Help me get married!
April 7, 2007 5:07 PM   Subscribe

WeddingFilter: OhMyHolyLord! There's a lot to plan for a wedding, and I have options paralysis! Help me married or engaged-to-be-wed wedding planning MeFites, you're my only hope!

So, I am very excited about my upcoming nuptiuals. What girl wouldn't be? However, I am utterly overwhelmed with all the nonsense involved in planning a wedding.

I have the luxury of about 18 months to plan and (luckily) parents who are happy to throw us a wedding. So far, I have only one definite, the photographer.

My major issue relates to all other wedding related things. Every time I open Martha Weddings, I freak out at all the options. Likewise with Googling anything. There are simply too many options to for me. I also have a lovely fiance who has no strong opinions one way or another, so much of the decision making is left up to me.

What I really want here are your ideas and inspirations and internet links and other reference materials. Who printed your invitiations and what did you include? Where did you order your dress from? How do you go about finding a church in which to get married when you don't regularly attend a church? What is an appropriate price for dinners? What sort of favors do people like to get at weddings? Live pianist/guitarist or iPod? How do I go about planning our honeymoon - do we need a travel company? and so on...

(I have eleventy billion more questions on top of this, so if you have any references like books, articles, websites, please include them.)

I love you all dearly in advance for your help.
posted by santojulieta to Grab Bag (49 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried The Knot yet?
posted by saffry at 5:15 PM on April 7, 2007

Get thee to The Knot!
posted by i love cheese at 5:15 PM on April 7, 2007

Response by poster: I have done the knot, but still find it overwhelming. It open up more possibilites than it eliminates.
posted by santojulieta at 5:18 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We're just starting to look for a dress, and I don't want to spend much (and I'm not wearing white) -- but you can find nice, pretty bridesmaids dresses that do come in white if you want for under $200 at Bill Levkoff and Watters and Watters.

You didn't mention your budget, but less is always more, right?
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:45 PM on April 7, 2007

Best answer: IndieBride apparently, according to those brides to be in the know i.e. mine. A site for the Independant Bride.

IndieGroom then gets the cliffnotes from IndieBride.
posted by clarkie666 at 5:49 PM on April 7, 2007

a) 18 months is far too long to plan a wedding. If you can get married next summer, you can get married this summer. You are not going to listen to me, and you're going to spend 18 months of your life obsessing over this, but: a wedding need not be planned to any greater extent than a good-sized party. Nobody plans a party 18 months in the future - maybe six weeks at most? You hire a band, you hire a marriage venue and a reception venue, you hire a photographer, you send out some invitations and use a spreadsheet to track the replies, and you are DONE. If you want to be.

b) In order not to choose, you hire people and tell them to choose, and then you don't think about it any more. I.E., my instructions to the photographer were something like I liked a lot of candid shots rather than posed ones, and I liked black-and-white shots. End. My instructions to the reception venue were that it was a wedding, I wanted an open bar, and I sampled some of their food and picked a menu. End. (On their own, the reception venue set up beautiful tables, candles, floral arrangements, scattered rose petals on the steps leading up the place...) My instructions to the band were to play whatever they felt like (of course the band was chosen with an eye towards their repertoire). End.

You may be aghast. "I don't see anywhere in that paragraph just above where you picked the napkin ring colors! You didn't color-coordinate the boutonnières! You didn't decide the species, color and size of each flower at each table! You didn't pick the first dance song, the last dance song, and every song in between!" You're right. I didn't. We didn't even have arranged seating. Yet somehow, the wedding was fucking amazing.

Less equals more. If you plan every detail, and one of the details is wrong, it will upset you. If you hire professional people and let them do it, they will surprise you with how well they do it.
posted by jellicle at 5:53 PM on April 7, 2007 [4 favorites]

If the flavor of The Knot is not to your liking, check out Indiebride. Lots of leve-headed advice about wedding planning (caveat: it's been a while since I was there, since my wedding is over).
posted by rtha at 5:53 PM on April 7, 2007

Personally, I narrowed down almost everything by just making it all personal. And budget narrows down everything else. It's not too hard -- make your master list of things to decide (location, food, dress, music, flowers, etc.) and go down one by one thinking about making each choice personal.

For example: either you have a favorite flower, or your mom does or your sister does (using their flower honors them!), or your fiance gave you that type of flower first, or you have a favorite color and the flower is that color.

For the church, choose either your parents' church or your friends' or the church that's the most lovely to you or the church that has the best looking priest... either the choice matters and it will be dictated for you, or it doesn't so you can just choose whatever you like the best.

Serve your favorite food, play your favorite music, etc.

