Congratulations! You're engaged! You are finally taking the next step in having your happily ever after by committing to the love of your life.
The engagement period—be it five weeks, five months, or five years—is the perfect opportunity to be excited about starting a new chapter in your life. It’s also prone to stress-induced panic attacks, insomnia, and family squabbles due to a very important event coming up: your wedding day. While a daunting task for many couples, planning a wedding can be done with a minimum amount of stress—if you know what problems to anticipate during the process. Here are five general things to keep in mind when planning your upcoming nuptials.
1. Decide If You Need Help
Are you organized and extremely detail-oriented, but still want to hire a wedding planner for the big day? Or do you have no idea where to start and want someone else to take care of all coordination for the wedding? In either case, the role of a wedding planner is what you make of it. Some couples want a day-of coordinator to run the show only for the actual wedding day, other couples want a wedding planner to handle all logistics from day one, and some decide they want to hire a planner a few months prior to their wedding after realizing it is all too much to handle. There are also those who do not feel the need for a wedding planner at all, which is also common if the couple feels more comfortable being in control during high-stress situations.
Don’t be hesitant about reaching out to a wedding planner for a consultation; the best ones will always give you an opportunity to turn down their services if it isn’t the right fit.
A competent wedding planner works within your budget to help save you money, enjoy the experience, and take away the stress associated with planning a wedding. Great wedding planners also have extensive experience in crisis control and management, and always have a “plan B” in place for many, if not most, emergencies that come up during the entire wedding process. Their role includes being the primary point of contact (POC) with all vendors, researching cost-conscious alternatives to items outside of your budget, and organizing the details of your wedding, shower, and/or rehearsal dinner. Don’t be hesitant about reaching out to a wedding planner for a consultation; the best ones will always give you an opportunity to turn down their services if it isn’t the right fit.
2. Set Your Budget
Decide who will pay for the wedding, and set clear expectations and boundaries after doing so. If your parents (or other members of the family) plan to help you out, be prepared for them to expect some control over various aspects of your wedding, such as the guest list, catering options, invites, and decor, just to name a few. If this is something that you are trying to avoid, then it may be best to have an honest discussion with them to set expectations; if, however, they aren’t the compromising type, the best option may be to front the wedding costs yourselves.
The more formal a wedding you want, the more likely your budget will increase.
Have an open and frank discussion with your future spouse (might as well start now, if you haven’t already) and discuss if paying for your own wedding is realistic, given what you are willing to spend. Will you two be paying for the bachelor/bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinner, wedding party/bridal party expenses, bridal shower, gifts, etc.? Now is also the time to figure out what type of wedding you want: small and intimate, big and formal, or something in between—the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Deciding on the type of wedding will also help set your budgetary restrictions and requirements. For example, if you want your wedding to be black-tie and extremely fancy, expect to shell out a lot more money for a venue, caterer, band, etc. that match your tastes. We all know there are ways to be budget-conscious and creative to create a certain style or mood, but typically the more formal a wedding you want, the more likely your budget will increase**.
**"Hidden" wedding costs can quickly spiral out of control and cause your budget to hemorrhage before you even send out your save-the-dates! Make a list of every type of vendor and extra cost you and your future spouse can think of prior to booking anyone. Do your research online, talk to your wedding planner (if you have one), and take your time with choosing the right venue, caterer, music, florist, photographer, planner, etc. Read EVERY contract carefully prior to signing; this will help you understand cancellation fees, as well as fees that you have never heard of if you are not familiar with the events industry (e.g., outside vendor fees, corkage fees, etc.). If something doesn't feel right, then be upfront and move on to the next vendor. Never be afraid or intimidated into making a decision that doesn't feel right to you; after all, a significant amount of your money is being spent.
3. Like Buying a Home, Write Down Your Must-Have's
When you plan on making a big investment on one item, such as a home or car, there are usually some aspects that you know you definitely want (e.g., walk-in closet and backyard for some home buyers, a high safety rating and all-wheel drive for many car buyers, etc.), and then there are details that you didn't even know existed or don't necessarily have an opinion on (napkin holders and aisle runner styles, to name a few). While it is safe to say that a wedding is similar in that it's a big investment, it’s also very different in that it doesn't have a return on investment (ROI) the same way that buying a home builds your equity or buying a car will solve your transportation problems.
Don’t be afraid to make something special to you a priority when planning your big day. Your wedding is what you make of it, and is all about you.
Your wedding ceremony and reception will likely last between 5-7 hours, and if you have been waiting your entire life to include a particular song, ceremony tradition, stylistic element, etc., then go for it! Don’t be afraid to make something special to you a priority when planning your big day. Your wedding is what you make of it, and is all about you. A recent wedding client of mine wanted a particular chair style at her reception, so we made sure to place aside extra money from her budget to make it happen, without sacrificing for quality in other areas of her wedding that were still important to her. Another client I worked with did not have a particular style in mind, but was focused on only using a certain type of centerpiece.
4. Be Flexible And Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
There is no such thing as perfection in life, business, or family; the same goes for your wedding day. As perfect as you want it to be, there will always be some problem that comes up during the event that will either leave your guests laughing (an embarrassing joke), cringing (a horrible joke), or crying (hopefully tears of joy after a super emotional speech from your maid of honor)-or better yet, it's an issue that goes unnoticed by all guests (except by you and/or your wedding planner). Enjoy your day and take on any potential problems that come with a calm, cool, and collected approach. What seems like a problem on your big day is likely to not have the same effect on you after the wedding. After all, what's a wedding day without some unexpected memories?
There is no such thing as perfection in life, business, or family; the same goes for your wedding day.
Keep in mind that some issues that come up are completely out of your control, such as unanticipated inclement weather, a last-minute cancellation, or a family emergency (e.g., a family member passes away, your flower girl is sick, etc.). That’s why it’s so important to prepare and have a plan in place when something, no matter how seemingly insignificant, runs a little off course. For example, if you are having an outdoor wedding during a somewhat rainy season, make sure you have some type of backup in place to host the wedding inside; prepare to rent umbrellas and a tent as your “plan B” to keep the party and itinerary running smoothly.
5. Have Perspective
Your wedding day is a celebration of you, your family, and your love. Remember to focus on that when you catch yourself worrying about certain details that won't really make much of a difference years from now. After all, you are getting your dream husband/wife, and your wedding day will most likely be the biggest reunion your two families will be a part of for a very long time. Prepare yourself for possible squabbles on seating arrangements, color schemes, catering decisions, and napkin accessories (trust me, they happen). Just don’t let it consume you, especially in the midst of all of the excitement surrounding your wedding day.
Getting married is a uniquely wonderful experience, and taking the right steps to plan your wedding will make it easier for you and your future spouse to work together as a team during some of the more stressful moments in the process. Have fun, be creative, and enjoy being engaged. Happy planning!