2017 has come to a close and with it, a lot of big life changes, including getting married this past August. The wedding and the weekend leading up to the big day went off without a hitch, and for that I feel quite lucky. It was a beautiful time, filled with joy and good wishes, surrounded by all the people that I love. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to start our new life.
That being said... wedding planning is, objectively, kind of ridiculous. People don't usually say it that bluntly, but it's true. With that in mind, I thought I would offer up some advice and thoughts now that I have had some time to reflect.
Early on after you get engaged, decide on the 2-3 things that matter most to you for your big day, and stick with those things. If you aren’t paying for your own wedding, let whoever is have some things that are important to them be priorities too. After that, draw the line. It will make future decisions easier.
Once you are in the thick of planning, set aside 1-2 days a week where you don’t talk about the wedding or do any planning. This will become a respite!
Look at all the things you need to do for planning from a bird’s eye view, and then break it up into months and weeks. I found it helpful to create events each week on my google calendar that reminded me of what needed to be accomplished by a certain date. This way, you avoid having to do a lot at the very end.
Only implement the traditions you want. You don't have to have a wedding party for example (we didn't - a great decision), you don't have to throw a bouquet, you don't have to wear white to every wedding related function... and so on. Decide what you think is valuable and forget about the rest.
Make sure to take moments with your partner to take a step back and breathe it all in. It is an exciting time for sure!
The best decisions we made:
Hiring a partial wedding planner. Granted, we didn’t have a choice since the venue required we have one, but I think we would have hired one anyway. Most of the wedding was a whirlwind, and when you are the center of attention it is very hard to also be the coordinator of all the smaller details.
Having an outdoor wedding. This was important to us because we are outdoorsy people and felt an indoor wedding would be stuffy for our style. And what was great about it is that it really set the tone/theme of the day early on, including the timing, the level of fanciness, and so on. Obviously this is harder to do depending on the season and the climate, but it really worked for us.
Investing in the things that last. We prioritized getting exactly what we wanted out of a photographer, a ketubah, and our wedding bands - these are things that would last beyond the day. Things like florals or fine china would not and mattered less to us.
Honeymoon decisions. Not everyone has this luxury, but we decided to do a smaller “mini-moon” to Mexico where we did absolutely nothing but eat and drink beach or poolside for a few days immediately after the wedding. It was the only thing I wanted to do after such an exhausting (but wonderful!) weekend and I highly recommend a similar "do nothing" trip.
Things we would do differently:
Booking a venue that might have been too small. We booked a venue that had never really hosted a wedding with more than 175 people. We invited about 275 people. Fortunately, we could count on our rate of attrition being high given we had the wedding three thousand miles away from most of our family and friends. But it was a risk I wouldn’t take again, because up until about a month before the wedding, we didn’t know if we would be in the clear. If you don’t like rolling the dice on this, book a larger venue to begin with. Good advice I once heard (but obviously didn’t listen to) was decide on your numbers and then go venue shopping.
Hosting multiple weekend-of events. If I had to do it again, though it was all very beautiful and wonderful in the end, I would probably not have hosted multiple events before the actual wedding. We had an out of town family dinner in Berkeley, and shabbat service in Berkeley, and a rehearsal/welcome happy hour in Santa Rosa. Planning four events instead of one was a ton of work, especially when we didn’t have a planner for those other events. We were lucky to have such wonderful family that helped us with set up and clean up, but it was a bit more coordination required.
Getting carried away. I looked at about 18 venues before making a decision. That was probably (read: definitely) overkill. On the plus side though, I was much more definitive with every other decision we had to make thereafter.
Not doing more thank you notes as gifts arrived. We started receiving gifts about the time we sent out the save the dates, and because there were few we did thank you notes then and there. But as more arrived, we fell behind. I wish I had at least addressed the envelopes progressively so that when it came time to actually write them all I would have been 50% done!
All and all, the process of getting married was fun, hard work, and a great way to test the limits of a relationship by having to make a lot of decisions with someone else. I feel fortunate enough to have been able to plan the wedding of my dreams, but I am also very glad the saga is over. Cheers and best of luck to all you future brides and grooms out there!
Photo credit: Gina Petersen Photography