Hindsight is 20/20 – and that is an understatement. On one hand, it is too bad we only have one wedding – because after the wedding, each couple understands much more of what they would like in a wedding. Before the wedding, we don’t know what we’re doing! At least that was the case with Eric and me.
Eric had a lot of big ideas. Our wedding theme was “the four seasons” and he wanted the sanctuary transformed into Christmastime and would have been thrilled if it could’ve been turned into a winter wonderland (in the middle of June). Strange, considering how much he hates snow. ~smile~ Mainly, I just wanted to show up and get married. The details did not matter that much to me. (In the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, he is a J and I am a P – if that tells you anything. ~smile~)
We “planned” our wedding from another state. What that meant is that my godmother did a ton of work for us! If you get married somewhere you don’t live, you will need significant help in pulling off a wedding!
Now that we are on the other side of matrimony, we have a few thoughts for you as you prepare for your special day. The list below is what I (Heather) consider as twelve top wedding priorities. As you plan, you will have a thousand of details buzzing around in your mind. If you make sure the below aspects of the wedding are in place several months before your big day, you can avoid a lot of stress as your wedding day approaches.
- The Cake – The cake is a priority, but is does not need to break the bank! Eric and I had (shall we say) grandiose plans for our cake. The bakery owner seemed a bit overwhelmed when Eric shared his vision with her. Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes (Ace of Cakes) may have been able to pull it off, but this sweet grandma was not as confident. ~smile~ We ended up spending a very pretty penny on the cake when we could have easily asked a family member to do one – or had a much less elaborate display. Note that the cake was absolutely delicious; however, my wallet still mourns for the money we spent on it. If you have someone in your circle who makes delicious and beautiful cakes, see if he or she will help you. If not, look at your budget and plan a maximum you are willing to spend before cake shopping. Most people will not remember what your wedding cake looked like, so you and your fiancé/fiancée need to decide what you both like and how much money you are willing to set aside for it. And if you don’t want a traditional wedding cake (say, cupcakes?), you don’t have to have one! ~smile~
- The Flowers – Fake or real? Roses or lilies? A lot or a few? Flowers, believe it or not, caused Eric and me to disagree pretty heatedly. He wanted real flowers, and I wanted “beautiful” silk flowers. My reason? Years down the road I wanted my bouquet to look just the same as it did on my wedding day. Eric’s reason for wanting real flowers was that it was his traditional paradigm of weddings and he also felt that silk (i.e., fake) flowers signified fakeness about the couple in some way (not that that is necessarily true). Flowers can cost a pretty penny, so first you need to agree on what kind of flowers you want and then agree on how many you want. Some people want the sanctuary and reception filled with flowers to the point where it looks like a botanical garden. Others may just want boutonnieres for the boys and bouquets for the girls and that’s it. Most are in between the two. ~smile~ Your budget may help you decide how many flowers you will have. ~smile~ Again, if you have a florist in your inner circle, see if he or she will be willing to help you with this detail. We paid for our flowers, but we were blessed by a woman in my home church who did all the arrangements for us!
- The Dress – The bride’s gown is the centerpiece of the entire day. Ideally, the bride’s gown should reflect her personality and her groom’s desires (i.e., be a gown he would love to see his bride wear). If you are marrying a modest fellow and you come down the aisle in a strapless, backless dress, he probably won’t be pleased. And before you jump on me and say, “The wedding is about the bride!” I would have to challenge you and say, “Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church.” At the marriage supper of the Lamb, no one is going to say, “This celebration is not about Christ, it’s about the Church!” Therefore, him being the picture of Christ in the marriage should definitely garner him some say in the dress selection if he so chooses – and if he loves his fiancée (which he should, right?), he should generally be happy with the dress she chooses unless he realizes a particular problem with it. Borrowing a gown will certainly help your budget, but I recommend doing so only if you truly love the gown you are borrowing. Most brides-to-be will consider the wedding dress a top priority, so if the money is available, go for a dress that makes the bride feel beautiful. Every bride should feel gorgeous on her wedding day. And it can be a cherished heirloom to pass onto a daughter as well.
- Photography and Videography – These two are huge! If you asked me to describe our wedding cake in detail, I would have to go look at a picture. If you asked me to describe my dress or makeup in detail, I would have to go look at a picture. Good photography and videography help you relieve your special day over and over again! If your budget does not permit a professional photographer or videographer, ask talented friends to step in and help. Trust me; you will want good pictures and a quality video you can share with generations to come! I would pay good money to have a video of my grandparents’ wedding –they got married at the preacher’s house with only a handful of witnesses.