For the dress, first go to a bridal salon with a pal (make an appointment first) and try on a bunch of styles. Once you know which styles look best on you, you can begin looking at magazines or websites, because you can just avoid looking at the styles you've ruled out.
posted by xo at 5:53 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, I think in a case like this (especially given that you have the luxury of time at this point), the first thing you do is stay away from the bridal magazines and websites for the time being. The bridal industry thrives on overwhelming people into a kind of panic/frenzy, in which you'll purchase MORE MORE MORE at hugely inflated prices. So going in cold is like going into a car dealer without having done any research in terms of models and prices, and instead just announcing, "hey! I want to buy something! Whaddya got?" You'll walk away with a car, all right -- a car with more bells and whistles than you likely want or need, and at a price way above what you should have paid anyway.

So: step away from all the frenzy for a bit, and take the time to brainstorm your vision of your wedding. Something small and intimate? Something large and elegant? Something casual/funky and unusual? Something at an amazing destination? Then consider basic guest logistics: for example, do you and/or your fiance have large or small families? A lot of family and friends who live out of town? Family or friends who can't travel (due to health, age, budget, etc.)? Then think about the event-related factors that are actually important to you (again, not what the bridal mags imply should be important), and roughly prioritize them: Food? Flowers? A large bridal party? Outdoor setting? Amazing music?

So spend the time drawing up your own basic parameters. You may find, for example, that you're basically in the market for something for about 100 people, within 25 miles of where you live. You may decide that a gorgeous dress, great food, and a jazz combo matter far more to you than having six bridesmaids, an outdoor setting, and huge flower arrangements. Then, with those basics in mind, take a deep breath and start looking at the websites and mags. That way, you'll have a chance to get the wedding you want, not the wedding someone else foists upon you.
posted by scody at 5:55 PM on April 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

And yeah, seconding jellicle: you don't really need 18 months to plan a wedding, no matter what anyone says (though I would say that you will likely need more than 6 weeks lead-time on booking caterers, venues, and bands -- but surely there's a happy medium between a year-and-a-half and a month-and-a-half), and you don't need to worry about each insane, miniscule detail. At the end of the day, no one comes to a wedding to critique the napkins; they come to eat, drink, and be merry with people they care about.
posted by scody at 6:07 PM on April 7, 2007

Thirding Indiebride. For fun, read the etiquette column and see just how non-indie the indiebride questions can be!
posted by The Bellman at 6:08 PM on April 7, 2007

jellicle is right. If you're the kind of person who is prone to say "I want to research all the options and pick the very best one", then planning a wedding will eat your soul, possibly cause family friction as you try to accommodate what you imagine to be "everyone's expectations", learn from books about things that you would never have considered important before, etc.

I would say, do as little general research as possible. Try to decide on your own what you're looking for in a wedding and reception, before looking at articles etc.

1. Decide whether you would like a more formal wedding and dress, or a somewhat more informal one. (Don't worry about other people's expectations here. Get a clear sense of what you want, and then you can discuss/negotiate with other players as needed.)

2. Decide how many people you would like to invite. (If you can keep it under, say, 80, your life will be much easier)

3. Decide whether you will have wedding attendants like bridesmaids and ushers. It's perfectly permissible, and in some situations much easier, to have none or only a few.

4. Get an etiquette book (eg Emily Post) to cover the basics like the wording of the invitation, etc.

5. Decide if you would like a religious ceremony, in a religious venue, or not. In most states you don't have to get married in a church; you can get married at a botanical garden, in an art gallery, at a vineyard, etc. Look into the rules for your state (google your state + marriage laws).

6. If it's going to be a big wedding, delegate as many tasks as possible, and prepare yourself for the possibility that the people doing the jobs will only do an okay job rather than a perfect-to-the-last-detail job. At the end of the big day, you'll still be married and everyone will have had fun, so the details really truly don't matter. Don't run yourself ragged obsessing over "doing it right"; maintain enough sanity that you can just enjoy the day.

7. Indiebride's forums (Kvetch) are a good resource for specifics (who is a good invitation printer, where should we look for catering in Columbus, etc). Try to avoid just cruising around there randomly, though, because again too many options will drive you crazy.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:08 PM on April 7, 2007

It will be as complicated as you make it. I had a lovely (first) wedding with a jazz brunch at a farm on the outskirts of Boston, planned in about 5 months from outside of the country. Had a lovely (second) wedding, planned in about 2 weeks, on a beach in the Florida Keys at sunrise with cake and champagne.

Some key points to figure out--who do you want to invite (i.e., how many people, as this will affect budgeting), and how much decision-making will your parents feel is owed to them. I think those two items have the potential to drive a lot of the feeling of overwhelm.

Indulge in the magazines for a month or two, then give them up and incubate for a while. Congrats!
posted by cocoagirl at 6:12 PM on April 7, 2007

You don't have to spend the whole 18 months planning it! We were engaged for ~13 months and did most of the work in the last six months or so, other than securing the caterer and venue (which was the caterer's room) -- we did that at about 8 or 9 months out. If you are ordering a dress, you will want to give that plenty of lead time too.

Other than that, what scody and LobsterMitten (among others) say. Figure out what you (plural) want it to look like first, then figure out how to make it look like that.

