Sometimes, I feel like a novice when it comes to being an adult. I’ve gone to graduate school, lived on my own, but for some reason, planning a wedding and paying for it can make me feel like I’ve just taken the training wheels off. I’ve thrown my fair share of parties and attended plenty of big events- but putting together a wedding from 2,000 miles away and intending to pay for it without going into debt is going to be our biggest challenges yet.
In the 6 months we’ve been planning our wedding, I’ve realized it’s not just about planning a party, but planning a life together. Sometimes, the most trivial things, like fretting over centerpieces or duking it out with family is a good roadmap for the highlights, problems and debates you’re going to encounter as a married couple.
Honestly, there is nothing that sets the tone for your life as a married couple than the wedding you plan. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a courthouse ceremony, an impromptu elopement or a big soiree, no matter what you choose to do, you are making choices as a team. Choices, upon choices, upon choices. Even if you choose to opt-out of the insane circus that is planning a 100+ attendee party, that’s a choice you make together.
I’ve been very independently minded in my decision making as long as I can remember. Making decisions as part of a twosome is new for me, I can’t just make a decision and run with it, but it impacts my other half and thus, our larger families. Which for me, takes practice to do gracefully.
When you’re planning a wedding, it ideally, should bring everything out in the open about your family, your money, your faith & how you handle stress. You have to make a thousand choices, and you make them together. Yes, I’m Mrs. Bossypants, when it comes to color schemes and flower arrangements, but even if it’s as insignificant as choosing printed cocktail napkins, I don’t see the decisions as insignificant- we’re learning how to talk to one another as a two person team.
Weddings are expensive (really expensive….apparently my original wedding budget wasn’t “enough?”). When planning a wedding, you have to decide how you’re going to pay for it, and what you’re willing to pay for. Talking about money opens up so many vulnerabilities, but it also opens up discussion around your values as a couple and the complex relationship between your money and your values. For my groom-to-be and myself, we’ve had many discussions about money and our values while dating.
There is nothing that makes the rubber meet the road than going from “talking” to “planning,” and you have to start to actively plan your wedding around those values, putting your money where your mouth is. You learn a lot about your partner when you see where the money goes and how they intend to pay for it. You set financial boundaries with a budget, and practice adhering to them. How you plan your money around your wedding can set the tone for bigger things- purchasing your first home, having kids, overcoming illnesses, paying down debts.
To plan a wedding without losing your sanity- you have to set priorities. What are the things you really want the most? Are you looking forward most to a jaw dropping couture gown, or a seaside ceremony? Would you die if you didn’t have your favorite dessert or is it absolutely essential you need to get married on a significant date even if it costs more? For us- we really wanted to get married in Los Angeles, the end of Route 66 on 6-6-2015.
The location and the date, being a Saturday in June, meant our wedding wouldn’t be cheap. Had we married on a Sunday or a Friday, or even if we’d chosen to get married in January or August, it might have been more affordable. I found one venue that we absolutely loved- but we would have to get married on a Friday in January (right after Christmas when folks are flying in) or August (you know when it’s 110 in the desert) in order to be able to afford that venue. Changing the date not only lost some of the significance, but it started to become really inconvenient overall for our guests and our plans.
I struggled with this for weeks- the venue or a date that rocked for everyone? I wanted the date and wanted to stay on budget without having to completely re-invent the event itself. Eventually we said buh-bye to the venue that just couldn’t work, and found one we liked just as much. Additionally, we are finding creative ways to cut costs and stay on budget- from a DIY photo booth, to making our own centerpieces- we want a wedding that is special, but will not go against our financial values and have to constantly battle for it with creative solutions.
I frequently ask for advice about wedding planning on Facebook and Twitter- but much of the time, people drop in advice when I’m not looking for it. Apparently, this type of behavior is not just a “wedding” thing, but a “marriage” thing and a “life,” thing. I think people mean well and just want my partner and I to have a happy life together, but the advice they give is sometimes downright offensive.
People love to tell you what you should do and it’s going to be that way from the time you get engaged to the time you take your last breath. Right now, it’s the type of flowers you should choose and the amount of money you should spend and later, it will be about the babies you choose to have (or not have) and how to spend your money or the life you should lead.
Wedding planning, I’ve learned, is great practice to combat the many well-meant (and sometimes not so well meant) shoulds that the folks in your life like to throw your way.