Ask Team Practical: “Yay, We’re Engaged…! Now What?”

Andddddd…. we’re back. It’s the first Friday of the year, which means the first Ask Team Practical of the year, with Alyssa. Get out your flask of bourbon and your tippy-typing commenting fingers! Though we’ll go into all the new APW developments for 2011 early next week (and man do I have news), I wanted to start by saying that thanks to your amazing support of the site during Operation Community in November, this is the first post for which Alyssa is being paid (and respectably paid at that). That’s right kids, Alyssa is now a paid contributing editor to APW. She says she’s going to spend all the money on candy, I say she’s going to get a stomach ache, so we’ll see. In the meantime, here is Alyssa welcoming all of you newly engaged (because yes, a huge percentage of you get engaged over the holidays, indie or not), with how to start thinking about your wedding planning. And GO!

Today’s question is from Leigh.  Leigh’s question is, as a newly engaged baby bride, where the h*ll do you start??  Leigh is already in the process of planning and has some great advice to offer in the comments, but we’re answering because this is a great question, especially since it’s the Season.

Hi, new baby brides!!   I know you’re out there; the newly engaged who, once the happy glow of getting engaged wore off, started hyperventilating about seating arrangements.  So welcome to APW!   Have a seat at the fire, check out the archives, and make sure you jump in the fray and start commenting.  We’re glad you’re here.

The Man and I had been engaged to be engaged for several years and now that we’re officially official in mainstream terms, I’m scared sh*tless and have no idea where to even start.  With anything.  I’m already overwhelmed and I haven’t even started planning yet, which I don’t think bodes too well for me.  I registered a few wedding websites (indie and not-indie) and they have big, huge terrifying checklists, but I don’t even think the Man and I are even at that point.  We haven’t set a date yet, but we know we want to do sometime next year.  We know we want simple and fun.  And that’s all we know–we’re clueless as hell as to how to even begin this thing.

Do you have a “Yay, We’re Engaged..! Now What?” primer for non-Fairy Princess-types like me who never thought they were going to get married in the first place and never really planned for having a wedding day being The Most Important Day of My Life TM? Any tips, tricks, ideas, advice, or linkage would be so very much appreciated.

First off, relax.  Don’t be overwhelmed and start thinking of this process as fun and rewarding. You’re a strong, fabulous, capable woman.  Wedding planning?  Psshaw.  You got this sh*t.

So.  Now what?  Now you talk.

However you do this, as a series of small chats or one marathon session over wine that’s up to you, but you both need to figure out the wedding you want.  Specifically, the Where, When, What, Why and How.

The What

The What is as in “What the hell kind of wedding are we gonna have?”  You and your partner need to talk about the big overall aspects of your wedding.  You can talk it out and fashion a wedding together, or it might be fun for you both to construct each of your dream wedding separately, just to see what the other one comes up with.

WIC touts weddings that are “a reflection of you as a couple,” and they have a point.  A small one.  You do not need to have your taste reflected in every aspect of the wedding right down to the napkins.  (Unless that’s your deal.  And, God love ’em, those ladies are some of the most stressed women I know, but they do throw a damn good party.  With great napkins.)  However, you do want your wedding to include important aspects of what is important to you as a couple.  What makes the both of you the unique and lovely snowflakes that you are.  Are you a foodies?  You’re gonna want to include “kicka**tastic dinner” in your What.  Love music?  Add “epic band” or “carefully crafted playlist”.   Put whatever you want on this list.  Massively huge football fans who never miss a game?  Add “Washington Redskins” (or “Man United”) to your What.

Is that last example giving you hives?  You’ve been watching My Fair Wedding again, haven’t you?

Look, you don’t necessarily have to use everything on your list, it’s just a list of important things that you’ll want to include.  For instance, my husband went to Texas A&M.  It’s a huge part of who he is, so it was on our list and in the end we had an A&M logo on one of our cakes and made sure to include the War Hymn on our playlist.  This list isn’t about your theme or your colors, it’s what is meaningful to you both and what you’d like to share with your guests.  And in order to do that, you need to think over every part, not just the material aspects like, “Booze.  And lots of it.”  or “No unity candles because I’m scared of hot things.”   This needs to include the big things, like “secular ceremony” or “Father Pete as the priest.”  In your dream wedding, who’s there?  What kind of feelings does it inspire?  When you think of your happy, laughing guests, what are they doing to make them smile like that?

Once you two decide on the most important aspects to you, write them down.  No, seriously, WRITE IT DOWN.  You’re going to need this list in the coming months.  When things get hectic or stressful, it will be important to look back on and go, “Oh yeah.  We said we didn’t want flowers.”  It will also be important to look at and go, “We said we wanted to have it at the family church, which is why we’re dealing with X/Y/Z.”  It’s your perspective keeper, and it will help you remember what you started out with, so keep it somewhere easily visible and use good penmanship.  (It’s a lost art, really…)

And this list can change.  Taste, circumstance and finances can remove a few of your basic ideas out of the realm of possibility.  But if you’re adamant about something in the beginning, try to remember that later on and don’t take them off your list.

Now that you have your big ideas list, it’s time to get into the more practical aspects.

The Where, When and How

The next three can come in whatever order you want, but they tend to influence one another.  Where and When are general location and date, but the How is the sticky one.  “How” is your budget.  (BOO.)

Look at your What list and see how you’ve described your wedding.  If you listed “Outdoors” and “Lots of spring flowers,” well, your Where and When are not going to be Pennsylvania in November.  Write down a few options for your Where, whether it be country, state or city.  Don’t consider what’s easiest for you or your family yet, just think about where you’d like to be married.

The When is less of a “When do we want to be married?” than it is a “When can we get married?”  Print off a calendar of the year you think you’ll have the wedding and then start crossing off dates you know won’t work due to work or prior commitments.  Also think about just basic logistics, like weather.  If your What includes a “lakeside ceremony” and your Where is “East Texas,” you might want to mark off July or August unless you consider swamp-a** an appropriate favor to give your guests.

And then there’s the How.  Oh, the How.  There are entire reality shows that revolve around the pain and horror that the budget can cause you. But your budget is your friend.  Your budget keeps you in perspective, makes you pay attention to what you really want.  (And a budget can keep your taste in check.  Honestly, had I a giant budget, I would have probably Swarovski-crystalled and glittered dang near anything that was nailed down and possibly the preacher.)  Your budget also protects your future.  You REALLY don’t need to start your married life out with financial difficulties.   You want to have the best wedding possible, but not at the expense of your future, or your credit score.

But in this beginning phase, figure your budget by thinking about what available assets you have.  A little surplus savings that are NOT your emergency fund?  A trust your parents started specifically for your wedding?  The amazing ability to put aside 30% of your paycheck each month?  Whatever it is, it’s a good idea to go ahead and start figuring a budget now, before you REALLY start planning.

Now that you’ve got the Where, When, What and How situated, it’s time to start looking at those big scary checklists.  No, I don’t want to hear it, they’re really not that bad, ESPECIALLY Offbeat Bride‘s.  You’re going to need a checklist because they keep track of things that you won’t think of, like “Two months before: Research local marriage license requirements.”  (Didn’t think about that, did ya?  SEE?)  Just remember, you’re planning A Practical Wedding, but most vendors are firmly entrenched in WIC Land.  If you plan on using a vendor that caters to more typical weddings, you’re going to have to stick to their time-tables.  And honestly, The Kn*t’s checklist is kinda fun, if you don’t take it seriously.  I had immense pleasure in printing off its numerous pages and then taking a Sharpie to tasks that I never intended to do.  It’ll make you look like you got SO much accomplished.  Or to look at the calendar and say, “Oh gee.  I’m supposed to be meeting with the musicians today about reception music.  I think I’ll go read instead.”

This is also time to start talking over your wedding ideas with family and friends.  Those bridal brigades we know and love?  You can’t start to include them in the planning process if they don’t know what’s going on.  However, when  you’re talking, remember your What.  Don’t let others influence your decisions unless they go in line with what you already want.  Sometimes weddings make people go a little crazy with enthusiasm and you damn near have to hose them down.

And for the last step?

The Why

Okay, we know WHY you’re getting married.  You’re in lurrrrve, you want stability, you need medical insurance, you want to be a part of something bigger…whatever reason, you’re gonna do it and we’re super excited for you!

But now, and while planning, just take some time periodically to step back and remember WHY.  Why you’re getting married, why you love your partner, why you’re going through all this.  The Why is the most important aspect because it’s what drives the whole damn process.  The Why is the reason you’re together.  And it’s the one thing that’s going to stay with you after this whole wedding business is nothing more than a memory and a serious of really awesome photos of two kids in love.

Now Team Practical? What have you got? Give us your best advice for newly engaged and just getting started.

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  • For you people-pleasers in the house: The world won’t end if you say “No” to someone’s suggestion.

    • And remember, as Meg and Miss Manners (and probably Dear Abby) have said many times, “I’m sorry, that won’t work for us” is a nice way of saying “No”.

      Also, for stalling (or gently brushing off), there’s always: “Thank you for the suggestion. We really appreciate your enthusiasm/interest! We’ll talk it over and let you know if we need any help.”

      (I didn’t make either of those up, I just read a lot of advice columns.)

  • Disclaimer: At my old job, a few years ago, I actually worked with the Vital Records office to restructure their office due to both new federal requirements and needing their technology to come into the 21st century, and I set up an *ssload of jobs for them, this is how I know all of this stuff … it came in handy when I was planning!

    Two months before: Research local marriage license requirements.

    I would actually do this sooner. Like, now. In the US, it is *generally* state by state, though there are a select few localities that are separate (i.e., NYC’s requirements are nearly identical to the rest of NY State, however the five boroughs are their own separate vital records divisions. Google “[your state] vital records” and you should come up with what you need. The NYS Dept of Health runs it in NY, and they’ve got a handy-dandy little flier:

    I mention this, because, say you’re HUGE fans of The Office, and you want to do EXACTLY what Jim and Pam did with the not-so-impromptu Maid of the Mist ceremony. Weeeeellll … better bring a judge or ordained minister with you. Ship Captains aren’t authorized to marry anyone in NYS. (By the way, I vented to my husband about how “irresponsible” the writers were with this plotline, as cute as it was, especially since when The Kn*t was tweeting the next day about who was planning a Niagara Falls wedding “Just like Jim and Pam!”)

    The “What” may have a lot to do with what kind of ceremony you want, and different states have different laws about how you can write your ceremony. (For example, I believe there are some jurisdictions that REQUIRE there to be language about marriage being between a man and a woman. If representing marriage equality in your ceremony is important to you, you may need a game plan, such as a different “where” or a courthouse “quickie” to make it legal.)

    If you already have an officiant in mind, and it’s someone who has done a lot of weddings before, you can discuss all of this with him or her. I had done my homework already, but my officiant was my bridesmaid’s dad, who is the city judge in my hometown, so he was pretty well-versed in what we had to do and what we needed. He marries the friends of his kids/nieces/nephews/etc. as the “fun” part of his job. (No, really. He gets so excited when someone asks to do their wedding. If you’re planning to get married in the Lake George-Saratoga (northeastern NY) area and are doing a secular ceremony and need someone, I’d be happy to give you his contact info. He’s an absolute doll.) If you’re planning on having a friend ordained special, then you’ll have to do a lot more homework early on (and this is TOTALLY doable, as we’ve seen on APW and other lovely sites!).

    OK, I’ll stop rambling, as this is long. :)

    • Shelly

      Yes, and I would add that in some states (I got married in Michigan) the items required for a license vary by COUNTY. The MI county I got married in actually required much more stringent documentation than the example MI county I had found online. Save yourself the last-minute panic and get specific sooner than later.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Just to emphasize the point – most of the counties in IL where I got married have the same requirements, but they don’t all have the same window for application. In our county of choice we had to pick up the license at most 6 weeks and at least 2 days before the wedding. Kind of a small window for a “destination” wedding. Some counties allow you to get it 24 hours before the wedding or up to 10 weeks before. Also, you must appear in a government office during business hours.

      In hindsight, it’s amazing we’re legally married at all.

    • Sullie

      Does anyone know of a good resource/website that lists different state/county/city’s local marriage license requirements and how one gets ordained in that area? We are getting married in New Orleans (“destination wedding”) and we need to get our friend ordained and make everything legal in a hurry… but not sure where to get this information. Google has failed me so far!

      • I would try calling the registrar’s office at a courthouse in the county where you’re getting married (that info should be online, at the very least?) and asking to talk to a clerk or someone who deals with this information every day.

        Funny story, my husband and I got married in Georgia, and when we went to get our license, it was in the same room as gun permit applications. So we literally walked past a sign that said: “Marriage Licenses, Gun Permits.” Only in the South…

      • the marriage license requirements are here:

        but it doesn’t say anything about who can marry you. I would try calling the number at the bottom of that page.

  • And honestly, The Kn*t’s checklist is kinda fun, if you don’t take it seriously. I had immense pleasure in printing off its numerous pages and then taking a Sharpie to tasks that I never intended to do. It’ll make you look like you got SO much accomplished. Or to look at the calendar and say, “Oh gee. I’m supposed to be meeting with the musicians today about reception music. I think I’ll go read instead.”

    This is why I love you, Alyssa. I did this too! :)

    In all seriousness, though, I signed up for The Kn*t (and still get their icky emails from The N*st … ugh, if you think the first one is bad, the second is so.much.worse!) for their budget checklist/calculator. There is a lot of stuff you don’t need on there, but it’s actually a cinch to customize it, and it was REALLY handy. Our budget had some wiggle-room, so it was more for me to keep track of what our priorities were (food and wine, for us – we were the epitome of the “foodie” example) and where we could comfortably cut (for us, flowers). BUT, if you have a really strict budget I can see where it would be exceptionally helpful. It was worth the annoying emails. :)

    • Haha!

      Just about ANY checklist is good for that treatment!

      Immediately you realise how much easier you’re making life for yourself. I wouldn’t ATTEMPT to do all the things on any of the checklists without a wedding planner on the case too. And nobody I know can afford one of those.

    • I just logged in to my Kn*t account (which I’ve been avoiding because their emails make me want to puke all over my keyboard). OH MY GOD it is so satisfying to X-out all those little things. No caterer! Nope, we don’t need tents! What’s a wedding coordinator? I am my own wedding coordinator, Kn*t! Suck it!

      • Ha ha ha! Laughing right along with you, Nadine!

    • Oh, I looooooooooved the Traditional Checklist and marking things off. I felt so productive! So what if I was ignoring the guest list, I checked off finding a videographer! That I never intended to get anyway! Time for another glass of wine.

      …In all seriousness, I liked going back to the Kn*t if only for serious perspective. I’d read an article about the forty-kajillion ways to fold a napkin, laugh my ass off, and relax a little.

      • JEM

        So yes on the napkin folding. cheers!

    • That checklist includes about 30 separate entries for the dress alone. You can streamline that list to about 40 items, tops. Silliness.

      • Figure out which dress will look best on you based on your shape!
        Don’t forget to think about your dress!
        Are you “curvy”? We have a list of things you absolutely cannot wear!

        • JEM

          right because thinking “I’m so glad I got this A-line wedding dress to hide my fat a** and thunder thighs!” is so much healthier thank thinking “wow, I picked this dress because I love it and it makes be feel great!”

          Eff the Kn*t and all the other damn bridal magazines.

          *Runs off to burn my bra* ;)

    • Sarah

      I logged back in about a month AFTER our wedding … and there were about 75 items screaming OVERDUE!!!! (BESIDES the ones I’d marked off at the very beginning). The funny part of it all was that those 75 steps weren’t “missing” from our wedding, and certainly weren’t essential. I realized it was full of things like “Remember to bring tutu for the flower girl” AND “Remind parents of the flower girl/ring bearer to bring her/his outfit.” Redundancy much?

      I got a kick of out seeing everything the WIC deemed necessary. In fact, I looked at the husband and said “Well, apparently we failed. We have to do it all over again!” and we got a good laugh. Silly silly WIC.

      • Me too! :)

        • Clairelizabeth

          Uhhh… I just signed up for the Kn*t 5 minutes ago. I figured it would be part of my “information gathering process”

          Apparently I’m getting married in 205 days (this part is true) and I have 198 un-completed wedding tasks. (laughs hysterically while banging head against desk…)

          • I had a short engagement and was also super behind right when I registered. Luckily, I found it hilarious, took a deep breath, and started marking off all those things I had no intention of doing, like many people here have said they enjoyed doing. :)

          • That’s not even one task per day! Totally do-able.

