So he's popped the question. Let the games begin! Most wedding advisors urge you to begin planning your wedding anywhere from 12 to 18 months before the big day. To quote one online source; "We know it sounds simple but the key to successful, carefree weddings is planning ahead. The earlier the planning takes place, the more you can let go and relax closer to your wedding day. The end result of early wedding planning is that the bride and groom can have more fun, enjoy their guests and drink in that special day."
Hmmm….kind of makes it sound like the more you plan, the better your assurances of lifelong marital bliss. What if you don't have that kind of time? Maybe you simply want to be married without all the stress of wedding planning. Still, though, it is a special day and you certainly don't want it to look thrown together. How do you balance sanity, a reasonable timeline and budget and the desire for a beautiful wedding against high-priced vendors, year-long waiting lists and bridal magazines that urge you to begin the planning process up to 18 months in advance? (I'm assuming Vegas is not your style.)
Now, bear in mind that we are anything but "anti-planning," but good heavens, do you really want 18 months of your life consumed with planning the festivities for one day? Granted, it is an important day, but so are the 547 ½ involved in the aforementioned 18-month timeframe. Better for you (in our humble opinion) to enjoy that time being in love with your fiancé than becoming embroiled in cake tastings, the color of your bridal party dresses (sage, mint or teal?) or the ever-critical choice of music for your first dance!
If the prospect of planning your wedding feels more like an arduous chore than a delight, don't worry. The answer is simple. Just "do the never". I can't take credit for this bit of ingenious simplicity, for I believe the phrase was coined by Seth Godin http://www.sethgodin.com/ in Small is the New Big. Forget the always and do the never. I like this philosophy so much that I made it my theme for the year. It's wonderful. You look at how everybody else handles a situation and then entertain how you could handle the same issue in a totally opposite way.
So, in order to do the never in planning your wedding day in a more feasible time period, I offer the following:
1. Plan off-season. Late fall and winter can be breathtakingly beautiful in all 50 states and in most cases, you'll have many more options. Many vendors cut their prices in the winter months, as well. Just picture an outdoor winter setting, complete with sleigh-rides and hot chocolate (spiked!) for your guests and thousands of twinkling white lights.
2. Get married on a Thursday…or any weekday. Who made the rule that weddings need to be on weekends? And don't worry that people won't attend if it's during the week. All kinds of important events occur during the week-births, deaths, Christmas, presidential inaugurations, the first day of pre-school. It's your wedding day-they might grumble a little-but they'll make it. Some of them will even thank you for an excuse to leave work early.
3. Keep your numbers low. It's difficult to plan a wedding for 200 guests in 30 days or less, especially if folks are coming from out of town. Make it easy on yourself and keep the guest list to 75 or less.
4. Grocery stores have gorgeous flowers and talented arrangers who can make up bouquets and boutonnières in a day or two. Professional florists can also put something together for you quickly if you are ordering flowers in-season.
5. Ditto #4 with cakes. Large-chain grocery stores can put together something gorgeous and delicious in less than a week's time.
6. Consider a non-traditional wedding venue. (Remember-do the never!) Traditional wedding venues are usually the first to be booked, so consider alternative options. The parlor of a B&B is an excellent idea (often they will let you use this for free if your wedding is small and your guests book their rooms there.) Consider recreational centers, restaurants with small private rooms (also free much of the time if you order off their menu), or how about a restaurant that is closed for the day (usually Mondays)-a perfect win/win opportunity. Know any real estate agents? (Who doesn't?) They may know of some vacant (even posh!) properties in the area that you could rent from the owner for an afternoon or evening. Consider out of the way lakes or parks. I performed a lovely wedding last month at a small local park-on an octagonal-shaped dock overlooking the lake. Breathtaking and arranged with two days notice. (Also free!). Think of private homes and gardens, as well. Aunt Millie may love the idea of hosting your wedding in her living room.
