Ask Team Practical: The Beginning Stages of Planning

My fiancé and I have recently been trying to plan our upcoming wedding, but my fiancé is not the type to discuss things, so I’m working a lot of this out on my own. I’m not good at brainstorming and organizing my ideas, so I’m kind of (read: really quite) annoyed with him about this. I’ve asked him how best to approach him with the information I gather, but the way that he wants to see the information (in a list-type format from which we can choose and discuss) is not a way that I am comfortable working. At this point, we’re communicating but not jiving on how to discuss wedding ideas. Nonetheless, I’ve tried offering him ideas to mull over and am still getting no real input from him.

Which leads to what happened next: I cracked. I broke. I melted down. I cried and hollered and bitched and moaned and then I did it all again. There was swearing and a nap and a monster headache and the consideration of the bottle of rum in the cupboard (I didn’t do it, for the record).

All of the wedding blogs I’ve read have been no help in trying to figure out what I really want. I’ve lost myself in all of it—all the dresses, cakes, decorations; all the food, invitations, flowers—I am completely lost as to What I Want For Our Wedding or what kind of budget we are looking at. And my fiancé is, clearly, no help since we can’t even agree on how to discuss our wedding planning.  And while I know, logically, that those things don’t matter—at the end of the day, I just want to be married to this person—I still want some of these things: flowers, a nice dress, music we love, etc. But I don’t know HOW I want them. I have Pinterest boards coming out my yin-yang with ideas and inspiration and things that I like, but I can’t nail (couldn’t bring myself to use a “pin” joke when referring to Pinterest) anything down.

What do I do? Where do I start with figuring out the wedding that I really want? Do I delete all the Pinterest boards and toss out all the Google Reader feeds of wedding blogs (except APW—you folks keep me sane and give me some perspective)? Do I harass my fiancé until he cracks and finally tells me that he’ll plan the whole thing so that I don’t lose my damn mind? What now? What next?

—A Lost And Confused Karyn

First off, I am going to tell you to STOP PLANNING. This is obviously stressing you out in an unhealthy way, so it might be time to put all this wedding stuff in a box and NOT LOOK AT IT (or blogs, even APW) for a while. Like a week. Or a month. Possibly more. Find your equilibrium and get to a place where wedding planning doesn’t make you contemplate booze. (Not that we’re against the occasional calm-you-down-drink, but you know.)

Your frustration is understandable, but it does not have to result in you doing all the work, or harassing your partner until he does the work to save your sanity. That’s one of the amazing parts of wedding planning—it gives you a chance to work together on a major event, possibly for the first time. Wedding planning can set the stage for the actual marriage, and two big pieces of marriage? Compromise and Teamwork. Like sweet tea and barbeque, they go hand in hand, and in the end, everybody leaves happy. You guys can compromise on how the tasks are divvied, how information is communicated, whether you write a meticulous list or pick from a hat, but the end goal should be teamwork. That means that he needs to get his butt off the couch and maybe call a DJ or give a crap about the flowers, and you need to stop looking at Pinterest boards all by your lonesome. This wedding is for BOTH of you, and his involvement is as much of a requirement as yours. Consider this the beginning of your personal partnership mission statement.

So now, after your wedding hiatus, it’s time to do some prep work. You have the book, yes? Read it. Then go look at the adorable “Newly Engaged” button at the top of the APW home page. That’s not just decoration, darlin’. Then ponder the previous ATP regarding the initial stages of engagement and planning. Read through those, but not as a game-plan, just as general information. This is just like prepping for a test, you have to read the chapter before you truly start to study. Hell, look through the archives and get caught down the rabbit hole of APW-goodness. We’ll wait here. Tell us when you’re back.

Ok! Now! Your first active step after all that lovely reading is to streamline your planning process.  To do this, you need to figure out how you plan. When organizing a birthday party or project for work or school, what’s your style?  Do you make lists? Collect pretty pictures and let inspiration strike? Follow strict guidelines set by others? Wedding planning does not change your personality, so if you are a list-maker who loves ticking off boxes, Pinterest will just make you feel squirrely. I’m not saying abandon any new ways of planning that may be helpful, but know yourself and how you work. Fighting against your nature because “brides” plan a certain way will do nothing but make you reach for that rum. While you mull that (not the rum, the idea), read this ATP from a kindred soul, and then have a heart-to-heart with your partner about how he plans.

From there it’s a matter of figuring out how you two can plan together. (Hint: this is where you go back to the book and these posts.) His list format seems lovely and methodical, but if you’re not willing to do it, well then he’s just up a crick. It may be tough, but he’s got to work with you on this just as much as you need to work with him. There is an assumption that women just love wedding planning, so they get to handle the details while the partner gets a say in the final product. (And TWO women planning, well that’s just got to be a cakewalk!!!)  To that we say, Horsesh*t.  If a vagina comes with superior party planning skills, then some of us need to check our warranty. Make sure that your partner understands that this is as alien to you as it is to him and that you need to work together to get an end-product that you will both love, or at least like a whole lot. And may I suggest that the first thing you both do is figure that budget out? Knowing what you can afford will go a long way in helping make some of these decisions.

After that, if you still need guidance, remember to take each piece one step at a time. Decision fatigue can be crippling, so don’t overwhelm yourself. Look at the big picture and then narrow things down. Remember, there’s always going to be a bit of a disconnect between the wedding you want and the wedding you can and will have. Sometimes that’s sad, sometimes that turns out better than you thought, but you’ll make the best of whatever comes because you’re completely right: “…at the end of the day, I just want to be married to this person.” And you will be. And it will be AWESOME.


Tell us what roadblocks you had in planning, Team Practical! Too many choices? No clue where to start? How did you get your partner to fully share responsibility with you? Discuss!

Photo by Lauren McGlynn Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com or use the submission form here.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). However, don’t let thinking up a sign-off stress you out; we’ll love you regardless. You’re already writing in for advice, don’t you have enough to deal with, sweetie?

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  • My husband and I did discuss our large, grander vision. And he helped me make guest lists (letter-writer, some lists will be necessary. you’ve just got to have a list of who you want to invite, unless you’re doing a cake-and-punch, all are welcome thing). After that, well, he just didn’t care too much. He didn’t want to make decisions. So I become the great delegator (is that spelled right? It makes me think of chomping on things with my huge gator jaws).

    I made him some lists, and then (important!) I resolved to not micro-manage how he did the lists. I was not in love with the ties he picked out for himself and his groomsmen, but I let it go. (In the end, the ties were lovely and awesome.) He found us a great string quartet. And he proved invaluable in running little errands that drive me crazy, like dropping off contracts and checks everywhere.

    I did do the bigger share of the planning, but we also found ways for him to stay involved in a way he cared about. Now, if your fiance DOES care, and since he obviously makes lists, maybe he can take my role. He can explain what is necessary, and you can do the lovely inspiration board hunt. Your list might contain “centerpiece ideas” and “invitations.” That way, he makes the list, to satisfy his needs, and you can do the part you enjoy too.

    best of luck! On the bright side, this is good practice for being married and learning how to get stuff done with each other. You’ll do a lot more getting-stuff-done in the future.

  • Liz

    “If a vagina comes with superior party planning skills, then some of us need to check our warranty.”

    I think this is one of my favorite lines from any blog, ever.

  • Amy March

    And don’t forget your bridal brigade! You never know who in your life (mother? mother-in-law? best friend? sister? that weird lady who lives downstairs from you with the cats?) is secretly, at heart, a kick-ass planner of things. Obviously, if you have an inkling any of these people will take over in a way you don’t feel comfortable with, then no, but I know my first call would be to my mom. Because she rocks at planning, won’t push me into things, and will discuss my decision making for weeks. How do I know this? She raised me- and we are exactly the same in terms of deciding.

