The Most Common Wedding Mistake (and how to avoid it)
If this hits close to home, take a MAJOR break from wedding planning:
You go back and forth between a lot of ideas. You have trouble making up your mind.
The costs of a wedding overwhelm you, and you are afraid to even ask how much things cost. This leads to further stalemates and indecision.
The etiquette of a guest list is driving you crazy. Who do you invite to what? How do you announce what to who? Can you still register for gifts? How do you keep everyone happy and still make this day about what matters to you?
This, my friend, is a sign you are getting ready to plan yourself into one hell of a wedding headache. I know because I've seen it dozens of times (you are FAR from alone!). It may not seem like it, but all the problems above stem from a singular issue:
Failing to plan with intention.
You need a vision! If you don't know what you're building, you're much more likely to get lost.
The key to planning an excellent gathering is knowing why you are coming together. You can build your plans around that purpose.
Why are you getting married?
Why are you having a wedding?
How much do you value this celebration?
Who is it for?
Once you can answer these questions, you'll find yourself making better decisions with more clarity. You'll be able to keep your priorities in line, make up your mind about a plan that excites you, and plan a kick ass wedding! It's one of the coolest transformations I get to see with couples after they develop their vision. Here's how you're going to do it:
Step 1: Ditch the Template
Why are you having a wedding?
Start wedding planning with this simple question, and keep asking until you arrive at a belief or a value. Priya Parker laid the framework for meaningful gatherings in The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters.
"...our thinking about gathering- when we gather and why- has become muddled. When we do gather, we too often use a template of gathering (what we assume a gathering should look like) to substitute for our thinking. The art of gathering begins with purpose: When should we gather, and why?"
A wedding is a template for how we gather in the case of a new marriage. If you are getting married and want to celebrate, you've likely chosen to have a wedding because... well that's just how it's done!
You can download a generic checklist for your wedding. There is an entire industry in place to show you what it looks like and how to do it. Everyone knows exactly what to expect when they show up. We switch out the colors and music, or add something "quirky" like pizza or a magician, but there's a template we all use. Many people have a BLAST with this wedding, but many others know it's not for them. What happens when you drop the template and desire something off the beaten path?
Sometimes, offbeat couples assume that challenging the traditional wedding is enough. They know they don't desire the spotlight, the old traditions, the spectacle. They might go smaller, more casual, or wear a colorful dress. They might still find themselves overwhelmed because, without the template, it's easy to get lost. No checklist, guide, or template is going to do the hard work of developing a meaningful vision for you, though. You do that by checking in with your own values. Then, you build a celebration based on that.
Step 2: Vision and Values
photo: Kuburas Photography
While it's important to define your celebration by what it is not, don't forget to define what it is. You already know you don't connect with a traditional wedding in many ways- why? What is it that you do like about weddings? Why not go to the courthouse? What it is that you do think is important about all this pomp and circumstance?
You need to build a purpose statement that reminds you why you're doing this. Your purpose should be disputable, unique to you, and tied to a value or belief:
Couple A: "We are having a wedding because we want to show our blended families that we are serious about our marriage! We're serious about saying our vows out loud and our families holding us accountable."
Couple B: "We’re doing a vow renewal because it’s important for future generations to see. We have always valued our marriage, and it's important that we take the time to express our love to one another. We hope it inspires them to do the same in their marriages. A happy marriage is still worth celebrating at every milestone.
Couple C: We’re eloping because it’s the best way that we can embrace what we love about us and our love story. Sometimes it feels like it’s just us in the world, and we want to remember that that’s enough. We want to start our marriage with something that's all about us.
These are all strong purpose statements because they are tied to unique values. Not everyone values having their vows held accountable by others, being an example for others, or having a day 100% about them. Different wedding purposes will start to build different types of celebrations.
Keeping certain values at the forefront, the vision gets clearer. You know how you'll celebrate as well as why, what to focus on, and what's no big deal. You'll be able to make grounded decisions, and know when and what to say no to. You'll appreciate what's worth celebrating, no matter your circumstances.
In short, you've completed step one of planning a kick ass wedding.
If you've realized your wedding needs a purpose, don't stress, you're on the right track! Knowing why you are doing this will allow you to make thoughtful plans with more clarity. It's the first step to planning your wedding, and it goes neglected way too often. We have replaced a wedding purpose with a gathering template, but not you, offbeat reader. You're going to get to the heart of this celebration and get out of any planning funks you find yourself facing. You're on your way to planning a kick ass wedding.
So, here is my challenge to you. Take a weekend off to recharge and reconnect with your values. Clear your head for less stress and better planning by forgetting what you ever heard a wedding is or should be. This exercise is free, often frustrating, but 100% worth it! Feel free to let me know how it goes if you decided to give it a shot.
You didn't think I'd leave you without more juicy resources, did you? The next series of posts explores Vision Work, or what I call Phase I of wedding planning. It will be all about determining your vision, values, budget, and guest list. I hope it helps you think deeper about your celebration and helps you feel more confident in your plans!
There's also the real deal. Vision Work involves a robust series of date night questions, quizzes, and guides. I meet with you each step of the way to challenge, guide, and encourage you. It's perfect if you're ready to make serious progress with wedding planning! This month only (April 2021), I'm offering a discount. For those who are ready to plan a thoughtful celebration, we'll go through the entire 3-part process for $99. Not to brag or anything, but your girl just saved you $250. Ready to jump on that? Message me at firstname.lastname@example.org: I need a vision! I'll get you started right away.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for later posts about how we will apply your values to your budget and guest list! Coming up next are a complete breakdown of small wedding budgets and how to build a better guest list.