And, yeah, I found The Knot to be insufferable, and used IndieBride a lot.

On preview, cocoagirl has some excellent points about invitation lists and parental involvement. Yup.
posted by librarina at 6:30 PM on April 7, 2007

I agree with those that say to hire someone and have them do the big work, you just come up with the little details.

I didn't believe it until after my wedding, but no matter how much you want to, you wont remember much about the day except how incredible it was. If some little detail isn't exactly what you intended you will get distracted over something stupid and that WILL ruin your day. So don't go that route if you have an option. 6 months is the perfect amount of time to plan.
posted by trishthedish at 6:33 PM on April 7, 2007

Jellicle is right on. I planned a beautiful wedding for over 400 guests in one week. I hired good people, told them my general style and let them do what they were hired for. I had one bridesmaid, kept things simple and best of all didn't stress!! My wedding is still talked about and the best part is that since I hadn't micro-managed every detail, I got to enjoy it too!! Find good people, let them do their thing and enjoy!!
posted by pearlybob at 6:34 PM on April 7, 2007

And, really, there's only as much to plan as you want there to be (unless there are parental expectations AND those expectations need to be met; see above). If you don't want to worry about napkins and wine glasses and shoes, then just don't. It's OK to delegate and it's OK to decide you don't care enough about something even to delegate it. Sometimes the default option (plain glasses instead of fancy, cheapest plates instead of patterned, house wine, whatever) is the right one. You just need to decide which things you will burn energy on and which you won't. Then a huge chunk of the work is taken care of right there.

Seriously, I love talking about this stuff and we had a ton of fun planning our wedding (and lots of comments that it was the best wedding ever!), so feel free to shoot me an email if you want.
posted by librarina at 6:37 PM on April 7, 2007

I strongly recommend the book "Bridal Bargains" by Denise Fields. Not only did it give lots of money-saving ideas, it broke down the process and gave an easy-to-use checklist. There are also internet forums related to the book, so those might be helpful too.

Just remember what's's an important day, but it's just one day :-)

Congrats and enjoy!
posted by christinetheslp at 6:40 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Obviously there's about a billion things going on with the wedding, and I'm just going to hone in on one.

If you want a kickass reception (and all things being equal, assuming that the $ is there), I would argue heavily in favor of live music -- particularly a band/musician that can bridge generational gaps. I've been to my fair share of these shindigs (including my own), and I can honestly say that for me a good band (one that can get people up and dancing) makes all the difference between an awesome reception and a blase one..
posted by saladpants at 7:20 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would ask your mother and mother-in-law to be to plan it. It is their day anyway. Your mom knows you better than anyone and his mom the same. It also saves the cost of the professional.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:40 PM on April 7, 2007

jellicle has it right.

Another source of freedom for you is that nobody cares very much what you pick. Think about the weddings you've been to -- did you care what color the flowers were or what particular shade of fuschia the bridesmaid's dresses were?

So for an awful lot of the decisions, the best answers might well be (1) have someone else make the particular decisions, or (2) go with your first guess, because it's almost certainly good enough.

More particularly:

Who printed your invitiations and what did you include?

This is a case in point. Nobody but you and your family care how the invitations are worded, so long as you avoid profanity, blasphemy, and racial slurs. Take a first guess and run it by the families for approval. Any print shop should be able to do them.

What is an appropriate price for dinners?

A price you (or your folks) are willing to pay. Unless your parents have to invite business associates and put on a good show for them, people don't need to be impressed or flabbergasted by the meal, so you don't need to go all out.

What sort of favors do people like to get at weddings?

Nobody cares very much. Whatever you pick, people will hang onto for a while and think warm thoughts about you when they notice it. Get a little something you think is nice, and it will be good enough.

Live pianist/guitarist or iPod?

A reasonably programmed ipod is far better than a mediocre live perfomer. If nothing else, an ipod isn't going to get drunk and grab anyone's ass.

How do I go about planning our honeymoon - do we need a travel company?

Tell your Prince Charming that this is his job.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:57 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

You may want to go with a wedding planner. S/he will walk you through step by step and lessen your stress.
posted by k8t at 8:08 PM on April 7, 2007

Response by poster: I love you all dearly. Have I said that yet?
posted by santojulieta at 8:10 PM on April 7, 2007

nthing Indiebride. It is most helpful for specific questions and general venting, and I found a lot of great ideas in the threads there. Stay away from the Knot and Martha Weddings! There's plenty in this process to make you nuts, without reading things that will make it worse.

Figure out what is most important to you in this process, and focus on those things. The best weddings I have been to were the ones that most fit the personalities of the couple, not necessarily the ones with Martha-approved frou frou. Plan the wedding to celebrate your love for each other, and let the other stuff go. That's the advice from this thrice-married lady, at least!

