People tell you how stressful wedding planning is.
How it has to be ‘perfect’.
How it’s manic, how it’s hard, how maybe you need to hire a planner, how you’ll be surprised how quickly the fun of it wears off… Spoiler, I’ve been with Boy for nearly 14 years, engaged for 2.5 years (I think?!) and planning a wedding for a year – and we’re still loving it!!!
There are tonnes of people who like to give you warnings or advice or sagely tell you the troubles they had, and forecast your impending wedding doom.
Honestly? It is a complete myth that it has to be that way.
Here are my two cents and ramblings on:
- enjoying planning, without the stress;
- money saving tips and budget friendly ideas; and
- what does it all mean anyway?!
There are several things you can do to make sure you have a blast instead of a battle with your wedding (and trust me, we have the world’s most complicated family politics so it’s not like we have the classic nuclear happy family with two parents each and a conventional top table – far from it!) But we’ve not had any drama planning at all, and have loved every second. The most difficult thing has been choosing a piece of music for my aisle walk, and one slight confusion over a shade of navy for suits haha. The rest has been a dream!
Please note, though, that everyone is different, obviously every couple is unique – this is just my two cents, and I get that some cultures have a lot more pressure to invite the whole family or include them (which if you can avoid it, if you’re not from those cultures, I’d suggest avoiding and just doing it YOUR way (as in you as a couple, not you solo!) for maximum happiness!)
1. Stress-free planning
What do you want? Boy & I are very lucky that, having been together for bloody ages, we know each other inside out and can always tell if the other one would like something or not. However, we’ve also had a long time to get to know each other’s general vision for life, and how we like things to be done. This really helps when it comes to planning a wedding. But it doesn’t matter if you haven’t grown up together. It just comes down to knowing each other well, communicating, and not being a selfish wedding hog / bridezilla!
The best thing to do to begin with is chat about your priorities. For example, we felt that food, drink and setting were important to us; a small wedding for family and friends but definitely not a huge thing was key, and certain things (like expensive florists, favours, wedding cake) were things we’d like to skip or not worry about or de-prioritise. We are also both strong atheists so we wanted religion free, guaranteed. We also wanted to remove what we feel are patriarchal traditions or make them our own (so I’m not doing a bouquet toss, I’m being walked down the aisle by both my parents, not given away, and I have guys maids as well as bridesmaids, and will be making a speech at the wedding breakfast as will my maid of honour!)
Figure out what you both want out of the day, and what you’re willing and not willing to spend on.
I guess we were lucky in that we wanted the same thing. If you and your other half disagree, then you really need to get talking and work out how you want to reconcile the differences. The best thing to do with this remember you’re getting married because you want to hang out with and annoy your best friend for the rest of your life, and you bloody love each other. Not to have some party that you planned a specific way. Listen, talk, listen some more, take a deep breath and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Don’t let a disagreement on something wedding-related cause arguments! It’s not worth it. Would you really want your other half to have something they weren’t comfortable with on the day? And would they really want that for you?
My best illustration of this from our planning wasn’t an argument, but we do have different personalities – I love dancing – I grew up doing ballet, tap, modern, jazz, ballroom, salsa, tango… And Boy was totally willing to learn something for a first dance and take lessons to make me happy. But I wouldn’t BE happy knowing how much he hates dancing making him perform like a pony and pay for lessons! I was more than happy to just pick a song together and we can have a 30 second shuffle on the spot before everyone joins us. Simple! Some people asked if I felt like I was missing out, but I really, really don’t – Boy wouldn’t be Boy if he did some choreographed routine and I love him the way he is! If you think I’m missing out, you’re kiiiinda missing the point of the wedding!
Decide you’re going to enjoy the process and don’t act out the story people sell you of wedding stress. It’s a privilege, not a punishment! I regularly like to just daydream about mine, listen to the soundtracks we’ve picked, browse for ideas in Pinterest and magazines and get excited. We talk about it and bounce ideas off each other over Prosecco in the pub. We NEVER plan when we’re stressed. I recommend this strategy because it means you stay happy, grateful, excited and you enjoy the planning process.
