A year ago, if anyone had asked me if I’d be writing an article on wedding planning any time soon I would have laughed, rolled my eyes, and replied with an emphatic, “NO!” Yet here I find myself, planning my wedding and writing about it.
I’ve learned some things through this process that I’d love to share, keeping in mind that circumstances are different for everyone. There are tons of brides who could also provide major insight into what this is like, and I’d love to hear some of those stories.
Allow me to tell you some of my own personal circumstances. I am 32 years old. I live in Tennessee, but my wedding will be on Long Island (New York) where I grew up. My fiancée (who will henceforth be known as “Future Huz” because I hate the word fiancée) is 38. We each own a home. He has a dog. I have two cats. We got engaged on January 1st. Our wedding will be at the end of August.
So now that you’ve got a little more context, here are the 7 lessons I learned planning my wedding:
1. You will think you have enough money for your wedding until you actually start to plan it.
I’m starting with this one because money is a sticky issue and I want to get it out of the way so we can talk about the fun stuff. Being a progressive woman, my mind is somewhat blown by the fact that we still follow the archaic tradition of wedding ceremony costs falling mostly on the bride’s family. Most of my closest married girlfriends paid for their entire weddings themselves with some help from their parents. Thankfully, in my situation, the groom’s family is covering the rehearsal dinner, for which I am immensely grateful.
The thing is, unless you decide to have a picnic in a park with you and 10 of your closest friends, this amazing event is going to cost an arm and a leg. The best thing to do is have an immediate sit-down with family to talk honestly about what your budget is. Once you know this, you can begin to do some research.
To give you some perspective on the type of challenge I am dealing with by wanting to have my wedding where I grew up, an article from the NY Daily News March 23, 2012 states that at that time, the average wedding in the U.S. cost $27,000. Shocked? The average cost of having a wedding on Long Island was $50,087. To say that is ridiculous is an understatement. My budget is less than half that amount and we are going to make this work.
2. You will freak out for a while until you find a venue.
I don’ t use the term “freak out” loosely here. There were evenings when I would get irrationally emotional on Future Huz, panicking about questions I had no answers to. HOW ARE WE GOING TO DO THIS? WHERE THE HECK ARE WE HAVING THIS THING? HOW WILL WE AFFORD TO FEED PEOPLE??? PEOPLE WILL STARVE!
Think about it, until you know where you’re going to have your wedding, you have no idea how many people you’ll be able to invite, what kind of catering you’ll need, what you’ll have to rent, etc. When I started looking at venues, specifically on the North Fork of Long Island, I had major sticker shock. The site fees ranged from $4,500-$17,500. And when I say “site fee” I mean the cost to literally be on the property. At most of these places, you were merely given a lawn to stand on and everything you need to actually have a wedding had to be rented.
HOW ARE WE GOING TO DO THIS? WHERE THE HECK ARE WE HAVING THIS THING? HOW WILL WE AFFORD TO FEED PEOPLE??? PEOPLE WILL STARVE!
After talking to lots of people on the phone and setting up appointments with 10 of them, Future Huz and I went up to NY and decided on a venue. We ended up going with a historic mansion that had places for the wedding party to get ready, a gorgeous piece of property, the option to have the ceremony inside or outdoors, and access to the water for pictures. The site fee goes toward a foundation that preserves the property and enables them to give back to the community. We could not have been more thrilled to find this place, and due to the fact that it has only been doing events for two years, the site fee is less than many of the other properties we looked at.
3. You might have to cut people from your guest list who you really wanted to invite and it will rip your heart out.
For many couples this will not be an issue due to the venue you choose and your budget. For us, however, it was a challenge because the indoor capacity of our venue is 90 people. The cost of renting a tent isn’t in our budget, so we’re going to make this work. We ended up cutting 40 names off our guest list. And I’m not talking about people we don’t like very much who would have been a “polite” ask. I’m talking about people we love a ton who it would have been awesome to have there to share the moment with us. The challenge of doing this was gut wrenching, and there is the concern that some friends might be hurt they aren’t invited, but the budgetary choices we had to make led us to a smaller venue and a more intimate group size.
4. Even though everything is expensive, you can actually find deals on things like bridesmaid dresses and stationery.
So part of having a wedding not only includes you spending a lot of money, but you asking your friends to spend a lot of money to be there with you during this momentous commitment you’re about to make. I have been in several weddings now, and every time it costs me around $1,000 when you add up gifts, flight, place to stay, dress, alterations, shoes, accessories, and booze you need to buy when you realize you are still single and everyone else on the planet who mattered to you is married. Keep in mind, these are your best friends in the whole world. You love them. You don’t want them to go broke just so they can wear a dress they will never wear again. No… you think they will, but they won’t. Is your friendship worth having that ugly dress hanging in their closet until moths mercifully chew it to pieces?
The dress I found for my girls was $199, which still felt like a lot to me. I scoured the internet for days, weeks, to find this dress at a better price and one day I stumbled upon Weddington Way. They had THE DRESS on sale for $149, plus a coupon for an additional $20 off when the girls signed up. No extra charge for plus sizing, no tax, and shipping cost of $9.99. The girls ordered their dresses the day before the sale ended and the dress went back to regular price. So far our experience with Weddington Way has been great.
“Save the date” cards, invitations, response cards… all this stuff adds up! I ordered samples from several different paper goods companies and Future Huz helped me narrow down the choices. I love the look and feel of Wedding Paper Divas invitations. The designs are gorgeous, the paper is high quality, but the price was outside of our budget. With postage we would have spent over $400. We ended up having a professional picture taken by a friend and ordered our “save the date” postcard from Vistaprint when they had a 33% off sale. We’re thrilled with how they turned out! I plan to order our invites from Ann’s Bridal Bargains, who have great options for invitations. Their prices are half from the other companies we looked at and they have an invite with the same design as our wedding website!
5. Other people will have all kinds of ideas about what your wedding should be.
“Other people” includes friends, family, neighbors, pets, that lady at the meat counter in the supermarket, doctors, bartenders, you get the idea. If you are not 21 and your parents are not paying for your whole wedding, you have choices about what you want your day to be like. This is between you and Future Huz. You got that? YOU AND FUTURE HUZ. This is your day. You can play the music YOU like. You can eat the food YOU like. You can wear what YOU like. You can say what YOU want to say. And you can love the heck out of everyone who comes to cheer you on as you advance down this road of life. What matters is that you are at peace with the choices you are making for your wedding. You. This is not selfish. This is you standing up for things you love, that you have held close to your heart for a long time until this day could come to pass.
6. Your girlfriends will help you survive this and look fabulous while doing so.
When I started planning this wedding, four incredible friends in my life who are event planners called or wrote and said, “How can I help?!” Their advice has been priceless. They have let me vent when I needed to. And, I have been given nail polish and moisturizer so I look sort of human after nights when I lose sleep. Never, underestimate the power your girlfriends hold when it comes to being there for you.
7. If all the frills fell away, I would still be marrying the man I love.
One thing Future Huz has said to me several times throughout this wedding planning process is that he would be happy to go to a courthouse and get married, just the two of us. He’s not trying to tell me he doesn’t want to have this wedding. He’s telling me that no matter what, whether we spend $40 on a marriage license or thousands on a wedding, the result will be the same. As a bride, it is easy to get carried away. There are a million magazines to look at and a zillion ideas on Pinterest. But don’t forget to remind your heart of the reason you are planning this day. You have found someone who you love and he (or she) has found you, and all will be well.