I Don’t Know What Kind of Wedding I Want


Ask APW: How do I choose?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

15719451415_016dfaf290_k-2

Q: I’ve been with my fiancé for almost five years, we’ve lived together for a year and a half, and we got engaged five months ago. Since we’ve gotten engaged, I’ve read A Practical Wedding, looked at Pinterest, checked out bridal magazines, talked to married friends, searched the Internet, and you know what? I have no idea what I want to do.

My fiancé and I have a few things we won’t do (get married in a church or in a state where our LGBTQ friends cannot get married), but the opportunities are still endless. Since then, we’ve come up with a million different ideas (eloping, courthouse wedding, DIY backyard wedding, etc.), but nothing has stuck. My family and friends keep telling me to do whatever will make me happy, but I just don’t know what will make me happy! I’ve never had an idea in my head, and I’ve done a ton of research, and I’m so stuck, I’m frustrated. I just want to be married, and I’m getting tired of everyone telling me to “hurry up and figure out what I want to do.” No one ever told me that the biggest problem I would have was figuring out what I wanted to do! When all of my friends got married, they knew where they wanted to get married, the type of cake they wanted to serve, the shade of white their wedding dress would be, and how they would boogie to their first dance. I can’t even decide if I want to elope or have five hundred people present. Please tell me that there’s a magical answer you can give me to solve this problem.

Sincerely,

Indecisive

A: Dear Indecisive,

Yeah, tell me about it. I still describe beautiful could-have-been weddings to my husband, five years after the fact. There are so, so many ways to do this thing, and lots of them are really pretty.

You’re starting at the right point at least, weeding out the things you know for sure you don’t want. But that still leaves dozens of options, right? Well, for starters, back away from the Pinterest. It can be nice to gather some ideas, but after a point, all of those floating pictures of pretty can be Too Much. Give yourself a break from it.

Then, look to logistics. You can’t decide whether to elope or have five hundred guests? Well, which can you afford? How far will everyone need to travel? Who will be insulted that they weren’t invited to an elopement, and how will that impact family dynamics? You didn’t pick your partner based on feelings alone; real deal logic and facts came into play. And when it comes to weddings, there are a whole damn lot of facts to logic through. (And speaking of your partner, what’s he got to say about all of this?)

Once you step back from the pinning, take a look at the surrounding factors, and talk to your partner about what he wants, just pick a lane. You know how to make decisions. Every morning, you pick out an outfit to wear. You decide what to eat for lunch each afternoon. For each of these, there are endless options that you would like, but you manage to choose just one, for better or worse, and carry on with your day. Don’t let the wedding world fool you into believing this decision is all that different.

When you’re choosing a pair of pants or a sandwich, you’re just making a decision in the moment. What do you want right now? And I think sometimes we forget that wedding planning can be the very same. It’s not about guessing what future-you would also like, predicting what wedding trends will be out of style, or trying to choose something that will be “timeless.” Yes, yes, your wedding will probably be eternally meaningful to you. But that’s because you bit the bullet and married someone you loved, not because you made yourself crazy making all the perfect choices. In short, the dress, or the menu, or the invitations don’t have to be meaningful forever-and-ever-amen. They can, instead, be a little reflection of what you liked in this specific moment in your life. In fact, they’re probably going to be a reflection of what you liked when you got hitched, no matter how much you (over) think it.

They also don’t have to be some cherished vision you’ve had since childhood. It doesn’t work that way for everyone. So your friends had lifelong visions of their wedding day. Meh. That doesn’t mean that you will (or should), so don’t tie too much meaning to your feelings (or lack thereof).

So, you know, just pick something already. Quit trying to sift through and find the exactly perfect assortment of details and just go for it. It might make you happy. And it might not. But, you know, your friends who planned their dream weddings since age five have the same chance of being made unhappy by their wedding details. Luckily, it’s not the details that make the day, or the marriage. It’s that person you decided to marry, and the fact that you took the plunge.

If you would like to ask APW a question, please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Nina

    OH man, we were crippled with option overload at the beginning. We couldn’t even figure out which coast we should be on… or meet in the middle? Or whether the invite list should be 6 or 200 people. From Meg’s book we focused on what we wanted our wedding to FEEL like, looked around for venues from Washington to New Hampshire that fit our price range (this part was maddening), and went to go check a few out. Going in person changed everything. We realized we needed somewhere within 2 hours driving from a major airport. And we needed the wedding person at the venue to be competent. So in the end, those were our criteria.

    • joanna b.n.

      ALSO may I recommend picking a venue or vendors based on whether you believe in the organization/they line up with your values? Style and aesthetics can cover a multitude of sins, just saying, and you’ll be happy on your day (and during the nitty gritty of planning) if you like the people who are helping you have your wedding (and they’re competent), regardless of the “style” or “image” of things. I know it meant a lot to us that we were supporting businesses who, albeit part of the wedding industry, we thought had their hearts in the right place.

      • Kimber Lockhart

        + You’ll be spending a good deal of time with them — more than with your family, friends, or (eek!) even SO. Pick people you like.

  • Rosie

    I would suggest you approach it like this:
    1) Rough budget: determined from how much you can spend and how much you want to spend.
    2) Guests: are there any ‘must’ invites? How will your parents / siblings feel if they aren’t there? Who do you want to witness your marriage? Is there anyone you don’t want there?

    From those two things you can then look at:
    3) Venue: how much you have to spend and who’s coming (and from where) will narrow it down at lot.
    4) Food: where it is, how much you’re spending and who you’re feeding will leave you with just a few options to choose from.