Another book that you might like is Conscious Bride.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:29 PM on April 7, 2007

If you need help with venue sourcing & negotiations etc--even just the questions you need to ask the venue & caterer--let me know.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:34 PM on April 7, 2007

Someone like my wife could help you talk through some options and figure out how to translate your ideas about weddings into a good plan for your own.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 9:04 PM on April 7, 2007

seconding live music and or a good dj.
posted by alkupe at 9:19 PM on April 7, 2007

i guess another point is to try to take it step by step. don't try to plan the napkins and flowers now. for now think about a location and some overall stuff. When it comes time to choose the napkins, you'll be able to do it. what's impossible is trying to decide everyting all at once.
And i definitely recommend really thinking about locations. I think the location, more than anything else, is the key to planning a great wedding. Since you have so much time, you can probably have your first choice.
posted by alkupe at 9:23 PM on April 7, 2007

Church - my husband and I do not regularly attend any church, and we opted for the chapel at my alma mater, in which student activities also sometimes occur, so I have some good memories of it even though I've never been a member of the congregation.

Favors - We just didn't give them. I have received exactly one favor in the many weddings I have gone to that I can actually remember what it was, which was a monogrammed toothbrush from my cousin's wedding (he and his wife are both dentists). If you can do something that clever, then awesome. Nobody noticed that we didn't give out favors. I'm convinced they're just another expense created by the wedding industry to make brides feel guilty and stressed out. You should, however, give gifts to your wedding party, since they give so much help (and usually have to go to some expense).

I also have a lovely fiance who has no strong opinions one way or another, so much of the decision making is left up to me.

Seriously, fuck that noise. My husband was like that too, and I got pretty steamed about it (unfortunately he lived in another country, so I couldn't just hand him the phone book and say, "you find a photographer" but at least he took on the stuff he could do long-distance). If he doesn't care about the details, then why should you? Assign some of this stuff to him. Why should you do all the work just because you're the girl?
posted by joannemerriam at 9:56 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

The best advice I read was to decide what I wanted people to think when they left my wedding. "Wow, that wedding was the most ,,,, I've been too." Fun? Elegant? Dancable? Then then when faced with choices of venue, food, music etc choose the one that fits your critera best. And skip giving favours (although mine were little wooden birdhouse windchimes from the dollar shop with our names written on them in gold pen; I liked seeing them at all my friend's houses).
posted by saucysault at 10:45 PM on April 7, 2007

what jellicle said. you're spending way too much time, money, and energy on something that shouldn't be very complicated.

Why wait 18 months?
posted by davidmsc at 11:22 PM on April 7, 2007

Best answer: I'm just adding a personal opinion about favors. I like the idea of giving a little thank you gift to your guests. I don't think it has to be monogrammed or labeled, so you don't have to deal just with wedding vendors. We gave our friends handpainted little boxes from my parents' native country because I liked the idea of gifting a piece of art. I've received gorgeous wood chopsticks from a Japanese friend, a tiny pot of honey from a woman who kept bees, and a Carl's Jr. burger from a college dormmate who shared many late night study food runs.

Plastic knick-knacks printed with the couple's wedding date generally end up in the trash, so I guess my advice would be : if something cool comes to mind, go with it. Otherwise, as people have said, don't force yourself to give favors just for the purposes of etiquette.
posted by synapse at 11:44 PM on April 7, 2007

My wife and I spent little money (including rings, photographer and breakfast) and had an small wedding on the beach. It was very relaxed and the guests hung out with us for the day on the beach. We did this because we felt stressed out after considering the type of wedding plans you're considering. "Why be stressed out on our wedding day?" we thought. In fact we woke up late and were hurrying around to be on time and then thought "Fuck it, they can't start without us" and calmed down.

Some friends of ours had a huge, planned, manicured wedding on a farm with 300 guests. The bride doesn't remember the day well, 'cause she was so busy trying to keep her guests entertained and was exhausted from planning. It all looked very pretty and was impressive, but was it worth it if the day comes and you're exhausted and can't remember it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:29 AM on April 8, 2007

santojulieta, if I may piggy back on your question:

For those of you saying 18 months of planning is too long, how much time would you budget for planning a wedding involving guests & family from multiple continents?

posted by romakimmy at 6:35 AM on April 8, 2007

For those of you saying 18 months of planning is too long, how much time would you budget for planning a wedding involving guests & family from multiple continents?

Well, we got engaged in February & had people from Belgium & Wales at our August wedding. Just warn them as far in advance as possible, so they have time to get tickets & aren't stuck trying to buy them at the last minute.

Who printed your invitiations and what did you include?

I designed them in Photoshop, bought flat cards & bright orange envelopes from Paper Source, & printed them on a $50 color printer I picked up at Best Buy. I also made fun response cards & printed them on postcards (cheaper postage than a separate card & envelope).

What sort of favors do people like to get at weddings?

I have never been to a wedding where people were excited about the favors. Sure, if it's chocolate they'll eat it. But usually it's just a waste of money & time. (I've spent far too many nights helping friends bundle jordan almonds in tulle.)

