Wedding Planning: You’re Doing It Right!

The other day (because God loves me?) I was working at a cafe, when a group of wedding planners got in a screaming fight in front of me. The whole thing was one of the most entertaining things that’s ever happened to me while working in public, since they were screaming about antiques and chandeliers, and then kept mentioning their business’ name (which of course I immediately looked up… obviously). But the most fascinating part was when the screaming match turned into a yell-y discussion of how to best make your clients book all the people you want them to, even if it costs them literally boat loads of money that they don’t want to spend. Awesome.

They said (yelled) that the best way to sell their preferred caterer was to explain to clients that this caterer cooked on site, and most caterers cooked off site (true, by the way, since you’re paying for the caterer’s kitchen), which meant that if you hired someone else, when the food arrived, it wasn’t going to be precisely the proper temperature. Leaving aside the fact that this isn’t even true (most caterers worth their salt will reheat as needed), it so profoundly missed the point of a wedding that I felt sort of… gleeful? I immediately had an image of all the guests pulling out their insta-read thermometers at once (the perfect favor?), and checking the temperature of their steak, only to tsk-tsk when they found it a few degrees low.

This, of course, just highlighted for me the difference between an awesome wedding planner and a shitty one. I mean first, I think we can all agree that you don’t need a wedding planner (though you do need someone in charge on the day of that’s not you, friend or hired). But if you’re going to get a wedding planner, you want an awesome one, who considers it part of their job to tell you: 1) You’re Doing Wedding Planning Right. 2) You Don’t Have To Spend A Crap Ton Of Money. 3) Your Wedding Is Going To Be Excellent Because It’s Yours. And 4) We Can Problem Solve Together.

Which brought me to thinking about, well, ourselves. Because the wedding planners I described are nothing more than the good and bad angels of the wedding industry, as I see it. One is about shaming and guilting you to think that you’re not enough (so you spend All The Money), and one is about helping you see that you ARE enough (and, who cares if you spend more money?). And while nothing is ever that simple, exactly, I do think we’ve all absorbed both of these perspectives into ourselves (the former a little too much).

One of the things I’ve learned writing a wedding site is when it comes to planning weddings, it’s hard to really fill people with confidence, no matter how hard you try. We spend a lot of time as APW Staff thinking about diversity… and I don’t just mean diversity of race or size or sexual orientation, I mean diversity of weddings as well. We are always asking: have we had enough church wedding recently, have we talked about religious and non-religious weddings, have we had DIY Photography (hint: we never have enough of this, so if you did it, send it our way). Because we know that it’s always easier, when planning a wedding, if you can see an example of something that looks like you, or looks like what you’re doing.

But what I’ve learned is that we can give everyone what they need on any given day. We have a DIY Photography section of the site, but periodically someone will explode with shame in the comments, saying they are not hiring a wedding photographer, and they are gripped with guilt that even APW thinks they are ruining their wedding!  Or someone will say they are having a big wedding, and Oh God, we haven’t had a big wedding on APW in months, and does that mean they are selling out?

And all this makes sense because wedding planning is a stressful time, and it has a way of rooting out our deepest insecurities and laying them bare. (Hint: That’s so we can deal with them, not buy things to shut them up.)

And after watching that wedding planner screaming match (did I mention it was amazing?) I realized that it’s all of our jobs to be our own good angel. We need to learn to tell ourselves, “You’re doing wedding planning RIGHT!” and “This wedding is going to be awesome because it’s yours!” and “Who gives a f*ck about the exact temperature of the steak?” Because the more we depend on outside for validation (even, say, from APW) the more we can feel scared and let down when we don’t get it.

Because trust me, here at APW we think you’re doing it right. But we REALLY want you to think you’re doing it right. Because that’s what matters.

Pictures of the APW Team & Readers from the Brooklyn Book Party by Amber Marlow Photography, backdrop by Michelle Edgemont (The book thinks you’re doing it right too!)

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  • I wished you had filmed that match with your phone for all of us to have fun! ;)

    I had a DIY photography, 6 persons invited only, civil wedding in Florence, Italy (part destination wedding, part elopement, because no family was involved), 1 month after my father (to whom I was not speaking) died. I always thought that would be a very complicated wedding graduate post and that all those issues had already been treated here at APW, which is why I have never written one (though I have been staring at a blank page for a year). Should I give it a try?

    • Alicia

      My first reaction was to hope there would be a youtube link at the end. Oh well, I’ll have to imagine the ridiculousness of the scene in my head.

    • Shiri

      Yes, yes you should. Because I want to read that. Please?