    And yeah- take a break! Take a mini-break! Go to New Orleans to celebrate being engaged if you can :)

  • We are still planning, and though it is not the wedding either of us wanted I am sure it will be better.

    I think M was on board but he seemed disinclined to talk about most of it at first. That would me up, but things that helped us both were:

    – I listened to his suggestions and took them seriously. This means a cake made of cheese, bacon sandwiches and some other really cool stuff. He had great ideas but they tended to just pop out as we were listening to the radio or going to bed. He had no opinion on venues until we were in our venue, when suddenly he knew it was right and said we had to stop looking and book it. And we did as it was also my favourite.

    – I said something and then gave him time to react. Sometimes I had a meltdown but I still gave him time to react. Doing that meant he realised that I was not actually being emotional rather than logical (he likes his logic) and gave him time to mull things over. And then he usually did what was needed. He is a good listener if given time.

    – I explained why some things needed to be booked super early, like the registrar; it is because people book them up super early and being married is pretty much the point of the day, so having someone there to do it is high on the priority list (this makes him sound stupid, he just did not know they got booked up a year in advance) It was like in university where I had to queue from 8am to get on the courses I like. I think the people who queue from 4am are crazy, but I want the courses I want so I slightly play into the system.

    – I explained that just like him I had never planned a wedding. Or a decent party. We both kind of get the loose pattern and hope everything falls into place as planners when it comes to social stuff, it’s just there is more to get sorted in advance for a wedding (like the legal stuff mostly)

    – I give him time. He is excited about the wedding and does care what the day is like, he just mostly cares about marrying me and thought I cared more about the flowers and so on. And to be honest I do a little bit and that is okay. he just said he wanted thistles (which I did too) so I found beautiful fake thistles.

    Oh and now we just do the wedding in about a day long burst every two weeks to a month and forget about it until one of our suppliers calls or emails and then we need to do something. I love this stage of planning. It kind of just keeps speeding up and feeling easier and freer and when the flowers were the wrong colour I did not care as the colour is still pretty and it goes and no one else knew what the right colour was anyway. At the beginning it feels like there is JUST. SO. MUCH but it only has to be as big and hard as you are comfortable with.

    Oh and I don’t follow any wedding blogs apart from personal ones and APW. I know there are plenty of other cool wedding blogs but the less I read about it the less I fret. The less I care about having cheap vases and fake flowers and all the rest. I’m totally excited for our wedding. We both are. But we are both so much more excited for our marriage and talking about what that could be like too. We stopped talking wedding on dates and it helped me remember why we were getting married in the first place.

    Sorry this is rambling all over the place, I’ve barely slept for a while due to other stuff going on in our lives but the planning bit does get easier. And I hope it does for both of you.

    • Jessica

      Pardon me if this is too off-topic, but what is this sandwich cake you speak of? I think it sounds awesome!

  • If you haven’t really booked anything, I suggest you look for an all-inclusive venue. Ours was actually one of the most affordable choices once we did a break-down of everything that was included and compared it to the base cost + extras of the more DIY venues we liked. The day we booked our venue, we had 80% of the wedding decisions made. It felt amazing! It also freed us up to focus on a few smaller fun things like decorations and music. We were able to meet with the venue coordinator, bakery and DJ a few weeks before the wedding and tell them what we wanted – done! It made everything so much less stressful and we loved our wedding day partially because we didn’t kill ourselves for a year beforehand trying to put it together.

    As far as fiance involvement, I humbly submit the idea that as long as you’re both capable of planning a LIFE together, it really doesn’t matter if you’re capable of planning a WEDDING together. Of course planning a wedding teaches you skills that translate into other areas of life, but some people just really suck at or have no interest in event planning. I didn’t (see suggestion above) but we spent our whole engagement discussing money, children, family, goals, and planning for our future. So as long as you are doing that stuff, I don’t think it matters one way or another how involved your fiance is in planning the wedding. Now, if he has opinions and wants it to all go a certain way but won’t help, that’s a different matter. But if he just doesn’t really know or care what he wants, I say try to delegate something to him that he would enjoy (music? booze?), push as much of the planning as you can off onto a coordinator/planner or friend, and have a glass of wine and try to relax : )

    • Yes to the venue selection idea! Our venue owners helped coordinate the process seamlessly. The day we booked it, they called the florist and made an appointment for me and then had me pick linen colors for them to communicate to the vendor with our tables, linens, and chairs.

      Here’s the thing: if you constantly feel like you’re in over your head with the planning, it may be that you just don’t care that much or you’re just not picky. I wasn’t! I knew what I wanted the wedding to feel like but really, I didn’t care what kind of flowers we had or favors or what the bridesmaids and groomsmen wore. So if I felt completely apathetic about something, I delegated that thing. If you have vendors who you can trust (because you’ve seen their portfolio and know that they only do GREAT) then just let them handle some things.Tell your bridal brigade that they get to choose their outfits or the music…or anything you don’t care to plan. Let your family pitch in and make stuff.

      If there’s anything that stresses you out because you can’t seem to pick, consider that you might not be picky about it and that you don’t have to be. I doubt there’s a bride to date who genuinely cared about every single aspect of the wedding planning but trying to would certainly make you want to drink. ;)

      • Hypothetical Sarah


    • Umpteenth Sarah

      Too, too true:

      I humbly submit the idea that as long as you’re both capable of planning a LIFE together, it really doesn’t matter if you’re capable of planning a WEDDING together.

      I think we fought 10-fold more in the 6 months preceding our wedding than in the 6 months following it.

    • Liz

      Oh, see, what bothered me isn’t that he’s not interested in planning an event- understandable. But he’s not interested in HELPING with something that is clearly BURDENING HER. Sure, not everyone is gonna get super jazzed about picking out chair covers, but if this girl is having a wedding mental breakdown and he’s just shrugging his shoulders and eating nachos? Not okay.

      • Umpteenth Sarah

        Good point. I didn’t get the impression he was just shrugging and eating nachos from her post. It can be hard to tell if he’s a shrugger and a nacho-eater or just someone who hates event planning. But yeah, you’re right — if this is emotionally traumatizing, he should be stepping in to make it less so.

        If the latter, I would encourage counseling and absolutely not to play the “I’ll wait until he cracks and plans it himself” game — because you’ll wait, and wait, and wait, going crazier and crazier and crazier. I found that my husband became much more interested when real THINGS started happening, like actually picking out songs and actually deciding on food. The abstract stuff doesn’t actually gel.

        • meg

          But here is the thing: SHE HATES EVENT PLANNING. So I don’t really care if he also hates it. He’s gotta get in the game.

          • Rachelle

            If you both hate it, find a way to get someone else to do it. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Find a friend to help you, try to get a coordinator, pick somewhere all inclusive if you can, cut out 80% of the “must haves” and pick the first thing you find and like for every single thing you need. If neither of you wants to plan it, don’t make both yourselves (or either of yourselves) miserable doing it.

        • Beth

          I’ve been dealing with a lot of the same issues- I like to plan, but I’m not very picky. It seemed wrong at first to not care about a lot of the details, but I’ve been getting into the groove of just making a decision and moving on. No need to agonize. I think it’s a great idea to go with a venue that will give you more limited options, and they take care of most of it. We are getting married in a backyard, which means that absolutely everything has to be decided from scratch, but the location was the one thing that was really important to both of us. Hence, the letting go and moving on.
          I’ve also noticed that my fiancé has a hard time with more abstract things. The choice, when we’re tasting food from a caterer is easy, and he’s really decisive then. The thought of picking his groomsmen, when the wedding is months away, is definitely not st the top of his list. (the people he eventually asks to be a part of the wedding would probably appreciate some notice though…) could be worth keeping in mind as you divvy up your tasks.

