take care of that to-do list, she said, don’t forget self care. Give yourself regular breaks during the final homestretch to get a massage, hit the gym — or just spend quality time with your spouse-to-be. “Find time to take breaks from planning where you intentionally put planning off the table so you can talk about and stay connected about other things going on in your lives,” she said.

Finally, don’t let the wedding itself get in the way of what it’s celebrating.

“Don’t get too caught up in the superficial details of the event,” Syrtash said. ” … It’s important not to lose sight of why this is all happening!”

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

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