So I got married a few months ago. It was awesome. We had a wonderful time, and while it may not prove to be the happiest day of my life, it was a terrific day, and we are both very happy. Amazingly, I’m not the only one in my family to get married on a short timeline. My sister went from engaged to married in a similar amount of time, and it got me to thinking – what advice would I give to those who are planning a wedding, especially one that’s happening so quickly after you get engaged? Here’s what I came up with.
Pick your date around the thing that matters a lot to you. Is it the venue? A certain photographer? A meaningful day in your lives? Realize that when you’re on a tight schedule, you can have that one thing, and the rest may not be your first choice, but it will all be ok.
In our case, we knew we loved Devil’s Backbone. The location is stunning, the beer is excellent, and the food is pretty darn good too. Add in the ability to rent a couple of houses to hold both our immediate families within walking distance of everything, an adorable event space, and we were set. We gave their event coordinator a month, she gave us a choice of two dates, and once we’d chosen that date, then everything else became more manageable.
Prioritize. What means a lot to you – is it wearing a beautiful dress? Having lovely flowers? Having lots of family and friends present? Unless you’ve got a bottomless budget, you can’t have everything. Choose what matters, most, and go from there.
Again – we wanted the venue, and then on top of that, I wanted great photos. Choosing a location with such a small capacity worked for us in two ways. First – since we’re both on the introverted scale, it forced us to pare down the invitee list, and we weren’t inviting friends we hadn’t seen in years, or coworkers who we only really saw during work hours. Those invited were our nearest and dearest. And pro tip: the easiest way to save money is to cut the guest list. It’s not easy (especially when you’ve got a lot of extended family members like I do), but it makes a difference.
Focus on what matters. Think about what you remember from friends weddings – so often you’ll have vague memories of food (unless it’s really good or really bad), cake, decor. People care about having a good time, that they were comfortable, that there were enough decent food and beverage. And maybe it’s just me, but I remember if there’s a good dance party. Don’t sweat the details that people won’t pay too much attention to. Or rather, focus on the things that are most important to you about the party. If the food is really important to you, and you want to have that 5 course sit down dinner, DO IT. But realize that by focusing on a few things, others may go by the wayside.
Budgets are Hard. A big part of this is because so much of the wedding industrial complex is focused on “individually tailored” services. There are very few places where you can find prices for things straight up. On wedding photographer websites, look for the code phrase “Investment”, but even with that number you’ll need to include taxes, and potentially a mileage fee. Bakeries seem like they will be easier since they usually include a “per slice” price, but how many slices do you really need? Plus you’ve got to add in taxes and delivery fees. Flowers and florists are really fucking expensive, and you won’t know what anything costs until you ask something specific. If you like making floral arrangements, DIY (or semi-DIY) isn’t such a bad way to go. Which leads me to…
DIY Responsibly. There is a new stereotype of harried brides who are making every little thing for their wedding, and stressing out and breaking down because it’s all too much. They make the invitations, and then maybe they’re making their own wedding dress, doing all the decorations by themselves, flowers, creative seating charts, baking the cake, and then setting everything up and taking it down themselves on their wedding day. This way lies madness. If you like to DIY, certainly, go ahead and do it. But when you’ve got limited time to plan, and to do the actual thing, you’re just going to drive yourself crazy, and potentially not finish in time.
