I’m Engaged, Now What? 8 Simple Steps to Start Your Wedding Journey

I’m Engaged, Now What? 8 Simple Steps to Start Your Wedding Journey

By: Anastasia Marie of Anastasia Marie Wedding and Lifestyle PR

Congratulations, you’re beginning a journey with your best friend! You’ve told your family and friends, have taken a bunch of celebratory selfies and have shamelessly admired your sparkler in the mirror more times than you can count. But now what? When the engagement rush is over, here are the first 8 steps in planning for the perfect wedding day.

wedding planning

Step One: Plan a Date With Your Partner

You may have talked about getting married before, but it’s likely that you didn’t spend time getting into all of the details surrounding the big day. Do you know what your partner likes and doesn’t like when it comes to the number of guests, location, colours and themes of your wedding? Sitting down with your partner will help you both come to terms with what it is you both want from your special day. Remember to write everything down; you will need this information throughout your wedding planning journey.

Step Two: Set A Date (But Be Flexible)

The next step in realizing your wedding dream is settling on a date. Perhaps it’s your anniversary date, or the birthday of a cherished loved one. Then again, perhaps it’s the only date you have off of work. Whatever your circumstances are, deciding on a date is crucial. Not only is this step a reminder that your wedding is actually going to happen (yay!), but it will also allow you to determine what kind of wedding you will have. Do you want your wedding to be outdoors in the sunshine? Better not book your wedding for April when showers are possible. Do you want your wedding to fall on a long weekend so that your family and friends can make a getaway of it? Perhaps you want to choose a date when a tropical destination flight is at its cheapest.  Choosing your date will help you determine all of the little details.

Your date will also determine the availability of your vendors. After all, you may want your favourite cupcakes to be featured at your wedding, but the store may be booked on your big day. Settling on a date makes booking your vendors a lot easier, especially when it comes time to book them. But be wary, however, of setting the date in stone. As a rule, have two dates in mind, that way, should a vendor be unavailable or a venue go bankrupt, you won’t have to worry about your own availability.

Step Three: Set a Timeline

A year is tons of time, right? Wrong! When I got married, I budgeted a year and a half to planning. I figured, since I was still in school, I would need the extra time to get everything organized. What a mistake! After seeing a wedding venue go bankrupt and having a DJ and a photographer fall by the wayside, I learned my lesson: a year and a half, in wedding time, is not much time. In fact, a year of planning for a wedding flies by much faster than you can ever imagine.

With parties, vendor appointments and meetings, your year will be booked solid. That’s why it is so important to decide on a timeline as soon as possible. Decide what types of wedding related business you need to accomplish each month and stick to it. There are lots of books with built-in timelines available at your local bookstore that can help you with this. Then, solicit help, because let’s face it, you’re going to need it!

Step Four: Set a Budget

Weddings are expensive and are full of hidden costs. It’s important to settle on a budget with your partner right away in order to make sure that your finances are manageable and financial stress is kept to a minimum. My rule of thumb? Decide on a budget that is comfortable for you and then add $5000. This extra cash will allow you to budget for any surprise costs that you may not have considered before.  When you find out that the dress you ordered no longer fits and you have to make a last-minute trip to the seamstress, you will be happy that you budgeted for emergencies.

Step Five: Decide Upon Your Wedding Party

Wedding parties come in all shapes and sizes but one thing remains true to all of them: they all consist of the closest family and friends of the bride and groom. Choosing your wedding party is pretty simple. When you are deciding who will be in your wedding party, make sure that you choose individuals who are important to you and whom you know will be in your life for years to come. After you have chosen your party, it’s time to ask them. Make sure they are available and willing.  Chances are, they will be jumping at the chance to be featured in your wedding.

Step Six: Choose Your Guest List

Let’s get real here, weddings are about families. Often this means that your parents have already thought of exactly who they want to invite to your wedding (and they may or may not want to budge on this decision). First, decide on the number of guests you would like to invite. Then make a date with your parents to discuss VIPs and those that can be cut from the list. Stick to your guns and be ruthless. You may love your fourth cousin whom you haven’t seen in fifteen years, but does he really warrant a $150 plate?

