How we planned, organized, and put on our daughter’s wedding without busting the family budget. And had a ton of fun and made lots of precious memories in the process.
You may now envy me, gentle reader.
I was privileged to be the mother of the bride this summer, and despite our natural flusteredness and ineptitude, Bethie and I planned and executed a beautiful wedding without busting the budget or losing our minds. Bethany married her lovely man Saia in July, so I got to help Bethie plan and throw their wedding. Bethie is not the type of bride who wanted to do it all herself sans parental involvement. And her hubby-to-be was nearly four thousand miles away, working in Hawaii for the summer. She condescended to allow me to help, so I happily sat down with her one evening; we made a plan; and we pulled it all together with ease. A few weeks later, an absolutely perfect wedding ensued, without the proverbial hitch.
Oh wait, no, that was just a dream . . . scratch that . . .
I thought I would be the type of person who would be fairly good at planning and throwing a wedding. I wouldn’t say this about myself, but my friends say . . . that I have a good eye for color and design, and I certainly know how to throw a party! Plus I produce a melodrama every spring at our community theatre, and weddings–one must own–do have elements of the melodramic in them. Bethie, I think, felt the same way about her own abilities.
We were, I confess, a bit smug going into the process.
Bethie and me: “Plan and execute a glorious wedding? Child’s play!” An infant could do it! This is what we both were thinking. “Let’s set aside a few hours and do this thing. After all . . . how hard can it be?”
The truth that came out
That’s why it was such a humiliating shock to discover that we both struggled so much with the whole shebang. We were gripped with insecurity, lack of confidence, and bewilderment with the entire process. When I was able to entertain a cogent thought (which wasn’t often) during the few months that we were planning and working on the wedding, I knew that–when the smoke cleared–I needed to write a blog post (if I, indeed, survived the whole ordeal) about all the things I wish that somebody would have shared with me, beforehand.
And here we are . . .
. . . after the fact. The wedding was gloriously beautiful, and nearly everything went without a hitch. And the day afterwards, I was sicker than a dog. Tension, stress, and probably the fact that I hardly ate or drank anything for the week before the wedding (I rarely eat when I am stressed) contributed to the Mother of all Migraines the next day.
So this is the part where I make good on my promise to you
Without further preamble, I present the 14 things that I wish somebody would have told me before we started to plan Bethie and Saia’s wedding. Hopefully this post will be helpful for brides and mothers, both.
At the risk of distracting you to the point where you won’t be able to concentrate on these words, I’m going to share some pictures of the wedding, with Bethie’s permission and that of the photographer, too. I get a little weepy every time I look at them. It was, after all, a marvelously beautiful day. So, enjoy. By the way, many photos (as indicated) were taken by Ian Rothell photography.
1. Make time for this.
Sit down together with a calendar and a big pot of tea, and deliberately block out times that you will work on wedding tasks. Cut something out of your schedule to make time for this big endeavour, if necessary. There will be countless shopping trips, evenings discussing details, plenty of odd moments surveying what others have done online, and that doesn’t even touch getting ready for the actual event. If you’re already a busy person, which you probably are, time will not magically appear, like the sea parting in front of Moses.
Here’s what I learned: if you don’t cut something out of your busybusy schedule, you’ll be busybusy with a wedding to plan on top of it. Something will have to give. Amalia and I didn’t do farmer’s market last summer. We consciously cut that big thing out, but rather naturally filled up that time with other things and still we had to carve out time for wedding tasks.
We aren’t very good at cutting things out, it seems.
Budget that time in
2. Strike the word “perfect” from your wedding lexicon. This. Very. Minute.
How many times have you heard the term “the perfect wedding”? About two hundred million kajillion times? Yeah, me too. This will not be a phrase you will use. Your wedding will not be perfect, no matter how much you toil and how hard you wish for it. It just won’t be. (If it is, please tell me how you did it–I do have another daughter in the wings!) It will more than likely be a lovely, memorable, beautiful day, and it will accomplish its goal, that is to get your daughter and the love of her life married—but it will not be perfect.
If you strive for perfection, you will be disappointed, frustrated, and grumpy. Have you heard of the term “unrealistic expectations?” Yep.
