When I talk about the mistakes I made when wedding planning (of which there were many), what it all really boils down to is this: I had a really hard time figuring out what wedding things were actually necessary and what things were merely “necessary” for the wedding industry’s bottom line.
Case in point: chairs. My parents and I had a recurring argument over whether or not picnic blankets counted as adequate seating for an outdoor wedding in Maine in September. I was convinced that they’d been brainwashed by some wedding industry higher power hell-bent on making me spend my hard-earned money on useless things like chair rentals. Turns out? They just wanted a place to sit down. Preferably with an inside option for when things got cold. Unreasonable? No. But at the time, I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
While most people aren’t quite as blind to the realities of event planning as twenty-two-year-old me was, the reality is that your wedding is probably the first time most of you will throw an event bigger than your friend group’s annual Halloween party. And even that probably stresses you out a little bit. (Just me?) And the information available online and in traditional wedding literature is often contradictory, or just plain irrelevant to your wedding. So today, with help from the #APWPlanner (which you should get if you haven’t already), here are some things your wedding definitely doesn’t need and a few it really does. For those of you who have the planner and want to follow along with a hard copy of the book, I’ve included page numbers below on where you can find expanded information.
Your Wedding Doesn’t Need
1. A ton of details: “That wedding would have been so much better if they had bigger centerpieces,” said no wedding guest ever. While Pinterest has a lot of us convinced that details are crucial to the wedding experience, the truth is that pretty is not a feeling. And most of us can’t even remember what the decor looked like at the last wedding we went to. As Meg says in the #APWPlanner, “What you do remember are the big things—that the ceremony was moving, how fun the crowd was, that they had a bonfire, that you got to eat really yummy cake.” So remember that the next time your budget has you stressed out and you’re considering taking a week off from work so you can make a hundred invitations by hand when you don’t even care about paper. (For more advice on how to not get lost in the details, see page 22 of the #APWPlanner.)
2. A Full-Service Bar: It’s common (but totally not required) for the hosts to cover all or a portion of the bar tab at a wedding. But that doesn’t mean you have to stock your venue with three different kinds of vodka, plus specialty liquors, just so your guests can order their own signature cocktails. Instead, an easy way to balance cost with options is to offer just wine and beer, or wine and beer plus a signature cocktail. You can find more options for modified bars in the #APWPlanner, or get the inside scoop on how to set up a DIY bar here and here. And if you’re not covering the bar tab? (No shame; we couldn’t afford it ourselves.) The most important thing is to let people know in advance so they can remember to bring cash money with them. (For a whole bunch of options on how to provide food and drink to your guests, go to chapter five of the #APWPlanner.)
3. A Strict Design Theme (or Colors): Just because the Internet likes to categorize weddings by color or theme, it doesn’t mean you have to as well. And you definitely don’t have to pick two colors and stick to them for all of your wedding-related projects, decor, and outfits. APW contributor Michelle Edgemont explained in the #APWPlanner that instead of picking the traditional two wedding colors, a pro-move is to pick five to six, to create more of a palette. This can make decorating feel less restrictive and more organic. #LazyGirl approved. (For realistic advice on how to decorate your wedding without having a Pinterest meltdown, check out chapter eight of the #APWPlanner.)
4. Wedding Party Gifts: I know the wedding industry really wants you to buy those matching engraved flasks for your wedding party, but don’t be fooled. Nobody signed up to be a bridesmaid because they were in it for the matching robes. Still want to tell your best people (who might also include your parents, your officiant, or any other close wedding helpers) that you’re grateful for having them with you on this super important day? A thoughtful note will take you there, and it will probably last a whole lot longer than anything with your wedding date on it. (For more on thank you–gift etiquette, visit page 100 of the #APWPlanner.)
YOUR WEDDING definitely NEEDs
1. A Timeline: Meg writes, “A good timeline takes care of people, gets them fed on time, and minimizes how long they have to stand around thinking, ‘Are they done taking photos already or what?’ It builds guest activities into times when you’ll be otherwise busy (they drink while you pose!) and ensures that people won’t arrive at the reception at 6:00 p.m., hungry for dinner, but not have food put in front of them until a ravenous 9:00 p.m.” So even if your day is laid back and mostly unstructured, do yourself the favor of creating a timeline and then passing it off to the people helping you. The goal is that you and your partner never have to field any questions about what’s happening next. The #APWPlanner has a whole section on what kinds of things you’ll want to include in a timeline (from extra wiggle room for getting ready to making sure you allot time to get from the ceremony to the reception), and when you’re ready to write it all down, you can download a free template here. (For advice on building your timeline, check out chapter eleven of the #APWPlanner.)
2. A storage and transportation plan: It’s an often-overlooked detail, but if you’re bringing your own decor to your wedding, then you will need a storage and transportation plan. Otherwise, it’s going to come down to you and how much shit you can fit in your bridesmaid’s hatchback. And don’t forget about the time leading up to the wedding. If you live in a tiny apartment, but you’ve got a DIY list a mile long and an eighteen-month engagement, you may need to figure out where you can stash your stuff so that your life isn’t overrun by glitter and homemade beer. (For more on DIY and decor management, see page 131 of the #APWPlanner.)
3. Extra Drinking Glasses: It might seem crazy that this would get its own bullet point, but few things can halt a party quite as quickly as a dishwashing break. Believe it or not, you actually want to aim for 5 to 6 drinking glasses per person (2 to 3 glasses per type of drink). People put drinks down mid-party; dead soldiers get abandoned. So especially if you’re renting and will have access to extra inventory, do yourself a favor and stock up. (Or, of course you can take the totally alternative approach of writing everyone’s name on a cup, and making them keep it. Or, disposables.) (For everything you ever wanted to know about rentals, head to page 36 of the #APWPlanner.)
4. Contracts: Whether you’re hiring a professional or giving your favorite cousin a few hundred bucks to help you out on the day of, you’ll want a contract for any services rendered, and that includes friendors. Why? Because they protect everyone by asserting up front what your expectations are. If you’re working with professionals, they should have a standard contract that gets sent to you when you’re ready to hire them. (But know this: they are not set in stone. You can always negotiate!) As for friendors and other non-pros? You can easily download a standard contract online. There’s no need to get fancy with legalese. You just want to make sure the agreement is explicit and specific. (For tips on how to not be scared of contracts, visit page 49 of the #APWPlanner.)
5. Help: Meg writes, “The first time I was a bridesmaid, the bride spent much of the day rotating between screaming and crying. Needless to say, she didn’t enjoy her wedding very much, but no matter what the media would have you believe, she wasn’t crazy. She just tried to manage all the logistics the day of her wedding by herself. She was stressed, didn’t have enough help, and was trying to have an emotional experience while she coordinated a complex event, which is nearly impossible.” Which is to say, get help. And ask for it early. Even if you can’t afford, or don’t want a professional coordinator, there should be someone at your wedding (who isn’t you) who knows what should be happening next and who will serve as the main point of contact for people looking to find out. Because otherwise you’ll end up like me, giving your emcee all the names of your wedding party members when you should really be getting your photos taken. (For advice on logistics and when to ask for help, go to chapter eleven of the #APWPlanner.)
Not sure where to start? Download This Worksheet from the #aPWPlanner. We’ve filled it with a lot of common elements you might find at a wedding (many of which you won’t need). Circle the stuff you care about, cross out the stuff you don’t, and add anything that feels important.
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