With only four days to go until we get married, I thought I’d write a post with some wedding advice I have for other brides-to-be, and perhaps give you some insight into the wedding planning process. We got engaged in November 2011 and back then our wedding seemed so incredibly far away. With 18 months to go, we took our time with the planning (for obvious reasons). Now with only a couple of days left, I’m so excited for all our friends and family to arrive in Kakamas.
That being said, planning a wedding is no small task – any married woman will tell you that. Before I started with our wedding’s planning I emailed all of my married girlfriends and asked them to give me advice and tell me the biggest issues they had with the planning part, as well as on the day. I received great advice and some of it is incorporated in this post. Here are a few of my thoughts on wedding-related things like where to start, how to choose a wedding dress, how to deal with friends, family and the guest list and how to determine what budget items are important. I’ll also tell you some of the things that no-one wants to tell you 😉
WHERE TO START
I remember just after we got engaged, I had a massive dose of wedding fever. I spent hours online (mostly on Pinterest) gathering ideas and compiling lists – long, long to do lists. While it’s natural to be excited and to immediately start thinking about ideas, keep in mind that your guy didn’t put that ring on your finger just so you can plan a wedding. He wants to make you his wife and spend the rest of his life with you, so take time and enjoy being engaged. Guys are not as big as us on the nitty gritty of wedding décor, colour schemes, bridesmaids dresses etc. so do not make him dread the wedding by talking his head off – but also don’t forget to involve him. Perhaps discuss beforehand how much he wants to be involved to make sure you’re on the same page.
CHOOSING A WEDDING DRESS
You may already have a clear idea of what type of wedding dress or style you like, and perhaps you also already know whether or not you’re going to buy, rent or have a dress made just for you. I initially wanted to have a dress custom made, yet everyone kept telling me to go try on wedding gowns. In the end, I’m so happy I did because trying on dresses showed me what can go wrong when you’re having a dress made. Some of the dresses that I tried on made me look so fat, whereas others gave me a waist and made me look slimmer than I am. After trying on dresses I went online (as I still had a very clear idea of what I wanted but couldn’t find anything in Cape Town) and I saw THE perfect Maggie Sotterro wedding dress. I ordered it through Eve’s Bridal in Newlands and short of a few small tweaks the dress was perfect. As it’s hanging here I can’t wait to wear it on Saturday – it really is an exquisite gown!
My fiancé and I have been together for more than 7 years and we are some of the last couples in our circles of friends to get married. We have also been engaged for more than a year (on our wedding day it will be 18 months) so the wedding planning was quite drawn out. While your wedding day might be the biggest thing that is going to happen to you this year (well, in your mind), know that for your friends it’s important, but not that important. I have learned so many lessons over the last few months, one of them being to be more interested in life events in friends’ life. What is a huge thing for someone else might not be for you, but make them feel special by showing interest. Also, if you feel like your friends are not really all that interested in your wedding planning don’t feel offended. Share this time with your partner, it is after all your special day.
This is a touchy topic for many brides-to-be. I am blessed to have three amazing and supportive bridesmaids who I can chat to about the nitty gritty that I know Pieter is not going to be bothered about. Like dress detail, table settings, what makeup to wear (natural or smokey eye is the big questions!) and everything else in between. They’re the ones that will scour Pinterest on my behalf looking for ways to incorporate lighting in vineyards or searching for interesting guestbook ideas. Choose your bridesmaids well, they are going to be a big part of your wedding day and the planning process. Don’t feel that you HAVE to include someone in your bridal party because they’re a sibling / you’ve known them forever / you were a bridesmaid at their wedding. This is YOUR wedding and you can do whatever you want – don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. The same goes for “being traditional” or “doing it a certain way” – do what feels right to you and your partner, you don’t have to stick to the same old same old.
