As my fiancé (now husband) and I worked on planning our wedding day and (more importantly!) walking towards marriage together, we were overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF out there about and for weddings. And simultaneously underwhelmed by the lack of actually helpful stuff out there about and for weddings. However, over the course of our engagement we came up with a variety of ideas — not original to us but amassed from various sources and conversations — that served us well. This is the first in what will be a set of three posts.
This first segment includes overarching ideas to give structure to planning and walking towards your wedding day in a less stressed and more organized manner. The possibilities and options for weddings are literally endless, so it’s helpful to have some tools to help guide the decision-making process. My husband believes in starting with the “philosophical” and then moving to the “practical.” The basic idea is that if you have your overarching/under-girding ideas set, the individual decisions will naturally flow from that.
So, our overarching ideas:
Set values for your wedding before you start any planning. Come back to them regularly as you plan, and let them guide your decision-making. This is a key opportunity to publicly display what you value as a couple, so be intentional in what you “say.” Our big three were: worship of God, celebration of family and friends, and simple elegance. Other values we incorporated included hospitality, generosity, community, wise stewardship, and unity. It was helpful to have these! For instance, when deciding about whether or not to have Decoration X at the reception, if it seemed more “flashy” than “simple,” we didn’t do it. When deciding about where to have the reception in relation to the ceremony, thinking about wanting to “celebrate” our guests, we ruled some options out based on how complicated the logistics would be. It really helped streamline decision-making!
When you get stressed in planning — and you will, and that’s ok, and normal — ask yourself (or have someone else ask you), “Will I care about this in 2 years?” If the answer is no — which it will be in the vast majority of cases — try to find a way to remove that stress. As I look back, in almost every case where I was stressed or emotional about something, I do not care about it now. At all.
Choose a theme and some key buzz words. The options are endless for every aspect of a wedding, but you can narrow them down into manageable options by deciding what you want the overall feel and flavor to be. Think of 3–5 phrases that you want to describe the overall day. For instance, “shabby chic,” or “fall foliage.” Then choose a theme for décor- ours was “books.” These general ideas will help you focus in on specifics. You also should choose a palette of colors (there are websites that can help you) to give to people helping with things that relate to color (e.g., flowers, decorations, stationary, etc.).
Include as many people as you can. You will need a lot of help, so just ask for it. Incorporate the gifts and talents of your friends and family. Some ways we did this — asked a friend who is a filmmaker to do our engagement photos, asked a friend who is a jewelry designer to make bridesmaid necklaces, asked a friend who is a graphic designer to do our stationary. For the most part, we asked people to provide the specified help as their wedding gift to us, so they didn’t feel obligated to also buy something else. These are such memorable gifts, and we were so thankful to have help and personalized touches.
Be gracious. With yourself. With others. With your parents. With your fiancé’s parents. Assume the best. Take deep breaths. Wait a day to respond to the annoying email or text from a sibling or acquaintance that seems so rude or unhelpful in the moment. It is so so hard sometimes. But make graciousness your goal, and you will be far less stressed.
Think about what each aspect of your wedding communicates. Is what it communicates something you value? If not, don’t do it, or find a way to do it in a way that communicates what you value. This ties in with #1. A lot of “traditions” are actually quite new, and not necessarily necessary. For instance, I had no desire to be hugged by 140 people in a row, so we didn’t do a receiving line. I also hated participating in bouquet tosses when I was single, so we didn’t do a bouquet toss. We really love desserts, so we did a dessert bar rather than a cake. Maybe you really like some of these particular traditions, and that’s perfectly fine, but figure out what you do and don’t like, be ok with that, and find creative ways to do (or not do) it.
Be intentional to make this “our” rather than “my” wedding. Our culture says — implicitly and explicitly — that it’s the bride’s day, that the groom can’t or doesn’t have an opinion, and that he will be apathetic or lazy. That is neither fair nor helpful. Two people are getting married, not one. My fiancé didn’t necessarily have a strong preference between lavender or lilac per se, but he did want to be involved in making the overall vision for our day become reality. People will talk only to the bride, will ask only for her opinion (even when you’re both standing there!), will send emails only to her, etc. Be intentional to use language and processes that make it clear that this is our wedding.
You don’t need to have an opinion about everything (but you do need to make decisions). Everyone will ask for your opinion or preference on all kinds of things. Many you will have an opinion on, many you will not. It’s exhausting to need to make so many decisions, but persevere! Sometimes you simply need to decide even if you don’t have a preference, sometimes you need to give others the decision-making authority, and sometimes you need to say, “I can’t make any more decisions today, let’s try again tomorrow.”
The goal is to help de-stress and streamline wedding planning. It can be a joyful and peaceful time, but that takes effort and perseverance. We certainly had our ups and downs emotionally and logistically. But during our wedding week, time and time again friends and family said, “Why aren’t you stressed?” or “Why isn’t there more we have to do?” or “How are we just sitting around relaxing?” We had fought hard to lay foundations for a wedding week with minimal stress and last minute scurrying, and maximal joy, celebration, and time with family and friends. And the work paid off.
And in the end, you WILL be married. So when the emotions roar and you get caught in the web of details, just remember, at the end of the day, you. will. be married. And that is the greatest.