Firstly, a massive congratulations if you have just got engaged!!!
Planning a wedding can be quite a stressful experience. Even if you are like me and are super organised you will go through phases of exhaustion and despair! Once you are newly engaged you first need to establish the kind of wedding you want. Very quickly family and friends will get involved and it may well become about the party or others needs rather than yours. This may suit you and the future groom but if not now is the time to establish the ground rules with those that are and are not allowed to help and provide an input.
The other crucial aspect is setting your budget. This is the time to have the awkward financial conversations with those that may be helping and to ask for the firm figure from anyone who does wish to contribute and also establish whether the money is strings attached or not. You do not want to find a contribution from your family means the guest list will be dictated against your wishes months down the line. So just make sure everyone is clear on budgets and what those budgets mean.
Next up is setting a date, do not tell anyone you have a date until you have a venue booked. It's all very well saying I want a Saturday in June the following year but will your venue of choice be able to accommodate you? Equally if you are saving for your own big day be realistic about how quickly you can actually afford to get married, you may need a two year or more engagement to properly plan and fund everything.
Also be aware your time frame may effect who can and cannot attend. For example a very long engagement could mean babies being born or unfortunately illness in the older generation. There could be new couples formed or current couples splitting hence your guest list is likely to change the further in the future your wedding day will be. Equally a very short engagement may stop guests being able to attend as they have pre-booked holidays or cannot get child care or can't make it to the country in time. Just be aware of time scales and do not be disappointed if your dream guest list cannot be in attendance.
Once you have a budget and an idea of when you would like to get married my next suggestion is writing an a, b and c guest list. The a list should be those that 100% will be invited. For example on my list were parents, siblings and partners, grandparents, aunties and uncles. My closest friends from school and university as well as my God parents. Next, have a b list, these will consist of friends other halves as an example and maybe some more distant cousins or some family friends. The idea being if your dream venue only holds your a list you will be OK but ideally you want to find somewhere that can accommodate your b list as well. If not, the compromise may be the a list attend during the day and you have an evening party for the b list as an example. Finally you need a c list, these are those that in an ideal world with an unlimited budget would be included but you have to be realistic. These may be more distant friends, work colleagues and other relatives. This list is also ideal as if anyone on the first lists cannot attend then you already have an idea of who you would like to include instead.
If seems harsh creating these lists but you cannot book a venue without knowing how many people need to be accommodated and you cannot work out if you can afford your dream wedding without knowing how many people you have to pay for. It might be guests are the most important hence you can factor this into your planning or it might be that as long as the people closest to you are there you will be happy, which will equally change what you book venue wise.
Finally you will need to decide on location. Will it be abroad or in the UK? Will you be marrying in yours or your fiance's home town or somewhere completely different and unique to both of you? Having a rough idea of where in the world you would like to marry will help with the venue research!
Once you have a budget, your guest lists, a rough location and a time of year in mind it's time to start venue hunting!