Step Seven: Choose a Wedding Planner

No matter how small, weddings can be a huge orchestration. From booking venues to booking vendors, while dealing with financial and family stress, weddings can take a toll on the best of us. That’s why hiring a wedding planner is essential. Reputable wedding planners will provide a myriad of options to suit your budget and to best reflect where you are in the planning process. So, whether you are looking for a wedding planner to orchestrate your wedding from beginning to end, or if you are just looking for “day-of” management, you will be able to find a planner who suites your unique needs.

More than just a wedding organizer, a wedding planner can help you choose a wedding theme, settle on the best vendors to suit your unique style and be a shoulder to cry on when things get stressful. When selecting a wedding planner, make sure to choose someone whose personality you enjoy. You will be working very closely with this person until the big day.

Step Eight: Chill Out!

No matter how you slice it, weddings are stressful. With so many decisions to make, financial stress and the crunch of tight timelines, weddings can take their toll on relationships. In fact,  it can be difficult to remember why you decided to get married in the first place.

Take some time to chill out. Read a book. Go for a run. Watch a good movie. Talk to your partner. Take a step back and see your wedding planning as the amazing journey that it is. Because no matter how beautiful or how neatly planned your wedding day is, it is just the first day of a lifetime filled with happy days spent with the one you love. Happy planning!

Wedding Day Beauty Prep

5 steps to your most beautiful bridal self

Two words: wedding photos. As well as the romance and laughter of your special day, photographs will capture your glowing happiness, too. So six months before the wedding, Beauty expert Janine Falcon shares how to get started on the following five steps to your best hair, skin and smile.

1) Get hair into shape. Save dry, damaged and brittle hair with a regimen of reparative shampoo, conditioner and hair masks, starting now. Try weekly treatments with coconut oil, which hair absorbs easily for improved shine and resilience.

2) Take skincare seriously. Breakout issues? See a dermatologist for specialized help. Or maybe a nutritionist or naturopath can assist — what you eat shows up on your face, especially if you have certain food sensitivities, such as dairy or gluten.

Makeup glides flawlessly onto skin that has recently had a good facial. Book one ASAP to see how your skin likes it; if skin says yes! book another for a week before your wedding.

3) Lash out. Grow a thicker fringe in time for “I Do” with a lash-enhancing prescription such as Latisse (latisse.ca), which has proven dramatic results. Or stock up on fluttery lash clusters such as Quo Indivdual Lashes #811 ($7.50 at Shoppers Drug Mart) for your wedding day.

4) Whiten your smile. Whiter teeth=brighter complexion. Ask your dentist about Zoom! WhiteSpeed (price varies, select dental offices), a treatment proven to whiten up to eight shades in 45 minutes. Or try an at-home professional whitening formula such as Zoom! DayWhite or Zoom! NiteWhite (price varies, select dental offices), which offer custom-fit trays and sensitive-teeth options. For instant touch-ups, slip a Zoom! Whitening Pen (price varies, select dental offices) into your wedding-day beauty kit.

5) Choose the right lip colour. Blue-based hues, such as Yves Saint Laurent Volupté Sheer Candy Glossy Balm in 04 Succulent Pomegranate ($39, sephora.ca), will make teeth look even whiter and brighter.

Now smile and say “happily ever after!”


A Free eBook for Your Dream Wedding Ceremony

By Rev. Alan Viau

See how you can get a Free eBook on planning your dream wedding ceremony. As part of marking 1o years of celebrating love in the capital, I am offering a giveaway of 10 of my eBooks, “From the Heart, Wedding Ceremonies that Work!”

I starting writing my blog for on-location wedding ceremonies in January 2010, six years after starting hitching up couples. A little while ago, I released a book and eBook that compiled all my advice on planning a successful on-location indoor or outdoor wedding ceremony.

Wedding at Restaurant 18

You’ll get lots of tips and advice in my eBook. But essentially, it comes down to three main things.

