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My Top Five Tips for Newly Engaged Girls

Weddings

Y’all, my little sister is engaged!!!! You may know of Dana from the comments section because she comments on every single post around here :) I have been praying for her future husband for a few years now and could not be more thrilled that she and Ian found each other (a few weeks after Dana told me she “really didn’t even want a boyfriend right now.” Famous last words!). My tiny contribution to the proposal was helping Ian to rope in Dana’s dream wedding photographer, Jen Dillender, to photograph the big moment. All the pictures below are by her, and I already can’t WAIT to see Dana and Ian’s wedding day through her lens!

I’m asked for advice about weddings pretty often, which is something I love, because even after almost four years of working at a wedding magazine (and two years of wedding blogging before that), plus my own wedding over two and a half years ago, there are few things in the world that make me happier. With my newly engaged sister in mind, I wanted to share my TOP five tips for newly engaged girls today–I could have gone on and on, but these are the five I would consider the most important!

1. Choose your priorities early on (and make sure preparing for marriage is one of them). No matter how long your engagement is, you simply cannot make every single item on your wedding to-do list a top priority. Put marriage prep at the tippy top, and then choose a few more categories that you and your fiancé care about most to pour your time and attention into throughout your engagement…and then don’t feel guilty about spending time on those things. The month before our wedding, if I heard “just take a break and go on a date with no wedding talk allowed” one more time, I was going to cry–it made me feel so guilty for caring about finishing our seating chart! In retrospect, seating our guests thoughtfully was a way we expressed hospitality to them, which WAS a priority, so I really didn’t need to apologize for caring about it!

2. Buy Southern Weddings’ Joyful Wedding Planner. I admit, I’m biased because I co-wrote this planner a few years ago, but I also think that means I can say with all my confidence that I believe it is the best wedding planning binder/book on the market. It’s beautiful, practical, and honest, and includes ALL the information the Southern Weddings team thinks brides need to know. I send one to literally every one of my friends when they get engaged, and it was ready and waiting for Dana under the Christmas tree :)

That’s me on FaceTime! :)

3. Use wedding blogs (and wedding photographers’ blogs) as a resource to find vendors. Wedding blogs are awesome for inspiration, but do you know what they’re even better for? Finding your team! I must have looked at every North Carolina wedding that’s ever been featured on Southern Weddings, Style Me Pretty, and Nancy Ray’s blog when I was looking for a venue, hair and makeup artist, and florist in particular.

4. My friend Emily is a wedding budgeting genius, and this tidbit is one she says often: remember, you can have a wedding on any budget, but you can’t have ANY wedding on ANY budget. Regardless of what your budget is, your wedding will be beautiful and meaningful because you and your fiancé are getting married. Everything else (no matter how much “everything else” there is) is a fun and exciting extra! One bonus tip: the MOST effective way to cut your budget is to cut your guest count (because that cuts your catering cost, cake size, number of centerpieces, number of rentals…the list goes on).

5. Invest in your photographer. Yes, amazing photographers are expensive…but there is NOTHING about your wedding you’ll be more grateful you invested in. I promise. You’re not just paying for someone to snap photos of your wedding. A great photographer will be with you for the entire day (so make sure you like them as a person!), ensure your day is running on schedule, and will capture more than just what the day looks like, but what it feels like. There is a big difference! Hiring Ryan Ray for our wedding was our biggest splurge, but Dave and I (and our families) have said time and time again, even two and a half years later, that we are still so grateful for him and the photos he took of our day.

Congratulations again, Dana and Ian!! She has already volunteered to let me share some of the adventures and memories that come with planning her wedding over the next year and a half, so stay tuned for that! :)

And to my married readers, what is your best piece of advice for a newly engaged couple? Share it with Dana in the comments below!

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  1. Em says:

    I’m so happy for Dana!!! YAY!!!! I obviously agree with all of this advice, and give a big second to the photographer piece. One other thing I’d add is that having video footage of your day is also priceless and another thing you can never “pay for later” or redo. If a professional videographer is not in the budget (and I completely understand that it is not for everyone), buy, rent, or borrow a few Go Pro cameras or other excellent videocameras and assign a few responsible friends or cousins to film throughout the day. Even if you just piece those amateur clips together later, you will be so glad you did.

    • Dana says:

      Thank you! Slowly getting Ian on board with a videographer. Bawling my eyes out a Lisa’s wedding video apparently was not enough haha

  2. This is so great! Congrats! Welcome to the craziest (but most exciting!!) time of your life Dana!!

  3. Sadie Lewis says:

    How exciting!!! I love this post and passed it along to a newly engaged friend as well. Two other special pieces of advice that were shared with me were 1) Take a moment during your reception to step back with your new husband and soak it all in. That moment of watching all of our loved ones in one place celebrating us and our love is a truly special memory to me. And 2) We had a long engagement which was in most ways wonderful, but there were also so many times when I wished we were just married already. :) But, thinking about how special that season of preparation was and how it was the only times in our lives we’d experience it made me stop to savor it more. Best wishes to your sister!

  4. mary wilmot says:

    Yay! Congratulations to Dana and Ian! Having a wedding to look forward to is so fun. And I agree-prioritize marriage preparation first. That and getting used to praying together each day!

  5. Dana says:

    Thanks everyone!!!! We’re so thankful for your love!
    Also, so pumped to be featured on Something Pretty!

  6. Tricia says:

    Pick three priority vendors – ours were food, photography, flowers – and save on other things so you can splurge a little. That said, we decided not to do a video and it’s my only regret from my wedding. I was so nervous, I don’t really remember the ceremony very much. So if you can find a way to make that work, I really recommend it. Congratulations!

  7. Kristen says:

    Yay!!

  8. Ana Y says:

    That’s so exciting! Congrats Dana!!

  9. Caroline says:

    Yay! Going off your first tip, pick a few words that capture how you want your wedding to feel to set the tone for all the planning. I still have a note on my phone that just says “Classy, relaxed, fun/creative, Gospel-centered, personal, joyful” …makes me smile now, because I think we made that happen! (Even on a very small budget!)

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