First steps to planning a wedding
I’m Engaged, Now What? First Steps To Planning A Wedding

So you’re engaged? First I’ll say congratulations! The dream of getting married, of walking down the aisle in a beautiful white dress to the man you love is finally a reality. Your time has come and it’s your turn to shine. I celebrate with you. If your engagement is still recent and you haven’t shared the photos/video from that day with any other site then I encourage you to consider sending them to us for a free feature on our website. Click here to submit your engagement photos to us.

Now let’s get to what to do now that you’re engaged.

The next logical thing after getting engaged is to start planning the wedding. But when should you start?

Average time to plan a wedding

The average time to plan a wedding varies from couple to couple. The time the planning takes depends on the kind of wedding you want, what you need for the wedding and the time it will take to put everything together. If it’s a must for you to use certain popular wedding vendors then you may need a longer time since that category of vendors needs to be booked many months ahead.

However generally speaking you can plan a wedding within a few months. The best time frame is 3-6 months, that way family members have ample time to prepare for the wedding too.

First Steps to Planning a Wedding

Your wedding is the most important event in your life that you’ll plan. No doubt you want it to be something you and your guests will remember with joy. Since you got the ring the wedding must have been all you thought about, with excitement and then with legitimate concerns. There’s so much planning to do, so many things to figure out. But relax, don’t panic. Take it one at a time. Start with the most important things which I have discussed below.

Make a Timetable

Once you’re engaged the first thing everyone wants to know is when is the wedding happening. And honestly that is one of the first important decisions you and your groom have to make to push other things forward. For example you need to have a date before booking your vendors. But you can’t just pick a date off your head. Some things have to be considered first such as season, holiday, immediate families availability and how long you realistically will need to plan the kind of wedding you want.

Traditionally in Nigeria the couple chooses a wedding date and then announces it to both family members at the Wedding Introduction ceremony which may then be adjusted slightly by one or both family members to suit their schedule.

Dream up your wedding style

Close your eyes and try to picture what you will call the perfect wedding. What do you see? What kind of style or vibe do you want to set? Will it be a big or small wedding? Home or Destination wedding? Outdoor or indoor? Modern, classic, romantic, vintage, rustic or all-out glam?

What theme do you want? What colors? What dress styles? Cake etc. Spend some time gathering inspiration. Look at wedding magazines, real wedding pictures, Pinterest boards; even watch romantic movies with wedding themes, they are a great source of inspiration too. Examples are My Best Friend’s Wedding and Made of Honor. And gradually start to create your own style. Organize everything you’ve gathered. Use a big note book, a binder and or your phone to store up all your ideas, including photos. Save up photos of styles you want. It’s easier to get vendors to understand exactly what you want when you have a picture of it to show. Use our online To-Do manager to create a timeline for your wedding planning tasks.

For more help see the following articles:

  • Wedding checklists
  • Wedding theme ideas
  • Wedding color combinations
  • Wedding cakes information

Draw up a Guest List

You both need to ask and listen to each other about what you see when you picture your wedding. Most especially what size you both want. Would you rather have a small cozy wedding or a for-all wedding party? Your dream may be different. You may want something small while he wants something big. Contrary to popular believe not all of us women want a big wedding!

If your vision differs, then you’ll have to find a ground for compromise, meet at the middle. For example if one of you want something big and the other something small, then you probably should suggest having an average wedding, something not big but not too small, say 100-150 guests.

When you decide on a number create a rough guest list just to see if the number is realistic or you’ll need to increase it. When creating this list you’ll have to consider your parents, maybe even ask them how many people they’ll want to invite. Then how many people you and your fiancé will like to invite. Whatever number you arrive at, plus an extra 50% or at least 25% will give you a rough guest list to start making plans with. The extra you add is to make room for friends of your family members and friends of friends who will likely be invited by them, and then those who will attend anyway without invitation from anyone.

Set a Realistic Wedding Budget

How much you can realistically afford to plan your wedding will likely change everything. I mean your guest list size, the season/wedding date you choose, how many wedding party you’ll have, your wedding theme etc. You may want a big wedding, you may want a wedding decor, a caterer, makeup artist, a wedding planner etc but if you can’t afford it then you can’t. And if that is the case, you’ll have to find a way to still have your dream wedding within your budget.

To start on wedding budgeting, you both need to sit down and ask yourselves how much you have in your savings that you can spare. There’s hardly a wedding these days where the bride-to-be doesn’t support the wedding expenses. So how much do you have? Most especially how much does he have? Will anyone be supporting you both? You and he need to sit down with your individual families and ask your parents and siblings who can afford to help how much they are willing to support you with. Are you hoping to raise some more money before the wedding to add to your budget? If so, is that guaranteed? You can’t be budgeting with the money you don’t have in hand yet. What if it doesn’t come in what happens?

If you only have one or two people supporting the wedding and they’re not giving much and you both don’t have much then you may have to wait a few more months or even one year if you both feel it’s necessary to save up to have the wedding you want.

