It’s engagement season! This is the time of year when many couples frantically rush to book their wedding date before all the dates for next year are gone. This a perfectly normal instinct, and it’s true that many venues book up a year or more in advance. But is this really the best way to go about planning a wedding? Probably not. Rushing into wedding commitments without first doing your homework will only cause you headaches on down the road. Based on my experience, approximately 125% of all wedding stress is caused by either a) financial issues or b) disagreements about who should be making what decisions. How can keep this from happening to you? Well, it’s probably impossible to avoid it altogether, but you can definitely minimize the potential for stress by sitting down with everyone involved before you even look at your first venue or try on your first dress and having a big old honest conversation about what everyone expects. Here are 5 totally un-fun but necessary things you should really really talk about:
1. How much are you/your family comfortable spending on your wedding?
The average Nashville wedding for 125 people costs $28,000. That means that if you want above average products and services, or if you want to invite more than 125 people, you can probably expect to spend more than that. But is that budget possible for you? Will your (or his) parents chip in? Will/ can you and your fiance pay for all or part of it? If you are not 100% sure who is contributing, you should either ask outright, or else assume you will be paying for everything yourself. It’s an awkward conversation to have, but maybe you say something like,”Mom/Dad, we really want to be financially responsible about planning our wedding, and we’d like to talk to you about the research we’ve done so far and get your input.” If your parents are like mine and had cake and punch in the church basement after their wedding 30 years ago, you may need to give them time to absorb the information, so be patient.
2. If others are contributing to your wedding, what sort of input do they expect to have?
This is an issue I see frequently. Great Aunt Betty says she wants to pay for your wedding dress, but she assumes you will be selecting a nice turtleneck number with long sleeves, and you can’t imagine yourself in anything but strapless. Or your parents offer to pay for the reception, but they assume you wouldn’t dream of serving wine around their church friends, and you are set on having a full bar. While there is no way to get around disagreeing, you can minimize the effects by addressing these things up front. If someone is generous enough to contribute to your wedding, it is your obligation to respect their wishes. If you are not willing to make that compromise, then don’t accept the gift. Again, this is a really uncomfortable conversation to have, but maybe you say, “Grandpa/ (insert giver’s name here), it’s so generous of you to offer to help us pay for our wedding. We just want to make sure you know that we would like to serve alcohol/ not get married in a church/ etc., and before we take you up on your kind offer we want to make sure you are comfortable with that.”
4. What aspects of your wedding are most important to you and your fiance?
Yes, you are madly in love, but this doesn’t mean you can always read each others’ minds. If its really important to you to have flowers like the ones that grew in your grandma’s garden, then tell him that up front. If its really important to him to have the band that played at his fraternity parties, he should tell you that. Things are bound to get stressful along the way and you will definitely have to make compromises, so making sure to communicate with each other in a mature, non-confrontational way is essential. If you have your heart set on expensive peonies and he off-handedly remarks, “Those flowers are expensive and they’re just going to die anyway,” your feelings are going to be hurt. By letting him know from the beginning that this is a priority for you, he can act accordingly. But just as you choose your priorities, you also need to think about what things are negotiable for you. If you get the flowers you want and he insists on beef instead of chicken, then its probably a good idea to let him have his way.
5. What steps are you going to take to prepare for the marriage?
This is by far trumps everything else I’ve just said. I’ve never been married, so I’m definitely not qualified to give advice about marriage. However, I’m guessing that if you’re going to commit to spending your life with someone you will probably want to talk about how you will handle finances, where you will live, when and if you’re going to have kids, and, you know, some stuff like that. Sadly, the majority of couples get so caught up in planning for that one big day that they forget to plan for the 18,000 days after that. Don’t let that happen to you. Your wedding is important, but keep in mind that its a formality and a party to celebrate the much bigger future, which is your marriage. Place the emphasis accordingly.
I know, none of this is stuff that a newly engaged girl with her head in the clouds wants to talk or even think about. But trust me, if you do it now, it will benefit you tremendously on down the road. Planning your wedding should be a fun and exciting time in your life with as little stress as possible. Be smart, do your homework, and you might be surprised how easy it can be!