This Is the Only Gift I Give to Newly Engaged Friends

Truly, you guys


APW Planner Wedding Planning Guide

The running joke at APW is that while most of us are married and/or have worked in the wedding industry in some capacity, we never get invited to weddings. (Blame it on living in major metropolitan areas where the median age for marriage is like thirty-four.) So this year, I think the universe got tired of hearing my joke, and decided that all of my closest friends and family should get engaged at the exact same time. HAHAHA GREAT JOKE UNIVERSE, THANK YOU. And you know what I’ve realized in the months since? It doesn’t matter how progressive the wedding industry gets, or how much technology makes it easier, wedding planning is as stressful as it ever was.

Luckily, I have at my disposal A) everything I’ve learned working at APW, and B) copies of A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. So with each engagement, out goes a little care package courtesy of APW. And I don’t want to undersell my ability to be a supportive shoulder and all, but the ones who have read the books are approximately 50 percent less stressed right now than the ones who haven’t yet (cough, cough, you know who you are). And I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Here’s why:

It will legit save you money: Let’s not kid about my intentions here. The number one reason to buy the APW book and APW planner is that they will save you money. In fact, I just went back and read my original review of the APW book, and it turns the APW book would have saved me $900 on extraneous crap that I didn’t need, plus at least two fights with my parents, and one totally unnecessary breakdown over wedding sparklers. I mean, the crying would have been worth it alone. But dollar bills, y’all.

Everyone else has opinions; the books have facts: When my sister got engaged, her first complaint was that she couldn’t escape the phrase, “If I could just offer you one piece of advice…” (and also that she’s polite and couldn’t tell them to shove it with their advice). Because here’s the thing: pretty much everyone who wants to offer you advice for your wedding has either planned a wedding and therefore thinks everything they learned will automatically apply to your wedding, or has an agenda for your wedding. But the APW book? It just wants you to have a seamless, stress-free wedding. And it’s backed up with hundreds of hours of tireless research so you can make informed decisions based on what you want.

Almost everyone jumps the gun: Most of the advice from the wedding industry about how you should plan your wedding is super backwards. (Guests first, guys, then decorations.) Which leads to things like… you buying a dress before you figure out your venue and then realizing they’re totally mismatched. Or getting into fights with your partner about said venue, because you never sat down and came up with a mission statement and priority list for your wedding. But the APW book and APW planner are designed to take you through the planning process in a way that saves everyone’s sanity and emotional well-being. I recommend this process for maximum effect:

  • Read through the APW book in tandem with your partner to get through the big emotional questions.
  • Hand said book off to the family member who is guaranteed to cause you the most stress during planning to help them reorient their expectations. Buy additional copies for anyone else you expect to give you a hard time.
  • Dig into the planner as you need it. May the index be your guide.

Google is great, but sometimes it’s the worst: Truth is, you can probably find most of what you’re looking for through a combination of Google searches, and the pages of this here website. But y’all, that takes time. And the thing about Google is I always feel like I have to check my sources against at least two other sources, because the Internet is full of crazy. With the books, you can spend $15 and get all those answers in one place, thus gaining hours of your life back. And time, in the world of wedding planning, is the most precious of resources. Plus, chances are pretty high that the APW books have thought of things you don’t even know you need to know yet. Here’s some of the stuff that’s included:

  • Setting a budget—and sticking to it
  • Choosing a venue: traditional, non-traditional, and everything in between
  • Hiring good vendors, keeping your friendors, and why DIY doesn’t always save money
  • Catering, rentals, and everything else Pinterest forgot to tell you
  • Wedding decor: a realist’s guide
  • Creating and writing a ceremony
  • Getting everyone to show up… and have a good time

Related tip: Books can add an extra layer of legitimacy for those family members who are maybe less trusting of the Internet. So if you’re trying to communicate to your dad that actually, you don’t owe everyone a favor at the end of the night, the book might sway him more than an Internet article. Because it’s a book. That you bought in a store. With a cover and binding and everything. So it has to be true.