Have a Dream and Plan the Dream.

It used to be that you needed to conform to your religious institution’s demands for your wedding. When I was married 33 years ago, Sweetheart and I only had the choice of a few Bible readings.

Now you can have your dream wedding ceremony. It takes planning and careful execution. This eBook gives you tips on things you never thought of.

Plan It Together

Often I’ve heard the groom say, “Whatever she wants…” The most successful weddings have been those where both the bride and groom are intimately involved. It is a team effort to have the wedding of your dreams. You balance each other and stand together in the face of family pressures.

This is YOUR wedding. Focus on your love for each other and how this wedding is an expression of your relationship – from your heart.

Stick to the Script

Your wedding ceremony will be the most stressful part of your day. This is because you probably haven’t planned a wedding ceremony before. It is all new to you. In contrast, you have had parties previously and a receptions is just an elaborate one.

This may be your first wedding and you need to give it your best. Once you’ve agreed to a plan, stick to it. Don’t second guess yourself the day of. I had a groom, Mark, who offered up his right hand for the ring instead of his left – as a joke. It back fired. The bride was so flustered that she called him Mike instead. Stick to the plan and all will go well.

Here’s how you get the eBook.

Send me a message briefly describing your dream wedding. The 10 best entries by February 14, 2014 will receive my eBook. I’ll post the stories for all to share as inspirations.

Wishing you all the best and many blessings.

Wedding at Restaurant 18

10 years of celebrating love in the Capital

By Rev. Alan Viau

This year marks 10 years of performing wedding ceremonies in our nation’s capital region. It has been a journey towards 1000 weddings and I’ve witnessed couples express their deepest love, highest hopes and searches for happiness. It has also been an adventure where every wedding was special and different. I’ve had to be nimble and quick sometimes and ad lib through unforeseen events.


Pink Floyd’s song Time quips, “And then one day you find ten years have got behind you”. It certainly feels that way – ten years of performing weddings has whizzed by. Unlike the song, I have enjoyed the journey; a journey that will bring me through 1000 weddings this year. In this post, I thought I’d share answers to some of the most common questions couples ask me.

How did you get into officiating weddings?

It started as a paid acting gig. I was doing a lot of stage theatre and someone mentioned that wedding officiating is good weekend work. When you think about it, weddings are a bit of a show. There is a script, stage, costumes, props, lighting, and sound – all elements of a stage production. So every wedding I do takes into consideration all of the production elements. But then I fell in love with doing weddings. Weddings are a positive affirmation of love, life, and community…and, wow, I contribute to that.

Can you tell if the couple will make it?

I never judge. Life will write the couple’s history. Challenges to a marriage will come – there is no doubt about that. It is up to them whether they can ride out the storms. When challenges occur, the couple must ask themselves if love still exists between them. If not, then they may decide to go their own ways. I am grateful that today, people can make these decisions, permitting them to find love again.

What is the weirdest wedding you’ve performed?

All weddings are special and unique. Each depends on the couple and their ideas and circumstances. I am there to help translate their dream into reality. One of my favorite quotes from Robert Fulghum is “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”

You must have some good stories?

Yes lots of stories – most of which I describe in my blog. I figured out that performing weddings was going to be an interesting ride. I had a wedding on the shores of Big Rideau Lake in my first year. The bride and her party were to arrive at the dock by house boat. The groom and I and 80 guests could see the house boat in the middle of the lake… drifting away because the engine died. They managed to wave down a passing outboard boat and convinced the owner to ferry them to shore. Imagine a small boat filled with bride and bridesmaids standing in gowns arriving at the dock. Someone threw me the rope to moor them. I realized then that performing weddings was going to be an adventure.


Charitable Weddings: A Wedding That Gives Back to the World

By Megan Emerson

Weddings are a time of joy, but they can also be a time of intense pressure. With the Canadian wedding industry topping $4 billion annually, the mantra of “more” and “bigger” has become commonplace. Some stressed-out brides- and grooms-to-be have committed to using their wedding to help make the world a better place. These are the couples that bring down their own stress levels by amping up their charity efforts.

