Thursday, February 26, 2009

Make Her Say YES! Ask Your Bridesmaids with Style

We've spent a lot of time talking about the wedding party ... who to ask, who not to ask and what they should wear. All important topics, I must say.

But let's back up just a tad and think about how you can ask them.

Although many girls would take out their youngest cousin's 12-year-old daughter to be a bridesmaid, it is a tough job. If you have been a bridesmaid - you know that.

Bridesmaid 101 lists almost two dozen job responsibilities and ClassyWeddingFavors.Com says bridesmaids should expect to dish out up to $200 for the shower alone. Eek.

For this reason, I suggest brides pamper their maids every chance they get ... starting with Day One.

Instead of picking up the phone or swinging by your friend's house after work, consider throwing a cocktail party, girls' night or lunch date and invite all of your potential bridesmaids to join your wedding party at one time.

American Greetings has a wide selection of e-vites to set the tone. Choose a theme, either wedding-related or something that relates to all of your friends. For example, if you and your potential attendants love reading books and hanging out at Starbucks, choose a cafe-related e-vite and ask them to meet you at your favorite coffee house for lattes.

Here are a few other party themes that could help you pop the question.

- Martini Madness
Choose an e-vite decorated with martini glasses and use colors such as dark green, maroon and brown. Invite your potential bridesmaids over for a night of Sex in the City reruns and cosmos. Make a toast for them proclaiming how much they mean to you and ask them to be in your wedding party.

- Mexican Fiesta
Send a Mexican-flavored e-vite and ask your friends to join you for lunch at your favorite Mexican restaurant. Hand write a note for each girl and ask the waiter to deliver it, along with her favorite dessert (that you have pre-ordered) at the end of the meal. Who could say no to that?

- Girls Gone Goofy
Invite your potential attendants to a pre-bachelorette party bash by choosing a girls' night-themed e-vite. Ask them to meet at your house for dinner or appetizers before you hit the town. When they have all arrived, let them know how much their friendship has meant to you and tell them that there is no one you'd rather stand by your side when you say "I do," than them. Celebrate by going out dancing, to a karaoke bar or to your favorite pub.

Since you know how much work is involved and how expensive things could get for your bridesmaids, be sure to tell them they don't have to answer you right away. I suggest for you to insist they think about it for a few days before giving you an answer. You don't want one of your potential bridesmaids to get caught up in the moment and say "yes," only to tell you a few weeks later that she can't afford it.

Pamper your bridesmaids from the start and they are sure to repay the favor every chance they get.

Have you already asked your bridesmaids to be in your wedding party? Did you do something special for them? If so, what did you do?

Photos courtesy of Saquan Stimpson and Adam

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to Handle Would-be Attendants Who Didn't Make the Cut


Touchy subject ... I know. But as we have said, you have to consider your personal wedding vision when selecting attendants and well, no matter what some people say you CAN have too many bridesmaids.

You know you can't-or shouldn't-ask your 3rd cousin, Jenny or your old assistant, Pam, but you also know they'd like to be invited into your wedding party.

What do you do?

I think basic standards of etiquette and the notorious Golden Rule apply in most situations and this, my friends, is no exception. You should always try to be a gracious bride and consider the feelings of those who might be hurt without allowing others to push you around, bully you or make you defend your decisions.

This isn't an easy line to walk, but here are 4 tips and suggestions for helping you reach the other side.

* If She is a Close Friend

Sometimes a bride might really want a friend to be in her wedding, but family obligations or a tight budget prevent it. The best thing to do is to have a heart-to-heart with your friend and tell her the truth.

It is absolutely vital you do this early. If she is a good friend, she might be expecting-or at least anticipating-you popping the question. Get the issue out in the open as soon as possible to avoid any uncomfortable situations or awkward moments.