3. Start in on everything as early as you can.
We almost lost the venue we really wanted, by minutes. Literally. The same thing happened with the band that we wanted. I called the contact person for the Bee Ballroom, which Bethie had settled on for the ceremony, to ask a few questions. Then I called Bethie to check everything out with her, then I called the ballroom contact person back, and in the interim the ballroom was rented for the weekend we wanted. Bethie didn’t mind pulling the date forward a week, so it all turned out okay, but we could have lost the venue entirely. Venues book very, very early–so do bands, DJs, anything that is rented–so start deciding and calling immediately on these things.
4. Decide on your budget first.
This sounds so unromantic and calculated, I know, but Romance doesn’t pay the bills. You can quote me on that. Decide the dollar amount that you can afford to spend, and then stick to it. This will give you peace of mind, when you are shelling out money left and right, hither and yon. If you’ve budgeted for it and you know that you can afford it, and you are spending what you planned to spend, you won’t have to worry about eating 29¢ ramen and rice and beans for the next year.
The children still at home with thank you for that.
5. Decide what is most important to the bride (and the groom too, if he wants to be involved with the planning).
Do this with your budget in mind. For example, Bethie didn’t mind buying a wedding dress that was on sale at a fabulous bridal store in a tiny town (it was stunning, and a tiny fraction of the cost of the ones she liked in the city), or making the food ourselves (the cheaper options–no prime rib or lobster bisque, sorry, wedding guests), but she really wanted two relatively expensive things: live music with a dance at her wedding, and photos taken by a professional wedding photographer. So we did a lot of things on the cheap so we could make these two things happen.
It was worth it.
6. Decide on YOUR style.
Pinterest is a great tool.
Pinterest is the enemy. Which way do you lean? Here’s what I’ve decided: in the planning stages, Pinterest is your friend. After everything is planned and half-done, Pinterest is your enemy. My advice: take the time to peruse Pinterest (today’s morque file: when I was an art student, my professors would encourage us to clip anything and everything–that is, physically use a scissors to cut out pictures from magazines–interesting to us, and to make an enormous file of these clipped pictures. Pictures of mice, plants, people, you name it–they all ended up in our files, that way if we needed to make a drawing of a mouse or a tulip or a kobucha squash, for example, we’d have a picture right there—at our fingertips. That was a hundred years ago!) and pin everything that you absolutely, positively LOVE. Your style will emerge. Is it glitzy and golden and lush looking, or rustic and homespun, or shabby chic-ish?
Then work towards the look that you absolutely adore–that is, what your daughter absolutely adores. What makes her eyes light up, style-wise?
(Sub-tip but something that is so, so important to remember. Tattoo this on your forearm: this is your daughter’s wedding. Not yours. Repeat after me: THIS IS MY DAUGHTER’S WEDDING, NOT MINE.)
Well, obviously . . .
Obviously there’s no right and wrong wedding style. I don’t think it matters what the current trend is. I say, go for your own style. Make your own trend! The Pinterest boards I see right now are filled with “country wedding” looks, with burlap and twine and Mason jars full of flowers. It’s pretty. Like a lot of young girls, Bethie had done a lot of dreaming about the look of her wedding, so we worked to make the look that she had been dreaming about happen. (We didn’t go with burlap and twine, by the way. Enough of that on the old homestead!)
Remember, mamas, it’s her wedding. You had your chance, back in the day, to make a wedding that suited you. This one is for her. 🙂 It bears repeating.
7. Don’t pay attention to anybody else and their opinions.
It’s hard–sooo hard–not to do this. Bethany and I are both people-pleasers to the extreme, so we were put into a tizzy again and again, as well-meaning friends offered their opinions on the way we chose to do things. Bryan–bless him--would come home to find us swimming in a puddle of tears, over something somebody had said–and he would pull us out, dry us off, and say “Do what YOU want to do. Don’t listen to anybody else.” Naturally there will be times where somebody will offer a suggestion that is helpful, but always test it to your original vision. If it doesn’t fit it, let it roll off your back, like water off a duck.
Once again: it’s your daughter’s wedding. Nobody else’s opinion matters. Plus–I remember learning this lesson way back a hundred years ago, when I was planning my own wedding–there is just no way to please everybody, no matter how hard you may try to do that.