Focus Outward

Two facts: Planning a wedding is stressful, and how we deal with stress is personal. Focusing outward when worry begins to take its toll takes your mind off your own troubles. By placing your focus on helping others, you shift your mind’s focus from your own anxiety. This little shift in perspective can ease much of the premarital stress. Look at the world as a whole, and suddenly the color of your cake-topper does not seem so important.

Photo by fhwrdh via Flickr

Make It Your Theme

If you really believe in your cause and want to do a charity-focused wedding, then make it your overall theme. The Knot features dozens of themed wedding ideas ranging from traditional to offbeat. You can have a traditional wedding with a charitable wraparound by incorporating benevolent giving into your bridal shower and registry using the I Do Foundation. They make it easy for guests to give to a charity in your name.

Pick your charity and build your theme around it. For example, the African elephant is listed as vulnerable by the AWF wildlife conservation. If saving wildlife is your thing, then do an elephant-themed wedding and promote donations to the AWF. YouTube features a beautiful wedding video with an elephant theme. It is inspired by Indian weddings and is elegant and unique. Check out the clip below:


A heart-themed wedding works well for the Canadian Red Cross, and pink ribbons are beautiful representations of breast cancer awareness.

Envision a Better World

A charitable wedding does not need to solve all world’s problems. The goal is to integrate the couple’s dedication to a particular cause into the joy of the ceremony and reception. Consider asking your guests to join you in envisioning a world of peace, and then remind them that there are donation cards available. This is a time to introduce yourselves as advocates and leaders.

Photo by Skakerman via Flickr

Remember that this is your wedding, and the people attending have been chosen by you to help you celebrate your love. You can encourage them to do something good for the world. After all, in a little while you will have them doing the chicken dance. The most important part of a charitable wedding is that you make it your own. Make it a memory that, like your love, will last forever.

Megan Emerson

A New Jersey native, Megan got a degree in English literature, then married a military man and had three kids. She holds down the fort at home and blogs for fun.

My Favorite Wedding Dresses of 2013

By Rev. Alan Viau

As with many other people, the end of the year is a time of reflection on what was 2013. There were four wedding dresses worn by brides for whom I performed weddings that stood out in my mind. Each was a superb choice for the woman who wore them.

Disney Princess: Her dream was to be a Disney Princess. Stunning as she walked down the aisle, it even took my breath away. Yes, she married Prince Charming.


Naturally Her : The dress fit her unique personality – a yoga teacher who loves nature – flowers all around.


Perfect Fit: A dress that fit her perfectly and extremely romantic. Her groom was in joyful tears seeing her walk down the aisle in this McCaffrey Haute Couture dress.


Just Her: It can be a daunting challenge to find a wedding dress for your second marriage. This bride was gorgeous in her choice of gown. Elegant and beautiful.


I am looking forward to what 2014 will bring.

How To: Select A Wedding Date

Contributed by:Kennedy Event Planning

‘Tis the season for romantic holiday engagements! Over 25% of dating couples get engaged during the holiday season that spans between Thanksgiving through New Years, making it the most romantic time of the bridal season!

Once all the tinsel and wrapping paper settles, newly engaged couples will be faced with a number of decisions to be made leading up to the big day. One of the first major decision is picking the wedding date. Selecting the date is a huge commitment and will set the timeline for the rest of your engagement; we suggest considering the following when picking the big day:

Time of year – You will want to consider the time of year for various reasons. Weather is a big factor for some, particularly when selecting a date during the unpredictable weather seasons like the Spring and Fall. Season-based professions should also be considered, for example school teachers, or if your profession may have any kind of schedule restrictions. Also consider the seasons that you and your fiance love the most and find inspiration from. Ask yourselves, are you a Winter ski bunny? Do you dream of being married under the Spring cherry blossoms? Do you love the sea and dream of a Summer beach party? Or are your inspired by the harvest flavours of the Fall?