We decided to spend that extra $1.50/person on more alcohol, which seemed to go over well. :)

Seriously, your life will be so much easier if you can just decide that you don't care about most of the things the wedding magazines tell you to worry about. The colors of the table linens? Eh. The very exact song played at every moment during the ceremony? Eh. What the bridesmaids wear? Eh. (Really, do you even want bridesmaids? It adds an additional layer of difficulty.) Roses the shade of albino rabbit eyes in June? Eh.

Pick a few things to care about & let the other stuff just fall into place.
posted by belladonna at 7:21 AM on April 8, 2007

I found Simple Stunning Weddings helpful for thinking about what kind of wedding you want to have and figuring out priorities. The Knot is definitely overwhelming. The local boards are good for getting recommendations for vendors in a specific location. We also got some great location specific recommendations from AskMe. Having 18 months often means using/wasting 18 months, but the one advantage is that depending on your location, many venues and vendors get booked a year in advance. If you plan on getting married at a popular time (Saturday evening in the summer) in a popular place (big cities and their suburbs) and you think you might want anything traditional/popular as far as venue etc., take advantage of the time that you have and make some decisions about the big things (date, venue) sooner rather than later.
posted by noether at 7:49 AM on April 8, 2007

For favors my advice is to go with small inexpensive picture frames (we got great metal ones that hold a 2 inch by 3 inch / business card sized image) and use them as place holders. Then when you send your thank you cards you include a photo that would fit in the picture frame. Anything else is just kitch.

We announced our engagement in Sept and were married by August. Most of the real planning started in 8 months before the wedding but you'd be amazed at how much of it was actually done in the last 3 months. belladonna gives some excellent advice about picking a few things to care about, to which I would add you'll only be happy with your wedding if you ignore what everyone else expects/suggests/imposes on you and you do what YOU want to do. Be polite as they are trying to help, but real advice (rather than expectations) will be far and few between.

From my observations it's important to make sure that anyone such as bridesmaids or mothers who want to help have tangible work to do, without letting them take control of the wedding. and expect family to crawl out of the woodwork even when there's only two weeks left (and be prepared to say no to them).

P.S. No flower kids.
posted by furtive at 9:21 AM on April 8, 2007

Best answer: I was in the exact same tizzy, until I picked a venue and made an invite list. The venue will help inform so many other choices you make, and the invite list will help you be realistic about a budget. I had all this "planning insecurity" because I did NOT have A Wedding Vision all plotted out and ready to fire off as soon as I was engaged. I did, however, step back eventually and realize that I'm really good at planning dinner parties, so let's focus on that for a while, and soon you're making decsions that start "connecting" to one another, and before you know it, you've got things in hand. There were 3 things I had just vaguely in mind - I love paper, so I wanted to make my own invites. I love herbs, so I wanted to use herbs as table centerpieces. We both love to cook, so I wanted our wedding favors to somehow reflect that.

I can totally relate to the eleventy-billion questions - here are the answers (for me) to some, and feel free to sign me up as an email-sanity-check-buddy:

I bought my dress very very last minute from David's Bridal - everyone told me I would regret not buying it 6 months in advance, but I found one on the rack, slight alterations, 5 weeks before the ceremony. You might not be as calm about all that as I was. I was certain that I would pick a short, colorful bridesmaid dress, but I ended up with a long, strapless breezy-beachy thing.

We aren't church-goers either. We planned a "destination wedding" in Charleston, SC, as jef has an aged set of grandparents there. We asked them for recommendations, and looked at a few churches, but ended up using the ballroom at the Citadel's beach house on Isle of Palms. We had the ceremony outside, and the reception in the ballroom. We had a pagan friend of mine, who became an ordained minister so it was all legal, perform the ceremony. We got to pick and choose the ceremony elements all Chinese-menu style from her minister's book. Very cool.

I made my own invitations, as mentioned. Actually, I made all our paper stuff - I took a class at Paper Source and then kinda ran with it. I made save-the-dates, invitations, reply cards, invitations to the rehearsal dinner, reply cards for that, a little booklet with maps and directions in it, our programs, table cards, tags for our favors, menus, and I'm sure a bunch of other things I'm not remembering.

I also had some friends get together to make favors. We used these cool little glass jars and filled them with a mix of coarse salt and rosemary from our garden. Tied a ribbon around the top and attached a card with a couple quotes and directions for using the salt in cooking.

Because everyone was coming from out of town, anyone who was in town Friday evening was invited to the rehearsal dinner - this was a VERY informal dinner, we supplied the music, a local barbeque joint supplied the food, parents supplied the drinks. This was really nice, because we had a chance to catch up and chat with folks that we knew we'd barely see on Saturday.

We hired a DJ and gave him a list of music - it was in his contract that he could not deviate from the list unless any of our parents or grandparents had a special request. No Chicken Dance bullshit.

