4 Things I Desperately Want to Tell My Newly Engaged Friends


Ditch that theme, girl

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer

Newly Engaged Tips

Two months ago, my best friend got engaged. Then, a week later, my other best friend got engaged. And not a week after that, my other other best friend got engaged. So basically, this is me right now:

But as half my friend group is now actively planning 2017 weddings, I’m suddenly reminded of how quickly wedding planning can turn a sane person inside out. So far I’ve fielded every question from “How do we tell our dads we don’t want anyone giving us away at our modern feminist queer wedding?” to “How do you create and execute a wedding narrative?” to “How do you make a custom Snapchat filter?” And with the exception of the Snapchat filter, which I totally figured out (*pats self on back*) and will be sharing with you guys at a later date, the questions are often too much to unpack in a text message. So while my first order of business will be sending them copies of both APW books (the emotional guide and the logistical guide), this is what I’d tell them if they were sitting across from me right now, sipping champagne, instead of three thousand miles across the country.

Everything is expensive, because everything is expensive

The first thing that happens when you start planning a wedding is sticker shock: Why is everything so expensive? Which is why there are a thousand think pieces online about the cost of modern weddings and the wedding tax. But the reality? Most of the wedding tax stuff is made up. Weddings are expensive because it costs a crap ton of money to feed and entertain one to two hundred people for four hours. The best way I’ve heard this explained is in the APW planner, courtesy of Liz Coopersmith of Silver Charm Events. She has dubbed what she calls “The Olive Garden Rule,” and it goes like this: Unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks notwithstanding, even at the Olive Garden, an appetizer, a salad, and a few glasses of wine will cost about $50 per person. Translate that to a hundred guests, and it would cost $5,000 to serve Olive Garden at your wedding. And that’s not including other luxuries like tables and chairs and waitstaff.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an affordable wedding. It just means you might need to reimagine what pops up in your head when you think the word “wedding.” Maybe it means you serve cake and punch at two in the afternoon. Maybe it means getting married on a Friday night. Maybe it means a limited bar. Whatever your budget, there is a way to have a wedding that fits within it. Case in point: here are twenty fabulous weddings under $15K and thirteen awesome budget weddings under $8K, plus creative ideas for dealing with wedding sticker shock.

Guests first, things second

When you get engaged, the first thing people typically ask you is, “Have you made any plans yet?” And at first you’re like, “Oh we’re just basking in the glow of being engaged, la la la!” But after the tenth time, your brain starts to turn on you and you start thinking, “Maybe I’m so behind! Maybe I need to plan All The Things RIGHTNOWYESTERDAY!” And this is you hunched over your computer at 3 a.m.:

This pressure can mount especially fast if you’re planning a short engagement or getting married in an area where limited availability of venues can make a year feel short. But don’t rush to book a venue before you’ve set your guest list. Because despite what the wedding industry will tell you, the people make the wedding. And that goes for big weddings and small weddings alike. So don’t trap yourself into a 75-person venue if you know your combined guest list is going to be 150 people. I promise you: no amount of skylights and unique landscaping will make up for having to tell someone you love there just isn’t enough space.

P.S. If you’re trying to do the “but our dream venue is 100 people and we’re inviting 120 and we can’t imagine everyone will come but WHAT IF THEY DO?!” math, then click here to download a page directly from the #APWPlanner with estimates for some of the most common wedding scenarios and guest types.

Master the smile and shrug

Okay, so remember those people who asked if you had anything planned yet? They are not innocents! They have opinions. And they will share their opinions with you, whether you like it or not. And your brain will absorb those opinions, whether you like it or not. And it will get you twisted. But I have a secret to tell you: People will not actually care about ninety-nine percent of your choices when the wedding rolls around (I’m talking small stuff, like whether you wear a white dress or are having your parents walk you down the aisle, not big stuff like the fact that you’re not planning on inviting your Nana). So here’s my advice on what to share:

Share with everyone: Basic logistics that will impact their ability to attend your wedding, such as: where the wedding will take place, when it will take place, if they’re on the guest list. Or anything you’re confident enough to field opinions about. #SorryNotSorry

Put on your wedding website: Stuff that people need to know to show up prepared, that they will inevitably have opinions about, but their opinions don’t matter and you don’t want to hear them. Examples include: if you’re having an open bar, and what the dress code will be.

Tell your parents (or grandparents, or anyone whose feelings you really care about): Anything that might hurt them but you’re doing anyway. This might include not inviting an estranged family member, doing away with a tradition that they might be expecting to partake in or parts of the wedding that they’ve helped pay for. These conversations can be emotionally exhausting for both parties, so try to approach them with empathy. Chances are, your family has been thinking of your wedding for longer than you can remember, so even if you don’t plan on changing your plans, maybe pretend like you’ll at least consider it?

Smile and shrug: If you’re excited about it, and it won’t affect a single other person, and you don’t want to invite their opinion, then girl, play dumb and do the Kanye shrug:

Translation? “Gosh, we haven’t even gotten that far yet! But you’ll love whatever we choose, because there will literally be no other option once we get you in the door.”

You Really, Really Don’t Need a Theme

A friend recently texted me some of her early wedding planning questions. Among them was, “How do you create and execute a wedding narrative?” To which I responded, “Tha fuck is a wedding narrative?” And she explained, “Your story that determines music, food, décor, vibe everything!” And was like, “Oooooh, a theme?” And she was like, “Yes.” And that’s when I realized that the biggest myth of the wedding industry, which I thought was good and dead, has actually split itself up into seven horcruxes and is refusing to die. What myth, you ask? That you need a theme for your wedding.

Allow me stab this idea with a basilisk fang. Your. Wedding. Does. Not. Need. A. Theme. No one in the history of time walked into a wedding and said, “Oh, yes, they really pulled off that urban rustic postmodern glitter vibe soooo well!” Most likely the thought process of your guests goes: 1. Sniffle, that was such a sweet ceremony. 2. Where’s the bar. 3. OMG I am starving, did I just see an appetizer plate walk by? 4. Do I know anyone here? They are not thinking, “That place setting doesn’t go with the drink menu at all.” So don’t worry about making everything cohesive. And don’t spend too much time on tiny tabletop details. Just pick things you like. Wear what you want. Choose colors that make you happy. Have fun with it. And make sure your guests are fed on time. Otherwise? Try to think about some of the kickass parties you’ve been to in your life and what made them awesome. Then channel that. And if you need more pep talks on this subject, here’s why there’s no such thing as a timeless wedding, and why you don’t actually want that Pinterest wedding.

Pink Line

The thing I most wish I’d known when wedding planning is that the hard stuff is what you can’t control. Family is family. Money doesn’t grow on trees. But nothing good comes from stressing over centerpieces. And the rest? It can be fun if you let it.

Champagne also helps a lot.

BUY THE #APWPlanner:

Wedding Planner iconsBN iconsIBOOKS iconsINDIE4

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • joanna b.n.

    Yes.

    I would suggest that People before Things is something any couple planning a wedding should repeat to themselves regularly all through the process, in fact. You won’t regret choosing people over things at any point, really.

    Also, we thought of our theme as “what do we want the feeling guiding the day to be? What would reflect how we feel about getting married?” instead of, like, a THEME PARTY kind of theme, which…. would require so much effort… So we were thinking about things like – fun, relaxed, elegant, simple, etc.

    • Ashlah

      It’s amazing how easy it is to forget People Before Things when you’re in the early stages of wedding planning. I know I did. I started looking at venues with only a vague idea of how many guests we’d be inviting, then basically had to start over when we actually sat down and made a guest list and realized it was way bigger than we thought. Guest list first, newly-engaged folks!

      And agreed about feeling as a sort of theme. I don’t think either of us uttered the word theme during all of wedding planning, but we talked a lot about how we wanted our wedding to feel. (Fun!)

      • Lisa

        Determining the guest list is so important! And there is this odd idea on other sites that you deserve all of the pretty things and if you want those super expensive flowers then you should have them. How do I pay for them? By cutting your guest list, these sites suggest. Maybe there are ways one could pare down a guest list, but presumably you wanted the people there for a reason. It seems so callous to cut the people first.

      • sofar

        Yep, my in-laws thought I was insane when I demanded a ball-park guest list before I looked at venues. And I was like, “Um…I want to make sure everyone fits? I don’t have time to tour venues that will end up being too small because I have a job and a life?”

  • PW

    People before Things – YES.

    Also, don’t feel like you have to spend money on anything if it feels weird to do so. Some of my friends are scandalised that I didn’t spend much on my wedding dress, and it just takes a little tiny effort to remind yourself occasionally that that’s totally cool and no you won’t regret it just because people say you will.

    Also, I like that I can tell people I spent more money on cheese than on my dress. My priorities, yo.

    • Rebekah Jane

      I had the budget for a more expensive dress, but I decided instead that my wedding dress shouldn’t cost more than my engagement and wedding ring. I just didn’t feel that more money should be spent on something I’ll wear once versus what I’ll wear every day.

      As for the cheese – I like to tell people our rent is more than my dress! PRIORITIES.

      • Booknerd

        My husband’s outfit was more expensive than mine- his justification was he is going to wear his suit more than one time!! His suit ended up being just about on par with the cost of my wedding band so we both felt like we got a little splurge while penny pinching on everything else

        • Eenie

          My dress would have been less expensive than my husband’s suit, but Men’s Warehouse took his old suit in as a return and credited it toward the new suit’s purchase (the sales guy was upset anyone had sold him the suit to begin with). It was awesome, but I couldn’t say that his outfit costed more than mine anymore!

        • Alanna Cartier

          Same here! My fiancee got a pricey brooksbrothers suit made out of saxon wool. I got my dress at davids bridal and I still felt like I was spending a bonkers amount

        • LucyPirates

          Woohoo! Yes to this, as much as I will absolutely want to wear my be-sequined dress again (potentially to work) the chances are…I will not. So spending more for a tweed suit he will definitely be wearing = perfect sense.
          I am not actually denying myself sequins, I am just using a graduate dressmaker as her first commissioned dress so she gets photos and portfolio work, I get my awesome dress in my budget that I can live with

        • squirrelyone

          Our church just broke the news to all of us that in our current renovations, we are for some reason *not* adding AC. This was on an evening that was so hot that I, as the cantor up front, kept sticking to the podium so gruesomely that when I’d step away, you could hear the skin-on-plastic ripping over the sound system. Not the best day to say there is no AC coming. Until that moment, the groom and his buddies were all set on the usual tux rentals. We got a coupon, after all! A coupon!!

