Wedding Series: Part 2 of 5
Have you ever met a bride-to-be who WASN’T stressed out or wound up about some detail of her wedding? I haven’t, and I’ve been there, too. Planning a wedding is hard work and takes a ton of time, energy, and organization. Why do you think there are a huge segment of people (wedding planners and event designers) who make a living off this stressful… I mean super exciting time in a couple’s life? Even if you’ve got tons of free time and exceptional organization skills, you’ll come up against some pretty ridiculous frustrations while planning your big day. I’m here to offer you 6 solid wedding planning tips that made my life much easier and will reduce your stress level, too.
1) Determine your top 3 most important expense-related things associated with your wedding day and discuss them with your husband/wife/partner-to-be.
Have them come up with their 3 most important things as well. The purpose of this exercise is two-fold: you want to be on the same page as your partner at a high level and you want to figure out where to prioritize your budget, the budget being key here. It’s OK to have a ton of things that are important to you but really try to boil it down to 3 items at the very top of your list. What are the 3 absolute must-haves no matter what. For example, my husband and I had this discussion and boiled it down to: a) delicious food b) a top-shelf open bar c) good music so the dance floor is packed the entire night. Basically, we wanted our wedding to be both fun and memorable, in a good way.
There’s a reason we chose the 3 things we did, and there’s a reason we had the discussion in the first place. When we first got engaged and started tossing around general ideas about how our event might look, we started thinking back on the best (and worst) things about weddings we’ve attended. Think back to all the weddings you’ve attended in your recent past – what do you remember?? I’m guessing you’ll remember that the food was underwhelming, especially if it was plated. You’ll remember whether or not you liked the music and danced a lot/a little/none. And you’ll remember whether you were kind of bored and looking for the right opportunity to leave versus disappointed when the DJ played the last song because you were having a blast. Our 3 things might not align with your version, but definitely determine, as a couple, what is most important to you from a cost-perspective.
2) Handle first things first and details later.
Weddings have become such a commercialized and almost competitive life event that you’ll be flooded with ideas and magazines and unsolicited advice from your friends the second you announce your engagement. It can be quite overwhelming if you let it. There are some really great resources out there like this checklist on The Knot to help with juggling all of it and figuring out the best time frame to focus on each, but even that can be extremely overwhelming just to try to read through. I mean, that checklist starts at 12 months out – what if you end up getting married 6 months after your engagement like we did?
I know it’s hard not to think about every little thing right away, but really try to focus on the big agenda items you have to knock out before the rest can fall into line. There’s no sense in scheduling florist visits and cake tastings the week after you’re engaged if you haven’t locked down a venue or a date. Thinking about how many tiers your cake will have or what color the table linens should be before you nail down some of the other big ticket items is a good way to drive yourself straight into stress mode. It may be a bit premature to start planning your honeymoon or buy wedding rings if you don’t know your target time frame yet. My personal opinion, especially if you’re having a wedding and/or reception outside of a church is to lock down your venue first. Venues are so competitive these days, some booking out 1.5 – 2 years+. We got really lucky with our venue because someone backed out unexpectedly and a spot opened up the day after we called to ask questions. Without that karma in our favor we may have gotten married a year later than we did due to other circumstances. Knowing our venue defined our timeline (as did my brother’s deployment), and that made prioritizing next steps much easier. Big things first, little things last. Easier said than done.
3) Less is More.
This phrase refers more to the number of different vendors you decide to work with versus decorations and “stuff” (although it is my personal opinion that less is more there, too). If you’re searching for ways to reduce your workload and stress level, this one is KEY, but it’s also a little tricky. The more services you can bundle, the better, I say! An ideal scenario would be if you could find a venue that is more than literally just the space itself. Wedding venues are extremely trendy right now, so no matter what city you live in or near I’d be willing to bet there are at least a handful that will cover many of the major items. Chairs, tables, lighting, plates, silverware, table linens and drapery, catering, cocktail tables and couches, alcohol service and bartenders, event coordinator (sometimes). Imagine if you had to coordinate all of those vendors listed above PLUS the bakery, florist, photographer and/or videographer, DJ/band, stylists and makeup artists… I mean this list could go on and on with other optional niceties. Lumping all or much of that first list into one vendor or company will make a world of difference and will make those decisions easier on you. It was important for us to have amazing food so we were lucky to find the venue we wanted that happened to be owned by a catering company. The catch, though, was that they FORCED you to use them for those services as it was a bundled deal. I was SO OK with that because the food was delicious when we attended their open house (day of wedding, too!!!). The other thing that is helpful, if it’s in your budget, is an event coordinator to help with a lot of those planning items along the way. I didn’t opt for having one, but those I know who have done so recommend it over and again!
