However, from various places and sources and conversations together and with others, we came up with a variety of ideas and thoughts that served us well. We have put them together in our own simple document and offer to share them with friends when they are newly engaged. As I've gotten back into blogging, I also want to do a mini-series here posting our thoughts.
So. This first post includes some overarching ideas that may help give structure to planning and walking towards your wedding day in a less stressed and more organized manner. The possibilities and options for weddings are literally endless, so it’s helpful to have some structures in which you can work and tools to help guide the decision-making process. My husband is a big believer in starting with the "philosophical" and then moving to the "practical." The basic idea is that if you have your theories and philosophies and overarching/under-girding ideas set, the individual decisions will naturally flow from that.
These are simply our ideas about things that were helpful for us. If they are useful to you, great! If not, great! Figure out what works for you and helps you walk towards your wedding day and marriage in a joyful and peaceful way.
So, our overarching ideas:
Set values for your wedding before you start any planning. Come back to them regularly as you plan, and let them guide your decision-making. This is your first opportunity to publicly convey and display what you value and who you are as a couple, so be intentional in what you “say.” Ours Big Three were: worship of God, celebration of family and friends, and simple elegance. Other values we established together and incorporated as we could included hospitality, generosity, community, wise stewardship, and unity. It was incredible how helpful it was to have these! For instance, when deciding about whether or not to have Decoration X at the reception, if it seemed more “flashy” than “simple,” we didn’t do it. When deciding about where to have the reception in relation to the ceremony, we realized making our family and friends drive 40 minutes in between them was stressful, and therefore not “celebrating” them. Which inherently ruled some options out. It really helped streamline decision-making!
When you get stressed in planning (and you will! and that's ok, and normal!), ask yourself (or have someone else who will ask you), “Will I care about this 2 years (heck, even 2 months!) after the wedding?” If the answer is no (which it should be in the vast majority of cases), try to find a way to remove that stress. For me, it was helpful to ask my fiancé to ask me that when I was stressed, because I would often forget to ask it of myself! As I look back now (just shy of three months after our wedding), in almost every case where I was stressed or emotional about something, I do not care about it now. There were a lot of parenthetical comments in that one. Ohhh boy.
Choose a “theme” and some key “buzz words” for your wedding. The possibilities and options and choices are literally endless for literally everything, so you need to narrow them down into manageable options by deciding in advance what you want the overall feel and flavor to be. This is pretty similar to #1, but even a bit more practical. Think of 3-5 phrases that you want to describe the overall day- “simple elegance,” or “shabby chic,” or “fall foliage,” or whatever. Then choose a theme for décor- ours was “books.” Having these general ideas ready will help you and those who are helping you focus in on specifics. You also should choose a palette of colors (there are websites that can help you) to give to anyone who is helping with things that relate to color (e.g., bridesmaids for dresses, florist, anyone doing decorations, anyone helping with stationary, coordinator, etc). We did lavender, plum, dark fuchsia, and charcoal gray. Again, the possibilities are endless, just choose.
Include as many people as you can! You will need a lot of help, so just ask for it. Incorporate the gifts and talents that your friends and family have. Here are some things we did, to get ideas flowing- asked a friend who is a documentary filmmaker to do our engagement photos, asked a friend who is a jewelry designer to design necklaces for the bridesmaids, asked a friend who is a graphic designer to do our stationary. For the most part, we specifically asked people to give us these things as their gift to us, so they didn’t feel obligated to also buy something. These are such memorable gifts, and we were so thankful to have so much help and many personalized touches for our day.
Be gracious. With yourself. With others. With your parents. With your fiance’s parents. With family and friends. Assume the best. Take deep breaths. Wait a day to respond to the annoying email or text from a sibling or acquaintance that just seems so rude or unhelpful in the moment. It is so so hard sometimes. But make graciousness your goal, and you will be far less stressed.
Think about each element and aspect of your wedding and what it communicates, and/or think about the logistics of doing it. Is what it communicates something you value? If not, don’t do it, or find a way to do it in a way that communicates what you value. A lot of “traditions” are actually quite new, and not necessarily necessary. For instance, I had no desire to be hugged by 140 people in succession, so we didn’t do a receiving line. I hated being a single person at weddings and being summoned out onto the dance floor to try to catch a bouquet, so we didn’t do a bouquet toss. We really love desserts, so we did a dessert bar rather than a cake. Figure out what you love and don’t love, and find creative ways to do it. Are the logistics of X idea going to be a nightmare for you and/or your mom and/or your guests? Maybe not the best idea to pursue.
Be intentional to make this “our” wedding rather than “my” wedding. The culture says that it’s the brides day, that the groom can’t or doesn’t have an opinion, that he will be apathetic or lazy, and that just isn’t fair or helpful. Two people are getting married, and they should both be involved. My fiancé didn’t necessarily have a strong preference between lavender or lilac per se, but he did want to be involved in making the overall vision for OUR day become reality. People will talk only to the bride, will ask only for her opinion (even when you're both standing there!), will send emails only to her, and will assume the groom doesn’t care, so just be intentional to use language and processes that make it clear to you, to him, and to others, that this is OUR wedding (which goes back to #7 and how much you can convey).
You don’t have to have an opinion about everything, but you do need to be able to make decisions. Everyone will ask you for your opinion or preference on all kinds of things. Many of these things you will have an opinion on, many you will not. It is utterly exhausting to be asked so many questions and need to make so many decisions, but persevere! Sometimes you simply need to decide even if you don’t have a preference, sometimes you need to give others the decision-making authority, and sometimes you just need to say, “I can’t make any more decisions today, let’s try again tomorrow.” These will all happen, and they will all be good and right and ok. Roll with it.
So those are our thoughts. Like I said, take these and run with them if they're helpful, or set them aside if they're not. We want to help others de-stress and streamline their wedding planning process. It can be a joyful and peaceful time, really and truly, but it takes effort and perseverance to get and maintain that. We certainly had our ups and downs emotionally and logistically in our 3.5 month engagement (yes it is VERY possible to plan a wedding in 3.5 months! We even did half of it overseas and half on the other side of the country- it's doable!). But during our wedding week, time and time again family members and bridal party members said, "Why aren't you stressed?" or "Why isn't there more we have to do?" or "How are we just sitting around relaxing and spending time together?" We had fought hard to lay foundations for a wedding week with minimal stress and last minute scurrying, and maximal joy, celebration, and time with family and friends. And the work paid off.
And in the end, you WILL be married. So when the emotions roar and you get caught in the web of details, just remember, at the end of the day, you. will. be married. And that is the greatest.
Let's hear from others- what did you do (or not do) in planning your wedding that helped set the overall tone and feel and flavor? Any helpful websites or books to read? Any ideas to keep stress down and joy up? In the coming weeks I'll write additional posts with more specific details and tips for wedding planning, so hold on to comments along those lines for future posts. Thanks for sharing and encouraging others in their journey!