    Then fill in the rest around that. Good luck!

    • Alyssa M

      Yes just like Meg said in the quote on yesterday’s large weddings post, start with the people. Knowing that you only want it to be you and your partner means an obvious elopement. If you know that would break your mother’s heart, or you can’t imagine getting married without your best friends around, or you think it’d be nice to have great uncle Sammy there, then you know A LOT more than you did before about what you can do.

    • newyork22

      Seconding this advice and the starting point in particular! One of my greatest fears in life is outliving my money, and every time I must part with a vast chunk of savings (schooling, vacations, weddings!), the first thing that I have to nail down is my willingness to spend. One factor that has imbued me with a deep sense of satisfaction and joy regarding our weddings, is that we ruthlessly stuck to our budget and were able to accomodate 500 folks. A lot of the wedding details were driven by the budget, and we couldn’t have been happier with how it all turned out!

    • Heather

      Yes to this!

      Also, We started with a small list of non-negotioables, which for us looked like this:

      1- meaningful ceremony
      2- all family/friends (including kids) must be invited
      3- feed those guests decent food
      4- quality photography
      5- not go into debt for this day
      6- ceremony/reception same place (for logistics- see #2, we have huge families)
      7- want to take honeymoon within week after wedding

      It simplified things for us to ask ourselves what mattered most. I got this idea from $2,000 bride- the idea is that you are less likely to think you need, say, monogrammed napkins if you look at your non-negotiables and see that giving some of your budget to napkins doesn’t further those top goals. I found that having this list also helped with decision fatigue. If it didn’t further my top 7, or it took away from those, then it didn’t matter!

      Congratulations! Your wedding will be great!

      • Lian

        Number 6. So, so much number 6. I know it’s not possible in a lot of situations (for example, you want the ceremony in your church/synagogue/mosque and you can’t hold your reception there). But if there are no such reasons, and it is possible to have everything in one place, I absolutely recommend it. Saves so many logistical headaches!

        • Eh

          We had our ceremony and reception in separate venues and so did my sister and neither of us had our it in a church/synagogue/mosque and it was not a logistical nightmare. I think that this is a myth. For both of us the reception venue was not a good location for our ceremony. I had my reception at a country club that did not have a large enough room for a ceremony due to the number of guests (and the reception room was not ideal) and my sister had her’s at the community center (she did have the option of having her wedding in the same room as her wedding but that was not her vision). I had my ceremony at a theatre (which was too small for the reception unless we were only have a cocktail reception and everyone stood) and my sister got married on her in-laws front lawn. I wrote yesterday how actually having two venues saved me money because my ceremony venue was much cheaper than having a cocktail hour. I also did not worry about my guests (many enjoyed the down time because they could go back to the hotel or their house and relax). This might be a situation of knowing your guests. My family and my in-laws are small town people who are used to having to venues (generally a church, though sometimes a park, someone’s backyard etc.) so it wasn’t a big deal for them (even for families with children – the kids got to have naps before the big party). They also all drive. Things would have been different if we got married in the city we live in.

          I don’t actually enjoy the wedding all being in one venue unless the reception is right after the ceremony (less than an hour long break). I find the lull between the ceremony and the reception to be agonizing even with a cocktail hour. I am an introvert and I would much prefer to have some downtime then to be forced to socialize during that time. My experience with only having one location is that it is generally isolated and as a result the guests can’t really leave during that time.

          • Amy March

            Huh. I’ve always viewed a cocktail hour as part and parcel of the reception. Of course guests wouldn’t leave during the party! Just going straight in and sitting down to dinner would feel oddly rushed to me.

          • Eh

            This might be just my experience but three hours of cocktail ‘hour’ while pictures are being taken is way too long and I would rather be having some less stimulating downtime which is difficult when there is no where to go (many wedding venues near us are just far enough outside of the city that it’s not worth going back to the city during that time).

            At my wedding people had downtime between the ceremony and then arrived before the time supper was to be served and mingled for about half an hour even without a cocktail hour (my cousin’s wedding had similar timing). If cocktail hour was actually an hour it wouldn’t be that bad for me but in my experience it is two or three hours long. My sister had food (crackers and cheese and veggies/fruit) served after her ceremony at her in-laws house while we had pictures taken. Then guests had some downtime while pictures were taken, and again people came to the reception venue and mingled (without a cocktail hour) starting about half an hour to 45 minutes before supper. I did go to one wedding where it was ceremony, cocktail hour (which was about an hour, maybe even less) and then supper and I actually found that rushed and odd timing because I ate food at the cocktail hour and then ate more food at supper. Again, it might just be my experience.

          • Amy March

            Oh, in that case I agree with you. Three hours is absurdly long. I’ve never been to a cocktail hour that’s much longer than an actual clock hour.

          • Eh

            If it was one hour between the ceremony and the reception then I have no problem with it and it would make sense to me not to want to leave. Where I live it is common to have a 3pm wedding and supper at 6 or 7pm with the time in between as “Cocktail hour”. I also find that being “on” from before 3pm (when you arrive for the ceremony) until 11pm (or later) when the reception wraps up to be exhausting so if there is a three hour break I wouldn’t mind taking two hours to have some downtime.

        • Nicole

          This does make things easier on guests. However, another thing to remember (I think it’s one of the APW mantras) is that your guests are adults who will take care of themselves. They will figure out what to do with a gap between ceremony and reception. They will figure out how to get to the reception.
          Also, a downside of having everything in one venue is that (if you’re having an evening/dinner time reception) you then have to wait ALL DAY for your wedding! I was so nervous before my ceremony that I was so happy to have it done at 2 PM so that the rest of the day I could relax and enjoy!

