If you are reading this, Congratulations! That special moment FINALLY came…you are officially engaged! *squeal* You can now do all sorts of awesome things like post pictures of the ring to Facebook with the status update, “He liked it so he put a ring on it!” FYI: it’s been used, um, a lot, so maybe try something else. Anyway, you’ve arrived and you are ready to tackle the most amazing day of your life, except for one teensy-tiny detail. Everyone you ever know who got engaged and planned a wedding said it was THE WORST, MOST HORRIBLE, thing they have ever done. They fought with their moms, their fiancées, their wedding planners, and their best friends. Making all those decisions and plans was so stressful and so horrible; it makes any sane person wonder why we ever get divorced only to do it all over again. Let me be the one voice in this lone, crazy, WWF-wedding smack down world that will tell you differently. We planned our own wedding – and loved it! Seriously, my main man and I had a blast and my mom and I (and even the dreaded future Mother-in-law and I) had the best time. Was it a little stressful? Sure. Did it require a lot of decisions? Oh my goodness that is an emphatic YES! But, before we ever got started, we set some ground rules; a few “Rules of Engagement” if you will (my guy loves puns like that J), and then we refined them over the years as we worked with bride after teary-eyed bride. I’ve seen it all from fights over seemingly insignificant details like how the bride is going to style her bangs, (really, that was a real one, right there) to more emotionally complicated matters like which father figure is going to walk Miss soon-to-be Mrs down the aisle. Regardless of what type of reception, what budget, or what dress you get, there are a few tricks to planning your wedding that will ensure you can enjoy not only the amazing day, but the process of getting there.
Rule #1: Hold your horses there cowgirl!
I know, not what you were expecting right?!?! You got engaged and now you can officially run out and try on wedding dresses, whereas when you did it before the ring, you seemed a little too much like a freight train. I’m here to say right now, “Stop, pause, and wait.” You have one super-important task to do before you ever get started. I made this mistake. I got engaged and ran out literally the next day and found the perfect wedding dress. I fell in love with it, I felt beautiful in it, and nothing could ever compare. And then I turned to my mom and said, “So how much money is in the budget for this?” And my sweet mom just looked sort of confused because she and my dad hadn’t thought at all about how much they were willing to put towards a wedding. We decided that since the dress was one of the most important things for a wedding, we would just get it and settle for less than amazing in other, less-important places. Come to find out, when you are planning your wedding, EVERYTHING seems important. Every single detail seems like it will either make or break the most magical day of your life. I’m here to say right now that Rule #1 is to step back and not make a single decision or purchase until you, your finacee, and whomever is helping pay for the wedding (typically the parents) sit down and make a list of what is most important to them. Now, when you make this list, you get 5 things. If you want you can have fewer, but you can’t have more. Limit yourself. For example, the five things that were the most important to me were: my dress, the photographer, location of reception, the flowers, and matching wedding line outfits. There were definitely other things that seemed important, like the color scheme, but when my soon-to-be husband wrote out his list and his only request was to wear a divine chocolate brown tux, I knew the color scheme I had been putting together had to change, and I have never regretted that. On the other hand, I met one groom who just really wanted a chocolate wedding cake. That’s it. But, the bride couldn’t part from the traditional white wedding cake, and ten years later, she still regrets not giving him the one thing that was really important to him at their wedding. Picking what is most important to you not only helps you choose what proverbial hill you are willing to die on, but it helps you see where you can be the hero to other people and give them the special wedding too. Have your parents make this list. Have your fiancée and his/her parents make this list, and above all, you make the list and limit yourself and everyone else to five or fewer. Also, be detailed. It doesn’t help at all to say the reception is important. That’s a huge event with tons of different vendors and bills. Be more specific than that and figure out what it is about the reception that is all-important to you. For me, it was the location, for someone else it might be a string quartet or using real dishes. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get those five things exactly how you want them.