        • Clairelizabeth

          Uhhh… I just signed up for the Kn*t 5 minutes ago. I figured it would be part of my “information gathering process”

          Apparently I’m getting married in 205 days (this part is true) and I have 198 un-completed wedding tasks.

          1 task/day = 7 rest days between now and the end of July…

          (laughs hysterically while banging head against desk…)

          • Alyssa

            Print that sucker off and dig in with a Sharpie!

            Or a glitter pen. That’s my weapon of choice.

      • Dude. The tutu is ESSENTIAL to your happiness. Have you ever heard a 3-year-old scream? She’ll break your ears if you forget her tutu.

        • Haha, I will have to say that I made a (super easy, no-sew) tutu for Christmas for my husband’s almost 4 year old niece this year and it was a big hit. Now I would totally agree that wearing one might improve the experience for a little flower girl. :)

          • Sarah

            Oh, I love the small-child-in-tutu thing … and totally agree it can improve enjoyment. For both the flower girl and me. Because seriously, it’s just too damn cute. =)

            What I found funny is that not only did I have to remind the parents to bring it, I needed to bring it myself. Because we’re not responsible adults … and we totally don’t have enough to do already. It was totally something fun to look back on and realize those reminders were things we didn’t need spoon fed to us. =)

            Now … DON’T FORGET THE TUTU. Seriously, you’re risking smiting. ::winks::

          • Yeah. It is really weird to hear that it was specifically on some wedding to do list. :) I found I was often surprised by what was on those lists, and occasionally surprised by a few things there were not on there…

    • Katelyn

      I put together some wedding budget Google spreadsheets for myself – feel free to save your own copy.

      1. Budget calculator

      If you’re like me and have some savings already and can save a little bit each month on top, but don’t know what that actually translates to for a total budget/don’t know how much to save, try out this little gadget:

      2. Wedding Budget Line Item Estimator

      Once you know what you personally can afford, you can plug it into here. You can ignore anything you don’t want and add custom items at the bottom, as “Other1” and “Other2” (you can overwrite the text and put in an actual description). This will help so you don’t blow half your budget on flowers and then don’t have enough left over to buy food. Of course, you can go over or under the recommended ranges, but it’s a good guideline. (There’s also a bit about city averages – feel free to ignore. Chicago is in there now.)
      Posted by

    • Haha, I also LOVED checking off all of the ridiculousness on that checklist. Interview day-of-coordinators? No thanks! Think about dresses, think about dresses some more, shop for dresses, etc. etc. etc.? No, I’ll skip those 75 items too and just buy a dress I like. But I took particular pleasure in crossing off all the stuff that the bride is supposed to remind the groom about (his tux, his groomsmen’s tuxes, presents for the groomsmen, etc.) Obviously their editors couldn’t conceive of a wedding either without a groom or (gasp!) with a groom who was able to take care of his own damn self, but I had great fun checking off all the boxes for my non-existent husband-to-be!

    • If you want a checklist more tailored to, you know, sane people, I found the one on OBB incredibly helpful in terms of figuring out a realistic timeline for how far in advance stuff actually *needed* to be done. I never used the Kn*t one, but from what I understand it tells you to do things crazily in advance, as well as the myriad things that are *cough* unnecessary, at best. With a fairly short engagement, I found it overwhelming at the start trying to figure out what was really urgent, as opposed to what people were just telling us was urgent but really wasn’t. The OBB one has a particularly useful and sane approach (and we still had a whole bunch of stuff on there we could cross off from the very start).

    • I made the mistake (as a bride who had no idea how the H. E. Double Hockey Sticks to plan a wedding) of reading the Kn*t’s checklist as a ‘must do before you can be a real bride’ checklist. Yeah, I went a little nutty before my intended told me there was no way on this green Earth we were going to be able to check all those marks. It took me a long time to come to terms with the notion that our wedding would not be a huge giant failure just because we didn’t have a signature cocktail with coordinating stem charms with each guest’s initials. But I was new to the marriage idea, I was naive, and I wanted to get it right. Needless to say, there was no APW back then to help make me sane.

      P.S. Even though I used their site, until 30 seconds ago I was reading every comment about The Kn*t as The Knit. What can I say? My brain immediately goes to yarn.

    • APW Fan

      I actually used to work at The Kn*t and THANK GOD FOR YOUR WEBSITE!!! I’m about to get engaged…you know, the engaged to be engaged girl :) I have to say that although David from My Fair Wedding is extremely addicting and The Kn*t can have some interesting checklists, quizzes, extremely expensive cakes to purchase and also The N*st (which is then followed by The B*mp, so get ready for THOSE emails!!) can make you feel like you need a flawless movie star wedding followed by a perfect little starter home with Pier1 furniture, the rest of us don’t live like that. Actually I had a hard time talking to brides in that point of my life (for the job that is). I thought to myself, “If I hear ONE MORE BRIDE tell me about how they are a Princess..etc etc” too many glasses of wine later…

      So when I found myself in a relationship with the most kind, loving, most amazing person in the world I thought to would I ever have a crazy wedding when I don’t like to have that much attention on my birthday?!?!

      Basically, the reason those weddings are picked as a Kn*t Pick or are a R*al Wedding is because they spent a lot of money and had either a fantastic eye for detail or a talented wedding planner. The weddings that feature on APW are HEARTFELT and better than any R*al Wedding I ever edited! Some of the advice is sound and steps that many brides need to get their dream wedding off the ground…but thank you so much for pointing out that they are merely suggestions and that your wedding does not have to be formed from a checklist made by someone who has thousands to throw at a wedding. APW is a refuge.

      In the next coming months when I will be a soon to be “baby bride” I hope to have a wedding that would be worthy of APW. Because, lord those weddings pull happy emotions and not anxiety about why I still can’t manage to keep a savings account :)

      • meredythbyrd

        When I signed up for The Kn*t (They totally get you when all you want is to look at wedding photos!) they sold my info and all of a sudden I’m getting parenting and baby magazines. I even got FORMULA! and I wasn’t even engaged yet. My boyfriend gave me some seriously weird looks and asked if I needed to tell him anything. Um, just that I got a little obsessed with pretty wedding photos and now I look like I’m an over-eager pre-engaged?
        It did make for some hilarious moments with my roommates, who are still getting the magazine and baby related mail even though I moved out in August and changed my preferences on the website. Good thing I knew some strapped for cash parents to be and could pass on some of the stuff.
        It definitely cured me of my habit, though. That, and APW.

        • Stephanie

          So THAT’S why I’ve been getting “Working Mother” magazine…

  • May I add one? Book a marriage preparation course.

    It’s really good.


    • Alyssa

      OOOO. Yes. Good one….

    • Along the same vein — if there are children involved in the relationship (particularly if one or both partners is/are going to be step-parents), take a parenting course together so that you can learn how to parent effectively together.

      We did this early on, and it was HUGE. My fiance does not have any kids of his own, and had never really been in a parenting situation before. Although he is a great guy, and loves the heck out of my kids, we found that our parenting styles did not mesh well at first. In fact, our conflicts are almost always parenting-related. Getting on the same page, and having someone give us both really good advice, has made a world of difference to my entire family and our relationship.

    • Carla

      Or take the Conscious Weddings e-course. Or both?

  • I’d say after you’ve had a chat about what you want to do, look at getting a venue first. You’ll probably have to do a rough guest list to get an idea of numbers – but try not to get into that too much.
    Once you have a venue booked you have a set date – so you can book/plan other things and its like having a basic structure in place. I felt a lot better once that was sorted. It took a while to find but now its like we have a wardrobe and we’re filling the shelves with the other bits we want to include.

    • Amy

      I’d actually flip that advice a little bit – come up with your guest list before you book your venue. Actually – come up with your guest list (a rough one is fine) at the beginning of planning. It really does impact so much of the other things. The last thing you want is to book a gorgeous lovely venue, and then realize that it won’t fit all the people you want to invite, and the people your parents and in-laws want to invite. Loads of stress and drama around cutting the guest list to fit into a venue (and oh god how many times have I heard this from friends) can be avoided if you have frank conversations first about who you want with you.
      Not to mention, the size of your guest list allows you to make lots of other decisions about budget – only having 30 people? great! you can maybe then afford an open bar. Really want 100 people? maybe wine and beer only is the trade-off.

      • Erin

        I agree with Amy: decide who you want to be there first (unless a specific location is part of your MUST HAVES). Knowing who our guests would be was really grounding for us while we planned our wedding, because it helped us think of most of the important accommodations in advance (“ok, this place has an elevator, which will make it so much easier for Grandma.”), and we got to revel in anticipation of how much fun it would be for the people we cared about the most.

        • memery

          I would third the advice to get a decent idea of who’s on your guest list before you decide on location. And then add 10-20%. It WILL grow. Trust me on that. Better to have a little wiggle room than have to get into a fight with your future mother in law about whether to invite your college friends or their family friends. Have that conversation first, and ask for a list of names, so that you know they’ve actually thought it through and you won’t too many surprise additions down the road.

          Other than that: yes. book the venue. It feels great. Most of the rest of the stuff can wait awhile, and having a date and place gives you a good answer to the incessant wedding questions from the whole world. It’ll hold them off… for awhile!

          • liz

            yes to all of the above.

            -count your guests
            -book a venue/pick a date
            -mail those invites

            we didn’t have a venue til 3 months before the wedding date because we couldn’t find one that would fit our guest list. which meant we had to hold off on printing and sending invitations. easy to talk about now- not so nice to live through then.

          • I hear you, Liz. Our venue wasn’t finalized until about 2 months before the wedding, and waiting that close to the wedding is stressful because it holds up other big elements like invites. (Which were designed but could not be printed or assembled without that info.) But we had a firm city location and date so we sent out email save the dates, so at least people could book tickets. It just meant we knew we would just have to find SOMEWHERE to get married that day and in that town. :)

      • FM

        Yes, yes, yes. This is always my advice to people – figure out your guest list ASAP. And I would say more than just rough (but, you know, not so committed that you’re sending out invites!). Because you might think you only have 50 people on your list, but then when you and your partner write your list down you realize that your partner is expecting to invite his whole high school crew, and then you talk to your parents and they can’t believe you didn’t list out your second cousins when no one ever gets to see each other except at weddings. This might mean some hard talks early in planning, but like Amy said, it’s crucial for making sure your venue can handle your crowd, and also figuring out your budget needs. Also, I think it helps you think about your wedding goals. For example, seeing everyone listed out (including lists we asked our parents to contribute, which we did cull to some extent) we realized that we wanted most of those people to be invited because we wanted our wedding to be a big bash. Could have had the opposite effect.

        And then, I’d say figure out potential dates. We took a calendar for the whole year and figured out dates for about a 365-day period – and thank god because we thought we’d get married in November (when the sun goes down early), but we switched to August when that was the best available date at the venue we loved, and were able to do so because we knew exactly which dates we (and our immediate families, the only people we scheduled around) were available. Also, don’t forget to look at holidays (your own and those of others at least in your family – our friend got married on Rosh Hashannah weekend because they didn’t check the calendar, and the Jewish side of the family was kind of miffed). And also major sporting events, if it’s possible and concerns you that half your guests will find the nearest TV to watch the superbowl instead of dancing.

        Finally, on budget, I always suggest that people figure out whether they want or expect their families to contribute early, and talk to them early and pin down a number. That way you know what you’re working with. Sometimes people say, I want to pay for the band, but make sure you have an actual price range they’re willing to cover because they might think a band costs $x when actually a band costs $xxx – and it’s better to know sooner rather than later. Don’t forget to include other wedding-related events – like sometimes, a groom’s family expects to pay for a rehearsal dinner. Also, find out how much say they’re expecting to have in return for contributing. Do they expect to be able to invite a certain number of their own friends/family, or be part of picking vendors or style, etc? I think it’s helpful to start these discussions early. Preferably approached by you from an open minded perspective but clear about who is ultimately deciding (saying, want to check in with what your thoughts are, and oh that’s interesting, my partner and I will have to take it into consideration with our own and his/her parents’ thoughts and discuss). And keep in mind that people’s minds will change about lots of this stuff (including your own).

        • Nicole

          Yes! We didn’t think to ask some of our family members about conflicts directly, and wound up having to switch dates after a total misunderstanding with my sister who is in the Peace Corps. Luckily it was early enough that we didn’t lose any deposits or anything, but still stressful.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            My advice is to make a *very small* list of people you’ll consult on dates. We were headed for a summer wedding and we just decided straight up that we wouldn’t step on family high school graduations, weddings or already booked vacations. This was pretty easy as we were scheduling about a year in advance.

            Our trouble came in when our first choice date conflicted with a cousin’s college graduation and we (mistakenly) decided to move the wedding to a weekend with a lot more conflicts for friends. Flash forward 11 months to the cousin not graduating and three other cousins missing the wedding because of pregnancies. Probably everyone would have made it if we’d kept our original date. Sigh. C’est la vie.

            Just remember that *no matter what* date you choose, someone won’t be able to make it. Just be strong enough to say, we wish you could be there but we understand why you can’t and that’s all there is to it.

          • Right now, I’m staring down the barrel of trying to attend a wedding in Florida during April, i.e., SPRING BREAK. We might not be able to go, because flights are DOUBLE what they usually should be.

            All that is to say that thinking about big picture (holidays, school schedules, etc) isn’t a bad idea.

        • Alyssa

          YES to sporting events. Before we changed our date, we almost had to fight Texas/OU weekend because of the stupid Red River Shootout.

          That means nothing to anyone out of state, but any Dallas kids out there feel my pain.

          • I was told half the wedding party would hate me if we booked got a football weekend. Thus, a spring wedding for us. (;

      • We did the same – first thing we did was write a guest list. It means that when we looked at some venues we absolutely LOVED, we wrote them off because they were too expensive, or too small or just too difficult.
        Guest list + vague idea of budget = good start for then deciding on and booking a venue. Of course, knowing what you want out of your wedding is required before all this too. We didnt do that first, and so spent a good 3 months debating possible locations. it was stressful. I dont recommend it.

  • We haven’t made anything official yet, so I can’t speak from experience, but I think that the couples who nail down the general ideas BEFORE they tell anyone they’re engaged are brilliant, and I plan to steal their idea. It will be a lot easier to say (gently but firmly) NO! to people’s suggestions if you can truthfully say that you’ve already discussed as a couple what is and is not important to you.

    • Totally. And, btw, this doesn’t have to be some scary, weird conversation of What Do We Want Our Wedding to Be Like which can feel awkward when you are not engaged.

      For us, it happened totally organically. We’d go to friends’ weddings, and then discuss them and, over the course of SEVEN weddings (in one year), we pretty much figured out every last thing that was important to us.

      It has made the planning process so much easier because, as you pointed out, we knew what we wanted before we got engaged and before we received the storm of advice that follows engagement.

      So, yeah. If you can decide what matters before you get engaged (or announce your engagement) I think it definitely saves a lot of stress.

      • Wow, we are so the opposite. My fiance keeps asking me what the h*ll goes into a wedding (what are groomsmen for? why do we need to register*? do we have to invite my second-cousins?) He hasn’t been to one since he was a little kid and his aunts were getting married. But I’ve only been to a couple in the past decade and didn’t know much more than him going into it. He asks why he needs groomsmen, and I go to the Internet to look it up! (Yes, I should tell him to look it up himself. These things sometimes don’t occur to me at the time.)

        * Also, Miss Manners’ Guide to a Painfully Proper Wedding, aka my new favorite book, has a surprising thing or two to say about registries (namely, avoid them as much as possible because it’s rude to tell people how to spend their money). I still need to bring this up with my fiance because I kind of like the sentiment. We have already put together a bit of a registry, and so far it mostly includes charity donations. One really good way to avoid asking for too much stuff is to imagine packing, carrying, and unpacking it all the next time you have to move.

        • ZOMG That book was a lifesaver! It explained so much stuff and while I disagree with her about some stuff (namely, sticking with a traditionally-worded invitation and ceremony vows…yawn), there is so much stuff that I didn’t even think to think about. And then some of the stuff that is considered traditionally “rude” my family is still all, “Um, you have to do this, end of story,” namely register and include reply cards. I can’t decide if it’s tackier to assume everyone you’re inviting knows proper etiquette (Which I sure as hell didn’t…Why on earth would anyone else I know?) or to actually do the tacky stuff that has become standard in wedding planning.

