How to Plan Your Wedding: When To Do What! (Part I)

So you’re engaged… now what? That’s the beginning of the wedding planning process! A friend of The Wedding Lens recently got engaged and was asking questions about time frames. So here we go!

Because engagements take place for different lengths of time, I’m not going to specify how long before the wedding date you should do each action. But this is generally the ORDER of things. Where possible, I’ve linked to other related blog posts on the topic! (And here’s just a list of things to do for wedding planning, if you just want that) Also, be sure to check out our Cheap Wedding Tips and our Green Wedding Tips, both of which have great ideas to help you out during different stages of the planning process!

First Steps

  1. Create a budget! This means taking a list of everything that you know you’ll have to spend money on and deciding how much you can dedicate to each portion. Check out our Guide to Creating a Wedding Budget — which specifies which costs are fixed and which depend on the number of guests.
  2. Pick the wedding party. This seems early in the process right? True! But the wedding party can help you with the tasks that you’ll have to do. Pick early, they’ll help early!
  3. Divide tasks! After reading the rest of this blog post, you’ll get a full picture of everything there is to do: from marriage license to centerpieces.  Once you have that list, divide up the tasks however you see fit.

Things That Shouldn’t Wait

  1. Marriage license.  Every state has different rules on the time frame needed to apply for a license and to get married. Make sure you know what you need to do before you get too close to your wedding date!
  2. Find a venue, date, and officiant. This is sort of circular because you need the venue and the officiant to be available on the same date. But keep in mind that you may have to pick two venues — one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Just be sure they’re both available on the same date! Here’s how to pick a wedding date. Also, make sure you look at how to find a venue AND the questions you need to ask each venue. With officiants, think about whether you will have a religious officiant or a friend. Find out any state requirements if you want a friend or family member to officiate.
  3. Create the guest list. Sometimes it’s hard to limit the guest list, so consider having A lists, B lists, and C lists. Here are our tips for the guest list. Also, be sure to decide whether you want kids to attend or not.
  4. Themes/Styles/Colors. The earlier you select any themes, styles, or colors, the earlier you can get started with some of the other aspects of planning. After all those three aspects will impact the dress selections, the flowers selections, etc. Here’s some help on how to pick your color scheme.
  5. Wedding dress. The wedding dress should be purchased earlier in the planning process because it might need to be fitted several times. Depending on how long your engagement lasts, this should be done ASAP. Plus the bride will want her dress before the bridesmaids get theirs! Here’s how to choose  the right wedding dress and some ideas for colorful wedding dresses.
  6. Save the Date.  The save-the-date (or STD) should tell guests when & where you’re getting married. When should you send the save-the-dates? It depends on when you’re getting married, but generally, send them as soon as possible. If you are ordering save-the-dates that you want to look similar to your invitations, there are companies that give you package deals. Here is a timeline of when to send save-the-dates and when to send invitations. Here are some creative save the date ideas and how to address the save-the-dates.
  7. Order your online photo album from The Wedding Lens. By ordering your online photo album from The Wedding Lens early, you can start telling your guests where to upload photos AND you can include your engagement photos in the album or any other older photos to share your memories with your guests.
  8. Wedding website. Obviously put as much information on here as you can, but here’s what to include on your wedding website.
  9. Find vendors. This means finding vendors for everything you might want. Here is how to find the right vendors for you (and each category that follows links to a blog post that will help you narrow down what will be best for you in that area). Photographer (engagement photos and day of), videographer, florist (selecting flowers), caterer, DJ/band/music, bakery, wedding planner or day-of coordinator. Any other kind of vendors you might want (eg if you want to have wedding entertainment such as a photo booth, cigar bar, or silhouette artist) can usually wait a bit longer in the planning process.