* If She is a Close Relative

Follow the same suggestions as you would if she was a close friend. It might be more difficult, however if your relative wonders why some friends and cousins made the cut and she didn't. I never feel that a bride has to justify her choices, but if you think you should, then be open and honest with her. It is okay to tell her -if you feel you should-that you feel closer to "cousin #1" and that is why she was included in your wedding party.

It is a nice gesture to ask close relatives who aren't in the wedding party to perform a reading during the ceremony or be included in some other way. I personally think it is insulting to ask someone who wanted to be a bridesmaid to serve cake ... but that is just my opinion.

* If She Thinks You Are Closer Than You Are

This is tough ...

Tell her that you value her friendship, but you have to include your closer friends and relatives in your wedding party. However, try to include her in other wedding planning activities, such as dress shopping, cake tasting or scouting locations. *Do not ask her to help you chose bridesmaid gifts or to help you with bridesmaid-only activities. That is just mean.

* If She Asks You

I mentioned before that I had someone call me and more or less demand to be in my wedding.

That was not a fun day.

Since she luckily called months before I had asked anyone, I was able to get away by telling her I hadn't even thought about my wedding party. I later took the easy way out and had my grandma tell her ... not something I am proud of, but hey, she put me on the spot!

If I could do it over again, I would talk to her one-on-one and follow the advice I am giving you today.

In the end, no matter who it is or what the circumstances might be, it is never easy to tell someone she won't be in your wedding. Try to think of how you would want your friends to tell you and as always, let your conscience be your guide.

Have you had to do this? How did it go? What did you do or say?

Photo courtesy of Hessam

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How to Maximize Time at a Bridal Show

Weddings are a big business and there is no shortage of vendors anxious to help the newly engaged novice spend her dough. As we've said before, the list of stationery needs itself is mind-boggling. Throw in venues, caterers, floral, bakers, transportation and attire options and even a level-headed bride could lose her cool.

This is when a well-timed bridal show can save the day.
A savvy bride will devise a plan to maximize her bridal show experience, depending on which planning stage she is in - early planning or late-stage planning. Here are a few tips to help you create a plan, no matter where you are in the wedding planning process.

Early Planning

You will get the most benefit from a bridal show if you can attend early in your engagement. Here are three tips to help you maximize your time and get the most benefit from your next bridal show.

1. Collect Information

If you haven't been around the wedding biz in a while you will want to update your knowledge of what is available. Be sure to carry a journal or notebook so you can take notes and collect business cards and brochures from as many potential vendors as possible.

2. Register for Prizes

Most vendors try to entice couples to their stands with the promise of a free add-on, an upgrade or a free giveaway. Since you are in the early planning stages and likely haven't committed-or more importantly, signed a contract and paid a deposit, then this is the perfect opportunity for you to win some freebies and trim your budget.

3. Make Connections

Many vendors agree there is more to a potential client than how much money they plan to spend.

No, seriously.

Think about this ...

A popular caterer is regularly booked months-if not more than a year-in advance. They spend an enormous amount of time and energy with each couple and feel invested in that couple's success.

Since they are pretty confident they will be booked by someone, and hence earn the money, other factors, such as personality, character, likability and chemistry are important to them. Yes, it might be their "job" to cater weddings, but no one wants to work with Bridezilla ... trust me.

When you meet a potential vendor, spend a few minutes getting to know them. Listen to what they are saying and try to find common ground by sharing interesting facts about you or your fiancee. When you call them to get a quote, remind them of who you are by mentioning your common interests or by reminding them of something the two of you talked about.

This works!

My husband and I own a bed and breakfast overseas. I reminded everyone I contacted that I was the bride who lived in Italy they had met at the bridal show in Beaumont, Texas in January.

I'm convinced I saved $150 off entertainment, received a free upgrade on our Old Time Photo Booth and received between $800-$1,000 in free alcohol upgrades from our caterer, only because they wanted to work with us.

Late Planning

It is important for couples who attend bridal shows late in their engagement to have a clear set of goals established before they go. If you have already booked a venue and photographer, then politely skip those tables. Focus only on what you need. Time is of the essence!