4) You cannot please everyone, so instill that idea in your decision-making process from the beginning.
There will be some people who cannot make it to your wedding and will be upset that you didn’t plan around their life. There will be people who disagree with your wedding format. Or location. Or that there was a prayer. Or that there was not a prayer. Or on the timing or delivery method of your invitations. Or whether or not they were included in your bridal party or were chosen for a specific role. Or that they weren’t included in the rehearsal dinner. Or that they weren’t invited to any part of your wedding at all. Your parents or in-laws will likely want to put their foot down on a few items (or all of them!!) and your family members may want to invite their friends in place of some of yours. Someone will be upset you didn’t communicate the details effectively enough and someone will be upset that children are not invited. Or that children are included. Or that their child wasn’t in the ceremony itself. Or that you only served beer and wine. Or that you had alcohol at your reception at all. You get my point and this list could go on and on and on… YOU WILL OFFEND PEOPLE. And that is OK. And the sooner you get to the point where you stop trying to plan around everyone else’s demands, the easier it will be to make decisions. It is your and your future spouse’s wedding, not theirs. Remember that. (**as an aside – Mom, family, etc – if you are reading this I am not referring to you 🙂 All of these things did not occur with my wedding, although a very small handful of them did because, like I said, you WILL offend someone.)
You’ll get tons of unsolicited advice (like you’re getting right now!) and you’ll get tons of demands. You’ll probably need to compromise on a few items to keep the peace, or because it’s the right thing to do. Just remember that in most cases, you get the final say. Go with your gut.
5) Delegate where possible.
I’m a Type A control freak sales person. I understand how hard relinquishing control of anything can be, especially when it comes to something is monumental as your wedding day. But if you’re able – and I know you are! – delegate some of the responsibility to people who want to help. I PROMISE that people want to help you. Many people will even ask you what they can do to help – and they actually mean it! They’ve either been a bride before and know how daunting it can be, or more likely they are your friend or family member who really wants to be involved if you will let them. In general, be very specific with your general expectations and what you really want, especially if you change your mind on something. Just like with your significant other… your family and friends cannot read minds! On the other side of the coin, people will also tread lightly because they do not want to add unwanted stress or put you in an uncomfortable position for any reason. They assume that because you have not asked for their help that you do not want them involved. If you are that person, and you have a friend who is getting married, maybe try requesting a specific tedious or time-consuming task to help with. Your bride friend is not overlooking you, they probably don’t want to feel like they are putting you out either.
Here’s a fun idea – my friend Erika had an “Invitation Stuffing Wine and Whine Party”. She designed and printed some really awesome and really intricate invitations, but used the assembly portion as an excuse to involve her girlfriends, delegate a tedious task, and have some girl time. It was such a good idea. I personally have a HUGE list of things that people did to make my life easier and I am forever grateful to them for stepping up or even downright telling me “this is what I am going to help you with, get over it”. It was tough giving up some control at times but my stress level thanked me (and them) for it. Whatever you can do to give up some of your bridal load…DO IT! 🙂
6) Throughout the process, continually remind yourself of the importance behind your wedding day and of the bigger picture.
Your wedding day is a celebration of the starting point of a commitment to another human being. It’s a public proclamation of your love and support for that person and a time for those you love and who love you to get behind you and celebrate that milestone. When you find yourself obsessing over some of the small stuff, STOP and remind yourself what the day is really all about. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not each centerpiece was perfectly designed and placed in just the right spot. It doesn’t matter whether a bridesmaid forgot her earrings, or that your bouquet is missing a specific type of flower. It’s not going to matter if every little thing isn’t absolutely perfect. You WILL have some days where you’re worked up about something that is small in the big scheme of things, and that’s OK. Just make sure you don’t spend your entire engagement obsessing over event perfection or losing 10 pounds or you might look back afterwards and realize how much time and effort was lost in cultivating your relationships that matter along the way. Your wedding day does not define your marriage, but how you plan and work together may potentially give you a glimpse into what parts of your marriage may look like.
My final thought – there are a million and one ways to do just about anything, including weddings. Just because something worked for me or for one of my friends doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you. Every situation is different and every wedding is different – thank goodness!! If any of these tips can fit within your vision, I can promise you that they will help alleviate some of the upcoming stress you’ll be enduring. I hope this has been helpful in some way and good luck!
Wedding day, 2012 – some of my best girls from different phases of my life.