Meaningful dates – Weddings are full of sentimental feelings and are very personal affairs. A great way to add more special meaning to your wedding is to select a date that holds particular significance. Review your calendar for meaningful dates as inspiration, including: dating anniversaries, birthdays, parents’ anniversaries, graduations, and holidays. Cultural influences may also impact your wedding date; some dates may be more auspicious than others and religious calendars and traditions should be taking into consideration.

Length of your engagement – The amount of time that you wish, or don’t wish, to be engaged should play a considerable part in choosing your wedding date. Some brides dream of long engagements full of pomp and circumstance while others shy away from it and look forward to a shorter engagement. The length of your engagement will also be influenced by the time of year you wish to have your wedding.

Availability – Once you and your fiance have evaluated and narrowed your potential wedding date, make sure to leave yourself some flexibility. The fate of your wedding date hangs in the balance of the availability of your preferred ceremony and reception venues. To avoid disappointment, prepare yourself with a range of dates while conducting your venue search; allowing yourself to choose the venue that you like best. If you’re set on a specific date, your venue selections may be more limited if you are planning a shorter engagement, a longer engagement will provide you with more options and flexibility. It is important to also remember that if you wish to work with a specific photographer or vendor, you may have to work within their availability as well.

Other things to consider – It is smart to think about your colour palette for your wedding and how it could coincide with a specific season. It helps to know what style of wedding you wish to have, particularly when selecting venues. Seasonal elements, such as exotic food and florals, should also be considered as they may only be available certain times of the year.

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting your wedding date. However, the most important things is to choose the date that feels right to you and your fiance. Remember, it is the date that you’ll remember for the rest of your lives!

*Images courtesy of Fotopastele, “Milda & Zilvinas” Vilnius, Lithuania.

Lisa and Colin: Up, Up and Away

By Rev. Alan Viau
Photography: Studio Art Maria

For anyone in the audience Lisa and Colin’s wedding seemed like a pretty standard affair. Except for the ending.

I tell my wedding couples that a wedding ceremony needs to be one that is easily recognized as such by your guests. A ceremony needs to feel like it reaches into the traditions of our past. Yet, I also encourage them to personalize it so that it suits their personalities and life-style.

So it was with Lisa and Colin. Their ceremony started like many others with Colin and I waiting for Lisa to start her way down the aisle.


She came down looking radiant with Dad and Mom. And the service was underway.



They exchanged personal vows with each other.


And of course the kiss!


However, at this point, rather than end the ceremony, I invited everyone outdoors.


At this point, Lisa and Colin took their vows and placed them in an envelope. In a message in the bottle theme, they attached the envelope to helium filled balloons. They released their love, sharing it with the world.


A neat idea to gift your love to the universe.


The Winter Wedding

There are a lot of possibilities for a winter wedding, maybe even one with a Christmas theme.  Let’s go back to that country lane that I asked you to envision in my piece on rustic, fall weddings.  This time, picture a soft blanket of snow; trees with bare branches and some evergreen trees, covered with snow; and some bushes with red berries, peeking out from under the snow.

If we are going with a Christmas theme, I think of red, white and green. Big and bold: a bright red and deep green, no pastels. It’s winter and I’m talking about parts of North America that are covered with ice and snow, icicles hanging from roofs.  Now that I’ve given you the weather report, let’s talk wedding flowers.

Imagine the bride carrying a bouquet of deep red roses, some red or green Hypericum Berries on a bed of holly. The attendants wearing red or green dresses, carrying bouquets of white roses with red Hypericum Berries on a bed of holly.

For the ceremony

Consider high arrangements on pedestals consisting of Eucalyptus, trailing from white hydrangea and red carnations, silver or glitter branches, with red Hypericum Berries in a white or silver container. You could have a grouping of red Poinsettias at the bottom of the pedestals, because Poinsettias look best when they are low and seen from the top.

For the reception

Make the reception look like a winter wonderland by putting the centrepieces on high, clear glass cylinders. Just remember – if it’s a tall vase it should have some weight, and that’s why I don’t suggest clear plastic vases. They are too light and will fall over easily.

