By: Lindsey Madsen
A whirl-wind romance, a magical night, the BIG question gets asked and before you know it- you are engaged to be married!! Hugs and kisses and congratulations are in order, but once the dust settles you realize that answering that ONE important question opened the flood gates for about a million other ones. What’s next? Where should you start? When can you go dress shopping? Planning a wedding is a huge undertaking, here is a bit of helpful advice to get you started~
ENJOY BEING ENGAGED
You have finally found that special someone, and are ready to start spending the rest of your lives together, but that doesn’t mean you have to start planning the wedding two minutes after the question is popped. Take time and enjoy being engaged. Celebrate it with friends and family, kiss each other a thousand times and find a fun and memorable way to announce this momentous occasion with the special people in your life. There will be plenty of time for choices and decisions and the stress that comes along with planning a wedding. Getting engaged is big and should be enjoyed and commemorated in a way that is as unique as you and your new groom.
ANNOUNCE YOUR ENGAGEMENT
That new ring on your finger will begin to feel like it weighs a hundred pounds, and you will find yourself wanting to shout the news of your engagement to every person that you have ever met. All of those feelings are completely normal, but if your soon to be Mother-in-law finds out about your engagement on Facebook—that might start things off on the wrong foot. First and foremost the parents should be told, and ideally both of you should be present when the big news is announced. It is then appropriate to tell the members of your immediate families, close friends and the candidates for your bridal party. After that, go nuts! Make a million phone calls; post it on Facebook, Text, Tweet or Blog about your proposal story. However the two of you decide to get the word out, be ready for a multitude of phone calls and texts filled with love and congratulations!
GET ORGANIZED… REALLY ORGANIZED
The first step on the road to planning a wedding is to get organized. Purchase a wedding folio: a three-ring binder or notebook that is dedicated to wedding business only! Purchase dividers and sheet protectors for each section, and begin figuring out what areas are important to you, your groom, (and ideally your parents if they will be a big part of your wedding). When you are picking your date, talk with your closest family and friends about prior engagements that might interfere with your wedding, (like having a baby, or moving for work or college,) and then pick a date that makes the most sense. Once you have your date, I always suggest meeting and hiring a wedding planner. The first consultation is usually FREE, and their years of experience and connections in the wedding industry can save you money and hundreds of hours of stress and running around throughout the planning process.
SET AN HONEST BUDGET
Money and Budgets…. Ugh! Traditionally most of the responsibility to pay for the wedding falls on the bride’s family, but these days anything goes. Many Grooms and Brides pay for the wedding themselves or have relatives or friends that want to help with the expenses. So talk with ALL the responsible parties about what they have set aside or what they are comfortable paying for. Get a realistic idea of what you have to spend and then try to stick to it as close as possible. I suggest getting a separate “wedding only bank-account” if possible. Its sole purpose would be to keep the money for the wedding separate and track purchases, deposits and payments made for the wedding. I know that no one likes to talk about money, but it is undeniably the area that causes the most stress during planning a wedding and having a realistic idea of what you can spend on the different areas will help keep that stress to a minimum.
FIGURE OUT YOUR PRIORITIES
Once you have your budget – the next step is figuring out what is really important to you, the Groom and your parents if they are going to be involved in the planning. It is YOUR day, but knowing what is important to all those involved can help keep hurt feelings and disagreements to a minimum. A fun and easy way to get a clear idea of what the priorities are is to make a list of every area of the wedding you can think of. Such as: photography, invitations, catering, flowers, décor etc. and then give a copy to all the involved parties, including a separate one for you and one for the groom. Have them assign a number to each in order of importance. Once finished, review them together and divide the budget accordingly. Doing an exercise like this can open your eyes to a few things and help take some of the decisions and responsibilities off of your shoulders so you can focus on the areas that are more important to you and the groom. If the dress is on the top of your list but the food is on the top of your mother’s, let her do some of the leg work. She can collect menus, meet with caterers, get bids and then you can sit down together and make the final decision. Letting the right people help in the right areas can help keep you sane and free up time that can be better spent elsewhere.
