“Many a wedding has ended in tragedy when the bride, halfway down the aisle, suddenly discovered that the flower girls are wearing the wrong identical hair thingie, causing the bride to throw down her bouquet in despair and run from the building, never to be seen again.”
~ Dave Barry, Miami Herald, June 17, 2012
Now that the easy parts are over — falling in love, popping the question, picking out the engagement ring and telling your parents — here comes the hard part: planning your wedding!
You are about to go down a path that will require your managerial and organizational skills big time. You will need your decision-making, people managing, analytic and leadership skills to navigate the labyrinth of personalities and issues you will face in planning even the smallest or most modest affair. Your ability to balance influencing others’ thinking against listening to others’ ideas and suggestions will be important in making progress. And don’t forget the art of compromise; standing firm often means standing alone.
The difference between planning your wedding and organizing other events is that you are your own client. Thus, to help this most important occasion come together as smoothly as possible, take a step back from time to time and view yourself and the process objectively. If you were advising someone else, what would you say or do differently? As the bride, and to a slightly lesser extent the groom, you will be the centers of attention and the stars of your wedding. But you are not the only ones involved. It will take the help and support of others to make your wedding day a happily memorable one, and you need to be gracious, considerate and generous to them. The bride and groom are not the only ones who will find themselves stressed.
It will also be important to remember that there is life after the wedding and the honeymoon; envisioning how your wedding plans will affect you and those around you in the aftermath is essential to a happy marriage and continued good relationships with family and friends. To accomplish this, you will need to embrace your critical thinking, problem solving and emotional intelligence expertise to make the right decisions for yourself and your loved ones.
Pow Wow With Your Parents
With the cultural and generational shifts from the bride’s parents paying for the entire wedding, brides and grooms have been assuming the bulk of these costs, with some help more or less from both the bride’s and groom’s families. Therefore, before deciding on the kind of wedding you will have, the bride and groom should sit down with their respective parents and discuss finances. Are both families willing and able to chip in and how much will that be? In addition to helping to fund the wedding, determine whether either side has a home or connections to a venue that could accommodate the wedding in order to save money while not forgoing a lovely setting.
Other issues to discuss is whether you will have a religious, non-religious or mixed-religion ceremony, and who it will be essential to invite from either side. These issues become less relevant if you’re having a very small wedding with just the immediate family and closest friends.
It’s essential that these conversations take place before starting the planning and that good communications be established among the bride and groom and their parents. Establishing your parents’ moral support, collaboration and cooperation right out of the gate will lay a solid foundation for the planning. Your parents can be the conduits for speaking with other relatives and calling upon their contacts to help pull the pieces together. Conversely, not having them all completely on board will form a chasm that can derail the best thought-out plans.
Large, Small or Hardly Any Guests At All
Once everything has been discussed, finances have been settled and a budget has been set, the first decision you will need to make is what kind of a wedding you will have. This might differ from the kind you want, and might be your first compromise. a number of considerations will be involved, including your budget; the ability of your family, friends and others you wish to invite to travel to your wedding’s destination; the availability of the venue you desire; etc. Keep in mind that altering your vision or scaling back doesn’t mean that you can’t have a fabulous celebration that reflects your style, interests and beliefs.
On the other hand, if you’re among the very few to whom money is no object and you have plenty of time, are flexible about the date and the patience to nail down the venue, then go for it. Just know that there are many options for all pocketbooks, schedules and tastes. Here are some examples:
- Destination – You need not travel to the Caribbean, Mexico or Italy, or book a castle in Scotland, although you certainly can. A destination wedding is one that is simply at least 100 miles from the bride’s residence. And, if the guest list is smaller than it would be for a local wedding, it could be affordable. But, because you desire and can afford a destination wedding doesn’t mean that the guests you invite have the funds and time necessary to attend. Often just driving a few hours away for a change of scenery and something different can be exciting and refreshing.
- Small and Intimate – These can be extremely romantic and elegant, and have become popular among those who either are watching their spending or simply wish to have a private affair with a few close family members and friend.