It is okay to have tunnel-vision at this point ... in fact, I think you should. Otherwise, you will likely waste valuable time you need to be spending elsewhere.

It is no secret that bridal shows are fun and recently betrothed couples can get valuable information, free upgrades and innovative ideas, but bridal shows can also be overwhelming. So be sure to maximize your time by focusing on the decisions you need to make and make bridal shows work for you.

What are some of the best ideas you have found at bridal shows
Photo courtesy of Allegro Photography

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Unique Wedding Transportation

So it's your wedding day and driving up in your Ford or even your BMW just isn't special enough for your wedding day. You will find that most wedding couples choose to rent a limo - which can be a great option. It is formal and usually has enough room for a few of your wedding attendants to join you.

But what has really become popular is limo buses. These are "tricked out" buses that can have everything from a full bar to strobe lights to state-of-the-art sound systems. Now these are great if you are looking for transportation for all of your attendants and want to have a more fun party atmosphere. However, some people aren't looking for what everyone else is doing and/or really want to share some special time with their new spouse after the wedding. For those wedding couples, here is a few suggestions on fun, unique wedding transportation.

A lot of major cities now have a regular trolley system that runs throughout the city. For your wedding day, inquire about renting one to have it transport you and your attendants to your wedding reception location. These trolleys can also make for great drive-by pictures with you and your attendants standing on the edges.

I think that this is a given if you are having your wedding reception near a pond, river, lake or ocean. What is great about choosing a location is using the elements and integrating them into your wedding. This is a perfect way to do that. Rent a boat from a local marina and have them drive you into "port" with all of your guests waiting to greet you. Plus, if you choose to only have you and your new spouse, use that time out in the middle of the water to really enjoy one another.

Old-Fashioned Car
I love when couples choose to use an old-fashioned car as their wedding transportation. It always brings you back to a different era. Most wedding couples will find that there are a lot of places to rent an old-fashioned car, some may even know someone who owns one. One way in particular is to keep an eye out for old-fashioned car shows. I swear in the summer I see 10 or more. Take a stroll through the show and inquire with the owners if they rent out the cars for wedding transportation.

For me this seems like a bit over the top, but people do it. I guess if you have the money, why not arrive at your wedding reception in grand fashion? Call your local airfield and inquire about local helicopter companies and make sure that your reception venue and the helicopter company work together.

All of these are great ideas, but in the end the wedding couple has to choose one that fits into their budget and meets their needs. If they really want to take the time in between the ceremony and reception to spend quality alone time together, choose a smaller town car or a boat. If you are looking to have fun and enjoy that time with your friends go for a limo bus or a trolley. Whatever you choose, take that time to really celebrate with each other.

Have you seen any other interesting forms of wedding transportation?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Budget Crunch: Save Money by Printing Escort Cards at Home

Save-the-Dates, Wedding Invitations, Direction Cards, Reply Cards, Rehearsal Dinner Invitations, Menu Cards, Table Cards, Programs, Thank You Notes, Announcements, Escort Cards, Place Cards ... whew ... . It is more than a little overwhelming.

The sheer number of different types of stationery you will need for your Big Day are enough to give any bride a headache, especially if she is a bride who is crunching her budget.

But don’t worry. Even though many wedding experts encourage couples to choose one type of wedding stationery for all of their paper needs, it doesn’t have to bust your budget.

I suggest ordering your wedding invitations and corresponding stationery together to maintain a consistent look and possibly save some dough. That means, you should order the following three things at the same time.

- Wedding Invitations and Envelopes
- Direction Cards (if you need them)
- Reply Cards and Envelopes (if you are using them)

Many people think you should order your Thank You Cards at this time, as well. You can if you want. I had a specific theme-related idea in mind when I ordered my Thank You Cards, and quite honestly, the ones that “matched” my invites weren’t anything special.