    • Seconded. We didn’t get an all-inclusive venue, but it’s the first thing I recommend to anyone who is planning a wedding and feels overwhelmed.

      I think you start with the following questions to yourself and your spouse:
      1. Do I want to get married inside or outside?
      2. Do I want to serve my guests a full meal, dessert, brunch, cookies and punch, or anything at all?
      3. Do I want dancing?
      4. How many people are coming?

      Those four questions drive the rest of your planning. If you want to get married inside or outside, that will drive your venue search. If you want to serve a full meal and have guests sit down, that will drive your venue search as well. If you want dancing, that means that you need space for a dance floor. If you don’t want dancing, there is a whole world of restaurants that is open to you. Then you just need to know how many people are coming, and then there you are.

      We actually used our blog as a pretty big sandbox. I would find an idea or some inspiration, write a post on why I liked it, my husband would read it and agree or disagree. It worked really well.

  • JessP

    I could’ve wrote this post myself. But instead of just with my fiancé it’s a similar thing with my Mom, too. *sigh*

  • Nicole

    My now-husband and I decided at the end of September to get married at the beginning of January. That’s right, that’s three months and some change. I remember this panicky moment. Here are some things that got me through:

    – Take things one step at a time. Decide what you need to decide first, and focus on those. Ignore the rest until it’s time. For me, the first steps were venue and photographer (I was worried about dates), and then once those were down, invitations. You’d be surprised how many things followed from those. The invites especially laid out a theme that we ended up building on. I didn’t think about flowers much /at all/ until about four weeks before the wedding. I didn’t concern myself with a guest book until several days before my MiL needed one for a shower.

    – Figure out what’s important to both of you. Sit down and have a conversation about where your priorities lie. For me, it was the minister and the pictures. For him, it was the food. The flowers didn’t matter to either of us. The clothes weren’t that important. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t pay them /any/ attention, but it meant that we knew where to step it up a little and where to let things just sort of go at their own pace. It also meant that we knew where to spend the money. I’m thrilled with how my decorations turned out, but a lot of them were guided by what other people had to loan to us (a lot, it turned out), and I tried to stay pretty flexible so I could make that work.

    – I was a collector, too – I used Evernote, not Pinterest, but I think it can do sort of the same thing. You say your fiance wants lists – what are you making on Pinterest if not a visual list? Use this to your advantage!

    That’s not to say that you should dump him straight into a giant pinterest board – but maybe you and your girlfriends can use it to limit things to 4 or 5 options in a category, and then have him voice his opinion on those. See if you can find some compromise here with the tools you’re already using. (PS, if Pinterest is overwhelming you, don’t use it. Use what’s fun and easy! I do suggest Evernote as a ‘snip and categorize’ alternative if you’re into that sort of thing, but I know lots of brides who’ve done other things, like boxes and binders.)

    – Finally I want to echo what someone above said: take advantage of the people in your life who are interested and talented and giving. You probably have more of these than you think. I was dumbfounded at the number of people who came out of the woodwork to offer free votive holders or time spent helping me stuff envelopes or hand-made bows for the pews. And I could not have planned without a group of long-distance girlfriends who looked at my Evernote folders and said ‘this works, this doesn’t.’

    Good luck, and I hope you find the place where planning becomes ‘fun’ rather than stressful!

    • DKR

      “…maybe you and your girlfriends can use it to limit things to 4 or 5 options in a category, and then have him voice his opinion on those.”

      I want to second this – my fiance asked me to do this for him. Rather than give him tons of options on a category (i.e. venues), he said he’d rather be the tie-breaker vote on a couple of options.

  • We have a 15 month engagement, and right after we got engaged I wanted to start planning. It wasn’t my fiance who was resistant but it clearly stressed out my mom. It’s a big change for her – I’m the oldest, the first to get married, and it will be hard for her for the family to change like this. So she definitely needed some time to get used to the fact we were getting married and our vision for what we wanted the wedding to be (because I don’t think it was her vision). After one big fight, without really thinking about it, we just took an 8-month break from wedding planning (for the most part – I went dress shopping a few times and we did a few small things but that’s about it). Now, 6 months before, we’re kicking things into gear and my mom is much more on board and ready to help where she can. The 8-month hiatus from planning gave her lots of time for things to sink in, and also gave my fiance and I a lot of time to read the APW book, have lots and lots of marriage prep discussions, and really get a better idea for ourselves of what we wanted, who should be in charge of what, and how to best include our families and their wishes.

    At the beginning of our long engagement I was like “long engagement, this sucks!” but now I’m all “long engagements are the best idea EVER”

  • Amy

    If you’ve never planned an event before, the two things I’d suggest nailing down right off the bat are the guest list and the budget. These two things will impact nearly every decision you make (how can you know if you will fit into that adorable farmhouse venue if you don’t know what your guest list is? full open bar with a sit down dinner? or desert reception? hard to know without having an idea of your budget. )
    Once those things are nailed down figure out what *really* needs to be booked ASAP – in my experience, if you live in a larger city the “affordable” venues/photographers/vendors tend to book up about a year in advance. Figure out which decisions need to be made now and which can wait. And honestly, once you’ve got your venue booked a lot of other things fall into place naturally – especially if you pick an all inclusive venue (which I suggest if budget allows – it makes things like set up/breakdown/not having to pick out tables/chairs, etc. much easier).

    • Some of these comments might make you think… but how do I decide on a budget?!?!

      I’ll tell you my way, incase you were curious.

      I opened an excel spreadsheet (because I love them) and started adding numbers.
      1) Monthly contributions, from each of us, over the pre determined period of time (for us, 22 months, we’re looking to have the wedding in early 2014)
      2) Tax return contributions from each of us, over the pre-determined period of time (for us, a modest part of the return each year from us as individuals, for two tax returns)
      3) Birthday / Christmas money
      4) Our “change” jar

      and got a total. That’s it. Anything else that our parents decide to give us will be on top of that, which is why we’re basically telling them that if they want to help, they can pay for one or two things (the dress? the alcohol? speaker rental? the cake?) whatever is important to them.

      Anyway – that was our approach! Hope this helps.

  • Dori

    Another way to get the discussion going is to talk about weddings you’ve attended together: what elements did you like and dislike? It’s easier to react to something you’ve both experienced than a bewildering mass of online images. Also, recently wedded friends have tons of advice about vendors and can greatly simplify things with their recommendations–again, you don’t have to start from scratch because they already gathered and narrowed down choices for their own weddings. (Caveat: sometimes the advice can be overwhelming too, so you have to be judicious about who you ask).

    • Heather

      I second the recommendation to discuss other weddings you’ve attended. When Ben and I were going through pre-marital counseling, our therapist asked, “What do you want the day to look like? to feel like? Who’s there?” Ben was able to answer this by referencing another friend’s wedding he had been to, and how he liked the laid back atmosphere with a simple ceremony, more casual dress and cocktail hour feel vs. a formal sit down dinner. What he did not like was that the reception was very DIY (they self-catered) and that he didn’t want that much added stress. It was 10 times more input than I had gotten in the past four months dragging him to venues, showing him menus, bugging him about guest lists, etc. Start with the feeling you both want and see what matches that and is reasonable for your budget and other circumstances.

  • Garbanzo

    I agree on getting the budget down first. Once you realistically determine how much you can spend, a lot of the bigger questions will answer themselves.

