you're engaged! now what?setting the date

So far in this series, we've talked about budgeting and drafting your guestlist.  In today's post, we'll talk about what to consider when setting your wedding date. Now, there's no reason why you have to wait until after you've determined your budget and approximate guestlist to set your wedding date; you can do this first if you like.  But do at least be sure to have a good handle on the number of guests you're expecting and the amount of money you plan to spend before you start committing to various wedding vendors.

The obvious place to start when choosing your wedding date is with you:  What dates are special to you?  What seasons are your favorite?  For example, if you and your intended had your first date on a magical winter evening, then you might want to recreate the magic with a candlelit winder wedding.

Obviously, more than personal preference generally needs to go into choosing your wedding date, so here are a few guidelines I share with my couples:

  1. Try to be flexible about your date.  It'll be easier for you to find the perfect venue if you're willing to look at a range of dates, rather than a specific day on the calendar.  So instead of looking only at the second weekend in October, for example, you could be open to any weekend in October or early September.

  2. Holidays will almost always be more expensive.  Think about it:  Do you want to be at work on New Year's Eve?  Neither do most of your wedding vendors, and most of them will charge you higher holiday rates for their products and services.  Holidays are also likely to be more expensive for your guests, as everything from airfares to hotel rates jumps up during popular travel times.

  3. Do you have to have your wedding on a Saturday?  Friday and Sunday weddings are becoming increasingly popular because they're less expensive.  Most venues and some other vendors charge less for these less popular days.  If most of your guests are local, then a Friday or a Sunday may work well for you.  If many of your guests are coming in from out of town, then a Saturday will probably be simpler for them as they won't have to take as many vacation days for travelling.  Also, be aware that Sunday weddings often don't have the same party-all-night vibe as Friday and Saturday weddings do, because people want to be bright and alert for work on Monday morning.

  4. Be aware of the typical weather conditions on your prospective wedding date, and think about how your plans may be affected.  Of course, you can't predict the weather months ahead of time, and you can only plan for so much.  But if you've always dreamed of an outdoor wedding, then winter obviously isn't the season for you (depending on where you live, summer may be a poor choice as well!).

  5. Know the costs associated with particular times of the year in your area. For example, here in DC, autumn weddings are the most popular.  It's easy to see why:  The weather is usually temperate and the autumn leaves provide a gorgeous backdrop.  What does that mean for you?  If you want an autumn wedding, then you'll need to start planning well in advance -- that means giving yourself at least twelve months to plan the wedding if you want to have the best selection of vendors.  If you're looking to cut costs, then consider planning a wedding in your area's off season.  Many venues and other vendors will give discounts for services booked during times that are normally slow for them.
Of course, you'll also want to take into consideration regularly scheduled events on both sides of your family.  No sense scheduling your wedding on the weekend that's traditionally reserved for a family reunion, or when your great aunt and uncle are planning their big 50th anniversary celebration!

Keeping these suggestions in mind, sit down together and talk about what dates are most meaningful to you, and what day would be the perfect as the first day of your married life.  This is usually a fun discussion:  It gives you a natural opportunity to reminisce about your relationship thus far, and to daydream about the happy years to come.  Enjoy!