          After that moment, however, he has decided to entertain getting a formal kilt custom made, because if you’re going to get a formal kilt, you don’t go halvsies, you get it done right. And we had a good long laugh at realizing that if he does, it will probably cost more than my dress and all the bridesmaids dresses combined. But as with you, it’s something he’d use many times. You don’t invest in one of those things and not use it again. And also, it’s awesome. Kilts are awesome.

          Mostly, though, planned summer weddings in non-air-conditioned buildings make people look for alternatives to pants.

      • KPM

        Oh man, our rent is way more than my dress but Bay Area life makes that not so shocking as plenty of people pay $2500+ a month in rent.

        • Amen. It’s like you just read my rent check…

        • Rebekah Jane

          Ha, we’re in a slightly more suburb area of metro Atlanta, so finding a brand new dress that was less than what we pay for the house that wasn’t from David’s Bridal was an amazing find.

    • Vanessa

      Looks like you have your priorities in order to me

    • Ashlah

      Priorities: Correct.

    • cml

      Cheese FTW, every time.

    • sofar

      Exactly. My friend just got engaged and is overwhelmed. And I was like, “look, there will be things you care a LOT about and things you don’t give a crap about. Concentrate ALL your energy on the things you care about, and ZERO energy on the things you don’t give a crap about. If you force yourself to care about things you don’t care about, you will become crazy.”

      ..This is precisely why, at my wedding, there were almost no flowers and the bridesmaids wore whatever they wanted, and there were MOUNTAINS of cupcakes and loads of kids running around with cupcake-smeared faces. And at other weddings, the bridesmaids match perfectly and there are mounds of gorgeous flowers and a harpist and classic buttercream cake and no children. Everyone is different. Do you.

    • Meagan

      YES. I was half in love with what was going to be a $1900 dress before alterations, then bought a bridesmaid’s dress in white for $200 instead. I still looked nice, and that money saved went directly into hiring our favorite ice cream shop for dessert.

    • JennDee

      Cheese > Dresses. Hands-down best decision ever!!

    • NolaJael

      The “People Before Things” mantra has really hit a chord on this thread, but I’d like to suggest that this same reasoning can also lead to a *smaller* wedding. If you realize your people are just you and your boo, you can elope. If the thought of dozens of extraneous cousins makes you sad because you’d have less time to spend with your dear friends, maybe an intimate wedding is for you. If you work in a professional circle where wedding invites are political currency, then maybe a destination wedding would cut down on hangers-on. We prioritized our siblings (who had limited income and vacation time) and ended up with a 20 person wedding that was convenient for them with no non-family guests. Siblings for life, yo.

      • Jess

        I love this description of “People before Things.” Pick the people that matter.

      • Totch

        I so appreciate this comment, because I’m having a wedding with less than 30 people where we’re spending a not-insignificant amount on things like food and a dress.

        Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a “budget” wedding by many standards, but I dealt with a fair bit of guilt over the idea that I could serve pizza and invite 80 instead of what we’re planning for 25. But that’s not me picking things over people, because there never was a version of my wedding where I wanted 80 folks there. My fiance and I invited the people that mattered most. I didn’t choose a dress over my cousins, I chose not to invite my cousins and also have a lovely dress.

        • Amy March

          I also think there is nothing wrong with deciding you prefer black tie for 20 instead of cake and punch for 300. Zero guilt for deciding you’d rather have a fancier event with fewer people!

          • Totch

            Thanks. I mean, you’ve seen our menu. It’s marvelous.

        • Yeah, this is all good so long as you’re doing the decent stuff, like inviting your loved ones’ partners. *Those* kinda moves drive me nuts! Your guests’ significant others (married or not) are priority people, too!

          • Totch

            One of our priorities was that anyone we invited needed to be fully invited.

            No skipping partners to make more room/reduce the guest list. No inviting some kids and not others. No asking someone to fly across the country and not having space for them at the rehearsal dinner (small rehearsal dinners make sense at a big wedding, but if we’re inviting 18 people it’s such a small jump to invite all 25).

            That policy really helped us decide who to invite!

  • Rebekah Jane

    YES to the no theme. While we do have buzzwords that we’re trying to incorporate into all of our decisions (fun, local, cozy, mobile, inviting, comfortable), we’re not creating a wedding with a Title. We’re just picking what we like and assuming it will all go together, since we go together.

  • CJB

    Guest lists and venues are a trap even if you decide to go for the “all our people” approach:
    (1) Prepare your guest list
    (2) Ask your parents (and possibly grandparents) for additions to guest list – mostly extended family members that you don’t know and wouldn’t invite, but are willing to invite for the sake of fam
    (3) Remind parents & grandparents periodically
    (4) After a month, ask them for a final absolute end all be all guest list approval
    (5) Get approval
    (6) Book venue
    (7) 1-2 months later, get requests to add 20 people to the guest list
    (8) Deeply sigh

    • CrazyCatLibrarian

      I don’t think I fully appreciated just how reasonable y parents are until I started planning my wedding. They asked 4 people: their best friends, one of which is making my dress so obviously I was already inviting her, and another good friend couple, one of which is our officiant. Done. My future in laws are the “traditional” type that are only helping with the rehearsal dinner, so they’ve kept their input to just the occasional suggestion but made no demands, of which I am very appreciative.

      • Lisa

        These were my parents, too. My mom only asked that I invite her two best friends, who I probably would have invited anyway. Any other person on our parents’ guest lists were already on ours, which made the conversations so much easier.

        • CrazyCatLibrarian

          Sometimes I feel like I have to remind my mom that she’s allowed to have opinions (within reason, obvi). She’s trying so hard to make it about me and what I want and I’ve only been to a few weddings, and never been in a wedding party or helped plan one so I have no idea where to start and sometimes just need someone else to tell me what they would do so I can have a starting point. The only time she felt strongly was when I asked if I was supposed to invite his mom to dress shopping (I didn’t know if this was a thing so I’m going off of TLC shows) and she immediately shut the idea down because my MIL has two married daughters and got to do this twice, but this is her chance and she wants me all to herself. Which, completely fine by me, I just didn’t want to commit some major wedding faux pas by not inviting my MIL.

          • Lisa

            Our mothers must be sisters because my mom also tried very hard not to tell us what she wanted either. I’d ask for opinions and get, “It’s your wedding, honey. I’ve already had mine!” She did have a few opinions on the dress (she suggested putting some kind of beaded appliqué along the neckline), but that was pretty much it.

    • sofar

      hahaha yes! OMG. I asked my in-laws for a list before choosing the venue. They gave a list of about 100. We added 50 to that to be on the safe side. We booked the venue. And then they kept adding to the list until their side was more than 200. We knew a lot wouldn’t come though, because it was out of town for most of them. But still — I was FREAKING OUT that we didn’t pick a big enough venue!

  • Eenie

    I don’t give much advice to the engaged, but when they struggle with “having” to do something a certain way, I try to offer the suggestion that they don’t have to do it at all (like having a theme). There’s very little out there (outside of APW) that tells says you don’t need things. Even if they end up going with it, I feel like I’ve done my duty to spread the APW gospel just a little bit.

  • Thank you for all of this but the last one especially. Looking at a lot of weddings online (with the exception of the rad and unique ones on this site), I feel like they all fall under 2 categories: expensive and glamorous, or rustic and DIY. Neither of those styles is really me or my fiancé. So we’re just going to serve good food, invite good people, have good music and probably have some flowers and napkins..maybe in the same color scheme, or maybe in no color scheme at all.

    • LJ

      Yup to not a DIYer (can’t even wrap Christmas pressies without them looking like a toddler did it) and not loaded, sooooo just closing my eyes to the rest of it and doing something with people I like.

    • Alanna Cartier

      One of the first things that made me think “this man might be my the one,” was when we first started talking about future someday weddings and he said, “seems to me that the theme of a wedding should be we’re-getting-married, amirite?” *swoon*

    • laddibugg

      Hell, ‘rustic’ can still be EXPENSIVE. Mason jars cost money.

  • Berty K

    Someone asked me what my theme was, I said “uh, I think wedding??”

  • Booknerd

    The WORST advice I’ve ever seen multiple times on wedding websites is to cut your guest list to stay in budget. In 10 years time you will not regret having more awesome people at your wedding, but I guarantee you will not remember the decorations you picked over more guests. Have a cash bar- even my venue coordinator said NOBODY cares anymore if they have to pay for drinks.

    I just had my wedding and while I did have a loose theme just to help me consolidate all the decor ideas I had, it was not a hard an fast rule. We did books and bikes, because I worked in a bookstore for years and my fiancee is a passionate cyclist. It was by no means overwhelming and there were plenty of off theme items that didn’t make any sense, and nobody cared. We had tea for favors, ceremony at a winery, giant tissue paper balls hung in all the corners, and some random book theme decor my awesome bridesmaids surprised me with, books as centerpieces, a big cruiser bike for photos, a guestbook sign painted with a bicycle, and some wheels as a seating chart. So random, and nobody would ever look at our wedding and probably get the theme but it worked for me.

    • Amy March

      Lol What? Of course people care if they have to pay for drinks! Like, maybe that is just a thing they might care about and you just can’t and that’s that and you make it work, but I would not trust a venue coordinator saying no one cares about free booze.

      • Booknerd

        What I meant was my guests wouldn’t begrudge me for not having an open bar. I’ve been to so many weddings and only one was open bar, perhaps it’s a regional thing but here in western Canada I don’t think it is frowned upon to have a cash bar. We did provide plenty of table wine and champagne to toast with but people were lining up to buy US shots all night. Which we didn’t take but just shows the mentality that people aren’t there just for free food and booze, they are there to celebrate a couple

        • Amy March

          Oh yeah I can totally get on board with that- people are not just there for free food and booze! Just the broader statement that nobody cares struck me as really not the case.