    And just to share a little advice on fiance wedding involvement, all I can say is, don’t expect planning a wedding to change how either of you approach things in life. My fiance is more of a go with the flow type person, until he gets really interested in something and then he becomes VERY opinionated about it. I’m basically the same way, except the things he cares about tend to be completely different from the things I care about (wedding-wise, not life-wise, otherwise we’d be in trouble). So, I’ve been keeping my lists and ticking off my to-do boxes, and he’s been there to run ideas off of when I can drag him away from watching soccer. But, when I see that he really cares about something (like the invitations), I step back, let him take the reins, and let the pieces fall where they may.

  • Parsley

    When my fiancee and I began planning, the first thing we did was have a big-picture discussion. What was most important to us in getting married? As it happened, she started the conversation by listing exactly the four things I would have listed, so this was pretty easy for us, but if you’re not quite on the same page, then you can negotiate and compromise.

    For us, these things were: a beautiful location, a meaningful ceremony, people we love (i.e. a BIG guest list!), and being gracious to our guests. So, we’re talking really big picture here.

    Then we did a preliminary budget and guest list. All of this was HUGELY helpful for us, because it has clarified every decision we have made since. For example, when we went wedding dress shopping, I found a dress that looked fantastic on me, and thought, “I totally want this dress, but I don’t want the wedding this dress implies.” It was just much too formal for the wedding we were planning. If we’d tried dress shopping before the big picture stuff, it would have been so much harder. The same has been true of all our other decisions.

    Meg suggests a version of this in the book, which wasn’t out yet (and I hadn’t discovered APW yet), but you get the benefit of planning post-publication, so I recommend it!

    Good luck!

  • I started small and bough shoes. The shoes meant that our color (not that you need a color) would be purple, and set the tone for the whole wedding. It worked quite nicely for me.

    I also had to understand that what the wedding was to me might differ in regards to what the wedding was to my husband, and our guests. I spent a lot of time looking at “wedding stuff” and there were many instances when I would get excited about something, show my now-husband, and be faced with his complete lack of interest (or, worse, his complete hatred for whatever bauble i was excited about and lusting over at the moment…being greeted with a shrug was a lot easier than being greeted with “You’re showing that to me as a joke, right? Because we wouldn’t do that, right?”).

    Take a big step back and remember what a wedding is truly about. It will make all things a lot easier once you realize that the truly important bits of the day do not cost any money at all.

  • SaraB

    We got engaged last June, but didn’t really start planning until October for our wedding this September (we bought a house and that took priority). We had our budget discussion then worked out a general task list (Get caterer, Finish Guest List, Get photographer) with approximate deadlines. It helps my fiance get to know what big stuff is involved with wedding planning so he can think about the whole process, which is how his mind works. We then split up the list based on ability/amount we care. He is Caterer Team Lead, I’m Photography Team Lead, etc. As Team Lead, you need to do some searching then present the other with a whittled-down list of 3-4 options that fit with our overall plan and budget for the final selection process.

    The other thing we’ve been doing for a long time is Saturday coffee klatch. We make time to sit, have coffee, and maybe bring the computer to have discussions about Important Things. We started this before wedding planning, but now use that time as such. We are then totally focused on our discussion, well caffinated, awake, not burnt out after work and can think through things. So my suggestion is to maybe find a time when you both have comparable brainpower and break up wedding planning into smaller, separate topics. We typically chat for an hour or so, or until one of us throws the “time out'” flag. You can even use the Pomodoro technique (which I use at work to get though tedious projects) and chat for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute brain-break before starting up the discussion again for another 25 minutes. Good luck with planning!

    • Marie

      Saturday coffee wedding planning is a great idea. I can already tell that I enjoy talking about the wedding more than my fiance does (why not talk about it for hours every night? ;), but now that we are getting closer, I’d like us to spend a certain amount of time accomplishing tasks and making decisions each week. I think it would be easier on both of us to have set expectations of when, and for how long, we’re going to focus on the wedding.

    • Marie

      I really like this idea of Saturday morning planning! We’re both fresher and more relaxed on the weekend than we are after work during the week. One of the most fun things we’ve done for the wedding so far was get on the computer one Saturday morning and start playing with designing invites and save the dates. It was a nice creative outlet that my fiance suggested, and a change from my (admittedly beloved) spreadsheets. I like your tomatoing suggestion too! Thanks!

  • Alyssa

    ALSO! Karyn is already considering this, but for those of you in the same boat; maybe you don’t WANT a typical wedding? Elopements, courthouse shindigs, private ceremonies—all are lovely and wonderful options. Don’t forget to discuss those too.

    • Rachelle

      Exactly. You can get married without planning a wedding. You can have a nice wedding with very minimal planning if you aren’t picky and don’t overthink it. If those are things you want, they can be done.

      • Completely and totally. It’s amazing how often the first option you find works out okay.

        • Yes, I am normally a BIG planner/researcher about any decision, but we made some major decisions very instinctively without any second-guessing: photographer, florist, venue, dress, and self-catering dessert reception would fall into that category. We connected really well with our photographer and florist when we first met them, and just made the decision. I agreed to the venue having only seen photos that my husband took of it (I was in a different country from the wedding location), and the dress was bought on the one weekend we did dress shopping. Still surprises me a lot how quickly we made those decisions, but a short (3.5 month) engagement (and super small budget) certainly helped me realize what was important and make a decision and move on. And it all turned out really well. :)

    • Sara C.

      I actually think we spent an entire month on the conversation “Do we even want a wedding?” “why do we want a wedding?” (aka because society tells us we do? WIC has brainwashed us? or to see our friends, etc.) To agree with an above poster, sometimes long engagements are wonderful, simply because of all the conversations you can work through.

  • katieprue

    I’m so glad that the first suggestion from Alyssa is to jump the hell off the wedding train (for now). It can be soul crushing to read blog after blog about how important and meaningful and INCREDIBLE a couple of strangers’ weddings were, and feel like you have to live up to that. Of course weddings are important and meaningful and you should make choices that feel good for you, but after all it is just a wedding. You can do the lavish affair or you can do it in jeans at the JOP. The hard part is that there are so many choices in between! My fiance and I chose a long engagement, which we probably didn’t need. I think the WIC tells you that you need so much time to plan so you can BUY MORE THINGS and feel proactive about ordering 300 chocolates with your face on them when you start stressing the eff out. But like Alyssa’s granny says, you need the preacher, the groom and the dress. Okay, and dessert. Take a break, start with some basics when you’re ready, and let the rest fall into place. I fell into the trap of thinking that I had to make every decision RIGHTNOW but I’ve let wedding choices creep in and when they feel right, fiance and I jump all over it.

    Now it’s story time, kids. Two weeks ago I probably would have burst into tears if anyone asked me about photographers. I have all kinds of crazy, jumbled opinions on photography, and I didn’t want to drop a load of cash equivalent to what my car is worth. But on a wild hair one night, I took my fine toothed detective comb to Google and found someone interesting in the area. Okay. Emailed her. Set up a meeting in the next few days. She was rad. Wrote a check. BOOM. Not that every decision/hiring is that easy, but maybe neither you nor your fiance are big planners, and that is okay. You can still get married if you fly by the seat of your pants (er, at least I think. I’ll know in a few months!)

  • kim

    I have a very similar partner!! And I’ve been there with the breakdown crying, too. Mostly because he wanted a Big Wedding and I wanted to elope, but that’s neither here nor there. But once we compromised on what the event will be and discussed our priorities, I found that we both have a tendency to suffer from Information Overload, really easily. In fact, me moreso than him, he’s just so terribly patient and I am prone to fits of tl;dr.

