You are Engaged! Now What?

Five Early-Stage Steps for Planning Your Dream Wedding

By Carrie L. Christoph

February 2024


The following tips are five suggestions that I have for couples in the early stages of planning their wedding. Spoiler Alert: many of my tips are actually life skills. Budgeting, planning, equitably sharing chores, and embracing your own vision, are life skills that will improve your life as an individual, as well as a couple.



wedding for five steps blog

In addition to explaining these five tips, I explain how my associates and I will support you and your beloved in accomplishing each of these goals.  Should you hire me, or any wedding planner, you can have the expectation that the planner will do take these, or similar steps, on your behalf.     

There are a thousand resources online and books at the library giving you checklists, and budgets and timelines for wedding planning.  These are all the logistical how to do your “I dos.” This blog will address some of the emotional issues I see my couples face when planning their wedding.

planning pretty

1) Equitably Divide the Planning Responsibilities

Before you start the actual work of wedding planning, sit down as a couple, make a plan, and divide the tasks equitably.  

I find that often times, one member of the couple has a stronger vision for the event, so they do the majority of the work.  Unfortunately, this often leads the member of the couple doing the most work to feel resentful and unsupported; at the same time, the other member of the couple feels disenfranchised from the planning of the event.  No one wants these feelings about their wedding.  

  • Think of this as an exercise in working together to accomplish a goal.  
  • If you work together well, you may develop positive patterns of dividing the workload of everyday projects, that you can replicate throughout your marriage.

To assist my Destination Wedding couples in their planning, Weddings by Generous Muse provides couples with a simple- to-use project management platform.

  • Whatever project planning tool you decide to use, it is helpful to have some form of planning methodology that is not “just in your brain,” 
  • Remember, your partner cannot read your mind. Putting all tasks, milestones, budget, and goals on paper or in digital pixels, keeps everyone on the same page.  This will reduce conflict between you and your partner.

wedding budget

2) Create a Realistic Budget

Before you decide upon any venue, your vibe, your dress, or even who you want to be in your bridal party, set up a budget.  Yes, I know this is NOT the most fun part of any planning project. 

Yes, I know, that unless you are a couple of spreadsheet obsessed accountants, there is literally nothing romantic about budgeting.  But believe me, this is essential.  I see so many couples start their planning with no budget in mind.  They choose a venue and vendors, fork over down payments, and then realize they have committed themselves to a staggering amount of debt.  

    • Please, please, please do not do this to yourself.  Please do not start your marriage in financial peril.  At Generous Muse, we want to see our couples succeed in their marriages.  
      • Financial disagreements are consistently one of the top five reasons couples seek divorce.  Please do not start your marriage with this worry. 
  • Create a budget, and then make your selections based around this budget.  
  • I give confidence to my clients in building their budget by supplying them with information about what they can realistically expect to pay in regards to wedding expenses.  
    • More importantly, when working with my Destination Wedding couples, I respect this budget by finding fantastic venues and vendors that meet their budget.  Destination Weddings are wonderful, in that they are often much less expensive than local venues. 
  • If your planner, relatives, or friends giving you feedback that destroys your budget, you need to learn to say “no.”  This skill, saying no, to experiences and items that will ruin your family finances is a couple’s skill that will benefit your marriage throughout your entire life.

wedding invitations

3) Build Your Guest List

Build a large guest list, and invite anyone whom you believe would feel heartened by the invitation.  Think of these invitations, not as an obligation to attend your wedding, but rather as a sign of your affection and esteem for the invitee. 

Explain this thought pattern in your invitations.  State that if the person can attend, you would be honored by their presence, however, if they cannot attend, please think good thoughts and follow along with the fun on social media.  

  • You should note that only about 60% of your invitees will attend your wedding.  There are a variety of reasons that your guests may not be able to attend.  
    • For example, financial concerns, inability to take time off work, or family caregiving responsibilities.  Your invitee will have these same concerns if you are hosting a local wedding or a Destination Wedding.  Further, if your invitee does not live close to your home, they will have the same travel expenses, with a “local wedding,” as a Destination Wedding.  
    • Do not take an invitee’s decision not to attend as an insult, but rather an honest statement of the invitee’s life parameters.  Allow them to send their love from afar, and include them on social media.   
  • I encourage my couples in constructing their invitation list and then send out e-invites on their behalf.  I also help my couples track their RSVPs on an ongoing, and timely manner. 

It is essential to track RSVPs in an organized manner.  This will help you immensely when setting up final contracts with your venue and caterers.


4) Pick a Venue That You Love 

Wedding planners are often asked, “What is the best location for my wedding?” Specifically, as a destination wedding planner, I am asked, “What is the best country for me to get married in?” 

As a Certified Destination Wedding Planner, I can state unequivocally:  There is no one right answer.  There is no “One True Way.”  There are hundreds of possibilities, and among them, there is the best wedding venue for you.  A good planner will help you find this perfect wedding venue.   

Think about the vision for your wedding.  If you love your venue, your guests will fall in love with your choice, if only because of your enthusiasm.  Ask yourself:

  • What does this place look like? 
    • A chapel?  A beach?  A mountain stream?  A vineyard? 
  • What is the vibe?  
    • Laid back?  Party-party fun times?  Super elegant and proper? 
  • What are your guests doing?
    • Dancing the night away?  Drinking champaign and mingling?  Enjoying the full family experience? 

I work with my Destination Wedding couples in choosing a resort, ceremony venue, and reception location that most meets their family needs, logistical requirements, and esthetic desires.

  • I also send my couple’s guests updates and information about the region in which the wedding will take place.  
  • It is my hope to educate, entertain, and inform their guests, so that they will feel a deeper connection to the event location, and my couples’ joy.


5.Have Fun, and Seek Joy

Finally, seek joy.  This is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life together; not a stress-filled drama-coaster.  As a couple, ask yourselves, what will bring us joy?  

When planning a wedding, my clients receive so much feedback on their decisions.  Whether it is coming from random Instagram haters, or their aunties with all the opinions; so much of this feedback is neither helpful nor justified.  

  • I encourage my couples to form “Team Joy.”  Make decisions based on what you like, not what other people tell you what you should like.  
    • As Team Joy, support each other, and your decisions.  Know that seeking your own happiness, and listening to your own inner voice is a life skill that will liberate you, and build up your own personal power. 
  • I embolden my couples by being an active member of Team Joy, trying my very best to bring your vision to life.
    • Your “Team Joy,” is not just a wedding planning trope, but rather a marriage skill.  This requires couples to actively communicate their needs, desires, and wants.  It also requires couples to listen and work to bring their partner’s desires to fruition.   


These are early-stage wedding planning tips that will set you up for the entirety of your wedding planning process.  Further, I hope these skills will carry you through a happy marriage.  

Should you wish to work with me, to create your Dream Destination Wedding, please set up an appointment at Weddings by Generous Muse.

planning your wedding