- Pick your priorities
- Remember it’s a celebration with the people who are most important to you; don’t sweat the small stuff and certainly don’t let it cause arguments!
- Decide on a vision for the wedding that you’re both happy with (size, budget, location, vibe and theme, religious/non religious, elements that are important to you and elements you’d like to skip or spend less on!)
- Enjoy the process! Plan when it feels fun, rather than when it feels like a chore. That’s why I’d recommend, personally, having as much time to plan a wedding as possible. We were engaged for about a year, a year and a half, without setting a date, which gave us loads of time to just get creative and mull over ideas. Then when we set the date we had a year to organise. I COULDN’T RECOMMEND TAKING YOUR TIME MORE! It means you can enjoy each stage, really plan what you want, make every planning detail into a little celebration rather than just another thing on a manic to-do list!
- Make it about both of you. We’re both feminists (obviously!) and were determined that we wouldn’t have family just ask me as the bride about how planning was going, so we made a pact early on to get Boy to field those questions when they came up so people would learn slowly it was an equal parts thing. We were both involved with every selection and choice, and wouldn’t have had it any other way! The wedding should be about you as a couple. I can’t stand this idea of people getting carried away at the expense of including their other half because of a childhood Disney vision. I equally can’t stand the idea of a disinterested party leaving it all to the other person – why bother, then?! You’re a team. You should both be interested, excited, and making a team effort! It also takes the pressure off and brings you closer.
- Don’t let other peoples’ opinions sway you. It’s your day as a couple, not your family’s (unless they’re paying for your wedding or lots of it in which case you’ve possibly kind of given them a stake I guess so good luck with that! Personally I’d say work hard, save and fund your own wedding so you can be totally free and not beholden and let them help with nice details if they want to). But interfering aunts or in-laws or mums or nosy neighbours should be gently but firmly reminded that you will need to decide things as a couple, so thanks for being excited for me and interested, but you’ll be making decisions together with your other half.
- Plan when you’re happy, not when you’re stressed. Make it a celebration and pop some bubbly, discuss, brainstorm, and communicate communicate communicate. There’s no need to make it a drama. Decide you’re going to have fun with it, and do it.
- Include who you want to include, when you want to include them. There will always be someone who might be annoyed they couldn’t make your hen date, or that you didn’t ask them to come to choose wedding accessories with you – but nobody owns this wedding but the two of you. Obviously don’t deliberately set out to upset people, but you are entitled to make your own choices and are not responsible for other peoples’ reactions to them. A therapist told me that once and it’s changed my life in general, but its definitely useful to remember when planning a wedding!
Things not to forget for a seamless stress-free day!
Another important way to reduce stress is to have a couple of sessions before the big day with you, your other half and either the events team at your venue, or the bridal party or whoever is helping you if you have a blank canvas venue and discuss the plan for the day and how it will go from waking up to finishing – who is travelling where, and how, who is starting the music, who shepherds people back and forth for photos, who announces the wedding breakfasts or toasts…? This is easy to forget if you’ve hired a blank canvas venue that needs decorating or furniture moving too – make sure you know who is helping and when and how, and give them plenty of time to get their head around the schedule and what is required to avoid hiccups on the day!
A Master of Ceremonies can also be hired, or you can appoint a friend or a groomsmen, but whichever you choose, it’s super useful to create structure to the day and make sure you don’t have to worry yourselves about directing people!
2. No money no honey…?
The average wedding budget is apparently circa £30,000. We both said up front we would never want to spend anywhere near that on a one-day party. We wanted a wedding that was amazing and the way we wanted it, of course, but we also wanted any money we spent to not materially affect our savings for a house deposit. More just felt excessive for us. If you’re super wealthy and don’t blink at that budget… then good for you! And if you’ve saved that and having a big wedding is important to you, or having specific things that soak up that level of cost, then 100% go for it, no judgement, YOU DO YOU.