Stuff That Can Wait a Little Bit

  1. Invitations! What goes inside, when to send, how to tell your guests that no kids can come, RSVP cards. Remember, there are specific rules on how to address invitations, so make sure you check those out (yes, there will be a blog post coming!)
  2. Attire: Groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen. Here’s everything related to helping you select wedding attire!
  3. Hair & makeup for the bride and bridesmaids, if you would like.
  4. Rings! Dont forget you both need to exchange rings on the day of the wedding. Here are some green tips on picking the rings.
  5. Decorating: flower arrangement (or alternatives to flower bouquets), centerpieces, plates/napkins/glassware, guestbook, favors, place cards, menu cards, cake toppers, chair rentals/chair covers, other entertainment)
  6. Guest-related: Accomodations, transportation, and out of town bags!
  7. Get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens. If you haven’t done it yet, now is the perfect time in the planning process to get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens! When you share the information on accomodations & transporation with your guests, you can also share the link to the album and remind people to bring their digital cameras to your wedding. Plus people can start uploading old and new memories of you & your fiance(e)!
  8. Menu planning: buffet vs sit-down meal; alcohol – open bar, soft bar, signature drinks. Here are all things food & drink related to help guide you through this!

Final Steps

  1. RSVPs
  2. Ceremony planning: walking down the aisle, vows, readings — and whatever else you want to take place.
  3. Seating chart: who will sit where during the reception? Here’s how to create a seating chart!
  4. Music (song) selections for band or DJ, both during the ceremony and reception.
  5. Remind your guests to bring their cameras to your wedding day so they can capture memories for your online photo album.
  6. Planning the timeline: This means planning the timeline of who arrives where at what time, what order things occur, and who transports what where. It’s meant to be distributed so that everyone is on the same page about what’s going on.
  7. Programs: This lets your guests know what is going to happen & when! Here’s the information on writing your programs.

So that’s everything you have to do…. Next blog post will cover what comes up on the day of and any other last minute things and miscellaneous things you should be aware of! (Like gift registry, thank you cards, wedding insurance, things people forget, staying calm…. all coming up!) 

Good luck! Remember, if you have questions – email me!

~ Natasha

Engagement Stories for Valentine’s Day!

Proposal from The Wedding Lens!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I know a few people who planned to get engaged on Valentine’s day in past years, so I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to ask you, dear readers, to share your engagment stories!

You may have seen us post engagement stories in the past…  like the one where Randy jumped out of a plane (literally) to show Caroline how much he wants to marry her! (Randy & Caroline’s Engagement Story!)

Or the one where the weather wasn’t cooperating and Kate just couldn’t wait any longer to propose to Nicole! (Nicole & Kate’s Engagement Story!)

Anyway, share your engagement story with us! We love to hear them, we love sharing them with other readers, and we give out coupons when you send ’em to us. Just write as much or as little as you want, send a photo if you’d like, and we’ll take care of the rest!  Email me:

And, by the way, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!

~ Natasha

Diana and Brent’s Engagement Story!

This engagement story is a little shorter than some of the others that we’ve shared with you, but this one is also more personal for me! I’ve known Brent for what seems like forever and despite growing apart over the years, I was really happy that he and his fiance sent me their engagement story. So, congrats to Diana & Brent!

In Diana’s words….

“We became engaged on January 1st, 2009 at Fort Miley in San Francisco and we are both so excited!  We’ve been asked how the proposal happened so here is the short version of our story:

Brent needed to find a way to bring me to the proposal location without having me think that something was up.  He tricked me into thinking that his coworker gave him a gift card to The Cliff House restaurant.  He told me that he had never been there and that it’d be cool to go for lunch the next day.  The reservation was set for a late lunch and the plan was in motion.

And though we ordered lobster ravioli, scallops and crabcakes as an appetizer, being the pig that I am, I ate everything, including half of Brent’s 3 scallop dish (they were gigantic scallops!).  Now you may think his lack of appetite was due to nervousness, but it was really because he was still nauseous from the night before.  As Brent was paying for lunch, I seemed to notice that he had not pulled out a giftcard so I began to ask where the giftcard was (which was non-existent!).  He quickly came up with the excuse that he had left it in his car on accident and forgot to take it when we decided to drive my car instead.  I completely bought his excuse.

