The wedding industry is one not just of weddings, but of (very loud) opinions. Certainly the abundance of strong opinions is not a quality isolated only to the wedding industry, but it is one that I, and presumably others too, were surprised to find when first poking our heads through the industry's door. It would appear that--pretty often--the romantic, carefree feelings associated with wedding bells are not as present as the tricky guest-list etiquette, pressure to follow new wedding trends, and family's eager vendor suggestions seem to be. Wedding planning easily becomes expensive, overwhelming, and even conflicted very quickly... I get it. But hey--it doesn't have to be that way!
This post is written in with deep empathy, and with the hope that the following three suggestions will empower and encourage those who feel cornered by wedding planning complications.
1) Expect and embrace that there will be conflict.
Be ready for it. Everyone has an opinion, and there will be so many of them that are so diverse that even the most people-pleasing bride will have to choose between some. That's okay--let me repeat myself on this one--conflict is normal, and should not surprise you. Not everyone's tastes or experiences match yours, nor should they; and while you now know that after reading this, keep in mind that not everyone consciously registers that wedding ideals differ. Furthermore, remember that many people consciously have no idea what kind of pressure or expectations their opinions may put on those around them. Do give people the benefit of the doubt here.
Here's how you deal with it: don't let it pressure you. Take it in stride. Definitely don't try to appease others wishes by letting them design your wedding for you; be gracious, but be firm. Be willing to say when necessary, "That's a really lovely idea! Actually, my fiance[e] and I were thinking we'd do [different idea] instead. Here, let me show you a picture!"
At the same time, keep in mind that these are relationships that will exist post-wedding, so it's not worth it to permanently cut ties over something as temporary as cupcake flavors or reception playlists. Should a relational issue come up that is not solvable with a bit of insistence, consider compromising for the sake of the relationship. Sometimes you'll have opportunities to meet halfway. For instance, let's say your cousin is allergic to chocolate, but your fiance[e]'s favorite cake flavor is chocolate. So serve chocolate cake in most of your cake layers, but have one layer in a flavor you know your cousin prefers. This compromise is a great way to show how much you appreciate your cousin and want him to enjoy the wedding as much as you do.
Compromise is key, but you can't bend every time your new mother-in-law insists upon having something her way, because this relational pattern is bound to continue post-wedding. And post-wedding, the issues being insisted upon will likely be more important, and you may have an even greater difference of opinions on them. (For instance, parenting.) All things considered, perhaps establishing during wedding planning the kind of steadfastness you will need later on will improve your relationships for the long-haul. Handling delicate issues with this in mind will also put disagreements over things like cupcake flavors in perspective.
2) Forget about following trends.
Do you like the recent wedding trends? If so, go ahead and do them all! But if you don't, then please, please don't have a trendy wedding if it isn't you. This wedding you're planning should be the ultimate expression of who you and your special somebody are. Just because naked cakes like the one pictured above have been trending for the last couple of years doesn't mean you too must have one. Get the cake you want. This cake is for you, not Pinterest. Having a trendy wedding can get expensive fast, especially if your decor becomes competitive with magazine pictures--or the wedding your sister had last summer. Be mindful about why you make your wedding decisions and ask yourself the following questions:
1) "For whom/why am I making this decision?"
2) "Is that what is best, or is there a cheaper/easier/better/different way to do it?"
3) "Does it match my and my fiance's personal tastes?"
4) "Will I look back and wish I had made a different decision?"
Move forward based on those answers, keeping potential conflict in consideration, and knowing that the more bells and whistles you throw in based on what's trending, the more expensive things will become.
3) Remember your guests.
I used to feel strongly that wedding decisions ought to be made based solely on the tastes of the marrying couple--that is until I started to read Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette. Early on in the book it expresses the opinion that the wedding reception is a celebration of the happy couple's marriage as well as their valued relationships with all of the guests. This idea struck me as very balancing, since I see a lot of complaints online about how couples have poorly hosted their guests, who--on some occasions--have traveled, booked hotel rooms, and taken time off of work to make it to the wedding. It seems appropriate to thank them for their investment in the couple.
Before I go on, I want to clarify what I'm NOT saying:
1) "Weddings are all about the guests."
2) "The bride and groom have to spend a lot of money on their guests."
We clear? So here's what I AM saying:
A reception is a great opportunity for the bride and groom to thank their guests for their involvement in their lives by hosting a reception designed in part to pamper their guests.
Try not to think of the wedding in terms of money. Or heads in a banquet hall. Try to think of it in terms of an party with your dearest friends and family--even when price tags tempt you to think otherwise. You absolutely don't have to choose the most expensive food options or fancy dance-floor lights in order to communicate your sincerity, either.
When creating your budget, it's important to figure out what you and your fiance[e]'s priorities are. You each can list out your top five priorities, and then each come up with two ways through which you can treat your guests in a way that says "thank you" for their support and involvement in your lives. From there, compare lists and see where your priorities match. Try to consolidate both lists to one smaller one listing 5-6 of your top priorities, and do the same with your guest thank you list. The things on those lists are your big ticket items, and the things you choose to treat your guests with are where you can focus your attention without spending every penny you have.
For instance, instead of spending money on food, an expensive cake and dessert table, alcohol, a DJ, entertainment, and a massive dance floor setup, choosing to treat your guests mainly to a great dinner and a generous consumption bar will make for happy, comfortable guests. They won't mind a smaller cake and dance-floor as long as their bellies are well taken care of. HINT: drinks make for a cheerful crowd that will happily dance anywhere.
Obviously, there are other tough issues that come up with wedding planning that these three points don't cover. But these three suggestions do have the potential to minimize stress and drama during the planning process. By being ready to handle conflict, being focused on designing the wedding you want--regardless of what the magazines say,--and keeping your guests' happiness in mind, you'll be well on your way to planning a wedding that has something in it for everyone.