    • As someone who is pre-engaged and hasn’t spoken to or heard from her father in several years, I’d love to hear as many perspectives as possible on getting married without your father around – not because he passed away, but because he’s gone by choice. I’m still trying to sort out how I feel and I know it will only get more complicated so I’d love to hear what you have to say.

      • Even though my dad is around… I’m open to all perspectives as he hasn’t played a significant role in my life in 10 years.

      • CallieG

        My dad has not been around in several years either. I was not speaking to him for a while before he left (my mom forgave him and took him back after his infidelity, I never could). I am not sad he’s not going to be there, because he’s a horrible person and I felt anxious and upset whenever I had to be around him, but I am definitely mourning not having a (good) dad around. Even as a child I knew it was against my feminist beliefs to be verbally given away at my wedding, but I wanted my father to walk me down the aisle and I wanted him to dance with me at my wedding. When I was pre-engaged, my mom asked if I ever got married which of my grandpas I would have give me away, and I responded “I want you to walk me down the aisle.” I have rarely seen her so touched. I definitely have a lot of complicated feelings about not having a dad around to be there with my on my wedding day, but I am getting through it by focusing on the people who are there. These are the people who love me, have a vested interest in my life, and want to be there. At the end of the day, those are the people I want at my wedding, and that’s the community that will be there to support my fiance and I in our marriage.

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t think we can EVER talk enough about the hard stuff of families and weddings!! You should totally write it!!! I really think, that not only could it really speak to others in a similar situation, sometimes you just need to get your sh*t out there on the page for yourself. Even if you don’t send it in…but I really think you should.

  • I don’t know about you guys, but I can only enjoy a party if I know the exact temperature of my steak, the accompanying vegetables, and any bread product on the table. (Yep, pass your rolls everybody.)

    I can’t think of any wedding I’ve been to that didn’t include something or did something different that made me think “Wow, this isn’t a real wedding.” Did my friends get married? Real wedding. Did I have fun at these weddings? You bet, because I was there to see my friends get married. It’s nice to dance and eat my perfectly-temperatured dinner, but it’s more fun to celebrate with the people I love.

  • What is even more interesting, to me, is that if I booked a wedding planner who told me all of those things and was utterly fantastic, I would book her preferred caterer because she/he told me that their food was fantastic. Or that their food was equally good but the people running the catering company were really nice to deal with. If you are a lovely, sane person, I will trust that you are recommending lovely, sane people.

    I will say, I spent too much time socializing at my wedding and my food got cold, and it just wasn’t as good, and I got very worried that my guests food got cold as well, but so far, all anyone has said is, “it was delicious”.

    • meg

      AGREED, by the way. I was listening to all this and thinking, “Why don’t you just tell them your caterer is really good, and really awesome to work with? If you skipped the manipulative stuff you’d probably get farther.” But maybe that’s not the case with the crowd they work with… I don’t know!

  • Bubbles

    I am just chiming in to say that I, too, wish you had gotten video of this kerfuffle!

    • see Meg, you should have listened when I asked you to secretly video tape it! you could be a YouTube millionaire right now.

  • PA

    In my sleep-deprived brain, “we’re trying to convince people that they’re doing it right!” led to an amazing mental image of some sort of wedding compatibility test with a wedding planner saying, “Actually, you scored as not caring very much about flowers, so I suggest you don’t worry too much about those, but you scored VERY high on….”

    Also, I would have been tempted to whip out my camera and go, “SMILE! You’re on APW!”

  • Lily

    I actually really like the idea of a wedding planning compatibility test! Women listen to standardized tests and measures in so many other areas of life. Can you imagine the reduction in stress there would be, if there was a piece of paper that told you what YOU most cared about? And what to ignore? Genius!

    • PA

      We should make one!

    • DKR

      Meg, awesome as she is, gave us a version of just this in chapter one of her book. On pages 23-24 (and I’m paraphrasing here), she suggests those of us planning get one of those wedding checklists and go through it with first a green, then red, pen. The green pen is for circling what YOU actually care about, and writing why you care about it in the margin. After that, the red pen is for crossing off everything else. Ta-da! You now have your personalized “Anti to-do list”. Thanks Meg!

      • meg

        EXACTLY! It’s already been invented you guys! I wrote it in a book.

        If I ever do a planner, I’ll give you a form though, mmmkay? A hilarious one.

  • Thanks for the pep talk!

  • carrie

    Amen! Our weddings are not in competition with each other because WE are not in competition with each other.

  • Ake

    What does DIY photography mean? Does it mean you get a family member who is a great photographer (but not a professional) to do the photography? Or does it mean you just don’t have “photography” per se but you ask guests to send you any pics of the day? We did the former with my uncle and brother-in-law and it turned out awesome…but not sure if that’s what you mean by DIY photography or not.

