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You're Engaged! What To Do Next... Friday, January 7, 2011 ~ 7:33 p.m.

If you happened to skim through Perez or take a look at your Facebook feed at all over the holidays, there's a very strong chance that you came across the announcement of a new engagement or two.

I'm not sure what it is about the holiday season that makes it prime time for proposals...maybe the extra family time, the great shopping deals or just the excitement surrounding a new year ahead, but whatever it is, it definitely makes the season brighter! Dale and I were engaged in early October 2009 (wow, that sounds like so long ago!), so I wasn't technically a part of the majority. However, he did wait to propose until just a few days before we had plans to go back to visit his family in Michigan, so maybe the opportunity to share the news with family does play a significant part in the decision to pop the question.

December, in particular, is by far the most popular month to offer up the ultimate gift that sparkles, with about 17% of all engagements occurring that month. Celebs Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, LeAnn Rimes and Ginnifer Goodwin all began sporting new diamonds last month. However, December is a surprisingly slow month for weddings - only 4% of couples choose a December wedding date.

Holiday engagement, marriage proposal

Once you have the ring on your finger and the news starts to spread, the hard questions begin. "Have you set a date yet?" "Where do you think you'll get married? His hometown or yours?" It's a whirlwind like no other. Here's what to do first after you've said "Yes!"

1. Tell your parents. First. When Dale and I got engaged, I went to work the next day with my engagement ring hidden in my purse because I wanted to tell my mom in person that night before anyone else knew. Once I told my mom, I actually gave her the opportunity to spread the news amongst our family first, but if you'd rather change your relationship status on Facebook and make the phone calls yourself, feel free!

2. Get your ring resized and insured. Don't walk around with a loose diamond on your finger; I know it's hard to part with your ring in the beginning, but many jewelry stores can fix it for you in just a few hours. The time and cost required is dependent on the ring's design. Once it fits, get it insured. Valuable posessions like engagements rings can often be added to your home or renter's insurance policy.

3. Once you've announced your engagement, the next question most people will ask is about the wedding date. If you are like most newly engaged couples, you won't have an exact date right away. Based on my own experience, it's usually best (and easier for you) to just give an approximation. Sit down and discuss how long you'd like your engagement to be. Do you want to get a new job first? Finish school? Move into a new home? Your goals should factor into your wedding date. It may also help to go over any special dates or seasons that may be meaningful to the two of you, such as a summer anniversary or a charmed 11/11/11 wedding date. Whether you come up with an exact date right away, or simply say that you're thinking about next summer, it'll give you and your family a good jumping off point.

4. Start searching for inspiration! It's finally okay for you to openly flip through wedding magazines, check out the bridal blogs (including this one, of course!) and oogle over pages and pages of gorgeous wedding gowns, flowers, cakes and centerpieces. I mainly saved pictures that I came across online onto a "Wedding" zip drive and saved magazine clips in a file. Allow yourself to just get excited for the months ahead, and don't worry so much about the logistics just yet.

5. Start talking about a budget for your wedding. Who will be paying for the wedding? Do either of your parents have plans to contribute, or will both of you be footing the bill? If you're lucky enough to receive full financial support from your family, decide on how you'll be dividing up the expenses. Wedding Planner Mindy Weiss uses the "FLOP" method, in which the groom's family pays for the flowers, liquor, orchestra (or entertainment) and photography. Tradition dictates that the groom's family also covers the cost of the rehearsal dinner, but the bride's family covers the remaining expenses.

6. While it is definitely not required, many parents (and sometimes the couple themselves) will want engagement photos. The images are often included in engagement announcements or Save the Date cards. To plan your engagement photoshoot, begin by talking to friends and family about any photographers they can recommend, ask a talented friend with a great camera or scour helpful websites such as Project Wedding or Wedding Wire for local photographer reviews. Once you've secured a photographer, you'll want to choose a location for the shoot that is not only visually appealing, but one that is meaningful to the two of you - your favorite date spot, the school where you first met or the baseball field where you regularly play.

7. Start discussing your guest list. Keeping your budget in mind, decide whether you want something small and intimate or a big, grand affair. Personally, I think that you and your fiance should start a guest list first, and then share it with your parents to get their feedback. Once you have everyone's input, organize the list into groups by priority. Group A - I absolutely want them there, B - Obligated to have them there, and C - Would be nice to have them there. This will provide you with a solid starting point for when you begin looking at venues and expenses.

8. Enjoy it! It can be busy and stressful in the beginning, but it's still all about you and your hubby-to-be. Don't worry if you don't have all of the answers yet - that's what the engagement before the marriage is for!

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