STICKING TO THE BUDGET
I am definitely not one to talk about this point as we are over our budget as it is, but perhaps I can give you some perspective from my side. There were certain aspects of the wedding that both Pieter and I agreed are very important, and we decided just after we got engaged that we will contribute to the wedding because of what we wanted for our day. The important aspects for us are:
- The dress. This is for most brides one of the most important aspects. We want to look our absolute best on our wedding day and oh my word, the things that we will do to get there. Beauty treatments, tanning, manicures, pedicures – you name it. The dress is a very important aspect of the wedding day, people will remember it. I can remember every wedding dress of each wedding that we’ve been to. Take your time to find the perfect dress.
- The photographer. You’re only going to have your wedding day once and the photos are the memories that you’re going to have for years to come. Use the best photographer you can afford and remember that you are the client, and the photographer the supplier. Don’t be shy to be firm about what you want, for instance Pieter and I don’t like posed photos with props and we communicated this to our photographer. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a custom package. We didn’t want to have the printed canvasses and coffee table book, and we wanted our photographer to stay late so she can take photos of the dancing, partying and just friends mingling.
- The music. Music literally can make or break a wedding. We’ve been to weddings before where *just* as you’re getting into the groove and there were two or three nice songs playing back to back the DJ will switch to some random song. We decided to DJ our own wedding and over the last few weeks I have been putting together a playlist. It definitely is a lot more work but I’m hoping that it will pay off and that our guests will dance until the sun comes up. Literally. I have a music playlist of about 11 hours so if they wanna dance they can dance!
- The food. People only remember certain things about the wedding, and I promise you décor is not on top of that list. For Pieter and I the food is very important and even before we decided on a caterer we knew what kind of food we want to serve (all our favourites). We also knew that we didn’t want a buffet style dinner so that was something that the caterer had to accommodate. It’s up to you to decide what to include on the menu but if I can give advice – serve people hearty food. Pieter grew up on a farm and I’m a small town girl so we love the same kinds of food, and on our menu we have exactly that. Most brides that I’ve talked to have said that they never got round to eating on the night of their wedding, but I have told my bridesmaids already that I want a proper plate of food – even if I’m busy they must come and get me for some ’emergency’ so that I can have dinner 😉 Our caterer is the best in the area and she makes one of my absolutely favourite dishes, pumpkin fritters. Yes, of course it’s on our wedding menu 🙂
- The booze. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re going to have a cash bar or an open bar but the booze plays an important part in setting the ambience for the wedding reception (read: the party side of the wedding). Even if you decide to do a cash bar, consider placing wine on the tables to get people started.
THE STUFF THAT NO-ONE TELLS YOU
For us, spending money on printed save the dates was probably the biggest waste of wedding budget. While they looked stunning they really did not do their job. We sent them out a year before our wedding date with the goal to get people thinking about the monetary side of attending our wedding. For one, our wedding is on Easter weekend and it’s the beginning of school holidays. Also, we’re getting married in Kakamas (a small town in the Northern Cape for those that don’t know) so not only is it quite a trip to make, but there is also accommodation costs to consider. Seems like very few of our friends do forward planning. Be prepared to be disappointed, not everyone is as organised as you 😉
Also, some of your married friends might tell you this but when it comes to managing RSVPs you’re going to get to know your friends and family very well. I say this very tongue in cheek and with all the love in my heart – but still there are a few people that I just want to say to…really, REALLY?! You’ll get all kinds of odd questions (can I bring my kids along, can I bring my friend’s, sister’s best friend as a date to the wedding, etc) and you’ll also realise just how indecisive people are. “We’re coming, no we’re not coming, okay wait we can make it again.” We had to change our table plan twice, and it’s not an easy job to make sure that everyone sits at a nice table with a nice group of people they know.
Sjoe, what a mouthful. I’m pretty sure that after our big day I’ll have some more thoughts to share but for now, this is enough to get you started. I’d love to hear what your experiences have been like – any odd requests from guests? Did something go terribly wrong (i.e. the groom forgot the rings) and how did you deal with it? Tell me in the comments, I think everyone have different stories to share and it can be quite interesting! Also, if you have any advice for brides-to-be, post it in the comments 🙂