- Theme – Your interests can be reflected and fulfilled by planning your wedding around a theme. Perhaps Halloween is your favorite holiday, you’re wildlife enthusiasts or love Art Deco. It could be great fun to design your wedding around a theme and incorporate it into this important day.
- Location! Location! Location! – The location of your wedding might be meaningful to you. My husband and I were married at The Bronx Zoo because I had spent a decade volunteering there and we both love wildlife; friends of ours were married on a mountain top because they are skiers and hikers; other friends were married in their unique house that the groom designed and built and dear friends of ours were married in the bride’s father’s back yard. There are many sentimental, fun and unusual venues from which to choose that will fit almost any budget.
When a decision has been reached on the type of wedding you’ll have, do your research on what the following usual basic and largest expenditures will be expected to run and see where costs can be cut or contained to ensure you stay within budget:
- Wedding/reception venue(s)
- Food and liquor
- Wedding cake
- Music (band/orchestra/DJ)
- Wedding dress, groom’s rentals
- Engagement ring / wedding bands
- Rehearsal dinner
- Gifts for everyone in the wedding party, including your parents and the parents of the flower girl and ring bearer
- Miscellaneous (Sometimes the bride and groom pay for their attendants to stay overnight in a hotel the night before the wedding so they are all assembled; the bride sometimes pays for hair and makeup for her attendants, and occasionally the bridal couple will pay for the dress or rental for the maid of honor or best man if they cannot afford one or the other.)
- Limousine rentals (optional; to transport wedding party to and from hotel to rehearsal dinner and wedding venues)
- Wedding planner / consultant / coordinator (optional)
Setting the Date
In these economic times, cost and availability of the reception venue often determine the wedding date. Popular venues usually require setting the date further out. If your heart is set on a particular site for your ceremony you will have little choice but to work your date around the site’s availabilities. Another consideration is the time of year and week you book. Summer is still the most popular season, but autumn is a close second. Spring has some allure, despite the tricky weather, and winter is the least popular with the exception of December. Weekends tend to be pricier than weekdays.
Select Your Attendants
Once you have decided on the kind of wedding you will have and its size, style and (proposed) venue, and set the date, it’s time to select your attendants. If you are certain of who you would like your maid/matron-of-honor and best man to be you may ask them shortly after announcing your engagement. However, if you have family and many friends to consider you might hold off and give this some deep thought. But, certainly by the time you’ve set the date you should not keep your family and friends in suspense over who you are going to ask. A delay could cause unnecessary angst and unrest. And, you want to give them time to make arrangements. As for the number of attendants, a reasonable guideline is the smaller the wedding, the fewer the attendants. However, I had only 60 guests at my wedding and seven bridesmaids including my matron of honor (at the age I married I had accumulated many close girl friends and included the daughter of my husband’s best man!); on the other hand, it’s fine to have only one or two attendants at a large formal wedding.
Manage Your Expectations
Although one’s first wedding (and it is hoped only one) is a once-in-a-lifetime event, adults must be able to differentiate between dreams and reality. Some women have been imagining their weddings since they were little girls. Grownups, however, need to balance what is doable against their long-time dreams or the result might compromise relationships as well as upset plans for the future, such as dipping into funds that you set aside to buy a home or start a business. During the wedding planning emotions will run high (even when they don’t appear to be); that combined with some vendors failing to deliver exactly what you want can cause anxiety and disappointment — and much more than just the flower girl wearing the wrong “hair thingie”! Remember that disasters don’t go on holiday just because it’s your wedding on the line. Chances are you’ll reach your wedding day in one piece and on Cloud 9, but as the saying goes, hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
Get Organized and Communicate
Set up a database or spreadsheet to organize all the tasks that need to be accomplished for your wedding. Include the names, profiles and contact information of all the people who will be involved — parents, attendants, family and friends, vendors, suppliers, officiates, guests and so on — and communicate with them early and often to ensure that all who need to be are well informed and on the same page. This approach will help to reduce misunderstandings, oversights and errors and allow you to get your beauty sleep.
Until next time,