‘Tis the season for engagements! With so much love and good cheer in the air, it’s no surprise that the holidays make for a popular time to pop the question. In fact, more proposals happen between Thanksgiving and New Year’s–making it truly the most wonderful time of the year for thousands of newly engaged couples. If you’re ringing in the New Year with a new ‘ring on it’ congratulations! Next comes planning, preparation and (above all) patience. As soon as people are done congratulating you they’ll want to know the what and when of your wedding plans. Whether you’re thinking about going big or keeping it small, you’ll want to get started with some of the basics. With over thirty years in the wedding business, here’s our tips for getting you on your way to planning your big day.

Insure your engagement ring. First and foremost you need to protect your new sparkler, and with great rings come great responsibilities. It’s likely your ring is now your most prized possession, and should be treated as such. Protect yourself from theft, loss or damage. If you have homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, you can purchase an extension (a.k.a. “rider”) that covers your engagement ring specifically. If you don’t, you can take out a policy through a company that specializes in jewelry insurance, like some of the ones recommended here.

Set a budget. This can get complicated and we’ve all heard how expensive weddings can be. Before you get lost in the fantasy of something you can’t afford, set an overall number that is realistic and comfortable for you and your partner. If your family is contributing to the cost have those conversations now so there are no surprises later. Think about what elements of your event carry the most weight and where you expect to invest most of your money. Here Comes the Guide offers some helpful tips around establishing your wedding budget.

Choose a few possible dates. Whether you plan on having a long engagement or a short one, you’ll want to backup your planning tasks from your prospective wedding date. Depending on your time frame you may want to confer with those closest to you to ensure your immediate family and best friends are available.

Decide on your location. This may also inform your wedding date, given the time of year or seasonality of your location. For example, on Martha’s Vineyard the spring and the fall are typically the most popular times for weddings. It’s easier to navigate around the Island without the heavy crowds and higher prices of the summer, however the weather can be more unpredictable and can create more unforeseen logistical concerns. Do your research on the location you had in mind and what factors may affect the place throughout the year.

Decide on your wedding style or theme. This may be something you’ve thought about over the years, or not. Maybe it’s the ‘vision’ you’ve had since you were a kid or maybe you’re completely lost and overwhelmed with the limitless options. A search on Pinterest is great for inspiration but you need to have a starting point. Your location and time of year may also help inform this. For example you’re not going to host a rustic beach wedding on Martha’s Vineyard in December (at least we wouldn’t recommend it!). Whether you’re thinking more vintage, whimsical, romantic or modern you want to have a theme in mind to help inform the overall look of your day and the choices you make to help curate it. We love this list of wedding themes from BRIDES magazine for every bridal style.

Think about your wedding dress style. This may also be something you’ve envisioned over the years or something that makes your palms sweat. The options are never-ending and there’s a good chance the dress you choose is something you may have never imagined yourself in. Your dress should fit the theme of your wedding and be appropriate for the destination and time of year, but above all you should be comfortable in it and feel amazing when you put it on. Start by researching dresses and finding examples of those you like so you have a better idea once you start shopping. Here’s some helpful tips from Martha Stewart Weddings on how to get started.

Set a planning timetable. Set yourself up for success by staying organized and ahead of the game (or at least start by trying, we know things don’t always go as planned!). A wedding timeline will help you prioritize things and keep your tasks digestible. Trying to do everything all at once is daunting and unrealistic. Plus, as stressful as the process can be it should also be fun, and a wedding timetable can help ease a lot of your anxiety. The Knot has a great timetable tool that you can customize based on the the type of event you are organizing.

Start your guest list. Fair warning, this one can be extremely challenging. Start by thinking big and creating a ‘dream list’ that you can pare down throughout the process. Segment the list based on ‘have to haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ and be realistic about your guest list count. After all, your budget and venue location will dictate how many people you can actually invite. If your family is involved in the process and contributing financially they may have expectations of who they get to invite, so be sure to clearly communicate with them along the way.

Think about your wedding party. Your wedding party (if you’re having one) is intended to be made up of those closest to you. Whether family or best friends, these are the people you hold nearest and dearest. The number of people you select should be proportional to your total number of guests. Don’t worry about ‘being even’ it’s OK if you don’t have the same amount of groomsmen and bridesmaids, you’re pictures will still look great. A lot more couples are mixing it up, and putting men and women on both sides of the altar, so feel free to keep it fluid. It’s all about surrounding yourself with those that will help ease the stress of your day and those you are proud to have stand beside you.

Research venues and vendors in the area. Once you’ve selected your location you’ll want to start researching your local options. If you’re not too familiar with the location we recommend enlisting the help of a local wedding planner that can help you best navigate through vendors and utilize their connections and resources. On Martha’s Vineyard there is a high demand for wedding services and a limited number of vendors so planning ahead is key. Our friends at KG Events & Design, With Grace, and Julie Hatt of Island Weddings can help you make sense of your options here. Check out our recommendations for other wedding vendors on Martha’s Vineyard.

Share your proposal story. This is a fun one, and sharing is caring! You’ve probably already retold your story a hundred times by now and we hope your face still lights up at each one. Take the time to savor your story and share it with everyone you know. The Knot offers you the opportunity to submit your romantic proposal tale and they generate a link that you can share with your family and friends. Plus, you’ll be one step ahead when you get to creating your wedding website, and if it’s an extra good story they’ll even share it on their homepage.

This is all just the beginning and we wish you the best in the wedding planning process. Keep calm, carry on, and remember–the best is yet to come! If you’re planning a Martha’s Vineyard wedding be sure to read through our insider tips, and please be in touch, we’d love to be of service for your big day.