When I recorded the 3rd episode of my podcast ‘Advice for brides’, I was very close to the end of my wedding planning journey but at the time it seemed like the finish line was getting further and further away! And now, a couple of months in of being a married woman I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed and how worried I seemed about it all before the big day actually came to pass.
You my dear, like me, will soon find yourself post wedding planning and wondering what to do with your new found free time.
So whatever stage of wedding planning you may be in, just know that it will all work out. I promise, it will. You will have a beautiful day and you will not die if you choose to save some pounds by not getting those chivary chairs! I KNOW, HOW CONTROVERSIAL!!
Now though you will get to the big day either way here is some advice for the brides to be… and to any of the grooms who might find themselves reading this. And I think this also applies to everyone who may or may not embark on the road to marriage. So even if you’re single now, that may not be the case forever, so you might want to jot these points down if you want some tips on ways to save money and a stress-free planning process for when the time comes.
1. Learn about what wedding planning means in your culture
Start this in your single season, if you can. It’s important to learn about your culture and what it really says about what marriage or wedding planning really entails. For example, where I am from, the Shona culture has a traditional wedding which is called “roora”. If I was serious about the road to marriage that was a big part of the process I had to understand – or rather at least know about enough to tell any guy I dated who was serious. And determine for yourself whose serious, not every guy you date is worth getting all that information out of you! In my case, it was something I had to tell my husband about pretty much at the beginning when we started dating. For me it was important to learn about what protocols existed in my culture, so I could teach him. And whether you’re dating someone from a different country or the same you’d be surprised the differences in traditions that exist.
Throughout your singleness I’d urge you to pay attention to these processes and protocols around marriage in your culture. I was lucky to have plenty of older sisters around me who were married already, so I asked a lot of questions whenever I could. You might not have sisters or female relatives to learn from, so find anyone whose experiences you might benefit from.
And whilst you’re learning about your own side, if you have met someone already then learn about their side! Ask ALL the questions. Don’t just wait for the ring to appear first. You’d be surprised how much all of this can help as an indicator of the direction your relationship is heading in.
2. Save your coin
I can’t stress this enough. You should be saving anyway, right?… Well, let’s just say it took me a long time to get my act together when it came to finances. And this is something I’m still learning to this day. But I did find out that in my wedding planning process, saving money is the absolute key. And because you are working on such a big project (the wedding) with your partner, it might be the first time you integrate your finances. And you’re bound to find out that you have different spending habits!
Start thinking about your financial situation early, that way by the time you get to starting the walk to marriage – the engagement, traditional wedding, wedding itself and marriage – you are already one step ahead.
The point here is simply, just start being financially conscious about the decisions you are making now. Even if you don’t know whether a wedding is something in the pipeline for you. It’s just about enabling yourself to be in a better position to start once you get there.
It will give you a great foundation for your future household too!
3. Stick to what you like
Pay attention to the things that you actually like. The world of wedding planning comes with a plethora of things to choose from – deco, catering, entertainment and so on and so on. Get to know the things you like before you get to the planning stage. If you can start getting familiar with the types of things you like it will be a good way to prevent getting lost in the sauce of wedding planning! There’s plenty of ways you can do this, whether you create a mood board for yourself on paper or use the many online platforms available out there e.g. Pinterest, Instagram. I personally loved Pinterest and had a board for different categories to start gathering ideas. It was also useful because I shared my boards with my sisters and maid of honour, so they could get a sense of the things I liked too. This was a major help later on – just helps ease up your mental capacity!
(You can have a look at my Pinterest board if you want some ideas for an Autumn wedding)
And please don’t forget your partner in all these things! They might have some ideas on how they want their day to look like too. And it helps avoiding any miscalculated assumptions. God forbid you hate bright colours and your partner is plotting to wear a neon pink suit!!
There’s 101 things you can include in your wedding, just be sure the choices you make are the best for you.
4. Prioritise what’s important
Now that you know what you both like, it’s time to prioritise. Remember we are trying to save money and stick to what we like here. And for most of us that might mean having to pick and choose here and there. So, make conscious decisions and spend where necessary. Like I said about the chivary chairs, I did like them and the effect they have on deco but when it came to the cost of said chairs, saving my coin was the priority.
