When Meg first sent me the manuscript for the new #APWPlanner she’d been killing herself writing for nine months, she sent it with the caveat that it “might just not be that useful or interesting.” Now, ignoring the blatant impostor syndrome of that statement (I’m working on it with her, y’all), I explained to Meg that the reason she thinks her wedding planning advice is not all that useful is because it’s not for her. She’s got a theater degree, she used to produce shows in New York, and now there’s a CEO nameplate on her desk. (Well, metaphorically speaking at least.) In short, girlfriend is nothing if not organized.
I, on the other hand, am… not. And my wedding was an exercise in pulling off a disorganized miracle. Now, I loved my wedding in all of its joyful chaos. But I made so many mistakes along the way, mistakes that caused me weeks of stress and even hurt the people I loved. And I made these mistakes because I just didn’t know any better. At the time, wedding blogs were all inspiration boards and color stories and no logistical advice or numbers. Wedding coordinators were barely a thing yet, unless you had the money to hire Jennifer Lopez to come fix your life. But as I read the #APWPlanner, I saw all of my problems solved in plain black and white… six years too late. Turns out, all I needed was someone who knew what the hell they were doing to tell me what the hell I should do.
So to celebrate next month’s launch of the #APWPlanner, here are five things I learned from it that would have helped me avoid some totally unnecessary wedding planning mistakes:
1. YOU HAVE TO THINK IN REAL DOLLARS. The first time we met with our venue manager, I remember sitting down and explaining that we were really trying to keep our food budget at about $15 a head. At which point I think I watched her die a little inside. My logic? You can totally get a sandwich a side of fries for $15. Duh. Her logic? HAHAHAHAHAHA IS THIS GIRL CRAZY?! Which is why my favorite tip from the #APWPlanner is the Olive Garden Rule, courtesy of Liz Coopersmith of Silver Charm Events. The Olive Garden rule goes like this: Unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks notwithstanding, at the Olive Garden, an appetizer, a salad, and a few glasses of wine will cost about $50 per person. Transition that to a hundred guests, and it would cost $5,000 to serve Olive Garden at your wedding. In short, could I have spent $15 a head at my wedding? Yes. But I would have served them a sandwich and a side of fries, with tables and chairs not included. And that’s not what I was asking my venue manager for.
So think about what you want, and then think about what it costs in the real world (times the number of your guests, plus things like tables and chairs). If you still want it once you’ve done the math, great. You have a realistic starting point for thinking about costs. If you don’t, figure out what you do want (sandwiches and fries are pretty delicious). Behold: #TheOliveGardenRule.
2. WILDLY Guessing at the guest list is a bad idea. So I’d read online somewhere that you can expect roughly 80 percent of your invited guests to attend your wedding. Except there’s a caveat: if your guests are mostly local, you can actually expect closer to 85 or 90 percent of your guest list to attend. Which is exactly how our expected two hundred–person wedding suddenly became a 225 person wedding without warning. In our… barely two hundred–person capacity restaurant. #Whoops. There are different rules for all kinds of different wedding scenarios, but guessing is never a good idea. But here’s a cheater’s tool: if you click here, you can download a page directly from the #APWPlanner with estimates for different kinds of wedding scenarios and guest types. So go print it out, hang it on your wall, and then use it to calm yourself down every time you start to worry about space constraints at your venue.
3. rentals are not always going to be more expensive (or less work). Somewhere in the abyss of my poor grandmother’s home are a bunch of boxes filled with dozens of hurricane vases, tiny votive holders, and twenty chocolate brown tablecloths with tiki-style runners. Why? Because I assumed it would be cheaper to buy everything than rent. And there’s something to be said for not having to expunge twenty chocolate brown tablecloths from your life after your wedding is over. Because spoiler alert: nobody wants twenty chocolate brown tablecloths. (Unless you do, in which case, they’re yours.)
4. Wedding Dresses Aren’t Inherently a Scam. You may have heard this one before. Girl wants to buy affordable wedding dress. Girl buys cute BCBG number off the rack for $100. Girl’s family waits until three weeks before the wedding to tell her that the dress is kinda sorta see through and possibly in danger of a wardrobe malfunction. Girl winds up in David’s Bridal two weeks before the wedding praying for a miracle. Hint: I’m the girl. And my predicament was no one’s fault but my own. I figured that everything wedding-related, including dresses, simply had a wedding tax applied. White dress? Double the price and call it a wedding dress! Except that’s not exactly true.
If you’re going for a white wedding dress (and there’s plenty in the #APWPlanner that says you certainly don’t have to do that, so feel free to send a copy to your mom) there’s a whole bunch of internal support and see-through-ness that gets accounted for in ways that white evening gowns don’t always do. So in a lot of ways, you get what you pay for.
5. A Non-Traditional Venue Isn’t the Answer to All Your Problems. When we were planning our wedding, I refused to even consider a traditional wedding venue. Why? Well, mostly because I was hellbent on martyring myself to the cause of our wedding. But also? Because traditional venues, with all their requirements and up-front costs, scared me. But here’s the thing I learned the hard way: you still have to pay for a lot of those costs with non-traditional venues; you just do it piecemeal instead (I mean, people need bathrooms no matter where you get married). And you do it without the added insurance of knowing that your venue has done this a thousand times before. My restaurant venue, for example, had never hosted a wedding before. And while they were generally awesome to work with, they also weren’t prepared for basic wedding related things like… staggering the buffet so there isn’t a huge line. Also, making sure the married couple gets a plate of food.
When Michael and I were planning our wedding, we did it with the assumption that the smart way to plan was take whatever the wedding industry told us we should do and then do the opposite of that (because clearly they were just going to line their pockets with our naïveté). And the problem with that is the exact same problem you face when you do All The Things the wedding industry wants you to do: you’re not making an informed decision.
I’ve learned to forgive myself, though. When we were planning our wedding, it was nearly impossible to make an informed decision, because there was no information to be found. We either had to trust the wedding industry, or not. After reading the APW Planner, what I’ve learned is that the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. You want the wedding industry’s information, without the sales pitch. And maybe a little bit of hindsight. Not that I know anything about that.
The good news is it’s not 2009 anymore, so hindsight is actually available on Amazon for .99. (Hint: It’s the #APWPlanner. And surprise—it actually is useful and interesting.) And to answer your questions, yes, it will save you a ton of cash (and dead flowers, and tears, and maybe even therapy bills). And yes mailing a copy to your mom and MIL is basically like buying yourself a mini spa break for the holidays.
And let’s be real—if you’re planning a wedding, you probably deserve a mini spa break right about now.
BUY THE #APWPlanner: