“What exactly is the point of this wedding?” —me, one month into wedding planning.
Right after my now-husband and I got engaged, his company granted us an overseas assignment: we were moving to Abu Dhabi. We’d been waiting for this and we were SUPER DUPER excited. Except we had to be legally married if we wanted to move together to the UAE, because it is a Muslim country.
By the time we started looking for venues, we were already newlyweds—at least according to the state of Texas. Compound this unexpected reality with the stress of coordinating an international move and I started having doubts about what was the purpose of this wedding. I suggested eloping on safari in South Africa. He briefly researched small wedding packages in Costa Rica. In the end our parents requested we rein it in and choose something that our grandparents would be able to attend… something that maybe didn’t require hiking boots or passports. We were, it seemed, going to have a big, traditional wedding.
And I needed to have a good reason why to ground me before I jumped into piles of beautiful stationery, picturesque venues, and lovely cakes. On a long walk, my then-fiancé and I came up with the following, our mission statement if you will: Our wedding will serve as a time for our friends and family to reconnect with us, get to know one another, and enjoy a happy weekend in the Texas Hill Country. When we started planning, we used this statement like a gilded Gandalf with his staff—if it doesn’t fit the mission, it shall not pass.
Seems simple, right? But here’s the trick to making it work:
1. We came up with this together. Not just the idea, but the specific words. Then, we even wrote it down.
2. It’s surprisingly narrow. Think of all of the things that don’t fit into this mission. There’s nothing in here about how beautiful it will be or even anything about the ceremony.
3. We told our parents the mission for the beginning, then let them choose how they wanted to be involved.
Then, we got to planning.
We chose a small inn for the venue, so everyone could stay on site or within walking distance. We planned a hike for the morning of the wedding and put coolers of beer on the main porch, so guests spent time together. We designated more cash for the rehearsal dinner, and had an outdoor BBQ at a winery that all guests were invited too. We got shuttles to transport guests, so they wouldn’t have to worry about driving. We chose a well-known Austin DJ and our guests tore up the dance floor. We opted for the simplest, least expensive invitations possible. (This one was hard. I love beautiful paper. But it meant being able to help a few relatives pay for their accommodations—worth it.) We opted for a pricier caterer. We nixed things like engagement photos, favors, and a videographer because they were far removed from the mission. We limited our bridal party to only siblings. We requested no gifts, to cut down on costs for our friends and family. Finally, I sent out a Google Form asking guests for input on choosing the date, to maximize the number of people who could make it. (At the time, friends thought this was hilarious—and, of course, it is. But we were extremely happy when almost everyone was able to make our destination wedding.) I didn’t spend a ton of time on the ceremony, and this ended up not being a particularly memorable part of the weekend. Which was an okay trade-off for me.
I imagine that the mission statement (or purpose, vision, etc.) would vary widely for different couples. Some want their weddings steeped in cultural or religious tradition. Some may want to focus on telling their story. Others may want to have a ceremony and reception that is a work of art, or aesthetically beautiful. All kinds of weddings are worthy. And planning will be full of choices. But choosing a focus, crafting a mission statement, helps make all those decisions more intentional. Then, when you let something go, you can really let it go.
By the way, at the last minute, we totally opted out of our mission statement for one thing: flowers. But that’s the thing about rules. Once you establish them, you can make an intelligent decision about when it’s best to ignore them. They were beautiful.
For more ideas like this, check out the APW book.