He’s popped the question, she’s accepted. They’re both walking on cloud nine. It’s a glorious time to revel in the beauty of the moment and envision life ahead. She’s probably dreamt of her ‘Prince Charming’ sweeping her off her feet and living ‘happily ever after’, since she was a little girl. He’s probably been running scared of this moment (and the commitment it entails) since his adolescent days – until he found her – the woman of his dreams. Before you know it, it's time to descend from the clouds and involve themselves in the mundane, but nevertheless exciting task, of planning their wedding.
A wedding involves considerable planning and attention to detail. In fact, if the couple is undertaking to do it all on their own, it involves meticulous organization and nerves of steel, with the million things that have to be planned and executed. Some of the major aspects to consider when planning a wedding are…
The budget/ scale of the wedding
The style/theme of the wedding
The guest list
The destination/ venue
Fixing the date
The nuptials/ religious ceremony
The wedding party
1. The budget/ scale of the wedding
Many brides, and more recently even the grooms, seem to already have a fair idea of what they envision for their wedding. Some may want something private and intimate, while others want to go the whole hog and have an elaborate, no-holds-barred, pull-out-all-the-stops event that will be talked about for days to come. Others may want something in between – not too lavish, yet tasteful and elegant. Another aspect that will determine the scale of your wedding is your budget. It all depends on if the couple is footing the bill themselves or if they are being helped out by their parents, how large their budget is or if they simply decide they’d rather spend less on the wedding and more on their honeymoon and treat themselves rather than their guests!
2. Professional help
There are some brides (and grooms) who are gung-ho about doing it all themselves, right down to the last intricate detail and nothing less would make them feel satisfied. But then there are others who really don’t want the hassle and the tense moments right up till the end. For the latter category, help comes in the form of the wedding planner. A wedding planner offers the distinct advantage of taking over all the major and minor details and leaving you free to enjoy your big day, secure in the knowledge that he/she will take care of it all and avert any minor disasters or hiccups! Of course, all this comes at a cost – so once your budget is decided and if you feel you could do with some professional help, source out and undertake a survey of what the costs would go upto for hiring a wedding planner or a consultant. Some charge a flat fee or an hourly rate, so you will have to work out the mechanics of how it fits into your overall budget and allocate accordingly. While deciding on a wedding planner, take the following into account.
Costs of consultants vary, so you might want to check out a few and compare their fees and decide how much you want to shell out. You might also want to rule in favour of a planner who charges hourly rather than a percentage of the bill, as the latter might not be as interested in cutting costs as it would be to his/her detriment.
Quality generally comes at a price, and you will generally find that an experienced and highly recommended planner will be fairly expensive compared to a fresher in the business. But of course, the experience will come at a price, so be prepared to pay if you want the best in the business.
One of the most important considerations is that you have to be comfortable with whom you choose, because you will be dealing with him/her on an ongoing basis and it is important that you are able to establish some kind of rapport with the person. It is equally vital that while the two of you are communicating, he/she isn’t doing all the talking, but that you are given a chance to vocalize your ideas and he/she listens to what you have to say.
Open to suggestions – While the planner will undertake to carry out all the nitty gritties and be the general dogsbody, it doesn’t mean that everything is out of your hands. You will still like to have a say in all the major decisions - it is important that you don’t feel like all the details are out of your hands feel like are a stranger at your own wedding. So make sure your planner is open to whatever you want to suggest and doesn’t attempt to shove his/her opinion down your throat or place undue pressure on you to accept his word as law.
3. Style/theme of the wedding
This becomes a major decision that the bride generally has a very definite opinion on. Is it going to be a formal, semiformal or an informal affair, what is going to be the colour scheme, will it have a theme like a Victorian or Scottish style wedding, or country/ western one? This sets the tone for the wedding and provides a focus when it comes to choosing attendants' outfits, flowers, decorations or favours. Colour schemes are often determined by the time of year, flowers that are in season or personal choices.
4. The guest list
Based on the budget and the scale of the wedding, will emerge who you’re going to invite. This is also determined partially by the deepest desires of the couple and sometimes, their parents. For instance, although the budget might be significant, the couple might still decide to keep the guest list minimal but have the reception in a swanky club or hotel. On the other hand, if the parents of the couple are sharing in the expenses, and especially if it is the first wedding in the family, one can’t escape inviting casual friends and more distant relatives too. Some couples would rather keep it intimate and restrict invitees to close family and friends, while others are keen to have a really big do – after all, the more the merrier to make your big day one to remember!
