So, you just got engaged! Congrats! Your first emotion is elation... then it sinks in and you are overwhelmed with anxiety about the "how to" of planning your wedding day. This perfectly normal for any new bride to be. Let us help you with a little advice of how to get through the process. 

First thing...setting a date. This depends on many factors. What's more important? The venue or an actual calendar day that is sentimental to you and the future hubby? Many brides have a date already planned and are more than happy to search for a venue that can accommodate them on that day. Some brides are more intent on a physical location that they have dreamed of having their nuptials at. Decide what's most important to you because a lot of times you will have to choose on or the other, as venues sometimes book out in peak seasons a few years in advance. If you get both the date and venue, you can now proceed with your happy dance. 

Next, we need to be looking for a dress. Now that we know our date and venue, we can choose a dress that is fitting for the wedding location and can be ordered in ample time. Obviously if you already bought a heavy ballgown fit for a castle, but then ended up on a beach in August there may be some buyer's remorse. Also, if you have a tighter wedding date that's fast approaching it could be an issue with dress delivery. Most designers will need at least 20 weeks to custom make your gown, but there are always situations where things can be done in less time. Unfortunately, this is an expensive option. Rush fees can run up to $500.00 depending on the designer and how extreme the time crunch is. So, let's talk about booking that bridal appointment.

Here at TSM, we recommend ordering you dress at least a year in advance. This gives ample time for the dress to be hand made and delivered, as well as time for a seamstress to do any work you made need for the gown to fit perfectly. Of course, we can work with shorter dates, but that may leave fewer options for you. We have been known to get gowns in a matter of weeks... but again,you may be settling for a gown that wasn't your first choice. It's also more expensive for rush fees.  When booking your appointment, keep in mind that during peak season appointments book quickly. There may be a 2-4 weeks wait if you are wanting a coveted Saturday appointment. You don't want to plan to shop on the following Saturday, just to call that week and hear that the next appointment available is over month down the road. If you are running on a time crunch or have a flexible weekday schedule...then book a weekday appointment! They are never as busy as on Saturdays and you will likely have much more time with your consultant. 

Now we can move on to the smaller details. The biggest part of the rest of your wedding is retaining the vendors you want. If you are in love with a photographers work and have to have them, you need to call and place a retaining fee to secure your date. Same with your catering, baker, florist, hair and makeup stylist. The more popular a vendor is, the more quickly they book up. After retaining the date, you can meet with them to sit down and discuss what you've envisioned at everyone's convenience. 

Moving on the wedding party. It's a common misconception that stores have an array of bridesmaid gowns that can be bought and taken the same day. Not at all. Stores will have samples in different materials, colors, and sizes for girls to try on. After it's decided what each maid is wearing, the dresses are then custom cut in the desired colors and sizes. This needs to be done no later than 6 months out, preferably sooner! Most brides stress that all the maids can't come on the same day. Please don't! It's actually very lucky when an entire party can all make it the same day. Pick a day that most can come. Then after the bride has decided on her color scheme and gown choice, each girl needs to be measured. Many maids from out of town will call in measurements and pay by phone to avoid travel. For the boys, same rules apply. A tuxedo can be ordered in a matter of days, however if your wedding falls around prom season, many companies will not have popular styles available. They book each tuxedo as first come, first serve. If you want a popular style, you'll need to get your order in before the proms start to ensure everyone has the same tuxedo style.

So with any luck, you should have all orders placed and all vendors retained at 6 months before the wedding. This is the time you should be enjoying the excitement of the upcoming day, instead of stressing over last minute details. Engagement pictures and parties, dress and tux fittings should be relaxed and memorable. Of course, please remember that no wedding goes off without a hitch. If you don't have some small upset, you wouldn't have anything to reminiscence and laugh about for the rest of your life. And I promise, it's not the end of the world and when it's over, you will laugh about it and about how you had a bridezilla moment. If you can't stomach the thought of small hitches, hire a wedding planner that will handle everything for you. They are usually experienced enough that they can correct any problems without even worrying you.

I hope this has been helpful to the newly engaged brides. Happy planning to you all!

Lacy Dixon, owner The Steel Magnolia