      • Meg Keene

        In the book http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0738215155/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=aprawed-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=0738215155%22%3EA%20Practical%20Wedding:%20Creative%20Solutions%20for%20a%20Beautiful,%20Affordable,%20and%20Meaningfu I talk about coming up with a wedding mission statement, which REALLY helped us. Much like yesterday’s big wedding post, our mission statement was about celebrating with our community. So every hard moment when I wanted to freak out/ cancel it/ cut half the guest list, David would bring me back to that…. and force me to carry on ;)

        • Lauren from NH

          Is that the idea behind the “one sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe”?

          • Meg Keene

            No. That’s just how the party FEELS. The goal is like… the thing that gets you through the hell of planning. How planning feels and how the wedding feels THANKFULLY often don’t relate at all!

        • Laurel

          for us, it was adjectives :). We came up with a list of about 4 adjectives that we thought balanced what we hoped to achieve with the look and feel of the event. Then, adjectives helped me filter out inspiration that was “really cool!” and inspiration that was actually a really good fit for our wedding.

        • emilyg25

          Yes, this was the best advice ever. Once we decided on our mission statement, we stuck to it. It made making decisions so much easier. There are like four or five totally different weddings that would have been perfect for us, but we decided on one up front and tried to forget about the rest.

    • lady brett

      this is precisely what i was coming to post. starting with the money helps a lot, because whatever number you choose will automatically set some limits for you. the smaller your budget, the more your decisions will be narrowed down for you – although clearly not spending money comes with its own complications. (we picked our budget by a super-scientific method of “what’s the biggest amount of money that doesn’t make me want to barf everywhere.”)

      the other thing about thinking about who you want there is that it might give you limitations other than numbers. for us that was wanting our grandparents to be able to participate (even though we didn’t think they’d come), which meant that our dream state park wedding was off the table, because it was going to involve a hike.

      • jubeee

        Yes, for me I had to start with a budget, that really is a deciding factor for so many of the decisions I’m making.

    • Sarah E

      Yes, definitely. A budget will make so many decisions for you, even if it’s just a ballpark number.

    • Jules

      These were my recommendations, too. #1 and #2 are so closely intertwined. You may find that your choices are driven by #1 (we cannot exceed $2K) or by #2 (we absolutely want X number of guests, can’t imagine it with fewer) or by both. We found that once we had 1 and 2, the venue – or rather the city that the wedding would be in – was much easier to pick.

  • TeaforTwo

    I found it quite overwhelming to start out, because it felt like I had to plan everything at once: one cohesive vision from the start.

    In reality, each decision you make as you go will narrow the field for the rest. For us it went like this: we decided on a timeline first. We wanted to get married in December, which was about 5 months after we got engaged. I floated a small restaurant wedding just for our immediate families, and my husband really wanted to have all of our extended families there. Knowing that we had 175 people to invite on a short timeline really narrowed down our options for a venue, and then the largely insane prices for large Toronto venues narrowed them even further.

    And then from there it got easy. Our venue had a particular character that helped me envision most of the aesthetic stuff and guided those decisions…and then we ran out of money so that made the rest of the decisions :)

    • Meg

      Oh man, I’m in it too. Option overload. We’re doing basically what TeaforTwo suggested. Start with what we know, which may not be much. For instance, I know I want an ivory wedding dress. That might seem like a silly place to start, but it’s possibly the only thing I’ve ever really known for sure about my wedding since white does not flatter my skin tone. We also know that owing to academic schedules, this needs to be a summer thing, and we don’t see the need for a long engagement. Ok, this summer then. Thought for a bit about doing it somewhere in between our family’s locales, but in the end it wasn’t going to be possible for us to do all the wedding planning for a non-local wedding in 6 months without boots on the ground. Ok, my hometown it is.

      I certainly don’t know everything, since I’m wading through it right now, but it really helps to start with one thing you do know and move from there. Or, just decide on one thing arbitrarily and the decisions will start to flow. For instance, decide when you’d like to get married. That will narrow options for venues and photos and even the number of people who are likely to make it. My aunt had some practical advice on deciding when to get married: You’ll have this date for the rest of your life so it might be worth it to think about what time of year you’d like to travel to have a special weekend every year. The wedding is only one day, but the date is forever.

      • Aubry

        Yes to the forever date! For us it was easy: the saturday between C’s birthday and My birthday – July 26 (2014). plus I wanted an outdoor wedding so that worked out. One weekend to celebrate all the things sounds perfect.

        Another option: your anniversary. That way you don’t have to awkwardly answer “well, married for 2 years but together 4 before that…” every time. (I did not solve this issue).

      • KH_Tas

        On that note, a sport club friend of mine suggests not choosing February 14th: they did it on a whim and have spent the intervening years being unable to get an anniversary dinner reservation

  • snf100

    we started with when we wanted it to be, so for us that was not the months of may-september since our church doesn’t have AC and not December-February since the east coast is unpredictable and can be dreary, that left us with March April October and November and from there it was easier since I wanted a roughly year long engagement, so April it was.
    we then moved on to people and wrote down the lists of people we would be sad if they weren’t around us on our wedding day and asked our parents to roughly do the same leaving us with a guest list of 140
    so then we knew a rough when and how many and from there I started looking with the understanding that once I found something that worked and I liked and we committed to it I stopped looking
    the details were easier, flowers I love gerbera daisies and roses so those were the flowers (mostly gerbera daisies), cake I love red velvet so that was the cake flavor (and chocolate chip with raspberry butter cream b/c I couldn’t resist it after the tasting)
    My long rambling advice sums up neatly, start with a rough when where and how many and I found it was easiest to do this by eliminating all the things that are a no and the details go with what you like

  • Katelyn

    Oh man, I feel for ya! I got married in May and I am still tossing and turning about all the other wedding celebrations we could have done….sorry, I’m sure that’s not helpful.

