A very happy Wednesday to you! It’s amazing that we’re already passed Thanksgiving and moving closer to the end of the year. I know we’re doing all we can to take advantage of the time left in this year, I wish the same for you. (I am, however, already a little regretful to have Holiday decorations and advertisements shoved in my face everywhere I walk…but, ‘tis the season! 🙂 ) Today we’re talking about Wedding Planning and where to begin.
I’d like to share with you an “insider’s tip”. I kind-of hate to call it that, because it’s honestly just very simple common sense. As you read it through, you’ll most likely nod your head and wonder why in the world I would act as if this is so profound. Frankly, it’s not that profound…but these lessons are almost always learned after it is too late. So, while this may be review for many of you, or you may be past this part in your planning, I would like to offer this bit of advice for the rest of you – in hopes that it may give a bit of helpful guidance and save you from some potential stress.
Whenever you start a new big project, whether it’s at work or some big personal goal you are taking on, there are 3 general questions that should be asked : Why? How? And What? And, in my very humble opinion, they need to be answered EXACTLY in that order. For weddings, we leave the “Why” up to each individual couple – that is a deeply intimate and personal question that you absolutely should certainly answer for yourselves. But what I see all the time are couples who jump directly from “Why” to “What”…and then they have to figure out the “How” after they’ve made major decisions or emotionally committed certain things to themselves. This is one of the major causes for stress, disappointment, mismatched wedding style, improper planning flow, budget issues and compromise.
Let me explain – the “What” questions that I am talking about are all of the tangible decisions you make : “What venue should I choose? What calendar date do I want? What are my colors? What DJ, photographer, caterer, will I use?? What friends should be in by bridal party?” Of course we could go on and on…the list of questions that make up the “WHAT” that you see in the final product of weddings are endless 🙂 And they are all super-important. And, as long as you’ve laid a good foundation for planning…these decisions can be FUN!
And here is how you lay a very simple foundation – by dealing with the “HOW” before any other decisions are made. There are 3 questions to answer…Take care of these simple questions, and you will save yourself headaches down the road.
Let me start this by saying the reason these 3 things are not usually addressed up front is because they feel tedious or monotonous, certainly not nearly as fun as tasting cakes or touring venues! When you first get engaged it’s exciting, emotional and you’re wanting to dive right into the fun!! It’s the same mistake people make when buying a house or a car – they start shopping before they plan – then they often end up with a purchase that is “almost perfect”…instead of simply “perfect”. And “almost perfect” is not acceptable for your wedding. As I’m sure you’ve heard, planning a wedding is a HUGE task! (Which is what keeps people like me in business!) So, if you are going to do it – let me help you do it right. I promise this won’t take long before you can get right into the fun stuff!
- The first thing on the list won’t surprise anyone – it’s your BUDGET. And I encourage you to turn into a complete unemotional robot when you start this. Be BRUTALLY honest with yourself about this. It’s our tendency as human beings to “feel” before we “think”. But talk to your fiancé, talk to your parents and your family for financial help or advice. And before you start shopping or creating expectations or making plans…hole yourselves up, and don’t come out until you have a dollar amount that you are all very comfortable with. And while you’re in your “hole”, please don’t let yourself fall into the trap of “Hope-Budgeting” – where you really, really hope you can find a way to make these seemingly impossible numbers work! That will catch up to you – I promise!
Having your budget in place first allows you to be reasonable, conservative and wise as you are shopping for vendors. And, as a planner whose job it is to save you from stress – I always encourage you to be reasonable, conservative and wise. From the very beginning, you can break up your budget into percentages – based on what vendors and details are more important to you than others. And, from the very beginning, you’ve got the whole plan in front of you so that you can make strategic decisions from here on out. It also allows you to pick a reasonable wedding date – far enough in advance to pay everything off. It is a wonderfully secure feeling as you move forward. And if you really are being conservative, the only changes that are made to the budget are when you add money to it – which is always a wonderful surprise! 🙂
- The second thing you need to look at is GUEST COUNT. This is not just a detail you need to “firm up” a couple of months before the wedding so that you caterer has an accurate count. This is something that will make a HUGE impact on your wedding day flow. And, more immediately, it impacts the very first major vendor decision you should make : your venue. You want to make sure that the venue you choose can accommodate your guest count in both the ceremony sites as well as the reception. Also, if you have guests from out of town, you’ll want to consider that reliable, budget-appropriate hotels are around this venue. And, if this is applicable and you choose to consider everyone’s comfort, you may want to make sure that your venue can accommodate any disabilities or conveniences that certain guests may need.
Now, caution – the point of this is NOT that you have to put everyone else’s needs at the forefront of your decisions. The point is that you consider all of the possibilities and make decisions based on what is important to you. Make sure your priorities dictate the venue you choose…so you don’t end up choosing a venue that makes you compromise your priorities.
The third and final pillar is VISION or personality. This step is WAY more fun than the first two. But it is still something that you should have big opinions about before you start visiting vendors and shopping. Here is what I ask every couple who visits me :
“If I was a guest at your wedding, what will I be feeling during your event?? What emotions will the vendors, the decoration, the order of events, etc inspire me to feel throughout the evening??”
I totally recommend that you decide this right at the beginning – what do you want your guests to feel?? What do *YOU* want to feel?? Remember this event should reflect YOU! Of course, there’s no right/wrong here, everyone is completely different. But it is important to consider this before-hand, so that each decision you make from here on out compliments and inspires this vision.
I think it’s a great exercise to write out descriptive terms for how you want your wedding to look and feel. And then use this to help you make decisions moving forward. For example when you are choosing vendors, ask yourself if they inspire those emotions in you when you meet them or look through their marketing?? If they don’t, it’s doubtful they’re the right fit for you!
Let me quote you a phrase that hear all of the time from brides & grooms when I ask about their budget, guest count or any other details, “We’re figuring this out as we go since we don’t know what’s normal, or what everything costs or how any of this works yet.” Sound familiar at all?? This is where everyone starts, so please don’t feel bad if you’ve said this yourself. But if you are still at this phase, please stop shopping and start planning.
OK everyone, that’s all I’ve got for you on this. Frankly, each one of these three pillars deserves more information, and I’ll break them down in future posts. But, the goal of this post is very simple – I want to encourage you to determine your priorities and boundaries before you start shopping. Wedding planning can be enormously enjoyable or it can be very stressful. And, obviously, our goal at Moments & Milestones is to inspire this journey to be as fun, memorable and stress-free as possible.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this. Hope you were able to pull a couple of ideas from it. Have a wonderful weekend!