Rule #2: Money Talks
Now that you know what is most important to you, you can run out and buy it. Um, just kidding, I was lying. It’s not time yet, but you are getting closer. Please, for the love of your Dad’s high cholesterol medication or that nest egg that you or your fiancée has managed to save, plan another sit down. Bust out a yummy fruit platter (you’re on your wedding diet remember?) and some lemon water and grab the nearest Excel nerd you can find. Now, invite all the parties interested in paying for the wedding and hammer out that budget. And no, I’m not talking the vague, “Oh we can all give $2,000.” budget. I’m saying get that Excel addict to create sheets for each event in the wedding and then line items for everything. Not just a Maid of Honor dress, but shoes and jewelry too (or you can leave that out if you aren’t going to buy her some shoes). Remember how my mom and I just looked at each other and didn’t have the foggiest idea how much we wanted to spend or were willing to spend or should spend on my wedding? Financial discipline can’t go out the window just because you’re super excited to get married, and without a firm, detailed budget in place, it’s way too easy for spending to quickly spiral out of control. Who knows…maybe you’re the lucky one with the rich daddy and a sky’s the limit budget. But, I guarantee your daddy didn’t get rich by indiscriminately spending his hard earned money. He tracked every penny, weighed each cost, and made calculated decisions. And even if he doesn’t ever say anything, he knows exactly how much of his money is going down that white, tulle-lined wedding drain. Remember that list of 5 items that are so important to you that you will faint away right in the middle of the aisle if you don’t have them? Bring that to the budget meeting. Plug all the important numbers in first (if you don’t know how much your DIY hand-painted chalkboard signs are going to cost, make an educated guess or bring a girlfriend to be doing some research while you guys forge ahead) and then see what that does to your grand total. Whatever is leftover has to be split between all the different line items and there are going to be a lot of them. Most of us end up with more line items than dollars to cover them. In that case, it’s time to start trimming, fundraising, or creatively sacrificing. Trimming is an obvious choice, but often more difficult than it sounds. Many enterprising families try to trim with the DIY route, but unless you are a well-scheduled, well-organized family, this isn’t for you. If you are one of those giftedly tactful individuals, by all means, try to squeeze a little more out of your parents or future parents-in-law. I prefer to creatively sacrifice. Let’s imagine that you have always dreamed of having a destination wedding, and it is the one thing that is on your “List”. It’s so important to you that it is the only thing on your list. You can see the tropical beach wedding, or hauntingly romantic European castle getaway. But, budget-wise, it isn’t going to happen. Now is the time to sacrifice everything on the altar of your wedding dreams. Is it possible to find a closer, but just as beautiful beach? Could the destination wedding be just for the bride, groom, and parents, and then host an open-house style reception locally in a more financially feasible location? When there is something on your list that would make all your dreams come true, but seems unattainable financially, this is the time to give up those matching leopard-print bridesmaid stilettos that look so cunningly adorable on every wedding inspiration board on Pinterest.
Rule #3: Get over it
This may sound harsh, but it is so true. Plan now to check your pride at the door for each and every cake-testing, catering sample, fabric swatch, and dress fitting. Weddings aren’t just high stress because of money, time, and decisions. It’s also high stress because emotions are running rampant in the hearts of everyone on the guest list. Cousin Janie is sad she isn’t married, your nieces are dying inside waiting to see if they get new flower girl dresses, all your girlfriends are sick-green jealous, and this doesn’t even begin to cover the mothers. Even though this is you and your fiancées moment, it’s also the moment so many other people have been dreaming of and waiting for too. Right after our wedding ceremony, my husband’s grandfather came up to us and whispered in my ear, “I’ve been waiting for you to come along for him for so long.” In that moment, it totally hit me. This wasn’t just my wedding day. I may have wanted to be the star, but the parents, friends, and family all wanted to shine too. I truly believe one of the main reasons we had so much fun planning our wedding is because my husband and I chose moments for our loved-ones to shine as well. My mom and aunt did the catering; my newly acquired sisters-in-law went shopping for their outfits with me. I had some family and friends come to the photo shoots and let the photographer boss them around. One of my closest friends helped me design my flowers. This meant I had to spend a lot of time listening to their ideas and appreciating their help. I had to walk on eggshells a few times to help them feel included, but not hurt their feelings when I went a different direction. I definitely had to compromise because our relationship and their feelings were more important than a blouse. One of the phrases we used a lot when planning the wedding was, “Let’s see if I like any of the options that are available and if not, we can go from there.” I felt like this helped me start out in a more flexible, willing mindset, but that it also helped prepare my friends and family to keep looking and not be hurt if I wasn’t totally in love with the first stuff that came along. On a side note, we were selective about where we included friends and family. If it was on my “List” and there wasn’t room for compromise, I didn’t include anyone who would be offended by me playing the “This is super important to me” card.
Rule #4: Don’t grab a cold one
I think we’ve all been there, either personally or with a loved one. How many disagreements crop up because of alcohol? Great-aunt Betty has had one too many and tells you you’re a slut for living with your fiancée before you’re married, or you need a night out and get in a huge fight with your maid of honor after too many cocktails. We’ve seen it happen or maybe it’s happened to you, but the fact of the matter is, alcohol never helped anyone make sound judgment calls or strong decisions. While you plan your wedding, stay sober. I don’t personally ever drink, but if you do enjoy a drink now and then (or maybe more than now and then) now is the time to lay off a little. You complexion, wedding diet, and teeth whitening regimen will thank you. You will also be in a way better frame of mind to handle emotions, compromise, stress, and the decision making process if you are 100% sober. If this is totally unrealistic for you or your fiancée, at least agree to come to all wedding-related events sober: the cake testing, dance lessons, reception center hunting, flowers, showers, etc. And yes, I included the bridal showers in there too! I promise you will have more fun and remember it longer with a clear mind. I even stayed off of soda because I wanted the healthiest, strongest, most energetic body and mind I could have. There are so many yummy, virgin drink options out there that are easy to find and easy to make, and a lot of them are great for skin, cellulite, hair, and metabolism. Do yourself and all of your guests a favor and stay sober. The biggest excuse I hear from brides for drinking is that it helps them relax. Well, it’s also easier for you to stick your foot in your mouth, throw up in a studio, or have a big fight with the ones you should love the most. If you need to relax, use the money you would have spent on booze and go get a facial, read a book, take a hot bath, or hire a maid to clean your apartment. Believe me when I say that staying sober will bring more fun and energy to the wedding planning than a beer ever will.
After having a great time planning my own wedding, and then spending so much time helping brides plan their wedding flowers, I hope these few tips and tricks will help you and your loved ones have not only a great wedding day, but a truly enjoyable time planning and pulling off an amazing event!