    What I found works, for both of us, is choosing a Thing to Discuss and discussing it. One thing at a time. So, maybe midway through the day, I send him a text to put a bug in his ear – “Hey, remind me to talk to you about finding a ceremony venue tonight” (he does not like surprises or out-of-left-field wedding planning questions). And then that is our task for the evening, googling our little hearts out and finding a ceremony venue (ok, that is a bad example – that was maybe a five-night project because it involved roadtrips and traipsing through the snow, but you get what I mean). But that’s the only thing we deal with that day. If we’re talking about catering, we’re just talking about catering and everything else can wait. I figure, if the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, then the same principle should apply to event planning.

    I’d also suggest playing to your strengths. For example, I’m the creative scatterbrain in our relationship, and my partner is a methodical, logical type. Put that to work! I go collect pretty stuff, and show it to him and he breaks it down to its practical parts and together we figure out what is worthwhile and affordable. I was enamoured with this French caterer (and their impeccable customer service), but he compared their quote with another company, line for line, and figured out that we could get the exact same food, more service, and spend less with the other company! Man, I was thrilled, I would have wound up overpaying with the first place. My point is, he’s not necessarily approaching this “wrong” (honestly? I suspect there’s no ‘wrong’ way to plan a wedding), just differently. But you can make that difference work for you by channelling your individual strengths into various tasks.

  • Granola

    Oh man, I feel your pain here on several fronts. Firstly has some awesome spreadsheets that I found to be really great for the planning (I like the APW ones better for the day-of). I too struggle with “not knowing what I want” but I think it’s a bit false, so hopefully my experience will be illuminating for you.

    It may not be that “you don’t know what you want AT ALL” but rather “I’m not picky or concerned about specifics.” For instance, I know that I want a bouquet of natural-looking wildflower type in-season fall flowers. Do I know what any of those flowers are? Nope. Do I really care as long as they look pretty? Nope. But every florist my mom looks into for me (I’m living in NYC and the wedding is in Ohio) won’t even so much as give her the time of day or a quote until they talk to The Bride, because obviously I must know *exactly* what I want and can just tell them.

    Pinterest can be really helpful because it’s visual. Go back over your boards – unless you’re really all over the map, there are probably unifying things that you keep going back to (for me it was purple-toned bouquets). What I’ve found is that I’ve sort of made a choice without realizing it (hey, I always like this kind of stuff, no orange peonies are popping up in there….) but that the pain comes from someone wanting me to be specific inside that genre. So trust that it’ll all filter out. And if you’ve got it down to three choices that you absolutely love? Let someone else decide. Or flip a coin. But don’t think that you “didn’t make a decision.” You decided not to avail yourself of the 50 million other options, which is still a pretty big deal.

    • SaraB

      I did not know about this It looks fantastic! I already have a bunch of spreadsheets I built myself using Google Docs, but I might have to look into these more.

    • Allison

      I agree with this. I never would have thought that I wanted a wedding with a pink color scheme, but I keep pinning hot pink things. Hot pink shoes, hot pink flowers, hot pink flower girl dresses. I just glanced at my wedding board and it’s pink flowers and aqua Ball jars all over the place. So, I guess maybe that’s a direction I should consider.

  • A few things that came to mind while I was reading this:

    1. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we decided that for any vendor decision, we needed to have no more than 5 options to contact/choose from. This wasn’t so much a hard and fast rule (ie if the first 5 photographers we looked at were out of budget, unavailable, or mean, we could keep looking) as a way of keeping ourselves from spiralling down the ‘wedding inspiration’ rabbit hole of pretty blogs and no decisions.

    2. Figure out communication differences. My husband likes to think out loud whereas I tend not to voice an idea until I’m 95% sure it’s the direction I want to take. As you can imagine, with wedding planning this can be a little crazy-making. We learned to be really clear about the differences between wild brainstorming sessions and ‘We have to hammer out some decisions’ sessions.

    3. One of you probably does need to take point. But the other person needs to support. Try to divvy responsibilities on the who cares more principle – ie centerpieces were my responsibility, iPod DJ mix was his. Check in with each other but also let the other person do things at his or her own pace. It bothered me at first that I was taking the lead with so many decisions before I realized that oh, my fiance had never planned a major event before while I had, a lot, and am more the big picture person in our relationship. He was more than willing to run errands, drop off checks, haggle for beer, and give final opinions, but there’s no way we would’ve had a wedding if he’d just been tasked with ‘plan a wedding.’ If you find yourself in the point position, let your partner know you need a lot of emotional support and some opinionating, but realize it’s ok if you’re not making every single decision jointly if one of you has strong opinions about certain elements and the other person doesn’t.

    • Shelly

      Very wise advise Sharon, and well-articulated. “Exactly” wasn’t quite enough :-)

  • suzanna

    Oh yeah. I feel for you, Karyn. I’ve been there. Awash in pretty pictures, heady with beautiful ideas, and wondering why my guy wasn’t sailing on the same boat. Oh the fights we’ve had!

    I completely agree that first taking a break is ESSENTIAL. Put it all away. Don’t look at any of it, and don’t talk about it. Give yourself and your dude a break.

    Then, start with your budget. Not the pretty. Figure out how much you want to/can spend. When you start pricing out venues and caterers, it’s quite a shock, and realistically, you have to work from there. Excel is your best friend here.

    Once you’ve had a little time to look at the practical, real issues of this event, then you can move on to the pretty. During all this, your top priorities and his top priorities will come forward. In my case, I want a huge freaking dance party. My guy wants a small, formal event. We’re still working on compromising there. ;)

    Good luck!

  • KateM

    I have a reluctant fiance as well. (to planning, not to marriage). Sometimes it would make me really mad, this is for both of us, he should input more. But the reality is that a lot of this is about what is important to me, not to him, and I realized that I wasn’t communicating a lot of my ideas to him. He has been to exactly three weddings in his whole life and so doesn’t have a lot to draw on. I found that Pinterest boards helped me give him visual which was helpful, but the list is the crucial part. We went through and assigned us each task, and talked about them specifically. There are tasks he doesn’t want to do, but guess what? there is shit that I don’t want to do either. some of it we canned, and some of it we sucked it up, put on our big girl/boy pants and did it.
    I know that for us, it is important for me to be specific in communicating my feelings, vague does not cut it. example : “I am overwhelmed, I am doing everything for this wedding!” vs “I am overwhelmed, we are moving, it is tax season (accountant), the invitation need to be addressed and we don’t have a caterer.” That helps both of us identify areas where he can ease my burden and what only I can deal with.

  • Megan

    If I have to be the one to say it: it’s OK to delete your Pinterest and Google Reader. Seriously, it’s OK. There’s at least a hundred dresses and cakes that will be nothing short of perfect for your wedding, and your full-time job isn’t figuring out the incremental difference between dress X and dress Y. And if you’ve ever purchased a house, remember that weddings on Google Reader are like houses that have been staged for sale. Someone was paid way too much money to make them look unobtainably perfect.

    I like the idea of taking a break from your planning. Read some classic APW if you must, and get yourselves started on your premarital counseling, secular or otherwise. There’s been a lot of great talk on here about how to find it and afford it. I’m not just recommending it for you- I truly believe it was one of the best things we did pre-wedding and amusingly, the things we learned we were able to practice immediately in the planning process.

    Good luck, chickie. Your wedding will not look like Google Reader, but it will be amazing and feel better. Doesn’t realizing that feel nice? :)

    • PA

      “…and your full-time job isn’t figuring out the incremental difference between dress X and dress Y.”

      Oh, thank you for saying this! As someone who likes to do things RIGHT, it was very freeing for me to be able to say to myself, “Alright, any one of these dresses will be truly lovely. I don’t need to fret about it anymore.” And it’s so nice to hear someone else say that, too!

      • Trust me, all those other possible dresses, venues, florals, etc. are the absolute LAST thing you will be thinking of on your wedding day.

