Once the initial shock of being engaged wears off (and you take a second to peel your eyes away from that sparkly ring on your finger!), you'll need to make a lot of decisions. Here are the some of the most important things you need to do to really kick off your wedding planning.

  1. Set a Timetable

The minute you get engaged, everyone will be asking for your wedding date . But in reality, you won't be able to set an exact date until other major decisions -- like choosing (and booking) your venue -- are made. So first, focus on determining a range of dates that will work for you. A typical engagement lasts anywhere from six months to a year and a half or more, but also think about what season you'd prefer, any major holidays or family events you'd like to avoid conflicting with, and how long you predict you'll need to plan.

  1. Dream Up Your Style and Pick a Location

Before you try on a single gown, book a band or sample a bite of cake, look at the big picture and imagine what kind of style and vibe you want to set for your wedding -- and where you want to hold it. Close your eyes and picture your fantasy wedding. What do you see? Is it a candlelit ceremony in a mansion? Are you walking barefoot on a beach in the tropics? Or maybe it's in your hometown's botanical garden. While you're picturing your perfect wedding, here are some key questions to consider: Big (everyone you know) or small (just close friends and family)? Outdoors or in? Home (one of your hometowns or your current city) or away (a destination wedding)? Modern, classic, romantic, vintage, rustic or all-out glam? Fancy, casual or somewhere in between? To help you get a better idea of what you want (and what you don't want), spend some time gathering inspiration. Check out magazines, books and real wedding photos online, but don't limit yourself to the obvious sources. Something as unlikely as a wallpaper pattern, a scene from a favorite movie, or a family heirloom can spark your creativity. Bottom line: Always keep your eyes open for inspiration.

  1. Set Your Budget

Sit down with your families and figure out how much everyone is contributing . This number will affect every decision and purchase you make, so be sure to work out your budget before you start planning. It can be an uncomfortable conversation , but it's better to get it out of the way now.

Those are just a few important things that you will need to do to begin the planning process for your wedding. However, some engaged couples can buy a house before getting married.

 

Getting engaged to be married typically involves some significant life changes. It's common for engaged couples to begin looking for a house to buy to start their new life together. Two unmarried people can buy a house together as co-borrowers or co-owners, or only one of them can purchase the property. The route you choose to take depends on your financial situation and future plans,


1

Decide if both or only one of you will be taking out the mortgage loan. Factors to consider are credit scores, yearly income, total debt and your total budget. If one of you has a high credit score and the other has a low score, it might make sense to put the mortgage in the name of the one with the high score to get a better interest rate and lower your payments.

2

Shop around for the best loan offer to fit your needs. For example, you will need to decide if you want a variable rate mortgage or a fixed rate as well as how many years you want the mortgage to be.

3

Apply for a pre-approval from the lender of your choice. Getting pre-approved lets you see how much you're likely to be approved for on the official loan application so you know what price range to stay in during your search. Also, having the pre-approval from your lender makes your offer stronger to the seller. Just keep in mind that if only one of you will have your name on the loan, the approval amount will likely be less than if you both had your name on it. That's because only one income will be attached to the loan instead of two.

4

Hire a real estate broker to help in your search and help negotiate the price, if you don't mind paying the commission. This is something you will want to discuss as a couple.

5

Choose the house you want to buy. Arrange to make an offer to the seller or his real estate broker.

6

Complete the official loan application provided by the lender. If both of you are putting your names on the loan, you both will need to fill in certain parts. Fill it out completely. The lender will request income verification such as a recent pay stub or tax return, as well as financial documents such as bank statements.

7

Meet with the closing agent on the scheduled closing date to sign the loan documents. If only one person is on the loan, only he needs to sign. Since you are not legally married yet, common law state rules won't apply for the non-borrowing spouse.

This article has been updated from an earlier version by Vi-An Nguyen and Mallory Malesky