Thinking about it now, the only regret that I have is that I was so anxious about the process - it's really all about what you love and what you can afford and what the two of you want it to be.
posted by ersatzkat at 10:16 AM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Not much to add here, but just wanted to say that NO ONE BUT YOU will notice all the work/planning you put into the details. As long as your wedding has the same main structure as all the other weddings, nothing short of the bride losing her dress or the groom falling onto the cake will make any of your guests think it was less than a "beautiful wedding". Just keep that in mind when you're driving yourself crazy trying to find ribbon that exactly matches the exact hue of red of the flowers in the centerpieces.
posted by parilous at 10:23 AM on April 8, 2007

The kinds of things ersatzcat is talking about are what you will find on indiebride. I am completely charmed by them, but they are extremely labor intensive. In planning ours, I didn't have time or energy to do all that personalizing stuff, and ended up feeling drained and guilty about it.

So: don't feel guilty if you can't do that stuff -- it won't ruin your wedding, and it won't make your guests think you're a heartless dull couple. It will be a personal, wonderful day because of the people involved, and there are basically no decisions you can make in the planning process that would wreck it. You can hire a DJ and just give good instructions, rather than painstakingly assembling the 4 hours worth of music that matters the most to you. You can just get any stationary shop to print invitations, and they will be lovely and fine, rather than spending your own time agonizing over what colors, what placement, what paper, etc and then printing and cutting and assembling.

This is why it's important to figure out what you really care about before reading up on this stuff. Good luck - it will be great, just don't drive yourself crazy beforehand.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:30 AM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

First, my usual advice to engaged couples: You have had a successful wedding if, at the end of it, you and your fiance are married to each other, and no one has been injured. Everything else is gravy.

Get yourself a wedding planner. Your local large chain bookstore should have a whole section of them. It will have lists of what you need to plan, how far out, and plenty of space for notes. Also check out Bridal Bargains, which will list various wedding professionals and help you save money.

Okay. When I got married (12+ years ago) I would have been fine with jeans on the beach and a justice of the peace followed by burgers and dogs. I was outvoted. :) I hated hated HATED making phone calls, researching reception sites, all of that stuff. I was never a girl who fantasized about her wedding day. My mom ended up doing a lot of the planning, and I spoke up when I cared strongly about something. Adapt that concept to your own planning. If you care strongly about something, specify details. If you don't, specify broad guidelines ("I don't care what font the invitations are printed in as long as it's script and legible.") and let it go. Delegate where you can. If you care about *everything* strongly, prioritize what's really important to you. I didn't really care what the invitations looked like, but I had a lot of opinions about the flowers.

I was a very lapsed Catholic and my husband was a lapsed Methodist when we were planning the wedding. Neither of us had a regular church. I would have been fine with a non-religious ceremony, but my husband wanted a religious ceremony of some sort. We ended up getting married at a Unitarian Universalist congregation after meeting the minister and both feeling comfortable with her. It stuck, we're now both members of and active in our local UU congregation. Most UU ministers are quite willing to perform interfaith wedding ceremonies for non-members.

For wedding dresses, I bought a couple of those doorstop sized magazines, and went through them not picking dresses, but noting things I liked and disliked - I want a neckline shaped like this, I want this size train, I hate these sleeves. Oh, one bit of dress advice - I got a train that was supposed to gracefully transform into a bustle for the reception. Yeah, right. 3 little pearl buttons to hold all that fabric? I had a train for the whole reception. Get a detachable train, if a train is important to you. On the other hand, if your beloved dress has a permanently attached train that won't bustle, don't sweat it. You're the bride. People will get out of your way.

If your parents are paying for the wedding, don't sweat the guest list. As long as the people you and your fiance want there are invited, it doesn't matter if the parents invite 20 people or 200 people. The one exception is if they want to invite someone who you really don't like. Likewise, don't sweat the seating chart. As long as people who don't like each other aren't seated together and singles who don't know any one else are seated with people they should get along with, the rest doesn't matter.

Spring for the live music. DJs will try to be cheesy. If you REALLY don't want the Chicken Dance, insist. If you get outvoted, you don't have to dance it. I didn't. But if you really feel strongly, no one gets to outvote the bride. Don't be a bridezilla, but you're allowed a few times where you insist.

What matters is that you enjoy your wedding and have a good time. Feel free to throw a tradition out the window if you don't care for it, or adapt it to you and your fiance's tastes. I still regret not playing "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid at the appropriate spot in the ceremony. :) Take your fiance on some of these planning excursions. He has no opinions, and wants whatever you want - until you show him something he doesn't like. Also, he could take on one large wedding-related task. My husband planned the honeymoon (Disneyworld!)

Finally, don't freak out. Don't look at all your options and stress about which to choose; think about the categories, figure out what you want, and then look at the options for making that happen. If you like it, and it brightens your wedding day, there are no wrong choices. Good luck, and congratulations!
posted by booksherpa at 10:31 AM on April 8, 2007

Best answer: Ok, a few more thoughts:
1. Everyone you hire will expect the bride to have strong opinions on every subject. Sometimes it will be easier to say "here's the vibe I want, you figure out how to make it happen", but sometimes it's best if you come in with an idea. For example, everyone will want to know what "your colors" are. Oy. It may be easier just to pick two colors that you can just say to people, without worrying over whether they are the best possible colors.
2. Bridesmaids are important if you have a dress that's very involved (eg big bustle, long train). Try to pick at least one bridesmaid who has been in a wedding before, and she'll know what to do with the train etc.
3. Don't try to fit in every possible "wedding tradition" (photos after, receiving line, cutting cake, first dances, dollar dances, throwing bouquet, taking off and throwing and putting on garter, etc etc). It ends up being too much - the tight schedule decreases the spontaneous fun flow of the party. People want to see one or two of these, and be able to eat and chitchat and dance on their own schedule.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:40 AM on April 8, 2007

NB. Remember that bridal magazines are there to make you think that you need to spend lots of money on things and/or services provided by their advertisers in order to have the 'perfect' wedding.

As many replies above point out, this is rubbish. Personally I'd throw the magazines in the bin, but that's just me.
posted by pharm at 11:05 AM on April 8, 2007

Don't try to fit in every possible "wedding tradition" (photos after, receiving line, cutting cake, first dances, dollar dances, throwing bouquet, taking off and throwing and putting on garter, etc etc). It ends up being too much - the tight schedule decreases the spontaneous fun flow of the party. People want to see one or two of these, and be able to eat and chitchat and dance on their own schedule.

This is the best advice I've read here (and there's lots of good stuff). Here's what happened at our wedding (45 guests, I don't recall a lot of planning-- it was 30 years ago!, but there must have been some) Anyway, we did not plan ANY kind of wedding day stuff- photo shoot lists, dances, toasts, cake cutting. And the guests just kind of took it on themselves to insert this stuff into the event. They basically took pity on us poor hippies and created our wedding on the fly, so that we ended up with a simple wedding that nevertheless got all the bells and whistles. In fact, we actually didn't even have a band, so they all stood around and spontaneously started singing "Oh how we danced on the night we were wed" while we danced. Wow. I'm all choked up just remembering.

G'bless and good luck. It'll be fine.
posted by nax at 1:22 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: SEEEEEEEERIOUSLY. I love you all dearly.
posted by santojulieta at 7:04 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Repeat this to yourself as necessary:

"The marriage is the important bit. The wedding is just a party. Aim to enjoy it."
posted by kjs4 at 4:58 AM on April 9, 2007

Um, not to be a downer, but as soon as I got engaged, the enormity of the task-- making all those decisions with lots of unsolicited family input on top of a horribly stressful job-- sent me into a full-fledged funk and I suddenly had no opinion and only fear. A light dose of anti-depressant/anti-anxiety meds put me back into my normal frame of mind, and I was able to make good decisions based on the real me, not on the stressed out me. I was even able to make a split-second decision at the end of the reception when our grand exit got botched by the reception place! Just something to keep in mind.

I LOVED the planning as I'm a recovering perfectionistic control-freak. The day turned out to be a perfect reflection of my husband and me, and people still talk about it three years later. I'm a bargain shopper with an eye for the unexpected or clever, so the research end of things was really fun. was a huge help, mostly for their checklist. We printed that out and put it in a big binder, and then had a few dividers with pockets into which I stuffed ideas ripped from mags and notes from conversations, etc. I found wedding channel to be less snarky and snobby than, but that's just my experience. Both are helpful.

The beauty of 18 months is that you have time to really enjoy the planning without time pressure. We had eight months, and then found out one month in that sister-in-law was due on our wedding date. So we moved it up three months, giving me four months to plan, and it was a classy, fine, big shindig.

Where to start:
1.) Answer this: what do you want people to walk away saying? What do you want the sentiment of the day to be? (Fun, worshipful, sentimental, goofy, classy, casual, etc.) Get a theme or vision which you'll refer to throughout the process.

2.) Pick a date. You and Fiance pick the time of year that you want, and then consult with parents. Before announcing it, casually ask wedding party folks if it works for them (pregnant sisters-in-law-bridesmaids might make you change your date. It's a small concession to make.)

3.) Set your budget. Have a dollar amount in mind. This is a MUST and will help you decide on many things. It's not worth blowing the budget for every little detail to be out of a magazine. It's one day. If parents are paying, ask them what is important to them. We were offered a budget and wanted to make it a small affair and keep the rest. Parents said they'd rather see a big affair, so out of respect we did that. Not a big deal to me. Dad had to have an omelet station, so ok to that one as well.

4.) Go to and plug in your info to generate their checklists. The master checklist and budget checklists were terribly helpful to me.

