Every time I log onto my wedding website, a little countdown stares back at me: my wedding is in a month! Most of the big items are booked, signed, and paid for (at least in part). Our invitations have gone out and our registry is set up. For the first time, I am really start to ENJOY this wedding planning, or maybe I am enjoying the feeling of anticipation and excitement about the upcoming big day. In any case, judging by what I’ve read online, it seems as if I got pretty lucky in putting together a sane and relatively stress-free wedding, on a reasonable-to-us budget. So I wanted to share the 5 tips that really helped me in the wedding planning process.
1. Set a wedding budget, but set a realistic budget.
Even a million-dollar wedding has a budget… of $1 million. Most of us won’t be spending that much (unless I have some very rich lurkers reading this blog!), but EVERYONE has a budget. Talk with your fiance, with your family, with yourself, and figure out how much it is you are 1. able to spend and 2. comfortable with spending. When I first got engaged, I had no idea what my budget should be. But that’s kind of Step 1 in the whole planning process.
Attempting to hold a $40,000 wedding on a $20,000 budget is a surefire way to get an aneursym, unless you have tons of vendor relationships, are prepared and capable of lots of DIY, or have hours and hours to burn on wedding planning and research. And even then… I cringe a little just imagining the stress! There is nothing so frustrating as to have a vision of what you want your wedding to look like and then realizing that it will cost double the money you need to make it happen. Remember that triangle – cheap, easy, and good. You only get to pick two. And if your wedding budget require you to go into debt, the personal finance blogger in me must inform you that your budget is not realistic.
On the other hand… there are no prizes in wedding budgeting. You don’t get a prize for spending $500 and you don’t get a prize for spending $50,000. After the vows are spoken and the cake is cut, you’ll be married and you will have the memories of that day. I would never jeopardize my financial future for a wedding, but I also decided that I am not going to set an arbitrary $5,000 limit when we want and can afford to spend $7,000.
2. Have a small guest list, hire a wedding coordinator, or use an all-inclusive venue.
A small wedding, all things equal, will be more inexpensive and easier to plan. You also have the advantage of fitting into unconventional venues that have a size limit of under 100. For example, my ceremony venue’s max limit is 75, while my reception area’s is 45. I am a huge fan of the small wedding for minimizing stress and stretching your budget. At a guest list of around 35, I can splurge on some pretty nice food and several flavors of cake. I need to address fewer invitations. I have a good handle on my RSVP list. I don’t need to plan out individual seating charts.
If you want to have a bigger wedding – many people find it difficult to cull their guest list because they are blessed with a big family and tons of friends – hire a wedding coordinator. A friend is hosting a 250-person wedding and told me that her wedding coordinator has helped her read over contracts, find vendors, negotiate rentals, etc. If you are having a big wedding and can’t hire a wedding coordinator, going with an all-inclusive venue will save a lot of time and work. Those venues typically have chairs, table, lighting, music, etc., and a dedicated venue wedding planner, so you will get some help in planning the event. They also make it easier to budget because there is one price that covers most of wedding elements.
3. Set up online RSVP.
You could say we went minimalist with our invites – all we sent out was the wedding invitation and a small card with our wedding website address. Guests can then RSVP for the reception via the website. This cuts down on the postage (our invites, even with very heavy cardstock, only cost $0.45 each) and speeds up the reservation process. I’m not sure what Emily Post would say about this method, but I love how quick and easy online RSVP has been. FYI, we have our wedding website on weddingwire.com, and it has an RSVP app that is very simple to use.
4. Believe that your guests love you and support you, and that if something you do inadvertantly offend them or create an inconvenience for them, they will still love you and support you.
This means that if you cannot fit onto your guest everyone you want, trust that those people whom you care for but cannot invite will understand. This means that if you have your wedding on a Friday or even a Tuesday or Wednesday, trust that your guests will won’t think less of you. Maybe you will have fewer people attending, but the folks who can’t make it will send you their well wishes. Or maybe you, like me, will only serve a spinach salad for appetizer. Trust that your guests won’t think that you are misers too cheap to provide a choice of baby greens or arugula. Even if they hate spinach.
Or maybe you can’t afford to serve a sit-down meal at all and instead do a cake-and-champagne reception, believe that your guests will have a good time and celebrate with you anyway. Or, maybe you, like us, are having only a honeymoon registry. Trust, like I am, that guests know that absence of a traditional registry does not indicate money-grubbing etiquette-less behavior, and that every gift – on registry or off – will be appreciated.
5. Care less.
Does a river try to break apart the rocks in its path? No, it flows round them. Is this a zen koan? No, I made it up myself.
But nonetheless! The principle applies: sometimes you can’t change things – you don’t have the money, you don’t have the time, you don’t have the power. Instead of stewing over this fact or getting angry, change what you can: your reaction. Put more succinctly: care less.
An example: CB’s wedding party won’t be in matching suits. We decided to ask his party to just get gray suits – and this way they can wear something they already have or choose something that fits their budget. Would I like them to wear matching outfits and coordinating ties? Well, yes. Aethestically, that would make a more pleasing composition. But I don’t want to put that kind of financial burden on them. And so my solution is… care less!
(It’s a little hard to believe I am getting married in a month. If you had told me, way back when I was 17, that I was going to marry the cute boy I had met after class, I would have thought you were crazy. Life is funny. And right now, it’s pretty great.)