Andddddd…. we’re back. It’s the first Friday of the year, which means the first Ask Team Practical of the year, with Alyssa. Get out your flask of bourbon and your tippy-typing commenting fingers! Though we’ll go into all the new APW developments for 2011 early next week (and man do I have news), I wanted to start by saying that thanks to your amazing support of the site during Operation Community in November, this is the first post for which Alyssa is being paid (and respectably paid at that). That’s right kids, Alyssa is now a paid contributing editor to APW. She says she’s going to spend all the money on candy, I say she’s going to get a stomach ache, so we’ll see. In the meantime, here is Alyssa welcoming all of you newly engaged (because yes, a huge percentage of you get engaged over the holidays, indie or not), with how to start thinking about your wedding planning. And GO!
Today’s question is from Leigh. Leigh’s question is, as a newly engaged baby bride, where the h*ll do you start?? Leigh is already in the process of planning and has some great advice to offer in the comments, but we’re answering because this is a great question, especially since it’s the Season.
Hi, new baby brides!! I know you’re out there; the newly engaged who, once the happy glow of getting engaged wore off, started hyperventilating about seating arrangements. So welcome to APW! Have a seat at the fire, check out the archives, and make sure you jump in the fray and start commenting. We’re glad you’re here.
The Man and I had been engaged to be engaged for several years and now that we’re officially official in mainstream terms, I’m scared sh*tless and have no idea where to even start. With anything. I’m already overwhelmed and I haven’t even started planning yet, which I don’t think bodes too well for me. I registered a few wedding websites (indie and not-indie) and they have big, huge terrifying checklists, but I don’t even think the Man and I are even at that point. We haven’t set a date yet, but we know we want to do sometime next year. We know we want simple and fun. And that’s all we know–we’re clueless as hell as to how to even begin this thing.
Do you have a “Yay, We’re Engaged..! Now What?” primer for non-Fairy Princess-types like me who never thought they were going to get married in the first place and never really planned for having a wedding day being The Most Important Day of My Life TM? Any tips, tricks, ideas, advice, or linkage would be so very much appreciated.
First off, relax. Don’t be overwhelmed and start thinking of this process as fun and rewarding. You’re a strong, fabulous, capable woman. Wedding planning? Psshaw. You got this sh*t.
So. Now what? Now you talk.
However you do this, as a series of small chats or one marathon session over wine that’s up to you, but you both need to figure out the wedding you want. Specifically, the Where, When, What, Why and How.
The What is as in “What the hell kind of wedding are we gonna have?” You and your partner need to talk about the big overall aspects of your wedding. You can talk it out and fashion a wedding together, or it might be fun for you both to construct each of your dream wedding separately, just to see what the other one comes up with.
WIC touts weddings that are “a reflection of you as a couple,” and they have a point. A small one. You do not need to have your taste reflected in every aspect of the wedding right down to the napkins. (Unless that’s your deal. And, God love ’em, those ladies are some of the most stressed women I know, but they do throw a damn good party. With great napkins.) However, you do want your wedding to include important aspects of what is important to you as a couple. What makes the both of you the unique and lovely snowflakes that you are. Are you a foodies? You’re gonna want to include “kicka**tastic dinner” in your What. Love music? Add “epic band” or “carefully crafted playlist”. Put whatever you want on this list. Massively huge football fans who never miss a game? Add “Washington Redskins” (or “Man United”) to your What.
Is that last example giving you hives? You’ve been watching My Fair Wedding again, haven’t you?
Look, you don’t necessarily have to use everything on your list, it’s just a list of important things that you’ll want to include. For instance, my husband went to Texas A&M. It’s a huge part of who he is, so it was on our list and in the end we had an A&M logo on one of our cakes and made sure to include the War Hymn on our playlist. This list isn’t about your theme or your colors, it’s what is meaningful to you both and what you’d like to share with your guests. And in order to do that, you need to think over every part, not just the material aspects like, “Booze. And lots of it.” or “No unity candles because I’m scared of hot things.” This needs to include the big things, like “secular ceremony” or “Father Pete as the priest.” In your dream wedding, who’s there? What kind of feelings does it inspire? When you think of your happy, laughing guests, what are they doing to make them smile like that?