    • meg

      Just not hiring a professional photographer. Not, exactly, doing the photography YOURSELF. That might be really tricky.

      • Marina

        Although cool… it’d be kinda neat to see the wedding in photos only from the bride’s perspective. NOT saying anyone should actually do that, though, you probably have enough else to worry about. :)

        • meg

          We had a wordless wedding last week where we linked to the bride’s whole flickr stream of all the photos she took herself. DONE AND DONE.

    • AKE, I’d say you did DIT photography. You used the resources you had at hand…namely your uncle and your brother-in-law to handle the pictures at your wedding. You (probably) didn’t pay them but instead gave them some token of your appreciation (or just thanked them profusely)…and they did awesome by you!!! HURRAYYY!!!!

    • We had a family friend taking the pictures. And tons of photos from the guests. DIY/DIT photography worked for us.

  • Allison

    The other day a woman I had just met noticed my engagement ring, and asked about our wedding plans (when, where, etc.). Then she said “So what kind of dinner are you going to serve?”. I paused, then said “Oh, we’re not doing dinner, just cake and punch, maybe some appetizer nibbles.” Then I waited for the scowl of disapproval.

    To my surprise, she said “That sounds great!”.

    My point being, I think we often internalize the idea that people are going to believe what we are doing is wrong because it’s not the expected thing. But if you just confidently move forward with what you know is right for you and your future spouse, people will fall in line and see that your ideas are right for YOU.

    And if they don’t? Eff ’em!

    • I have to second this. My partner and I chose to get a non diamond engagement ring. I kept waiting for push back. I imagined all sorts of snide comments from friends, coworkers, and random acquaintances.

      But in reality none of my friends and coworkers said anything rude. Instead they gushed about how beautiful it is and how it fit my personality so well. To this day I’ve only ever had one woman who was a stranger give me a disappointed look (and she was drunk).

      • Lucy

        I did the same thing – not getting a diamond ring. I never wanted a diamond becuase they are well marketed over priced shiny stones that are actually more common than many of the other gemstones out there. I got a (rare) lovely pink sapphire mounted flat into a simple gold band and absolutely love it!
        I get quite a few nice comments about it as it is different from the usual. But even if I didn’t get any positive comments i know it was the right choice for me (and did i mention the stone cost 10x less than the same sized diamond).

      • Brenda F

        We only got wedding rings and ours were simple silver bands, we each got our own style. Most friends would say “oh it’s so you” and in my head I’d have to go “and it IS… so stop worrying about whether or not they actually LIKE it.”

        Your story about the stranger is what made me write this post though – over half a year after our wedding a complete stranger got to talking to me on the LRT and ended up sharing his disappointment on my ring and I couldn’t believe it! When I went home of course I shared the story with my husband… and in the middle of that rant I realized that YES this is SO ME and I LOVE IT.

        We are all doing it right!

  • That screaming match makes me sad. It reminds me of the parts of the wedding industry that really scare me and make me want to avoid the whole “planning a wedding” business altogether.

    • meg

      It shouldn’t make you sad. I’ve moved past the fear enough (and I feel like we’ve provided enough OPTIONS to save you from the fear) that I thought it was the funniest thing that happened this month. The other thing was, these super high end planners had an edge of total desperation to them… our amazing sane APW vendors are mostly doing gangbuster business. That tells me all is well in the world :) Y’all are spending your money on people you LIKE, and that makes all the diference.

      • Maybe I misspoke a little. I didn’t mean that it made me sad emotionally, so much as sad or disappointed that that’s how some people in the industry run their business and work with couples who are planning their weddings. And sad for the fact that people who are supposed to be helping couples plan one of the biggest days of their lives are more worried about pushing what THEY want than listening to and working with the couple. (Plus I think a little bit of my ambivalence towards having a wedding at all came out there.)

        The actual argument itself sounds hilarious and I probably would have been giggling a little to myself.

  • Leila

    I can’t tell you how strongly the APW attitude of spending money on the businesses we care about has impacted our wedding. In such a good way! Because it has allowed us to really think about what WE want and ignore everything else. We are going with the old historic movie theater that we want to support. And (hopefully) the awesome start up photographer whose career we want to flourish. And I feel like I internalized your message and just started identifying businesses we care about without think about it. And now I step back and am so excited. APW has freed and is helping us have the wedding that will show our authentic selves. I will always be grateful for that.

    • katieprue

      1000x ME TOO! Too much for an exactly, really. We are putting our money into awesome businesses that we care about and want to succeed. I think without APW I would have made more choices out of desperation, rather than figuring out ways to make it work with vendors whose work I truly admire.

