I met a newly engaged friend for drinks recently, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Last summer I texted a bride two days before her wedding to tell her I couldn’t make it. I have just learned how much that probably cost her.” A ton of people get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, so if you’re one of them, let us be the first to welcome you into the wide world of Things You’re About to Learn About Weddings. There is, first and foremost, the cost. Then at some point you’ll realize how many details you haven’t even thought of that you’ll need to plan out (for me, it was reading a blog post where someone said they realized the day of their wedding they’d forgotten to get a microphone for their officiant. Pro tip: Get a microphone for your officiant). Then your family and friends will suddenly have a million ideas for your wedding, and other people will suddenly decide they’re very offended by the way you’re approaching centerpieces, and then you’ll turn to your beloved and say, “What if we eloped?”
I totally support eloping, and I have watched two people in my family try to do it and be beaten back by the tide of hurt feelings that followed. The decision to elope is its own post. For today, let’s assume you’re planning a wedding that guests will be attending.
Let’s also assume you’d like to retain some measure of calm feeling between now and then.
We can’t promise wedding planning will be totally stress-free, but there are definitely ways to get through it with a minimum of anxiety-induced pizza eating. (All pizza eating should be joyous, after all.) Here are my four tips for making it happen:
Agree on your wedding budget up front.
You can’t start planning without knowing how much you feel comfortable spending. This may mean taking a long look at your bank accounts (yes, we recommend sharing savings info and salary with each other if you haven’t already) or having honest conversations with relatives who want to help. Once you’ve got a number in hand, talk about the top three things that are most important to you both. Is it being able to invite everyone you’ve ever met? Great food? Rockin’ music? Do you love decor? Knowing the things you’re willing to spend more money on will give you some natural direction for how the budget will balance out, and can be a nice list of points to come back to as you’re struggling to decide which tablecloths to rent.
2. Make someone your official outsourcer.
All those things NOT in one of your main categories? Yeah, decisions still have to be made for them, and you might be the kind of person who has a hard time settling on a final choice, or who has a busy job, or who just doesn’t want to think about any of those details. I recommend making someone — whether it’s a wedding planner or a sibling or a friend — your “Decisions I Don’t Care About” decision maker. When my venue emailed to ask me how many of the lights I wanted on for the reception, I immediately panicked, and then responded with, “CC’d here is my friend, who is in charge of lighting.” My wonderful, level-headed, not-in-the-middle-of-wedding-planning friend wrote back to ask what the venue recommended doing, the venue made a recommendation, and that’s what we did. I thought about it for maybe fifteen seconds total.
3. Surround yourself with people you’re comfortable with.
Worried you’re going to look unnatural in the photos? Wind up with a ceremony that just doesn’t feel like you? Be a total wreck the day of the wedding? “Good people” is the answer to all of that. Hire a photographer you really like and can be yourself around. Meet with your officiant a couple times before the wedding to make sure they really understand what you’re after (Vow Muse, for example, meets with everyone before the ceremony is written to get a sense of who you are as a couple). Have bridesmaids or groomsmen who are not going to fight with you, each other, or anyone else, and instead are going to really be there to support your relationship during this next big step.
4. The details aren’t what anyone is going to remember.
And actually, it’s probably not what you guys will remember either. My wedding was seven months ago, and my husband and I no longer have any idea what color the napkins were. As my wedding planner put it, “The only centerpieces anyone ever remembers are the ones that catch on fire mid-reception.” The stuff you wind up remembering forever might surprise you, and the stuff you thought you’d definitely remember might go by so fast you’ve forgotten it in a week. And from your guests’ perspective, what they’ll really remember is you and your new spouse, starting this next step of your lives together.
No matter what, here’s what your mantra should be as you wedding-plan: You are getting married. The wedding will happen, and you will leave it a married person. Even if you’re short a microphone. So take a deeeep breath, and start planning!
Sara Kendall lives in Redwood City with her husband and dog. Her main hobbies are coffee, books, and musicals.