          • Booknerd

            No I’m sure they would be happy for free drinks, but if anybody was upset about a cash bar they didn’t share it with us! We also spread work ahead of time and there was debit or visa available too so nobody was stuck without any options

          • Eenie

            Yeah, I’ve been kind of sad about a cash bar before, but the couple definitely didn’t find out! It typically just means we end up leaving earlier in the night if we don’t know lots of people there. The worst is when it’s actually physical cash only and no one bothered to say anything to prepare guests before hand (I need to get money from an ATM that won’t cost me $10 in fees).

          • Booknerd

            Yes I definitely made sure everyone knew, and there was card payment so what I heard most people did was just open a tab on credit card. Husbands family was also pretty generous buying drinks, and I know my family bought a bunch for people too as well as table wine and wine at our ceremony- found out MIL bought a bunch of bottles before hand too so everyone was well taken care of!

          • LJ

            Also, for BC at least, liquor laws make twonie bars at licensed venues illegal according to a few country clubs and golf courses we checked into before we realized we couldn’t afford it. Either open bar (and you pay market price) or everyone pays the minimum required spend per alcohol or higher (yay new happy hour laws raising minimum booze prices). Obviously if you have a private venue then this doesn’t apply as specifically, but if you have a “real” bar at your venue then the laws seem to be dumb.

          • Booknerd

            Yes! We had so many people tell us to do a twoonie bar and a couple “we profited off our twoonie bar!” and because we got married in a venue that had a restaurant attached their liquor licence would only allow them to sell us market value drinks. As in a couple drinks for all 90 people would have been thousands of dollars we didn’t have

          • TeaforTwo

            WHAAAAAAT how are people profitting from the bar at their weddings? And also where are these people’s mothers to sternly but fairly point out that a wedding is not a fundraiser?

            Open bar, cash bar, whatever. Buy me a drink at your wedding or don’t, but don’t sell me a drink and pocket the profit while I’m there to celebrate you.

  • Amy March

    What I wish I could tell newly engaged friends (but don’t) is: Live in Reality Land. In your fantasy wedding land, maybe you’re renting a huge house for your immediate families and closest friends. But in Reality Land, your mother hates people and would never agree to this plan and you know it. In fantasy wedding land, you hike up to the top of your favorite mountain and have a singing dancing parade down the hill at the end. But in Reality Land, your aunties don’t hike and if you’ve never seen your BFF dance before she probably isn’t starting now.

    Work with your Reality Land. Or you’ll wind up trying to force a fantasy and running into trouble at every turn.

    • Leah

      Ugh, yes! When we started out we had all of these ideas about venues like beaches, only I Know that my family that uses a walker wouldn’t be comfortable. Or that mountain, or the destination hours from an airport… reality is (WAS!) good.

    • Keeks

      Ugh, yes. I think I had one foot in Reality Land (“we aren’t dance party people, let’s do jazzy brunch”) and another foot in Fantasy Wedding Land (“my mom will have a touching moment while zipping up my wedding dress”). All the decisions I made while in my reality land were spot on, and the fantasy ones are the things I look back on with regret.

  • LJ

    The thing I wanted someone to tell me when I got engaged is that EVERYONE WANTS TO TELL YOU EVERYTHING

    • Her Lindsayship

      Honestly a little jealous that your fiancé is planning your wedding. And it’s true – no one will ask him all the things/ direct unsolicited opinions at him about it! It’s actually brilliant.

      • LJ

        Thanks! It’s been a godsend to have him take it on.
        I ricocheted against a lot of the WIC once I was immersed in it after engagement…. I do not want my engagement to be about wedding planning – I want it to be about determining our suitability for each other and planning our lives/having the “hard conversations” that couples should have. It really puts me off that there’s pressure for it to be a 1-year party planning period… that’s not “us”. I also find it horribly sexist and patronizing that the woman’s job is to plan the party – I am definitively feminist and the principle of this alone was enough to push me away from wedding stuff. This website is the only wedding related anything I go to, and I keep to the more open-ended and relationship posts, not the “here’s a registry idea” or “what our wedding looked like” stuff.
        He’s planning the wedding because I want an elopement. He insists that he needs his family there, which I am fine with in theory, but I am not putting myself into the emotional labour and stress of planning a wedding – that was my veto. So if he wants his parents to be there badly enough, he plans it. It helps that he works in photography so the art/decoration/etc aspect of it comes fairly intuitively to him. He’s also been slowly but surely more and more open to gender-equal ideas. I’m keeping my maiden name, and when I asked him how he felt about that right after engagement he quotes Scrubs “yeah, or we can be one of those modern families who doesn’t love each other” [sic]…. but last week, 8-9 months later, he went out of his way to tell me that he’s totally fine with it and realized that changing a legal and personal identity is an unreasonable ask for someone if they don’t want to.
        Basically it’s been hard at times but he’s been trying wonderfully and I trust him wholeheartedly to throw a great party. That was a longer post than I meant it to be… haha

        • CMT

          You sound fucking awesome.

          • LJ

            ! <3 awwwww thanks :)
            I'm an archetypical ENTJ which means I can be pushy when I know my convictions have merit… this can result in me acting like a heartless robot at times… it's good to know that this is hopefully not part of the robot behaviour :)

            Also I recognize your username and have totally admired a lot of your opinions over the past while :)

          • NolaJael

            NTJs for the win!

          • LJ

            Our summary basically says “we’re really good at doing stuff but we’ll be complete jerks to people who are even partially incorrect or misguided”…… yuuuup :)

          • ENTJ married to an INTJ, heartless robots the both of us. I just like being heartless in a crowd.

          • LJ

            bwahahaha perfect. My fiancé is an ISFP and the euphemism is that we “challenge each other to learn and grow” which is true but also….. we have both learned a lot. He is a delicate flower and I am a heartless robot. But both of us are now better at empathizing.

            Heartless in a crowd! I love that so much.

          • Bsquillo

            Yoooooo, my people!!! My results have come out as ENTJ and ESTJ, depending on my mood the day of the test. My only slightly sarcastic work motto is “we would get so much more done if people didn’t have feelings.”

          • LJ

            RIGHT?!

        • Ashlah

          Can I just say thank you for making him to the planning for the wedding only he wants? Because I see all the freaking time women who don’t want a wedding, yet still do all the planning and it makes me so angry. Maybe a few elopement-dreaming, wedding-planning brides will see your comments and be inspired to stand up for themselves.

          • LJ

            <3 I'll let y'all know how it pans out. An important detail to this plan is that we haven't started planning anything beyond finding a photographer and a venue and putting down a deposit on each. I'm in charge of my own appearance (dress etc) of course. And he has permission to delegate reasonably to me. Our wedding is in February and he's going to start planning in earnest in September.
            It helps that I literally don't give a damn what the wedding looks like so long as we get married before it's over and don't incur debt. If you have strong opinions about what your wedding will look like then this probably won't work for you.

  • cml

    THANK YOU for the “no theme” portion of this post…I laughed pretty hard because 2 lines in I literally said, “the fcuk is a wedding narrative?”
    People & vendors keep asking me what my theme is and I keep smiling sweetly and telling them the theme is marriage.

    • LJ

      One of my best friends is also good friends with a girl who I am just an acquaintance with. Acquaintance got engaged two weeks after I did, and within 1 week had her bridesmaids called and her wedding colours decided. I called best friend to ask her to be a bridesmaid about a month after I was engaged, and she accepts and then resignedly asks “What are your wedding colours?”………. I was like “well our venue is in a forested park so maybe green?” and I could hear her sigh relief.
      The wedding colours of the acquaintance sounded more like paint swatch colours or pantone shades than actual colours. I think one was seafoam? I still don’t know if that’s green or blue. People get liiike INTO this.
      And power to her, like “you do you”, it’s just amazing what the WIC can make people create…

    • Trinity

      I was hounded for weeks by those who wanted to know what our wedding colors were. No one believed me when I said we didn’t have any! I finally was like, “Um, turquoise and gold, I guess?”

      • AmandaBee

        OMG the colors, everyone wanted to know the colors. We started out telling people our colors were “all the colors” and eventually we made up a completely arbitrary palette of our favorite colors just so people would stop asking what our colors were. On the day of, almost nothing was color-themed, because we just had a bunch of wildflowers and also some navy blue stuff?

        To be fair, I think the colors thing might’ve been less actual obsession about colors and more that it was just a “safe” question to ask.

        • cml

          LOL yes, the colors! I like navy, and my fiancé looks killer in gray (if I do say so myself) – so our colors are, “navy, gray, and um maybe yellow”

          I will say that I’ve been asked colors a lot by people who are trying to help (the future SIL who threw us an engagement party & wanted to match, the vendors, etc.)

        • squirrelyone

          I was astonished that when I replied to my mother over the colors question with “every color freesias come in” and showed her some pictures of bright and colorful freesia arrangements, while mumbling that I wanted an all-freesia bouquet because we are sneaking in as many DBZ references as possible, she said . . . “okay”. Wait. What. I said I wanted a seven color palate and she said “okay”?? What did you do with my mother?!

          You never know who will back you on the most unexpected things!

  • Jessica

    My one caveat is that if you’re DIY/DITing the wedding, set colors make it a lot easier on those helping you. I’m making paper flowers for a friend, and we have washi tape to go over the “stems.” We have like, 8 different colors of the washi tape. My type-A-everything-is-color-coded-omg brain is freaking out about matching. It’s like having to pick out a bridesmaids dress with only one level of guidance, which is “make it a dress.”

    • ART

      We had colors for our DIY wedding, but (in Captain Barbossa voice) they were more like guidelines. I was OK with any shade of our two main colors and a lot of our stuff was hand-dyed so it all blended together just fine and I didn’t have to have matchy-matchy stress. I also had a fairly broad palette of complimentary colors in mind that helped mellow out the whole two-color thing (this sounds like a lot of rules but I am a total Type A about color so I had to have some boundaries). And our flowers from blooms by the box were one color, one type, plus greens, which was awesome and easy.

      • ART

        complementary, that is :)

    • Rose

      We ended up not having colors, but this was also the first piece of advice we got from close friends; pick colors so that if someone asks you what color something you don’t care about should be, you have an easy answer. Again, not what we ended up doing, but I can see that it’s good advice.

  • Wedding themes are SO OVERRATED. My wedding had a theme and still half-assed it. I would have puked if everything in my wedding was something nerdy.

