So he popped the question and now you’re engaged! Congratulations from us all! The months ahead leading up to your big day are going to be really memorable. Start getting your plans sorted now, even if you’re not getting married for another year – you’ll enjoy this period so much more if you can feel you’re ahead of the game.

Stick with us, follow our advice and we’ll hold your hand the whole way through!

Money, money, money

The number one thing that’s likely to cause arguments between engaged couples is money, so the very first thing we advise you to sort with your partner is a wedding budget. Your budget will affect many aspects of your planning – where you get married, the time of year, how many guests you have, the style of wedding day – so getting this sorted early is important.

Yes, we know. In all the excitement of planning your wedding, it’s easy to go overboard and overspend on flowers, the dress, the number of guests… well, everything, really! This is why it’s so important that you sit down with your husband-t0-be – perhaps even before you announce your engagement – and think about the sort of wedding you want to have first. Be realistic about what you can afford. Maybe you’ll get some contributions from family, and if your date is a while off it gives you more time to save up.

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Don’t be tempted to take out a loan to pay for the wedding of your dreams – you’ll almost certainly have a mortgage to think about and you don’t want to start married life in debt (so watch those credit cards!). Make sure you keep your hard-earned savings somewhere safe, too.

Think about who is paying for what. In the past, the bride’s family used to foot the bill for much of the wedding, but nowadays couples usually do much more of this themselves. Parents may still want to chip in for certain things, such as the drinks for the reception or the bride’s dress – it’s worth having a talk with them to see if they would like to contribute.

Once you’ve set your budget, take a look at some of the great wedding budget apps available – they’ll let you keep a running total of what you’ve spent so far and what’s available to you. It will also help you to keep your spending in perspective, as you can see which areas are taking up most of your budget.

Wherever, whenever

With your budget sorted, the next thing you need to think about is your wedding venue. You’ll have worked out how much you have available to spend on this – our recent research showed that couples would spend half of a £10,000 wedding budget on the reception. That’s a big chunk, so make sure your venue is really what you want – it should suit your personalities, the time of year and the mood of the day you’re planning.

Don’t just opt for a nearby hotel that you know – some surprising places like zoos, barns, museums, and motor yachts are now licensed wedding venues. You should also consider the possibility of a destination wedding, which can save you a lot of money if you plan it right.

We’re fans of all-inclusive wedding packages because you tend to get a good deal and excellent value for money. Everything is included for the day – from a drinks reception through to the wedding breakfast and entertainment. Of course, if you marry and hold your reception in the same place you’ll save on transport costs and if you marry out of season (say January) or mid-week when business is quiet you may be able to negotiate a really good rate.

If you’re getting married in a church or other religious venue, we’d say that your ceremony should be held within a five-mile radius.

After you’ve provisionally booked a date with your venue check that your minister or registrar can marry you on that day, and then you’ll be able to confirm the booking. Otherwise you’ll have to sort another date or venue.

Photos, flowers, dresses… ACTION!

Now you’ve got two of the most important things out of the way, you can start to concentrate on the details. It’s best to start thinking about the dress, booking a photographer and organising your flowers early. And we’re strict on this – do NOT buy your dress until you’ve set your budget and venue! Knowing what you have to spend and the style of your venue will make dress shopping that bit easier – and we promise you that there’s still going to be a style out there that you fall in love with.'sweddingHelenLiskPhotographyPRINTFILES-161

The dress

Maybe you’ve known what you were going to wear on your wedding day ever since you were a little girl – or maybe you’ve absolutely no idea.

Well, first off bear in mind that you’re going to have to allow 8-10 months for your dress to be ordered, fitted and ready. Visit a few different bridal boutiques and try to keep an open mind – the owner of the boutique has seen hundreds of brides and will have a good idea of what is going to suit you and flatter your figure best, even if it’s something you wouldn’t have considered trying at first.

You will try on a sample of a gown first of all and once you have chosen your favourite your own will be ordered. Then, when it arrives, the in-store seamstress may have to alter it to fit you exactly. Read more handy dress shopping tips in our planning section.

Snap happy

Good wedding photographers get booked up a year in advance, so it’s essential that you start looking for yours now. Find out about the latest wedding photography trends and styles of photography you like by investigating wedding blogs and magazines. Also, your venue may be able to help – see what photographers and real weddings are featured on their website. Invest in your photographer – don’t skimp or rely on friends taking pictures, as your photographs will be the only lasting visual memory of your day. We recommend you budget around £800 to £1,

Saying it with flowers

Start thinking about your florist early, as this is another area where people get booked up quickly. A talented florist will be able to advise you on flowers to suit your colour scheme and theme and what you should choose for the time of year.'sHydeBarnWeddingbyMarcusWard-BigeyePhotography-245

And who are you inviting?

Now it’s time to turn your mind to your wedding guests. Average all-inclusive day packages cater for 50 to 70 people and you can add more in the evening at an extra cost. Send out save the date cards as soon as you’ve decided on your budget and venue, especially if you’re getting married in the summer or during the Christmas period as your guests will begin to book holidays.

One last thing…

You’re going to be investing some significant amounts of money on your big day, so we strongly recommend you buy some wedding insurance. You don’t want to be left in the lurch if a venue or supplier goes out of business and you’ll be surprised at how reasonable wedding insurance is. E&L offer a great package especially for Wedding Ideas readers – find out more on their website.

How’s your wedding planning going? Share your experiences with other newly-engaged brides on the Wedding Ideas Forum and you could pick up some hints and tips!