7. If you can't find a photographer on such short notice (and if your wedding is on a weekday, this shouldn't be a problem) then schedule a professional photo shoot at their studio-complete with your bridal attire-so that you have some professional-quality photos. Then, let the amateurs (i.e. your guests) handle the day of wedding shots. The new digital cameras are virtually foolproof and you'll get some great photos. Or, contact one of the professors at the local college-they'll recommend one of their students who will do a beautiful job on short notice.
8. Traditional bridal shops don't always take forever to order your dress. Approach them with your request and ask what they can do for you. They may have something off the rack and their alterations department can work wonders. Also consider bridal consignment shops, and general formalwear stores. Of course, if you are truly "doing the never" you'd opt for something totally different to wear anyway. Throw a Great Gatsby wedding and wear vintage. Do Halloween and come in costume. Go outdoors on horseback wearing western attire.
9. As far as your bridesmaids go, simply pick a color (black is easiest, but any color will do) and tell them to buy a dress of their choosing in that color. Or be even more flexible and let them pick out their own dress in whatever color and style they wish. This lends interest and variety to your wedding. Besides, identical bridesmaids are so beige!
10. Plan an eBay afternoon at your computer (do it at work when the boss isn't around in order to save your precious leisure time!) and completely blitz the task of shopping for favors, cake toppers, guest book, cake-cutter, bridal party gifts, place-card holders, garter, unity candle, disposable cameras, tiara, jewelry and any other wedding day accessories you might want.
11. Getting someone to marry you with 30 days notice might be a stretch (But again, not on a weekday, or in off-season). If all the ministers in town are booked, then consider writing your own ceremony (there are tons of resources available online or at your local library). Or consider hiring a professional wedding officiant to help you write your ceremony (it shouldn't take more than an hour of their time) and then having a friend or family member read it. (Note: they will need to obtain an instant ordination to do this and this is not legal in all states, so check your laws before going this route!). A great chance for your fiancé's brother-the wannabe actor, or your jocular Uncle Ed to shine. If you've got your heart set on a church wedding, then approach your place of worship first (before booking other vendors) and be willing to work around their schedule.
12. Delegate. Delegate, Delegate. A brilliant and talented person like you has equally brilliant and talented friends and family members. Put your cousin in charge of flowers, enlist the help of your best friend to create your ceremony programs. Your future mother-in-law offers to find the wedding officiant. Let her! You can't expect to handle all the details yourself in this timeframe. Let them have at it and refrain from micro-managing. We've found that grooms excel at getting the officiant and planning the honeymoon, so give him those two tasks for sure!
13. Hire a wedding coordinator for a few hours. Even during their busy time, they will be willing to work with you on the planning aspects of your wedding and they have wedding resources like you wouldn't believe. They will find you a chocolate fountain in a day, a DJ in two.
14. Speaking of music-that shouldn't be a time-consuming factor either. In addition to professional DJ's and musicians (ask your other vendors for recommendations) contact the music departments of local colleges and private music schools. Anyone who travels in music circles will have contacts, so try high school music teachers as well. When I was married, I had my high school chorus teacher sing at the ceremony-it was beautiful. Don't overlook the simple solution of an Ipod with some decent speakers; the sound quality will amaze you.
15. Invitations can be made easily on any computer with a decent printer. They do not have to be ordered months in advance. Delegate this project to your best friend, the graphic designer and let her creativity flow!
16. Pick out your wedding rings at any reputable jewelers (they can be sized) and have the engraving done after your wedding. No one will know.
After it's all over, at the end of your wedding day when you (finally!) find yourselves alone, pop some Champagne and congratulate yourselves. You've pulled off the perfect day and remained best friends through the process! Cheers!
Maureen Thomson is a Colorado Wedding Officiant and owner of Lyssabeth's Colorado Wedding Officiants. She and her staff of wedding officiants have had the joy of writing and performing the ceremonies of thousands of couples since 2002.