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You're Engaged -- Now What?

Whether you've posted a picture of the engagement ring on Facebook or Instagram, bought a ton of wedding planning books, or are just glowing from the joy of finding someone you want to spend the rest of you life with, you're on your way! But be prepared for some dizzying, unexpected things.
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Congratulations! That initial post-engagement stage is an exciting, intoxicating time that you should enjoy. Whether you've posted a picture of the engagement ring on Facebook or Instagram, updated your relationship status, bought a ton of wedding planning books, or are just glowing from the joy of finding someone you want to spend the rest of you life with, you're on your way! But be prepared for some dizzying, unexpected things. The holiday season is proposal time; approximately 18 percent of all proposals happen in December, according to a Brides magazine's American Wedding Study from 2011. Which means January tends to be a hazy month of thinking, wait... now what? By all means, take your time. But here is some advice those wedding books tend to overlook.

1. Enjoy all the congrats but deflect the endless questions. You'll be surprised by the flurry of questions that follow your engagement. When are you getting married? Where are you getting married? Are you going to have a big or small wedding? Who are your bridesmaids? What are your colors? What kind of dress do you want? You name it, you'll be asked it within seconds of telling someone about your engagement.

Seriously, it gets ridiculous. Of course, friends and family are excited and want to know what you're doing. But in the beginning, you don't know what you're doing -- and you won't for a while. That's okay. While you are still trying to wrap your head around using the word fiancée without sounding pretentious, family members, co-workers and random acquaintances feel free to barrage you with questions that can be overwhelming. Realistically, planning a wedding is exciting but can also feel like you have a demanding, part-time job on top of all of your other responsibilities. I know a lot of women absolutely loved planning their wedding, and there is a lot of enjoy. But it can be stressful. So, in the early days, deflect the questions with "We're still deciding," or "I'll let you know when I know," or "We're just enjoying the engagement right now" until you're both ready to start making plans.

2. While Pinterest is fun, figuring out a budget is better. Pinterest is invaluable for wedding planning. It will give you an endless supply of style ideas, looks, themes, DIY projects, etc. But remember, Pinterest isn't filled with average people taking great pictures on their iPhone (okay, a few). The majority of those pictures of "perfect" weddings are often as meticulously designed and created as the pages of Vogue. That simple centerpiece idea has been curated by a set designer, art director, stylist, florist and other wedding professionals to make it all look so simple and affordable. By all means, pin things all day long, but don't let it derail you from the reality of how expensive those ideas can be. Decide on your budget and keep Pinterest in perspective, and you'll have a healthier, more budget friendly approach to your wedding.

3. It will shock you how quickly venues (even the hipster, quirky, indie one) are booked. December is the biggest month for proposals. Therefore, venues start booking quickly come January. Trust me, you'll be shocked when you walk into a venue someone told you about was this great "new" location. There will be five other couples there, and when you ask about dates nine months away, most will be booked. The wedding industry could give the military industrial complex a run for its money when it comes to organized, interweaving relationships. Venues are pricier than you'd think. As more people look for alternative options for venues (old warehouses, barns, industrial lofts, renovated old buildings, old bank buildings, downtown lofts, libraries, museums, etc.), the wedding industry is on top of it. Choosing your venue will guide you in every other decision you make about your wedding (dress, amount of guests, food, decorations, etc.). It will be one of the biggest decisions you make (and a pricey one unless you know people who own such places). Once you have your budget, start searching for venues. Ask your married friends, your family, or your planner (if you're using one), go online and know you will find something perfect.

4. Decide when you want to get married, not when parents, planners or
venues tell you to get married.
Once you get engaged, friends and family will come out of the woodwork with their opinions on when and where you should get married. The summer months tend to be the busiest because of the weather and people's availability to travel. It has to be on a Saturday. You need at least a year to plan a wedding. All of these are common held myths. The reality is you can organize what you want, as quickly as you want. Getting married on a Friday or Sunday is usually dramatically cheaper (and there are more available dates). While everyone tells you it takes months and months to plan a wedding, realistically it's a party but one guest has the legal authority to marry people. You can organize this quickly or take all the time in the world. Either way, choose when and where that make the two of you happy, and everybody else will fall in line.

5. Get the big stuff out of the way, then have fun with dresses. While it's fun to ask your friends to be bridesmaids, go wedding dress shopping, or look at honeymoon destinations, it's the nuts and bolts of the wedding that is best to focus on first. Once you figure out how much you can spend, how much want to spend and make initial decisions based on that, it makes the smaller decisions much easier. If you're having a small wedding on a family's property, maybe eight bridesmaids are excessive. If you're having a beach wedding, maybe a ball gown isn't the best idea. Get the big decisions out of the way -- date, venue, budget -- so you can really enjoy the fun stuff. Go wedding dress shopping as a treat to having made the harder, less glamorous decisions.

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