    My usual advice is to start with guest list, budget, and then venue….but what I really think you should do is get a little drunk with your fiancé and write down every single idea that pops in your head down on a big long wedding wish list. That’s what we did, and some of it helped (some of it was just crazy drunken rambling but oh well!)

  • I love Liz’s advice here! the Tl:dr that I took away from it – you don’t have to ZOMGZ love your wedding, you hopefully will like it, and ultimately once you “just make a decision,” other decisions will be made slightly more clear, and they tend to snowball (like paying off debt!).

  • I saw this Kazuo Ishiguro quote last year: “There was another life I might have had, but I am having this one.” It has helped me with so many big decisions! It makes it feel like, yes, there are lots of choices. I/We get to acknowledge all of the options, but then eventually we pick one, and move on.

    The other thing I would say is, you get to change your mind! Up to a point. We thought we wanted to get married in a small town that was meaningful to us. We told everyone that was what we wanted, visited venues, did tons of research. After a few weeks, we realized we were hitting some big roadblocks (difficulty for guest travel, limited options for many vendors) that we could avoid if we married in our own large city. We hadn’t put any deposits down, but it felt terrible to throw away all that research. But we scrapped it and started over in our city. So don’t be afraid to change your mind after you start!

    • Caitlyn

      I am putting that quote on my wall. Indecision is a HUGE issue for me. I really adore that way of looking at it!

    • macrain

      LOVE this.

    • juliasinnott

      Love this too! So true.

    • Greta

      Yes, this is amazing! I just put this quote up on my wall today. For a habitually indecisive person, always looking to analyze every possible option and pick the best one out there, wedding planning was both a joy and absolutely excruciating. It was a lesson every day in making a decision and sticking with it. I had to learn to not over analyze and over think, and just pick something. It was hard at times, but it was also really good practice for life. Sometimes decisions just have to be made.

  • Eh

    I totally agree with Liz’s advice. You just need to pick something and go with it. Don’t second guess your decisions and just keep ploughing forward. Decide who you want there and your budget, and then pick a location (city, town, etc.) to have it in and then pick a venue. Once you have those big decisions done things seem to fall into place.

    We wanted our wedding to be authentic to us which is super broad but did help with decision making when we felt we were being pressured into things that weren’t authentic to us and we really didn’t want. That said, it was important for us to take our families’ expectations into consideration (within reason and as long as it was still authentic to us). If we didn’t take our families’ expectations into consideration our wedding would probably have looked very different. For us it probably would have also been more difficult to make decisions if we didn’t take our families’ into consideration since we would have had a lot more choices to make (e.g., my in-laws wanted us to get married in their hometown, not during the summer and not outside, while my family wanted an open-bar). When their requests were not authentic to us we vetoed them. For example, my MIL was upset with our decision not to have floral centerpieces (we had board games instead) and not to have favours but we stood out ground. She also wanted us to get married in her church or at least by her pastor and we vetoed that since we do not go to church (and I have never gone to church so I would not be comfortable – which she did not feel was a good reason to not be married in a church since “churches are just a place to get married”).

  • Juliet

    Sometimes, the wedding kinda picks you instead. That was our experience, and while our wedding couldn’t include every amazing idea we ever dreamed up, it was our day and we love everything about it.

    Initially, we wanted a Vegas wedding, then a backyard wedding, then a cocktail wedding at our favorite bar, then a courthouse wedding. We knew what we didn’t want (church ceremony, ballroom reception,) and that was about it. We were stuck with nothing but great, never materialized ideas for about two years (we really weren’t in a hurry…)

    Then we made one choice that got everything on track- we picked the location (not the venue, just the city we wanted to have it in.) The good news, we learned, is that you don’t have to make every decision at once. Often one choice leads to another obvious choice that leads to another. It’s a rolling boulder- once you get it started, that wedding can build on itself. Picking the city lead to a conversation with our parents about budget. The city’s weather made us love the idea of something outside, so that with the budget really narrowed things down for a venue. See? The ball is rolling now. My advice is make one simple choice, like a city, or general guest list size, and see what path that takes you down. Happy rolling!

    • Eh

      Another thing I found that helped with decision making when it came to vendors was recommendations. You probably know people who have had weddings in the same area and they used a photographer, florist, baker, hair stylist, make-up artist, etc. We went with my friend’s photographer and officiant, and we went with the same baker as my BIL/SIL and my husband’s cousin, and we went with the same florist as my husband’s other cousin, and my make-up was done by his cousin’s coworker who also did my SIL’s make-up. It also helped since I am not from the area so I don’t know who to stay clear of (we were warned not to use one of the local florists by a few people so we didn’t even consider them).

      • Lauren from NH

        Oh this is totally a thing. Trusting APW vendors has helped SO much! Registry, website, DOC, Photographer…reading the profiles and comments from other clients made me confident these selections were no-brainers :)

        • Eh

          Unfortunately there are no APW vendors where I live (well other than online options), so friend and relative recommendations were my best option.

