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Sam and Grace are partners in life and business. Capturing beautiful memories is our thing.

We're Sam + Grace

Hello!

Yay! You’re engaged. First of all, congratulations on finding the best partner for you. We know how exciting this time can be, and we want to make sure you’re prepared for the days ahead. Let us help you make the most of this season in your life with a few tips. We know 17 tips may seem like a lot, but we just couldn’t narrow it down because these are HUGE! We have updated this blog post to include content related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

an engaged couple walking together

1. Savor the moment and drink in the feels

Make sure you are living in the reality of your brand new engagement! In this social, instant-access world it is so hard to take time for living in the present. You do not have to share this news immediately, so don’t. Spend some time with your soon-to-be lifetime partner – just the two of you – and savor the moment. Afterall, they’re the absolutely most important one to be celebrating this moment with! If you happen to be the one doing the proposing, you probably have a handful or a ton of people who already know anyway, but also be understanding that your S/O will probably have a really hard time waiting to tell everybody else.

2. Share your news in person or via phone

Do everything you can to call immediate family first, extended family next (even the ones you do not chat with often), your close friends, and then share with everyone else. Show your family respect and make sure they find out from you and not from your BFF. It means a lot to a friend or family member to know you took the time to personally share your awesome news with them rather than them scrolling across it on social media.

3. Craft a basic timeframe

Get an idea of a round-a-bout timeframe such as “Fall of 2025,” “middle of next year,” or “We love the idea of Springtime.” This is one of the first questions everyone will ask you once they see you’re engaged so it can help you out to have an answer, even if it isn’t exact. For those proposing: it makes that engagement all the more real for your partner if you put a timeframe on it.

4. Party!

Celebrate your news with friends and family with an Engagement Party (or consider doing a zoom call or virtual party!) This one is optional depending on your budget, but what better way to revel in the excitement than to celebrate with your favorite people? This doesn’t have to be a complicated or long-planned event; it can be as simple as just getting everyone together to celebrate the good news. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person get together with close family could be too dangerous or not even allowed, but there are lots of options for virtual parties to celebrate. If you’re the proposer and planning this ahead of time, you could have friends and family on standby on a virtual call to bombard your future spouse with congratulations when you get to the phone or computer! Here’s a great article from Wedding Wire on how to do an awesome virtual engagement party.

5. Invest time and energy into good Pre-Marriage Counseling

You may think you know each other enough already; afterall, you just committed to spending the rest of your lives together. But pre-marriage counseling is helpful for a lot of reasons: It can bring to the surface your deepest longings, goals, and dreams. It can help help you to be less surprised about habits, things your partner considers financial priorities, and so much more. It can help you to begin to make unified goals and dreams together, rather than jumping into a lifelong marriage with two totally different plans and futures in mind. It’s also just really helpful to sit down with someone who has been through marriage and to learn from them about what to expect and what not to expect. We actually had the privilege of going through two pre-marriage counselings, plus a financial peace university course (which is the next point).

  • A note on church venues – many churches will require you to go through their own pre-marriage counseling over a handful of sessions in order to be married there. Our dear friends and mentors did a book study with us called Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, and our second counseling mentioned above was through our church.

6. Make a realistic budget & get a wedding savings account

It can be so hard to know what everything costs (because you’ve most likely never done this before), and the range of prices can be completely overwhelming. You could be super frugal and only spend $5,000-$7000 on the entire wedding, or you could spend $15,000 on a small wedding celebration. The current average wedding cost is $28,000.

There are ways to save on your wedding day, though!