  • I could not agree more….AND, get this…im a wedding planner.

    When i started planning weddings I was looking for couples on a budget who were in love and wanted to get married and the wedding was just a technicallity. At the end of “the day” they wanted to be married to each other. I loved it. As my buisness got bigger, so did my clients and so did their budgets. I was starting to get crushed as i felt like even myself, wasbeiong lost in what the essence of a wedding was. It was starting to become all about the food, and who was hired etc.

    I absolutley hands down want to give them a dream day with all the rings and bells without breaking the bank. To do that…basically..i dont have a vendors list. Well…kind of a lie…i do but they are all over the map…I have a list of people just starting out and i have people who are very much in the biz. Which means i can get you your dream photographer for the price you can afford. I pride myself in that.

    I have done picnic weddings on the beach to 300 people weddings in a golf club and i loved every single one of them.

    The wedding biz is a hard one…and lets be honest…weddings have become more of a production now, which to me is a little sad (and thats my job). Unlike most wedding planners im here to get the most bang out of your buck and im always barking at clients to do what THEY want and not what the wedding world is indicating….

    • meg

      Maybe you’re just advertising in the wrong places. Not only does APW have a lot of happy planners who don’t worry about weddings being a production and not liking their clients… but I’m personal friends with some of these ladies. They LOVE their jobs. Being a wedding planner for awesome people? Is an awesome job.

      • I can 110% attest to LOVING my job, in big part thanks to the clients who come to me through APW.

        It’s like awesome-people land up in here! Meg becomes friends with vendors, vendors become friends with clients, and everyone walks away feeling super fantastic!

        It always blows my mind when planners try to coerce clients into their more-is-more-is-better philosophy. The only time that philosophy holds true for me is with regard to my clients’ savings. Bleh to crappy WIC-ers.

        And Meg – video next time!!!

        • As a wedding planner, I am so embarrassed that wedding planners like those yelling maniacs exist. Sigh. If a Bride asks me to recommend vendors, I always make sure they fit within the budget. There are plenty of wedding planners who won’t scream about caterers & who LOVE their jobs- we’re on APW :-)

  • Bonnie

    We have a TERRIBLE wedding planner. I’m so much better at planning than she is, that it’s been a complete waste of money to hope that she could have helped organize anything. Instead, I’m calling her and telling her she’s behind on the schedule she sent, and she’s losing all our paperwork, emails with ideas in them, etc. It’s so frustrating to hire someone you think is on your side, only to realize a few months out that she could give a crap less about you. :(

    I love the comment above about wedding planner personality tests. I wish APW had a vendor in our area!

    • meg

      Um, lady? Fire her.

      • Bonnie

        I just wish there were a way to get back our deposit of half her fee!

        • Maybe you can’t recoup the whole deposit, but if you have proof that she’s behind schedule, lost paperwork, etc. you’ll have an argument that she’s not doing the work you paid her to do and therefore she needs to refund part of your deposit. Look at your contract and see if there’s anything in there that helps. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

        • meg

          Ms. Bunny is right. Non-performance on a contract is an issue. But more to the point, is it better to get out only paying HALF her fee, or do you want to keep dealing with her, in exchange for paying the whole damn thing? (No fun).

    • I would also say: Have a talk with her about what *exactly* you’re unhappy with. Not all planners are right for all clients, and it sounds like you ended up with one who wasn’t the right fit for you. That said, even when a planner ends up with a bad client fit, they should be able to adjust their approach enough to be able to get through to the wedding. (also, hilariously, the few couples I’ve felt like I haven’t been the right planner for were generally friends/acquaintances before we worked together, not strangers who hired me. Which makes sense – they used me because they knew me, not because my philosophies and working style appealed to them.)

      ALSO – think about talking with her about downgrading your contract to DOC – say that you just don’t think you need the help planning, but you’d like coordination. This way you could hopefully actually use your deposit.

  • Daynya

    I can’t help but imagining you, sitting in said cafe, blissfully working along with your laptop. When all of the sudden this commotion begins, and catches your attention. So you look up intrigued, and once you figure out what’s going on, a truly huge smile comes across your face. You close your laptop, sit back (perhaps with your head resting on one hand?), grab your drink and just smile while watching the disaster unfold. That’s all. I have nothing productive to add here. The scene just played out in my head, and made me laugh. :)

    • meg

      That’s right. Except I might have live-texted it to an APW planner. And then opened my lap top to look up the company when they mentioned it. And then HOPED they’d stop fighting, walk around the bush, and recognize me (so I could give them a thumbs up).