I wish I could say there’s a magic formula to make wedding planning painless. But the weekly calls from my crew tell me it’ll never be so simple (family drama never says die!). But it can be easier. So if you’re newly engaged, or, like me, you suddenly have half a dozen friends who are planning weddings, then save yourself the gift cards and flowers, and get the engagement present that pays for itself.

BUY THE #APWPlanner:

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  • Lawyerette510

    When loved ones get engaged, I send the couple the APW book with this note “im going to give you this unsolicited advice once, then I’ll shut my mouth til I’m asked: read this, check out the APW website, and consider the planner.”

    • ktmarie

      I do the same! I really hated all the ‘advice’ and commentary I got right after we first got engaged, so I feel slightly hypocritical but I always give the caveat that it’s the only time I’ll do that (and it’s sooo worth it for planning)

    • Jane

      I know – because the first book is best if you read it BEFORE anything else.

      I was thrilled when a friend who was pre-engaged asked for wedding planning advice and I was like – take this book! Because they haven’t announced their engagement no one has bombarded them with all these questions.

      • idkmybffjill

        Oh MAN – to be armed with APW knowledge pre-engagement. The BEST.

      • Meg Keene

        For real. I tell friends to read the first book, and then pick up the planner in two months when they’re crying and cursing the gods and yelling “BUT HOW!?”

        Reading the planner first would freak you out. Reading the first book the second you get engaged (or several seconds before), I think can really save your sanity as the madness starts.

        • Jane

          And the first book can stop you from making decisions too soon.* But you don’t need it as a reference the way you might with the planner. Which meant I was able to pass on the book to my friend (instead of buying one for her – sorry ;)).

          * I am one of those people who got her giant dress with a train immediately and now has a slightly more casual outdoor wedding. I LOVE my dress and have no regrets, but I didn’t even think about the practical stuff first.

          • toomanybooks

            I managed to pick out a wedding band that isn’t any less scratchy than my engagement ring. I was like “I don’t wear jewelry for practicality!” very flamboyantly, and now “oh hmm am I going to spend the rest of my life not being able to wash my hands that easily.”

          • Jane

            Ugh, why are so many pretty rhingba so difficult to work with?

            It’s been almost a year of wearing my engagement ring and I’m still not into having something that catches on everything. My band is going to be FLAT and smooth.

          • idkmybffjill

            Man, my engagemenet ring was smooth – so I got a diamond wedding band, and it’s SO SCRATCHY even though it’s only half way. Why why why why why.

        • idkmybffjill

          Yes!!! I read the first one upon engagement, the planner was published about 6 months out from my wedding, and it worked out really nicely. I did miss out on some really relevant early stage tips, but it was when I was getting down to nitty gritty that I needed the hardcore tips and it was really perfect timing.

          • Jane

            Yeah – we made our venue decision before I got the planner and I wish I’d read through all the questions to ask. There are some good ones on there!

  • Laura C

    I was married before the planner came out, so I haven’t read that, but not only did I read the first book, my parents borrowed my copy and read it. Conversation last week:

    My mother: “[Family friend’s son] is engaged and [other family member] is telling him that they have to have equal numbers of attendants even though they just want their siblings and have different numbers of siblings. Can you send me the information on the Practical Wedding book to send his mother so she can give it to them?”

    Me: “And there’s a new one, too! I’ll send you the info for both.”

    • idkmybffjill

      Man, the equal number of attendants thing is always the weirdest to me. Like – awesome if it lines up, but I don’t know anyone who has perfectly even best friends/siblings.

      • Amy March

        Which is why traditionally you feed any superfluous friends to the stork to ensure that it promptly brings babies. Obviously.

        • idkmybffjill


        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          What’s Plan B if I don’t want babies? Can I trade them in for gas points?

          • Amy March

            No, but if you throw them head first down a wishing well instead for the rest of your life you’ll find a quarter on the ground every Tuesday there is a full moon. #truefacts

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            …I’ll take it.

      • sofar

        It’s always been so weird to me too. And then we had an uneven number in our wedding and people acted like WE were the weird ones. Can’t win.

        • idkmybffjill

          So weird! We had an uneven number and luckily no one mentioned it. My husband had a moment of, “Ah do I need to ask more people?” and I was like…. “ask the people you want to stand up with you. Those are the people who should be there.” I had 4, he had 2, it didn’t matter!