Stationery companies encourage brides to order their programs, menu cards, table cards, escort cards and place cards from the same company they ordered their invitations from for the sake of consistency.

But think about this.

How many wedding invitations do you actually remember? Be honest now … Probably not many. Although you will no doubt agonize over every word, font size and script, your guests won’t really notice.

Sorry …

But you can use this to your advantage. Invitations are mailed 10-12 weeks before the wedding and no one will carry their invitation with them and check you for accuracy.

I suggest creating your own set of wedding day / reception stationery and making these items consistent with each other. Of course, you will want the general feel of the invitation to reflect your wedding day, and you will want consistency in colors and theme, but it is at the actual wedding event where you can show your creativity.

Many sites allow customers to create their own programs and place cards and print them at home. For around $20 a year, you can register with sites like American Greetings and print personalized escort and place cards.

After you have printed your cards, decorate them with theme-related embellishments.

My wedding was in November and my colors and theme reflected a “Fall” atmosphere. I bought a leaf-shaped paper hole-punch from a local craft store and a few pages of scrapbook paper in muted orange and brown. I punched holes in the paper and used the leaves that fell as decorations for my escort cards.

Here is how it worked.

- I printed cards with my guests’ names and table assignments
- Then with a dot of glue, I attached two small paper leaves to the top.

The final result was classy and each card looked as if I’d spent up to $3 on it, rather than the $25 I spent on all 80 cards.

You can get creative ideas by browsing the Internet and reading other websites or by looking through wedding books and magazines at your local bookstore.

Have you made a decision yet about your place cards? Do you plan to order them or make them yourself?

Photos courtesy of Hillary H and

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Three Steps to Choosing Your Wedding Attendants

Come on, you know you’ve thought of it. You’ve been scribbling names on your bridesmaids list since you were 10 and marking people off that list since you were 11. I’m right, aren’t I?

Well, in case you have lost that list somewhere along the way, here are some tips to help you choose your attendants.

But before we get to that, we need to talk numbers.

You should already have an idea of the number of wedding attendants you want in your wedding. But remember the “numbers” do not have to match up. It is ok if you have six gals and he only has five men. There are plenty of creative walking and photography options. Do not let this strict idea of having a matching number of men and women keep you from including all of your closest friends and family members. And now ... here are

Three Ways to Help You Choose Wedding Attendants

1. Envision your Wedding Day

Bridesmaids play an important role in your wedding. They are called on to help with planning, stuff invitations and help you choose a dress. They are responsible for hosting a bridal shower and a girls night party.

You will spend a great deal of time with these girls, so you need to like them enough to want to be around them. They should bring out the positives in you and calm you when you are nervous.

I knew I wanted to spend the day of my wedding surrounded by my favorite people. I wanted to be with people who have a calming effect on me. I wanted people who relax me and who can make me laugh. But most of all, I wanted people who get along well with other people.

2. Make a List (yes, that is my answer for everything … just stay with me)

Write a list of everyone who you would like to be in your wedding. Then, write a list of everyone who should be in your wedding. This includes demanding cousins, your fiance's brother’s girlfriend and possibly married friends who asked you to be in their wedding.

3. Cross ‘em and Select ‘em

Put a star beside everyone you want in your wedding. Think about why you want that person to stand with you on your wedding day. Ask yourself

- How long have you known this person?
- How have they demonstrated their friendship and loyalty?
- Will you have to tell your children who this person is when they look at your wedding pictures in 20 years or will this person still be in your life?

Now look at the people who you think should be in your wedding and ask yourself why.

- Were you in her wedding and you feel you owe it to her?
- Did she or someone close to you ask if she could be in your wedding?

You don’t owe anyone a place in your wedding party. It is your wedding and you should have the people you want standing with you on your day.

However, consider the consequences of not asking someone. For example, even if you don’t know your fiance’s first cousin well, he may be really close to her. It is his wedding day, too and a good marriage should start with compromise. Is it worth it if hurt feelings never heal?

