Top 10 Wedding To Dos Before Saying ‘I Do’

1. Get on the same page.

Now that you are engaged, you and your partner will be embarking on a journey that will culminate in a public ritual built around the two of you exchanging vows to last a lifetime. Eliminate unpleasant surprises by taking a little time on the early side of your planning to talk about what each of you has in mind for your special day.

2. Set a budget.

In the U.S., weddings cost $26,000-$30,000 on average, it’s critical to measure one’s finances against anticipated expenses. It’s possible to host a wedding for less and easier than you can imagine to host one for more! Before you begin, think about your finances and how much you and your partner can afford and whether or not you’ll be asking parents to chip in. Brides, you can invoke the “a bride’s parents pay for the wedding” traditional clause and see if you can increase your budget two-fold! Grooms, you’ll have to get creative with your folks or settle for parents fighting over who will get to host the rehearsal dinner instead of the wedding!

3. Build a guest list.

Develop two lists: a list of those who are “for certain” invites and a list of those you’d like to invite if budget and event accommodations allow. Now that you’ve got two possible numbers to work with, begin shopping around for event spaces and caterers to determine, roughly, how much your budget and event vision is affected – adversely or otherwise – by the size of your list.

4. Book your ceremony & reception site!

Don’t make the mistake of announcing your wedding date until you have a contract in hand for your ceremony and reception. You may find that you’ll need to pick a date based on the availability of your dream venue. And, don’t be surprised if you find that you are having to book a space nine months or more in advance of a date if you are picking a popular time of year or a popular venue.

5. Get organized.

Never underestimate the value of an effectively organized binder! You will be inundated with details from signed contracts to business cards and sample menus. Keep everything in one place so that you can refer back to it. And, most importantly, develop a timeline working back from your wedding date to determine the priority by which you’ll need to accomplish each planning task.

6. Become a wedding crasher.

We admit it. Some of our best ideas have come from going to other people’s weddings! Make sure you attend a wedding or two — straight or gay — while you are planning, and consider the content of the ceremony, the flow of the event, the song list played by the band or DJ, etc. If a concept works for you, don’t be afraid to integrate it into a format that works for you! Remember: imitation, when done properly, can be the sincerest form of flattery.

7. Reach out to other brides & grooms.

There is no place like the Wedding Vortex (defined as a state of preoccupation and vexation induced by wedding planning), and the best company for someone in The Vortex is someone else who is currently there or has just recently emerged. You can swap information and ask questions with fellow Vortex travelers in the Gay Weddings Forum or enjoy a long dinner with friends who can share stories with you about gay wedding planning and the ensuing drama.

8. Design a day that reflects YOU.

Though you can find many established wedding traditions already on the books thanks to the heterosexual couples who have gone before us, remember that you have the freedom to design a ceremony which best reflects you and your partner. Borrow from the traditional rituals that have significance for you. Add elements that speak to you and your community. Above all: be yourself and be present and the rest will follow.

9. Take another look at your budget.

Now that you’ve booked your photographer, a great venue, a caterer, and chosen fabulous invitations from the GayWeddings.com boutique, assess your progress. Can you afford the Vera Wang gown? Is a videographer out of the question? What about those matching diamond encrusted platinum weddings bands? This is a great time to take a look at how well you’ve stuck to your budget and how effective you’ve been with your fundraising, and then determine what adjustments you can afford to make in the home stretch. Aim to start your married life delirious with joy, rather than devastated by debt.

10. Take the last week off!

The best part of celebrating your union will be enjoying all of the love your family and friends will be heaping upon you. Find a professional consultant or bevy of good friends to do the last minute preparation for you so that you’ll be available to greet your public and be with your loved ones as any blushing bride or glowing groom deserves to be.

Copyright 2007, GayWeddings.com.

Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com