The Initial Decisions and Logistics
Getting engaged is a fun and uniquely exciting time in your life. You get caught up in a whirlwind of emotion and anticipation because it’s your turn to get to be the bride. Don’t be afraid when the initial period of sunshine and rainbows starts to fade; there are ways to transition into the nitty-gritty of wedding planning and not have it be total drudgery. Figuring out where to start can be a little overwhelming, but making a concrete plan will help you sort through all the various elements you're going to have to tackle.
Figuring out where to start can be a little overwhelming, but making a concrete plan will help you sort through all the various elements you're going to have to tackle.
Start with picking a date and a venue, because all of your other vendors are going to have to be available on the same day. It’s also a good time to start brainstorming the things that are the most important to you. You’re going to need to set a budget near the beginning of the process, and while you don’t need to nail down all the specifics, start thinking about the things that are worth the bigger price tag. This will help you sort through lists of vendors and their respective costs, with your priorities as a helpful guide for various price points of different items and services.
Differentiating between What You’re Doing and What You’re Paying Someone To Do
Another decision that should be made early on is what you're personally doing and what you're paying someone to do. Weddings entail the smallest of details, and you can choose to pay someone to take care of just about every one of them. Deciding whether you want to hire a wedding planner to take care of these details, whether you want to book a venue that provides a lot of services on site, or whether you want to be in charge of certain details yourself is helpful in selecting vendors that can either be paid for doing what you want or are willing to give you the freedom you desire.
Keeping Track of Everything
When I look back on our wedding, I honestly can’t believe we were able to keep track of it all. We were in charge of every little detail, down to how many forks we were going to need, and when different sets of glasses were going to be brought out. I probably like lists more than the average person, but without categorized and organized lists I don’t know how we would have kept up. Start by differentiating between ceremony needs and reception needs, and work your way down from there.
Without categorized and organized lists I don’t know how we would have kept up.
Sub-categorizing by vendors can help you further nail down what vendors are providing what services, and what little details you are still going to need to work out. Many wedding websites like The Knot offer countdowns that lead up to the big day, serving as a timeline that keeps your plans on track. Make lists, update those lists, and share your thoughts with your vendors and coordinators so you can keep yourself and everyone else on the same page.
The Traditions That You Are Keeping or Doing Away With
Wedding planning is a lot different than it was 20 years ago, and couples have more choices than ever before. The cookie cutter ballroom wedding reception has been replaced with barnyards, donut walls, and photo booths. Traditions involving garters, money dances, and bouquet tosses have become totally optional, and it can be daunting to decide what to include and what to cut. This is your wedding, and you should dedicate some time to thinking through which traditions are important to you and your fiancé.
This is your wedding, and you should dedicate some time to thinking through which traditions are important to you and your fiancé.
Don’t be afraid to nix something that others think you have to have. We chose not to have assigned seating at our wedding, and I thought my grandmother was going to die, but we didn’t want the hassle in addition to giving our guests the freedom to choose who they spent the evening with. Be honest about why you do or don’t want something included, and don’t be afraid to stick to your guns if you want to deviate from the mold.
You’ll quickly find that everyone has an opinion. Although well-intentioned, the onslaught of advice and opinions can be difficult to deal with. While you certainly don’t want to be rude to anyone, you also have to set some boundaries regarding which advice you’re going to take and which you’re going to…disregard. Opinions coming from those with a financial investment in your wedding, generally the parents of you or your fiancé, should be given serious consideration.
While you certainly don’t want to be rude to anyone, you also have to set some boundaries regarding which advice you’re going to take and which you’re going to…disregard.
However, even when others are footing the bill, it's important to remember that this is your wedding and you shouldn’t be afraid to voice your opinion. You don’t want to give in to something you don’t like, and you also don’t want to become a demanding bridezilla who isn’t grateful for the time and effort others are putting into you and your big day. Finding a balance can be tricky, but approaching others with respect and calmly articulating why you do or don’t want something will help you navigate through some of those awkward conversations.
