Wedding Planning Season is Upon Us
As New Year's Eve fades in the rear view mirror and with spring fast approaching, it's time to talk about wedding planning season. Stressful for some, exciting for others, wedding planning is a must that precedes any ceremony.
That Time of Year
Would you believe that December is by far, the most popular month for engagements? That's right, a full 19% of couples pop the question in the twelfth month of you year. With so many couples getting engaged around the winter holidays, combined with a large chunk of those couples planning to hold their ceremonies between May and October (almost 3/4 in that time frame!), it is logical that they would have a lot of planning to do in the early spring. Here are a few thoughts to help you stay organized and focused, while still having fun, planning your ceremony.
Set Your Budget
This is, unquestionably, both the least glamorous and most important step to make sure your planning process goes smoothly. Think about your overall financial picture. Do you have a sizable savings that you plan to use for your wedding celebration? Are you borrowing or receiving gifts from loved ones? But your source of funds is not the only thing to consider. Are you planning to make any sizeable expenditures, like purchasing a home, going to school, or having kids? Weigh these things together to decide the upper amount you plan to spend. (You do not have to spend this amount, it's just the upper bookend.)
Setting a budget is critical because it will help you to establish your vision. If you have a narrow budget, a destination wedding with hundreds of guests might be out of the question; it's no use to spin your wheels planning something only to learn your budget won't allow it.
Close Your Eyes
I'm serious about this: you and your fiance/ee should sit still, close your eyes, and think about what a wedding means to you. Do you see the two of you with a handful of loved ones saying 'I do' in a grove of flowering trees? Does a large gathering in a place of worship come to mind? Whatever your overarching ideas may be, entertain them, even if they seem 'outlandish'. Free yourself of others' expectations and embrace your vision.
This is an exercise in figuring out what means the most to you. At this stage, practicalities do not matter. I recommend making a mind map, with central themes written in the center of a sheet of paper, and details radiating outward. Why do this if the vision you come up with are not feasible as you imagine them? It will help you to identify what is truly important to you. Your wedding does not have to fulfill this vision to the nth degree, but it sets a direction to move toward. This map can create a great foundation for a vision board.
Wishlist in one hand and budget in the other, start shopping. You'll likely do some or all of these types of shopping.
Visit venues and other vendors. When you visit candidate venues, think about how they will work with your vision, and your budget. But that's not all. Is the venue organized, or did they kinda forget that you were coming? Do vendors listen to, even solicit, your vision, or try to shoehorn you into formulaic operations. Vendors should take you, and your desires, seriously. If a vendor acts as though s/he doesn't have time for you or interest in your wedding, move on.
Look at reviews and recommendations. This can be tricky, because some reviews will be written by people with completely different visions than yours, and some will be written by people who are wildly unreasonable. Read some favorable and some unfavorable reviews, looking for anything that stands out, but remembering that you are getting a filtered account of what happened.
Try before you buy. Taste the food from the caterer, do a hair and makeup trial, have an engagement shoot. Not only are these fun and something that you can do with your fiance/ee and some close friends, but these are opportunities to see behind the marketing curtain. Does the cake taste good? And just as important, is the baker well organized and professional? You certainly do not want someone practicing on you.
Finalize Your Guest List--And Wedding Party
Thinking about who you'd like to invite can be a daunting task. Chances are, your budget and/or your venue won't accommodate everyone you'd like to invite. Selecting your venue and setting your guest list are reciprocal activities. That said, you should have a good idea of who you would like to invite as you look at venues, knowing that you can add or remove a few guests as you close in on the perfect venue.
The guest list can also be fraught. Will your third cousin twice removed be offended if he's not invited? Maybe. Will you be able to--and should you try to--satisfy everyone's expectations? Certainly not! When all is said and told, the people who need to be satisfied are you and your fiance/ee.
Just as you cannot satisfy everyone with your guest list, you cannot make everybody happy with your wedding party (and you might decide not to have one, which is completely OK). Whether you have two or 10 attendants is a personal decision and is about honoring relationships important to you; it is not about making parents happy be including people who they want you to include in the wedding party. You can gracefully dodge pressure with the line "This is the wedding party that feels most authentic to us."
Select Readers, etc.
Having a special person take an active role in the ceremony like reader, soloist, or violinist is another way to honor the people important in your lives. (Like a wedding party, you might forgo this altogether.)
Think About Language
When it comes to the words spoken in the ceremony, they should be a reflection of your relationship. If you are not comfortable with words conjuring traditional gender roles, tell you officiant. If you and your fiance/ee prefer to be referred to as 'spouses', your officiant should accommodate such a request with ease. Likewise, your officiant should be able to match your spirituality with the words of the ceremony. If not, s/he isn't the right officiant for you.
If you are writing your own vows, you can ask your officiant for help if you get stuck. Your officiant should also be available to read both sets of vows to help you achieve parity in the tone and sentiment (of course, while keeping the surprise).
Get the Marriage License
Don't forget to apply for your marriage license in time for your ceremony. Some jurisdictions have a waiting period, while others issue marriage licenses that go into effect the following day. But, don't apply so early that the license expires before the big day. Before you go to the courthouse, make sure you have the required info and documents. You will need photo identification showing your name and date of birth, and you might need your officiant's name (some jurisdictions issue the license as a letter to your officiant). If you were previously married, you might need a document evidencing that your previous marriage is no longer in effect (such as a divorce decree). Remember, your marriage license (in most cases) must be issued by the county where your ceremony will be held.
And Most Important
The most important thing that you can do in planning your wedding is to treat yourself and your fiance/ee with kindness. Sure there will be stressful moments, and you can lean on each other for support. This is a momentous time in your relationship. Be sure to take a moment to step back, enjoy the excitement, and help each other.