      • CrazyCatLibrarian

        I used to think everything had to match and be even (uneven/asymmetrical things make me feel unbalanced and anxious- I have to eat the same amount of food on each side on my mouth or my head feels like it’s too heavy on one side), until I actually got engaged and realized that I just don’t really like that many people that well, and my fiancé has way more friends that I do. So I have my sister and three friends, which still feels like a lot, and he has 6. My friends can wear whatever the hell they want as long as it’s navy blue, and his are all renting the same suits and spending way more money. Luckily “I don’t give a shit anymore” won out over anxiety in the end.

        • idkmybffjill

          Ha, for sure! We had uneven and mismatched folks too. Actually, his dudes matched because there was a super sale on suits at Men’s Warehouse. I had 4 attendants, he had 2. I used it as an opportunity to not be super heteronormative and had my bridesmaids walk down the aisle together! ETA: even though it’s weird to imply coupling in your bridal party anyway. But still, two ladies down the aisle made me happy!

          Also if balance will bother you for pictures of the ceremony, just have the smaller side space out a little bit. Then it’ll still appear visually balanced. And you won’t have to treat your people as if they’re props!

          The “I don’t give a shit anymore” moments are powerful things.

  • toomanybooks

    I read the original book and now I own the planner, and it’s seriously such a good reference.

    • Jane


    • Meg Keene

      Yeah, I for sure wrote the planner as the reference book. It’s not really a “read cover to cover” kind of book (it nearly killed me to write it cover to cover ;) ) But it gives you all the specific information that you need to plan a wedding that the first book doesn’t have. Even with a team helping me research, prying this information out of the wedding industry was like pulling teeth. It was unreal.

      • toomanybooks

        “Like pulling teeth” is exactly how I’d describe certain aspects of the wedding planning process! (When you want to find out how much something costs, when you’re looking for a vendor, when you need help making a decision, when you’re trying to get addresses from your parents…)

  • Rosemay

    The planner sounds great and I would like something like it to help me out but I am in the UK- how much of it would be relevant? Obviously all the suppliers would be different and quite a few of the customs too. Do people know of a good equivalent for the UK? Or would it actually still be super helpful?

    • Same (I am crying out for UK specific advice about evening guests!). Rock n Roll bride is a UK based site with a similar inclusive ethos and covers some of the UK etiquette and supplier stuff, but it’s so much quieter than AP. Smaller country, fewer weddings :( Also, postage costs for American stuff are not good right now, especially with all the surprise custom fees.

      • Call Me Penny

        My two cents on evening guests is that it’s not an issue at all here etiquette wise. As long as you’re not trying to dupe people into thinking there wasn’t anything else happening earlier in the day then I think you’re good!

      • Ashley Meredith

        The APW book is available from Amazon UK. Would that not solve the postage/customs issues?

    • Call Me Penny

      It’s not a book, but I loved the Save the Date/Bridechilla podcast for planning on this side of the pond. The host is Australian but living in the U.K., and I loved her no nonsense approach in the run up to my wedding

    • Leah

      The planner is mostly good for figuring out what you want to include and how one should plan for that. It’s not so much about suppliers as “if you want to supply the booze yourself, this is how you estimate how much”. And while many of the traditions won’t apply in the UK, the nice thing about both books is that they mention Many traditions and talk about how nobody needs Any of them if they don’t want those things. If a wedding actually included all of the possible events and geegaws, it’d be Insane. But options and practical planning tools are good!

    • Meg Keene

      As noted below, it’s mostly pretty relevant. I’m not talking about specific vendors/ suppliers, and more “how many dinner rolls do you need” or “how far apart should your tables be so you can walk between them” or “seriously, wait to buy your dress till you know what season you’re getting married in.” The biggest difference is really that my measurements won’t be in metric ;) And you should probably ignore the page on contract law, since it’s US contract law.

      I have family in the UK, and a lot of my online wedding planning friends are from the UK, so I’m writing with at least a general awareness of how y’all do things. but in short, no, there is not a similar book in the UK that I know of.