    I tell my engaged friends to get ready for the flood of people who assume they are invited to your wedding. We specifically went with a smaller venue to keep our guest list small, and I still had so many people that I knew casually assume that they were invited to the wedding. Talk about awkward…

    • SLG

      According to Miss Manners, the definition of “a small wedding” is “your wedding, whenever you’re talking to someone who’s not invited.”

      That is my favorite definition ever.

      • idkmybffjill

        I LIVE for Miss Manners. That woman is full of gold. I think some people find etiquette to be very opressive but I’ve found it SO FREEING.

  • lildutchgrrl

    Translate that to a hundred guests, and it would cost $5,000 to serve Olive Garden at your wedding. And that’s not including other luxuries like tables and chairs and waitstaff.

    I’ll push back a little on that. The price you pay for your meal absolutely is meant to cover the use of the tables, chairs, dishes, what the kitchen and waitstaff are paid, the electricity used to cook the meal and light the dining area, etc. etc. That’s why it’s priced higher than what you’d pay to buy the ingredients and make it in your home kitchen. Overhead. Your tip covers the rest of the service. Obviously it will cost more to bring the tables/chairs/lighting/dishes/staff to your wedding location and serve the meal there, but stuff like that should only bump up the cost per head a bit over restaurant pricing.

    • Booknerd

      This is true, the hard costs might be the same in terms of resources used to make the meal but no olive garden meal of mine ever consisted of up to 8 hours of wait staff service! (I just realized how freaking long my reception was) Our catering costs were tied in with the venue rental and so their staff also set up the day before, and cleaned up the next day, which is way more than you get with your average meal at a restaurant.

    • Her Lindsayship

      True, and I don’t know about other areas, but $50/person would be amazingly low for a catered three-course dinner in Boston – and I’m talking JUST the dinner, not the service charge, not rentals, not beverages. Then you’re up to at least $100/person. That’s the kind of money I never want to pay at a restaurant unless it’s got a Michelin star.

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        I’m in the Baltimore area and the cheapest catering I found was at least $100. Plus so many venues here have limited choice of caterers, it’s almost impossible to find one that lets you have free reign. So bbq from a local place might be more cost effective, but good luck finding a place to serve it.

        • Her Lindsayship

          YES, exactly!!! I’m sure there are cheapo caterers out there but the venues are so limiting. Hence we are now considering a destination wedding.

        • Pittsburgh – our venue only had one caterer and they had a $25/person for just the food. There were upgrades, but $25/pp is a great starting rate for food, I gather…

        • Lisa

          We went with a restaurant in downtown Chicago, and it was $150ish/head with everything included. A lot of the venues we looked at had caterers that we could have used for $100/head, but then we would have had to coordinate the seating and linen rentals. Some of the caterers even charged a rental fee for the plates and cutlery! I think the extra money we spent for the restaurant was well worth not having to organize all of those other pieces.

          • CrazyCatLibrarian

            That’s exactly the problem I was having, it would have cost about the same to use an outside caterer someplace else once I was done adding all the other rentals I’d need, and it would have been way more work. There were only a few restaurants in Baltimore/Annapolis that could fit our guest list and none were places I was thrilled about, so I went with a “wedding factory” and so far it’s been a great decision.

          • Lisa

            So so much easier. We went with a restaurant that had a third floor rental space, but we also considered places where we could pay to shut them down for 4 hours on a Saturday. Our food and beverage minimum was $10k, and we had 85 people show up to a venue that could accommodate 110. It was perfect for us!

      • Marie

        Yep. I am getting married in Boston, and I just calculated our catering + rentals charge, and it is $98 pp. And I fought HARD to get it as low as I could.

        • Her Lindsayship

          Yeah wow, would you mind sharing the name of your caterer? Because that sounds pretty amazing! Good job. :)

          • Marie

            We went with Tastyplates in Winthrup. They’re great, and were willing to work with me to bring things as low as possible and prioritize what we wanted.

  • laddibugg

    What Olive Garden are y’all going to that’s $50 a person, even with wine?!

    The lesson there might be save where you can (coupons, specials), and buy in bulk (as in bottles of wine, not glasses)

    Themes are great if you want them, but not necessary. I think some people inquire about themes so they know what advice to give you (which is another, but different issue). If your theme is rustic, people probably won’t show you pictures of stuff on a beach.

    • Amy March

      Yeah I think vendors get a bad rap for being all into themes when really they just want to know how you want your flowers to look and “idk like a wedding” is not going to help them!

      • Kelly

        So true! Would I have described my wedding theme as bespoke coastal upscale lodge chic? Nope- more like modern jewel tones on the water.

    • emmers

      Ha! This got me curious (& it’s a rough day at work & I’m needing a break!), so I went to Olive Garden’s website. It actually is close to that expensive. Appetizer: $10 (garlic mussels). Two glasses of wine: $10. House salad: $6. Create your own pasta bowl: $10. Dessert (lemon cream cake): $6.50. Total: $42.50 (plus tip).

      • Lisa

        *And tax. :)

        I love this because this research is actually something I would do!

      • lizzers

        I am both fascinated and distraught by Olive Garden’s pricing scheme. Who knew??

      • laddibugg

        The salad comes with the entree :-p
        But then there’s another lesson–look and see what you might be paying for more than once ;-)

    • tr

      I mean, sure enough, the Olive Garden things proves true and untrue at the same time–if you randomly order an appetizer, salad, entree, dessert, and a couple glasses of wine, yup, you’ll totally spend $50. If you think your shit through, clip your coupons, and cut out redundancies (with those portions, you don’t need an appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert per person), you’ll come in well under $50. Same applies with wedding planning–if you automatically follow every expectation the WIC sets up, you’ll spend at least $50 a person. If you comparison shop, skip the things that don’t serve an obvious purpose, and take the cheapest route on the things you do “need”, you’ll save some money.

  • Katelyn

    I’m not planning a wedding (yet), but I did just finish up being the BEST maid of honor EVER for my sister’s wedding. In the last few weeks, we employed a strategy that I wish we had done earlier instead of spent hours on Skype waxing philosophical between multiple options on a relatively minor detail:

    What is the easiest answer?

    One example: My sister wanted to buy us robes for getting ready together. She calls and asks whether she should get the same or different colors for each bridesmaid. I asked “What is the easiest answer?” and the response was “same color”. BAM. DONE. No discussion about what was cooler, or would look better in photos (which we didn’t really take), or what the other bridesmaids would want. By the end of the brief phone call, the robes were ordered and we were done.

    Obviously this doesn’t apply to all situations in wedding planning, but it does apply to quite a few. It saved us a lot of time, noone cared, and everything ran (mostly) smoothly the day-of.

    • emilyg25

      I’m a big believer in KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

    • sofar

      We were big fans of picking the easiest option:

      “What color table clothes/napkins?” Uh… white?

      “Are you going to have a table with old family photos at the entrance/a slide show?” Uh…no?

      “Where do you want to take photos the day of.” Uh…at the venue?

  • Yet another Meg

    The whole theme thing drives me crazy. The theme of our wedding was WEDDING with a side of “get married and have a great party”. I don’t think it ever needs to be more thematic than that.

  • sofar

    OK, so, I get that some people have fun with this and get cool ideas, but…

    I tell new brides to stay the EFF away from:
    Bridal magazines
    Bridal conventions
    Pinterest

    They will give you all kinds of ideas of things you “should” have and that look pretty, but that you’d never think to spend money on if you had stayed the hell away. If you have trouble saying “no,” or you are a borderline craft-addict, or you are tempted to keep up with the Joneses (or whatever the Pinterest version of that is), STAY AWAY. Plan your wedding in your own head. Guests care about food and booze and whether they have a place to sit, and that’s about it.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Pinterest is so next-level cray that it doesn’t even pressure me into its unattainably-perfect-wedding version of hell. I still look through it sometimes, but shit is RIDIC. It’s pretty much APW all the way now.

      • Lisa

        I created an account when we first got engaged because I felt like that was what I was “supposed” to do. After a week or so, I was so overwhelmed that I stopped looking.

      • Jess

        Times I used Pinterest so far:

        1) To show bouquet/arrangement styles I liked to my florist. Surprisingly useful and attainable. She got it in like five seconds after I couldn’t figure out how to describe it.
        2) To show my hairdresser what I wanted my hair to do.
        3) To lay out my program information in a way that made sense (this was a whole thing with a family-vendor-situation. It was not worth the stress.)
        4) To get ideas about simple table numbers we could use that wouldn’t drive me nuts trying to make and would meet my mom’s standard.

        It has been useful for the later-in-planning stuff if you search for a very particular thing, are willing to scroll past a ton of what-were-you-thinking to pin stuff that seems attainable, and want to communicate that thing to others.

        Otherwise? Nope all the way.

        • Ashlah

          Super useful bookmarking tool. Super overwhelming for initial ideas.

        • Yeah, it’s useful for very specific things. Like, goals you have set before you go into Pinterest (i.e., bouquets, escort cards, etc.). It’s not so great for sanity when looking at overall wedding feels/looks.

          I also wish I could strike all wedding dress posts from my pinterest page because it fills me with giant pains of ?regret?

          • Lisa

            I am not very active on Pinterest, and I haven’t touched any of the wedding boards in almost 3 years, but I’ll be damned if I don’t get a notification at least once every day or two that someone has repinned or followed my wedding dress board. I don’t understand it!

    • emilyg25

      I spent way too much time worrying over whether my wedding would be “blog-worthy.” (And I still do this with my house decor. I need to step away from the blogs.)

      • Ashlah

        I am seriously in the middle of trying to determine whether I personally will dislike the look of dark couches, or if I’m just anxious about them because I’m used to seeing super bright rooms on blogs. Stupid blogs.

    • Amy March

      That’s actual one thing I think Four Weddings gets right- at the end of the day the “winning” wedding usually has good food and drink, served timely, in a comfortable space that is an appropriate temperature with reasonable seating.

    • CrazyCatLibrarian

      The first thing I did was buy The Knot’s planner. The only reason was because I thought I should, like it was something I needed. The only good it did me was freak me the hell out because I thought I was failing at everything and everyone would hate my cakeless, favorless, theme less wedding. I also bought a magazine and had the same problem. We’re not having an especially small wedding, about 100 people, but I just haven’t found that any of those “planning tools” were necessary. A folder to keep contracts in so I don’t lose them is all I’ve needed so far. I debated going to a fair for fun but decided that it would stress me out again and end up being pointless because our venue was full service so most major decisions were already taken care of.

