Overwhelmed is a common feeling a bride-to-be experiences as she begins to delve into the $45 billion a year world of planning a wedding. However there are several ways to deal with the incessant head spinning that can ensue as you begin to contemplate who to invite, what to feed everyone, where to have it, and how in the world you can stay within your budget without requiring a stylish white straight jacket to wear with your Badgley Mischka gown.
After you have gotten use to the idea of being engaged and you have begun to refer to your newly engaged beau as your fianc?, you may find yourself starting to imagine or daydream about what the big day might be like, thus beginning the dreaded planning process. Planning is really an inaccurate description of what this process is all about. Juggling expectations, both yours, your finance's, as well as your family's and friend's is a more accurate description of what the next 6 to 12 months of your life will entail.
The best way to maintain a loose sense of control during this maddening process is reducing the amount of input that every parent, sister, childhood friend, and co-worker has on what you and your groom HAVE to do. Of course this process is considerably easier when the commentary is not accompanied by much needed checks with their signatures. In a perfect world you and your partner would determine what best suits you and your budget, and then select the best florist and DJ based on your common love of tulips and salsa dance! However, when your mother-in-law-to-be gushes about how lovely her so-and-so's wedding was and she is significantly contributing to your wedding fund, it becomes difficult to reasonably suggest that what worked for her niece doesn't suit you. I already have a call into Martha Stewart's people to suggest that she consider developing extremely stylish earplugs designed to reduce the number of helpful suggestions that actually reach your ears! However, until such a gem exists, a "Really, I am sure that looked lovely" response can do the trick as you quickly back pedal and change the subject. And as hard as it can be to disappoint the masses, maintaining your sanity requires you and your partner to frequently touch base, determine what you want, and decide what you are prepared to deal with from your loved ones. In the grand scheme of things, your family and friends think that they are being helpful offering suggestions; they are not trying to make this process harder on you.
After you have dodged and weaved your way around the mountains of suggestions, you might have time to think about what you actually want. Perhaps you have already planned out every last detail of your wedding, as a matter of fact those details were set in stone at age 14, however there's another group of ladies out there who don't have a clue! Regardless which group you fall into, research is key! In response to the booming multi-billion dollar business, several savvy groups have created Web sites that are extremely helpful for the wedding challenged. Quite frankly, I do not know how on earth anyone planned a wedding pre-Internet! Some sites, including theknot.com and theweddingchannel.com, offer users helpful budget tools, ridiculously detailed to-do lists (which allow the less formal brides to junk half of the to-dos), guest lists, and registry tools. These tools are free and highly recommended! Now don't get me wrong, they are by no means miracle workers, in that you still have tough decisions to make, including choosing only five appetizers versus eight so you can add a few extra days to your honeymoon, but these sites at least give you a good starting point.
Which brings me to the concept of trade-offs and what an important role they can play so you don't completely blow your budget. For some lucky brides, the sky is the limit. I have a good friend whose sister is getting married this summer and we were recently discussing wedding plans. I literally choked when she said that her sister had 700 guests on her invite list, none of which would be slid to the B list. This was not including her fianc?'s family or friends. I was shocked! Why in the world would anyone do that to themselves? I learned that most weddings in South Carolina are extravagant and it is not odd to plunk down six figures in an effort to make the day special. So if brides in South Carolina are far exceeding the average that means some lucky ladies are doing it for much less!
Another pal of mine is working with a $10,000 budget and is easily making trade-offs, which will go unnoticed by her guests. Instead of using a fancy-schmancy cake designer, she is using a local grocery store to create her wedding cake for a fraction of the price! You can also save a lot of money with flowers. Being selective about where you use flowers is key. For example, I have been to more weddings than I can count, and I couldn't tell you what type of flowers were used to decorate the end of each pew. Use flowers sparingly and in obvious places where they will be missed like bouquets and center pieces and make every attempt to use flowers that are local and seasonal, which should cut down on your floral costs.
Although you have to feed your guests something, trade-offs can be made with regard to the type of food and the time of your reception. Avoiding the dinner hour can save you big bucks! If you have wiggle room with the time of day you want to get married, a reception can be more affordable by foregoing a sit down meal and opting instead for a cocktail reception with hor d'oeuvres, a late reception with champagne and dessert, or a brunch-style reception. Another huge dough saver is your approach to the open bar. I truly believe that every reception should have an open bar of some sort, however if you are looking to pinch a few pennies, sticking to beer and wine is another good way to save. If you are one of the lucky brides who doesn't need to worry about having the wedding of her dreams or maintaining some semblance of a budget, you may need trade-offs for different reason, be it satisfying your parents, compromising with your soon-to-be husband, or meeting an older siblings expectations.
Remember, that whatever you determine is a trade-off to meet you budget or a family member's or friend's belief of what your big day should be, make sure you don't trade your sanity in trying to find all of the money saving loop holes. At the end of the day, you and your partner want to have a day that expresses your personal styles and leaves your guest with fond memories. Happy planning!