Happy New Year Everybody!

What’s my New Year’s resolution? I’m going to write more for my own blog. I’ve been so busy writing for The Huffington Post and BRIDES that I don’t often sit down and just write for my site anymore. And I miss that. And while I love being a contributor to those worthy sites, writing for myself is a lot more fun. I’m continuing to blog for Huff and BRIDES in 2017, but I’m also going to make a concerted effort to publish more original content (much of it focused on DIY brides and grooms). So make sure to bookmark my page and come back regularly. Also, don’t forget to check out my podcast “Wedding Reality Check with Sandy Malone.” I’m doing all sorts of useful interviews with vendors, in addition to giving my regular tips and advice, so it’s well worth following me on iTunes or iHeart radio.

You’re probably reading this blog because you got engaged between Thanksgiving and New Year’s – or you’re expecting a ring by Valentine’s Day. Right? Congratulations! It’s exciting, it’s new, and it’s a fun time. Enjoy the honeymoon. No, seriously. Take your time, have fun showing off your ring (and make sure you get regular manicures, for God’s sake), and don’t rush to lock in your wedding date right away.

There are five things that you shouldn’t do right away, after you get engaged. Rushing and making decisions too quickly can really screw up your planning and your budget. So avoid them.

  1. Don’t announce your wedding party and start assigning special roles for your wedding right away. When brides and grooms are first engaged, it’s easy to overdo it in our enthusiasm to get married. Before you know it, you’ve got five bridesmaids when you never intended to have a big wedding party. Instead, take your time and let everybody know that you’re planning an “intimate” wedding and are still figuring things out. That way nobody will be surprised – even if they’re a little disappointed – if you decide to only have a Maid of Honor and a Best Man, if that’s what your budget calls for.
  2. Don’t announce that you’re having a destination wedding until you’ve done all of your homework. It’s possible that you’ll find your first-choice destination isn’t in your budget, and would make a better honeymoon spot for the two of you. You may not realize that several VIP wedding guests won’t be able to travel (due to pregnancy, health problems, lack of vacation time, etc.) and have to change your gameplan. For example, if your grandma is elderly and doesn’t travel well, but you wouldn’t consider getting married without her, you’re not a good candidate for a destination wedding.
  3. Take your time researching wedding registry options BEFORE you start to register anywhere. It’s hard to get all those links to go away if you change your mind (so many registries cross-link with other sites and vendors). Make sure that the registry you choose suits your needs, taste, and style. If you’re doing a honeymoon or other non-traditional registry, check out the percentages they keep, and their policies about how you can use the money before you sign up. For stores, explore the discounts available for your registry items, free shipping options, and return policies. Because wedding guests have a year to send a gift, you need a registry that gives you at least a year to make returns for full value of the items.
  4. Couples who rush to lock in their wedding date and venue often end up regretting making a fast decision without researching all of their options. Unless you’re married (pun intended) to the idea of getting married at your family’s country club, or you’ve always dreamed of getting married at some specific landmark like Mount Vernon or Montpelier, you should do some research on the newest and hottest wedding venues in your area. Sometimes you’re just paying for the name and reputation of the venue, when you choose something that has been around for a long time. It’s worth exploring all of your options before you make a commitment.
  5. Have more than one wedding date option when you begin your wedding planning – and don’t tell anybody what it is until AFTER you’ve signed a contract with the wedding venue. Book your wedding planner first, as they’re the ones that will deal with finding venues available for that date that meet your specific criteria. If you’re DIY-ing your wedding, the venue is the first thing you should book. But in both cases, if you’ve found an awesome wedding planner or a venue that you really love, you’ll be in much better shape if you’re prepared with more than one wedding date option, should the planner or venue already be booked for your first choice. Keep the date to yourselves until you’re actually under contract with the venue, and then hit everybody with a Save the Date. If you start publicly floating dates, you risk having an overenthusiastic friend or relative book their travel before the date has been formally confirmed.

I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered a wedding couple who wished they had planned everything faster, but I’ve worked with a lot of brides and grooms who lost money by leaping before they looked. Everything is ultimately fixable, but sometimes they lose deposits in the process. And that’s not fun. If you don’t think you have enough time to thoroughly research your big wedding decisions, then you probably need to push back your wedding date a bit. The world won’t come to an end if you get married in July instead of May. But if you rush yourselves and your wedding party and your guests, you may not be very happy with the overall experience. Even with a wedding planner on retainer, brides and grooms have a lot of wedding homework to do.

Until next time, good luck and happy wedding planning!