      • Lisa

        Yes! I signed up for their web-site and Pinterest at the same time because it was what I thought I was supposed to do. Cue freak outs about how we’ll never be able to afford a wedding and how woefully behind on everything we were. (Not to mention the e-mails I got about scheduling my bridal botox — 10% discount for Kn*t Brides!!!)

  • Violet

    Such great tips! The one that got to me when we were planning was favors. Because they’re about people, but they’re also things. Ultimately, we didn’t do them and I don’t regret it, but I’ve seen some lovely/thoughtful favors at weddings, too. I think favors are like the people/things wedding platypus.

    • Amie Melnychuk

      We didn’t do favours either. We put note cards at the tables saying in lieu of favours, we are donating money to our local humane society. Because we love our pets.

  • Her Lindsayship

    One thing I’m having trouble with that is definitely something I’ve read on APW as advice is the idea that you should do something that “reflects who you are”. Before I was actually planning a wedding this seemed like such sage advice, I loved that people are out there telling other people to focus on what works for them instead of on social expectations.

    However, now that we’re trying to plan this thing, creating an event that somehow “feels like us” is at best a tall order and at worst an identity crisis. I don’t know what kind of party reflects who we are as people? I get pretty annoyed when I make a suggestion and fiancé is like, “Is that really US though?” like what does that even mean? If it’s in our budget and we both like it, isn’t that “us” enough??

    Anyway, still too early in the planning process for this to be a fleshed out idea. So far all we’ve talked about is venue because we can’t get past it. It does rather determine everything else…

    • Lisa

      I’m liking this for “If it’s in our budget and we both like it, isn’t that “us” enough??”

      That’s how we decided what “us” was. Our wedding was “us” in that it reflected our priorities and preferences at the time.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I think that’s really about not abandoning your values for the sake of wedding planning. For example, I am normally a glittery, shallow human who likes sequins and rhinestones and shameless selfie-taking. But for my wedding I decided I had to be more disaffected and “cool” so I told myself I didn’t care about my dress, or anything I’d normally care about. Because wedding planning makes you do crazy things.

      On the flip side, we had a huge 250-person wedding, and it was a bit of a hot mess, and that was very us, because our community is big and we wanted to include them, even if it was logistically questionable.

      OH. But only do this for things you really care about. Like, if paper ain’t your thing, just pick an invitation you like. It doesn’t have to reflect your innermost self. It’s a piece of paper. However, if you’re obsessed with food on the regular, then go ahead and put some energy into making your menu feel like you. It’s just about prioritizing and not letting the industry take over your brain.

      • Her Lindsayship

        Ok, that does make sense. I think the “make it yours” advice will work better when we’re looking at things like what we’re wearing and what kind of drinks will be served. For looking at venues, I kind of burn with envy when I hear about weddings that were at ‘this special perfect location that just made so much sense for us and fit our personalities too!’ Because we’ve done many many hours of research on venues now and the few that look like ‘us’ keep not working out. I just want to pick something at this point but my fiancé still wants it to be ‘us’.

        • Ashlah

          Yeah, I mean if you’re a teetotaler, maybe don’t get married at a brewery (or do if it’s an awesome event space!), but don’t get too hung up on a venue needing to be special and meaningful. We got married in a park that we had never been to before. We sort of tried to make it special by hanging out there in the lead up to the wedding, but honestly? It’s special because we got married there. It’s hard enough to find a place that will work logistically, let alone that will have some special “us” spark. I hope you and your fiance can compromise on something soon!

          • CommaChick

            Yes. A friend asked me recently why we’re getting married in a restaurant/brewery when neither of us is a big beer drinker. I replied that because it’s also a restaurant, it requires no rentals, no setup or takedown and no decorating. We just walk into the restaurant party room, sit down and order from the menu. She said, “That … sounds a lot more like you. That makes sense.” Our venue, itself, may not be “us,” but its practicality is.

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          Oh god, for venues, just do what works. SERIOUSLY. People care way less about that than the industry makes you think. Like, go for accessible over hip. I have had as much fun at the Radison as I have at fancy vineyards, and sometimes more.

          True story: I think the reason unique venues get so much love is because wedding professionals like them. They take better photos, they look better in a portfolio. But they really, really, don’t impact the party the way you’re led to believe.

          • jspe

            Also the less energy you spend on picking a venue, the more energy you have for decisions that you do care about. (While we loved our wedding, there was an all inclusive venue that we often think about and sigh and say “that would have been so much easier.”)

          • TeaforTwo

            THANK YOU. I have never once been at a wedding thinking “I wish this venue were just a little more ‘them.'”

            I have wished for better transportation options, more parking, real toilets instead of portapotties, nearby hotels, more shade, air conditioning etc. etc. etc. The Radisson may not have style for days but it will be easy to get to, you can stumble upstairs to your hotel room at the end of the night, you won’t get sunstroke and there will be lots of washrooms. These are good things.

          • My mom keeps talking about a friend’s daughter’s steam punk wedding that took place in a wedding banquet hall…and how the couple should’ve had the wedding in a warehouse or something more on-theme.

            *sigh*

          • tr

            Also, sometimes you just can’t win. My ceremony venue was “meaningful” because it’s where I go to church every freakin’ Sunday. My reception venue was “meaningful” because it’s where I took golf lessons as a kid, and it’s where I go for lunch after church at least once or twice a month (Also, it was totally budget friendly! And it more or less fit my desired aesthetic!) And yet, my guests are still bitching, because the two are 15 minutes apart, and the roads between my reception venue and the hotels aren’t particularly great. I literally followed every directive the WIC gave, and I’m STILL getting complaints!!!!

          • Lisa

            People will always find something to complain about! I’m sure people complained about our wedding (ee had the dreaded Catholic gap that the Kn*t told me was the rudest thing I could possibly ever do), but if people were upset, I just pretended not to hear that noise.

          • idkmybffjill

            I’ve decided recently (2 months out) that sometimes things to complain about are my gift to people who enjoy complaining. So if there’s anything that I think people might throw shade at, I think “Isn’t that a nice little wedding favor I’ve left for them!”.

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        My menu so far is a macaroni and cheese bar, a mashed potato bar, and an open bar. I have the diet of a drunk 5 year old and damnit, my wedding will reflect that. I’m sure I’ll begrudgingly add an item or too, but I’m keeping my priorities in order.

        • CMT

          Where do I send my address so I can get an invitation to this? That sounds incredible.

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          I would like to go to there.

        • Booze and carbs is the best wedding menu I have ever heard of.

    • Ditto on what Maddie said. When I got that advice, I took it to mean “don’t change who you are” for the wedding. For example, for me that meant that I was absolutely wearing my glasses because I wear them everyday. I know other women who went through the hassle of getting contacts cause “brides don’t wear their glasses”. Fuck all that, I was just gonna be myself.

      • Her Lindsayship

        Glasses all the way.

        I think I’m just frustrated with people saying that to me as if it solves the problem of not being able to find a venue we like in our budget. (See my reply to Maddie.) But you’re right, overall it’s good advice!

      • jspe

        a) yes to glasses.
        b) I was so obsessed with not being obsessed with how I looked (e.g. exercising) my wife and I actually exercised less, which…wasn’t great for our mental health. Because I’ve been a runner since I was a teenager – that is who I am. Not doing that was stupid. We ate donuts before our dress fittings. Which, I don’t regret, but there was a point when attempting to say “F you” to the WIC actually just left us grumpier and the WIC all the same. oops.

        • idkmybffjill

          THIS SO HARD. I get married in two months and have a history with ED, so I was like… I’ll buy a dress that fits me and I won’t worry about dieting. Welp, I had pneumonia and so had to take steroids/gained some weight and then had to diet because like… dresses don’t come with infinite extra fabric. I dealt with alot of guilt over being a dieting bride.

      • Totch

        I was recently told that I either needed to a) pierce my ears for my wedding, or b) take my mother’s pearl earrings, have them made into clip ons, wear them for the wedding, then have them turned back into regular earrings to give back to her.

        WHAAAAAAAAT

    • Jess

      Yeah, basically I got super overwhelmed by that at first, and honestly? It does not have to reflect who you are so much as it should not contradict who you are.

      I had a lot of instances where we’re doing stuff that’s pretty conventional, and that’s fine. I’m not invested in those portions, but you know what? They don’t bug me or feel like I have to change who I am for them to work.

      What we did take out? I hate being in the spotlight, so we took out the Grand March. I didn’t like being called “bride,” so we took that word out of every part of the ceremony.

      • NolaJael

        LOL, okay, I love that you removed the term “bride” from everything. I’m not too fond of it either but that didn’t even occur to me as an option!

        • Jess

          I totally am! It just fully grates me. Like, I’m here! I have a name! If other people want to be called Bride, that’s awesome. Some people love that stuff, and I love that they love it. But it is soooo not me.

          When during the ceremony review, which was my “Most Important Thing,” I read the word out loud and flinched, I knew it was time to take it out. I want to feel awesome and happy, not cringey.

    • JenC

      I understand where you’re coming from. There’s a feeling that your entire relationship and personalities should shine through in this magical ceremony that is deep and full of meaning. Our wedding didn’t feel like us. Sure the things we chose were things we liked but I didn’t feel like it showed everyone who we were or what we got up to. Plus it wasn’t the dream wedding for either of us and we had the big party for our families. However, we did have people say to us that our wedding was true to us and I couldn’t work it out at all. I didn’t know how this mis-match of general wedding things reflected us. My mother in law explained that the us element was displayed in our actions, in not getting upset by the wrong colour of flowers or by being ridiculously anal about the straight edges on our invitations. She basically concluded that our quirks slipped in unnoticed by us because we weren’t paying attention to our quirks but made the wedding decidedly about us. You’ll find yourself choosing things that don’t feel like you, they might just feel like the only logical solution but the people who know you both will recognise your logic in that choice. Or you’ll react to things that are very similar of your usual personalities. If you’re usually a wing-it kind of couple you probably don’t need every minute detail of the wedding planned. If you’re a planner, you don’t need to be the “cool bride” that doesn’t need excel to plan a wedding.