        • KimBee

          I’d also add that trusting some of your vendors can seriously help with picking others. Our venue had an awesome local florist they worked with all the time who it turns out also knew our caterer. We chose vendors who focused locally sourced, sustainable practices, and it was a relatively small circle. So, it’s totally worth asking vendors about their recommendations if you find some that you really like. Also, it helped the wedding run so smoothly!

    • Lawyerette510

      Yep we had a similar kind of experience. Once we decided we wanted it in either north-western Sonoma county or the Anderson Valley in Mendocino and we wanted to spend about 10,000 then the other pieces started falling into place.

    • Kayla

      We knew the city we wanted to get married in (we live here; most of our friends and family live here), but we had the same rolling boulder effect once we picked the venue.

      And even the venue can be an easy choice! We found a few within (a very rough estimate of) our price range, visited one, decided we could both picture getting married there, and that was that. We didn’t even look at the others.

  • Nell

    My advice is to start with the ceremony and work your way out.

    Ya’ll decided to get married – so what do you want to say to each other to make it official (church-focused things? secular stuff? hippie nature stuff?). Who are the people who need to be at the ceremony to make it feel like a wedding to you?

    After that (and this is kind of counter to the “it’s your wedding! do what you want!” ethos) we thought about how we could best accommodate the people who are most important to us. For example, we wanted our parents to feel comfortable – so we needed a space with (a) seating and (b) air conditioning. We also chose to get married in the city so that no one would have to rent a car.

  • Jade

    I really logicked the heck out of our wedding choices. Basically I took all the options (vineyard wedding, Muskoka wedding, urban wedding, destination wedding) we had come up with, made pros and cons for each, and the option with the most pros won. The thing is even after we made our initial decision, parameters kept changing along the way and we had to adjust accordingly. So our big destination wedding bash that we decided on has converted into a big-ish church wedding, a small destination wedding, and a massive at home reception.

    I still think about all the weddings I’m not having especially my dream wedding at a local vineyard, but that’s what anniversaries are for. ;)

    • “but that’s what anniversaries are for”

      Yup.

    • juliasinnott

      “…but that’s what anniversaries are for, ;)”
      love this so much! especially after planning our big church wedding- and I can totally see the vineyard weddings, or the chic urban weddings we could have had. just going to turn those into anniversary/special occasions to share with my husband! good call!!!

    • Lawyerette510

      Anniversaries or big birthdays or big achievements. I’ve got my eye on a cool urban party to celebrate 10 years of living in the Bay Area, and the husband’s 40th is only 3 years away…

  • Lauren from NH

    For me this is a negative side effect of the internet. Like with picking a ring, a dress, a menu, the items on the registry, occasionally I get overwhelmed feeling like the PERFECT ANSWER IS OUT THERE…I just have to do my homework otherwise I am going to MISS OUT or something terrible will go wrong that I could have prevented!

    OP I feel for you. But if you are anything like me, at some point your gut spoke up and said “oh I really like that!” and if you are anything like me you replied “OH HUSH! I haven’t considered all of my options yet!”

    Trust your gut! Make some choices, then make some more. It will be wonderful!

    • KitBee
    • LM

      So true! I felt like I could search forever for different options, but ultimately, for most wedding things, I just needed to pick something that I liked; it didn’t have to be the PERFECT one. Especially helpful with items that I didn’t care much about but just needed to make a decision, e.g. napkin colors, programs.

    • Meg Keene

      The best is the enemy of the good.

    • ” if you are anything like me you replied ‘OH HUSH! I haven’t considered all of my options yet!'”

      That’s me. And for me, considering all my options means figuring out all the things — at one point I had five different spreadsheets with costs down to forks and knives and appetizers from the local grocery store (sleuthed from their flyers on their facebook page) for three different countries.

  • macrain

    Oh man, I feel you on this!
    For me, the issue was juggling competing interests and opinions of friends and family. I felt like I was being pulled in a million directions. I’d meet with my therapist and she’d press me- “What about you? What do you want?” and I would, puzzlingly, have NO CLUE. It was really hard to sort through all the noise and find my own voice. Everyone around me had such strong opinions that it was kind of like- well, they seems sure about this and I’m not, so….
    You didn’t say why you think you are struggling to make a choice, but this could potentially be part of it. I think a lot of brides struggle with this.
    Good luck and let us know how it goes, pease! XX

  • MC

    “I just want to be married, and I’m getting tired of everyone telling me to “hurry up and figure out what I want to do.”

    One option that I don’t think anyone’s suggested – just go to the courthouse and get married now, and then plan a wedding/celebration. I’ve had a few friends do this and not tell anyone, and it helped them de-stress about making the *perfect* wedding decisions because regardless, they were already married.

  • Em

    Awesome advice, Liz!

    And yes, totally. Samesies. I hated the beginning of wedding planning (actually I hated most of it). For us, the idea of needing a vision for our wedding – even something that seemed as innocent as the “feel” – was crippling. When we started wedding planning, we were totally overwhelmed by the options. At the beginning, we had endless-seeming “wedding meetings” where we brainstormed and envisioned and tried to figure out what the “feel” of our wedding would be, but it just made us feel more lost, nervous and pressured. It sort of added to the notion that your wedding day has to have a thesis, has to be cohesive – that you have to construct the Feel of Your Wedding through the choices you make, which necessitates having a perfect unshakeable vision right from the get go. In reality, the choices you end up making (unless you make choices you know you aren’t happy with) will necessarily lead you to the feeling – or *a* feeling – that you want for your wedding. Because they were made by you. And it’s your wedding.