        • I should also note that I got the book because it was recommended by APW (in the archives from… summer 2008 or so?)

    • Sarah

      It surprised me how many people assumed we’d figured everything out before telling anyone we were engaged. (We had a rough idea of time and place … aka, summer/fall 2010, Southern California … bu that was it.)

      The FIRST THING out of my mother’s mouth (after congratulations) was “When are you getting married?” If we hadn’t already had a plan it would have really thrown me. It seems like everyone we ran into was asking about details, when we’d barely been engaged a week.

      • Kate

        BOTH our parents asked us a date as soon as we called them (late at night the same day it happened) to say we were engaged. Uh, we sort of thought we might consult you folks before nailing that down!

  • Faith

    Here’s a tiny tidbit that has worked WONDERS for me to go along with the wisdom shared…

    Getting all the things swirling around in your head written down on paper. With your own hand.

    For me, as soon as I did that, stuff started to happen, and things were crossed off the list. Which made me feel infinitely better about the entire Getting Married Day thing:)

    • Alyssa

      And use good penmanship!
      And a fun pen.
      That’s how I get through most hard tasks. :-)

      • Alyssa- are you sure you’re not planning to use some of your APW check for fancy pens? It kinda seems likely from this comment thread… :)

        • Alyssa

          I wasn’t, but I AM NOW. Those stardust gel pens? Completely ridiculous and get glitter everywhere but I LOVE them.

  • Real Simple had a really nice wedding checklist by month, that was very useful. And, at least in the wedding issue I read, had a wedding that was planned in 3 months. If someone can plan a wedding in 3 months, than I can plan one in 9 months!

    I would also suggest starting at the end result and working backwards. An example of this is wedding invitations (6-8 weeks in advance), what do you have to do to have them done by then?

    • I like Real Simple’s checklist too!

      Here’s a tip, if you buy a copy of the Real Simple wedding issue, there’s a card in the inside you can send in for a free year subscription!

      • Amy

        Real Simple was the very first wedding magazine I bought, and hands down the very best one. It had loads of practical advice, simple (relatively) checklists, and handy things like a pull-out guide for figuring out how much booze to buy for a party. It was relatively expensive (like 20?) but I swear that was the one magazine that didn’t want to make me scream and throw things. And it had some actual good advice about budgeting and saving – and gave me permission to say things to my mom like “look – we can use cakes as centerpieces to save money, its in this magazine!”

    • I loved Real Simple’s checklist, too! Detailed, but not panic-inducing.

    • When I got engaged, one of the first things my mom did was to get me a subscription to Real Simple. It’s an AMAZING magazine, one of my favorites. It’s kind of like the APW to women’s magazines. It’s practical, it’s simple, it’s straightforward, it’s fun. It has great articles, great New Uses for Old Things, and a freaking bookmark. It was great while I was engaged to think about LIFE, not just weddings, but still in a sane and measured way. And when our monthly budget was tight because of wedding savings, I still had Real Simple in my mailbox to cheer me up. Just one of my absolute favorites.

      • Alyssa

        I forgot about Real Simple! I remember loving their wedding book, but it also contributed to my DIY craziness. (Fault of mine, not RS….)

        I’m in love with Real Simple. I tend to hoard their magazines, drives my husband CRAZY.

        • Amy

          Whoa! Throwing out Real Simple magazines is an option?

          My paradigm just shifted.

        • It is SO HARD to throw them out. I try to rip out articles I like, but it’s really tough. They have so many awesome tips on keeping things organized and simple…. but when I’ve got piles of hoarded magazines or articles, then I’ve missed the point!! D’OH!! I still <3 Real Simple. :)

  • Alyssa, I love you. You almost make me miss Texas! (in my defense, as a Canadian, I was a bit out of place there. Its not that its a bad place.)

    This is the most helpful description of where to start that I have ever read. I wish I had had this 12 months ago when we started, before I spent three months as a hysterical mess trying to find a venue we could afford in DC.

    • Not that you need it now, but other brides in D.C.– Check out the historic places in Fairfax. I’m using one in Great Falls that holds 100 people in doors, has an outdoor space, lovely chairs, tables and a full kitchen for about $2000. If you live in the county it’s cheaper but things like alcohol permits, a deposit and extra time added up. Originally it was $1500. Maybe that helps your budget a bit?

      • Definitely! Even though we live in Fairfax, I decided the wedding needed to be downtown, so that I could ignore providing transportation for my 60 guests coming from Canada and the UK. It was a decision that hurt my budget a lot, but now that its coming together, I am excited for the peace of mind of easy cabs and public transportation for guests.

      • Nicole

        Agree as a DC bride. Also look at parks in PG County and Montgomery County. We are using Rockwood Manor in MoCo for a WHOLE WEEKEND, Fri-Sun, sleeping accommodations for 100 (if they don’t mind rooms of bunkbeds) for like 5k, which was worth it for us to have all our family and friends stay with us on site.

    • We booked a venue in Luray to avoid the financial strain of a venue in DC. Now we’re getting slack from his family (Baltimore based) telling us it’s a “Destination wedding”….mmmk.

    • TNM

      Me too: “I spent three months as a hysterical mess trying to find a venue we could afford in DC.”

      I like Alyssa’s advice, but your comment makes me want to add a caveat for brides in very expensive cities: write out your list of “must haves” but keep in mind that your budget (and your v. expensive city) will definitely change that list. And that’s OK. It’s the price (literally) you pay to get hitched in certain locations. Even without too much budgetary pressure, I definitely had to cut out certain “priority items” given the steep prices of DC. It doesn’t mean everything changes, or the most important things, but the “lots of flowers in outside ceremony” example? That would be d*mn difficult for e.g. a NYC budget wedding. (Not impossible of course – but difficult if not at the very top of your list!)

      So with that caveat in mind, I’d say in certain locations (or with certain budgets), nailing down a rough guest list and venue become an important corrollary to the initial list of your priorities. Because there is going to be a lot of reconciling and mediation between the realities of your location/budget and those priorities.

      And as a final note, I was the most disorganized bride ever… so it was hardly like I lived up to my advice and lined up a venue/caterer pronto. But in light of my chosen city, I found that I couldn’t even really *start* planning until those fundemental aspects were decided, because they so affected the budget… and thus a number of my”priorities.”

      • Rose

        Where did you end up in DC?? Very curious here…

    • Pffft. Affordable typical-ish venue in DC? Riiiight. I actually started looking elsewhere veeery quickly!

    • Alyssa

      Come back! I’ll buy you a beer. :-)

      • Done :)

        Can we also go to Jason’s Deli? They have them up here but without the Deli Cowboy, and I ask you, what is the point of a Jason’s Deli without the Deli Cowboy? I mean besides the soft serve machine, obvi.

        • Alyssa

          WHAT? Sacrilege.

          Tell you what. You come back and I’ll buy you a sweet tea and Deli Cowboy and THEN a beer. Possibly Shiner.

  • Where was this post 1 1/4 years ago?! Oh Alyssa, this is divine advice for the newly engaged.

    I would just like to say to make sure you and your partner have a solid idea of what you want for a wedding before talking to family and friends. Some of them are going to give you a hard time — over the lack of flowers, over the fact that it isn’t in the location they desire, over the fact you aren’t having a 4-course reception, over the fact you may be marrying a woman instead of a man, etc. Having a solid plan that you’ve crafted with your partner prepares you for an onslaught of ideas, suggestions, and less subtle twisting of your arm. If you can present a team game face to your family and friends, “this is what WE decided,” they might back off slightly.

    Whether you like this or not, a lot of folks still view a wedding as an initiation into adulthood. Some (often parents) sometimes put your adultship to the test (conscious or unconscious) through the planning process. Presenting the most important plans as a decision you made with your partner is often a good defensive strategy.

    However, I certainly don’t hope you newly engaged go through a difficult planning process with friends and family, sometimes that’s just the reality. And if you do, remember that Team Practical is always here to back you up and to set you back on your feet!

    • Alyssa

      YES to everything you said.

      And a year and quarter ago, I think I might have still been planning my wedding! Trust me, I would have loved to have what APW has turned into around that time. Might have saved me a lot of heartache!

    • FM

      I disagree that you need to have everything decided before you talk to other people. I TOTALLY agree that you should present yourselves to your families and the world as a team who will ultimately decide everything. I think it’s fine and actually a good thing to ask for people’s input – for us, we felt it was important to make sure all of our families felt included in the process at least to some extent. But input – not decrees. I mentioned this above too, but I think it’s important to say thanks for the input, and you’ll discuss it with your partner.

  • tupelohoney

    Guest list advice. If you’re planning the list with your and his parents, be CRYSTAL CLEAR about what you want. We only wanted close family (our cousins the farthest out) and close friends, and our parents’ close friends that we know well. We added all those people up and came up with our approximate number. When we told our parents the number we falsely assumed they’d get the drift. The list continued to expand and expand and there were some intense discussions. I even had to say, “You need to tell your parents that now is not the time to re-connect with people they haven’t seen since the ’70s!”… not kidding. My point, if we had said from the beginning “For the guest list we would like it to be somewhat intimate, like close friends, close family through cousins, and your close friends (name names)” we would have been saved a lot of back and forth and heartache.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      We set a standard of qualifications for guest-list eligibility:
      1) We (or our parents) have to be in touch with the guest on at least a monthly basis. Emails count, facebook status comments do not.
      2) We have to have seen the guest face-to-face within the last 12 months, or our parents have to see them on a monthly basis.
      Exception: Blood relatives within one generation
      Secret exceptions: People who will make the party significantly more fun without adding any drama or stress

      We sent out our requirements to our parents and siblings *before* we officially started crafting our guest list. Whenever a “Oh but you *have* to invite Mrs. Whoever from Wherever” came up we’d just ask “When was the last time you saw them? When was the last time you talked?” 90% of the time that ended the conversation.

      • I love this exception and intend to institute it! I also like the secret exception because I had that one in my head. My sister sort of put that in perspective for me when I asked if I should have someone there that I didn’t really like but who was a family friend for a while and has now moved out of our lives (thankfully). She said if you hadn’t spoken to the person in 6 months who cares? I breathed a sigh of relief because that meant some others could be cheerfully crossed off too.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          We found the rules to be super helpful for our peace of mind. There were certain people whose weddings we attended (or even participated in) but who we’ve lost touch with. When we nixed them from the guest list we just said, we haven’t seen or talked to them in two years. We’re not really friends anymore, it doesn’t matter if they’re insulted.

          We also ended up inviting some newer friends who we hadn’t thought were close enough to make the exclusive list when we realized they *did* meet our criteria and we were so happy we did. We’re much closer with most of those people now and it seems totally natural that they would have shared our wedding day with us.

          • We also invited a couple new friends and am so thankful we did, since they are now a big part of our lives…and I am just glad to have shared that special day with them.

          • Morgan

            We invited one couple at the last minute (it was a very casual wedding) and they’re now very close friends. To the point my husband has gone on two sports-based trips to the States with the guy. (And I’ve only seen one of my best friends twice in the last 6 months.) Inviting new friends, if you have the space,can really solidify a new relationship, which is awesome.

    • Sarah


      Our guest list took off running when my mother got a hold of it. Her guests (as in people I’ve never met, or hadn’t seen in MANY years) ALONE added up to about 100. Um … no. There were MANY tense conversations to the tune of “But you HAVE to invite Bob & Sue, they’ve known you since you were tiny!” “No, Mom, they knew me WHEN I was tiny. If I were to show up randomly at their house they’d have no idea who I was.”

      It happened with family, too … and luckily my grandfather agreed with me on the “if-we-invite-one-cousin-we-have-to-invite-them-all-so-we’re-not-inviting-any” aspect of cutting the list … much to my mom’s (very vocal) dismay. But dude, the patriarch had spoken. Case closed. =)

      The major outcome of our not being clear up front was that our guest list was both bigger, and different than we’d wanted. Of our 100 guests, I’d say maybe 10 of them were friends of OURS, and not of our parents (meaning, people we weren’t close to at all/had never met). And two of those were last minute “I know you didn’t get an invite, but PLEASE BE THERE” verbals from me. At least 50% of our guests were strangers to us.

      So, be firm about it. From the very beginning. Yes, it will most likely be difficult/uncomfortable, but you WILL save yourself the drama my husband and I had to deal with.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        When my parents got a little uncomfortable with our strategy I explained it this way – we don’t want to have any conversations at our wedding about ‘what have you been up to lately?’ or ‘oh where are you living now? what is your job?’ We wanted our wedding to be people we’re close with, or people our parents are close enough with that they know what we’re up to. That kind of got through to my parents about how ludicrous some of their suggestions were.

      • Clairelizabeth

        “they knew me WHEN I was tiny.”

        Wow. Brilliant. I’m totally saving that line for an appropriate conversation that will no doubt happen in the near future.

        When we got engaged I thought I was being really smart by getting married in my home province out west. L’homme’s mother has insisted on inviting at least 12 of her besties to all 4 of her step sons’ weddings and I figured that if our wedding was on the other side of the country we could avoid this behaviour.

        I had, of course, completely overlooked my own mother’s guest list padding tendencies… After some really hard conversations, I think the list is under control for now. But we’re still 7 months away, so who knows…

    • Ha, that’s been one nice thing about planning a wedding across the country from my family. Even though it can make some things harder, it really cuts down on the impulsive invites for old family friends and whatnot. Inviting somebody across town is one thing, inviting them to a wedding on the opposite coast is another thing altogether. :-)

  • I bought shoes that I wanted to wear to my wedding before any of the other stuff. From those shoes, I pulled the wedding color (dark purple), the style (traditional with a bit of modern glitz)…I thought everyone started with the shoes?! No?

    Okay. If that’s not the case, and if people don’t all pre-plan like I did (looking at venues and photographers for months before our actual engagement), I think absolute best way to start is….

    “You and your partner need to talk about the big overall aspects of your wedding. You can talk it out and fashion a wedding together, or it might be fun for you both to construct each of your dream wedding separately, just to see what the other one comes up with.”

    This is what we did. I had never been the girl who knew what she was going to wear, who would be invited, what the wedding would “look” like. I never played dress-up and pretended to be a bride. I started the process in the same “What the hell do I do know?” mindset. Then it slowly started coming to me, and it came through lots of open-ended conversations with my fiance. I liked the open-endedness because it allowed me to keep the creative energies flowing and not get my heart set on any one thing before we both decided (together) what was the best for our wedding. We found the venue first – based on financial limitations and the overall wonderful feeling we got when we visited. We then decided on date – we wanted a fall wedding, but had to work around many holidays and birthdays and settled on Veteran’s Day weekend because it would be seemingly easier for our out of town guests. The details are currently just falling into place…

    I think the most important thing is to follow your heart, stand up for yourself and your beliefs and go with the wedding planning flow. And if there is one thing that you take from any of those wedding checklists, it should be the “One Month Before the Wedding” task of breaking in your wedding shoes ;)

    • Rasheeda

      Some people don’t pick the shoes first! HOGWASH! ;)

    • Melodious

      Ha! Shoes were the first thing I bought, as well!

  • Kashia

    Alyssa knows what she is talking about.

    I was really lucky when we got engaged that both of our families are super low-key and didn’t pressure us for information until we had started making some decisions. That said we still didn’t tell anyone for a couple of days just so that we could have some time to enjoy being engaged and to start talking about what was really important without any outside input. It makes it easier to say no.

    For the budget we set out a number we were comfortable with spending, and then did a list of line items and how much we were willing to spend on each with notes about why. This wasn’t based on research so much as “I don’t feel okay spending more than x on flowers” or “photography is really important to me so I’m willing to spend up to x.” Then when we did start looking around at costs and all of the “but you have to do this/have this/spend this” came up, we were able to look back and see what we had though originally. And yeah, sometimes the numbers changed, but often it meant finding another solution or cutting down on something because we had something concrete on paper to to remind us that it wasn’t all that important in the first place.

    Congrats to all the newly engaged folks! You are going to rock this!