If you’re doing this in a limited time, choose a few projects – no more than one per month. In my case, I did the favors, and I did the flowers. The favors were easy. Buy honey sticks. Buy ribbon. Have tags printed on business cards from Vistaprint ($13 for 100!). Punch holes in cards. Color code honey sticks. Tie it all together. Put in a cute basket from Target. I think I finished it all while watching about 8 episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
The flowers were a much bigger ordeal, involving 4.5 hours of prep time taken midday when the flowers were delivered to our house (I got to listen to like, 5 episodes of This American Life), driving them all down to our venue, and then another 5 or so hours with the ladies in my family making boutonnieres, corsages, bouquets, and 30-ish centerpieces. The guys delivered them to the venue the next day, and some friends spread them out on the tables along with some tea lights a friend had given me. It was a lot of work, but I can honestly say that it saved us more than $1000, and we got exactly what we wanted. Plus, it was a good bonding experience. Again – not for everyone, but if you enjoy flower arranging on an amateur level (like I do), then this is potentially a way to save. This floral design + wholesale flower delivery seems to be an emerging trend. I used Flower Moxie, but I know The Bouqs has similar wedding packages, and there are a few more places out there if you just google it the right way…
Do your research. But don’t bury yourself in too much information. For me, I’m a sort of information dragon – I hoard it all, and have a tendency to not take action…ever if I’m allowed. So I set up timelines for myself of how long I had to research. Get all the information I could by X date, and then actually start making the calls. There are so many wedding planning websites and vendors out there that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It helps to find a source you trust for information, and squeeze it for all it’s worth.
I fell in love with the website Borrowed and Blue. It’s a vendor information site that’s organized regionally, so you can find vendors that have done weddings in the area in which you’re getting married. It was really more of a starting point for me so that I could see what the options were for what other people had used for their weddings, and to see recommendations. It’s where I got ideas for at least three aspects of my wedding. If you can find a resource like this that inspires you and helps guide your research, that’s the ideal combo.
Be yourself. You’re the one getting married. This is no time to decide to change your style or how you’re going to present yourself to your guests just because “that’s how it’s done”. Your wedding should be about you and your tastes, and not what everyone else is doing. I know that many times people are getting money from their parents when wedding planning, so it can be difficult to say no to parental requests for X or Y. But if you have a good relationship with them, maybe try to push back. Or if something is really not to your taste, and you can afford option B, offer to pay for that portion yourself. If you’re getting too much pushback on your tastes and your ideas, maybe having a parent pay for the wedding is not the way to go. Intimate courthouse affairs can be just as beautiful, and tend not to cost a lot of money. Try to work to make sure that you and your partners wants and needs aren’t being ignored.
The prime example for me is above – I wore a short dress. I always have felt uncomfortable in long dresses, so one of my requirements was finding something that wasn’t your traditional ball gown. So I spent a lot of time online ordering dresses to try on at home. I finally found this one on Zappos (of all places), and had it tailored. It helps to try on a bunch of dresses so that you know what really works for you. Know return policies. Don’t compromise, and if it’s not perfect – take it to a tailor. Mine was amazing and we got it to be perfect!
Don’t say no to help. The first thing that many people said after “congratulations” when they heard I was engaged and getting married soon was, “Let me know if I can help”. Which is awesome and sweet. During the planning stage, not a lot of help was needed. But as we got closer and closer to the day of, I did call a few of those people to see if they’d be willing to assist. Ben and Nicole came out to help choose beers. Friends set up decor day-of. Guests helped us transport leftover kegs after the reception had ended. People want to help. It got to the point where I just said, “Yes – please help with this”, and with a little instruction (especially when it came to the flowers), it happened. Good friends and family won’t mess things up. And they’ll want to help. I think if I’d been less laser-focused, there would have been more things I could have let people help with, but that’s just me.
If you want or need help, ask for it. Chances are that your loved ones are chomping at the bit to help, as long as you aren’t asking for anything too exhausting or overwhelming.
Time goes faster than you think. Three months is a season. It feels like a long time in theory, but then with each week, time whittles away. Having a schedule and sticking to it is never a bad idea. Because deadlines will creep up on you. Shipping and delivery will take longer than you think. Vendors will not respond as soon as you think they should. And that’s to say nothing of the day itself, which will whoosh along at lightening speed. The more you have it organized in advance, the less it will feel like it’s whirling out of control.
And that’s it. Anyone else out there have tips for wedding planning on a strict timeline? Or have questions about how we did it?
Details from my wedding:
Photography: Ksant Photography (Richmond, VA) [All photos this post were taken by her]
Venue/Catering: Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, VA)
Cake: Passionflower Cakes (Charlottesville, VA)
Honeysticks: The Bee Folks (Mt Airy, MD)
Floral Design: Flower Moxie (Oklahoma City, OK)