      As for venue – our choice needed to be a hotel because we had a lot of people travelling, wheelchair accessible due to my grandfather and cheap. When our venue met those elements we booked. It held no special value to us before that and it didn’t really reflect our personalities but it reflected what we practically needed in that moment.

      • Ashlah

        “She basically concluded that our quirks slipped in unnoticed by us because we weren’t paying attention to our quirks but made the wedding decidedly about us.”

        I think this is a really good point! We didn’t have a wedding where our interests were on display in decor or ceremony language, but I’ve had a few people say it was very “us.” I didn’t really know what they meant because there was no obvious “us” theme. But…we planned it, so of course it looked like our wedding!

      • NotMarried!

        People can plan a wedding without excel? I can’t plan a weekend at my fiance’s parents house without excel!

        • tr

          I….have an Excel spreadsheet of who I invited? Except that I left like, 1/4 of the people off.
          I don’t know. I’m lazy and computer illiterate (especially since I switched to a mac). I have a binder that contains all of my RSVPs, and a decent memory for who all I invited. Also, my catering is like, $15 a person (plus relatively fixed costs for severs and whatnot), so if I end up five or six people off, the world will go on.
          Then again, I guess that does reflect my personality. I know I’ll never be particularly organized, so I usually plan my life around a certain margin for error.

          • NotMarried!

            We actually use googlesheets for EVERYTHING in life. packing lists – google sheet. To-Do List – Google sheet. Guest List – Google Sheet! The ability for us both (or in some cases us + a third party) to reference update, and collaborate in real time is invaluable. but then again, I do data analysis and he’s a software engineer. Spreadsheets are how we think. When it came to designing invitations … we were a hot mess and a half.

      • tr

        Seriously, after about 15 weddings, I’ve seen very few that didn’t feel like the couple. Sometimes it feels like the couple because everything is obsessively personalized. Sometimes it feels like the couple because it looks like Pinterest threw up. Sometimes it feels like the couple because someone clearly said “Screw this, lets just give each vendor a budget and go with whatever the heck they give us”. But every time, no matter unique or basic, it ends up feeling like the couple who planned it.

    • Nell

      “Reflects who you are” is one of the sneakier horcruxes created by the “theme wedding” mentality.

      I think there are actually 2 ways to fight it.

      1) Do what Maddie said and only put effort into personalizing the things you actually care about.

      2) Don’t be afraid of doing things that *aren’t* you, but you kind of love anyway. It only has to be “you” for this one party. We had an inside joke about whales. . . so I showed future wife whale save the dates. She loved them. So over several months of wedding planning, whenever we couldn’t decide something. . . we just picked the one with a whale on it. Our wedding was not at the beach or really near the ocean at all. We just like whales. And now the whale kind of symbolizes our relationship.

      • Her Lindsayship

        Solid, excellent advice, and I am so here for your whale symbolism.

    • LJ

      My future MIL can’t understand why we wouldn’t write our own vows. She wants the ceremony to be “us” and all I can think of is “what if the default vows say everything I want to promise to my partner?”…… but she’s convinced that everything needs to be “us” when, if you think about it, almost every western wedding looks the same at the first glance. White cake, white dress, ceremony, dinner and dance…. making things unique is hard when you’re simultaneously being told to conform to what people expect (because how dare you not feed your guests!)…..it’s a minefield.

      • Also, you know what’s very “us”? Being private, personal people who don’t share our feelings with the whole world. I like the general secular vows as an overview to much more personal vows that we don’t share in front of a crowd full of people.

        • LJ

          Yeah, so much yes! My fiancé passed the MIL opinion to me in an open-minded way, and my initial reactions was a cross of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” (the regular vows do what they need to do for me) and “vows are meant as promises between two people”…. the latter meaning that of ALL PLACES we should ignore public input, this is it. Also, of all the wedding ceremonies I’ve been to with personalized vows, the vast majority of them were hard to hear – the bride would ask me later if I thought A and B were funny, and it was awkward because I didn’t hear it, and also I wasn’t aware it was a speech with the purpose of making people laugh? Isn’t the purpose to promise something to your spouse? Who cares if the audience laughs? This is the part of the ceremony that concerns them the LEAST. ugh…. haha that was quite a vent :

          Our current MO is to do the standard vows with a little inside….saying, I guess, it’s kind of become our motto… at the end.

          • Totch

            I so agree with this! We’re super private and saving our personal vows for a private moment feels like us.

            But we’re reading personalized vows in the ceremony, which will make our families happy and is definitely one of those “please stop telling me this is my day and then rejecting what is ‘me'” things.

          • tr

            Oh my gosh, can we please just have a moment of silence for all of the poor brides who are being hounded about how “this is your day” by the exact people criticizing any actions that reflect that?!?!?!
            Seriously. I think that’s been my least favorite part of wedding planning. Do NOT tell me to be more assertive and then shut me down five minutes later for saying something you don’t agree with! That’s not how this works!!!

      • Alexandra

        Ha! I happen to love the traditional vows. And am too lazy to write my own. And got married late(r) in life and am thus cynical about all the goopy vows I heard friends make to each other in their twenties…friends who wound up divorced.

        Just go with what everybody’s done for centuries, is how I felt. I think I can write better vows than what’s worked for millions of people? Too much pressure.

        • LJ

          Plus I REALLY hate the portrayal of writing your own vows in romcoms. Also I don’t want to find out what my spouse is promising to me as I get married – I want our promises to each other to be agreed to by EACH OTHER….. your covenant for the rest of your life should be negotiated as a team in my opinion. It’s not “cute toast time”, it’s “your goals for your life” time…

          There was a first half of this comment but it got deleted. So my truncated edit:

          I am also very cynical. I am in my late 20s, fiancé in mid 30s. If it ain’t broke and it worked for millions of people then it’ll work for us.

    • Rose

      Basically echoing other people, but what ended up happening with us is that we picked things that we could afford and liked, and ended up with a wedding that was perfect for us. It really did “feel like us,” although that wasn’t something we were deliberately keeping in mind as we planned. But, like, of course my dress was very “me”, because I walked into the store, saw it, and fell in love! It was exactly the kind of thing I liked, so it turned out to be “me”.

      I think the other thing to keep in mind is that there are a million things and choices that are going into a wedding, and I’m pretty sure that no one out there has a wedding where every single one of those things are deeply personally meaningful. For some people, maybe it’s having the venue be the park where they got engaged, or the flowers being their high school colors, or the invitations designed by a friend, who knows. If there’s one thing, like venue, that doesn’t have an obviously “you” option? You’ll get that with something else. I kept delaying choosing ceremony music for the pianist because I’ve played classical music for most of my life, I must have favorite/meaningful pieces, right? Nope. Or at least not ones scored for a single piano. In the end we pretty much just went with her suggestions (not Pachobel), and it was lovely and I don’t think anyone cared all that much. Having my sister read a picture book for her reading (which was so “us”) was much more important.

      If your venue is attractive/convenient/affordable/interesting/whatever you’re looking for, that’s good enough! Put your effort at picking things that are really meaningful into music, or flowers, or food, or whatever else speaks to you. Not everything in a wedding can be significant. Seriously.

    • tr

      It’s actually a piece of decorating advice I got from HGTV back in the 90’s, but when in doubt, go look in your closet! Is the stuff in there mostly trendy? Classic? All black? Drenched in every color and loud pattern known to man?
      The stuff in your closet may not be overly meaningful, but it is a very good snapshot of what you’ve been drawn to over the last 3-15 years. Work with that insight! If you have 27 navy shirts, you probably like navy. If 2/3 of the items are striped, incorporate some dang stripes. If you live in sweatpants, plated dinners with 15 ft. tall centerpieces probably aren’t very “you”.

      • LJ

        ahahhaha. All my stuff is primary colours and bright and obnoxious (I grew up in surf and snowboard culture)…. and all my fiancé’s stuff is various shades of black and grey (he was a teenage goth and now he works in an industry that requires dark yet casual clothes)……. I think that widened our options for style not lessened them ;)
        I love this idea though. Just not sure we’re an ideal couple to apply it to.

    • Eh

      I will say that planning a wedding “reflects us” helped us say “no” to things and gave us leeway to do things my in-laws didn’t like. For example, my in-laws wanted us to get married in their church. I have never gone to church (and my husband hasn’t since he was a child) so it wasn’t “us” and my husband and I did not need to discuss that idea further. We had board games as our centerpieces at the reception (we regularly play board games). My in-laws did not like the idea (MIL said flowers are traditional) but it was “us” so we weren’t discussing it further. Or when I was stressing about something like favours, it helped me make the decision not to have favours. And when people were comparing our wedding to my BIL/SIL’s wedding (the year before), and suggesting that we did things differently because we didn’t like their wedding, we were able to say we did things that reflected us.

    • idkmybffjill

      Venue is also a hard thing sometimes to feel YOU if you don’t have like… a family farm or a summer camp you two loved. We are getting married at a brewery and my fiance doesn’t like beer (they serve other drinks there). It was really pretty and the cost was right and it felt really warm and inviting when we walked in. Brewery isn’t really an “us” choice, but this one works for us – and I think making that practical decision reflects who we are! Sometimes “who we are” is “people who would like to get married somewhere that looks nice and doesn’t cost a fortune or our sanity.”

      • Her Lindsayship

        OH brewery wedding!! That sounds so awesome. And I completely agree with your point about practicality. Still trying to bring fiancé into the light with all that…

        • idkmybffjill

          My fiance was hard to convince at first too! I was surprised to learned that he’d sort of bought in harder to “everything must feel so authentically us” more than I had. I was like… is there a place that’s US? Like… our apartment? lol

          • Lisa

            And a brewery would totally have been “us”! I feel like our reception venue was “us” in the sense that we love going out to eat and experiencing new foods and drinks together. And the restaurant was pretty so that helped, too.

    • macrain

      I think one trap you can fall into with the “make it yours” ideal is that every detail must reflect who you are, to a T. Sometimes place settings are just place settings. Or- you need signage to direct guests to the ceremony and there is no time or energy to get creative with a chalkboard, or whatever!
      It’s ok to just get it done, get it off your list and then focus on things that ARE you, like the playlist at the reception (or whatever it might be). Don’t become paralyzed by logistics that don’t feel “you” enough.