  • lorna

    i’m one of those holiday engagements, and i am so freakin’ relieved to find this site. i actually slept last night for the first time in a week rather than worrying about planning. this is my second engagement (first marriage though!) and i was 19 last time and so miserable, i feel like it’s clouded my judgement/tainted my viewpoint a bit. wedding dress shopping as a teenager with braces was so hideous i cried in the toilets in 2 separate shops. the staff were AWFUL to me. now i am a proper grown up, i am nervous the whole experience will revert me back 6 years.

    plus my family have already paid for one wedding they never got to see, and are now wanting to pay for this one. i know they can afford it, and i know they’d actually be really hurt if i said no, but i feel SUPER guilty. I’ve just gone back to graduate studies so we can’t afford to do it all ourselves, i know we’ll accept their help because it’s out of love, but i still feel a bit ill at the enormous burden i am being.

    oh wow, sorry, whole lot of stress unbundling there. any advice on how to make this all awesome?! i am so excited about marrying me other half. it’s the wedding bit i’m stressing over!

    • They are helping you because they WANT to help you…. Enough with the feeling guilty. The love you! :)

      • Oops… “They” love you…. I meant, obviously. Not THE love you. :) haha early morning… TGIF!

    • Harriet

      I don’t know your family of course, but I’m sure they’d be really sad to know how miserable this was making you! They want you to have a wedding, so you have to not feel guilty for them (even if it makes you feel like you’re somehow a better person if you feel guilty–been there). Congratulations, and I hope you have some fun during the planning!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      *Hugs* and Welcome!!

      I think you should forgive your 19-year-old self for feeling bad during wedding planning. The whole experience is a roller coaster and it is totally okay and normal not to be giddy happy the whole time. Plus, in my experience bridal shop employees are bitches to everyone. When I bought my dress (at age 25) the saleswoman pushed my stomach in with her hand and said “Of course you’ll diet. This is what it will look like when you’re skinny. Beautiful gown.” Um, thanks?

      • Reach out, put your hands on either side of her mouth and lift up. Say: “This is what you would look like if you had a soul.”

        • liz

          jo, my students just asked me why i laughed out loud like a crazy person.

        • Can we add a “I just snorted tea out of my nose” button??

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Dammit! I knew there was a perfect comeback for that situation, I just couldn’t think of it because I was so horrified. I was so lucky to have my bestie there with me. She was standing behind the lady and shaking her head then she pointed at her boobs and mouthed ‘your tits look great’. Win! I didn’t lose a pound, I looked fabulous in the dress and it didn’t even need alterations past the hem.

          • lorna

            that is awesome. some people just need a good smiting…

          • JEM

            I like your best friend.

        • Alyssa

          I love you so much right now….

        • I love you, Jo.

    • You know… I felt really bad when my parents insisted on helping with our wedding. We are more financially stable than they are… But I realized the thing was that they wanted to help. They wanted to contribute. And be part of it all. It’s a way of showing that they care about us and that they wish us the best… It didn’t matter we didn’t need it. It’s that they needed to do it. And they didn’t do anything beyond their means. So we are all happy… (And I plan to secretly pay them back over the years with plane tickets to come visit us now that we live on the other side of the world!)

      • lorna

        aw thanks guys! definitely feeling super supported! so i went to the supermarket this afternoon (i have all my epiphanies in tesco) and as i wandered round i realised that having lovely, wonderful, supportive (and god bless them, fairly rich) parents is not really a problem. and i am going to try not to feel bad about it, and instead just be thankful for what i have. which i may need reminded of. often.

        • Carla

          Maybe it would help you feel less guilty about it if you sit down with them (after the fiance, obvs) and discuss the actual numbers they have in mind? If you know what they’re committing to, it might be less of this “oh my god how much of a mess am I making for my parents” thing so much as a “my parents are looking to support me in this very concrete way”.

      • from a great height

        Thankyou for this comment Alice. My fiance and I are in the exact same position – we are relatively comfortable but my mum and stepdad who are less so are determined to throw large amounts of money at us. It makes me feel really uncomfortable to be having conversation with the mum that go along the lines of “Well, I think we can handle it mum, we are almost 30 and have been working for quite a while…” and to have her ocnitnually reply “Don’t be silly, put your money towards fixing up your bathroom”.
        But your post has made me understand what I should have realised before – this is something they want and need to do. They aren’t doing it because its tradition, they are doing it because they want to be involved. And with us living a plane ride away, I think its become even more important to my mum.
        I’m going to stop feeling guilty, and start saying thankyou more.

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    Is it too simple to say “Don’t freak out!!” The biggest help for me when I first got engaged was my recently married friend saying “You don’t have to have this all figured out today.” She was still saying it 3 months into our engagement, 6 months in – hell, I think she said it the week of the wedding.

    There’s no shame in saying “we don’t know yet, that isn’t planned, we haven’t made a decision about that”. It sometimes feels like you should start panicking or you’re totally behind when people ask questions and you don’t have answers, but it’s so okay. Just because you’ve been dreaming of your wedding day since you were five years old (or not) doesn’t mean you actually know what your wedding will be like.

    • Shelly

      “You don’t have to have this all figured out today.” – Could I please hire you to come whisper this in my ear several times a day?

      I’m the kind of person who moves into a new apartment and is frustrated within 3 days that I’m not completely settled and it doesn’t feel like “home” so yeah, this was really tough in wedding planning. I did work very hard to enjoy each moment of crossing an item off the to-do list. Whether the planning comes naturally, or not so much, it’s good to take the tim to celebrate little victories.

      • This is yet another mantra I’m stealing from APW. We’ve been engaged two weeks and I’ve had quite a few low-sleep nights already. We have a venue now, so I’m going to kick back for a little bit and read some non-wedding books. It will be GLORIOUS.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Just let me know how to reach you, I’ll remind you daily. I also struggle with this (although Husband is a good influence, he runs his life on the theory that ‘things will work themselves out’). It helps to have a friend remind you to look back at all you’ve accomplished already and remind you that there’s no reason to hold yourself to an impossible standard.

        Breathe in. Breathe out. Get a good night’s sleep- this stuff will keep until tomorrow.

  • So glad you’re getting paid for this now lady! Woo hoo! I smile through all your posts. Thanks for that. :)

  • ka

    Seriously Alyssa, where have you been all my life (or at least the last 2 years of my engagement)! This I the way to do it!

    But wanted to chine I’m with one bump in the road some may encounter:

    • ka

      Ugh, sorry abt the duplicate-someone doesnt know how to use the fancy phone she got for christmas…see below for the actual comment

  • Amy

    Make plans for pre-marital counseling early. I recommend making sure you’re doing something that’s just you and your partner and the counselor. While you can get some useful information out of the big group sessions, being in a more private environment with somebody who really took the time to know us was a godsend.

  • Rasheeda

    This is so necessary!! Now I have a link to send to all the new baby brides out there (because my advise is ALWAYS…”Go read APW, then we will talk”. But since you are already here, reading archives getting all caught up, here is my best advise.

    SLOW THE EFF DOWN!!! Whether you are getting married in a month or 24 months, take some time and digest it all. This is BIG stuff happening here, slow it down, mull it over. Give yourself room to be a little lax. It’s just like any good diet, you have to be able to cheat a bit. Giving yourself time allows you to change your mind, redefine your ideas, affirm that was the right idea. The checklist will be there. I have found that all the things you *really* need for a wedding, THE man, a preacher, a fab-o dress and HOT shoes can be arranged in a few days, everything else is extra.

    The 2nd piece of advise…if is stresses you too much, get rid of it. Some stress is healthy, others are not. I am a lazy DIY type a gal, if I cant figure it out and “make it work”, I chuck it! This saved me.

    • Can you come be my best friend?

      • The best advice I got was to tell everyone for the first month of the engagement, “We’re not thinking about details yet, we’re just enjoying this time” whenever asked about dates, locations or details. Even though we were discussing the details privately, it was a nice way to tell everyone to buzz off while we had time to think.

        Hang in there, baby brides!

  • “You REALLY don’t need to start your married life out with financial difficulties”

    This is most definitely the best advice I’ve heard… and in my case, it came from my once- divorced and sometimes frustratingly financially responsible fiance. Although we probably could have afforded a huge WIC affair (not that I’d want one), we decided to buy a condo instead. I will not lie… I get pangs of jealousy sometimes when I see my friends gearing up for their huge fancy pants wedding but I force myself to remember that owning our own home and being debt- free has already improved our relationship more than any fancy party could ever.

    • Morgan

      The exactly button isn’t big enough for how much I agree with you! Our house is SO MUCH BETTER than a fancy wedding would have been – especially 9 months later when my house is still here and the wedding is a wonderful memory.

  • It’s funny, I sort of worked backwards, and stopped when the event felt just big enough that it wouldn’t make me crazy. Honestly, I would have been happy with a courthouse ceremony, and backyard BBQ for a reception. Once we determined we could afford and were up to planning a bit more than that, we slowly worked in other details until we said, ok stop. 50 people at a brewery is as much as we can handle! I would say don’t be afraid to stand your ground with everyone who will want to propose more or different options, from family and friends to vendors. You don’t realize how much people have been brainwashed by WIC until you start planning a wedding! It’s ok to say no and scrap those things you don’t want to mess with! Good luck!!

    • Nikidy

      OH MY GOD BREWERY. you may have just solved my venue issues, a brewery is exactly what i should be looking for! thank you! XD

  • ka

    Seriously Alyssa, where have you been all my life (or at least the last 2 years of my engagement)! This is the way to do it!

    Wanted to chime in with one bump in the road some may encounter: some of your Whats might be sadly contradictory, or change on you unexpectedly. For example, “have a very small destination wedding ” and “have people x, y, and z there” didn’t exactly work out once we started polling people. That, coupled with a perfect for us venue falling in our laps, made us totally restructure our What. So while on one hand it’s key to have something written to keep you on track remember nothing’s set in stone. (At least until you start putting down deposits, and maybe not even then…)

  • Amy

    My own personal advice is as the bride to be, cut your mom a little slack sometimes. Wedding planning seemed to make my mom go absolutely bonkers and we fought. A lot. Then I read something one of the commenters here wrote and it made a lot of sense. A lot of our moms never got to plan their own weddings. Their mothers handled the details and our mothers maybe picked the colors, the dresses, and some minor things. And that was just how it was done. So, they expected to plan their daughter’s weddings, because again, for them, that was the norm.
    Once I heard that it made sense why my mom was acting so hurt and a little nutty about the planning, because I was doing almost all of the planning that she thought she would get to do. In her mind that was the ‘job’ of the mother of the bride, the bride historically didn’t have as much of a role in the planning as brides do today. Understanding that, and getting her more involved cut down on tension dramatically.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Ditto for your future mother-in-law. Especially if she has 4 sons and no daughters and always has to watch the fun girly stuff from afar. Just pretend she’s your sister or your aunt and include her that much. Guess whose taken the lead in the Daughter-in-law of the Year competition?

      • My daughter was married in 2009 and her mother-in-law-to-be (a great gal) was mother to two sons and no daughters. She was sooooo excited to be included in the wedding planning.

    • I agree with you (for some of our mothers. Mine planned her wedding). But I think it’s also that our moms are dealing with “losing” you as a daughter and perhaps focuses on the things she feels she does have a say in. We do this ourselves. We stress over linens or flowers or whatever else makes us specifically go obsessive because we’re dealing with big life changes and sometimes it can be hard to deal with the transitions and actually face the emotions rather than plaster on the “happy bride” face. That’s why I think it is really important to stop pretending, face those emotions and come out on the other side as a Zen bride. Your moms should do this too. Sometimes it can be hard. You are no longer part of *her* family. You’re part of a new baby family and that feels a lot like grief, but she *shouldn’t* be feeling grief, she’s thinking. She should just be happy and plan a wedding. So she fights with you because she can engage with you and her emotions rather than just pretend everything is perfect.

      • Rasheeda

        I see a post topic here…

        • Amy

          Ooh, I know I’m already married but I’d looove to see a post on this! So few websites (or magazines) dealt with having to balance stress caused by new family growing pains vs. the very real clash of expectations over who “should” be doing planning (which doesn’t necessarily have much to do with who is paying).

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            Just my perspective, but I kind of think mothers’ (and sisters’ and aunts’ and grandparents’) involvement in the wedding process should reflect their involvement in the rest of the bride’s life. Would you buy a house or change jobs without consulting your mom? Would you buy a sofa? Dramatically change your hairstyle? Splurge on a pair of pricey, impractical shoes?

            If your mom is pretty involved in your day-to-day decision-making, it’s probably okay for her to have her hands in everything from the venue to the favors. If you only consult her on the big things – major purchases, career choices, relationship problems then you should consult her on your big wedding things too – venue, attendants, locale. And if you update her on your big stuff after making the decision all on your own, well, her involvement in your wedding should be more of a support role as well.

            I’d allow about a 20% swing up or down based on your family’s finacial investment. If she’s paying for the whole thing get her 20% more involved. If you’re going it alone, get her input but feel free to ignore it 20% more often if it doesn’t jive with your vision.

      • Katelyn

        This is exactly the theme of the book “The Conscious Bride” by Sheryl Paul – she’s a sponsor of APW too and offers online premarital counseling too.

        I’m in the middle of the book and it’s great. I highly recommend it if you need help with this “life transition” component.

        • Katelyn– I got a lot of help from the book Emotionally Engaged by Allison Moir-Smith. That’s where this insight into mothers comes from. She talks about how for 4 months her mom fretted about keeping the lasagna warm at the rehearsal dinner and how, after constant reassurances that it would be FINE and that there were ways of keeping it warm Moir-Smith realized there was something else going on.

          She sounds like a lot of us, who get engaged and then wonder why they are feeling miserable so she started researching it and eventually started a practice that helped brides work through these emotions so they could be engaged at the wedding. She actually uses the term “zen” and breaks down how to work toward that mindset on your wedding day. I really liked it. I’ll check out Conscious Bride too.

  • Erin

    “…use good penmanship. (It’s a lost art, really…)”

    A-men. or Exactly.

  • Nicole

    Something that worked for us (YMMV), was to not even start as concrete as Alyssa is suggesting. We couldn’t even wrap our heads around “whats” yet, so we started with “Outcomes” (warning: I am an arts educator, edspeak ahead!). First we talked about how we wanted to feel during and at the end of the wedding day. One of the big ones here was “not feel drowning in debt.” Then we talked about the purposes of the wedding itself, besides the obvious “get married.” These included things like “bring family and friends together,” “throw a fun and casual party,” and “declare our love publicly.” Then we talked about what we wanted our guests to feel/experience/say. We wrote ALL of this down, and once we had it all, we reduced it all down to our “mission statement.” This is the core of what we want out of the wedding, and it informs every choice we make. We refer back to it whenever we tackle a new decision. Will having fancy fabric tablecloths help our families to feel united or contribute somehow to our new baby family? No? Then we choose cheaper disposable tablecloths, since one of our big goals is to pay cash for everything.

    The other big piece of advice I have from the beginning of planning is: make a tentative guest list BEFORE you start budgeting. It really helps to have an idea of how many people you’re talking about before you think about how much it will cost. For us, it was more important to have everyone there we wanted than to have fancy steaks for everyone, so that’s how we started. Maybe, if you have a strict 10k budget or a venue you KNOW you want to use, that may inform your guest list differently, but for us it helped to know we had 85 MUST-invite folks.

    • Nicole

      Also: we got engaged in Jamaica, so we couldn’t tell anyone (besides our waiter) for 24 hours. That was NICE, to have it all to ourselves for a bit. Even nicer? We decided BEFORE we called our friends and family that we would not even start planning for a few weeks to a month. So we had a stock answer for all of the initial (and crazy-making) questions about the five Ws: “We’ve decided not to start planning until April, so we have no answers yet. We’ll let you know when we have info.” It was a good built-in buffer.

    • I’m art ed too! But not nearly that organized. lol

  • “No unity candles because I’m scared of hot things.”
    Alyssa, you’re obviously not scared of hot things, because you get to look at yourself every day in the mirror and you’re on fi-ah! Ba-zing! ;)

    That and all declarations of love aside, this post is just awesome. And well timed. We’re about to start running numbers and declaring to the world (most everyone knows, and I just want to avoid all of that squealing except with a few select people). Two things I’m most glad we did: decide almost all of the details before telling anyone, so I could say: “You think we should ride in on the backs of greyhounds? Thanks, but we already have a plan for the entrance.” And we also didn’t tell anyone for a while except for our immediate families.You get to enjoy being engaged without having to talk about diets or colors or strippers. Because funny people will bring up all of those.

    I have to go re-read that again, and can’t wait for all of the comments!