Weddings are beautiful and special but so is the marriage that comes after the big day.
Are you thinking about the life you will have after the wedding? Setting your priorities as you plan will make all the difference.
Here’s what setting priorities looked like for us when we were planning… We decided that photography, catering and the DJ were the really important parts for us because we wanted great pictures to look back on, we wanted our guests to enjoy the food and we wanted to turn up! It was that simple. This meant we were willing to pay more for those 3 things and then take alternatives with everything else. That was our version of prioritising. With my deco, I loved tall centrepieces but the cost per table was too high, which meant I alternated between short centrepieces and tall ones. And that was an easy solution for me to get what I wanted and still not break the bank.
5. Understand the expectations of your key stakeholders
Now this point might not be a favourite for everyone but hear me. Your key stakeholder’s expectations are good to know. Who are your key stakeholders? This is a term I use to refer to everyone whose close and dear to me, so my husband, parents and siblings. These the are people who mean a lot to me and whose opinions matter to me.
With this my advice is, if like me you come from an African family. It’s good to know what your stakeholders think and expect. That’s not to say you have to do what they want but trust me it helps in managing those expectations and it can make your wedding planning process that little bit easier.
Remember I’m coming from a perspective of mixing cultures, whilst I was learning about them at the same time. For us it was easier to manage expectations and manoeuvre through any challenges because we knew what our stakeholders wanted. Rather than just being all “we want this, therefore that’s how it is”. It might not be the same for you, but it could help you too. When you’re in the dating and courting season it’s just the two of you, right? Once you start wedding planning you are joining two families together and best believe everyone has their own idea of how the day should go! So, you might as well take the time to understand what your stakeholders think when you kick off your wedding planning.
There are plenty of things that I learnt from my own wedding planning experience and similar stories from other brides, but ultimately once that ring appears – things change. Before the ring, anything is fair game, and you can have whatever wedding you like because it’s just you and your partner getting through life. Once the ring is there you are now joining two families, two cultures and to your surprise different expectations to balance. So, get to know your stakeholder’s views and dodge any unwanted drama!
6. Do your research
The wedding world is crazy, there are so many choices, so many vendors and so many different ways to do the same thing. Doing your research will help you in the long run. Also, it will be useful when you start talking to your vendors. Everyone is trying to make money and if you start getting in touch with vendors without a benchmark of costs or how much you are willing to spend on a specific thing, then you could end up paying a lot more than you need to.
And know this, there’s always a cheaper alternative to what you want ALWAYS. I live by that. Be wise about who or what you choose and of course remember that quality matters above everything but so does the coin!
Here’s some fun maths from my research and event planning life that I now know but could be completely new information to someone who is new to this world. This is just to give you an example on the type of research you could do to help you prioritise, ease your planning process and ultimately help you save.
A charger plate, “is a large, decorative base setting on top of which other dinnerware is placed during formal occasions such as catered events, weddings, upscale parties…”.
Now they look lovely for deco and I would have loved them but here is the breakdown that changed my mind…
We had a wedding for 300 guests. Yep! That’s correct, 300. Now each guest needs to eat, so we had 300 plates obviously. To each plate – which we are paying for – comes a charger plate, which you pay for!
So here’s a breakdown.. (bear in mind the costs below can differ and can range from anything like £0.50 to £8 per plate, I’ve picked a number in between just to illustrate)
A plate costs £1.50 per person = £450. Now a charger plate, which comes in all sorts of styles and colours, costs £3 so that means it will cost us £900.
Meaning, for each guest to have a plate to eat from and one to look at = £1,350.
And we haven’t even looked at the cost of the food yet! I chose to go without charger plates and use the £900 on something else. But that was a personal decision, which was on based the research I did comparing what was available, sticking to what I liked, prioritising what was important and 100% saving my coin because I was thinking ahead to the life after the wedding.
So that’s my advice for you brides out there. What do you think? What will be your key takeaways in your planning process? The wedding planning process is different from bride to bride and at the end of the day, you will have a beautiful day no matter what and like I said the time just flies right by! So good luck to you all, and above everything just make sure you enjoy and make the most of the planning process and all that it brings! Love TSO