  • Kara

    May I just gently suggest that the way that you handle the wedding planning and decision-making stuff, will color how you handle decision making in your married life as well? Yes, I totally agree that you need some mental space from the wedding planning (obsessing?), but you also need to figure out how to meet him in the middle with how you make decisions since it WILL affect your marriage.

    Here’s what I suspect your fiance would ask (since it’s something my fiance and I have gone through).

    Fiance: My fiancee keeps asking me for feedback on her ideas, but she’s not giving me anything to go off of. I don’t know what she’s presenting me with, it’s just a bunch of pictures of random crap I guess she thinks is pretty. If she’d just put them in a list with WORDS, I’d know what I was dealing with. It’s not that I don’t want to help, but she just keeps throwing ideas at me and I’m not sure how to react or what she wants.

    If he needs a list and you hate them, it sounds like you still need something slightly more concrete: you can do them creatively (like put a series of actual cut outs (colors, visions, whatever) in a stack and have him help you write out the words associated with each thing (green, elegant, rustic, whatever) for him to look at/you to discuss. Or…you can do what the 2 of us did: we each named/listed 3 three things/ideas/concepts that were important to us about the day and used that as a starting point for a conversation.

  • Dana Wintroub

    While reading your post, I was thinking that maybe the best thing would be to take a break like the response says. I did that and was amazed at how calm I felt after not looking at any wedding stuff for a week. I go days without looking now. Then, maybe just close your eyes and picture your wedding – see yourself there.. see who else is there.. where are you? what does it look like? What do you want it to look like? If you do that for another week, you could get a much better idea of what you want to have. Blessings to you!

  • Elizabeth

    In her incredible TED talk (highly recommended if you haven’t seen it), Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to make their partner a true partner. This doesn’t mean that you and your fiancé need to split the wedding-planning responsibilities exactly evenly, but I think it does mean that if neither of you is particularly excited or knowledgeable about planning a wedding, then the bulk of the work shouldn’t fall to one of you just because wedding planning is often seen as “women’s work.”

    Do you both want to have a wedding? If not, then this isn’t an issue of divvying up responsibilities; it’s an issue of agreeing on the way in which you’d like to celebrate the start of your marriage. If you do both want a wedding but just aren’t sure where to start, it may help to agree on some goals for the event or a high-level vision or to start in the details; everyone’s approach will be different. But, knowing that you can be completely honest with each other about your hopes and your fears will definitely come in handy long after the wedding. Good luck!

  • Leslie

    Karyn, Thank you for this! Your timing is amazing. I have been reading APW for a few months now, while in the pre-engaged state. And this past weekend (out of the blue- I wasn’t expecting it for about 6 more months) my guy proposed! Engaged! Wedding! Marriage! And now, I have moved to Engaged! Wedding?????????? Marriage (Woot!)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, using Alyssa’s advice I think stepping back and enjoying being engaged might be the order of the day. So thank you Karyn, Alyssa, and APW. Just what I needed…

    • Sara C.


      And stepping back is good – as I mentioned earlier, my financee and I spent the first 1-2 months simply debating “Why a wedding?” (which was somewhat exhausting, having just figured out “Why a marriage?”)

      Enjoy this time!!

  • PA

    I might almost suggest that, after a hiatus in planning (if you think that would be helpful), that you go way back to step one and go sit down with a cup of tea and discuss a few things together. These are only my suggestions, they may not be good for you two!

    a) Who wants to be involved in which bits?
    b) Why is it important to each person that the other one be involved?
    c) Can we do a hybrid approach on planning?

    a) My recommendation is to ask your fiancé how he feels about being involved in planning. You can even say, “It occurred to me that I assumed you would want to be involved, but in retrospect that wasn’t a good assumption. Wedding planning is really stressful. What would you like to be involved in?” Just sit back and let him talk, and see what happens. My guess is, he may tell you that the whole thing feels like Valentine’s Day on a larger scale: something with amorphous by HIGHLY charged expectations, that he just feels like he’ll keep failing at and having it be stressful. Which leads to …
    b) Figure out if it is important to you that he be involved in planning, and why, and be ready to articulate this. For me, it was important to have my fiancé be happy with the outcome of the wedding planning and feel comfortable with the plans, because I didn’t want the wedding to be, “about the bride.” And I think all of us want the wedding to be important to the fiancé(e) because, well, we’re getting married, and if they aren’t excited about that, then something may be wrong.
    c) Then look at a hybrid approach. Getting a detailed list of EVERYTHING might be super stressful, but what about saying something like, “Hey, I was wondering if we could talk about themes? I’ll jot down some ideas,” then figure out which themes appeal to you, jot down a few words about each theme or look, give him the paper, and then … wait. Yes, wait. A while. And THEN talk about it. I think (and this is just a guess) that maybe he wants to go into these discussions with an idea of what the options are and what appeals to you, not get stuck trying to brainstorm on the spot. If you’re willing to do mini lists and then talk about them face to face, it might work out for both of you!

  • Marina

    I remember this exact feeling so, so well. What I needed to do was take a BIG step back. Stop thinking about the details. Stop thinking about the dress and the flowers, and stop thinking about the color theme and the ceremony too. Think about how you want to FEEL. Calm? Social? Spiritual? Overjoyed? What’s going to lead to that feeling for you? Lots of people? (For whatever your definition of “lots” is.) Focusing on your husband and ignoring everything else? Nature? Fancy clothes? Find answers that are less “I care about the dress” and more “I care about feeling like a fancy, party version of myself” or “I care about being able to dance my ass off and feel great about my body.”

    And your fiance HAS to answer this too. This is NOT something you can put in a list and hand off. What does he care about?

    Once I had that piece, planning became less overwhelming. Every time I started going crazy over the invitations or centerpieces or even the ceremony, I could ask myself, how does this relate to what I REALLY care about? It helped my let go of the stuff that wasn’t crucial and feel connected to the stuff that was. And it helped frame a conversation with my guy where I could say, “Helping our guests feel comfortable is important to you–here is how that’s connected to assigning seating.”

    • Jo

      This this this this this.

  • My challenge was figuring out how to get started in the first place, since I didn’t grow up wanting to get married and didn’t know what the H. E. Double-hockey-sticks I was doing. I also had to learn the hard way that just because major publications (cough cough, MS, The K^@t, cough cough) said a wedding had to look a certain way, didn’t mean MY wedding had to look a certain way. Oh, that APW existed when I was planning my nuptials!
    I was lucky, because my soon-to-be-hubby knew full well that if he didn’t have an opinion/didn’t share in the planning we weren’t going to have a wedding. And it was important to him, because he’d always wanted to be a husband. So I feel for you, ALACK. Hang in there, kiddo. Alyssa’s advice is sound, and I’ll be praying for your sanity.

  • I felt the exact same way when I started wedding planning. I was a hott mess. My fiance (God bless him) is the most easy going guy EVER. Which can leave me feeling responsible for all of the decisions in our life together. After I had a big melt down, my best friend (who is also engaged) gave me a great piece of advice. She told me to write down everything I thought I wanted in my wedding without censuring myself. After I’d done that she told me to count the first 5 items and cross off everything else. What an eye opening experience! I found out that I really DON’T care what kind of dress I wear. But I did care about having really good food and a cozy reception space. I realized that invitations didn’t matter to me (so we didn’t send them! just a simple post card with an email RSVP). I realized that saving money was more important to me than having every detail be perfect, so we set a budget and are sticking with it. After making my list, wedding planning has been great! My fiance has been so helpful in helping me make decisions on the first 5 things — and as for everything else, we’ve adopted the policy of “one and done”, one decision and we’re sticking with it. I encourage everyone to try this if they are stuck in the overwhelming trap of initial wedding planning, it feels so freeing!