8. Start with what you already have.
I can’t imagine how much more we would have spent on Bethie’s wedding if we hadn’t first looked around to see what we had available to use. Here are a few ways we did this:
- We borrowed vintage blue jars for the flower arrangements that sat on the tables.
- The backdrop we built out of scavenged wood, and we tore up paper and old cotton sheets for it.
- We used colored papers and fabric for the paper garlands and jar ribbons.
9. Join the Universal Sisterhood of the Mothers-of-the-Brides.
Do this immediately. There is an bend-over-backwards-helpful, generous, and gracious sisterhood out there, that of the mothers-of-the-brides. Every mother that I knew who had recently planned and produced a wedding, came to me with her heart on her sleeve: “Tell me how I can help you. Let me give you this. Do you want me to look for something for you? Please tell me if I can do anything to help.” Honestly. It blew me away, it humbled me, and it made me determined to be just as helpful to other mothers-of-the-bride, when the time came.
Here’s the thing: other mothers-of-the-bride get it. They know exactly what you are going through–the excitement, the tension, the confusion, the joy—and they want to help. Let them.
10. Write everything down.
From the beginning, write down everything–ideas, contacts, costs, etc. It’s such a big project and you will forget things if you don’t. Make lists and more lists.
11. Check out offerings in small towns.
We are small-town folks, and we were operating on a relatively small budget, besides. So it made perfect sense to look in small towns for the things we wanted. We rented our venue, a historic building that is constantly doing fund-raisers for restoration costs. It is located in an out-of-the-way place (the tiny town of Bee, Nebraska!) but it was absolutely perfect. The folks who were in charge of it were very low-key and great to work with. They didn’t have so much going on that we couldn’t ever get ahold of them, for example. Basically the guy left the key for us under the mat. And it goes without saying that the small-town costs are going to be much less than the big city prices.
12. Tap into the Used Wedding Stuff market
This was an eye-opener. Guess what? There are Facebook pages set up with the expressed purpose to enable you to buy and/or sell used wedding items. If you start early enough, you can buy nearly everything gently used (for one day!) or brand new, at used prices. I bought bolts of tulle, candles, votive holders, mason jars, and so much more from our local Facebook wedding page. After the wedding, I sold lots of it that way, too. Brilliant use of social media.
13. Be easy on yourself.
Take breaks. Go to the movies. Get pedicures. Go on long walks and talk about something besides the wedding.
As I was reminded over and over and over again: the important thing–the wedding of two individuals–will happen, whether or not you find just the right candles or tablecloths or musicians or whatnot. Don’t work so hard on the wedding that you can’t spend time together with your daughter and family, just savoring these days.
14. Have fun!
Don’t forget that this day will only happen once (ideally!). Have fun and enjoy the process. It is a special, blessed time. Make some good memories of the whole planning process.
I hope this post will help you towards that aim, so you won’t end up with a migraine the day afterward 🙁 or sad memories of exhaustion and regrets. Have fun! Design and plan and work and shop and create, but in the end–have fun with it!
Thanks always for reading, Gentle Readers!
Some additional info:
- Many of the photos in this post were taken by Ian Rothell Photography, and we recommend them highly. You can look at more of Bethie and Saia’s wedding photos in the link above.
- Bethie bought her dress from Diane of Diane’s Dresses in Wymore, Nebraska. Awesome store, and relaxed, individual help from Diane, herself. She’s awesome, too. 🙂
- You can learn more about the Leo Lonnie Orchestra here. I can’t say enough nice things about them.
- Here is more information about the historic Bee States Ballroom in Bee, Nebraska.
Good luck–and blessings–on your wedding! *hugs*
Shop this post:
Here are some things that we purchased and would purchase again, if we were planning another summer wedding. Some of these we found used, and some we bought brand new. We re-sold nearly everything, and we re-used the things we kept at our second daughter’s wedding a few years later.
babies breath: I ordered (well in advance!) from Sam’s Club
Pin it for later
Want to know how we did our second daughter Amalia’s very small wedding a few years later? Here is a post I wrote about it, with tips on how to throw a small but beautiful wedding.
That’s it for now! Happy planning and happy wedding!
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