After lunch, we decided to go for a walk around the Sutro bath ruins and check out the scenery.  After about 1.5 hours of walking around to different locations in the park, Brent’s restlessness finally got the best of him and he finally plopped down on a bench.  What is tricky about this park is that it is not exactly private so there were visitors everywhere, as close as 5 feet at any given time.  This meant that the original bench that Brent wanted to propose at was surrounded by people.  After I sat down next to him, he started his proposal “speech” and slowly pulled out a pouch from his jacket pocket.  As he was opening the pouch I started to realize what was going on and began to cry (but trying so hard not to in case it wasn’t a ring!)  Shortly after I said “Yes”! ”

Got engaged? Email me! Dont forget to share photos of your big day!

~ Natasha

Call for Engagement Stories!

You may remember that we posted a series of engagement stories in the past year. They were all really beautiful, sweet, and most (I’ll admit) brought a few tears to my eyes.

Here’s the scoop — We’re looking for MORE engagement stories!

We would love to publish your story on our blog. Just tell us the story of your engagement and voila! We’ll publish it, right here on The Wedding Lens Blog! (We’ll also send you a coupon so you can get your very own online photo album on The Wedding Lens!) Also, include a photo if you are up for it!

Looking for some examples? Most of the stories were from the perspective of the person who was proposed to, but they dont have to be! Check out some of our most popular engagement stories from the past year:

Now that you know what we’re looking for, share your story! Email me:

~ Natasha

Engagement Photos: At the Beach!

After looking at some of my friends’ engagement photos, I realized that we could all use a little help on engagement photos — what to wear, what we be aware of — when planning them. With that in mind, I’m hoping to do a little mini-series on engagement photos in different locations. First up — the beach!

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Engagement photos at the beach is a great idea if you live near the beach or if the beach is significant to you & your significant other. The natural scenery allows you to be playful with your clothes or props — or do nothing at all and just enjoy the beauty behind you!

What should I wear?

First of all, make sure that you & your fiance(e) match. Obviously this means different things to different people. I just saw some great photos of a couple where the woman was wearing a floral dress and the man was wearing stripes. In my head, that sounded awful, but it really looked great. So that’s the lesson — try on the clothes together before you take the photos. You’ll be gravely disappointed if the proofs come back and you think “Oh goodness, we should have double checked that first.”

Second, at the beach, it’s fun to wear something other than blue so that you stand out a little bit. So, for example, one person can wear a white and the other can wear orange. (yes, I know orange isn’t for everyone!) Or blue and orange works too.

Third, consider changing clothes part-way through. This way, if something doesn’t work, you haven’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Fourth, BE COMFORTABLE! The last thing you want during this photo session is to feel awkward in what you’re wearing.

What should we do at the beach?

Well, there’s the beach – the sand, the water. You can do some shots walking barefoot.

Sometimes there are vendors nearby. They can provide a creative background and something different.

Think about using those plants and animals that are there! That seagull? What about a shot of him (or her, yes) looking at you two! It can be really cute.

What should the photographer be aware of?

Lighting! Hopefully your photo session will be a sunny day — but that also causes shadows. Be aware of the shadows when you’re taking the photos. This also might mean doing the photos at a time other than high noon. In fact, consider doing the photos an hour or two before sunset.

Did you take engagement pictures on the beach? Tell us about it!

~ Natasha

Share your beach engagement pictures in an online photo album!

Summer of Wedding Blog Posts

In honor of the 4th of July weekend (and just passing our first anniversary as a blog!), here’s the top Blogs Posts on TheWeddingsLens Blog — as rated by YOU! Well, okay, I’ll create a list of our favorites too. Since you asked.

  1. How to Choose the Right Wedding Gown  (which is actually right up there with Colorful Wedding Dresses!)
  2. 75 Cheap Wedding Tips
  3. How to Create a Seating Chart
  4. How to Write Wedding Vows
  5. Which Flowers are in Season for a Wedding
  6. How to Ask for Gift Cards or Money
  7. Photobooth at the Wedding Reception
  8. Creative Guestbook Ideas
  9. Invitations and Bringing a Date to the Wedding
  10. How to Pick Vendors for Your Wedding

The most read engagement story? Nicole & Kate’s Engagement Story (who just had a beautiful wedding and are using The Wedding Lens to share their photos with their guests!)