  • AmeLeigh

    Oh I’ve had a few melt downs because I felt like My Love wasn’t helping/didn’t care about the wedding, they suck badly. The positive thing that came out of my melt down is that he didn’t know (until I was blubbering and said so) that I felt like him not providing feedback and input about wedding things was making me miserable and feel like he didn’t care about our future marriage. Totally floored him and he’s been really good about providing me feedback since :) The main thing with My Love is that he doesn’t have abstract ideas of what he likes. I have to come to him with a few different options (preferably pictures so he can see it) and why I like/want them. Then he has to let me know what he likes/dislikes and why so I can either find something that fits what we both want better or figure out a compromise that might work.
    My big lifesaver is that he has been dealing with all of the vendors. Granted we haven’t booked anything yet but being able to say “Hey, will you call vendor option x today and try to set up a tasting on a Monday or Saturday in the next month?” has let me destress some.

  • Sara C.

    “Remember, there’s always going to be a bit of a disconnect between the wedding you want and the wedding you can and will have. Sometimes that’s sad, sometimes that turns out better than you thought, but you’ll make the best of whatever comes because you’re completely right.”

    Such Brilliance – and it definitely helps keep it in perspective – I’d go mad trying to recreate all the various visions in my head!

  • My fiance and I had a bit of trouble at the start of planning too. I was doing tons of research and looking at pretty pictures, but not getting anywhere. I felt like my fiance wasn’t helping, but to be honest, I just don’t think he knew where to begin or what I really needed.

    We sat down and had a conversation about how we were each feeling, and before I knew it I had all kinds of spread sheets in our Google shared docs. Turns out, he didn’t know where to begin with research but was great at organizing it, while I had the opposite issue.

    Once we booked the venue and photographer (which I initially found) my fiance volunteered to handle the research for the DJ and ceremony music.

    I think it’s best to just have a conversation about who wants to do what and in which way. Too many times we assume people know what we need, but most of the time they don’t. It wasn’t that my fiance didn’t want to help, he just didn’t know what would be helpful or where to begin.

  • Lys

    My husband needs things in structured form too. At first I balked at the lack of flexibility/free-association potential, but then I spent some time around his dad, a wonderful person whose brain moves in a zillion directions at once, in a way that can be confusing and stressful. There’s probably an underlying reason for your respective preferences, and, once you understand whose need is deeper-seated, you can effectively adapt.

    If you absolutely can’t work with structural constraints, you need to calmly and clearly make your FH understand why. Let’s assume, though, that your FH’s communication preferences are more intractable than yours:

    I think a decision tree would be a really useful structure for wedding planning. It could be composed of questions (like, “Is the wedding indoors or outdoors?”). This forces you to think about hierarchical interdependencies in terms of what must be decided first, what decisions flow from or are obviated by that decision, etc. – and it’s much more visually rich than a list. If you wanted, you could even work backwards from Pinterest boards, asking yourself what decisions led to those outcomes.

  • Rachel

    We’re almost a year into a 15 month engagement. At first, our wedding planning conversations were often difficult. He would say, “I’d be happy just eloping!” as if I was responsible for planning because I wanted to have a wedding with our friends and family present. Not okay. Now he understands that, while it’s not important for the time we spend on wedding tasks to be exactly equal, we take joint responsibility for this as we will for anything we undertake together.

    A couple concrete ideas:
    1. start big picture. What are the words that come to mind when you think of what you want your wedding to be? “Elegant” “casual” “on a beach” — these vague concepts can point you in a more precise direction. I agree wholeheartedly with talking about weddings you’ve been to, what you’ve enjoyed about them (and just as important, what you *don’t* want to replicate).
    2. Budget. Figure out what you can each contribute and whether there will be contributions from family. Get clear from the beginning whether your families have expectations and whether/how much you want to meet those expectations.
    3. Set aside concrete time for wedding discussions. My fella felt like I was talking about it constantly and it freaked him out. Now we have one night a week where we go through our to-do list, and we cap the discussion at 20 minutes.
    4. Use a joint google calendar to monitor deadlines. My fiance made our wedding website (it’s gorgeous!) and is now designing our invitations. With the website, I was constantly asking him when it would be done and it was… not great for our enjoyment of one another. With the invitations, we set a deadline a month in advance, and its on the calendar so he’s well aware that the deadline is looming. This also works well for self imposed deadlines about things you’re having decisions pulling the trigger on. Put “decide on photographer by April 1” on the calendar and then don’t worry about it until close to the deadline.
    5. When you do pull the trigger, DON’T LOOK BACK. Peace of mind is more valuable than having everything be “perfect.” and your decision was probably a good one in the first place.
    Good luck!

  • Allison

    So right now I feel like I’m doing more of the planning in this particular phase, but here’s why I’m okay with it: we’re playing to our strengths.

    In the past 48 hours I have booked a venue, emailed to reserve rented chairs, and drawn up a comprehensive estimated budget document. I’m a nerd – I like doing these things. I work in a profession that requires occasional event planning and staging, so I’m comfortable with getting quotes and talking to vendors. I do make sure to CC him when I email people, and to always use “we”. I sign emails from both of us (of course, the vendors inevitably respond only to me anyway – but I’m making the effort to show that we’re a united front). So yes, I’m doing a lot of the interfacing with other people that is necessary, along with research and gathering of options.

    BUT! He is much more organized when it comes to the execution of plans. He is good at making lists and schedules and following through on tiny details. If I can sketch out an idea of what we need, he can make it happen. He’s also very conservative and wants to see figures and plans on paper. That pushes me to take my ideas and make them into concrete documents we can use as a blueprint for our wedding planning.

    Between the two of us, we will get everything done. He will push me to be more organized, and I will push him to be open to creative solutions. I will figure out where the chairs go, and he will make sure they are in perfectly straight lines. He will make an awesome reception playlist, and I will make sure we work the room to talk to everyone.

    Together, we rock. Which is kind of the whole reason we’re getting married, non?

    • We were sorta like this, like you said, “playing to our strengths,” though I didn’t realize it at the time and found it somewhat frustrating. I was the main planner of most things before the wedding, but when it came down to “crunch time,” my husband did TONS of hard in-the-moment work. Driving, dropping off, picking up, setting up, managing logistic/decor/all sound/lighting/etc… I tend to be the one who thinks ahead, and he is the one who is in the “now” moment. So, when it came down to the actual week…he was super involved. For the months before the wedding, he cared about a few things and focused on those, but for the rest, he preferred to have the options narrowed down to a few and then we would decide together. Or to just give an “okay” to the non-important stuff when I would tell him what I thought was the best option…

  • daisymae

    1. sit down together and figure out what you DON’T want. you’ll find that there are commonalities here, like “omg we both HATE the idea of X”

    2. check out a few venues. we didn’t know how much we disliked the idea of a traditional wedding until we experienced what one would look like.

    3. think about what things you like to do together, and what people associate with you as a couple. ask some friends what they think of when they think of the two of you. turns out our friends quickly pegged us as “outdoorsy dog-lovers.” we used that and decided we wanted an outdoor wedding that our dog could be a part of.

    4. after all of that, what’s important AND realistic? for us it was the realization that all of our friends have kids, and all of our family members have kids. so we wanted the wedding to be kid and family friendly, and then we found out about summer camp weddings. that’s right, you can rent out an entire summer camp for a weekend for pretty damn cheap. the one we’re renting comes with access to everything – sports, archery, horseback riding, swimming, sailing, etc, for $1500. for three days. and there’s no mark-up on food.

    maybe summer camp isn’t you – but figure out what is! from there you can move forward and see what’s next. once we nailed the venue down and were both happy, we learned that i don’t give a crap about stationary and invitations, but these things REALLY matter to him – so i handed it off and trust his judgement.

    you’ll get through this. and it will be awesome and totally worth it.