    Each decision limits the next, which is something that I found very stressful at the beginning of planning – because what if I make the wrong first decision????? – but something that in practice was HUGELY liberating, as long as we were also remembering that we didn’t need to engineer the perfect wedding by making the perfect choices. Following the advice of many people, we started with the guest list – or we tried to. It wasn’t actually finalized until the day we sent the invites out, so the entire time we were thinking about spaces that could hold 30 – 150 people. The first decision we actually made was our reception location, an awesome restaurant in town owned by friends. We didn’t choose it because it contributed to our vision of the day in any way (in fact, it nixed our favourite idea of a forest wedding) but because we like to go to that restaurant, and they have yummy food, and it was easy, and we were lazy (restaurant weddings are THE BEST if you are lazy). We didn’t have a ceremony location until just before invitations went out, and then my wife’s sister offered her backyard. So I guess we were having a backyard wedding! We had also been looking at a small country church close to town, and if that had panned out, I guess we would have had a country church wedding.

    I think probably the biggest guiding principle of our planning process, if there was one, was that we valued our regular lives over wedding planning, so anything that was difficult or time consuming – before or on the day – was tossed, or not even considered. This meant that we straight up opted out of many wedding-related decisions; for example, we didn’t have a wedding party mostly because we didn’t the host of decisions that came with having a wedding party, so we found other ways to honour the people that were important. We also made tons of decisions that we then scrapped later: we planned to have everyone sing as part of our ceremony, but we couldn’t easily find a song that would work; a friend was going to make macarons, but it didn’t pan out so we told the restaurant to make whatever. We basically tried to banish any thoughts of “vision”, and we really took Elizabeth’s words to heart when considering/worrying about/ stressing over anything: “It’s something, but it’s not everything.”

    The hardest part is standing on the precipice of Your Wedding. It’s all that pressure to make it meaningful. It WILL be meaningful, but not because your planning decisions make it so.

    • Em

      oh my god i wrote a novel.

    • macrain

      Yes. I would say the very beginning and the very end are the wooooorst.

  • ZOO

    I would suggest focusing on what you want to DO at your wedding, rather than how you want it to look or feel. That will give you some criteria to work with. Do you want to dance? Your venue needs space, and you’ll need some kind of music and an outfit that lets you boogie. Want to play horseshoes while drinking champagne? Sounds like a park wedding to me. Figure out what activities and rituals are important to you, and work to accommodate them. That will guide you to a wedding you’ll enjoy.

    • I’ve already had my wedding, but now I just want to play horseshoes while drinking champagne. Sounds like the perfect spring party for when my sister in law comes to visit. I wonder if vista print has any horseshoes and champagne invitations I can buy …. this is my whole day now.

      • jubeee

        This is going to be my wedding HURRAH!

  • Laura C

    What Liz said exactly.

    I might also add, don’t let Pinterest or whatever make you think that if one thing about your wedding matches Official Wedding Theme A, everything else has to fall into line. It’s ok to pick and choose and have some aspects of the, I don’t know, classy vineyard wedding mixed up with aspects of the back-yard barbecue wedding and the crazy dance party wedding.

    • Lauren from NH

      Also Pinterest and Style Me Pretty are a little bamboozled as to what weddings are really about. They serve their purpose and who doesn’t like pretty things, but REAL LIFE and REAL weddings are about JOY, which is primarily rooted in people, not things.

      One of my guiding lights has been thinking of when in the past I have experienced the greatest JOY and trying to recreate that atmosphere in wedding form.

      • macrain

        There came a point when I had to step away from Style Me Pretty. I unfollowed it, along with a handful of other wedding-related things on facebook, a few months before I got married. I felt tons more sane.

      • this is actually why I love non-professional facebook photos of people’s weddings.. the ones that their mom/sister/best friend posts. they may not be pretty enough to frame on your wall, but there’s always so much joy in them.

        that said, at this point in wedding planning, having run the gamut of family politics, i also think joy can be unpredictable– sometimes family dynamics mean that you don’t know if you can count on undiluted joy. i think that’s why the type-A’s (me!) like to focus on actual things that they can control.

  • Sarah

    So I’m having similar issues. My indecision stems from two things:
    1. I don’t live anywhere near my family, and I don’t my wedding to be in my hometown. I’ve been away from there for almost 2 years, and have struggled with depression and until recently, unemployment, so I feel as though that is clouding my judgement.
    2. My family hasn’t really been all that supportive (and his is). I’ve lived in my new city for almost 2 years and my family has yet to visit me. In addition to that, right after we announced our engagement, my sister in law announced she was pregnant. It’s my mother’s first grandchild, so all the things I wanted to do with her have taken a backseat (coupled with the fact I live 2,000 miles away from her). So I guess this is all to say, my judgement feels clouded by my depression and lack of support from my family, so I could end up planning a wedding based off of these (hopefully) temporary feelings.

    • Lauren from NH

      Hi Miss! That sounds tough and confusing. Does your partner have a more objective view? Maybe talking with a therapist could help with your depression and help you to find a more objective or at least confident perspective. Hugs!

    • Eh

      One reason (of many) I got married in my husband’s hometown (which is 45 minutes from the city I live in) was because only one family member and two friends had visited me after living there for over three years. I also didn’t feel a connection to the town where I grew up or the town where I was born.