      • Daynya

        Hahahahahaahaha!! Thank you, I needed a good smile today. :)

    • This is exactly why I’m still reading. The same scene was in my head and I was so amused by the situation. I love what Meg stands for and how easy it is to send girls to APW because it’s so real and so solid.

      • meg

        Hi Vilija!

  • We hired two day-of coordinators. Looking at it now, t-minus two months to go, it has thus far been the best decision of our wedding planning overall. (Aside from the part where we decided to marry each other.)

    I was a little unsure of hiring planners – it felt so PROFESSIONAL and not necessary for our family big barn wedding at a farm. I mean, didn’t people hire wedding planners when they were having FANCY weddings? Like in the movies? But when my wonderful mom said “Sweetie, we’re all Type-A Organizers, and I want our family to ENJOY your wedding, not work it.” …. we ponied up. And thus far?

    A M A Z I N G. Our planners continue to just flat out kick ass, going above and beyond the “day of” contract. These two women speak our language, and they’ve been able to get deals we never would have been able to get on our own, with linens, tables, whatnot. They’ve also been able to help us negotiate other contracts that we’re doing on our own. Considering I am very much a Type-A Organizer, it’s been such a relief to know that I can trust our planners with decisions like LINENS. I tell them “I don’t care about the linens, make them white and this cost!” … And they do it!!! It’s been oddly freeing, and this is coming from a person who did fundraising and event planning in a former career who used to have to worry a LOT about LINENS.

    While at first I was nervous about “selling out to the WIC and hiring planners” …. it’s been awesome. My Husband Elect and I can focus on things like, you know, the ceremony and stuff, and since we know we’re in good hands, we don’t have to lift a finger with the dadgum tablecloths.

  • N

    “Because the more we depend on outside for validation (even, say, from APW) the more we can feel scared and let down when we don’t get it.”

    So, I know this has been discussed over and over again. But, still. How do you deal with less-than-happy parents, family and friends? I gotta tell ya, I’m heartbroken over it. We’re in love with having our bbq, laid back, DIY wedding in my fiance’s parents tree farm. My parents question the location and food everytime we talk about it. His parents are upset that we’re not having a minister marry us. The thing is, they aren’t outright rude about it, or insisting we do things differently…you can just tell they aren’t excited, that they doubt it, wish we’d change our minds….and it hurts. How am I supposed to get excited about it? Or are these just my insecurities about the wedding, and I’m disappointed that I’m not getting outside validation from the family??!! Oh, weddings.

    • meg

      My dear,
      Have you considering couples counseling to help you sort this out? Pre-martial counseling is worth it’s weight in gold anyway, and will pay dividend through out your marriage. But these issues? They are not really about family excitement about your wedding. They are about the way your parents are relating to your new family, and your independent choices, and they will continue to ricochet around your relationship with increasing velocity until you deal with them together. Weddings are hard because they bring up issues that are NOT ABOUT WEDDINGS. And while we’ve talked about this before and will again, we’re a blog. We can’t solve this problem for you. But trust me, working on this now will pay off for YEARS.


      • N

        Wow. Absolutely true. Thanks, Meg. Couples counseling is in the works, and has moved up in priority after reading this. I’ve allowed myself to think its not as much of a problem as it is, because I’ve been proud that we’ve stuck to our choices. I’ve watched a lot of friends have backyard wedding dreams, only to give in to their parents idea of a traditional wedding. It has made me feel stronger about our relationship to stand up for our important choices, but obviously we have a long way to go.

  • This is my favorite APW post in a while (not cause you guys aren’t doing a great job, just that this post rocks!!)

  • Ashley B

    What a perfect post for me today! Last night I was feeling totally frustrated that I was doing a terrible job planning the wedding (Mama Drama), and having all these horrible insecurities coming out, but reading this makes me feel so much better. We’re having a wedding with kick ass wedding elves, and it’s going to be awesome!

  • Did they at least stop yelling at each other long enough to help you when you fell off your chair laughing? Because otherwise that’s just rude.

    Also, I love the line about dealing with your problems rather than buying things to shut them up.

    Life, if you’re not dead, you’re doing it right.

    • meg

      I love this comment on every level!!

  • Emily

    Ahh! I finally got to refer a fellow bride-to-be to APW! It felt like I had performed a major mitzvah! Thanks ladies for bringing so much joy and calm to an amazing time in a couple’s life! Yayyy!

  • This is reassuring. Because as much as I’ve been poring through APW, and as much as I tell myself that simple and easy is ok, and I don’t need to worry about what people think, I still do.

  • Yes, yes! A good planner should help you explore your options – not limit them!

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