    • april

      I think a more helpful question to ask yourself than “does this reflect us?” is “what are our priorities for this wedding?” For example, some of our priorities were: 1. a Catholic ceremony, 2. inviting as much family as possible, 3. a reception venue with some outdoor space, and 4. good beer and wine (and plenty of it). Identifying our priorities helped us figure out where to focus our time, energy, and money while planning. The ceremony, the guest list, the reception site, the bar (we chose craft brews from both of our home states!) – these were the things that reflected us because these were the things we cared most about. I mean, if you’re not the kind of people who have strong opinions about decor, then the decor is never really going to reflect who you are as people – it’s ok to just make a choice and move on.

  • JennDee

    You guys!! Since we got engaged last Labor Day, usually the first two questions we get from everyone (from wedding vendors to friends to distant family friends we literally since once every three-and-a-half blue moons) are 1. Are you getting married in PA (where we relocated to and are literally buying our first house next week), and 2. What’s your theme?

    Weddings aren’t proms, or Sadie Hawkins dances or Spirit Weeks at college. Why the fuck do I need a theme if we don’t want one??

    The last time someone asked me verbally what my theme was (a random co-worker from a different area, two weeks ago) I responded with a cackling laugh and huge eye roll, followed-up with a very clear “Get Off My Lawn” side-eye until we went back to discussing Stranger Things. When our venue coordinator sent me a questionnaire last month to complete for our first big meeting, the question was, again, listed on there. I responded with “Our theme is ‘Thank god, it’s been 9 godforsaken years of living in sin–let’s celebrate with a party’ with a really great open bar and maybe some tree slabs and candles somewhere.” I literally wrote that, and it’s already come up in a follow-up email (the coordinator says it’s the most honest theme she’s had in years, so thank god we’re working with a fellow sassy-pants!). WIC can stop shoving these ‘must-haves’ down my throat any day now…..

    • Rebekah

      Could you maybe please start subbing in your high school dance themes when people ask you? If I weren’t already married, I’d absolutely do that.
      “What’s the theme?” “We’ve narrowed it down to ‘Ice, Ice, Baby’ or ‘Midnight in Paris.'”

      • Jess

        Enchantment Under the Sea – always a classic.

      • I humbly offer my senior prom theme “Wonderful Tonight.” Perfectly vague in every way, yet not untrue.

    • DangerZone

      I told anyone who asked that our theme was Danger Zone. This fiction got more and more elaborate as more people asked and I improvised more “dangerous” elements to fit the theme: our first dance would, obviously, be to Danger Zone; the groom would be riding in on a tiger; the aisle would actually be hot coals; we would have sword swallowers as entertainment; and the catering would all include peanuts and/or shellfish, the most dangerous food for people with allergies. I had a lot of fun with it, especially with the people who weren’t sure whether I was kidding.

  • savannnah

    So my wedding “theme” is marriage (FFS) but I do want to highlight where having a theme can be helpful and even stress reducing. My sister’s wife is very concrete, and wedding planning overwhelmed her. In order to help steady the planning my sister sat down with her then-fiance and they came up with a wedding manifesto (like those 3 top share priorities a la APW) and they also came up with a theme (Master and Commander a la Russel Crowe) Over the next year when faced with decision on decor or elements of the wedding, they were very easily able to say yes this fits in with the manifesto and theme or no, it doesn’t. It helped take a ton of stress off of them as couple and gave their planning rules and clear guidelines which they used to weed through the whole process and the wedding was great. certainly not for everyone but worked like a charm for them.

    • That is absolutely one of the perks of having a theme wedding. Our wedding had a nerd theme and it made choosing some things easier, for the reason you noted. It didn’t help with everything, but it did cut down on the decisions.

  • JenC

    Our wedding theme was a truly beautiful combination of ‘shit we like’ and ‘general wedding crap’. It really came together and we got something that looked like a wedding.

    On a serious note, I got asked so many times if there was a theme. When I would respond with “no, there is no theme” people would want reassurance that at least I had a cohesive colour scheme, right?!?! Of course I had a cohesive colour scheme – they all appeared somewhere in the rainbow. Which also didn’t go down too well in the world of everything is blush (nothing wrong with blush but apparently colours are gaudy).

    • Eh

      Our wedding theme was “us” and “family friendly”. This helped us say “no” to things, especially if they weren’t “us”. My MIL was uncomfortable with many of our choices and couldn’t see how they would fit together, and having a colour scheme helped her (then she could at least buy a dress).

  • LindseyM

    Man… we haven’t been asked about theme once, and we have been engaged for a year. I’m going to count myself as lucky.

    • Jenn

      I’m so surprised to hear this, because more than one of my wedding vendors asked me this question!

    • idkmybffjill

      Same! Two months out and the only time I was asked was on a Newlywed quiz at my bridal shower. Both my fiance and I said “uhhh…. a wedding?”

  • toomanybooks

    Does anyone else see the “Olive Garden Rule” and think, “I’ve maybe spent $50 on dinner for myself once and it felt incredibly extravagant”?

    • NolaJael

      I thought that way when I was younger and living in Montana. But now I live in New Orleans where people live to eat. $50/person is a normal midweek night out, but often in the company of people who live in tiny apartments or don’t own a vehicle because insurance is too expensive. People’s priorities vary greatly.

    • tr

      Seriously, I get where that rule comes from, and it is useful to remember, but by the same token, I definitely would not actually spend $50 at Olive Garden…or much of anywhere else!
      That said, a good way to tweak it is to ask “What would I normally spend to eat and drink this at a place like this?”. Sometimes the answer is $20. Sometimes the answer is $50. Sometimes the answer is $120. But regardless, it’s usually a pretty good indication of whether the pricing is reasonable.

    • Jenn

      I don’t usually spend $50 per person when I go out to eat, but when my fiance and I go out we also tend to focus on the main course. I drink maybe one glass of alcohol (I can always drink for cheaper when we get home) and tend to skip dessert. My typical “go out to eat” dinner probably would be closer to $50 if I did drinks and dessert.

  • CrazyCatLibrarian

    The one thing it helped me the most is to realize that the wedding industry exists for a reason, and sometimes it’s to make things easier. Could I have saved money going with a totally diy venue, researching cheaper food options, making a cake, and all that? Absolutely. But trying to do those things and consider all the different factors when I looked for those venues had me leaving so stressed I was in tears once. I was so set on the idea of having a “casual, diy wedding that didn’t feel like a “typical wedding” that I was driving myself crazy. On a whim we went to a venue that specializes in weddings and has a caterer, hotel, coordinator, etc. yes, there will be other events going on at the same time, and I will not be the only special snowflake at the party (def in the room though). But accepting that sometimes convenience trumps being cool and unique made my life so much easier, and I’m willing to pay a little more (within reason) so that I can relax and enjoy the process instead of trying to coordinate a million vendors myself. Some people may excel at that but I definitely do not.

    • Nell

      YUP! I wanted a “totally unique” but still white wedding dress – and good god was it hard to find something. Guess who makes fancy white dresses in a bunch of different shapes and sizes? Wedding dress designers! Duh. Could have saved myself a bunch of time just caving in a teeny tiny bit to the WIC there.

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        Haha my mom is making my dress but we’re still going to a wedding boutique so I can try things on just for the fun of it, and to make sure that what I think I want will actually look good. I’d have bought a dress, but she really wanted to make it so I found pictures and printed them out like “Here, make this.”

        • Lisa

          We did this with my wedding, too! I’d always envisioned my mother making my dress, but she insisted we go to a few salons to try on things before buying a pattern/fabric. I maintain I would have liked anything she made me because it would have come from her, but we did end up doing a totally different dress from what I had pictured myself in so those appointments were helpful.

    • JenC

      The place we had our reception could be described as a “wedding factory”. It’s a national hotel chain and it produces carbon copies of each wedding. But I didn’t have to set up the room, clean the room, find a DJ, caterer, chair covers. Someone did it all for me. The best bit was when we were finalising times and I just deferred the timings to all the professionals around me, relaying the information between them all. They all built in a little cushion of time for us and all I had to do was remember what time I was meant to be where. Not a unique wedding but it required zero additional brain power from me.

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        Realizing that there’s really no such thing as a “unique” wedding helped me. Almost everything has been done before and I’ll always find someone I thought did it better than I could. Sometimes the easiest route is the best and if we’re married at the end and no one winds up in the hospital like my first post-college wedding, then it was a succes.

        • JenC

          Yeh my wedding was so far from unique that my wedding card from work had an illustrated bride and groom on the front. The bride was wearing pretty much my exact dress. The groom was wearing tails as my husband did. Nobody at work had seen my dress or asked what my husband was wearing but we were just another cookie-cutter wedding. It was unique to us though and that’s what counts.

        • This has really helped w.r.t. to my dress. 95% of all wedding dresses look the same and are unremarkable. Even one you think is really super special.designer-y/whatever, no one else will really notice it. So just get one you look/feel good it and call it a day.

          • Jenna

            Or, if you really want something unique, don’t get a “wedding dress”, get a dress you like in a color you like that wasn’t made to be a wedding dress.

          • tr

            Oh my gosh, wedding dresses seriously kill me in that way! I had an acquaintance who spent $20,000 on a custom gown because she couldn’t find any that were quite perfect. It…looked nice? Like, if you put it next to my $500 clearance rack gown, odds are more than 50% of random people would say she had the nicer dress, but it DEFINITELY wasn’t 40x nicer!

        • LucyPirates

          In regards to unique dresses – I highly recommend using graduate dressmakers. My awesome lady gets her first commissioned dress so she gets photos and portfolio work, I get my awesome dress in my budget that I can live with.

          It won’t be white but that was entirely my choice

      • sofar

        I had one of those venues, too. They gave me a basic floor plan (for table location, buffet, etc.) and were like, “You can customize this if you want.” And I was like, “It looks fine. Wait … do people CUSTOMIZE?”

    • Carolyn S

      Our wedding planning process taught us a lot about our values. We both thought we were pretty cheap, but we quickly realized we were actually way more lazy than cheap. We were very willing to pay for convenience. I work in consulting and like to evaluate how long it might take me to do something, and then charge it by my rate. If it’s even close to what we would pay a professional, I pay…

      • Carolyn S

        I also prioritized the convenience of my guests very highly. I kept trying to think of how I would want to be treated if I was going to someone’s house for dinner, and tried to make it that easy on our guests.

