Dear all of you in love, soon-to-be-weds,
Congratulations! No matter what side of the proposal you were on, this is such an exciting and emotional time. There’s nothing like those moments after you first get engaged, with nothing but each other and your love on your minds. And then…the planning begins. Whether you’ve been planning your Pinterest-worthy wedding for years or if you’ve never once thought about your wedding color palette, it can be a daunting, emotional, time-consuming task. You’ll get opinions on everything from everyone and may have a breakdown or two along the way. Over my sixteen years of experience in the wedding industry, I have encountered more than my fair share of stressed out brides (and grooms)-to-be, and I always want to help relieve that stress as much as I can. This list is meant to be a helpful guide for anyone planning a wedding no matter what stage of the process you’re in. I hope that you find it useful!
This may be the toughest part of the whole process, but it’s arguably the most important. Don’t wait to discuss this touchy subject with all who are involved in the monetary decisions of planning your wedding. And don’t just arbitrarily decide on a number that you *think* should be your budget. You may see out there on wedding websites an “average wedding cost” (currently I’m seeing data that says this number is around $35,000) but averages mean literally nothing. Some people have $100k set aside in the bank for a gigantic, opulent wedding and some couples spend $15k on more intimate, personal celebrations. What you can afford and what you are comfortable spending are the bottom line. Understanding your budget and what it can get you is the best way to keep stress levels low.
1b. Know What Things Cost
A little bit of a sidebar to the budget subject. It’s a tough one, because there are many factors that cause various pieces of the wedding puzzle have a huge price range. For example: I worked bridal retail for many years, at three different bridal shops. I sold wedding gowns to women in a variety of budgets, from gorgeous princess style gowns less than $500 to elegant and simple silk sheath dresses that cost over $3000. You have to decide what you’re willing to spend, as well as factor in the quality (and at times, quantities) of what you are spending your money on.
Since there’s such a wide range within the same type of vendors, be prepared to do a little research. From the quality of a physical product to the experience level of a service vendor, there is a reason that some things cost more than others. You can find wonderful options at any budget, and it’s important to prioritize the items that mean the most to you. You may be willing to cut down your floral budget in order to afford an epic and experienced DJ who keeps your guests on the dance floor all night long whereas another couple might have a family friend run some low-key music so they can afford to cover everything in flowers. Knowing what’s important to the two of you can be really helpful in determining how much of your budget gets allocated to each wedding vendor.
2. Peruse Wisely
There is no shortage of beautiful wedding blogs out there. From dreamy elopements on a mountaintop in France to black-tie events in famous ballrooms, you can find wedding inspiration to fit every style. Just type in “barn style wedding inspiration” on Pinterest and you’ll see everything from simple backyard BBQ weddings to extravagant candlelit formal barn weddings. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting your wedding to be exactly as perfect as these images you see online but there’s so much about them that can be misleading. Many wedding blogs publish styled shoots, which are basically professional photo shoots that wedding vendors participate in to execute a perfectly styled theme. They can be amazing tools but they are far from the reality of a real wedding day. From timing to budget, these shoots are done on an entirely different scale from a real wedding day. Searching for real weddings, especially when you are able to find out actual wedding budgets of the couples, is a great way to get a better grasp on what is feasible for you and your unique needs.
3. The Bridal Party Dilemma
It’s so tempting in those first weeks after getting engaged, to ask everyone near and dear to you to be a part of the wedding. From your childhood best friend to your favorite co-worker, you want to surround yourself with the ones you love the most. Having a gigantic wedding party may be exactly the right decision for you but I have found that my couples who have smaller bridal parties tend to be less stressed, and spend more time enjoying their wedding day with their loved ones than couples with huge wedding parties. This isn’t always the case but if you know that you tend to get easily overwhelmed, a smaller bridal party may be just what you need to enjoy a relaxed, calm wedding day. Also: fewer bridesmaids and groomsmen means fewer bouquets/boutonnieres, bridal party gifts, etc. that you need to budget for, so if you are trying to keep your costs low then cutting your list down to two or three of your besties is a good way to do it.
4. Traditions Are Great, but They Aren’t the Law
There are no wedding police. Your grandmother/great-uncle/second cousin might tell you that things are “supposed to be done” a certain way, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them! From first looks to no formal cake cutting, I have seen a huge trend in couples deciding for themselves what “traditional” parts of a wedding they want to keep and what they want to change up. Do you want to forgo a cake at all, and treat your guests to an ice cream sundae bar? By all means! Would you rather spend your cocktail hour riding around the city in a pedi-cab with your new spouse? Go for it! (I have had clients do both of these things, and believe me, it was worth it.)
5. Keep Perspective
Finally, remember WHY you’re doing all the work of planning a wedding. It’s all about love. It’s about how you feel about each other and how you want the world to see that. It’s about celebrating a new part of your lives with the people you care about the most. It’s about creating memories to last a lifetime, moments and stories you might share with your children and grandchildren someday. So when the to-do list has you pulling out your hair and you can’t make yourself address another envelope, take a time out to reconnect with one another before your wedding day. It will be perfect.
Images by Elysha Thurston. Design by Foil & Ink