Whether you've been dating your significant other for the better part of a decade and know that you'll get engaged soon, or simply have been dreaming of your wedding day your entire life and are ready to set the plans in motion, you might be wondering if it's okay to really start planning before you're officially engaged. Nowadays the line is a bit blurred, since more couples than ever before are living together prior to marriage and discussing their future plans before a ring is even picked out.
"Starting to plan the wedding is the method used by many couples to estimate the cost of a wedding and work on their wedding budget and projected wedding timeline," says Carine Saint-Jean, owner of Spectacular Affairs. "We've had plenty of couples come to us prior to their engagement already looking to secure us as their wedding planner with a focus in us creating a comprehensive budget for them indicating how much they should save for the wedding."
Danielle Rothweiler, owner of Rothweiler Event Design, on the other hand, refuses to work with anyone who doesn't yet have a ring on her or his finger yet. "It's a waste of everyone's time to plan anything before the proposal, and no venue or vendor will take you seriously," she says. "If you're in a long-term, committed relationship, there's no harm in creating Pinterest boards or putting together inspiration photos for your future wedding day—as long as you keep the inspiration more general, like the colors you want to use and don't get too detailed." In other words, if you treat the "planning" more like research, she feels there's nothing wrong with it at all.
Amy Nichols, wedding planner and owner of Amy Nichols Special Events, feels that to plan or not to plan ahead of the proposal really depends on the couple and their situation. "If you and your significant other have talked openly and honestly about getting engaged, then sure, there is no harm in doing some sleuthing before an actual proposal happens," she says. "This means you and your fiance have seriously looked at rings, maybe have even picked one out or you know your fiancé has asked your family for their permission—not that you've simply talked about getting married in the very wide-ranging or nebulous sense." Chances are if you've talked about hard facts, she says you should have a pretty good indication of if an engagement is coming. And, if this is the case, she believes it is completely normal to be excited about embarking on wedding planning.
If one or both partners are in the military, and deployment is a factor in the timeline, Kimberly Lehman, wedding and event planner at Love, Laughter & Elegance, is in total support of wedding planning before the proposal. "One of my college friends started long-distance dating a member of the military when he was stationed overseas, and she was still in classes. This went on for several months, and then she told me that she was getting married at the end of the semester," she says. "He wouldn't be back in the country until just before the wedding, so the engagement wouldn't be formally recognized until just before then. It happened quite quickly, but all worked out well."
The same she says goes for if one partner is from a foreign country—plans may need to be started well before the intended spouse arrives to the country they will be married and live in. "In the United States, a citizen wishing to marry a foreign national will need to apply for a special visa, a fiance's visa, which permits the intended spouse to be in the United States for 90 days," she says. "During that period of time, the couple must marry, or the visa holder will be required to return to their home country."
Lastly, if you want to make the "pre-engagement" period even more productive, Nichols suggests start having general discussions with your partner and/or family about the hard facts. "Budget is a huge factor before you start wedding planning, so having an idea of what everyone is comfortable contributing will enable you to act more quickly once the ring is on your finger," she says. "Talking about the general parameters of the wedding pre-engagement makes sense, too." These are important conversations to ensure you and your partner are truly on the same page.