So I don't know how other people handle engagement and then immediately jumping into wedding planning. To me, that idea sounds downright horrifying, and I'd be having a very different wedding today if I hadn't done a lot of pre-thinking first: my parents would probably be paying a good portion and therefore controlling more decisions, it would therefore be a lot more traditional and filled with their social obligations (Mom was pushing for a wedding at our Temple or a reception hall and initially hated all my "alternative" outdoor ideas), and I think I'd have been sucked into more of the must-have expectations based solely on stress, lack of time, lack of pre-saved budget, and overwhelming pressure. We also might have started with discussions of budget and logistics without taking time to think about our big-picture values, just due to the where-do-I-start panic with it all. I'm much happier with where we are today and the wedding we're actually planning, and I credit much of it to my upfront, unpressured(ish) research and daydreaming.
As my closest girlfriend in the world is finally starting to talk about an in-the-near-future engagement (YAY!!!), I've been trying to think about the most and least helpful aspects of wedding planning, to help shield her from some of the upfront cr*p. I want to think about what sort of contextual advice I can give her as she starts her NYC-based wedding and marriage planning journey. I use blogs to keep me sane, of course, but I think they're less helpful for initial context. I don't feel like I can email her the Wedding Graduate series from A Practical Wedding and have it make as much sense in the beginning. I don't feel like sending her a link to Offbeat Bride will help at first because the women may just seem visually interesting but not relevant to her, and the images will distract her from being inspired to do things her own way. I feel like these are the first sanity-saving resources I discovered post-Knot/Project Wedding/Weddingbee freakouts that helped calm me down by showing me women whose perspectives I finally related to. But, on any given day, they don't necessarily provide up-front context on how to think about the wedding overall. Or on how to start thinking about planning. Or on how I don't think it's a good idea to start venue research at all until you and your partner have had a few big-picture conversations first.
I've grappled with some of these questions before, as Jason and I started to talk about things together, and ended up writing three posts that really tried to get at context-setting: Why Wedding Planning is Like Grocery Shopping, A Different Sort of Planning Checklist, and Back to Basics (when I overdosed on Once Wed one too many times.) However, I feel like there's more collective wisdom that I'm still missing. And I wish I had a step-by-step guide of how to survive that first month of engagement and set the course for a meaningful and (slightly) more sane wedding and marriage planning process. There's stuff I think I needed to learn on my own, via my own frustrations, but there's tons of "you must have favors" brainwashing that I wish I could (partially) save her from upfront.
So I want to open it up to you, who have all stumbled through this process in your own way. How did you start with your planning? Did you think it was useful? What would you change now about your start, after having arrived here in your journey? What were the best put-it-in-context resources you found or processes that worked for you? What were the best event-planning resources you found along the way? What are your favorite sanity-check processes or article bookmarks? And what's the best piece of advice you would give someone just starting out?
I'll start with mine, which are only reflective of my own experience, but may be relevant for someone out there.
- How did you start? For me, I started looking for affordable venues, since I figured that would set the budget and tone for the entire wedding. I started my research at the big mainstream sites like the Knot, Project Wedding and Here Comes the Guide, then moving onto the LA Conservancy List, LA Parks and Recreation options, LA County Parks, State Parks, other local City-owned resources (Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Culver City), Yelp, and insane amounts of Googling.
- Did you think it was useful? Yes and no. My best wedding planning "ah ha" moment was finding A $10,000 Wedding via L.A. venue googling, and finally feeling like someone got it: the frustration, the budgetary limitations (and the pre-engaged research. ahem.) But I don't think I'd have appreciated it without crying about Here Comes the Guide's idea of low-cost venue options first.
- What were the best put-it-in-context resources you found or processes that worked for you? This one's tricky. I think once I stopped reading Style Me Pretty, Once Wed and Green Wedding Shoes etc daily (or pretty much at all), I started feeling better about myself and creating my own context. And at that point I already had A Practical Wedding, Offbeat Bride, and a number of other personal bloggers I adore.
- What would you change now about your start, after having arrived here in your journey? I would have changed my approach to my joint start with Jason, but nothing about my own foray into research. I should have been more gentle with him, but after a year of inspiration boards and thinking about weddings I was bursting to share. I tried to hold myself back, and I didn't show him any pretties, but our first sit-down conversation was a bit draining and horrid. He had no context for the discussion and I had too much.
- What were the best event-planning resources you found along the way? After the tears... forums with other local brides at the Offbeat Bride Tribe and Indiebride's Kvetch. I learned from others' experiences, got inspired to cut the things that didn't matter to me, and learned to think outside the box due to their creativity. I haven't found one of my vendor options through mainstream wedding sources. As for event planning... I'm lucky. I did that professionally for a year-plus and knew a lot upfront. (which is partly why I'm putting the question out there to you ladies. If you never planned an large event before, what finally worked for you from an event-planning perspective? I simply don't know)
- What are your favorite sanity-check processes or article bookmarks? Your Wedding is Not a Contest, On Money and Marriage, 2000 Dollar Wedding's Summary of her Wedding Planning, these two incredibly honest posts from Accordions and Lace I've been discussing with Jason lately, Your Wedding is Tacky, Your Wedding is Not a Photoshoot, and newly posted genius (as of yesterday) Fear Mongering and You'll Seeeee. And I could easily direct her to any of my favorite bloggers' sites for a moment of fresh air. Or to some of my favorite books (pretty much all listed on Meg's sidebar.) But I'm still not sure they give upfront context - they just saved me when the insanity threatened to take over.
- What's the best piece of advice you would give someone just starting out? Figure out how you're going to announce the engagement, including a line that says "we haven't thought about the date or specifics yet, we want to take our time to get it right by starting to talk about the marriage." It's so important to give yourself planning/talking/dreaming space before you give anyone specifics. And I also think it's important to start by reading and thinking separately so you both feel sure in yourselves when you come together to negotiate wedding values, hopes, and budgets.