One of my childhood best friends (and bridesmaid!) just got engaged last week, and I honestly had to stop myself more than once from texting her, “SO WHEN’S THE WEDDING!?!” When Justin and I got engaged, we were 1) in a foreign country with no cell phone service and very limited wifi, and 2) really kinda still in a “is this really happening?!” phase for a solid two weeks. I don’t think it was until I got home, three weeks after he proposed, that is really started to settle in… we were getting MARRIED! And now we had to start planning a wedding… gahhh!! I DID last over two weeks until I asked Justin anything wedding-related. We were in Europe to enjoy visiting our family and friends and celebrate my college graduation, so I really didn’t want to be stressing out over paying for a wedding, settling on a date together, or deciding that we weren’t going to be able to have one at all. As with everything in life, hindsight vision is 20/20 and now I know so much better than to stress over something like picking our wedding date! We didn’t have a date for almost four months after we got engaged, and I know now that that’s okay. Finally knowing our date honestly took PRAYER and counseling from trusted mentors!!! Seriously. When you’re young and both you and your significant other are still living with parents, getting married means so much more than just having a wedding. It means moving out, paying rent, getting off your parents’ insurance, etc. etc. and all other kinds of scary things for someone who has never lived away from home to think about. If I’m being honest, I’ve already had my fair share of “how are we going to survive on our own” moments with absolutely no logic or facts supporting that fear. Haha. We will be fine. But if you’re like me and getting married young and not moving in with each other until after the wedding… this whole picking a date thing can be pretty daunting!! On the other hand, I think these steps to choosing your wedding date can be applied to any and every couple trying to decide when to get married! Just know that one day, you’ll honestly barely be able to remember NOT having a date set in stone and you’ll have blocked the BC (before the countdown) years from your memory almost completely!! ;) I hope these steps are helpful! I wish I had them seven months ago!

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Step 1: Determine your budget. Honestly, I’m pretty sure this might be the absolute first step for everything wedding planning related, but it’s especially important for selecting your date. The season and the day of the week can greatly affect the cost of your venue rental fee, flowers, and really any other vendor that has seasonal pricing! If you’re on a lower budget, getting married in the “off season” (mid-November to late March in Virginia) can dramatically cut costs right off the bat. The day of the week your wedding falls on can also impact your costs. Having a Friday or Sunday wedding is becoming an increasingly popular trend for couples looking to save some money (or just forgo the tradition of the Saturday wedding). I have three Sunday wedding couples this year, and Justin and I are actually having a Sunday wedding ourselves! (We were lucky to be able to get a Sunday discount even on a holiday weekend, but this isn’t always the case.) After you determine your overall wedding budget, you can expect to spend close to 50% on reception related fees. What I found while venue shopping was that most venues had a food & beverage minimum that didn’t change with the season or day of the week, but the venue rental fee did. One thing is for sure: your venue rental cost will likely be one of the biggest expenditures during wedding planning, so budget your money and make your decisions accordingly!

Step 2: Choose several dates that you would both be happy with… then, if necessary, compromise. Justin and I had no problem figuring out our budget because we knew it pretty much had to be as low as we could keep it because that’s all we could afford until we both graduated college and started working full-time. We knew that we would either have to get married 2 years down the road or have a winter or Sunday wedding. Justin threw out a few dates that came to his mind and I did the same. And I guess this is where the magical world of compromise first comes in to play… because our dates were not at ALL near each other!! For a while, I felt like we were the only couple in the world that couldn’t decide on a date. After venue shopping, we got really excited and eventually ended up choosing a day that fell pretty much in the middle of both of the date ranges each of us would have liked. (Okay, it may have been like 2% closer to my ideal date. Haha.) What was really at the CORE of it all was WHY our ideal dates were what they were. Once we figured out our reasons behind choosing those dates, it helped us figure out a date that could still serve those reasons. For example… Justin preferred to work full-time for a little while before we got married. Totally understandable, smart, and justifiable. I wanted to do so as well, but didn’t want that time of living at home to end up being two years long because he graduates college a year after me. So, the date we chose ended up giving me a year and a half of working/living at home and Justin 6 months of doing the same. We both generally got what we wanted in this respect, and I KNOW not everything in our marriage is going to be possible to satisfy us both… but it’s pretty awesome when it works out that way. #Compromise.

Step 3: Contact your favorite vendors ASAP. Your venue is likely to become unavailable the quickest of all your vendors, so once you decide on a general time frame for the wedding (narrowed down to a single month or a season), you should begin shopping for these two vendors right away: your VENUE and your PHOTOGRAPHER. Some photographers book two years in advance, and some venues do the same!! Generally speaking, one year out is probably still in the safe zone, but you may encounter the issue that your favorite date is already booked by the eager beaver bride who beat you to it. I contacted my dream wedding photographer almost right after Justin proposed because I knew how popular she is in our area and wanted to make sure she wasn’t all booked up before we had even decided on what YEAR to get married! Silly, I know, especially since I knew there was a .001% chance we’d be able to have her shoot our wedding, but hey – as a bride, you get to write whomever you want and dream a little!! ;) So as soon as you have even the most general idea of when you’d like to get married, hop on that venue and photographer search and contact away!!

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So if you’re a bride (or groom!) who’s frustrated with not being able to pick a day to get married at the drop of a hat… if you’re feeling like you’re the ONLY couple who can’t agree on when the BEST time is to have your wedding… if you find yourself praying that God will just make it clear which YEAR you should get married… you’re not alone!!! It doesn’t mean you’re not as good as the couples who decide what their wedding day is going to be before they even get engaged or that you aren’t going to have a happy marriage because the process of picking your wedding date has proven more difficult than you thought it’d be. I was there, too! And after 5 years and four months of NOT knowing when we’d be getting married, it suddenly became clear all at once and those many years of waiting and not knowing seemed to melt away into the background as we got deeper and deeper into wedding planning. Just know that if it’s meant to be and if you both want to make it work… you’re going to find a way! I think that little mantra even applies to beyond the wedding day ;) I hope this post was helpful, and I’m hopeful that sharing a little bit of our experience with picking a date helps someone out there make their wedding day that much more of a reality!!

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