5. Destination /venue
It has become increasingly popular in recent times, to have a destination wedding - either to relieve the monotony of the predictable or if the bride/groom has always harboured a deep-rooted desire or had a secret dream to wed in an exotic place or would like to feel the sand under their feet and recite their vows to the accompaniment of surf crashing on the shores. The important considerations here are to ensure that the guests you’re planning to invite – especially the ones whose presence you’re really keen on – will be able to make it and how the destination fits into your budget. Similarly, while deciding the venue, keep in mind the style of the reception, whether lavish or simple, the availability based on certain tentative dates you would like to have your reception and the convenience of the location.
6. Fixing the date
Many couples have a very definite idea of when they’d like to get married, which season is their favourite and accordingly, which months or dates are ideal for them. What must be kept in mind though, is that there is always a popular wedding season and if you choose to get married during that time, you can be sure that unless you have decided the dates well in advance and made bookings accordingly, it will be very difficult to get the venue of your choice on the date of your choice. Another factor is that often, rates are higher during the wedding season and if budget is an issue or you’re trying to keep costs down, you might want to consider the less popular months to tie the knot, as well as a weekday. There are also certain months or times of year that are considered unsuitable or unfavourable for weddings – often determined by religious beliefs and customs. For instance, Roman Catholics prefer to avoid getting married during Lent.
7. The religious ceremony
How you plan to solemnize your marriage is entirely dependent on how staunch your religious beliefs are. For instance, some couples may decide to forego the religious ceremony altogether, preferring to have just a civil ceremony; while there are others who, either due to personal conviction, or to keep their parents happy, like to go with the traditional church ritual. This would involve familiarizing oneself with all the requirements and formalities to have a church ceremony, deciding on the pastor/ priest to officiate at the mass/ ceremony, writing wedding vows and possibly making the service as personal and meaningful as possible.
8. The wedding party
Most often, the bride chooses her sister(s), close cousins or intimate friends (or if she wants a bevy of attendants, maybe all of the above!) to be her bridesmaids/ attendants. The groom too, either prefers his brother, cousin or good friends to perform the role of his attendants. The Best Man is most often his closest buddy or again, his brother or a cousin he is especially close to. Whomever he chooses, it had better be somebody responsible enough to take care of the ring entrusted to his custody till the time comes to produce it with a flourish!
9. The details
Then there are the million details that need to be ironed out and will require careful planning and forethought. It also helps in the overall organization (especially if you don’t have a consultant or planner overseeing the details) to have a notebook or diary exclusively for your wedding details and title every alternate page with an item/category. You can then note all relevant details pertaining to that category, like vendor details, contact numbers, payments made, dates of meetings, decisions arrived at, etc. The categories could run thus:
Stationery – Engagement announcement, wedding invitations, thank-you notes
Legalities and documentation
Ceremony – Officiate, location, seating arrangements, music, songs etc.
Wedding Consultant (if you’re planning to hire one)
Reception – Location, seating arrangements, music, favours, decorations, centerpieces for tables, etc.
Catering – Food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
Flowers – Ceremony, reception, bride and bridesmaids' bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres etc.
Bridal gown and accessories
Groom's tuxedo and accessories
Bridesmaids'/Attendants'/ groomsmen’s attire
Gifts – Attendants, bride, groom, gift list registry
Accommodations – Overseeing arrangements for out of town guests, attendants, etc.
Pre-wedding parties - Rehearsal dinner, spinster party etc.
Last minute checks/to do’s
10. The honeymoon
The most fun part of wedding planning is deciding where the couple would like to take off to after the tension, nerves and merriment of the wedding is over. Somewhere they can finally say goodbye to pre-wedding jitters and start being husband and wife. To just relax in each other's company and finally begin to explore what married life is all about. Also, if the cost of the honeymoon is not taken into account at the initial planning stage itself, there may not be much of a budget left to plan a nice honeymoon. Once again, a budget helps one to decide whether it’s going to be an exotic location or a closer getaway. In case you’re planning to honeymoon abroad, make sure you take care of your passport details, valid visas, book tickets sufficiently in advance and visit a doctor to get the required immunizations at least 4-6 weeks prior to your scheduled departure. And then there is the odd couple who figures they’d rather go to a simple place where there isn’t a lot of touristy stuff to do or things to see, as they’re not going to be stepping out of their hotel room too often anyway!