Choosing your wedding attendants is a tough job. When I got married, I had a relative who tried to insist that two or three of my cousins should be in my wedding. I had relatives call me and tell me they’d be “really pissed if I didn’t ask.” Even my mother tried to smooth the situation by asking me why I didn’t just add them.

The bottom line is that I wanted a group of girls who would all mesh well together. I was in a wedding once where there was a catty divide between the high school friends and the college friends and the whole experience was miserable. On the other hand, I’ve been in weddings where everyone’s personality meshed and when the wedding events were over, we’d made new friends. That is what I wanted. You decide what you really want for your day, consider the consequences and make your choice.

Once you have, the fun can begin!

Photos courtesy of Lan Bui

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Most Romantic Day of the Year: Fresh Ideas for a Valentine's Day Wedding

Weddings are always special, but nothing says “romance” like Valentine’s Day nuptials. Besides the obvious red roses and pink hearts, there are certain things you can do to add a touch of class while ensuring your Valentine’s Day wedding is a success.

A bride should always remember that “her special day” is still a-day-in-the-life of everyone else.
Think about it... your guests could go anywhere they want, but they are choosing to spend your wedding day with you. It's especially important to remember this when your wedding coincides with a holiday. So make your guests your priority when planning your Valentine's Day wedding and make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Sure red, white and pink scream Valentine’s Day, but modern brides should opt for a little diversity. Consider other romantic colors such as:
- Deep purple and regal blue
- Shades of deep red or burgundy
- Bright white and silver, with a dash of blood red

Think traditional Valentine's Day colors are more your style? Then consider
- Red and deep brown
- Light pink and shimmering silver

The key is to choose your colors and stick to them. Those red heart-shaped candles might be perfect table decorations for a Valentine’s Day wedding, but if you chose shades of ivory and blush pink for everything else, they might look out of place. Keep this in mind as you select colors and shop for items.


Set the tone and notify guests of your Valentine’s Day wedding well in advance. Consider sending your invitations 10 weeks prior to your wedding so guests can discuss the option with their spouse/significant other or date and plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day at your wedding.

American Greetings has an array of printable invitations, bags, labels, and other printable products. Be creative. I like the idea of sending a “Be Our Valentine” card to your guests and asking them to join you for a Valentine’s Day wedding celebration.

When I think of romance I think of soft fabrics, airy space and lots of miniature lights and candles. Think about the most romantic restaurant you and your future hubby have visited and ask yourself these three questions.

1. In general, what made the atmosphere of the restaurant romantic?
2. What one thing do you remember most about the ambiance?
3. How can you replicate it?

The idea behind a Valentine's Day wedding is romance, and that means more than hearts and flowers.

Nothing says romance like a string quartet or strolling musician. If your budget allows, hire a violinist to walk throughout your reception, pausing at least once at every table. If your budget doesn’t allow for live musicians for the entire reception, consider hiring one person to play for the cocktail hour, then hire a DJ for the rest of the night.

Play Valentine songs as your guests enter the dining area, such as “My Funny Valentine,” by Frank Sinatra, “Valentine,” by Jim Brickman and Martina McBride and “Lady Valentine” by David Gates.

Consider adding these special touches to your Valentine’s Day wedding.

- Instead of naming your tables by numbers, name them after Valentine’s Day icons. You could have the “Kisses Table,” “The Red Rose Table,” “The Chalky Candy Hearts Table.” Brainstorm with your friends and have fun.

- Send your guests off with a small heart-shaped box of chocolates.

- Give each female guest a red rose as she enters the wedding ceremony.

Just remember, you will have many more Valentine’s Days to spend with your soon-to-be-spouse, but you-and likely your guests-will only get one chance for a day like this. So take the time and plan ahead to ensure your Valentine's Day wedding will be the best Valentine's Day your guests have ever had. They'll thank you for it!