KNOW YOUR STYLE AND DO A LITTLE HOMEWORK
Knowing what you like and don’t like will need to become second nature as questions about colors and looks and style are flung at you from every direction. Understanding your style is great, but understanding how to communicate your style to others is extremely important. Wedding vendors will usually ask about your colors or theme or style sometime during a consultation, and being prepared for those questions can give them a clearly defined idea of what you are envisioning for your wedding. Websites like Pinterest.com, Style Me Pretty and TheKnot.com (and countless others) can help you gather the ideas and visual aids you may need. Spend time before meeting with your wedding planner or vendor gathering ideas, pictures, color swatches, names of flowers, sketches and whatever else helps you define your ideas for a dream wedding. By going into a consultation with a clear idea of your Style, Priorities and Budget can help your vendor offer services and goods that are realistic, obtainable and meet all of the expectations for your dream wedding!
MEET WITH PROFESSIONALS
Once your friends and families are made aware of your pending nuptials help will begin coming out of the wood-work. You will find that everyone has a friend whose brother’s-roommate’s-aunt is happy to do your flowers or cake or photography, but let me caution you a bit. Using professional wedding vendors will save you stress and money… period. I have been a part of hundreds of weddings, and the ones that (unfortunately) didn’t turn out how the bride had hoped were usually because they had assigned a large task to someone that wasn’t trained or prepared to do it. Having a friend do your flowers to save money is “in theory” a good idea, but the reality is that the stress of ordering flowers in bulk, figuring out how to keep them refrigerated without freezing them, buying all the vases, buckets, ribbons, wires and supplies needed, then putting them together the day before the wedding and transporting them in one piece will inevitably fall upon your already full shoulders. Then after the wedding, what do you do with all that stuff? It’s the little things that add up and you can see how quickly “doing it yourself” can become confusing, stressful and very expensive. Businesses that provide services for weddings on a daily basis are prepared for any and all of the possibilities that might come up. They offer services, supplies, advice and expertise that can save you money and multiple headaches.
BE OPEN TO OPINIONS…. BUT NOT TOO OPEN
Advice, opinions and offers to help from your adoring friends and family are wonderful, but it can become overwhelming and quickly muddle your overall vision. Unfortunately, it takes the skill of a tight rope walker to not hurt someone’s feelings during the planning process, but we have a few ideas to help you stay out of hot water. First, if you are asking for an opinion, make sure you are okay with getting one. If you are not the type of person that really wants advice, don’t go looking for it. Ask for advice from sources that are relevant. If your sister had an amazing caterer or D.J., that would be a good source to go to, but if you ask your unmarried BFF “how to pick the right wedding photographer?” she might not give you the results you were hoping for. In my experience, the brides that don’t share a lot about their wedding plans have fewer landmines to avoid. If you don’t bring it up, it won’t give people the opportunity to give their two-cents. Having a professional wedding planner on your team comes with lots of perks, and can act as the perfect scapegoat when needed. If Auntie Jean wants to make you a cake in the shape of a unicorn, you can politely say… “I think my wedding planner has the cake covered, but I will keep that in mind!” Being gracious and polite and knowing how to navigate all that advice and opinions will become a lifesaver when maintaining those close friendships before AND after the wedding.
Your wedding day is a BIG DAY, one you will want to remember forever, but it is still only one day. Getting married and planning a wedding should be about celebrating your love and the beginning of your life together as man and wife. All too often, Brides put too much pressure on themselves and everyone around them to be perfect in every way. If you follow some of the advice above, it may help plan the perfect wedding, but life has a way of throwing you a curveball when you least expect it. Learn to be open to life, roll with the punches, and don’t let the little things ruin the big picture. In 10 years, will it matter if the shade of the napkins was off a bit, or if the salad plates were square instead of round? …no probably not. If you ask any past Bride what they remember most about their wedding I am sure they would say the same thing… that the little details were a bit of a blur, but they remember the people, the excitement and the overall feeling. That being said, if Brides are too focused and caught up in stressing about all of the little tiny things, they might miss out on what a big success their wedding really was.
RELAX AND ENJOY YOUR BIG DAY
The BIG day is finally here! Family is in town, tuxes have been picked up and all of the final decisions have been made. It’s time for you and the groom to sit back and enjoy the fruits of all of your hard work. During the week of the wedding, make sure to schedule down-time for yourself and the groom, because if you don’t… it will fill up with something. Steer clear of stressful situations, expect that something will go wrong and know that it will still be okay. Eat well balanced meals, get lots of sleep and try not to let the little things ruin what can be the most memorable day of your young life~