But first set a budget. How much can you not exceed to spend after realizing you’re getting little to no support from your families? It’s important that you both be in sync about what you can afford to spend and work together to stay within your budget. Your goal should be to have a fabulous wedding while keeping cost as low as possible.

Start a savings account, or you both can decide to use your own account to save money for the wedding. Decide on a percentage of his and your monthly paycheck that will be saved for your wedding expenses.
Then to stay within your budget, set priorities. What matters to you most in your wedding? Perhaps your wedding dress? The wedding food? And or the wedding ring? Decide on what your priorities are and how much you’ll be spending on those areas. Then share the remaining amount across the other areas of the wedding planning. In a Nigerian wedding to impress your guests simply feed them well!
Work on your budget and then start planning with our online wedding budget tool.

For more help see the following articles:

  • Average wedding cost
  • Who pays for the wedding
  • Inexpensive wedding ideas
  • Wedding food tips

Decide on a Wedding Season

I’ve said in a previous article that climate seasons doesn’t have much significance for a Nigerian wedding. But if you’re not a Nigerian or you’re in a country that has the four seasons calendar (spring, summer, autumn/fall and winter) then you should read the article on seasons and weddings. The season or date you choose to get married can dictate the style of your wedding, what is available to you and how much you spend on your wedding. Once you choose your wedding date it shapes your timeline and with a timeline your wedding becomes more real to you and you’re likely to start making specific arrangements.

For more help, see the article on picking the perfect wedding date.

Hire Priority Vendors

Are there some popular specific vendors you want? Bands, DJ, Photographer, Videographer etc. If so booking them should be one of the first things you do. In fact you may want to call them and confirm when they can fit you in before you choose a wedding date. Generally, booking a wedding venue should be priority for every couple. Without a venue there can be no wedding. Plus you also need a venue confirmed for the wedding to have an address to write up your wedding invitation. So book really early enough and keep confirming your date with them, say every two weeks until your wedding.

Choose your wedding party team

You both should decide on the persons you want to closely share your D day with you as your bridesmaids and groomsmen. And inform them right away. So that they can be available to help you as you plan your wedding. You want to also let them know of your plans too especially the part that concern them such as the style you want for them (attire, shoes, hairdo) and how much they will need. Bridal shower is not a common ceremony in the average Nigerian weddings however if you will want one and or one or more family/friends may want to plan one for you then you should discuss the shower with them too so you don’t end up having two separate showers planned.

Go Dress Shopping

Start your search for your dream dress by browsing wedding dress photos online (and make sure to save your favorites to take with you to dress stores). Then read up on silhouettes, necklines and trains that might flatter your body. The season in which you are getting married will also affect your dress choice. Like if are getting married during the dry season when the sun is at its peak then you may want to consider a sleeveless gown and a lightweight fabric such as chiffon, linen or organza. For rainy and harmattan season then consider long sleeveless with thicker fabrics and a short train because of the dust and in case it rains.

Read: Wedding dress styles

Other important decisions to make

Decide on the types of marriage ceremonies you want

In the article on types of marriages I discussed the different marriage ceremonies available in Nigeria, which are legal and needed to have a valid marriage and which are not.

Decide on Wedding attires to use

What wedding attires will you be using? Are you having someone sew your wedding dress or will you be buying already made? If you’re buying a wedding dress, will it be new or used? Or perhaps you want to rent a dress? What native attire will you both be wearing? Will you have asoebi for the wedding? What will your parents be wearing?

Hire a wedding planner or do it yourself

Most Nigerian couples plan their weddings themselves. And they turn out well. However if you and your groom are super-busy people or have very demanding jobs, a wedding planner can really be helpful. Even though you have the time to DIY your wedding, there’s a lot of planning to do and it can be exhausting. So if you can afford to, you should consider hiring a planner. Plus a wedding planner is likely to be more creative than you. He or she can offer ideas you never would have thought of and help you get discounts from wedding vendors. And it will take a huge stress off you. Though a wedding planner doesn’t come cheap but often they are worth the money. See what wedding planners do and tips on hiring one.

Alternatively to reduce cost, you can find a wedding planner who does consultation for a fee. And you simply pay for a few hours consultation to sit with them and devise your wedding blueprint.

Where to have a honeymoon

My advice to all brides-to-be is that the best expense you can make for your wedding is one that involves growing your bond with your husband and creating memories because that will help your marriage now and in the future. And your marriage is much more important than your wedding. So don’t forget to make budget for your honeymoon! If you don’t know where to start, read the article on honeymoon ideas.

If you need help, ideas and or advice during your planning at anytime, I’m here to support you. Just send in your wedding questions.

Not Everything will go according to plan, and it’s okay

If you start planning early, budget well, make allowance for unforseen occurences, create a timeline and stay organized, then you’re sure of having a hitch free wedding.

Keep in mind though that regardless of how well you prepare and plan, not everything will go accordingly. And that’s okay. Every bride has at least one thing they wish they did differently for their wedding and or something that that went wrong. But as long as it’s nothing very important to the wedding itself then you’ll be fine. So don’t worry too much. See the article on wedding mistakes for some planning mistakes to avoid. And also read my pre-wedding advice for some handy wedding planning tips.

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