A wedding is the biggest event most people will ever plan, endure, or enjoy. Many books have been written about Wedding Planning and are filled with innumerable tips.
But, let's tackle this subject bravely as we first declare that if you have never planned a wedding before, do not underestimate how much you will have to spend, and how far ahead of the date you should plan!
Your wedding is a show - this is show business. This may sound crass or insensitive but let's get real. Your obligation is to put on a show that impresses the women, period. Forget about the fathers, the brothers, the uncles, the male business associates invited - plan your wedding specifically for the women planned to be in attendance. Give the women a good show and your wedding will be a success, guaranteed.
There is no specific dollar range that ensures success. You can blow tens of thousands and have a public relations disaster. On the other hand, don't get hysterical about the cost of everything. And these days you are free to talk about having both families help absorb the cost.
It is an axiom that nothing guarantees success, but a lack of planning will guarantee dismal failure. So plan, plan, plan for every detail and put it neatly and legibly on paper.
The more months you have to plan the more options you have for everything, including some room to re-negotiate with certain vendors.
When planning the date consider:
Whether the most important people have scheduled commitments for that day that they cannot change
Whether some huge event in your town may interfere with traffic patterns around your wedding location or reception
Whether a close by Holiday may make air travel or transportation problematic as far as having people in town on time. For instance, if you live in New Orleans, a wedding in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras is asking for trouble.
If a number of relatives and friends are having to fly in, check with some local hotels or motels as far as a group rate for those dates and let people know right away.
Get specific contracts with your vendors - bands, DJ, florists, caterers, bakery - have everything in writing. And ask for additional costs that could be charged to you such as traveling, over time, sales tax. Insist on all the details in the contract. Be suspicious if your vendor doesn't like this.
When negotiating on a wedding photography package, specify to your photographer that you want a very efficient picture taking schedule. Concentrate on photos. Don't schmooze with the photographer if it distracts them from getting the next shot. Put into the printed schedule when and where the photo sessions are taking place before and after the ceremony. Appeal firmly to the wedding party and relatives you want in the photos to go immediately to these locations so that you don't waste precious time trying to round up everybody scattered all over the property. Your guests are waiting patiently for the photography to be finished. Also, remember that your caterer at the reception hall is depending on you sticking to your schedule to show up so that food will be at its peak.
When planning the ceremony you should certainly try to personalize your ceremony. However, please don't fall into excess: such as three or four voice solos, extended memorized speeches or poems, or singing songs to each other. Your emotions WILL sneak up on you, no matter how calm you are even through a wedding rehearsal the night before. Nine out of 10 couples will blubber uncontrollably at the moment they are under pressure to face each other and perform. Yes, a wedding is a show, but keep it from being your take on Oscar night.
Weigh the cuteness factor versus the unpredictability factor when thinking about using children in the ceremony under the age of five. They have notoriously small attention spans during the boredom of dry clerical recitations.
If you plan to have a friend or relative read a poem or selection during the ceremony please have a rehearsal reading to check for mispronounced words and clarity. And for the love of all, make it short!
Make sure the groom has some involvement in the planning, even if you have utterly no respect for his judgment!
To go with that, enjoy the planning and don't fight with anybody!
Understand that this wedding is also the joining of two entire families. If you are different in religion, background or culture, celebrate each side's uniqueness and emphasize the things in common - love for the bride and groom, for instance.
Tactfully make sure the mothers understand that this is YOUR wedding. If you have reached a sticking point about something that you don't want to do that your mother does, back off and think carefully and as logically as possible. Where possible give in on some detail if it would make you happier to see your mother's satisfaction than to get your own way. But, if it's something that you absolutely have your own heart set on, we encourage you to cry uncontrollably until you get your own way.
For the day of the wedding the bride should have a bag packed for the church and reception that assumes she's staying overnight for two days. An emergency pair of this and that, plus white chalk for touching up smudges on white shirts, blouses, and dresses.
When it comes to a bachelor party or even bachelorette party, discuss your feelings with each other. Agree not to do things that will get you off on the wrong foot with each other. Be sensitive to each other's feelings but not too sensitive to your own. And give each other a little space, a little wiggle room, since both of you may be under some alcoholic influence as you blow off a little steam. Have a sense of humor about each other's night out with the guys or gals.
Save yourself money and don't bring your checkbook to the wedding. Let your vendors know that you will mail them the remainder of the balance after the wedding. Having a checkbook handy may set you up for getting "hustled" for extra expenses while you are in a giddy mood.
Don't plan to leave on your honeymoon immediately. This invites disappointment and ill feelings since both of you will be extremely exhausted right after the wedding. Wait a few days, open gifts, sleep in late, slow down and rest before you pack and take off on your honeymoon.
To wrap up - use patience, plan, plan, write it down, get the details, divide work into teams, compromise where needed, give yourself months and months to organize, and enjoy the planning process itself. And never assume anything, check, and double check for all contingencies and possible snags and emergencies. Plan how you will cope and overcome these if they happen - WHEN they happen!