  • The Knot wrote out a $10k wedding day plan for Cincinnati, OH.
  • FUN FACT: Sam and I used a lot of hand-me-downs and did a lot of DIY. Our wedding still cost us around $7000 and we actually spent the most on our photographers, because we knew that good photographers could make any location beautiful. It was a bit more work on us and our friends and family, but it saved us a lot of money in the end.
  • We wrote this article with the help of one of our amazing brides, Lisa, on HOW TO SAVE AND STILL HAVE A GORGEOUS, CLASSY WEDDING

Join a Financial Peace University class before you get married. You can thank us later because it will save your financial life (and give your marriage a boost!). As said above, we ended up doing two different pre-marriage counselings, and both of them, when they came to their section on money, recommended us going through Financial Peace University. You can go through on your own or in a small group setting anywhere it’s being hosted in your community.

7. Inspiration

Ladies, there is a good chance you’ve been planning your wedding since at least Kindergarten. Even if you haven’t there are amazing resources available for you to use to get ideas for what you’d like your day to look like. From bridal magazines to Pinterest, there are so many resources available to you to use. Your local library is most likely full of more of the latest wedding day inspiration than you could ever possibly need.

Martha Stewart has an awesome list of questions to help you in your decision making.

Guys – you’re allowed to have input and a voice in this, too! Sam had a lot of opinions and creative ideas for our wedding, which we mentioned was very DIY. Just be aware that your lady may literally have been planning this since Kindergarten.

We just want to take a minute to say we LOVE winter weddings more and more every day. Check out these three gorgeous winter wedding videos that we got to capture.

8. Planner and Coordinator

Um… Grace, do you mean a human planner or a book planner? Bingo. If you have the budget for a human wedding planner we highly recommend using one. They know the industry and can end up saving you a lot of money in the end. They also take off a ton of stress from the day.

If you’re more into DIY like we were, we suggest finding the best book planner for you. Here is an amazing list of planners from The Spruce. Which is your favorite? Comment below!

We just want to say we LOVE wedding coordinators. These are day-of superheroes that we have seen take all the stress off of a bride and groom, spring into action, and go above and beyond to make their day amazing. When things go wrong (and they do for 100% of weddings), your wedding coordinator is literally there to make it right again, so you can get back to savoring every moment, being present with each other, stay focused on the vows you’re making, and enjoy this wedding that you’ve worked so hard to build and put on. We definitely recommend hiring a wedding coordinator.

9. Determine your venue & secure your wedding date

A lot of your planning has to be put on hold until this step is completed. You should not place any deposits on photographers or vendors until you can provide a secure date. Sometimes you will think your date is secure until you realize that your dream venue is booked already. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to make sure you fully understand your venue’s cancellation & contractual commitments and policies.

10. Take out an wedding insurance policy that protects cancellation or postponement

As mentioned above, you could stand to lose a lot of money if you cancel if a venue abruptly goes bankrupt or if you cancel on them and the terms of cancellation are outside of your contractual agreement. We have seen a handful of clients lose a lot of money and be devastated, and we highly recommend that you secure some protection for the huge investment you’re making by taking out a wedding insurance plan. There are variety of types, but we’d recommend getting one that protects you in the event of a cancellation or postponement. With how many plans we’ve seen changed throughout 2020, we don’t think this is one you can afford to skip. Here’s an article from Brides.com about some of the top wedding insurance options.

11. Book your engagement and wedding photographer and videographer

Yay!!! Our favorite part!! Yes, we are biased. We do think you have to have a wedding photographer and videographer to cover your day to get the best experience. Photos are important to have because you can display them proudly throughout your home and online, and have them in a beautifully bound album for all to see, but they do not record the sobs of joy during the first look, or the cheers of your closest friends and family as you take your first kiss. A video lets you not only look back at glimpses of the day, but it lets you relive the emotions of your day all over again. Finding someone you can trust to capture these moments on photo and video, especially with a duo who works together seamlessly and cries along with you, is so special. (Hint: that was us. We were referring to us)

Don’t wait too long to book a photographer or videographer – many of them book a year or two into the future and fill up quickly. On top of this, with the COVID-19 crisis, many photographers have been trying to keep up with swaths of clients having to change dates, venues, times, and more, and having to hire stand-in photographers or no longer be available due to how fluid everything has been in the industry. If photography is as important to you as it is to us, don’t delay on booking your dream photographer or videographer!

