11/18 Real Bride Elissa: Putting Together the Wedding Puzzle

Real Bride Elissa: Putting Together the Wedding Puzzle

Love must be in the air: Between my graduate school cohort, the assistant lecturers with whom I share an office, and my Facebook news feed, I think I’ve seen about 10 engagements, six weddings, three babies, and one vow renewal in the last month alone. All this love and excitement lately has me feeling a little nostalgic; as a person who had a Pinterest board full of ideas (and even a Save the Date design) well before my actual engagement, I thought I was ready. to. go. once I had that ring on my finger. Even at the fancy dinner my brand new fiancé treated me to the evening after our engagement, visions of cake tasting and sunset ceremonies were dancing through my head. I couldn’t even look at the menu, I was so wrapped up in potential dates and venues. “Babe,” I remember him saying, as he stretched his hand across the table to hold mine, “we’ve got plenty of time for that. Let’s focus on how amazing our lives are right NOW.”

The day after that, we had brunch with some recently married friends. After the ooh-ing and aww-ing over our engagement story, the first thing out of their mouths was this: “Just take some time and BE ENGAGED. Don’t even start thinking about the wedding for at least a few more weeks.” If I hadn’t heard it the first time, it definitely sunk in the second. For the next few weeks, anytime someone pried me for details about the wedding, I’d tell them that “Your guess is as good as mine! Right now we’re just enjoying this time.” Though a few people looked surprised, most agreed that was wise.

I didn’t realize how much I’d appreciate that advice until I officially got started with planning. I got overwhelmed pretty quickly; I didn’t have specifics in mind, and was just reaching out willy-nilly to venues and vendors I liked, with basic questions like “How much for a wedding sometime in May?” I think I got on the bad side of one caterer, as I didn’t have a solid date, didn’t have a number of guests, and hadn’t a clue what I wanted on the menu. Each email response got further and further apart, and eventually he just stopped answering my questions altogether. The first few venues I emailed astounded me with their price quotes, to where I was convinced that a big-city venue could not be had for under $5,000. That led to a lot of stress about my budget, until I realized that while I had a decent strategy in collecting quotes from a variety of vendors, I was thinking about it all wrong. Even if a place or vendor seemed a little out of reach, it was worth at least checking their price and availability; once I knew what I could get for $5k, I’d see what I could get for $4k, and then $3k, and then $2k, etc. When my results stopped coming anywhere close to my vision, I knew I had established my range and could really focus my search. I wouldn’t have appreciated how amazing my final choices were if I hadn’t done so much research (and gone through so many letdowns in the process).

I started researching in the spring of 2014. Since it had to be a summer wedding due to my school schedule, many venues were already booked up through Fall 2015, on top of the crazy prices! Once I actually started finding vendors I liked, I quickly realized that the venue was the linchpin of all my planning — the style of the venue would influence my dress, the decorations, the theme of the paper goods, even the meal. And once we found our perfect venue, it even changed our wedding date, based upon its availability. Once we had that though, everything else fell into place. I now had a base for my budget, I was able to narrow down vendors within a certain mile radius of the venue, and could easily envision the style and mood I wanted my wedding to have. And surprise, I didn’t end up using a single idea I’d pinned to my wedding board before I got engaged. Now that I had my fiancé’s input and started thinking in real numbers, in real time, my REAL wedding took on a whole new life.

So now that I’m one of those recently married people, if I had to give my own advice to the newly-engaged, it would be this:

  • Don’t start planning your wedding right away. Take a week, take a month, take six! Talk about how excited you are spend your lives together, not about how you’re going to spend one particular day. Enjoy this warm, fuzzy feeling, all of the good wishes, and some free dessert when you go out to dinner (photo evidence below).
  • When you do get going, quotes are your friend. No one is judging you if you ask for a quote. Even if you don’t have any information at all yet, pick a few reasonable dates and numbers and see what you’re dealing with (and then thank the vendor for their time). Reach out to anyone and everything that tickles your fancy, and even some that don’t for comparison. Once you have a basic idea of what things are going to cost, start putting together the puzzle pieces until you find a combination that fits. And just like you start puzzles with the corners, officially begin your wedding puzzle by locking in that venue.
  • And finally, don’t get wrapped up in the wedding you thought you were going to have! Especially if that wedding came entirely from pictures you’ve seen on social media and wedding blogs. Together with your fiance, pick a few key priorities (e.g. photography, food, wine), then let your wedding grow organically from your everyday passions, and even the reality checks you encounter along the way. My mantra is “Everything happens for a reason,” and this was never proved to me more than during wedding planning.
Elissa Stooker
Elissa is currently trying to figure out what possessed her to go back to grad school, all while working full-time as a college advisor and planning her totally awesome garden wedding. Blogging for The Broke-Ass Bride is her much-needed break from writing papers about communication theory! A Southern transplant to the West Coast, her favorite things in life include Mexican food, useless trivia, and her snaggle-toothed rescue dog, Pickles. If you like pictures of flowers and puppies, follow her on Instagram at @socalliss, and on Pinterest at socalliss for all things wedding.