Deck the halls with boughs of holly, ‘tis the season to be…engaged. Did you know one-third of couples get engaged between November and February each year, with December as the leading proposal month?

With new brides-to-be building by the day, we know two things are certain: this season the bubbly is flowing like the Chattahoochee and eyeballs are glued to newly acquired finger bling. We get it. We’ve totally been there. Can’t stop smiling, ‘cause life is just peachy…until the stress of planning starts to kick in.

Stumped on where to start? Still dazed from the big proposal? We’re here to help. Of course you’ll have the fine details of cakes, dresses, décor and more, but here are five #protips to help you prioritize the kick off the planning process.

Set a budget

First and foremost, you should sit down and come up with a budget. Who is contributing and how can they contribute? We all know weddings ain’t cheap, so go ahead and start saving now. Open an account and accumulate funds there. Once you get an idea of your total budget, you will have a better idea of where to start your planning.

You can also make your money work for you. Make bigger purchases through a credit card that offers rewards (airline miles, cash back, points). You’re bound to spend some Benjamins and why not get something back for it? Just make sure to pay it off to not get stuck with interest.

Pick a date

Don’t worry, you can keep this vague, but be prepared, it will be the first question out of everyone’s mouth, so figuring this out will make things easier on you two. Even something along the lines of “next fall,” “early 2017,” or “we want a winter wedding” will be enough to give folks an idea. They’ll appreciate the insider info to mentally make note, and of course it’s a target date for you to work backwards from.

If you already know your date, try to have a couple back-ups just in case. Keep holidays, sports schedules, and seasons in mind.

Define your wedding style

Not only is it important to know a vision of what you want in your wedding, it’s also important to know what you don’t. There are so many styles out there: modern, eclectic, vintage, farmhouse, coastal, etc. Pick up some bridal mags, make Pinterest your homepage browser, attend other weddings, watch TLC. Do whatever you do to get in the zone. Gather the vibe of how you want your special day to feel – both “must haves” and “don’t even think about its”.

Get ready for the guest list

Having a guest list early is crucial. The more folks you have, naturally the more you’ll need to spend. Before you even start with a number of how many folks you *think* you want, go ahead and ask your families for their lists, just so you have an idea of who they’d like to invite (if you’re into that of course). Ask them to prioritize their wish list. They add up fast and that will make it easier for cuts if you need to. Mold those lists together, then it’s time to add your guests, edit and revise.

Pick a planner and/or coordinator

Whether you choose to go with a planning company, an app, or even go old-school with a paper planner, just go ahead and start your timeline for major tasks. Of course we advocate for picking a personal wedding planner to help make your life easier, reduce stress and save time. We’ve got insider knowledge, negotiating skills, connections, expertise in what we’ve seen work well, and crash in flames – and we have your back! We’re also going to ensure your day runs smoother than a Kardashian divorce. That said, it’s important to pick a planner that you feel a connection with and who completely sees your vision, so we suggest setting up meetings in person where you can.

From coordinating interviews with vendors (think cake tastings, catering negotiations, photographer Q&As, etc.) and narrowing a list of venues, to insider recommendations and serving as your communication liaison, we’re here to help you along the way. As crazy as it sounds, it’s our world and we love every minute of making your vision come to life.

Parting words

Of course there are loads of nitty-gritty details after this planning ball gets rolling, but hopefully this helps you wrap your head around getting off to a good start. Weddings take shape over time. In the meantime, remember what brought you here to begin with. Don’t forget to take time for just the two of you and stay connected on things that aren’t wedding related, too. Happy planning, folks!

Nicole Griffin