I had been so excited to create our registry until the time actually came, and I was quickly overwhelmed and frustrated with the ambiguity of the process. My husband and I didn’t live with each other before we were married and didn’t know what apartment we would be moving into after getting married. I had no idea what pieces would be practical and what our home was going to look like, and I was so frustrated not being able to specifically envision everything. Instead of trying to create the perfect home in your head, choose a few staples that you know will work anywhere, and save the cash you get for the items you may need to wait on.
Instead of trying to create the perfect home in your head, choose a few staples that you know will work anywhere, and save the cash you get for the items you may need to wait on.
I was also torn between including items that I really wanted and items I thought people would actually buy. Looking back, I wish I had included more of the items I knew I would use and not just the items I hoped we would use. Be practical about what you put on your registry and stick to the things that you know you can and will regularly use, rather than the ones that seem fun and fancy but will probably end up in the back of a cupboard somewhere.
Before our wedding all I heard about was how important photos were and how paying a photographer what seems like insane amounts of money is worthwhile, and I was definitely not sold on the idea. Hindsight is 20/20 however, and I totally understand now as we look back on our beautiful (and expensive) photos but are able to use them to remember every detail and every person involved in our special day.
Finding a good photographer is key, but it's also essential to plan, at least loosely, your photos ahead of time. Make a list of what shots you want and with whom, both during the ceremony and during the reception. The photographer won’t know the meaningfulness of certain groups or shots you want, so take the time to sit down and think it through. Handing this list off to the photographer, and maybe someone in your bridal party as well, will help ensure that you capture those moments that become so priceless.
Meaningful Gestures in the Midst of Chaos
It was really important to me to make sure that our immediate family members and wedding party felt included and appreciated on our special day. I knew the day of would be rushed, so I took time in the months leading up to the wedding to think through meaningful gifts or write letters to people I wanted to make sure to acknowledge.
I knew the day of would be rushed, so I took time in the months leading up to the wedding to think through meaningful gifts or write letters to people I wanted to make sure to acknowledge.
Although we certainly spent time together the day of the wedding, I knew there was a possibility of not having the opportunity for truly intimate moments where I could convey my appreciation to each person individually. Having the gifts and letters picked out or written months ahead of time allowed me to not only cross something off my list that is usually a last-minute stress but also ensure that I conveyed to each person their importance to me and my husband.
When You and Your Fiancé Fight
Again, engagement and wedding planning can seem all sunshine and roses…until it isn’t. You and your fiancé may get into the silliest of arguments over cake, colors, and things you never considered important. Don’t freak out and second guess your major life choices; these little disagreements don’t mean your marriage is doomed before it even begins. Take these moments of discomfort to get to know your future spouse better, and really pay attention to how you work together.
Try to understand why certain things are important to them, and why they may or may not want them included in your wedding day.
Try to understand why certain things are important to them, and why they may or may not want them included in your wedding day. Seeking to understand and support the other will not only help to mitigate conflict and fighting but will, more importantly, help to lay the foundation of a loving and sacrificial marriage in which you as spouses seek to give unconditionally to one another.
Enjoying the Day While Ensuring It Runs Smoothly
As a “Type A” perfectionist, I can attest to the difficulty of letting go when the wedding day actually arrives. All the months of planning, however, should culminate in a day where you can let go, be present, and soak in every moment surrounded by your new spouse and the most important people in your life. The key here is to delegate, delegate, delegate. You’re surrounded by people you are either paying to be there or who love you enough to be there. They are there to help!
Don’t be afraid to ask your vendors to make sure certain tasks are covered and don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and family. Most people jump at the chance to get involved, and it makes them feel special and appreciated to get tasked with some form of responsibility by the honored couple. Identify the things you know are going to stress you out and ensure someone is standing by to take care of them; sometimes the less you know the better!
Expect some potential hiccups and be ready to roll with them, and have people around who are prepared to handle problems if they arise. As stressful as it may be, the big day is meant to be enjoyed and reveled in; you should appreciate the moments and the people who are there for you as much as you can. In the end, it’s not the flowers or the flavor of cake that makes the difference, but the people who are witnesses to the life and love you and your new spouse are creating.