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Planning a Wedding—Without Losing Your Mind

April 19, 2005

One January evening, after a cozy Italian dinner at my favorite restaurant, my boyfriend Joshua took me to a park overlooking the Baltimore Inner Harbor, got down on one knee and asked me to be his bride. We danced to the strains of Andrea Bocelli that was playing from a CD player carefully hidden under a park bench. It was memorable and romantic; we gazed deeply into each other’s eyes while we held hands.

Then reality hit. In six months my fiancé and I would be getting married and leaving our parent’s homes to form our own, and we had a lot to do with not much money. Even through the period of my life when I didn’t think I even wanted to get married, I still had dreamed of planning “the wedding event”. Now was my chance, but my first week of engagement I felt so overwhelmed by the task I felt paralyzed. I just wanted to enjoy our engagement and not think about all the details. But God dealt with my fear and pride and I learned that even though I’d like to do everything myself, I had prioritize and delegate tasks. I had to focus on a few details at a time instead of looking at the whole picture and becoming discouraged before even getting started.

Sure, you can go all out on every aspect of the wedding, but for most of us, that’s not a realistic possibility. Decide what’s important to you and your fiancé. For one of my girlfriends the priority was photography and flowers, for another it was the dress and invitations. For me it was photography and that I wanted an outdoor, at home wedding, which requires lots of work (not to mention angst over the possibility of rain) in order to get the house and gardens in shape for the big day. Prioritizing will help you set your budget and decide what aspects you want to spend more time on than others.

A Wedding Coordinator
Delegating can be hard for those of us who are control-freak, type-A personalities, but it’s important to have qualified people who can handle different aspects of the wedding for you, if only for the actual event itself. Although professional wedding coordinators can cost a fortune, those of us who are blessed with family friends or a talented lady at church may benefit from their creativity and administrative qualities, releasing us from some of the details. Even as I worried about whom to ask to oversee the reception set-up, food, and flowers, my mom had ladies from my church coming up to her and begging to help. Choose someone you feel comfortable asking to come along side you and shoulder part of the wedding responsibilities, you may be surprised how delighted they are to help!

Decide on a wedding “theme”
It’s easier to make choices for color, flowers, invitations, favors, and other details when you have a theme. It helps create an atmosphere and automatically guides your choices. Some of my friend’s weddings have had nautical themes while others have reflected a Spanish heritage; the possibilities are fathomless. My wedding theme or motif ended up being a fern. Since I’m an outdoorsy girl, I wanted the wedding to have a classy, yet informal nature feel, and this guided my choices. I chose a mossy green color for the bridesmaids’ dresses and rubber stamped a fern on all the invitations, which also had green lettering. Favors were cookies with ferns piped in icing a friend made and decorated for us.

I rarely like wedding cake. The icing is hard and glumpy. The cake is dry. You wouldn’t pay a ton of money for dessert you don’t like any other time, so why on your wedding day? And why do they have to always be white? Be creative with your cake. I love homemade cakes so my wedding cake of choice was slathered with semi-sweet dark chocolate icing and decorated with fresh roses that matched my bouquet. It didn’t look like the typical intricately iced white confection at most weddings. A friend in my church made it for me as a wedding gift and I reimbursed her for the supplies. Don’t neglect the fact that you might have some marvelous bakers you could trust making your cake in your circle of relationships too. Just don’t forget to give it a test bake first!

With the Internet at our fingertips, we don’t have to just rely on local florists anymore. Consider checking out wholesale floral sites for flower options. It might be scary to order online, but for a minimal fee most sites offer samples for the flowers you’re interested in before you place the final order. Some sites, like, give guidance about the amount of roses to order per bouquet, how to make boutonnieres, and how to care for the flowers. Local flower growers and farmer’s markets are also options for bountiful bouquets.

Ah, the wedding dress. Many little girls have dreamed of the day they actually get twirl around in one. But it is only one day, and then it gets sealed into a box tucked under the bed. If you want to save on the dress, and especially if you’re going for a simpler look, consider checking out bridesmaid dresses instead of wedding dresses. Many bridesmaid dresses are absolutely gorgeous and come in white and cream options and would make a beautiful wedding dress at a fraction of the cost. Don’t pass by specialty shops and department stores that sell formal wear either; you might find a white formal dress that would work as a bridal gown just as well as anything you’d find at a “bridal” store where the prices automatically go up just because it’s bridal.

Most of us have a computer and a printer at home these days and craft stores like Michaels and Ben Franklin offer beautiful high quality paper that can be run through laser printers. Instead of ordering invitations through an expensive printer or stationer, consider doing them yourself. You can often by invitation kits as well which include envelopes and RSVP cards. The wedding program is another printed item to consider producing yourself. Just don’t forget to spell check, and to let multiple people read it for possible mistakes.

During the wedding planning months before exchanging vows with my fiancé, I tried to remind myself that the wedding and all the trimmings that go along with it weren’t really that important, but our relationship was. Pre-marital counseling was very important and if that meant that I didn’t get something completed on my to-do list, that was okay. Becoming a bride-to-be didn’t give me the right to become selfish or an irrational perfectionist. I didn’t want to cultivate unwise spending habits. I didn’t want to let planning push other important relationships aside. The most important thing was to spend time with my family and to continue cultivating a relationship with the man who would become my husband and lifetime friend . . . and to thank God for bringing me to him. Everything else would come together. And somehow it did.

(First Published: RELEVANT magazine — March 2004)

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 25, 2005 12:36 am

    Excellent advice, Danielle. I hope your blog gets linked in such a way that your pearls of wisdom circulate as answers to many prayers of bewildered brides around the world. Great blog subject.

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