Photos courtesy of Venson Kuchipudi, javaloca, and erloteiel

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Something Different: A Creative Guest Book Idea from Photoworks

You have probably talked to brides who said their wedding day was a blur … that everything passed too quickly and they’d love to go back and see it again in slow motion.

Well, I’m with them. With emotions reaching new heights and the rush of adrenaline - and estrogen - you will have that day there are likely to be some things you miss. So plan ahead.

You know guests books are an essential element at any wedding. They record the names of the people who attended your wedding and they are meant to be a lasting memorial to your Big Day.

Traditionally, guest books were small journals purchased in the bride's wedding colors. Guests would stand in line, sign their names and the book was tossed into a dusty box post-wedding never to be peered into again.

Recently guests books have become part of the wedding decor and are decorated in seasonal elements or theme-related designs, but still serve the same purpose and meet the same dust-filled fate.

So here is a new idea. has a program that allows customers to create a personalized photo album directly from their website. Customers upload pictures, add text and choose from a variety of page colors, layouts and fonts.

But here is how it becomes a wedding guest book.

1. Choose some of your favorite photos of you and future hubby - both of you together as a couple and individual photos. Throw in some pics of the two of you as babies, as well as some pictures of you growing up with your parents and siblings. Be careful of adding pictures of you with friends, as you might hurt feelings if some friends make the cut and others don't.

Choose pictures that tell the story of your lives. If you like to travel together, show pictures of the two of you on vacation. If you met in college, show pictures from your Alma Mater. Don't be ashamed to show silly pictures. They add to the charm of the book.

2. Go to the front page of the photo book section of the website and select the size of book you would like to use.

3. Depending on the book, you will be able to change the front and back color at this point. But don't worry, you can always go back later and make more changes.

4. Upload your photos.

5. Click "change page layout" to alter the number of pictures and to add text-only pages to your book.

6. You will need to play around with your options here and determine the line size and appropriate spacing so your guests will have room to write on the lines.

7. Add interest to your guest book by changing the layout, but use the same font type and color throughout the book to maintain consistency.

8. Click the "design options" tab so you can change the font, add borders or alter page colors.

9. Preview and order.

Instead of asking your guests to simply sign your guest book, ask them to write you a message. They will enjoy the gesture and you will have a book you will be proud to display in your new home year-round.

** When you receive your book in the mail, test several pen types and colors to ensure your guests' memoirs don't rub off of the page.

Photos courtesy of frogsrockmysocks.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Four Tips to Help You Set Your Wedding Budget

You have spent the first few weeks of your engagement showing off the ring, boasting to your pals and basically floating through your workday.

But it is time to get serious.

Unless your mama is Vera Wang or your Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Preston are taking care of your cake and floral arrangements gratis, you will need to set a budget.

And trust me, ladies ... this ain't fun.

In fact, it is probably the least fun aspect of wedding planning. But let's face it... it has to be done and the earlier this task is completed, the more time you will have for tracking down the elements you need to make your wedding day special.

So without procrastinating another day - here are four tips to help you set your wedding budget.

1. Pool Your Resources

Have a meeting with each person who will be contributing to your wedding fund and see how much they plan to kick in. While some people still rely on the old-school system that stripped the bride's family of a year's salary, modern couples are spreading the wealth ... or, well the debt.

See where your families stand. Some parents happily hand over a blank check, while others might offer to pick up the tab for a specific aspect of the wedding, such as photography or floral.

2. Divvy it Up

Now that you have a number to work with, you need to determine what percentage of your budget will go to each category. For example, the general rule is that 10% of your overall budget is usually spent on flowers, however every couple has different priorities and costs vary greatly from state to state.

For help in allocating your budget, I like the budget calculator at It is extremely thorough and you can enter your estimated budget, guest headcount and number of attendants and they do the rest.

3. Get Creative

So what are you going to do if you have pooled your resources and divvied up the dough and you don't have enough in the pool for your ideal wedding? Well, until money starts sprouting from the tree outside your bedroom window - and if it does ... hook me up! - you might be tempted to max out credit cards or dip into your savings.