There is no right or wrong. But you need to make sure you’re both comfortable with the wedding budget, and nobody is stressed about it.
We decided if we splash out it’ll be on our honeymoon. The wedding is gonna be great, we’re not skimping on the things that are important to us, but you can get all of those things on a MUCH smaller budget than that apparent ‘average’.
For obvious reasons I’m not posting our budget here, and a disclaimer I guess – we’re lucky that we haven’t had to budget in the sense of adding up every single spend for the wedding- we both named a max cost figure we’d be happy with, but have just paid for stuff over the year as we’ve gone along and not totalled it up so to be honest we don’t know exactly what we’ve spent, we just pay the instalments as they fall due, and only say yes to things that we know fit within what we said we were happy with. Plus my mum kindly wanted to cover the cost of our ‘cake’ (it’s not a traditional cake though!) and my dad wanted to cover my dress, so we’ve been lucky to have them do that.
If you do need to be careful with pennies, make a plan, make a spreadsheet and get quotes in early, especially for those priority items.
These are the top tips I have for money saving either from planning our own wedding and cutting corners on cost where we wanted to, or weddings of friends who were fab at creative solutions!
- REALLY think about your guest list. Do you ACTUALLY NEED to invite 300 people? Big numbers add up to big costs very quickly (feeding and wining them can be killer if you’re having hundreds!) We were happy with 60 day guests and approx 80 for the reception. Can you keep your day smaller and have more people for the evening? Can you cut it right down to just some close family and friends? A good (although not foolproof) rule of thumb (but it can help if you’re struggling) is have you seen them in the last year? If no, definitely no day invite and possible no reception invite. If you need to cut the list you can also remove people you don’t both spend time with as a couple unless they’re close family or super important to you for a specific reason.
- Spend on your priority items but then consider alternatives for other things. For example, our florist gave us a minimum spend of £1,000. LOL. We would rather put that on nicer food and wine than flowers that last for one day (or, even save it!) so we said no thanks, and I’m doing my own bouquet and the bridesmaids are having single stems. We’ve also designed our own centrepieces and collected items over the year to build them with. Maybe flowers ARE important to you and you’d spend double that, but you care less about having welcome bubbly.
- Work out if you really want something and if the answer is no, skip it. People assume because it’s a wedding they need a bouquet – you don’t have to if you don’t want to! I wanted one, so I said yes, but Boy didn’t want buttonholes so we said no to that and saved. By making our own centrepieces we’re saving a fortune on floristry. We’re also skipping wedding favours (although we will be donating in lieu of them to a charity that’s important to us called Girls Not Brides working to end child marriage) which can really increase the cost.
- Consider your options: some venues will quote you £X for exclusive venue hire, food, some drink and ceremony decor all in, or you could hire a barn, put a marquee up somewhere gorgeous in the country or track down a blank canvas venue and do everything yourself. Both have pros and cons, but depending on your budget, and your team of supporters/the time you have available, both can create epic weddings!
- Some items you may want to question whether you need to pay someone to do them, or whether you want to do them yourself or skip them entirely: flowers (can you skip? Get creative yourself? Ask a friend?), food (any caterers in the family? Do you really want a five course banquet or are you happy with some alternative options like festival food trucks, a hog roast, a bbq, or a buffet if you can rope some friends in to help?), cake (we are having a three course meal and decided after dessert we didn’t need cake cake as well, so we’re having something alternative. You might want to leave it out altogether, or get a family member or friend to get creative and make one for you!), stationery (do you need it printed or can you get crafty? Or can you order say the invites, but handwrite place cards? Do you really want menu cards or individual orders of service? The answer may well be yes in which case great, but you can do other things like have an easel showing the menu or order of service and save printing costs if you want!), wedding rings (firstly, do you both want them? Secondly, do you want to spend tonnes on them? Go for it, if yes, but we both said that we wanted my engagement ring to be the star of the show, and I didn’t feel like I needed another Big Deal ring. We just wanted them symbolically and got an amazing deal even though we got our rings designed specially for us – bargain hunt (and if you go to Hatton Garden, definitely haggle!)