        • CrazyCatLibrarian

          One of my main priorities was that everything be on one place, and the hotel be right down the street with a shuttle so no one has to worry about getting home. That was the problem with a lot of more flexible, DIY-type venues. Space was always limited and I didn’t want to be moving furniture around people in-between ceremony and reception and make it awkward.

      • AmandaBee

        Dude, yes, time is money.

    • sofar

      Yeah, I actually used the “basic bitch wedding template.” We put zero effort into “unique.”

      I just attended a wedding where the bride and groom had foods from all their favorite local restaurants. Delicious, but oh man, they had to arrange for friends to pick it up, deliver, set it up and clean it up. The food was late, and, with all of it set up on one picnic table, it took FOR EV ER to get 100+ guests through the line.

      So I was like, “Mmmmkay we’re serving everyone beef and pasta salad at a buffet provided by Generic Local Catering Company.” Everyone at my 175-guest wedding had food on plates within 20 minutes of entering the reception hall.

      • tr

        Oh my gosh, yes! Nothing killed my “this has to all be super unique” vibe faster than going to a wedding that actually achieved that!
        On one hand, the food really was pretty great, the venue was gorgeous, and the bar was downright out of this world. On the other hand, the bride and groom spent the entire time trying to make the logistics of everything work, because the venue and caterers WEREN’T USED TO WEDDINGS.
        Honestly, nobody is going to be blown away by the food at my wedding. Nobody is going to be blown away by how majestic or unique the venue is. But you know what? For a totally reasonable price, I’m getting food that tastes pretty good and a venue that looks perfectly nice. Just as if not more importantly, my caterer and venue are used to weddings. They know what to do. If I literally skipped every DIY project I have planned, my wedding would still be a perfectly functional and suitable wedding!

        • sofar

          I’ve heard people say stuff like, “Oh I don’t want to get the typical ‘wedding’ caterer. I want something unique!”

          But you hit the nail on the head when you say you could skip out on all the little projects you have planned and the wedding runs itself because the vendors know how to do weddings.

    • We went with an all-inclusive place as well and it made my life so much easier. So much was included and the in-house caterer could do everything, including the cake! Sometimes it’s worth it to do the “easy” option.

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        Mine doesn’t do cake, but they do dessert, so we might get a small cake from a local place jsut for the sake of pictures and then everyone else can have ice cream.

    • macrain

      I actually coordinate events as part of my job, which is precisely why I knew without a doubt I did not want to piece together my wedding from scratch. I went with a venue that does plenty of weddings, hired a DOC and enjoyed my wedding!

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        I work coordinating photo and video for all of the events at my work so I’m in touch with our Event Services team a lot, and the one thing they kept telling me was that I would rarely regret going with the easiest option that was less work for me.

      • idkmybffjill

        Knowing all the legwork you do on an event day when you’re running it sure helps put things in perspective. We did the same!

    • Alexandra

      Yes! Us too! Us too! I had to walk away from the Pinterest and step into the country club a friend of a friend sponsored us at (no venue fee!). Picked out a menu from three choices. Wrote a check for $5k for 150 people. The end.

      On a related note: We just went to a child’s 5th birthday party at McDonald’s with zero decorations, no party favors and cupcakes from Safeway. The playground kicked ass and it was blocked off for the party. Everybody got a happy meal and the grownups all got a grownup meal of our choice.

      My husband and I were squealing with glee the whole time: dude. We are so having all our kids’ birthday parties at McDonald’s.

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        Dude I had a birthday party at Friendly’s once. It was awesome. Chicken fingers and Mr. Cone head sundaes for everyone. My mom was always pretty good at throwing parties but after I turned 12 or so I stopped asking for one because I got better presents if I didn’t have a party and I was really shy and awkward anyways. A friend threw a 16th and 18th party for me where we just had a sleepover at her house with pizza and a cake.

      • R

        Wait, is this not a thing anymore? McDonald’s was THE place for kids’ bday parties when I was a kid. They had the best cakes! Plus the playground.

  • BUT. If you want a theme, have a theme. Possibly I am not trendy, but we had a theme and a theme song and theme fabric pattern and a theme tactile sensation (I like my senses). and I LOVED IT. Granted, don’t have a theme if it makes you itch, but if a theme makes things more cohesive the go for it.

    Having a theme made everything easier. When your theme is That One Christmas Episode of Newhart there’s a lot a decisions that are inherently built in and then you can just ignore literally everything else. For us, having a theme drastically narrowed down the number of decisions we needed to make and was a check against whether we were on track. Flower girl outfits? Send my mom a fabric swatch and told her that any color would work (there were 6). Venue search? Can we imagine dancing to our theme song in the building, yes or no? Don’t use any no’s.

    There is also no rule that your theme needs to make sense to anyone but you.

    • Having colors definitely made everything easier in this sense. You don’t need it, but it sure makes picking out the colors of napkins and shoes heckuva lot easier!

      • I sent our fabric swatch to every vendor and basically said, “any of these colors are fine. Do not ask me about colors again.”

        • We also designed our own save the dates and invitations. Turns out having set colors for that, too, is extra handy. All kinds of things that require decisions! No more!

    • tr

      We don’t have a theme per se, but we do have a very clearly defined aesthetic…that essentially amounts to a theme! And yeah, seriously, it narrows stuff down so much!
      You don’t have to have a theme. You don’t have to have specific colors. But honestly, at least have one or the other–otherwise, there are just too many dang choices. Personally, as someone who has a distinct vision for What Things Are Supposed To Look Like, themes are easier to work with than colors. I’d much rather ask myself “Is this southern preppy chic” than “Which pantone shade of fuchsia is this”. Conversely, for other brides, it may be easier to answer “Is this fuchsia”, in which case, go with wedding colors!

  • Jenna

    Real wedding tax story:

    Rehearsal dinner venue quoted us an entirely reasonable amount for a dinner of our size – about the same as or very slightly higher than a normal meal at that restaurant – then slapped on a $200 “cleaning fee” that made no sense (whether or not the people dining at the restaurant that night were in one group or not, isn’t the cost of the food normally supposed to take into account the cost of keeping the restaurant clean?).

    I basically said “Look, we’d prefer your restaurant, my family has been going there for years, but this other restaurant gave us a similar quote with no cleaning fee. Is there anything we can do about this?”

    Poof, the fee was gone, because it wasn’t necessary in the first place. I can’t think of any reason for it beyond “it’s a wedding so they’ll pay what we quote them”.

    Bars also don’t “cost what they cost”, if your bar sitch is charging you normal cocktail rates, they are overcharging you unless state law prohibits stocking one’s own bar and hiring one’s own licensed bartender. We walked away from venues that insisted we use their bar at normal rates – usually $5000+ – for one that allowed us to supply our own alcohol, and our caterer provided a licensed bartender at what it cost to hire him for the evening. It came to about $1000 ($400 for the bartender, $600 for the alcohol, mixers and other drinks.) We also walked away from venues that insisted we use caterers from their ‘list’ – which were invariably more expensive, by a wide margin, than they very good one we actually used.

    I get that certain things cost what they cost. Fundamentally a full dinner with service that you don’t cook yourself for 100 isn’t going to be less than several thousand dollars. That might be $4000 or it might be $10,000 but it won’t be $1000. A venue that can comfortably accommodate 100 people, especially if some of them are sick or elderly and need access to good bathrooms, also costs what it costs, and cheaper venues get expensive very quickly when you find out you have to rent a tent, chairs, lights, port-a-potties etc. which the more expensive venue provides (which is why it’s more expensive, duh).

    But the upmarking and the upselling are very real.

    One area where things are upmarked when they really needn’t be? Decor. I understand why flowers cost what they cost, and it’s not true that flowers for a funeral or graduation are cheaper than flowers for a wedding. But those ‘bridal white’ details do get marked up. I wasn’t looking for them for our wedding, but let me tell you about the time I happened to notice those giant wooden letters that people sometimes buy in their initials at Michael’s for like $5 each – though a couple may have wanted to change the colors with spray paint for their wedding – and then saw the same letters in white and silver online as “wedding decor” for like $25 each.

    • Ashlah

      The wedding tax can definitely be very real. We looked at a winery that charges $950 for their event space for up to 100 people. Great! Until we realized they charge $30/person for weddings, which means $3,000 for 100 people. Oh, and the minimum wine purchase goes from $250 to $500. The services and facilities they provide are exactly the same. They were immediately crossed off our list.

  • Pingback: 4 Things I Desperately Want to Tell My Newly Engaged Friends - ADA Events Asia()

  • louise danger

    Translation? “Gosh, we haven’t even gotten that far yet! But you’ll love whatever we choose, because there will literally be no other option once we get you in the door.”

    YES YES SO GOOD i just want to staple this all over my mom’s apartment and office.

  • Ebloom

    Yes! No theme! No theme! No theme! I mean, a loose cohesion is probably good. When I work on any large creative project I like having a color scheme, and an idea of what direction I’m heading in aesthetically. But if your theme is “Jane Austen” no one will know unless you have a life-sized poster of Jane Austen (Actually, where do I get one of those for my everyday life?) and a shove quotes and books down people’s throats. People will be too drunk to notice.

    On the Jane Austen thread, my partner and I once asked a friend who was getting married about the dress code at the wedding because it wasn’t on her site. She replied, “Think Jane Austen in converse.” I thought that was…vague? So I wore a pretty pastel blue spring dress thinking, English countryside? Kinda casual? When I showed up to the wedding (which was at a not casual plantation), all the guests were in glitzy cocktail attire. It was awkward. Then the zipper of my stupid dress broke. Also awkward. The silver lining was that I had the better mind not to wear converse, so at least my shoes were great. Anyhow, “Jane Austen in converse” is not a dress code people.

  • O.J. Simpson.

    Best wedding advice is to elope.

    Save your cash for a down payment on a house.

  • Bev

    I just got engaged two days ago and the maddeningly detailed questions have started already.This post is perfectly timed. I have already loudly declared to anyone who will listen that I need only one website in my life over the next few months: A Practical Wedding. #Boom

  • Bon Bon Jambon

    We’re doing a brew pub wedding. Beer is the star of the show. I guess we’re secondary stars, but that’s fine. Takes the pressure off us because the beer needs to meet expectations. ;).