  • Here’s my take, shaped from both personal and professional experience.
    First, I’m in total agreement with the rest of everyone – STOP planning, and STOP looking at other people’s weddings. Information overload & wedding envy are evil creatures. Before you get back into the nitty gritty of planning, maybe it would help to think about how you & your fiance have made other important decisions in the past and follow that model. Have you ever made a major purchase (home? auto? travel? a big-ass TV? etc.) together? How did you decide things then? Ultimately, you need to play on/off of each others strengths and compensate for each others weaknesses. You’re entering into a lifelong partnership – and along the way, there are going to be a lot of BIG DECISIONS. So, instead of losing your mind or testing the fiance’s breaking point, try to figure out your groove as a couple now. Talk to your fiance calmly, and explain your guts out. In fact, make an appointment with each other to do this (so no one is blindsided).

    As Alyssa mentioned, make use of the APW book & archives. Also, um, sorry for stating the obvious…MAKE SURE HE READS THE BOOK & THE BLOG TOO. Maybe he won’t sit down and dig through the archives, but surely you can print the posts that speak to you out & leave them along with the book on his nightstand? *Here’s the part where we give (APW) Meg another standing ovation for the gender neutral language in the book. It’s so much easier to hand it to the menfolk and have them actually digest it. I’m pretty sure the other books in the wedding genre would read something like this: “Nail polish, tampons, lip gloss! Makeup, cervical lining, shapewear. Eyebrow threading, depilatory cream, straightening irons and mineral makeup.”

    Once you’re ready to dip your toes back into the wedding stuff, I’ve found that what seems to really work for many couples is to divvy things up based upon your individual priorities & strengths. Figure out what’s most important to each of you and then figure out who’s best at what. For example, when planning my own wedding, I was boss of pretty things (because they were important to me), as well as budget & logistics (because that’s where my skillz are). My husband was boss of photography (because of his skillz), along with music & food (because they are his interests). The rest of it we did together.

    Specifically, if he wants lists and you can’t bear to make them, try this – you sit with your pinboards and inspirations, and verbally brainstorm. He can write things down in the manner that suits him as you bring them up.

    I wish you (and everyone else having planning anxiety) the best of luck!

  • Kimikaze

    I got very fed up, very early in the wedding planning process. I had wanted a tiny ceremony at my grandparents’ house in a different state. After he proposed, he broke it to me that he wanted a big wedding in the city we live in. Suddenly, instead of making my own cake and planning an intimate family dinner, I’m trying to budget to feed 100 people and decide which people to invite or snub. I had to talk to him and explain my irritable mood, and to make sure he understood how hard it was to reimagine my idea of our wedding day.

  • Something that we did not do that APW stresses a lot (as do other sites), is premarital counseling. You CAN find secular ones. Actually, I found out, AFTER we were married, that a friend of mine does this as part of her life coaching business, and she probably would have given us a deal on it. (If not gratis, though I would not have felt right about that.) We’re OK even though we did not do this, however I think we could have benefited from it.

    You’re disagreeing about something VERY fundamental – communication styles. This is not the last Big Thing you’re going to have to plan for together, and you need to get on the same page about this. This means meeting each other halfway. Okay, so he’s not a brainstormer? Bring in a neutral third party to bounce ideas off of. Do you have any friends that are either engaged or recently married? They might be the best ones to go to first, as they’ve been through it. Or, well, duh, there is always US too. :)

    But going back to my first point – for serious. You should. If you happen to be in/around the NYC area (or able to get there easily), message me and I’ll give you the contact info for my friend, if you’re interested. If not, google “life coaches” – many CPCCs (Certified Professional Co-Active Coach) do secular premarital counseling.

    • “You’re disagreeing about something VERY fundamental – communication styles.”

      True…this is something that has to be worked on. My husband and I have some differing communication styles and it doesn’t go away. BUT knowing it and learning how to work together and work with each others’ styles….that helps a TON. We found (in our case) pre-engagement counseling to be extremely useful in regards to negotiating our differences…

  • What we figured out about each other planning a wedding has helped us with all of our other planning now in our marriage. We learned I like to ramble on and on and he likes bullet points telling him what to do. So I ramble on and on about my feelings and thoughts, and then give him a bullet point list of the main ideas and the action points.

    He also learned when I get really excited about something, even if he can’t imagine what it is I’m talking about, he should just let me do it. And whenever I make the touchdown signal (or look like a saguaro cactus, we are in southern Arizona), that’s the choice we should go with.

    The wedding really is a great way to learn how you plan things together. Figure it out now and future plans won’t be nearly so bad.

  • First of all, as a native Texan living in the Midwest, this post really gave me a craving for some brisket and sweet tea. But to respond to the issue at hand, I definitely took the lead with wedding planning. My husband is really good with numbers and estimations and budgets (wow, we sound like such stereotypes), so he focused on those things. I would get frustrated when he’d refuse to give me his opinion on certain things (such as flowers, which he just did not care about), but I must admit that I did care more about those things than he did, so having the final say made sense. I think that you and your partner could benefit from delegating responsibilities. For example, my husband absolutely loathes making phone calls, so I did all the calling. I asked him to write our ceremony and vows, and he did an awesome job.

  • Jessica

    Just wanted to say that this might be my favorite sign-off ever. Alack!!!

  • nme

    We’re a group of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with helpful information to work on. You have done a formidable process and our whole community shall be thankful to you.

  • Karyn

    Karyn here, coming back to thank ALL of you for your infinite wisdom and advice.

    Alyssa, you were right – putting the wedding stuff in a hypothetical box and hiding it was hugely helpful. I had been coming up with all of my ideas based on the weddings I’d been to previously (with and without my Beloved Boy), writing them down/Pinning pictures that remind me of them and presenting them to him – and none of it worked because he’s not a talker, he’s a thinker/do-er. So I kept breaking down, and he kept helping me back up and I was massively grateful to him, but still pissed as hell because we couldn’t come up with anything concrete. After a few of these break-downs and the subsequent desire to raid the liquor cupboard, I quit. I told BB that I hated our wedding, wrote in my diary about hating my wedding and shoved MY STUPID WEDDING into a box and under the bed.

    A few weeks after putting the wedding crap into the box, I had an impromptu pow-wow with my mom and aunt. My mom suggested that my BB and I elope, which sounded so good to me – but then she looked at me and asked if I would be okay with not having her or my aunt, or my beloveds parents & brother around and I burst into tears. Elopement? Out.

    So after some thought and talking to my BB, after pruning my list of wedding blogs and Pinterest boards, we are finally getting down to business – we’re talking about August or September, agreeing on a possible venue, making phone calls, etc.

    I’m not going to be picky about certain things and neither is he, because we don’t care if the napkins go with the tablecloths – we don’t even care if there ARE napkins. I’ve decided that 30 is my maximum number of guests, that I want a knee-length dress and that, even though BB & I still have a bunch of decisions to make… We just want to marry each other as OURSELVES (not perfect, not even close) and spend our lives together being US.

    So. With all that said. Thank you, APW community. Thank you for reminding me that, beyond it being beautiful (which it will be, even if it’s not stunning) or expensive (which it won’t be, because we’re Practical People with a Real Mortgage & Real Life Expenses), it’s about BB and me communicating in a healthy way and being responsible and accountable to each other. Oh, and love.

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  • Amanda Brezgel

    I just recently found APW and you are AWESOME! Best blog EVER.