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It’s engagement season! (Yes, that’s a thing, otherwise known as the holidays.) And it can be an overwhelming experience, what with all the family and friends asking you, 45 seconds into it, "When’s the date?!" Take a breath, take a beat and take a look at the five things you should actually do first (assuming you’ve already alerted the Facebook masses). 

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1. DECIDE ON A BALLPARK WEDDING SIZE

Sit down with your fiancé and talk about the family. Do you want all the aunts, uncles, cousins and kids at your ceremony and reception? Or would you prefer a small, intimate gathering (even though it may require some awkward conversations)? You don’t have to know every single name on the guest list just yet, but determining a general size (say, 50 people versus 250) will guide you through the next set of details.

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2. Come Up With a Loose Budget

Again, you don’t need to know every line item yet, but you do want to have an idea of what you’ll be working with in total. (Keep in mind that the reception venue rental and food usually take up half of that.) This step can also include the key discussion of "Should we hire a wedding planner?"

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3. Start Looking at Venues

Now the fun begins. You have an idea of size and money, so you can start applying those two factors to ceremony and reception sites. This will determine your exact date (based on what’s available), the size of your guest list (i.e., how many people will fit) and your actual budget(because now you can crunch real numbers).

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4. Book Your Photographer

Once your location and date are set, get to interviewing photographers. Depending on the area, these folks could be booked up to a year in advance, and you want to have as many stylistic options to choose from as possible. That being said, if you don’t land your first choice, we promise the next one on your list will still deliver you what you need.

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5. Start Dress Shopping

Finally! Right? Although this might seem like the most exciting part, it’s a crucial step you’ll want to be patient with. The venue will really determine the style of the wedding (like, if you need a grand train or a sleek sheath), and you’ll have a better idea of budget once you’ve locked in the site.

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What Can Wait

Pinterest boards of flowers and food and decor are swirling in your head. And as much as you want to daydream about cake tastings and escort cards, those are the smaller details that can happen over the next several months. Make sure you’ve first locked in the big categories that require calendar commitments (venue and photographer, namely) and processing time (your dress that may need up to a dozen fittings).

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