Getting Married & Not Sure Where to Start: A Perfect Guide to Wedding Planning
Your wedding should be the beginning of a wonderful life together, not the cause of long-term headaches.
Staying within budget, avoiding family squabbles, and being on the right side of the law are all more important in the long term than whether the bridesmaids like their dresses.
Budget both time and money to make your special day memorable in the right ways. Consider using a checklist or online planner to make sure you cover all of the necessary bases.
You don’t want to budget your last penny then find out that the reception venue you planned to use has closed down, or that the hall requires an insurance rider.
Within the United States, a marriage license should be obtained in the state where you plan to get married, regardless of where you live.
That means researching to make sure that any documents are filed in a timely manner, that any blood test that is required is done and accepted, and any required waiting period has elapsed prior to the day you plan to wed.
The same planning – or more – should go into a destination wedding.
Get your marriage license in advance, as requirements for marriage records on tropical island territories or in other countries may vary significantly, sometimes including a waiting period and additional blood tests that take time to be completed and approved. It’s also a good idea to research your spouse’s marriage records to be certain there’s no surprises lurking that would invalidate your plans.
Set a budget
Beach weddings are the stuff dreams are made of, but reality may dictate a more modest approach.
Americans typically spend over $30,000 on a wedding, with the reception venue eating up almost half of the total amount. In addition, nearly one-third of all weddings go over budget.
Americans get married much older (women at age 27, men at age 29) than they used to, so it can be a little tricky to ask Mom and Dad to pay for part of your wedding.
Many parents still want to contribute to their children’s weddings but probably feel less obligated to cleave to traditional roles for a couple with professional careers, perhaps a toddler in tow, and who’ve lived together for a few years. Broach the topic of their contribution with specific questions right at the beginning so you can plan on their input – and perhaps ask for the financial commitment in installments, such as the down payment for the photographer and reception venue or caterer.
Places to save money
Catering a wedding reception is costly.
Major urban areas may push the bill to $75 per person, while suburban or rural weddings where demand is lower may be half as much. Also consider space: each guest should be allocated at least 25 square feet, according to one source, so choose your venues accordingly.
The dress of your dreams is but one aspect of the entire day. Consider the cost for the floral centerpieces you want, the gifts for the wedding party, the trendy band that will have everyone dancing all night long.
Fortunately, one survey shows the cost of wedding dresses falling from a high average of $1,300 a couple years ago to around $900 last year. Popular designs are simpler, less embellished, and easier to tailor, therefore somewhat cheaper. To score more savings, consider a second-hand dress found in an online marketplace – nobody needs to know it’s not new.
Prioritize. If your budget is totally out of control because you must invite more than 150 guests, you may cut a significant amount from the total by switching from a live band to a deejay, or offering a buffet dinner rather than a sit-down meal with waitstaff. Trim the open bar back to just the first hour of the reception, or consider offering just beer and wine to guests and reap serious savings.
One financial expert suggests determining how much you can afford to spend, then finding venues and entertainers that fit the bill according to a percentage of the total. For instance, the reception (in total, meals, beverages, etc.) should be kept to 55 percent of the total, and photographer should be no more than 10 percent of the total.
If you’re willing to put in time and effort, you can carve lots of money off the total by getting some friends together to do a lot of the hard work associated with renting chairs and tables, making decorations, setting up, and preparing and serving your own food.
Rustic venues are popular and make great photos, but there are budget-smart options for those who want a metropolitan wedding too. Replicate the wedding scenes you envy on Pinterest in a city park, a room of an historic library, or even a friend’s back yard. The website Peerspace may help you locate places you’d never heard of, including courtyards, rustic hunting lodges, grange halls, or park pavilions.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.