    • You joke about the greyhounds but I have had more than several people ask me in what way I was going to include my two pugs in the ceremony (would they be mini ring bearers or just walk down the aisle like groomsmen? Would I be buying them tiny tuxedos?). It cracked me up because obviously people think I’m the crazy pug lady (and maybe I am a little crazy about them).

      • My FATHER and BROTHER constantly made inferences about us involving my parents’ two-year-old shih tzu in the ceremony somehow. This never failed to irritate the shit out of me, and I found myself constantly reminding them that a: as much as we think she’s adorable, IT’S NOT OUR FREAKING DOG, and b: that we didn’t necessarily want a dog at our wedding, even if we had our own dog. Oy vey.

    • Alyssa

      You are hilarious. And my new favorite because you called me hot.

      By the way, the scared of hot things? Totally my husband.
      He does not like hot things. Like open flames. And ovens.
      My almost-was-a-third-generation-firefighter husband. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

  • liz

    what alyssa said. the end.

    i organized it a different way, tho- i had two lists. “MUSTS” and “CAN’TS.” the one was typically dictated by the other. my “must” list was probably a lot like answering alyssa’s “what.” there were a few things that josh and i wanted by any means necessary- to invite a ton of people (200+), for example. because of that, we had to put “spend a lot per person” under the “cants.” and so on.

    it helped narrow our priorities, so i wasn’t fooling myself into thinking we could have it AAALL. and it certainly changed as we went along- crossing things off one list and adding to the other.

    • We did this too! We sort of brainstormed our vision at the start, then sorted the things we wanted for a venue into “Must Have”, “Would Be Nice”, “Don’t Want” and “Hell No”. (Though in hindsight, now that we’re 4 weeks out from the wedding (TODAY, EEK), “really good beer” was probably something that wasn’t as major as we thought it was.)

  • Marchelle

    Out of the ballpark Alyssa. Way to earn that salary. ;)

    • Alyssa

      Thank you!

      It IS all going to candy. I will be drowning in Laffy Taffy and SweeTarts.

    • Agreed. Alyssa’s salary is money well spent.

  • Shelly

    Piggybacking on what Alyssa said about determining the What, is to think about the What Not. Sometimes it’s a good jumping off point to pinpoint what you don’t want. For some of us, that looked like taking a Wed-site check list and crossing off items that didn’t apply. Or it might be talking with your fiance about weddings you have been to in the past and what resonated with you, or what didn’t.
    Most of the conversations my husband and

    • Shelly

      Whoops – premature posting.
      Most of the conversations my husband and I had about the What Nots started out by making fun of traditions we didn’t want to follow, but ended up in serious conversations about what was important to us and why.

  • “unless you consider swamp-a** an appropriate favor to give your guests”

    Alyssa, can we be friends? PLEASE????

    • Alyssa

      What, we’re not already? In that case, YES.

      • Good. Because you were pretty freaking awesome before that comment, but now you are just off the charts.

  • Dee

    This has given me much to think about this morning. Been engaged since August 2010, and I thought I was doing really poorly on the “being engaged” thing. We had figured out what we wanted (but not talked with anyone about it yet – noone’s asked, and we are mostly paying for it ourselves); made a general guest list, and know where (province) and approximately when to have it. Yet until just now, I thought I was really “behind”, and should have done more by now. I’m glad to know I’m on track for A Practical Wedding. Good stuff. Just what I wanted. Thanks, and happy Friday!

    • I hate the “you must have done ___ to be doing this right.” Whatever ___ is or this may be. You’re going at your pace and that’s perfect. We were secretly engaged for months before anyone knew and didn’t plan a thing. We have a basic idea now but we aren’t even going to touch the wedding for two more months until we get settled into the new house.

      Engaged: ur doin it rite.

      However that may be.

  • B

    I have to say this post is genius!! :)
    I’m not married but have just 2 months of engagement left and so far my biggest discoveries have been:
    – sometimes the whole planning thing sucks but this doesn’t mean your relationship does
    – don’t be afraid to change plans if it’s really not working for you
    – weddings are weirdly stressful and emotional so don’t freak out when everyone around you goes crazy
    – choose bridesmaids carefully (if you have them); they can make things awesome or awful
    – remember that you love your fiance and getting married means something to you which is why you’re going through the process at all!
    Sorry, I’ll stop there! Congrats to anyone who’s newly engaged :)

    • Choose bridesmaids carefully – YESSSSSS. Do this. And if unsure, err on the side of not asking, rather than asking. You can always give someone a smaller thing to do once you see if they’re reliable or not – but for your bridesmaids, pick people who are reliable and kind. You will really need them to be both of those things when wedding planning becomes a monster.

  • starkville

    what Liz & everyone else said about lists, but also we gave our parents each one MUST and one NO WAY IN H*LL. My mother in law’s NO WAY vote was “no bbq”. Yes, that totally destroyed my pig roast dream reception at the time, but i realize now it was not in line with their family or culture and I’m glad she spoke up.

    • YES. Parents are very hard, but we did something similar to head it off at the pass. We asked all four of our parents what their biggest wishes or dreams would be for our wedding (though I do love the MUST vs. NO WAY, that’s great). And then we accommodated them as best we could.

      My mom’s was that we be married by my childhood minister (check, done). My father’s was that we get married IN my childhood church… which we couldn’t do. I talked it over with him, and we both had the same sorrows about it; we’re both very place-oriented people (he’s an architect), and we wished we could have done it there, but he understood why we couldn’t (timing, other events at church, etc).

      But because we’d gotten their wishes out in the air, no one felt smothered or ignored. They celebrated what we loved the most and all our quirky choices, and knew that we’d heard their deepest wishes.

      • Morgan

        My dad’s only demand was an open bar, so I told him he’d have to pay for it, and he agreed. :) (His family only gets along if they’re well lubricated.)

      • FM

        I love this. Love, love, love.

    • Amy

      Love this idea! Its a light-hearted, yet very quick way to get to the core of what is important to your families.

    • kaitlyn142

      That definitely causes its own drama. My parents’ must was “Catholic wedding.” His parents’ must was “not a Catholic wedding.” *sigh*

      • FM

        Yes, but it gets it out there. So you can figure out with your partner what they feel about it, and then talk to the parents about your decision and why you made it, and how you understand it is/isn’t what they envisioned for you.

        Also, I don’t know if there’s any way to do this with “have a Catholic wedding”, but maybe you can take elements of something rather than go whole hog, and thereby in some sense strike a balance. For one set of parents, what’s the most important thing to make them feel like it’s a wedding, if they can’t have the whole Catholic wedding? For the other set, what’s the most Catholic-ish set of things that would make them feel more comfortable if you didn’t have? Maybe those things overlap, but maybe there are compromises to be struck. Which of course you and your partner would also have to be on board with.

  • Laura

    Just want to say Gig ’em to Alyssa – I’m an Aggie and will also be playing the Aggie War Hymn on my play list!

    And I would like to add that one of the first and most important things to do when you first get engaged is to just ENJOY it! Stare off in to the distance daydreaming about your awesome future – the part that comes after the wedding :)

    • Alyssa

      WOO HOO! (Do I say Gig ’em back? I was a Lumberjack, our response to Axe ’em Jacks is to hand over a drink….) I was completely unsure about having it at our wedding, but since my husband was in the band, and having done it at countless weddings since we’ve been together, it ended up being one of my favorite parts.

      And YES to enjoying it! Spend entire days not thinking about it! Enjoy each other! Lots! And in the kitchen sometimes!

  • It all feels really far away now, though it was only a year ago… but we started by looking at venues (together, or emailing them to each other) to help figure out what we were looking for. Once we had some venue ideas pinned down, that helped us find a date (ie, we knew we wanted October, but they only had late September – so late September it was!)… from there, it was all just details. The things that were important to us were: outside or with views of outside, and the views had to be of water or mountains. Not huge standards, but they helped us narrow it down a lot. From there, we just went with the details we *wanted* and dealt with the rest later. I have to admit, the date and venue felt the most important for figuring everything else out. Good luck!!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      We kind of did this too. When we first got engaged we weren’t sure what state we even wanted to get married in, so we each started looking venues in 3 different locations and then would try to envision what our wedding would be like at each one. So he’d bring up a gorgeous logde in a state park in Alabama and we’d imagine 75 of our friends an family at a long weekend picnic with a ceremony by a waterfall. Then I’d pull up a swanky hotel/country club in Pennsylvania and we’d imagine 250 guests at a posh ceremony with a sit-down dinner and a round of golf in the morning. Eventually the places we were picking were converging into someplace big enough for a huge guest list but short time-frame and with the ceremony and reception in the same location.

  • In the words of Maeby Funke, “MARRY ME!”

    This is fantastic. Holiday engagement here, too, and I weirdly feel like I have a lot under control (not a lifetime wedding-planner but he and I have been together for 8+ years so there’s been time to talk and figure a lot of the very basic basics out) but still, last night I was wishing there was something JUST LIKE THIS that I could hold on to for reference/sanity-restoration over the next few weeks/months. Feeling better about everything now that we’ve done a lot of what you recommend without even knowing you recommend it, too.

    One thing I did right off the bat that I feel really good about is told my parents (who are helping us out) that I do NOT want this to mess anyone’s lives up—financially or emotionally: As much as I can manage, I don’t want squabbling or fights or miffed feelings over silly things; I don’t want anyone going into debt or any uncomfortable money situation; I want the whole planning process to be fun and meaningful for all of us. (Had this same conversation with the guy too.) It felt good to lay some ground rules—to basically say, “I am not going to let this whole thing turn me into a crazyperson, and I want the same for you.”

    Also, and I know this wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I started a private blog, gave the password to very close relatives and ladyfriends, and have been snagging images from around the Internet of things that reflect in some way what we want to do—kind of an inspiration board ALTHOUGH I HATE THAT IDEA ACTUALLY for some reason. All my superclose female friends live all over the place so it’s been fun and easy and really helpful, actually, to keep them all looped in on the super-early planning stages. Might work for someone else, too. (I totally recommend Tumblr for this!)

    • Dude.

      It felt good to lay some ground rules—to basically say, “I am not going to let this whole thing turn me into a crazyperson, and I want the same for you.”

      Good for you, not just to say that, but to put it right out there upfront.

      Also . . . I didn’t do one inspiration board during the entire process, shhhhh. Not one. I’m a bit confused about the reasoning behind it, actually, so you’re definitely not alone!

  • Erin

    Wow, thank you to Alyssa and everyone who’s commented! I’m yet another one of those girls who got engaged over the holidays, and even though I keep forgetting during the day at work, we’re hoping to get the wedding out of the way this summer so that we can go back to our real lives. We’ve already talked a lot about it, and are trying to get the guest list a bit more finalized and find a venue (it all falls into place from there, right?), but I’m not really a wedding person, or one who wouldn’t rather jump off the roof of my office than be the center of attention for several hours, so we’re still trying to figure out how far we have to go down the traditional wedding route to please his parents (and, unexpectedly, mine), and how much we can just throw a shorts and sundresses bbq in our back yard with 20 people, like we’d rather do. I so value all the planning advice here, not to mention APW, which I’ve been reading for a long time – it helps in quelling the panic.

    Honestly, the worst part for me for the past couple weeks is how out-of-character my parents seem – they’re normally so down to earth, and have been replaced by aliens who are asking about engagement photos (not happening) and announcements in the paper (for a town I haven’t lived in since I left for college). I so hope they come back after the wedding’s over!

    • First, congratulations! Enjoy this time, it goes by fast.

      Second, having been a bride twice, and been very swayed by what the parents wanted the first time and less the second, my advice would be to remember that your new “baby family” (search that phrase on APW, you’ll find great stuff) will have a different personality from your parents’ or in-laws’, and the wedding is your first chance to define that.

      If you’re more BBQ and sundress/shorts people, don’t be afraid of owning that. If you don’t, you’re only postponing the inevitable – even if you give them the wedding they want, your choice of home, sending your kids to Sunday school or some other traditional thing will be the issue.

      Get comfortable with the knowledge that at some level when you get married your loyalties change, while maintaining respect, love and a desire to let them enjoy your wedding day too. It can feel like a tightrope act, but just remember to always err on the side of what feels right for you both! Your parents will respect all your decisions as a couple even more if you can thoughtfully explain why you sided with each other rather than them.

    • I wanted to do a potluck reception because we are SO broke and want to pay for everything with cash. Plus I have a southern Baptist background and we love us some potlucks, and I thought it would be a great way for guests not to have to worry about bringing a gift. In my mind they’d just bring food, if they wanted to of course. But honestly we couldn’t figure out a way to do it that didn’t come off as incredibly rude to my mom. And I understand her point– I mean my friends and my fiance’s family are totally “bring food” kind of people, but my family is very traditional and she was afraid it would be seen in the same light as writing “bring us a present” on the invitation. And I really didn’t want people to feel put out or like they HAD to cook something or whatever. I don’t even want gifts, this being my second wedding I’ve got everything I need. Sooooo anyway I was discussing it with my MOH and her mom was in the other room and chimed in with “OH I LOVE to cater parties, I’ll totally do everything and you guys can just relax.” We had the same thing happen with the photographer and the venue (in-laws’ brand new house they want to show off). So we ended up getting the feel we wanted (casual, backyard picnic) while not offending my mother’s sensibilities. It can be done, but it can be a tricky balancing act.

      I can tell you though, that my mother planned my first wedding. I was 20 and spineless, and I got the dress and the flowers and the church that she wanted, and I didn’t exactly regret it, but when I got the chance to do it again I instantly said to myself “ok, round 2, we’re going with what makes me comfortable, and that means intimate and casual, period.” To my mother I said something more like “We want to pay for this ourselves and we want to still have money left for our marriage, so we are going to try to do everything really small and casual with immediate family and grandparents only.” And it was cool. Except for the minor freak out over the potluck idea. Actually I was SHOCKED to learn that my parents are still paying off my first wedding, 6 years ago. I mean, I had NO idea how much anything cost because she just did the whole thing but OMG, I don’t want to be paying this off 6 years from now.

      I agree with whoever said that a wedding is sort of a coming of age process, and mine when I was 20 said “I’m young and inexperienced and this is what my parents want.” This one is saying “I’m a responsible grown woman and this is what my fiance and I have decided we can afford.”

  • Gosh, so many suggestions… First and foremost, to cover all the bases: read Alyssa’s post. Read the archives. Come here often, and read the comments. Send questions to Alyssa and read our answers. We’re a community, and we’re here for you.

    Miscellaneous things…
    1.) Books and Blogs. Go through the blogs, find the ones you love, and read them. Ignore the ones that drive you batty. Remember that even if you love it, sometimes you need to STEP AWAY from the computer.
    1a.) BOOKS. Read A Conscious Bride. It’s hokey and cheesy and a little hippie-dippie, but it’s amazing. It helped me a lot with the real process of being engaged (and not just planning a wedding). Committed was amazing; I read it before the wedding AND after, and it was helpful both times, in different ways.

    2.) Counseling. We did one little session with my minister, but mostly so that he could get to know my husband. We started couples counseling with a therapist nine months before the wedding, and it was amazing. We found it very helpful, and we’re still going. When things are rough, we go every couple of weeks to work things out; when things are good, we go once a month for a marital checkup. It keeps our relationship happy, healthy, and honest.

    3.) You are building a new family with your spouse. When the going gets tough, and when your parents and family are driving you crazy, and when you’re thinking too much about table numbers, turn to one another. If THEY are what is driving you crazy, turn to a bridesmaid/best friend. But remember, you and your spouse are staring your own little family. I found that we really began relying on one another more during the engagement, and it’s just growing from there.

    Gosh, I could keep spouting off, but I’m sure I’ll just keep adding comments. Good luck, Baby Brides, and know that we are here for you!

  • Ali

    First: Gig ’em :)

    Can I just vent about all the things that have been going wrong with our planning?

    One of our groomsmen lives out-of-state and is having a baby, so we specifically chose a date based around when he would be able to come. This date happened to be the same weekend as a HUGE festival in the town we’re getting married. Our ceremony was going to be downtown right in the middle of it. We discussed it and decided it would be okay anyway, so we booked it.

    Four months later, the church notified us that we would have ZERO parking spots, and the surrounding streets would be blocked off, so shuttling guests in wouldn’t even be possible.

    So we had to change our ceremony venue. Did I mention I’d already created the wedding invitations – cutting each one, gluing them together, and hand-tied 75 ribbons?