Remember that even if you go cheap on a venue or spend less on the details, a great photographer can make any space beautiful and is very valuable to you. Are you still looking for a photographer? Check us out!

12. Have engagement photos taken

There are a lot of benefits to getting engagement photos. It’s great to have photos of your new family to display proudly in your home. It’s also awesome to have photos of you in normal clothing, or clothing outside of your wedding suit or tux & dress. These photos are usually printed on wedding invites & save the dates, your announcements of the engagement online, wedding website, and also on art at your wedding (such as on gift tables, collages in the venue space, part of table settings, seating charts, etc.)

Another big reason engagement shoots are helpful is because they help you get to know your photographer – when you’ve already worked with your photographer, it takes a ton of the stress away on your wedding day of wondering when they will show up, how professional they will be, how they will work with you, and lots of other inevitable questions that pop up in your mind when you’re working with someone for the first time. It also gives your photographer a chance to work with you, learn how to interact with your future spouse, some poses that work better for you, or don’t work for you, and most of all it allows you to build a relationship with your photographer.

Again, we are pretty biased… but we LOVE working with our couples ahead of their wedding and building a relationship with them. We want our couples to feel like they know us before the wedding day arrives. We definitely recommend using the same photographer for both your engagement and your wedding.

We wrote a blog about how to prepare for your engagement shoot here.

13. Determine your guest list

Now that you have a venue booked and a maximum number of mouths you can feed thanks to fire code and your budget, it’s time to narrow the guest list down. Make sure you bring your parents into this conversation so you do not miss anyone you may be forgetting. This can be a painful process, but sometimes, depending on the size of your venue and your budget, you just can’t have every person who loves you at your wedding. Start with the people who you could not do without having there for your big day, and go from there.

14. Determine your bridal party.

For some people this is a given, for others, it’s a tough and maybe even painful decision. If you want to spend the cash, you could try to beat the record for largest wedding party (it’s something like 168 bridesmaids, currently), or you could go with 1, or none! On average, we’ve seen our bridesquads and groomsquads stand at anywhere from 1 each, to 7 each. Either way, choose those on both sides of your soon to be united families and circles of friends who you want to be standing with you the most.

While it’s always an honor, for some folks, being designated the maid or matron of honor, or the best man, can be a very stressful and nerve-wracking task. You can send them our blogposts on How to Be the Best Best Man, becoming the most honorable maid of honor, or how to give the best toast at a wedding.

15. Craft your wedding website

Hopefully by now you have been able to coordinate luscious engagement pictures during the buttery golden hour. You can use them on your wedding website to help tell the story of your love journey. Make sure you get your website fully functional and ready before sending out save the date cards or invitations because you do not want guests to receive an error while trying to RSVP! There are all kinds of sites that offer free websites; we used Squarespace when we made a website for our wedding.

16. Compare and select your final vendors

There are so many vendors in the world and it can be such a challenge to decide who will be best for you. Make sure you connect emotionally with your vendors because if you do, that will truly alter the course of your wedding day. You should hire people that you know will give you the best possible experience, and who understand who you are, what you want, and what you hope to see.

17. Rest, Meditate, and take time for self-care

Especially with what a year 2020 was for all of us, do not let anxiety and stress about the unknowns and the little issues that may arise to control you as you plan your wedding. Ground yourself and make sure you are taking time for self care leading up to your wedding day. Our favorite thing to do is to read scriptures and listen to instrumental Bethel Worship albums. There is a reason the Sabbath is talked about in the Bible. Take care of your heart. No matter what happens, you are more important than allowing anxiety to control your life. As someone who struggles with anxiety, take care of yourself and go on girls or guys nights, go hiking, get pampered, journal. Do what you need to do to make your heart sing.

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