  • emilyg25

    I lovelovelove the planning method outlined in the APW book. My then-fiance sat down and determined three words for how we wanted our wedding to feel and our top three spending priorities and stuck that shit on the fridge. We looked at it every time things got tricky. Highly recommend! I’m sure the planner is just as useful.

    • Danielle

      Yes, the three words and three top priorities really helped us get aligned and focus on what mattered to us. I highly recommend that tactic if couples planning don’t do anything else.

  • idkmybffjill

    Just gifted these to my newly engaged friends! They were leafing through them like Christmas morning and it was the best.

    Also gifted – Miss Manners Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding. I told them to forget the rules that didn’t make sense to them (her stance on RSVPs gets a raised eyebrow from me), but lord does it give you clout to day, “Miss Manners says my bridesmaids don’t have to match.”

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    My two most practical recently married friends both recommended the book to me. Which was all the recommendation I needed, and also how I ended up here. Thanks, friends!

  • JLily

    I was really hoping that you were going to be selling the whole gift bag you have pictured. It’s so cute!

  • sofar

    My (very old) uncle gifted me this book. Apparently a woman he works with told him to. He sent me a note that said, “I know you don’t want advice from me, but I am told this book is not stupid.”

    • idkmybffjill

      What I love that so much.

    • Jess

      This is the most beautiful note. “I am told this book is not stupid.” I laughed really hard.

  • idkmybffjill

    Oh Oh! Also – the first book is totally great in Kindle form, but I would definitely recommend getting the Planner as hard copy. I had it as electronic and it would’ve been much more enjoyable to just thumb through to the spots I needed.

    I’m also not great at my Kindle, so YMMV.

    • toomanybooks

      I think my book would fall open to the page with tiers of things to accomplish if someone flipped through it. Whenever I vaguely think “I need to work on planning” I go through that list and note which things I’ve done and which things still need to be researched.

      • idkmybffjill

        Love that.

        I found the info in the planner to be overwhelming at first, so definitely went to using it as sort of an index, and just searched for the thing I was working on.

  • Jane

    That clamshell jewelry/ring box is really pretty.

  • Fiona

    I literally buy this book for every friend who is getting married. Not even joking. I bought it and used it as a planning resource and as a CONSTANT backup when I was explaining certain choices to my mom.

    • Jane

      Or, even more important sometimes, using that Olive Garden thing – “look FMIL, this is why catering costs so much. I’m not just buying into the WIC.”

      • Fiona

        Our wedding’s real cost was probably twice as much as we spent (or more) because the catering was a gift, the venue was my mom’s place, the photography we won, the invites were a gift, the live music was friends, the ASL interpreter was a friend, the flowers were grown and arranged as a gift, a friend built the dance floor, my cousins and uncle did the landscaping and SO MANY FRIENDS came and did ALL THE SETUP…
        I have no good idea how much it would have cost had we actually paid for that.

        • idkmybffjill

          Dang! You guys hit the wedding jackpot!

        • Jane

          Wow – that’s an incredible amount of support. And luck. Awesome!
          Our parents are supporting the wedding by giving money / paying for things, but we are still the ones booking everything and comparing vendors, so I’m aware of all the prices. Catering costs a whole lot.

      • idkmybffjill

        The Olive Garden rule was INSTRUMENTAL in helping us grapple with the big numbers. Like… Okay. We want a full meal and appetizers and drinks and dessert? That costs a thing.

  • lamarsh

    My best friend’s boyfriend just texted me a picture of the ring he bought her yesterday, and my first thought was, I CANNOT WAIT to get her the APW books for Christmas. So this was an aptly timed post.

  • K Dubs

    Just bought the first book after staving off a wedding-related panic attack this morning. I already have the planner, but it sounds like I need both… Thanks for the timely post!

  • My fiance and I are working our way through the book right now. As someone who has planned my own wedding in a past life as well as my sister’s recently, I got way too ahead of myself and, after a wee bit of a tiff (there was crying, there was yelling…), we started from scratch and are just working our way through the book, page by page.

    Last weekend we went through the “life questions” discussion and were very pleased with the result. He’s been feeling so much less overwhelmed with the whole process and I have felt like we are sharing the process a lot more.

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