    So I re-did all the invitations. And then I realized that I forgot to include the TIME of the wedding on the invitation. But they’re done and I’m not re-doing them again…sue me!

    Now, three months before the wedding, the groomsman called to say he’s not coming. And when my fiance’ called an usher to “upgrade” him to groomsman, HE cancelled too!

    There’s other stuff, but that’s enough for now…

    I guess my advice is to be ready for crazy stuff to happen. Don’t have your heart set on one thing because you’ll set yourself up for disappointment. Be flexible and laugh it off.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      *Hugs* That all sounds terribly frustrating. Hope you’re able to take some time to relax and find your wedding bliss.

    • Alyssa

      You Aggies are all over the place! :-)

      Definitely on flexibility. Plan well, but roll with the punches.

    • if anyone asks about the time, tell ’em it’s going to be a wedding flashmob, and that they should keep their cellphone close-by on the big day.
      … or just put it in the google-doc rsvp form serving as a wedding website. (;

  • We didn’t really have a list, per se . . . which is good, because I probably would’ve forgotten where I put it.

    The first thing we did, before we were officially engaged, was talk about the people we wanted at the wedding. It gave us a place to start, and, like others have said, made it much easier to look for a location with a rough number in mind. Of course, the number will probably swell a bit (ohmygosh, I can’t believe we forgot so-and-so! Do we have any invitations left???), but it’s just a good jumping off point.

    Another thing was our budget. While it might not always be practical to have a set number, it is super helpful to at least know the source of the money. Savings? Parents? Piggy bank? Whatever it is, make sure you both know and are comfortable with that. Signing a contract with the idea that “we’ll find some way to pay for it” isn’t really . . . good.

    Oh, and a biggie: flexibility. You are going to have to be flexible or you will end up harming your soul. No joke. You may have only wanted one thing, one measly little thing (I’m thinking a BBQ welcome dinner or a marriage location with a view, or your best friend at your side, or those flowers you saw in that magazine that one time), but for whatever reason that one thing isn’t possible (I’m thinking bad weather, or it’s not in the budget, or a sudden illness, or those flowers were photoshopped and don’t really exist). It’s not the end of the world. You can absolutely pout and get pissed off and whine, but then move on and try to grasp the bigger picture. That option isn’t the only option, and sometimes you’re just going to have to lock it up.

    And every now and then, look at your betrothed and just be like, yeeeesssss. It’ll help keep you normal(ish).

    • Ali

      You said exactly what I was trying to say about flexibility. Don’t focus in on one specific thing that you MUST have…

    • lorna

      “We didn’t really have a list, per se . . . which is good, because I probably would’ve forgotten where I put it.”

      ha, i love this so much.

  • Aw, sorry you’re having a rough time with your wedding plans. Not being too attached to any one aspect sounds advice.
    Yet what I wanted to say was that we wanted a particular date (coz with birthdays and Christmas the wedding anniversary will give us something to celebrate every three months. Yay!). Having that one fixed point made it easier to make other decisions, eg. if a venue wasn’t available on that date then it wasn’t for us.

    So much great advice here.

  • Get yourself an early wedding gift: wine club subscription.
    I would recommend spending time away from the wedding while planning.
    And I recommend starting to plan that honeymoon now.

    • bahaha kidding? I think a wine club subscription is a totally valid wedding planning list item.

      also great post Alyssa!! congrats on da cash moneyyyy. you deserve it.

      • Wedding planning? More like life planning. Must get on that wine club immediately . . .

    • I second the honeymoon planning advice! with the stress leading up to the wedding, that relaxing vacation is more than necessary– even if it’s just a couple days spent just as newlyweds with no responsibilities…

  • Anyone who has followed APW for any length of time can see that there is no right or wrong way to be married or plan a wedding. I’d like to take Alyssa’s excellent advice a step back by saying, “don’t presuppose you even have to have a big shindig–or a shindig at all–to celebrate your marriage.” There have been some awesome posts here about eloping. While that might not be your thing, it’s also not a forgone conclusion that there MUST be a party. It’s all about you so your first step in planning your wedding should be to eliminate any preconceived notions (yours or those of others) about what a wedding has to be.

    • oh dear…shindig? My age is showing. I shudda said “big a$$ party”

      • Amy

        Pshaw! I love the term shindig! Then again maybe its the influence of my midwestern family who blanch at any language stronger than damn…

      • Alyssa

        I love “shindig”.

        Makes me think of the movie, “Shag” that I love also. And this Buffy quote:
        “A gathering is brie, mellow song stylings. Shindig: dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage. And hootenanny? Well it’s chock full’a hoot, just a little bit o’ nanny. ”

        We need more shindigs in our lives.

        • I love the word shindig too and use it regularly.

          And Alyssa, I also really enjoy the movie “Shag.” I have unsuccessfully been trying to talk my husband into watching it with me so I can give him a bit more of a southern education.

      • Um, our Friday night get-together before the Saturday morning wedding was officially called “The Shindig”, as it didn’t fit very well into any in Rehearsal Dinner/Grooms Dinner categories. I love that word.

  • Autumn

    I couldn’t get past the phrase “baby bride” without having a very strong reaction and needing to comment. I’ve seen the phrase “baby family” used a lot on here and it just makes me cringe.

    To me, it says that bride and that family are infantile, are immature, can’t handle themselves or make it in the world and aren’t real brides or families yet. No one thinks a baby can take care of itself and they talk down to it. It also helps reinforce the correlation between babies and marriage that a lot of us don’t like to see. It feels like an extension of “honey, don’t worry your pretty head about x.”

    I’m not a baby anything, damnit! You would never say a first-year lawyer is a baby lawyer, you’d never say that about any profession, so the willingness to say it about brides, families and marriages suggests those things aren’t as serious, aren’t as important, which we all know isn’t true.

    • Ali

      It kind of makes me cringe too…

    • I think it just implies newness. A new family unit isn’t going to be the same as your family of origin, which has a much longer and deeper history. To me, “baby family” means, we are new! We are celebrated! We are a blessing! Now we get to nurture our new family and make sure that it grows into a wonderful and supportive thing, the same way a child is nurtured and raised. The “baby family” also needs protection from outside sources, and needs to develop into it’s own thing.

      I think it also means that you should devote the same amount of time and energy to your new family and your relationship that you would to a child, even though it may be the 2 of you without any children. Some people don’t think you’re a family until you have kids, but you become a family when you get married regardless.

    • meg

      For the record, I would TOTALLY call my husband a baby lawyer, because, well, he is one.

      Here is the thing: I have been incredibly clear over the long-haul on APW that the term “baby family” implies new-ness, not that families need actual babies in them. I am one of the strongest advocates around for the fact that family does not ever need to mean kids.

      But our new families-made-in-marriage are new (even if they are only new as offical families in the eyes of the outside world), and they need care. We need to treat them as such. I’ve been married 1.5 years, and with my partner for more than 6 years, and I still consider us to be a baby family. We’re toddling around, learning. Give us 60 years and we won’t be toddling anymore, though I hope we’ll still be learning.

      And cut Alyssa a break. She’s from Texas. This is how she really talks, god love her.

      • Ali

        I don’t think anyone was picking on Alyssa…it’s a phrase often used on APW, so she certainly shouldn’t be singled out for using it.

        It’s understandable that it’s not MEANT to be an offensive phrase…just like so many other phrases that offend people for no reason. But it’s not a bad thing for a couple of us to agree that the term irritates us.

        Being called a baby isn’t usually a good thing…so, it can come across as insulting.

        I understand that it wasn’t meant to be offensive, and I don’t expect y’all to change your vocabulary either.

        • meg

          Alyssa is the only on of us who says, “baby bride.” I encourage all of the team to write like they talk, and that’s pure Alyssa (and something I would never say.) But, she’d also tell you to “not worry your pretty little head about things”, and she’d mean it.

          So get offended if you wanna, but know our intentions. We think things through when we make up terms around here (but you don’t have to like ’em.)

          • Ali

            I’ve already said I’m not offended, and that I understand it wasn’t meant to be offensive…

            I simply agreed that the term kinda makes me cringe…doesn’t mean I can’t handle it.

            You don’t have to defend Alyssa, I’m not attacking her by any means. And while she may be the only one who uses the term “baby bride”, the term “baby family” is often used, and it may be intended to imply “new” but it is also interpreted to mean “small”. Also, just because it’s a new marriage doesn’t mean it’s a new relationship or family. I’ve celebrated three holiday seasons with my fiance already, so our first Christmas after we’re married, I won’t really consider us to be a “baby family”…but that’s just me. We’re all different.

      • Alyssa

        And you know, if I remember right, it was called “baby family” because it was meant to be something new, protected and nurtured.

        The phrase might not work for some, but the spirit in which is it intended and the meaning behind is perfect. You should copyright it. Baby Family©

    • Alyssa

      Not meant for offense, and while it’s understandable that it might have caused it, it’s not worth censoring.
      Plus, Meg lets me get away with writing like I talk. I’m also the same kind of person who refers to grown women as “sweetheart” or “honey” if I have any kind of affection for them.

      We probably shouldn’t hang out, you’d smack me.

      • Ali

        I’m not asking for it to be sensored. I just thought that we were allowed to voice our opinions, hence why I agreed with Autumn in the first place. If I thought it was going to cause a fight, I would’ve stayed out of it.

        I wish you wouldn’t say we shouldn’t hang out. I think you’re awesome and love reading your posts…

        I wasn’t trying to insult you when I simply agreed that “baby bride/family” sometimes makes me cringe. I would certainly never smack you for saying that…you’re an individual, and you have your own vocabulary. Now, if you were trying to insult me by saying “baby bride”, then I would be offended. But you weren’t. Doesn’t mean the phrase is music to my ears.

        • Alyssa

          That was actually in reply to Autumn.

          And no fight! When Meg says that everyone can share their opinion, that includes her too. I think that gets forgotten a lot.

          So no worries. And besides, I’m a lady. When I’m going to insult someone, I include a “bless her heart” after their name….

          • Ali

            Kinda funny that Meg says “She’s from Texas”…cuz I’m from Texas too ;)

          • Amy

            Total non-sequitor but I wanted to share that when my new boss kept telling me “well bless your heart” I was terrified of what I had done to make her hate me. Turns out, she moved to Texas as an adult, and absorbed the phrase but none of the cutting, yet dainty, insult that lurks behind it. She was mortified when I asked her if I had done something to offend her, and then very delicately explained that when genteel southern-type ladies say that phrase it very rarely is meant kindly.

          • meg

            Ali, no one is fighting. You’re the only one even flustered. Breathe. Everything is fine.

  • Christine

    Wow, thank you for this post! I am one of those 60% who got engaged over the past two months and could have written Leigh’s question myself. I never really thought I’d get married until I met the guy who ended up getting down on his knee on the beach at sunset the day after Thanksgiving (aww!). We decided to just enjoy being engaged until after the new year started, so we got to just enjoy the bliss of being engaged, but now it’s time to start talking. We’re trying to figure out a way to get married that’s somewhere between a simple city hall ceremony and a gigantic, expensive party that we can’t afford the time or money to plan. Looking forward to getting some practical advice here as we start the planning process!

  • Casey

    This post rocks Alyssa! World’s first sane planning guide! Somebody might have already mentioned this, but my obsessively organized brain found it SO helpful to just make a giant Google Docs documents called WEDDING STUFF where I copied in every photo, link, snippet of poetry, etc. that caught my eye during the process. Kind of like a messy electronic inspiration board, if you will. I could access it from anywhere I had internet, and it helped me keep track of all the cool things I came across.

    • I’m doing the same thing– it’s my inspiration folder instead of my inspiration board.

    • hahah yeah I had probably 4 or 5 different google docs and spreadsheets to track all my wedding ideas. google rules my life.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      My Google spreadsheet had about 13 tabs by the time the wedding rolled around – the big, comprehensive to-do list, the minute-by-minute itinerary, the guestlist with seating assignments, wedding day set-up and tear down crew with contact details and assignments, the budget, and who knows what else. I found it hugely comforting. Whenever I thought we’d forgotten something or missed some detail I could pop it open and be like “There it is. Item 146. Due in 2 weeks. Everything is cool. Nobody panic.”

      Love it love it love it.

      • By the end of the wedding, I had a wedding FOLDER in Google Docs. I started with a “wedding ideas” doc, then it expanded to the big topics that you’d find in a wedding planning binder or book (Dress, Flowers, Catering, Photography, etc). Then it exploded from there. Google Docs was AMAZING– I could access it anywhere (work, home, friends’ houses), and it kept things organized.

        • Remy

          You can make FOLDERS??

          Wait, no, I see “Collections”.

          *drags all 22 wedding gdocs into one virtual stack*

  • We started off with an unofficial secret engagement, where looked for a ring and I started figuring out what I wanted from the wedding, but no one knew yet so there was no pressure. By the time that we got officially engaged a month later, we had some answers ready for people. But if you don’t have answers, it’s certainly okay to just say, “we don’t know yet!”

    We did all the big stuff in the first month: date, venue, guest list, dress, maid of honor dress, invitations, website. We picked an all-inclusive venue so that there would be fewer decisions we had to make. Then we kind of forgot about the wedding for a couple months and enjoyed the holidays, time together, got to know each others’ families better and worked on our premarital book.

    I definitely encourage anyone who wants a nice event but really doesn’t want to be bothered with picking everything themselves to consider a highly reviewed all inclusive venue, if you can find one. Ours is very WIC, but it’s also a historic building with a garden and 2 guest houses for us to get ready in, and since the owners are pretty WIC, they know how to do EVERYTHING related to weddings, which means I don’t have to. As a former event planner (who abandoned that for a completely different career) I knew that I needed both a lovely event and one that I did NOT have to plan extensively…and it’s possible!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      We went this way a little bit – we were planning from afar so we wanted someplace that handled most of the details. We ended up at a historic mansion that was so beautiful it hardly needed any decoration (we brought in 6 floral arrangements and one thing to dress up the ceremony site), they did the catering in-house and had plenty of space on the grounds for us to get dressed and do photos. Not the most adventurous venue, but very convenient and their coordinator for our day had everything *handled*.

  • Rachel

    I must agree with everyone else that this is an AMAZING post!! Talk about sanity and practicality and hilariousness. Even though my fiance and I have been planning our wedding for more than a year and have less than 5 months left, I’m going to go home tonight and ask him to describe his dream wedding – everything that would be there in order for him to be as happy as he could possibly be. I’ll do the same, and then we’ll talk about ways to get as much of both our ideas in there.
    We’ve got a lot of stuff ironed out already of course, but I think it’s worth taking another step back out of the nitty-gritty and discussing those important principles AGAIN. We’ve got them written down already, but this post has inspired me to double check where our hearts and guts are and see what we can do to have an authentically us wedding. That sounds trite but it’s true.

    Thanks Alyssa!!! You seriously rock my socks off.

  • Thank you for this post! It came at a good time. I’m already feeling like things are a little bit out of control with our engagement. We were going to just tell our immediate families and enjoy that secret for a few months and quietly put some kind of wedding plan together before we told the world, but my fiance’s parents hijacked the news and told EVERYONE in his extended family and friend circle. So in order to keep any semblance of control over this we’re going ahead and telling the rest of my family, our friends, and the wider world several months before we’d planned to.

    It’s stressful because we do sort of have an idea of what we want but nothing so specific as a date or a venue or a budget yet, and it’s at least 18 months away and people are already asking us. Their asking is not the problem; I’m just inclined to feel bad because I don’t have an answer for them yet, even though there’s no reason I should. And the way that this has all happened has me worried about the wedding planning process, too.

    I have a feeling that APW is going to help keep me sane down this daunting but happy road…thanks so much, Meg and Alyssa and everyone else in this community!

  • I’d say the first place to start (besides all that sage wisdom listed in the article. Definitely do the wishlist and budgeting first!) is sitting down with your fiancee and figuring out how comfortable you are having other people involved with your wedding planning. Chances are, if you have supportive friends/family, you’re going to get a lot of vague-to-specific offers to help with the wedding. Especially in the weeks following your engagement. Especially from anyone who offers you money towards the big day. (What is it about offering to pay that makes people feel like they automatically have a say in our weddings? We’re not selling shares here, people!)