Our favorite blog post – aside from those above? Well, it’s tied, I think. Three ways. Or Four. I’d do five, but we’ll be here all day as I list through all the rest of ’em trying to decide. 🙂

  1. How to Plan Your Own Wedding (without a wedding planner)
  2. 50 Green Wedding Tips
  3. How to Meet Your Boyfriend at a Wedding (my personal fav!)
  4. Top 10 Reasons to Use The Wedding Lens (duh!)

Three things I notice — the “how to” blog posts seem to do a lot better than the others (generally) and we need you to submit more engagement stories! Email ’em to

What’s your favorite The Wedding Lens Blog Post ?

~ Natasha

Engagement Story: Wes & Jenni

Wes sent this story and I thought it was so beautifully told that I couldn’t bear to ask him to cut it. It made me cry and I suspect it might have the same effect on you! Enjoy! (Remember, submit YOUR engagement stories to

“Finding a ring for Jenni took longer than I’d expected. Something that we’d talked about — a sort of philosophy — was this belief that we should consume the fewest resources possible. This has led us to make large purchasing decisions based on the lasting power of an item, and looking for re-used things rather than new when possible.

I decided to try this tactic with a diamond ring, and I very quickly learned that the world’s biggest diamond supplier, De Beers, pushes its “diamonds are forever” campaign to not only encourage people to buy diamonds, but to never want to get rid of them either (more precisely, pass it down the family). A company that can control both the supply and the demand side of the curve is quite a business indeed…

The only real after market for diamonds shows up in lot auctions, which is really only useful for jewelers. Otherwise, you might be able to find something online from a divorce, and even the least superstitious might have an aversion to that.

I decided to actively seek out a used diamond, and so the logical place to start was with my parents, who had rings from their parents. These rings, though, were set in an old Hong Kong style (very high and ostentatious). I was planning on resetting the stone anyway, and it seemed the prospect of destroying the original ring didn’t thrill my parents.

My next thought, then, was to look to purchase a stone from someone who might have influenced Jenni. I immediately thought of Marie Curie, whose house we’d made a special trip to see during our trip to Paris, and who Jenni felt a special kingship, not only because of her background in radio chemistry and as a woman in science, but also because of her Polish ancestry. Marie Curie, though, famously (according to the internet) did not have any jewelry.

But her grandchildren might. I was able to locate a Dr. Helene Langevin-Joliot, a nuclear physicist working in France and international speaker on women in science, who coincidentally had last spoken at Berkeley in Spring, 1997, the semester before I started school. I could not find a mailing address for her office, especially tough without a working knowledge of French, but I did happen on a book that she had published through a company in Amherst. I wrote (what I think was) a nice letter outlining the various reasons I might prefer purchasing a used diamond, along with some photos and information about Jenni’s work and my companies.

Months later, it was still unanswered, which I’d expected would happen. I figured that she either did not even read the letter, or it sounded like a complete scam. It may as well have been sent from Nigeria. It also occurred to me that it was a good thing Dr. Langevin-Joliot was in physics, because that would minimize the chance Jenni might come in contact with her and be totally horrified.

I eventually wound up picking a gem stone from an online retailer, Blue Nile, and having it set in Park Slope at the Clay Pot, which we later found out was the store for “hipster engagement rings”. Jenni had picked out the setting because of the old fashioned look of the thing; on the designer’s website, they claim that they use tools that date back to the late 19th century.

Once I placed the order for the diamond and started the process of having the setting made, I had about a month and a half to prepare for the actual proposal. I’d decided that I would learn how to sing and play a song on the mandolin, and the tune that I eventually picked was “If I Had You”, strongly influenced by a version Nellie McKay sang at a TED conference. The song as normally sung is more of the unrequited variety, lovesick and yearning, but I thought to interpret my version in a different light, one that would come across as hopeful and promising.

