Whether he popped the question, or popped a bun in your oven. For better or worse it will change both your life, forever. Then there are like a million things to think through till the day comes.
Having gone through hundreds of weddings waking as early as the bride and leaving the wedding dinner later than most guests, I have simple observations of how things work. It's not even a surprise, that I have more wedding experience than my whole family combined this life time. But for the record, I have only one wife.
There's a 'frame work' behind all these hectic day we are seeing. I think this could serves as a simple guide for what you can gradually do to build up the whole wedding from scratch. Start early like a year ahead if you don't want to feel rushed. All of them together looked daunting, but do it one at a time and you will be fine.
If your family and spouse-to-be isn't a fan of any typical big wedding and you are not obliged to have any sort of celebrations, you can stop reading here now. Just sign the legal paper at the registration office and have a meal between closest family members and friends. :)
Who's the boss. Is either one of your parents or grandparents particular about 'good date' and their view matters a looooooooooot?
No? It's your big day! Pretty much your say and reasonable considerations you'd know much better than anyone else. Your wedding is and should be personal rather than obligatory or trend-following, if you have a choice that is. Make it unique and personable.
If 'good date' matters, look for the person who can find an auspicious date for you (elderly at home probably knows it if this matters). They could be someone from temple, feng shui place or maybe even Chinese wedding dowry shops like Red Knot in Penang or one that's near you.
The Budget & Timeline
Many people went overboard on the amount of what they wish to spend. The culprit is often the absence of a realistic budget vs expectations. I was secretly finding out prices long before I proposed. And very fortunately, I have a friend that is very willing to share her wedding budget with me. I know most of your concerns so I decided to pay it forward by sharing.
You can actually put up a simple spreadsheet with numbers. Say, Google Sheet is a nice & free place to start cause both of you can make changes and see it instantly from mobile or computer. If you are interested, feel free to start building from my actual planning sheet that's empty. Login to your Gmail, go to File -> Make a copy... to start using.
Before you gather actual quotes, list down some rough reasonable numbers you think you are willing to spend for each items like: rings, Milan Teh, videography, makeup, attires & accessories, angpow, wedding downries, deco for spaces or bridal car, bouquet/corsage/boutonniere, catering, music band, ceremony related costs, dinner expenses, invitation card, liquor, emcee, gifts, and misc.
Being reasonable is important, because it's happier to find out you saved money from certain things than to find out other wise right? For each item, put a target month you think it's good to have them crossed off. Then it won't be as stressful when the date draws closer. As for budget, bear in mind that collected angpows may ease you at the end of the day. Just don't rely on it yet, cause obviously you will need cash to pay everything upfront.
Google is your best friend, wedding photographers can be the second. Obviously, you may not know all the options around you unless you've asked enough married couples or have a collection of venue names from the entire state in hand. If you ask nicely enough, wedding photographers could give you some good pointers based on what you are looking for. Clearly, we know what looks nice for pictures.
Before approaching the venue staff, have a talk with parents if possible to come up with a rough figure of people you'd like to invite. Or the sub-list of 'I-don't-even-know-them-but-gotta-invite-anyway-guests' in Asians' term ;)
To ask about the availability, booking terms and what is the maximum capacity are good questions. The other questions you might have would arise itself eventually. You know, things like food menu & costs to use the space, corkage fees, halal or non-halal or vegetarian food and stuff.
You might want to know what is their default arrangements too, like how the dinner place usually looks like in a wedding reception and whether the default is suffice? Or do you want to spice things up by hiring third party florist or planner? Do they have sound/PA system for you to use if you need one? Some venue charges entertainment license fees too if you play music that is not own/provided by the hotel.
This is pretty much self explanatory. You can opt to have none if budget is super tight. Often, these are wants, not needs. There I've said it.
Just because peers have something in their wedding doesn't mean they are must-haves for yours. Life is like a piece of white paper. What it is depends largely on what you chose to fit inside. Everyone's priority varies.
But if you do need any, here's a few to consider:
Milan Teh, attire/gown source, videographer/cinematographer, florist, wedding planner, makeup artist, emcee, live band, celebrant or people who helps with the wedding ceremony. Google can help a lot with getting few names of these professionals for you to consider.
At a reasonable level, a bride only needs one wedding dress. And maybe, one other wedding dinner gown at most. That's it. It's much easier for guys, we only need a set of formal attires for the wedding. I simply bought mine from H&M, hah...
This holds true even for a pre-wedding photo session. Consider this, maybe you don't want to feel like a fashion show or doing homework - chasing scenes or fulfilling gown-changing-quota. Wedding portrait is supposed to be about both of you, your personality and how you interact with each other. No?
Think about this, we usually walk about in comfortable clothing everywhere carefree. The best way to reflect that is to be our usual-selves even in pictures so the value within is the authentic emotions.
I saw instances that couples are nicely warmed up and very happy for shoot but guess what, it's time to change to the 2/7 gown! I find it pity and more Asian couples especially should be aware of this. Go for quality time.
Learn about the shortcomings of having formal attires in a photo shoot in here.
This is way too big of a topic to cover in this post cause Asians could be having weddings of a fusion nature or one like: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Christian, Punjabi and much more. Learn from newly weds or elderly, find out timing needed and people involved.
Timing of the day is important especially letting everyone knows where, when and what is going to happen - the itinerary. Try make the itinerary idiot-proof. Don't forget to consider how people who are helping you will travel too and their meals. Don't be shy to ask for help. Real friends are very very happy to contribute on your wedding day!
Some time buffer should be slotted in for every single occasion cause people might be late or in case something unexpected turn up. You can only micro-manage so much. Chances are, many things during a wedding day is out of your control because it involves a lot of other people. Setting up time buffer gives you free play when the situation arises.
Here comes to the interesting part, cause arriving here means you are likely more than 50% ready.
At least half a year before the wedding date, you should long have a list of people you wanted to invite already. Don't forget you will need to confirm head count with the hotel/restaurant/caterer too. It's even truer to destination weddings where your guests might need to take leave, book their flight and accommodations!
Facebook and physical card are popular ways to send out the invitation these days. Some hotels or restaurants may give you standard cards for use. If you want more personalized one, you can look for places that print name card to get your invitation card done. Or even better, diy!
A wedding should be personal and memorable. Common sense and a rational mind will likely solve most things. Appoint someone who can help to make important decisions on the wedding day, this is important to stay sane and live into the moment. Do allocate time to take pictures with family and friends, else it may not happen speaking from experience.
Free yourself from fixed expectations, just go with the flow as it is on the day cause you will likely be much more happier. A wise groom once told me, "it's not important, wedding day is transient."
Hope the sharing is useful and happy planning to all the wedding-couples-to-be!