      My sister wanted to get married where she lives but that didn’t work out because it was too far for some family to travel (her husband’s grandparents). She was pretty torn by that. She wanted those people at the wedding but she also wanted people to see where she lives (to help them understand why she still lives there and has no plans to move home).

    • Two words: wedding planner.
      I have depression. And although it’s usually cooperative, I usually have relapses during high stress periods (hello wedding planning). It was my way of protecting my experience so that if I was mildly catatonic when STD’s needed to go out, someone would still make sure they were done (I was, they were). Best money I ever spent was making sure someone would be excited when I just couldn’t bother, let me take on tasks as I could handle them, and just hold it together in case I couldn’t. For the most part I’ve been fine, but it was great to give myself that safety net.

      Even if a full or partial planning isn’t in your budget, a consultation might help get the ball rolling in the right direction.

      • H

        I struggled with a heightened version of my depression throughout the entire planning process, and while I’m the sort of person who likes to do everything herself (and would have if my mental state had cooperated) I wound up hiring a really good coordinator for one facet of the wedding (we couldn’t afford a full-blown wedding planner). We had the next best thing I think: a catering coordinator. She planned events through the restaurant we’d hired, and when it came to food, she did all the annoying, piddly stuff for us (crunching the numbers, keeping track of contracts and deadlines, ensuring that the equipment and serve ware at the venue was functional, ensuring our timing was enforced on the day, etc.) When I arrived in a happy blur after the ceremony, there were piles of artfully arranged appetizers, dinner in the works in the kitchen, and wine glasses being refilled like clockwork… It was a huge load off my mind to have that one aspect of the wedding completely managed by someone not in my family. I’d highly recommend it for whatever thing you think will stress you out the most.

  • Alicia

    Me too! I had no idea what I wanted; knew I wanted to get married but had never really envisioned what the wedding part would look like. Once we decided who we wanted there, we just started picking things that seemed like us. It’s really fun to create this type of celebration together. Start making choices and don’t look back.

  • Kayjayoh

    “You didn’t pick your partner based on feelings alone; real deal logic and facts came into play.”

    Seriously. Such a good thing to remember. If there is nothing jumping out at you based on *feelings* then you have the freedom to go with logistics. I think, in a way, this can make thing much easier, because if there isn’t a specific vision that you’ve fallen in love with, you are able to go with the choices that work best for your situation (family, location, finances) and not have to try to bend and shift to get that to work with your big idea.

  • Greta

    Oh Indecisive, I was so in the same boat as you. I’m pretty indecisive about a lot of things in life, always the idealist looking for the best possible option. All the advice given here was great, and I highly advise you do all of it. For what it’s worth, here’s what I did, as the most indecisive person I know: We were considering everything for our wedding, from immediate family only in Italy to big family blow out in the Midwest (where we’re both from) to a skiing winter wedding at our favorite ski resort to something local in our city where we’ve lived for 4 years (Seattle). All of these options would have made lovely weddings, they all would have been completely different, and they all would have been very “us”. Budget wasn’t a huge issue (which is a lovely problem to have, but can lead to many more options) and for our guest list we imagined many different combinations. What helped us make the first decision (location) was logistics. I’m the ultimate planner, and when I thought about planning a wedding from across the country, or from across the world, I would freak out at the logistical ramifications.

    For so many reasons we decided Seattle was the best place for us to get married because we could a) visit everything in person, b) not have to travel for our own wedding and c) show off our beloved city to all of our friends and family from far away. Once we picked the location, and the ball got rolling, as many other people have said, everything else just came along with it. So, we were getting married in Seattle – that means we want all of our Seattle friends to come – if many friends are coming, that means both of our largish families are coming, and that means we’re looking at 150ish wedding people. That and picking the time of year that we wanted to do it helped us pick a venue, and once you pick a venue everything else really does fall into place.

    So my advice to you is to try and narrow down to location and time of year, and then let everything else flow from there. Also, on a completely different note – think about what kind of parties you like to throw, and like to attend. Are you a big entertainer? Do you love to throw dinner parties? Do you most enjoy a quiet night at home with a few friends? This might help you come up the vibe you want at your wedding. I know the a small wedding with immediate family would have been just lovely, but my husband and I love to throw parties and hang out with large groups of people – so really a large wedding seemed like a good fit for us.

    Finally, we thought back to the many weddings we had been to in the past few years and listed our favorite elements from each. Whose ceremony did we like the best? Why? Who had the best food? Why? Once we started to think about what we enjoyed the most as guests from the ***8*** weddings we had gone to that year, we started to get a better handle on what kind of party we wanted to throw.

    • Oh, yes to all of this–that’s exactly the sequence we followed! We are both super indecisive people, and what helped get us rolling was figuring out the city, the rough number of guests, and what kinds of weddings we liked to attend. That last part helped a lot, because we are not big party people–having a few folks over for dinner and board games is a fun night for us. And to us, a wedding was a huge deal, not just a kind of party–a whole different animal. So yes, we made lists of things we’d liked and hadn’t liked at other people’s weddings. We also made a long list of general things we wanted at our wedding and things we didn’t want, and that helped.

      • Greta

        Yes, I agree with you that a wedding is a totally different animal than a party – but it can really help to think about what you enjoy doing/planning. Once I had the realization “I really love throwing big parties for all my friends, I might be sad to have a super tiny wedding” that helped a ton in guiding us. And double-yes to making lists! Lists for everything! Once we saw a bunch of things we liked listed out, and things we didn’t like listed out, a vision really did come together that wasn’t entirely obvious before.