    Talk with each other about how comfortable you are giving others permission to weigh in, taking into account your family dynamics. Do you have a well intentioned parent who offers to pay, but you know from past experience they’re paying to take over? Are you independent to the core, and break out in hives at the thought of someone pushing their ideas onto you? Are you scared spitless at the thought of all this planning, and know you’d have a much better time handing over the reigns to your type-A sister? Discussing these things in advance will give you a solid place to respond from when well-meaning Aunt Muriel corners one of you at your engagement party and offers to pay for the cake, as long as it’s butter cream with raspberry filling (her favorite). Just because you don’t have all the details figured out yet doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every offer that comes along. A polite “thank you for the generous offer. We haven’t decided yet if that’s something we want to handle ourselves. Can I get back to you?” works just fine.

    **disclaimer: I am saying this from personal experience. I was so excited that other people were excited for us and wanted to help that I ended up saying yes to a lot of offers before I even knew what I was doing. Hindsight being what it is, it would have been much better if we had sat down and figured out a niche we would have been comfortable giving up to well meaning in-laws, instead of taking them up on the first offer they put out there. Don’t even get me started on The Rehearsal Dinner Fiasco.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Wow, I just got the most hilarious mental image of your wedding as a publicly traded company. Boardroom – shareholders meeting. Bride & Groom as CEO & President, majority shareholders gathered around the table. First order of business is a motion to use tulips in the bridesmaids bouquets, do I hear a second? Aunt Mildred seconds. All those in favor say Aye? Nay? [gavel drops] The Aye’s have it with the bride dissenting. Next, let’s do a detailed budgetary review of the guestlist and menu. Mother of the Groom you have the floor.

      Actually, now that I think about it, secretly eloping then selling shares for a say in your Wedding would be an awesome way to pay for a big party.

      • K

        Love this :)

      • That was hilarious! You paint quite a word picture, my dear. I can totally see it now!

        Dear friends and family,

        Thank you all for the well wishes after our recent elopement. John and I are trilled to be embarking on our voyage as a new married couple with your love and prayers filling our sails. We understand that it was quite a dissappointment to some of you that we did not opt for the traditional large-scale wedding extravaganza, so out of deepest respect for our mothers’ wishes, we have decided to throw the wedding celebration of the century. We cordially invite you to not only share in our joy and happiness, but in our wedding planning as well. We want everyone to have the best possible wedding experience, and so have decided to open up Opinion Investor Shares to our nearest and dearest, so that anyone who wishes to can have a voice in The Happiest Day of Our Lives. Interested paries should submit their application for consideration as an Opinion Investor no later than February 1st. Any hopefuls whose favorite color is peach need not apply.

        Shares begin at $1000.


        Christy HisLastName

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Press Release:

          Shares of BRIDE, GROOM & IN-LAWS, INC. (BGI) were frozen today following an incident at the monthly stockholder meeting. Security had to be called into the boardroom when a brawl broke out over the appointment of CEO A. Bride and President T. Groom’s nieces to the open position of Flower Girl in the organization. CEO Bride offered to allow all three candidates share responsibilities, but the Groom faction was not amenable to this solution. Tensions were still running high at this session following last month’s Open Bar Compromise and the language written into the Vows Document that left most stockholders dissatisfied, despite ratification by both Bride and Groom.

          A spokesperson for the organization has assured minority shareholders that the company will not be dissolved following this incident (note this is the 3rd time a meeting has ended in fisticuffs this year). An independent inquiry will be performed by the company’s celebrant next week and anyone identified as a provocateur without the best interest of the brand at heart will be stripped of their position in the Wedding tentatively scheduled for this fall.

    • Alyssa

      I know it probably isn’t a great memory, but I do love that you have an event that requires The Use of Capital Letters. Makes me wish I was there!

      I told my dad during planning that his wedding contribution didn’t allow for more guests, he’d have to elevate his donor level in order to invite more.

      I was joking.


      We thought it was funny. The checker at Wal-Mart did not.

      • Dude, I had that same conversation with MY Dad! Also joking. Mostly.

        And as for The Capital Letter Event, we’re easygoing people who decided to say “ah, screw it!” and had a kick-butt time anyway. But by mutual agreement – in the interest of maintaining a close relationship with his mother – we just try not to think about it. ;)

  • Marina

    I remember when I first started planning, even the ever-reliable four Ws overwhelmed me. I had to take a step back even further. The best question I asked myself (and my then-fiance) was “How do we want to feel after the wedding’s over?” Then take it backwards from there. How do we want to feel AT the wedding? What’s going to make it possible for us to do that?

    For us, deciding those things make it a lot more straightforward to decide the rest. The venue, the food, the budget, the clothes, the guestlist, all felt like they reflected those original goals we made of how we wanted to feel at the wedding.

  • Mallory

    One thing that was important to me in the beginning and talking stages of planning was that I didn’t want to fall into the traditional role of me having ideas and asking my partner how he felt about them. So we scheduled a nice at home dinner to discuss our goals for the experience. I was very honest with him and told him that I really wanted him to come prepared with questions to ask and topics to discuss. He was glad to be included and was relieved that I told him what my expectations were rather than just expect him to conform to them. And you know what, he actually came to dinner with better questions that I did.

  • Karen

    What a great post — and the comments are incredible, too. The sanity hanging around this place is just bringing me great, great joy! We’ve been engaged for not quite two months now and are planning to get married in September — and now that it’s the actual year we’re getting married in, I’ve been getting more nervous. But it is a gradual learning process, and part of it is figuring out which wedding blogs/sites make sense to us and which don’t. I’ll say it’s been rough to me to realize that on some of the so-called indie sites, choosing to have a big wedding is frowned upon…this is only the second place I’ve felt validated in wanting to have a wedding with everyone we love there (and we love a lot of people). Our lives would be much easier (and my parents’ burden much reduced) if we cut our list down, but every time we talk about it, I get sad; the last thing I need is to feel that choosing to make our friends and families a priority is somehow suspect.

    Thanks to Alyssa, and to everyone else who’s commented!

    • Yes! I hear you and am in the same boat (engaged about two months, wedding this year). All of these cute, crafty weddings are also small. I realized this weekend that I might have to sacrifice some of the chicness of my wedding in order to have it be full of people I love. Trying to accept that.

      Anyway – great advice in this entire post.


    Seriously, great advice and thank you sooooooooooo much for answering my question so honestly, and thank you everyone else for your awesome input!

    The Manz and I have come a little bit further in the planning process, but not much, so seeing all these wonderful ideas and advice are so incredibly helpful, not just to me but all the other n00b brides-to-be out there who have no freaking clue as to what they’re getting themselves into.

    Right now I’m using’s checklist and it is for real the bomb. In fact that whole website is amazing. Evernote is coming in really handy for keeping track of dresses and sharing ideas with the ladies of note (Mom, FMIL, MOH)–and both of them have mobile apps, which is literally the greatest thing ever.

    But before that, I was losing my mind overloaded on all the potential stuff we were going to need, feeling inadequate thanks to all those OTHER wedding blogs (which I’ve since stopped subscribing to, except for ABW, OBB, and ESB because obviously, these are useful sites indeed), so to pre-empt my initial freak out, I grabbed my boo and we sat down and laid out the basic groundwork of everything that was non-negotiable: ceremony style (totally secular), cake (red velvet cupcakes and pies for the grooms cake), booze (craft beer), wedding party (my sister, his brother and that’s it), and all the other majorly important things, and then I breathed what had to be the most massive sigh of relief in my entire life.

    Once you have those concrete details, you know what you want and can work on getting those things, without the fuss of the extraneous details the WIC will try and foist on you. We’re still 18 months out from the date, but I’ve got our colors together, and am working on designs for all the printed materials. He’s researching honeymoon locations and suit tailors. I think if you have too many nebulous ideas swirling around, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed. Sitting down with him for a couple hours, firing through all that stuff cannonball-style was the smartest thing we’ve done so far.

    Now, how the next 18 months will go is a total crapshoot, but at least we have a basic outline for what we want, and how we want it. THE WEDDING! has become real, in my mind at least, and it’s now something I can get organized and figure out the big stuff, and then the small stuff is just cake.

    • WeddingWire is what I used for the checklist, the guest list, gift tracking, and seating. It was awesome.

      Random advice about seating: do it visually, and with your hands. People suggest using paper plates and post-its; we used index cards and post-it flags. I even color coded them by relation (different schools, families, etc). It went really well, and the only hiccup we had was when we lost an ENTIRE table by accident. Seating was actually ridiculously easy. Then I just input all the info into WeddingWire, and it spat out a spreadsheet for our seating chart. EASY!

      • I love WeddingWire ALMOST as much as I love APW. I haven’t even gotten way down deep into yet, and it has already been a lifesaver in so many ways: guest list management, checklist, budget…

        However, my question to you, Sarah, is how did you decide a seating chart was the right way to go? Because I have been at a weddings with and without seating charts for the reception and I didn’t really see much purpose in having one. It seems like one of those extra things that I’m just not really into, a la flowers and napkins and table runners, but seems to everywhere in wedding planning. I’d love your advice, especially since you planned yours using WW.

        • AHHH weddingwire!! saved my life. second to APW of course.

          I didn’t even do the seating offline first, I just used WW’s seating function. I would say seat your guests if for no other reason than it’s really fun to do on WW. haha. But actually, the reason we chose to seat guests was because I wanted people to mingle but not in a totally awkward way. Personally I have mini anxiety attacks when I walk into a room of open seating, and while I knew our guests could have handled it, I didn’t really want to have 2 whole tables full of Zach’s friends and then one of my aunts stuck in there because she didn’t find a seat fast enough. Or something like that. But what we did was just assign tables, instead of each seat. The way our guest list worked out, we ended up being able to arrange them so that at each table we had 2 groups of roughly 5 people, who knew each other and were at least vaguely similar in age ranges to the other half of the table (so we had a table half my friends, half his; or half my cousins, half his cousins; half my aunts & uncles, half his, etc). Everyone seemed to really like how we did it!

          Also we were able to purposely seat certain people on opposite sides of the room from each other. :)

          • Hmmm…Good points. I’ll have to see how the guest list develops. We’re planning on having everything super laid-back, but it could definitely be worthwhile to seat certain people away from other people. I’m hoping everyone will be shaking it on the dance floor, but I know that is a total pipe dream if ever there was one.

          • exactly! we wanted a laid back feel and we really wanted people to spend more time dancing than anything else – and it still worked out that way. but for the 30 mins or so of eating, we tried to maximize the comfortable mingling. and every time I would start to get angsty over who was sitting with who, I could just remind myself that it doesn’t matter that much because they won’t be sitting that long!

            having said all that, it’s definitely one of those things you can throw out the window if you don’t feel like messing with it the week of the wedding (kind of impossible to do it before then because of last-minute rsvp changes).

          • FM

            Yes, I think most people just assign tables rather than seats. I get super uncomfortable in open seating situations, so I’m sensitive about it. But definitely this is not a universal feeling, and I totally get why some people aren’t into assigning tables or seats.

            We assigned tables by printing all the guests names on a sheet of paper and cutting them into little strips, then arranging them. Agree that it was unexpectedly WAY easier and quicker and more fun than almost any other part of wedding planning! There were a few people that were hard to figure out, but most actually made a lot of sense. My husband’s advice, though, is don’t tell anyone who they’re sitting with. We had some family drama among some of his cousins (actually their parents) because we told them before-hand that we didn’t seat them with some of his other cousins. They wouldn’t have cared if they’d just show up and seen their seats, it was just the idea of it.

        • We also did assigned tables but not assigned seats because a) going to events with open seating always panics me and b) (more importantly) we were doing the traditional ten-course dinner Chinese reception and figured that the length of the dinner could work in our favor if we let it be a chance for old friends to catch up and new friends to meet. The strategizing was totally worth it and we’re *still* being told “I met the coolest people at your wedding! We’re hanging out next weekend!” :)

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Husband and I weren’t super interested in the seating arrangements, but ended up spending a lot of time on the seating arrangements for 3 reasons-

          1) The venue preferred to know ahead of time where the vegitarian and kid’s meals were going. They did a great job with the service and didn’t need to hunt around to get the right specialty meals to the people with special dietary needs.

          2) Some of Husband’s family puts a lot of stock in “preferred” seating. There was a whole hullabaloo after another family wedding when one aunt was seated too far from the head table. Apparently the closer you are to the bride and groom, the more loved you are. Or something.

          3) We had a few… difficult personalities at our wedding and we wanted to quarantine them so they wouldn’t spoil anyone’s good time. An exuberantly religious judgemental aunt who didn’t need to “accidentally” sit with a gay couple or unwed mother. Our bratty nephews were at the table closest to the bathroom and far away from my mother who didn’t want to invite them.

          In the end, it was kind of fun and I think it saved us some ugliness. I used software called “Perfect Table” which I downloaded for $10 and it was really easy to import my whole guestlist and it let me put in our floor plan and had a bunch of options on how to print things out and to keep track of rsvp’s.

        • A lot of people seem to have given their answers, but I’ll share anyway. DDay pretty much hit the nail on the head, though; we didn’t want people to feel left out or strewn around, and a seating chart helped that. We had some tables with as little as eight people (my wonderful but clique-ey college friends), and a couple tables with twelve people (to squeeze in all of my husband’s work colleagues!). We are very social people and our friends are pretty social as well, but we wanted to shape tables with people we thought would hit it off or get along. We took very careful thought in putting tables together, and it was a lot of fun– thinking who would get along with who. So that’s why we did a seating chart.

          As for another crazy thing to do, we nixed the calligrapher and escort cards– we literally had a seating chart. One big piece of foam core on an easel. We sorted it by last name, and listed each person’s table number. People could see where everyone was seated, and it was SO much easier than doing individual cards. I loved doing it that way– easy, low-stress, no big deal. :)

  • Lindsay

    I want to add to the How. Back when FH and I started planning we did the things Alyssa mentions as far as determining our budget. What we didn’t do is sit down with my parents (who are splitting the cost with us) and find out what their expectations were for our wedding and how their contribution was to be used. Mainly this means what my mom’s expectations were. I’ve run into a ton of unexpected Mamadrama and have had difficulty saying no when my parents are helping with the cost. Now I think that FH and I could have done a super simple wedding in a park using just what we wanted to spend (which probably would have hurt their feelings), but at the beginning that seemed impossible so I was (and still am) grateful to my parents. If your situation is similar to mine I recommend sitting down with all contributing parties and discussing who expects or wants what. I also recommend coming to this discussion with estimates in hand of potential expenses. My mom wants a $400 cake and a DJ – those are two things that I had not originally written into the budget and we’re still fighting about it. You may even want to have this conversation before setting the budget because we were pretty clueless when we came up with our original figure.
    Great post Alyssa!

  • I’ve been reading for a while but I too got officially engaged over the holidays, yipee! This was a perfectly timed post since I just stuck my baby toe into the planning part and got right back out again since it’s kinda scary.

    Thanks Alyssa, this was a great post. and i’m going to do exactly what you’ve suggested!

  • Oh man, where was this when I was newly engaged? What a life saver this is. Nice post!

  • Rachel

    Jumping in late here, but I had that same, “HOORAY HOORAY” followed, several days later, by a feeling of being bull-dozed. One of the hardest parts of getting engaged and planning the wedding, for me, was learning to decipher my fiance’s and my wants and needs from those of other people, and then figuring out a good way to say yes or no to other people’s requests.

    I used Martha Stewart’s checklist, and it did help me a lot. I was a wedding virgin… had only been to 1 in my adult life and had never been in a wedding. I had NO IDEA when invitations were supposed to be sent out (did it late anyway) or how quickly some beautiful venues would fill up (we didn’t start looking until 2 months after we got engaged and roughly 8 months before the wedding).

    Here’s what I did do on time, though: bought my wedding dress, asked bridesmaids to be involved, and set my heart on a few special details. I had no clue what sort of wedding we were going to have, but there was a huge sale and the price of the dress I loved was reduced. I asked Dan if we could have hydrangeas because it was the only way I would be able have something I remembered about my Grandma with me. I asked bridesmaids to be involved because it seemed like something I was supposed to do early.

    Why are those the things the first things I did? Because they were the first things I wanted to do. Plain and simple. If you’re wondering what to do first, thinking along the same lines. “Is this something I want to do? No. Then I’m putting it off as long as humanly possible.”

    As for the invitations and venue? We got a gorgeous place on the perfect date, and everybody showed up. Done and done. Dang checklist kinda lied to me.

