January 4, 2016 6:00 pm
Updated: January 5, 2016 11:13 am

Wedding Planning 101: What to do as soon as you get engaged

There's a lot to plan before your big day. Here's where you should start.

Matt Cowan/Getty Images

If you’re one of the many couples that got engaged over the holidays, there are four important decisions you’ll soon have to make.

Jennifer Bergman, who’s entering her eighth season as an Edmonton-based certified wedding planner, ran us through the basics.

1. Figure out what you want

Do you want a small and intimate wedding? Or have you (or your parents) always dreamed of a big reception?

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Will it be formal or shabby-chic? When and where do you envision the nuptials taking place?

“Figure out what kind of wedding you want and prioritize,” she said.

Decide what areas matter most to you — whether it’s an open bar, the music, photography, food, decor or venue — and go from there.

2. Set a budget

Once you’ve figured out what you want, try to estimate how much it’s going to cost and determine how you’re going to pay for it.

“Do your research and be realistic,” Bergman said.

The expected cost of a wedding in Canada in 2015 (including the honeymoon) is $30,717, according to the annual Wedding Bells survey.

Will you and your partner be shouldering the cost yourselves? Or have your parents promised to help?

If so, a conversation needs to be had about how much that contribution will be, and if there will be any strings attached.

For instance, your parents’ funds might be contingent on them inviting all their friends. If that’s not something you want, perhaps you should save yourself the headache and find a way to finance your wedding yourself.

WATCH: Is your wedding worth going into debt for?

3. Decide on your guest list

Talk to both sets of parents and find out their expectations in terms of who they’d like to invite. It’s up to you whether you want to accommodate them.

You can expect to spend roughly 50 per cent of your wedding costs on food and beverage, according to Bergman.

Depending on whether you choose to go with an informal buffet or a catered reception at a fancy hotel, she said the cost per plate can range from $30 to $100.

“Trimming the guest list is the easiest way to save money.”

A good rule of thumb, Bergman said, is to expect 10 to 20 per cent of your guest list to decline.

4. Choose a venue

Finding the perfect place is often the trickiest part of the planning process.

“You can’t do anything until you do that,” Bergman said.

Be aware that your venue options will likely be limited if you hope to tie the knot this summer, unless you’re open to doing it mid-week, or on a Friday or Sunday.

An easy way to save money in this department is if you have your ceremony and reception at the same venue. More and more couples are doing this, Bergman added.

READ MORE: Mobile apps to help you plan a wedding

Destination weddings are a whole other ball game. They’re best suited for those with easy-going personalities, Bergman suggested — especially if you’re not able to go check out the venue yourself ahead of time.

Another key thing to keep in mind are your invitations.

The “old school” etiquette was to send those out six to eight weeks before your wedding date. Now, sending out paper invites three to six months ahead of time has become the standard.

READ MORE: The ‘tacky’ wedding invite faux-pas to avoid

Save-the-dates are optional and can be sent out electronically.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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