  • You can get married on your favorite place, like garden or beach. Make the ceremony intimate, inviting families, relatives and close friends. You can also hire a wedding planner and it can help you decide and design on what kind of wedding you want.

  • Jules

    In addition to the excellent logistical advice (start with the budget and guest list, and go from there), I would also say it cracked me up how much my initial planning felt like dating all over again. I didn’t know EXACTLY what I wanted in a husband, so I looked around until I found it, and when I knew, I knew. Same with the venue, really. Aside from some basic specs (what state it was in, the maximum price), I didn’t know what the heck we wanted. We looked at EVERYTHING from cool bars to fire stations to all-inclusives and didn’t lock one down until it felt right.

    Needless to say, you don’t need to have that magical, in-love-with-the-venue (or dress, or flowers) feeling in order to have a great wedding. It’s just that for me, I knew it when I saw it, even if I couldn’t put it into words initially. Once we had that giant piece of the puzzle, the rest was a lot easier.

    One step at a time!

  • Manda9339

    Ah, the paradox of choice.

  • thefluter

    This is good advice for me right now. Our wedding planning actually came pretty easily — I knew that having my (huge) family there was important, we wanted to get married in the city we lived in, we wanted things to be convenient for guests (who would mostly be traveling), we wanted it to be relatively easy for us. So: church wedding, followed by a reception in a hotel where we’d book a block of rooms, with everything close to the subway.

    But now… choosing flowers. choosing invitations. choosing about a thousand other little details which, I know don’t really matter, but I’m overwhelmed by choices. And the idea that if I *just keep looking* I’ll find the invite that we both like that DOES have room for the more traditional wording I kind of wanted. We just need to pick something, and not worry that the invite isn’t as fancy as the STD was (oops!).

    • joanna b.n.

      Also, the professionals can help you with this. Tell the florist you want something in your budget with X colors or “feel”, and leave it up to them. I bet they’d LOVE that…

  • Danielle Antosz

    I agree to starting with your budget. And if you find yourself not caring about certain aspects, consider just cutting them. We had too many small kids to consider for ring bearer/flower girl, and weren’t sure how to choose. So we didn’t – wasn’t important to us, so we cut it. Couldn’t choose a first dance song cause it wasn’t a huge deal, so we cut it. Cake cutting seemed…meh. So didn’t do it. Didn’t even have a cake. But, still had a kick ass wedding.

    Point is – if you can’t decide on some things ask if they are really important to you. Get rid of everything else.

  • LCB

    OMG THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS QUESTION BECAUSE I AM FEELING THE SAME WAY!!!! (sorry about all caps– I’m just that excited that I’m not alone!)

  • Lisa

    I experienced the exact same thing…I was alienated by the fact that I didn’t have a “vision” like everyone else seemed to. Adding fuel to the fire was that after we reflected on it and finally threw up our hands and decided to elope, there were still lots of other decisions to be made. Turns out, running off to elope is not just some thrown-together thing like in the movies, you still have to actually pick a city, find a venue, book an officiant, hire a photographer, get a dress, etc.

    Also…people had lots of IDEAS at me before we eloped, since we told people ahead of time. They were coming from a good place, but multiple people told me I was going to regret not having a “real wedding,” that it would haunt me for the rest of my life, etc. HAHAHAHA! I have never, ever been righter about anything in my life than our decision to elope. I was uncertain about it beforehand, but in hindsight I can see that eloping is what we really wanted to do, and all that uncertainty was just me getting tangled up in other people’s ideas and notions of what a wedding is.

    Good luck, I totally feel your pain!

  • Hannah B

    what about the whole starting with your guest list idea we’ve all been kicking around? that should narrow it to a few options instead of ALL of the options, you know?

  • Manda

    This! I’ve been worrying about wedding choices lately. Did I pick the “right” venue? Did I pick the “right” dress? Ah! But in the end, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a great venue and a beautiful dress and those choices, along with all the others I’ve made, are done. And I won’t notice any difference on the day of.

  • Julia Eckhardt

    That Kazuo Ishiguro quote. Hot damn.

    I’d like to repeat advice I received from this very site: Imagine you have never seen a wedding before, and then imagine what a wedding could/should/you want it to be. Ultimately, all that matters is that you end up married to the one you love more than anything in this world, and second, that you are hospitable and kind to those you do invite (or maybe you elope! That’s OK too!). There are endless ways to do the above.

    However, it sounds like THAT is your issue – and in this scenario, I would probably give myself the following advice: Figure out one element of this thing that you love, or if not love, that you like a whole bunch and it makes you feel warm inside and when you think of it, you smile. Maybe it’s a venue, maybe it’s a dress – maybe it’s just a freaking napkin design! Whatever – go with that! It’s a place to start, and you will serve yourself well if you just meet yourself where you are, not where you THINK you should be.

    If I think of something and I smile without thinking, that’s how I know it’s right. I try to remember that feeling and hold fast to that when I feel like I might sway under the pressure late when someone says “Oh, do you *really* want that? So and so wouldn’t …” or some catty shit like that.

    You can do this! And WHATEVER you choose, it will be perfect and belong only to you and your partner.

  • mackenzie

    I had some ideas when I started wedding planning, but not enough that the wedding planned itself. Fortunately, even, though there were a lot of options that I liked, I definitely knew when something didn’t work for me. Only beer and wine? Nope. Carpet and floral drapes in the reception room? Nuh uh. No available dates for the next two years? No thank you. Sometimes being forced (encouraged) to pick what you don’t like helps you at least narrow down what you do. Good luck!