- The Reception – This is where you will be able to kick off your shoes and enjoy time with your wedding guests. It’s a celebration! Talk to your fiancé/fiancée about your vision and really listen to his or hers as well. See how much you can mesh both visions together so both parties are happy. ~smile~ Sit down dinner? Heavy hors d’oeuvres? Dessert wonderland? Dancing? No dancing? A toast by the best man? Toasts by each person in the wedding party? Talk it out. Personally, I would devote more money to the reception than the actual ceremony. Each pew does not need flowers. Each windowsill does not need candles (unless you are doing a candlelight ceremony). The beauty of the bride will be everyone’s focus anyway, so why spend a lot of money on decorations for the sanctuary? (Of course, my personality is shining through in that comment – you may be very different!)
- The Guests – With whom would you like to spend this special day? As hard as it is, try not to feel pressured to invite more people than you can afford to feed. If you want to invite several to the wedding, and only a handful to the reception, that is okay. Someone is bound to be offended, but you should not go broke (or in debt!) in an effort to please everyone else. This is the bride’s and groom’s day – and a day to honor the family and friends who have helped you both become what you are today!
- The Unity Candle – When Eric and I attended a premarital class at Liberty University, Dr. Dwayne Carson told us his vision for the five-prong unity candle – an A-frame candelabra with the bottom two prongs being the parents’ candles, the middle two candles representing the individual bride and groom as a result of the parents, and the top candle representing the new union of the bride and groom. Traditionally, the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents light a candle and then the bride and groom blow those candles out later in the service. However, a five-prong unity candle allows the parents’ candles to stay lit and the bride and groom can blow out the candles representing themselves as single people after lighting the unity candle on top. Then there are three families displayed. At a wedding Eric and I recently attended, the bride and groom lit the unity candle, but did not blow out the candles their parents lit as a way to keep the three families signified. Consider what you want to “say” with the unity candle and don’t feel pressured to follow tradition if you would rather do something else. Some couples ditch the unity candle all together and instead mix different color sand together. When the ceremony is over, they can display their sand “creation” in their homes throughout their marriage (I like it!). ~smile~
- Honoring Others – Weddings are great times to honor those who have spurred you on to greatness and to remember those who have passed. My neighbors from back home, Mr. Dave and Miss Betty, are not technically family, but they did so much for me growing up and I wanted to honor them by seating them behind my grandmother. Eric honored his mom who passed away a few years earlier by having his Dad place a rose on the altar in his mother’s memory. Many people use their wedding programs as a place to write an “in honor of” message. Think of a creative way to honor your loved ones at your wedding.
- The Director – This is a detail which is easily overlooked. You plan everything, get to the church for rehearsal, and then realize there is no one there to tell people where to stand, when to walk down the aisle, or to organize the ins and outs. A good director will take a load off of your mind. As the bride or groom, you are going to need as little stress on your wedding day as possible so you can drink in the experience. Hire a competent wedding planner or ask a friend who has wedding directing experience to step into that role.
- The Vows – It is important to remember that wedding vows are not just rituals. The vows you make are actual vows and should be taken extremely seriously. Don’t vow something unless you mean it! We recommend that you either write your own vows or find pre-written vows that speak to you both!
- The Invitations (and Programs) – Eric and I had beautiful invitations made. Sadly, we did not get them sent out until a week and a half before the wedding. ~frown~ (This was partially due to the fact that someone was custom drawing the art for our invitation and that process took longer than expected [but, it was a wedding gift and very appreciated.]) Most of the people who came were already planning to come before receiving an invitation, but still. Prioritize invitations early in your planning so that when you are ready to send them out, they are ready to go! Don’t spend an overwhelming amount on them unless there is a significant reason. And proofread your programs before they go to press. Just speaking from experience! ~wink~
- The Relationship – In the midst of wedding planning, the relationship can take a beating. Girls dream about weddings for years, but actually planning one can be quite stressful. Let other people help you. Delegate tasks. As you plan your wedding, go to extra lengths to stay connected. I’m pretty sure Eric and I could have shaken each other at points during our wedding planning process and that just was not necessary. The big picture is this – soon you and your sweetie will be married. Focus on the big picture and don’t let details you will consider insignificant in the long-run cause you to lose your special connection.
As a bride in retrospect, these are my recommendations for prioritizing wedding preparation chores; however, you and your sweetie should sit down and list out everything you consider “important” in a wedding/reception. Then, prioritize your top five. That is, if you could only have control over five aspects of your wedding, what would they be? After you both have listed your priorities, you can focus on what is truly important to the both of you!
Ten years after you are married, what will you want to remember most about your wedding – the people, your dress, the cake, etc.?