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5 Tips for Sane & Stress-Free Wedding Planning

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.

wedding 5 Tips for Sane & Stress Free Wedding Planning

photo credit: *m5 via flickr

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.)

Do you have any other tips to add?

  • Little House - Excellent tips. Weddings are very exciting, but can be stressful. I got married many years ago and we didn't have much money. We selected an all-inclusive venue and it was a terrific choice for us. My sister is getting married in less than 2 months at a beautiful venue. I haven't really asked her how she's funding it, but I'm sure she has it all figured out (or at least I hope she does). Good luck with your wedding next month and congrats! ReplyCancel

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  • 5 Tips for Sane & Stress-Free Wedding Planning | Well Heeled Blog – Planning A Dream Wedding - [...] on a $20000 budget is a surefire way to get an aneursym, unless … … Read more: 5 Tips for Sane & Stress-Free Wedding Planning | Well Heeled Blog ← Sound Tips for a Truly Great [...]ReplyCancel

  • Stories from Austin - We used a mostly-inclusive venue and I LOVED it. It made things so much easier. They did the ceremony & reception, catering, cake, provided servers, etc. They did some of the decorations too and we chose to go with the owners daughter for our flowers so that took care of the rest of the decor. And we got a wedding coordinator with the package. Made my life so much easier! ReplyCancel

  • MLISunderstanding - At the beginning of our wedding planning, my sweetie and I sat down together and made a "mission statement" that outlined our values for our wedding (those that we want to support in our relationship as a whole — Simplicity, Authenticity, Respect, Conviction, Compassion, etc.) and some specific ways that we would reflect them. (Like "employ small local businesses", "reduce costs where possible and practical", and "support and comfort each other".) When things get a little stressful or kind of off-track, I go back to that. ReplyCancel

  • In Budgets We Trust - Your wedding is so close! I still can't believe how you blog, manage a career, plan for a wedding AND plan for grad school all at the same time. Wonder Woman, I tell ya… :)

    I'm struggling a lot on the "make a wedding budget" option. Our wedding is going to be at an all-inclusive resort though, so I think that actually helps with some of the spending. (Like a cheaper beach going dress, and a simple ceremony since the whole week is basically an awesome reception) Did you use any tools to help you set a realistic budget or did you just decide as you went? ReplyCancel

  • Marissa - Wait? You're getting married in a month? Whoa! Congrats. ReplyCancel

  • @momoneymohouses - I had a horrible nightmare last night that I forgot to plan my entire wedding until the day of and somehow had to pull it off with $100 and a quick trip to the drug store. Then I woke up and remembered I still have a year to go. I think I definitely need to care a bit less (but I doubt I can do that but I'll try as to no become a total stress case) and also look into hiring a wedding coordinator for the day of. I just feel kind of guilty making all my bridesmaids do everything, but we'll see. Congrats btw, one month to go, that's so exciting!!! ReplyCancel

  • thisthatandthemba - I give you all the credit in the world for doing all that you are doing. It is hard enough to plan a wedding and I am the guy. I cant imagine having to do a budget for the wedding, blog, work with your long commute and still spend time with your fiance….does he blog too?? ReplyCancel

  • Jessica - I think #5 is the most important tip. I just had my wedding over the weekend, and about a month ago I felt like I could either completely stress out or stop caring. Between problems with my family, my bridesmaids not getting along because of a boy, and my roommate getting into a car wreck (she was going to play the harp during the ceremony and needs a special van to transport it) a week before the wedding, I decided to stop caring about every little detail. Unfortunately, everyone else around me were still super stressed about the little details. For example, my sister freaked out when I told her that I didn't care what kind of soft drinks to get for the wedding.

    Good luck on the final stretch! ReplyCancel

  • kim - All-inclusive was absolutely amazing; those places come with their own on-location coordinator, so you don't have to worry about a thing! I didn't realize the value and ease until comparing notes with a friend.

    I hope you will post a few wedding pics! Even if not ones of you two, ones of the details!! ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Aww we did the gray suits thing (and gray dresses thing too) and it looked great. I can show you pics if you want to see how pleasing the composition can be when made up of mismatched clothes :) ReplyCancel

  • D @ Odd Cents - Whenever I decide to get married, I'm going to do exactly what I want. If someone does not like something, too bad. It's my day and my boo's day, and we will be the stars of the day! ReplyCancel

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  • Diddes02 - Congrats on the upcoming wedding!

    I have to disagree with online rsvps

    A majority of our guests sent back “NO” response cards WITH a wedding gift included in the envelope

    Just keep in mind your guest list when deciding to do online vs mailed rsvps. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Interesting. I have a HoneyFund listed on the wedding website, so when our guests rsvp, they'll see that registry. I've had maybe 1/2 of the No's get a gift off the honeymoon registry the same day they rvsp'd. ReplyCancel

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  • Corlis - awesome tips! I love the idea of an online RSVP. And in this economy people should really think more about setting a realistic wedding budget. ReplyCancel

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