Once you two decide on the most important aspects to you, write them down. No, seriously, WRITE IT DOWN. You’re going to need this list in the coming months. When things get hectic or stressful, it will be important to look back on and go, “Oh yeah. We said we didn’t want flowers.” It will also be important to look at and go, “We said we wanted to have it at the family church, which is why we’re dealing with X/Y/Z.” It’s your perspective keeper, and it will help you remember what you started out with, so keep it somewhere easily visible and use good penmanship. (It’s a lost art, really…)
And this list can change. Taste, circumstance and finances can remove a few of your basic ideas out of the realm of possibility. But if you’re adamant about something in the beginning, try to remember that later on and don’t take them off your list.
Now that you have your big ideas list, it’s time to get into the more practical aspects.
The Where, When and How
The next three can come in whatever order you want, but they tend to influence one another. Where and When are general location and date, but the How is the sticky one. “How” is your budget. (BOO.)
Look at your What list and see how you’ve described your wedding. If you listed “Outdoors” and “Lots of spring flowers,” well, your Where and When are not going to be Pennsylvania in November. Write down a few options for your Where, whether it be country, state or city. Don’t consider what’s easiest for you or your family yet, just think about where you’d like to be married.
The When is less of a “When do we want to be married?” than it is a “When can we get married?” Print off a calendar of the year you think you’ll have the wedding and then start crossing off dates you know won’t work due to work or prior commitments. Also think about just basic logistics, like weather. If your What includes a “lakeside ceremony” and your Where is “East Texas,” you might want to mark off July or August unless you consider swamp-a** an appropriate favor to give your guests.
And then there’s the How. Oh, the How. There are entire reality shows that revolve around the pain and horror that the budget can cause you. But your budget is your friend. Your budget keeps you in perspective, makes you pay attention to what you really want. (And a budget can keep your taste in check. Honestly, had I a giant budget, I would have probably Swarovski-crystalled and glittered dang near anything that was nailed down and possibly the preacher.) Your budget also protects your future. You REALLY don’t need to start your married life out with financial difficulties. You want to have the best wedding possible, but not at the expense of your future, or your credit score.
But in this beginning phase, figure your budget by thinking about what available assets you have. A little surplus savings that are NOT your emergency fund? A trust your parents started specifically for your wedding? The amazing ability to put aside 30% of your paycheck each month? Whatever it is, it’s a good idea to go ahead and start figuring a budget now, before you REALLY start planning.
Now that you’ve got the Where, When, What and How situated, it’s time to start looking at those big scary checklists. No, I don’t want to hear it, they’re really not that bad, ESPECIALLY Offbeat Bride‘s. You’re going to need a checklist because they keep track of things that you won’t think of, like “Two months before: Research local marriage license requirements.” (Didn’t think about that, did ya? SEE?) Just remember, you’re planning A Practical Wedding, but most vendors are firmly entrenched in WIC Land. If you plan on using a vendor that caters to more typical weddings, you’re going to have to stick to their time-tables. And honestly, The Kn*t’s checklist is kinda fun, if you don’t take it seriously. I had immense pleasure in printing off its numerous pages and then taking a Sharpie to tasks that I never intended to do. It’ll make you look like you got SO much accomplished. Or to look at the calendar and say, “Oh gee. I’m supposed to be meeting with the musicians today about reception music. I think I’ll go read instead.”
This is also time to start talking over your wedding ideas with family and friends. Those bridal brigades we know and love? You can’t start to include them in the planning process if they don’t know what’s going on. However, when you’re talking, remember your What. Don’t let others influence your decisions unless they go in line with what you already want. Sometimes weddings make people go a little crazy with enthusiasm and you damn near have to hose them down.
And for the last step?
Okay, we know WHY you’re getting married. You’re in lurrrrve, you want stability, you need medical insurance, you want to be a part of something bigger…whatever reason, you’re gonna do it and we’re super excited for you!
But now, and while planning, just take some time periodically to step back and remember WHY. Why you’re getting married, why you love your partner, why you’re going through all this. The Why is the most important aspect because it’s what drives the whole damn process. The Why is the reason you’re together. And it’s the one thing that’s going to stay with you after this whole wedding business is nothing more than a memory and a serious of really awesome photos of two kids in love.
Now Team Practical? What have you got? Give us your best advice for newly engaged and just getting started.