So, that magical thing happened to me last weekend: I got married! It was a wonderful day, with a 30 minute blessing ceremony and a party afterwords. It was a magical day, despite the priest having a minor melt down at the rehearsal a few days before because he didn’t like our choice of music and I couldn’t find a connector I had for the sound system to connect to my computer (I found it! But only after Andy’s uncle drove to our house to look through our mess in a mad dash). Of course things went wrong, but they were handled and I didn’t go nuts. Apparently, that’s pretty rare.
So, I do recommend a few things when planning your wedding so that when you’re in that final stretch you don’t feel the need to rip your hair out. Do them in this order:
1. Choose a date that’s far enough away. This is the biggest party you will ever plan, with the most moving parts. You will have up to two venues if you’re having your ceremony in a place that is different from the reception, photography options, cake and food vendors, flowers and other decorations which need to be put up and broken down, dress, hair, makeup, nails, tuxedos, ties and pocket squares, party favors, invitations, a bridal shower and a bachelor/bachelorette party. Make sure you have enough time to shop around and make decisions because I promise you, that 15 months of time I started with didn’t feel like long enough at the end. I recommend at least 8 months, preferably a year.
2. Figure out who you want involved in your wedding. How many people do you want in your bridal party, and who exactly do you want standing up there with you? Is your father going to walk you down the isle? Are your parents going to pay for anything, and what are they going to pay for? Do you want a little kid to be responsible for not losing your rings? You can’t choose an appropriately sized venue until you know about how many people you are willing or able to invite. I was lucky that my parents paid for the reception venue and Andy’s parents paid for the church. Then the best man’s mother offered to make me a wedding dress, and ended up altering my mother’s dress for far less than it would have originally cost despite having to re-fit it after I gained some weight. All that financial help allowed us to put our savings to better use elsewhere.
3. Decide what your deal-breakers are in advance. Must you have real flowers, or will fake suffice? Do you need professional photos, or will disposable cameras distributed to all the tables be more affordable? Must you have your reception at a restaurant that provides food, or do you need to have it catered? Decide what you have to have first, and get an idea of how much it will cost.
I knew that alcohol at my wedding wasn’t necessary, nor were real flowers, and I found it far simpler to have my reception at a restaurant where food would be provided either by buffet or by plate. I had fake flowers, a real-life photographer, and I knew I wanted to make my own dance playlist. Andy really wanted to get married in the Catholic Church. Our budget reflected that, and we got what we wanted. A friend of Andy’s is getting married later this year and is paying $35,000 because she wants to have a bar and gambling in a casino. So, now you know what you want and what you can live without, it is time to…
4. Create your budget. I know it seems counter-intuitive to not create your budget first, but it is super dependent on who is helping to pay for the event and knowing the things that cannot be sacrificed. Both my mom and I wanted our weddings to feel like parties, and that affected what we spent money on. I have a couple of friends who have had back yard weddings on the cheap, but they spent a fortune on fancy invitations and their party favors need to be shipped from Florida. I bought fake flowers at the dollar store, ribbon from Wal-Mart, and honey sticks from Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies to make bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, and party favors by hand, but I paid $400 for a live group to play at the ceremony. We figured as much as we could into the budget once we had all our volunteers and we knew what we wanted and how much we could afford to spend. The budget just fell into line after that.
5. Turning the plan into action is the hardest part. So, between deciding on your must-haves and creating your budget, a plan has mostly formed in your mind of what you want for your big day. It won’t be completely solid, but you’ll have a good idea of what you want and need. That is good – you don’t want it to have too many details because getting other people to do what you want at the price you want will be supremely difficult, and you will find yourself at the mercy of others. Some things you will have a firm vision of in your mind, and other things will be more a concept than a picture. For instance, I knew I wanted to get a manicure, but I didn’t have a picture in my mind of exactly what I wanted my fingers to look like. I’m glad I didn’t because I ended up with the perfect nails.
My cakes were beautiful, my dress fit me perfectly, and my music was lovely. By not having a solid vision, I could direct things into the direction I wanted them to go instead of forcing them into my teeny-tiny little picture, and my vendors all appreciated me more because of it. In essence, I didn’t create an impossible standard for others to try and make, and when things turned out beautiful organically, I could be happy about it.
6. Sacrifice hurts, but it isn’t anybody’s fault when it happens. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t disappointed when our Priest started freaking out when he found out that I had chosen secular music for our religious ceremony. I hadn’t chosen anything inappropriate – no swear words or foul subject matters – and in fact had chosen some oldies that Peter, Paul, & Mary and Bette Middler had sung, which are often played at Catholic ceremonies. It was just that, two days before my wedding, my Priest found out and couldn’t get his head around it. It was too late for our musicians, the Issac Howl, to learn new music, so we decided to compromise by not having them sing. It bothered me, but there wasn’t another option. I was fine with it. I had to be. Throwing a fit wouldn’t have made it better, and it wouldn’t have reflected well upon me. And it was still lovely!
7. Remember, there is an after-the-wedding time, which will last the rest of your life. After the wedding we had an after-party, then our honeymoon. This week we paid off everybody who did something for our wedding, and next week we both start back at work. After that we will have to pay off our bills and credit cards where we accrued costs during our honeymoon and during the course of our existence. Life will go one, and one day, no matter how amazing, does not make or break how the rest of our time on this Earth. I want to thank all the people who helped me make my wedding day so wonderful, and I wish you, future brides and grooms, a truly enjoyable day to share with your loved-ones. Congratulations!