Inside the cylinders could be silver branches or some Eucalyptus. On the top of them, some white Hydrangea and berries, branches and Eucalyptus, and hanging from the Eucalyptus, glass or plastic icicles. When using icicles, I use a lot so they can be seen immediately.  Now picture this look as you enter the room.

The Perfect Winter Wedding

If it’s to be a strictly winter wedding, just leave out the holly and the Poinsettias. You can still use the silver or glitter branches because snow does glitter in the sun.

You might also consider a black and white wedding — a lot of brides are into that now.  Since black and white are not colours, you might think any colours will go, and you’re right. But for a winter wedding, also consider this: all red or all white roses (depending if the bride is in antique white or pure white).

Roses are great for winter weddings because they like it very cold.  For the ceremony and reception you can use the winter wedding theme. Just leave out the red for the all white wedding… or, how dramatic would an all-red theme look?

Keep it simple, stick to the theme. It has much more impact.

“Says Bunches Bob”



Good & Bad Behavior: Wedding Etiquette For The Bridal Party

By Tammy Winslow

Not only is a wedding a celebration of two people’s love for one another, a wedding can also be a reunion — a ridiculous reunion of old college friends and long-distance family members who come together to, well, party. Every bride and groom wants their guests to have a good time, but what constitutes a good time can be subjective. And in other words, what constitutes an appropriate time, can also be subjective.

Sure, this wedding is an event for dressing up, indulging in good food, drinking champagne and dancing. But it’s not spring break. This is a party with grandmas and aunts — not drunk college girls in bikinis with beads around their neck. Ladies, also remember that you don’t want to be known as the two drunken bridesmaids who passed out in the bathroom with your dresses over your heads. Approach the event with grace and poise so you’re not desperately employing Reputation.com after you see embarrassing photos and videos of yourself scattered across social media. Avoid regretfully ruining your loved one’s wedding by following this etiquette guide of do’s and don’ts.

Do: Mingle

So you’re the one childhood friend who lives out of town and feeling like a bit of an outsider. The rest of the girls are laughing over college stories, and they all seem like long-lost soul sisters. Try to channel your social discomfort into positive energy and remember that you’re supporting your friend who’s getting married. Do you best to avoid being a recluse and make an effort to get along with everyone.

Don’t: Steal Focus

At minimum, you’ve got a rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception to attend. Though you may usually be the life of the party, this day is not about you. Let the bride shine in her designer duds and stick with a more sedate dress — something appropriate but not over-the-top. Have fun on the dance floor, but don’t be the one to break up the first dance to get the party started.

Do: Drink Moderately

Dear groomsman, please wait until you get that green light during the reception to hit the bar hard. That green light varies from wedding to wedding, but you shouldn’t be slurring your words before the sun sets. Even if shots were served during pictures post-ceremony or bottles were popped in the limo, do try to keep your composure on your way to the hall for cocktail hour. Make sure you’re still in the sober zone during important wedding moments like toasts, the first dance, and cutting the cake. You’ll know it’s time to stroll over to the bar when the DJ starts playing, for instance.

Don’t: Hook Up

The phrase “hooking up” is loosely defined, but in this context, hooking up includes anything related to heavily hitting on the too-young second cousin, dancing with a groomsman like you’re in a club in Mexico, or making out with a bridesmaid in the lobby outside the restrooms. Yes, a wedding may just be the romantic event that brings two soulmates together, and if you’re a single girl who meets a nice guy, then sure, go for it. Just remember that table in the corner topped with wedding gifts isn’t a mechanical bull. That cake and dessert table isn’t a pole. This is a wedding. Not a bar or strip club.

As a wedding rule of thumb, don’t make up your own rules. If you know this is a crowd to let loose with, then okay, take advantage of the bar and break it down on the dance floor. If it’s a more intimate, outdoor ceremony, don’t go wild or insist on doing the Harlem Shake. Most importantly, let the bride and groom shine by not stealing the spotlight with unruly or eyebrow-raising behavior.

Cover photo from Flickr user reegmo.

Tammy Winslow is a mom and freelance writer happily living in Phoenix.