Crucial Wedding Advice

I always smack my forehead when I read “advice for the newly engaged” (including when I was newly engaged). I’m all, like, “Oh WOW! Thank you The Knot for telling me that I have to select a VENUE!” Or “Gee, that’s AMAZING advice for telling me I should figure out who I should invite AND that I should figure out a budget. I would’ve never thought of that on my own!”

It’s like they assume bride brain sets in the moment you get engaged. Because, after all, we’re just silly women, what do we know about this stuff?

So, Did you get engaged over the holidays? Do you have a brain? Did you already know that you need a wedding venue and a wedding budget? Then here’s my take on “advice for the newly engaged.”

adviceSource: Flickr User Laughlin

1) Most wedding sites will tell you to decide your wedding budget and stick to it. Let’s all pause for a moment and start a slow clap for that advice. I say, Regardless of how big or how small your budget it, weddings will cost some amount of money. The cheapest non-courthouse wedding I have found is over at 2000 Dollar Wedding. And here are a few other mini-budget weddings to check out. So, first things first, sign up for an excellent cash back rewards or airline miles credit card (or two!). Check out The Points Guy for the best up-to-date listing of travel-related credit card offers, and My Dollar Plan for the best cash back card recommendations. If you’re going to spend money on a wedding, you may as well get rewarded for it! My strategy worked great!

2) Other wedding advice sites tell you to identify your top priorities. Yes, that’s all fine and good. However, also identify things that are of lowest importance to you (but are things you still want to have at your wedding). For instance, flowers and ceremony music were definitely lower priorities for me. Knowing what your lower priorities are will help you delegate wedding-related tasks. When someone asks if they can help you, you can task them with the lower priority items. It will keep them occupied and out of your hair for a while, it will make them feel like they’re contributing, and it will leave you to focus on your bigger priorities. But then again, if you want to take care of everything, including the lower priority items, then do it. Because, despite what vendors and terrible TV tell you, planning a wedding is not hard, doesn’t have to be stressful, and you do not need outside help. Bonus of this method: By handing off lower priority items early on to friends, family, or your wedding party (if you decide to even have a wedding party), you’ll be able to identify who are the super responsive helpers, and who are just the slackers.

3) Be clear with your family about expectations. I’m not just talking money (because, after all, I’m a bad example. I never even had the “wedding budget talk” with my parents. I just knew Ken and I would pay for everything). Ask them if they have any expectations of you for your wedding day, for instance, that you’ll wear your grandmother’s veil. That way you can either A) Consider their wishes when planning – e.g., keep that veil in mind when shopping for your dress or considering your hair style; B) Let them know up front that you will not meet that certain expectation – e.g., you already have the perfect veil in mind; or C) Work out a compromise. Perhaps you don’t want to wear that veil, but (based on your identification of lower priorities in #2), something like a cake cutting set is a lower priority. Ask them if you can use your grandmother’s cake cutting set instead of wearing her veil. Anyway, you get the idea. I was shocked that TWO WEEKS before the wedding, my mom suggested I wear her pearls for my wedding. Ummm, I had my accessories picked out MONTHS ago. However, if I had known she wanted that in advance, I could’ve worked it out. But, I did decide to integrate her wedding handkerchief into my bouquet instead.

4) Develop your mission, goals, and a strategy to achieve them. I work for a major auditing organization. I don’t do financial audits. Rather, I do program evaluation audits. I’ll look at a program and do a nearly year-long evaluation and, in the end, we can make a very accurate assessment of whether they’re spending their money well. What are some common themes of those programs that AREN’T effective? Here goes.

  • No clear mission
  • No clear goals
  • No clear strategy to accomplish goals and mission
  • Lack of stakeholder involvement
  • Unclear performance measures to gauge progress

There you have it. The secret to any programmatic success. Mission, goals, strategy, stakeholder involvement, and performance measures. If you identify and stick to all those things, I guarantee your wedding will be a success! (Oh, and don’t forget to document it! i.e., write it down!) So, after your wedding day, if I was to audit your wedding planning process, would I be able to find a clear mission, goals, and a strategy?

There you have it! Congrats to all the newly engaged!


Here are some things that I needed (er, at least wanted) during the week of my wedding, but didn’t have handy because no one ever told me I’d need it. I hope this helps you when planning your wedding!

Water. Copious amounts of water. Seriously. The week of your wedding, you’ll probably be wrapping up some projects and running some last minute errands. Nervousness and excitement may affect your appetite. The least you can do for your health is stay well hydrated. Carry around a huge bottle of water with you everywhere. Keep bottles in your car, in your purse, keep a nalgene clipped to your purse, do whatever you have to do. Stay hydrated. It will also help keep headaches at bay and will also keep the bloat away on your wedding day.

Gladware, baggies, and plastic containers. Shitloads of them. Your caterer will likely have lots of leftovers for you. And you’ll probably also have lots of cake leftover. We had both. Our cake leftovers were provided in cardboard cake boxes (which would make it dry out fairly quickly) and the catering leftovers were provided in HUGE aluminum pans. Both were useful for transport, but not as longer term solutions.  Before your wedding, make sure you purchase tons of large gladware containers as well as a mix of sizes of smaller containers. You will also be able to give away containers of leftovers to guests still in town.

Easy-to-make meals. Make sure your freezer is filled with easy-to-make (but healthy) meals in the weeks leading up to your wedding. We used a lot of frozen foods we had on hand, like fish sticks and chicken nuggets from Trader Joe’s, and other food items like grilled cheese and soup. This were great and helped us avoid the typical day-to-day chores that are typically a part of daily life.

A small notebook and pen on your person at ALL times. Multitasking sucks. And so does realizing you need to do something but forgetting about it five minutes later. So, when you’re in the middle of doing something but remember another task that you need to complete, just take out your small notebook, write down a reminder, and continue on with your current task. The Wednesday before the wedding, I purchased a few of these notebooks and kept one for myself and gave one to Ken. We did a great job making notes and reviewing them later on. We also used them to remind ourselves of other things we had to discuss with each other but we weren’t in the same room at the time.

Sleeping pills. (Disclaimer: Ken seriously disagrees with me on this one and would be afraid that people would oversleep for their wedding). I’m not a big proponent of sleeping pills. That’s probably because I am a very sound sleeper. And perhaps it’s because when I do have trouble sleeping, a glass or two (or three) of wine is enough to send me to sleep for hours on end. However, I did not sleep well in the three days leading up to the wedding. Tuesday night, Wednesday night, and Thursday night were fitful nights of sleep. With the exception of Thursday, falling asleep was not the issue for me. Staying asleep, however, was problematic. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and then find it impossible to fall back asleep. It would have been great to have gotten a great night sleep the night before the wedding, especially considering all the craziness of that night. So, in hindsight, I should’ve asked my doctor if she recommended anything in case I had trouble sleeping before the wedding. Maybe she would’ve said, “no way.” But, it’s just something for others to be aware of!