- DON’T FORGET WEDDING INSURANCE just incase. If you’re using a listed building as a venue check the cover is high enough as damage to a listed building can be veeeeeery costly!
- Consider using your family and friends’ talents be they floristry, cake decorating, music or playing an instrument, DJing…
- Think outside the box. Etsy is great for crafty low cost things from stationery to decor, or even gorgeous dried wildflower bouquets – perfect for a spring or summer wedding!
- A wedding website can save on RSVP printing, and is an easy way to field questions about your wedding too!
Best day of your life…?
Maybe it will be the best day, maybe it won’t, but it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’, it just has to make you happy so you can have a bloody good time together and celebrate your relationship.
- Stay calm.
- Stay grateful.
- Plan when you’re in a good mood.
- Allow plenty of time.
- Create checklists and a tracker so you know what needs doing, when, and how long before the wedding.
- Give the wedding party plenty of notice for anything you need their help with so they can plan for it, be it time-wise or cost-wise.
- And stay true to what YOU WANT between the two of you. Screw the huge wedding consumerist industry pushing things on you, and screw other people pushing things on you that you don’t want.
3. What does it all mean?
As we’re not religious (and actually I didn’t believe in marriage for many years!) you could say why am I getting married?
The truth is, we are kind of married already, living together for almost 14 years. We know that we’re in it for the long haul and have known that for a long time. A piece of paper won’t change anything…
But we wanted a party with the people we’re close to to celebrate that, and legal recognition that we are a team. It’s that simple. Life is pretty meaningless unless you create meaning. Sharing little occasions like this, for us, is one of those ways!
Marriage isn’t perfect or sacred, it’s dirty and messy like us humans, like all relationships… like everything great, it’s unique. There’s no one size fits all. There’s no universal rule or law. There’s no magic or ideal solution or special formula. It’s two people working at things, figuring out life’s nightmares together a day at a time, laughing together but also annoying each other, sometimes angry or even fucking livid…! but always ultimately fighting for each other and for the best for the other person against everything else. This applies to all our friendships and relationships, of course, and even to wedding planning… but especially to marriage if you actually want to make it. One or both of you will, at some point, consider getting out of this thing. The trick is never having both of you stop fighting for it at the same time, and never stopping having a fucking hilarious time together!
Ps if you’re thinking omg I’m so stressed, none of this works for me, I’m scared, I’m not doing it right, I’m confused….You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to. If you’re not enjoying the idea or the process, between you maybe you should think about whether its right for you or not. But if you’re choosing to then reeeeally enjoy it and embrace it, and don’t let it become a stressful thing. It’s actually very simple if you’re logical and organised. It is just planning an event. But more fun, because there’s such an emotional attachment and investment!
Do what you (as a couple) want to do. That’s the only way to do it. Other than that, there really isn’t a right or a wrong way.
You’re also both only human. Hera the Greek Goddess of marriage was one jealous, batshit crazy, vengeful bitch at times! (Read your classical mythology if that’s all Greek to you!) Aren’t we all?! So take marriage and wedding planning off this weird princessy glowy Disney perfect pedestal and enjoy it for all the guts and gore (& wicked bloody fun!) it really can be if you let it. You choose.
Focus on how much you make each other laugh and channel that into your wedding choices.
I’m sure there are some corners of the internet who will roll their eyes and say it’s not that simple. But I promise it can be! (Even with trying to do a wedding seating chart for my divorced parents, my ex-step parents (!), my parents’ current partners, my other half’s mum and partner and dad, some ex-step siblings of mine and a fairly sizeable family contingent!)
Have a bloody good time with it kids. That’s the point.