I know you have heard it before, but please.don' Instead, get creative and think of ways you can earn extra cash that can be used exclusively for your wedding. Are you a trained musician? If so, consider giving private lessons in the evenings or on weekends. Are you near a college or university? Check with their testing center to see if they are hiring part-time proctors. The idea here isn't to borrow more money for your wedding - but to make more money.

4. Stay Positive

Believe me, I know it's easy to get depressed when you look at your budget calculator, find a new checklist or realize you have forgotten expenses like attendant gifts, bridesmaid's lunch or your hair and nail appointments. However, the key to wedding planning - regardless of what stage you are in - is to stay positive.

Remember, millions of women have gone through this before and have lived to tell heartwarming tales and inspirational stories of their wedding days. Tell your fiance when you feel stressed and chances are he will have you relaxed in no time ... and it will be easy to remember why you said "yes" in the first place.

Everyone has different budget priorities. When I got married, my priorities were food, reception location and atmosphere. What are some of your priorities?

Images courtesy of ken@okinawa

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Said Yes! Now What? The First Three Steps in Planning Your Wedding

He popped the question and you said "YES!" It was magical. It was romantic. It was timeless.

Now you have to pull your happily engaged self back to planet Earth and start planning the biggest party of your life.

But what are you going to do? Where do you look first? Where do you start?

I'm going to assume you've already belted your newly-engaged status from the top of your roof, told your parents, his parents and all of your friends.

I'm also hoping you haven't already promised all your friends, your fiance's siblings and your co-worker's cousins a place in the wedding party. You haven't have you ... because we'll discuss selecting your wedding party next week ...

For now, here are the first three steps in planning your wedding ... once your feet have returned to the ground and your head is more or less out of those clouds.

#1 - Get Organized

Even if organization is not your thing, no especially if organization is not your thing, you need to make "getting organized" your top priority. You will want a place to collect pictures, magazine ads and notes and there is no better way to do that than in your personal wedding binder.

Sure you could purchase a pre-made wedding binder at your local bookstore. They have inspirational photos, checklists and wedding planning tips that might come in helpful through your planning stages.

However, I recommend making your own binder. Purchase a three-ring binder, dividers, plastic protector sheets and erasable tabs. The sections of your binder will change as you get closer to the Big Day, so having erasable tabs and sections you can easily move around will be essential to staying organized.

On another note, organized brides make a better impression on wedding vendors and they will be more likely to take you seriously and possibly offer you a better price, than your unorganized counterparts.

#2 - Have a tête-à-tête with your fiance

Before you can make any major wedding-related decisions, you have to ensure you and your fiance are on the same page. You might not be able to discuss a wedding date at this point (you will need to confirm with vendors and venues first) but you should discuss a general wedding season, or better yet, a wedding month.

Ask your fiance what he thinks of when he sees your wedding day. Discuss the "feel" of your wedding, estimate the number of guests you want to invite and set a budget.

It is also a good idea to ask him upfront how involved he wants to be in the decision-making process. Some grooms defer most details to the bride and only want to help with major decisions - such as date, location and guest count. I've seen other grooms who want to help choose linens and fonts.

See where your guy stands so there are no hurt feelings down the line.

#3 - Brainstorm

If you aren't on a strict time limit with your wedding planning - less than six months, for example - then allow yourself time to dream. Peruse magazines, websites and bookstores and save anything that might be remotely interesting to you - and put it in your new binder.

Dream big at this point. If you fall in love with a $2,000 wedding cake you can't afford, save the picture anyway. You can likely find a local baker who can recreate the cake at a fraction of the cost. Don't think in terms of what you can't do - think of what you can!

What are some of the first things you did when you got engaged? What would you do differently if you could go back? What advice do you have for other newly engaged gals?

Photos courtesy of disneymike, bigcharvey, rmathus, romanlily