You’re engaged. Now what?

After an engagement I think it is very easy to get overwhelmed by all the decisions you realize you will be making when planning your wedding, especially if you are going to be planning most of your wedding on your own. Where do you begin? How soon should you commit to a venue? Who should you invite? When do you ask your closest friends to be your bridesmaids? Should your wedding have a theme? Should your reception meal be buffet style or plated? There are an indefinite number of questions that arise when you realize that actual wedding planning is not as fun as pinning ideas to your “My Future Wedding” board on Pinterest.

Wedding Ideas Pinterest

With so much inspiration it can be difficult to know where to start

Since my engagement I have realized the importance of defining my own expectations of how I want my wedding to be. I reflected on this topic in my last post. This mindset has helped relieve a lot of my worries about planning a wedding. It can be difficult to find your own bridal voice when there are so many sources dictating what a wedding should look like. On page 3 of her book, “A Practical Wedding,” Meg Keene suggests that wedding magazines, among other resources, dictate the expectations of a modern bride.

“Every book or wedding magazine has lists—lists ordering that you immediately do this, lists forcefully suggesting that maybe you should start doing that, mile-long lists of activities that you to complete if you want to be a Proper Bride.”

Even though I have spent very little time reading wedding magazines or articles on wedding websites I have seen these lists and expectations Keene is referring to. In the months since my engagement my best friend, mother, and future mother-in-law have all purchased wedding magazines for me. I haven’t taken a serious look at the content because I am more interested in finding inspiration from the colors and images. However, I did mark “The list: Your wedding to-dos—And when to do them” in the December 2012 issue of Brides magazine. Included is a checklist of what to accomplish 12 months before your wedding, 10 months before, etc. For example, 8 months before your wedding you are supposed to: “Book the caterer, florist, band/DJ, ceremony music, and photographer; order your dress; block hotel rooms for out-of-town guests; and register your wedding” (p. 54).

When women read wedding planning to-do lists, or any other wedding planning related content, they need to be critical consumers of the information. A woman needs to ask herself what, from these lists, will be the most important to her and which items she thinks are unnecessary. Keene shares this perspective. Through both her book and her blog of the same name Keene encourages brides be independent thinkers and pragmatic planners when it comes to organizing their special day.

“A whole industry is set up to sell you a beautiful wedding; it’s set up to sell you how things will look,” Keene says on page 2. “But what matters on your wedding day, what you will remember until you are old and grey, is how it felt.”

While the weddings you see on television or profiled in magazines may look fun, certain aspects of these weddings might not be realistic (or necessary) for your wedding day. Also, there are many creative DIY wedding ideas you can find on sites like Pinterest. It is easy to get both excited and overwhelmed by all of the clever ideas you see that you would love to have on your wedding day but, as Keene says, “the carefully crafted details are, in the end, just that: details” (p. 2). The best thing you can do to stay grounded during the wedding-planning process is to establish what is important to you and your husband-to-be before committing to anything. From the day you begin planning until the day of your wedding try not to get caught up in all the details. Not only will this overwhelm you but you may also set yourself up for disappointment when you realize you can’t afford an ice sculpture “liquor luge” or you do not have time to decorate mason jars that will be used as centerpieces.

So, I want to hear from you. What are some modern wedding details or practices that you think are too over-the-top or unnecessary? Where do you think these expectations come from? What are some are your wedding “must haves”?

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7 Comments on “You’re engaged. Now what?”

  1. Luke Armour says:

    I actually bought my then-fiancee one of those giant wedding binders. We’re organizers, we actually ended up with two. The checklists were unbelievably helpful. Looking back, I’m wondering if my wife regretted I was such a hands-on groom, but we had a lovely time even without a liquor luge – if you can imagine.

    • Christina says:

      I’m an organizer, too. For Christmas, my fiancé’s brother and sister-in-law gave me an expanding pocket file folder and they had already labeled each of the folders (photography, food, etc.). I think my hang up with wedding checklists is that they are predetermined by societal norms. I would hope that more grounded couples understand this fact and realize that they don’t necessarily have to do/have everything listed on the checklists. I definitely think they’re a good place to start. That way you have a rough idea of how far in advance certain details should be taken care of. I think it’s great that you were a hands on groom! I think more women wish they had a man who was more interested in the minutiae of planning a wedding. After all, it is both the bride and groom’s special day.

  2. thejackik says:

    Great post Christina! I am nowhere near getting engaged to my boyfriend but reading your post made me realize how much work goes into just getting engaged. I had not idea there were even countdown lists of ‘How to’s” out there to help. I wish I could anwser some of your probing questions at the end but I don’t pay attention to wedding shows and magazines so I don’t know what would be ‘over the top.

    A must have for my future wedding is that everything would have to mesh well. I am going to a wedding next weekend in Key West Florida. I am a bridesmaid and the wedding will be on the beach. I am so excited about it, but I just have one problem, which other people actually had to point out to me. And it’s the fact that the bridesmaid dresses are super formal, church like dresses, instead of something flowing and cotton like. The dress won’t be able to breath and the color is dark purple. I don’t really think that is very beach like, especially for the heat.. It wouldn’t be so bad if the groomsmen weren’t going casual! But the are! And we are suppose to go barefoot too. The more I think about the more odd I feel about the wedding on a beach!

    So in all, a must have for me would be cohesiveness.

    • Christina says:

      Sometimes I wonder if brides just want to see their bridesmaids suffer. If you’re going to have an outdoor wedding (let alone a beach wedding) why would you choose a super formal or stuffy dress for your bridesmaids? I think women get too focused on the “look” of their wedding that they forget to be practical. As a result, as you suggest, cohesiveness can suffer. There’s nothing wrong with having a vision but a bride needs to learn to be flexible.

      Other than potentially feeling restricted in your bridesmaids dress I hope you have a good time at the wedding!

  3. thejackik says:

    Oh me too! I just hope I dont sweat so much that I change the color of the dress! It is dark purple… which was so difficult to find accessories for this time of the year. Like why pick a winter color? But I hope she wasn’t just trying to make us suffer! I suppose I hold my bride up to higher standards to that, but I may have been wrong.

  4. Crystal R. says:

    This is a great article. I recently got engaged and its not all glittering mason jars and strategically placed hand dyed feathers in my brid cage veil. Its been 7 weeks and I’m way stressed out. From the TLC shows I really never understood just how much goes into a wedding. Now that I’m just in the starting phase I’m easily overwhelmed by all the details and choices were being faced with. I’m hoping the process will become easier as time goes on, we’ll see!

    • Christina says:

      Thanks, Crystal, for taking the time to read on comment on my post! I’m glad you found it to be an interesting read. Me and my fiance have finally started to solidify some of our wedding plans. We decided on a destination wedding (we’re staying in the States) to avoid some of those superfluous details. It may be a little more expensive for your guests but it can be a cheaper alternative to a traditional wedding. And it becomes a special destination for you and your husband to come back to. (I’m thinking about writing a post about this soon! I’ve been very busy this summer so I haven’t been giving my blog the love it deserves.) I’m sure the planning process will get easier because you’ll start narrowing down what things/details are most important to you and your fiance.

      Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! Feel free to come back and let me know how planning is going. 🙂


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