  • “swamp*ss”! that’s _right_! I totally forgot you’re in _texas_!

    visualizing the year as a clock, we overlaid the months involving ncaa football with the months my west-coast family could “deal with,” and decided we were pretty much going to have to get married between 3:15 and 4:45. 5:05 at the latest.

    • Rachel

      Haha that’s great. My husband and I are both coaches, so we had to set the date around our practice and competition schedules. That left us with the option of only June or July since he’s in season from August to November and I’m in season from October to Memorial Day Weekend.

  • I have a really stupid question… do we submit an Ask Team Practical question?

    • I emailed my original question to Alyssa emailed me back for an update and was generally awesome (as usual) and a couple weeks later, voila!

      • Alyssa

        Also, check out the “Submissions” button on the right side! It give details for any submissions.

  • Janey

    Great Post!!!

    I SOOO wish I had found this when I was newly engaged. Along with all of the things Alyssa mentioned, I also think it’s important to sit down and ask yourselves how you want your wedding to FEEL. And how you want your guests to FEEL on your wedding day. Also, on a more logistical side, since I’m now newly married (two whole months TODAY!!), I thought I would just throw out some things that I found useful:

    1 – Establish a separate email address JUST for wedding spam. You’ll need to supply your email address for MANY things throughout this process and I found it helpful to just give them one that I didn’t HAVE to look at on a daily basis unless I wanted to. Once you start actually working with any vendors, obviously give them your regular one.

    2 – Establish a separate phone number too. I found a place on line where I could get a FREE phone number where I set up a voice mail greeting and got email notifications when someone called and left a message. As long as it’s used once every 30 days it stays active and it kept my VERY private personal number still, well, very private. The place I found can only do phone numbers with a Washington area code, but what does it matter. Worked like a charm.

    3 – If you are going to go to any bridal shows or bridal bazaars, pre-print address labels with all your wedding info on it (your name, your “wedding only” email & phone number, your fiance’s name, your date if you’ve established one, and your address). This saves you a TON of time and hassle when entering drawings, getting info, and whatever else.

    4 – Save pictures of things you like the look of and the FEEL of when you come across them on line. I set up folders with an overall heading of “Wedding” and divided them into things like “Invites/Paper Stuff”, “Flowers”, “Cakes”, “Dresses”, etc. This was amazingly helpful to me to go back to and it helped me SHOW other people what I had in mind. A picture is worth a thousand words and saved me a ton of explaining. HOWEVER, be wise and black out anything in the picture that doesn’t apply or circle the thing you are trying to focus on. People see the whole thing unless you guide them otherwise.

    5 – When saving all these pictures, name the picture with the name of the item. If you find a dress or a bridesmaid dress that you like, save it as “Mori Lee 838” or whatever designer and style number it is, not the string of numbers that it will automatically be saved as if you just hit save. A dress you find and save a pic of today, you might not be able to remember what designer it is or find again in April.

    6 – Let your vision and your tastes evolve!!! I ended up being pleasantly surprised to see the difference in the pictures I saved when I was newly engaged and the pictures that I focused on when doing my final choices.

    I’m sure I could come up with a ton more. But, this is getting kinda long.

    So, CONGRATULATIONS to all you fresh new brides out there. Try to have fun with it. And, when it stops being fun, STOP, step back, take a deep breath, and give yourself a break. It doesn’t all have to be tackled at once.

    • OMG I love that idea to set up separate email accounts for Wedding spam! I made the mistake of giving out my personal email at a Bridal Show, and I have been getting all kinds of poorly written emails from crappy vendors for shit we don’t need. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that Bridal Shows are essentially pointless: all the food was terrible, the souvenir art plates and custom wedding quilts (seriously, those were two vendors at the last one I went to) were mind-bogglingly expensive and kind of ridiculous in the first place, and the travel and real estate agents all seemed to just be leeching on the WIC aspect of everything. It was nice to get some ideas for vendors, but it was even better to find out who we DON’T want…

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I just made a special label in my gmail and auto-sorted anything that had the word “Wedding” in the subject line. That kept me pretty organized and all my wedding nonsense wasn’t cluttering up my inbox.

        I Heart Gmail.

    • FM

      Yes! to setting up a separate wedding email address. That both of you can access. Bonus if its gmail so you can access shared google docs from there with your wedding lists.

      Also, I recommend (or something similar, where you can bookmark web pages on the internet, instead of on a single computer). And then if your computer dies you won’t lose all your bookmarks.

  • My advice is: Read APW, the only wedding site where you’ll hear the phrase “swamp-*ss.” Love ya, Alyssa! :D

    • Alyssa

      We’re all class around here. :-)

    • Rachel

      I brought those Always wipie things that I used between the formal pictures and the reception. I literally gasped and said, “My vagina feels soooo much better!” My bridesmaids were half-appalled but 100% amused.

      My photographer later told me a story about a bride that laid a box fan down on the floor to go up her skirt. The photog’s assistant turned to him and said, “Gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘box fan.'” I basically died laughing.

  • oh! thank you for this: “And honestly, The Kn*t’s checklist is kinda fun, if you don’t take it seriously. I had immense pleasure in printing off its numerous pages and then taking a Sharpie to tasks that I never intended to do.”

    we’re getting closer to our wedding, and i’ve begun panicking about what all we haven’t done (admittedly minor panics, but increasing in frequency). taking a sharpie to an 11 page checklist was immensely cathartic!!

    • Rachel

      I used Martha Stewart’s list, which lets you delete tasks. It also gives you a percentage of doneness. I loved deleting stupid stuff and watching my percentage magically increase. “Gee, since I’m iPod-ing my wedding, I get to delete the 6 entries devoted to bands and DJs. Now I’m 4% closer to being done. WIN!”

  • I would like to add one piece of stolen advice. It is from on of the very first APW posts I ever read. I believe it was a wedding graduate post. The bride stated that early on in the process she decided that their wedding would be:

    “Our first act of hospitality as a couple.”

    The line spoke to me. I immediately took that sentence as my wedding-planning mantra and it really helped to put things in perspective. I should probably track down that post and send the lovely wedding graduate a big kiss and some candy for saying something that MEANT something.

    • “Our first act of hospitality as a couple.”

      I really like that idea!!! Hmm….off to think about the idea of approaching hospitality as a married couple….

    • Janey

      I TOTALLY agree with this one!!!

      Once you decide to include guests (cause let’s face it, that’s a choice, you could elope and have the most fab wedding EVER!!), their comfort and enjoyment should be ONE of the guiding forces in the rest of your choices.

      My nephew (more like his fiance) decided to have their wedding MID-DAY, in JULY, in the middle of KANSAS, at an OUT-DOOR ceremony, by a small pond. Talk about guest discomfort!!! The only thing left to do for the guests would be to baste them as they cooked!!!

      This isn’t to say that you have to forgo your dream destination or location. (Although, certainly, their ability to attend might be something to think about while choosing your venue/location.) However, once you do decide on including guests, then the when and where might be influenced as well. And, most importantly, over all, you need to make sure that you and your fiance are being gracious hosts.

  • For us, the first order of business when talking wedding was the Where. We got married in a place that we both love dearly. And yes, it limited our guest list, and yes, it wasn’t the most convenient for some of our guests, and yes, it even affected our date, but if I had to do it again I would start the same way. It was totally worth it for us.

  • K

    Google Documents was a super helpful tool for us!
    All of our what/where/who lists never got lost!

    I also think it’s a good idea to talk about responsibilities/interests early on — Want both people to attend all vendor meetings? Want to divide and conquer? Want total creative control of certain facets? It shapes the feasibility of the “what” list to know how many total manhours (you + fiance/fiancee) will be available for planning.

    Last thing, we set a standing planning “date” — Sunday morning, we’d make brunch and set aside 2 hours to work on making wedding decisions — this really cut down on tired/forced conversations during the week because we knew we had a good time scheduled to talk about it later.

  • We are 8 months into our 9 month engagement (four weeks to go!) and looking back from this point, the one thing we did at the start that I am so incredibly glad we did at the start?

    Set CLEAR boundaries about money, and STICK to them.

    And as a sub point to that? Know your people.

    By this I mean, if people have a track record of saying they’ll give money and then not fronting up with it? Take that into account. If people are consistently generous and you know you can rely on them? Take that into account. Know what things you yourself (and your fiance) will want to spend money on, and what things you won’t, and take that into account.

    For us, this meant that at the start we said, we’re only accepting money if it is a gift from you, otherwise we are really happy to pay for things ourselves. But if it isn’t a gift, thankyou, but we don’t want it. (More politely than that. But that’s what we said.)

    Ultimately, this meant only spending what we knew we could pay for ourselves if some of the promises of money (to be given after the wedding) fell through – simply because we did not feel like we could rely on those promises 100%, and we didn’t want to go into debt if they did fall through. And most of all, we REALLY didn’t want to feel like just because people had promised us money, they could later use it to push us into changing our plans by threatening to take it away if we didn’t do what they wanted. (Which wasn’t an unrealistic concern in our circumstances.)

    It also meant that when we budgeted, we (and really I mean I here :) ) didn’t let myself go overboard on what I was willing to spend just because someone else was paying for it. In the back of my mind, there was always “but if you had to pay for this yourself, in the end, would you be comfortable with spending this?” So I made sure that the answer was always yes. (Even when people were trying to push me into spending more money because “it’s a weddinggggg”. Which, weirdly, happened a lot.)

    The second thing, that I wish I had known at the start but have really had to learn throughout wedding planning?

    People. Don’t. Change.

    Just because you’re getting married, doesn’t mean that the people around you will suddenly develop a level of kindness or thoughtfulness they don’t have in real life, or be more patient with you because you’re a briiiiiiiide. They might, but they probably won’t. The people who are flaky will still be flaky. The people who don’t like weddings? Probably still won’t like weddings. The people who have a history of causing drama? Will probably find a way to cause drama. Your wedding won’t change these things – if anything, it will bring them out in full force by putting them under the microscope.

    But the people who have your back? Will still have your back. Trust them.

  • Lil’J

    Thanks Alyssa and other commenters for the great advice! As a baby bride who got engaged over the holidays, your advice has me breathing a sigh of relief. Ever since announcing our engagement, it’s been a steady stream of questions I can’t yet answer. I’ll admit I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with ideas and details, but this post gives me a solid starting point. It’s time to talk to my FI…

  • Kaylie

    Absolutely right about the Kn*t. Checklist is hilarious.

  • I seriously doubt that after 240+ comments I have anything to add. But I do want to say that this is all excellent advice. We all learn throughout our lives how we handle things. From college to careers to moves, we each have our own way of doing things. Hopefully practicing with some of those big (and not so big) things in our lives helps give us skills to plan our weddings. And planning a wedding helps strengthen those skills, and teach us how to use them with our partner, to get through the rest of the things in our lives.

    I do lists (and anti-lists). I like seeing things get crossed off. Planning the wedding the first thing we did was figure out the when and where of the ceremony. Everything else was just fluff for us, so we set that up first and then everything else just fell into place around it.

  • kaitlyn142

    When I got engaged, the first thing I did was sign up at The Kn*t. We hadn’t picked a date, so I entered in a year from the day we got engaged. I about died when it informed me I was already late picking out my DJ. Ha, I just remembered that when I bought my wedding planning organizer, the first thing I did was took a Sharpie to the checklist stuff I had no need for. Videographer? Gone.

    The most useful thing I did was find a support group of brides I could commiserate with, especially about my FMIL. I am not the DIL my FMIL would have chosen for her son for a variety of reasons. Finding other women whose in-laws have tried to outright forbid the wedding was a life (and engagement!) saver.

  • Emma

    Greetings! I just got engaged in August and am getting married in May. I LOVE this website and it’s been a great week to nerd out on wedding stuff without getting sucked in to madness. I have three small words of wisdom from my last few months, all of which have probably been said here before, but because it seems that a lot of new folks are reading, I’d love to highlight:

    a) With regards to people butting in, suggesting, asserting their opinions and asking questions, I am finding that one thing that’s helping me is to just use the right pronouns. If I consistently remind people in a subtle way that it’s “our decision” or that “we haven’t gotten to talk about that yet”, I am suddenly not only reminding them what it’s really about, but am off the hook for their demands that I have an answer or opinion right then. It’s so easy and it’s helping me think more couple-minded!

    b) This is straight from APW: eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. There is no should. This does not mean there is no tradition or merit in doing the normal thing, it just helps focus on doing it because you want to, or because it makes sense or for any other reason other than that you feel obligated to society or media or family or self.

    c) The WIC is not the enemy, and I love that I’ve seen that in these comments. It can be frightening, it can be useful, but mostly, it can be wildly entertaining. So when I went into a bridal store and the staff acted as if I was personally inducing their hernia by only having 6 months to find a dress, we laughed. And when I read those giant checklists with items that I could not imagine being worthy of a checkbox, instead of letting them elicit anger and resentment, they evoked laughter. One minute of belly laughter is worth three minutes on a rowing machine, aerobically, so please save on gym memberships and just check out that bridezilla hilarity. (I am a bit biased, I go to laughter yoga once a week and it’s slightly life-changing.)

    • I am intrigued by this idea of “laughter yoga.” I laugh at yoga but it’s mainly at myself trying to pretend I’m actually flexible.

  • Snap. I just printed the kn*t checklist and sharpied to my heart’s content. It was extremely satisfying. And only 336 days to go!

  • emmylou

    We have been “unofficially” engaged for a while (and together for over a decade) and its so exhausting to have people ask us when? When? When? Umm are you paying for this? No so SHUT UP! Your absolutely correct in your steps. That Kn*t list will drive you up a freakin wall. We are both struggling with our finances so its difficult to plan. I sometimes want to give up and run off to city hall (for financial reasons) but I know thats honestly not what I want, I’d be settling and thats a sucky way to start a marriage.

  • Celia

    This blog has been such a breath of fresh air. I’m one of the many that got engaged over the holidays, and while it was a long time coming (we’ve been together for seven years. I think there may have been a betting pool), a wedding isn’t something I’ve spent a great deal of time fantasizing about. Not even 24hrs after the engagement I had people wanting to know when the date was, what sort of plans we had, and were shocked that I hadn’t already figured this out. Apparently, I should have started planning when I was 12.

    As a result of this, the first week of “planning” was mostly me telling people whatever sounded good so that they’d leave me alone. Also, the level of enthusiasm I’ve received is a bit intimidating–I mean, I know it’s just because everyone’s so happy for us, but I’ve had two people launch into bridal shower plans at me, and I kind of hate the things.

    So yes, very, very glad I found this place.

    • I experienced the same thing with the immediate launch into details. As someone who hasn’t been planning her wedding since she was 12, I was overwhelmed. I wanted to share with you the go-to response I’ve been using when people offer me words of wisdom, whether they’re being nice or super intense about it:

      “I’d love to hear whatever advice you have to offer as long as you’re not offended if I don’t take it.” And then I smile :)

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Oh Alyssa, love, excellent post and excellent advice. I think the WHY is crucial, CRUCIAL. The why is what keeps you grounded and also reminds you that you’re marrying your PARTNER and not the wedding, whatever plans you laid out, whatever napkins you had in mind, the decision to have cake and serve beer, etc. I’m just saying that sometimes in wedding planning world, when we have an idea in our head of what we want our wedding to look like or feel like, etc we sometimes sacrifice ourselves to a wedding that doesn’t actually serve us or isn’t working for us. It’s ok to change your mind about something, even at the last minute, because it’s ultimately about the WHY. Giving myself permission to change my mind and remind myself that I wasn’t married to whatever plans we had made (including the decision to even get married in the first place) was immensely liberating.

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  • Alexandra

    Heee, good stuff. I’m not a holiday-season-engaged person [and was very intrigued when I found out about the concept this year], but we did start our serious planning in October ’10, after just enjoying engagement for a good while and then finally starting to talk about what kind of wedding we want a year ago.

    As others said, my best advice is to just enjoy being engaged for awhile. When people ask your date/place/colors/whatever, “We’re just going to enjoy being engaged for awhile first”….Granted, we’re laid-back people and so this was in character for us–but, really, have some planning-free space!

    Reading this post & comments have made me realize that my FH is right–even though I have fond memories of [couple], of going to their wedding 5+ years ago, of being with them our first few years of living in this city–we haven’t heard from them in quite a while. I’ve made excuses, they have a toddler, and really, they might be unable to come anyhow, so it can’t hurt to invite them? But. I guess I have to give up on them. ;p Sucks.

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