On the evening I decided to actually propose, I called my parents (it was my mom’s birthday), and chatted with them. They already knew I had the ring in my posession and that I was to pop the question soon, but they had no idea how soon. My dad jokingly said that the best present I could have given my mom was an engagement to Jenni. I replied that I still had a couple hours left that night (it was 10:30pm).

After I hung up, Jenni and I started surfing the Internet in search of new bands and music, and I eventually worked up the courage to as her if I could sing a song for her. She said yes, apparently oblivious to what was about to happen. I’d hidden the ring box inside the mandolin case, and earlier that night she’d moved it around, so I was lucky she hadn’t discovered the ring yet.

I started singing, and at the end, got down on the obligatory knee and opened the mandolin case with the ring box open inside, like one of those Petrushka dolls. Jenni was so happy that she didn’t even look at the ring or give me an answer for a while. But eventually she did look at the ring, and she did give me an answer, and it was yes.”

Get your wedding photos from all your friends into one online album! For FREE! Check it out HERE.

Another Call for Engagement Stories!

As you know, we’ve been featuring an engagement story once a week. We love hearing the stories and it turns out that you like reading them! But we’re running out of stories and we need more!

So, wanna share your story? Know anyone who wants to share their story?

You’ll get:

  • your story featured on our blog
  • a photo with the story (unless you don’t want it)
  • a 25% off coupon for The Wedding Lens (though if you submit your story before the end of July 2009, you’re eligible for the coupon listed in our press release)

And, all you have to do is WRITE! No signing up, nothing. Just your story. Typed. To us.

So send your stories (or questions about this, if you have them) to We look forward to reading them!

~ Natasha

Hilary & Carl’s Engagement Story

This was just a short, sweet story that Hilary shared with us and that we wanted to share with you!


“Carl is not the most romantic, however, how he proposed was so sweet.  He took me to a local fondue place and got a private room for us. 

Towards the end of dessert, he whispered in my ear, “Will you marry me, Hilary?”  He was a little shy about it, which was odd for him.  I asked him what he said and he asked again to which I replied “yes” and he slipped my engagement ring on my finger. 

This ring is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and he picked it out all by himself.   He wanted to propose before a trip to L.A. we were taking later that week.  We were going to a wedding and we were both part of the wedding party.  He wanted to introduce me to all of his friends that I haven’t met and family members as his fiance and not his girlfriend.  It was very sweet!”

Share your engagement story by emailing!

Chris & Judy’s Engagement Story

Judy shared with us this great engagement story and we think you’ll like it too!

judy & chris

“My fiance and I met in the New York City Police academy. Upon graduating from the academy, we were fatefully placed in neighboring precincts — with the same days off ! If it weren’t for that, we would have never gone on our first date.

After hanging out a few times and after some long phone calls, flowers, and non-stop texting we went on our first BIG date. We went to Carnegie Hall for a piano performance and then proceeded to Central Park with hot chocolate and giant cookies for a carriage ride. What a beautiful time!

Four years later, after we relocated to Maryland to take Police Officer jobs with Capitol Police, we made our way back to NYC to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

He wanted to go out to dinner Friday night, the 13th, to beat the crowds..(13 does happen to be my lucky number) so it was fine by me. We checked into Park Central hotel, walked to dinner at the Rock Center cafe on the ice of Rockefeller Plaza. Then we walked to Central Park and took a carriage ride. He had planned to propose at the certain spot of the ride where the city comes into view perfectly and he had even researched this on the internet before-hand! (Haha!)

When the city came into view, I jumped over to the other bench to get a good picture, Oops. He told me to get back over here. So I went over to show him the picture, and he said, “I love you so much..I have something for you.” He took out a wooden box and opened it and said “Will you marry me?” My jaw dropped, I think I said “Oh my God,” and started crying and hugging and kissing him, but forgot to tell him yes! He asked me if that was a yes, and I laughed and said “YES!”  We had to extend the carriage ride so we could eat up the moment for as long as possible.

NYC is where we met, our little spot, and it was completely perfect for him to take me back there for the proposal! Our dreams and fate brought us together and our Love and friendship will keep us together forever!”

Want to tell us YOUR engagement story? Email