5.) Work your way through their checklists gently and revel in the joy of fulfilling a once-in-a-lifetime little girl's dream, (if this is something you've dreamed of). If not, delegate, delegate, delegate. Hire a wedding planner if need be.

6.) Begin talking about the guest list. This will change up until the date you send out invitations, but have a rough estimate of how many people you want to invite and begin working on this list. Beware-- this is often the stickiest wicket in the process. I wish I had been more lenient with my parents' requests instead of being so bitchy about keeping numbers down. It caused a few tears and difficult moments in the families. Might help to say to mother-in-law, "My parents are inviting 30 people, so please get me the names and addresses of the people you'd like to invite, limiting the number to 30 or so, please."

7.) Decide what is the most important thing to you on the check list. Cake? Flowers? Your dress? Photog? The location? The invitations? The food? What one item would you go all out for? Then let the other things be secondary. For me it was the location. We paid dearly for it, and the cake was an afterthought (We had a buffet, and I said, "Just bring out something you have in the back so we can have a cake cutting moment. I don't care what it is.")

Who printed your invitiations and what did you include?
I got them from Carlton Crafts. Yes, that's what everybody does and it wasn't clever, but they were relatively inexpensive and there are tons of designs to choose from. Plus, they weren't terribly important to me. I got very simple, classy invitations and they were fantastic. Google "carlton crafts discount" - I got mine for 40% off from some small store in some unknown town. Came in the mail with plenty of time. Order a few extras for scrapbooks, etc.

Where did you order your dress from?
I first saw my dream dress in a magazine-- remember, planning a wedding from magazines is like setting up house using a catalog. Nothing is as perfect as those magazines, as cost was no issue to them. Use them as ideas and accept your limitations. My dream dress was $5500, and my budget was about $500, so I went to David's and found a dress that had similar features. I took it to a tailor and had it altered dramatically (sheath style instead of ball gown) so it was more my dream dress. Happy me.

How do you go about finding a church in which to get married when you don't regularly attend a church?
Try local museums, cultural centers, opera houses, schools, etc. Our church meets in a high school so we went to a local university and used their chapel. They were wary as we weren't alums, but for a little higher "donation" to the university and a legal waiver of responsibility (we promise not to sue if someone gets hurt here), it was a done deal.

What is an appropriate price for dinners?
Totally depends on where you are and what you want to eat. That checklist from wedding channel will help you narrow things. We had a Sunday morning brunch at a super nice place (meaningful to the family) and it was about $90 a head. You can do dinners for that as well. Pick a few places in the dream location, good location, budget location catagories (country club, wedding hall, restaurant, respectively) and ask about their prices and what it includes (open bar, dessert, etc.)

What sort of favors do people like to get at weddings?
Rarely do people go to weddings for the favors, but some people care. We decided not to have favors at all. Until I woke up with a brilliant idea about two weeks before the wedding. The first time my husband ever showed interest in me was when I was sick with the flu. He called one Sunday and offered to come over and bring me some soup that his mom makes for him when he's sick-- Mrs. Grass's Chicken Soup. I said ok, and he came over and made it for me. So for favors (doubled as placecards), I bought all the Mrs. Grass's Chicken Soup I could find in all the area groceries, wrapped them in sheath of white pearl paper from Paper source, and tied a ribbon around. The placecard went on the front. When we arrived at the wedding reception, all the guests had their boxes of soup and confused faces, so I told the story and told them to carry on Brad's good name and make soup for someone else. We got a letter a few months later from one guest who actually did it!

Live pianist/guitarist or iPod?
We didn't have dancing, so we had an ipod playing. But if you can afford GOOD live music, do it. Check out a local university's music school-- they often have very talented students who will do it.

How do I go about planning our honeymoon - do we need a travel company?
If this is your first trip together, plan on it being a learning experience. I had my heart set on going to Mexico, so we went, but poor husband is a picky eater and doesn't like heat. Our honeymoon would be very different if we planned it now, but that's the joy of marriage! We have lots and lots of years to try again! No need for a travel company if you have an idea of where you want to go. If not, try a Triple A place-- many of their travel agents are very helpful. The message boards at wedding channel were helpful to me as well.

I have a very boring job right now and would be more than happy to help with any research you would need done. Please don't hesitate to ask for any assistance. I have lots of resources and opnions. :) Orangemiles at gmail dot com .

posted by orangemiles at 8:04 AM on April 9, 2007

Best answer: Most important thing: Everyone says, "I want a small wedding." Forget it. Make up the guest list before absolutely anything else. Don't even try to come up with a number, just start listing. Get input from everyone who counts, give them a week, and make sure they know it's FINAL. Until you have a very firm count of guests, you can't do anything.

And, as others have said, get a copy of the book Bridal Bargains.
posted by plantgril at 6:32 PM on April 10, 2007

santojulieta, I just read this article on Slate (about the hows and whys of getting overwhelmed planning a wedding) and thought you might find it interesting.
posted by scody at 3:09 PM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

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