Photos courtesy of the great Michelle McCreary and Brittany Wolf Hilgermeier

A year ago we found ourselves deep in wedding planning.  The memories make me smile.    Our beautiful wedding was joyous.  It was memorable.  It was perfect. It was imperfect.  We prayed our way through it.  My daughter was crazy trying to finish her last semester of college (with a double major) in Texas and graduated the week before the wedding date.  My new son-in-law was stationed in Hawaii with the Army.   My daughter was packing  to move to Hawaii,  and after a honeymoon in Europe they were going straight there.  We live in Utah.  Yeah, no stress there at all.  Perhaps the title of this post should be “How to Plan a Wedding from Three States”.

We focused on simple.  And in the end, because of our ridiculous logistics,  all of us thought long and hard about what details were really important in planning this wedding.

 I’ve always said, “It’s a shame a marriage has to begin with a wedding.”

 Starry eyed newlyweds-to-be, as a rule, tend to hyperfocus on the whole ‘wedding ordeal’.  Everyone is excited. Families, too, have different ideas and may put pressure the bride and groom to shape the event to their own wishes.  A big wedding can quickly become stressful and phony and (but hopefully not) disappointing. I remember my own wedding and my difficulty as the bride to meet everyone’s expectations.

Today, (thank you Lord!) most weddings are not quite as formal as the ones I grew up with.  This is a good thing. Yet, there is the same emphasis on what attire, what flowers will be where, and what food will be served, and this is all after choosing the wedding party initially.

Luckily, a newlywed couple does not have the responsibility of dressing a bridal party and a wedding venue on a daily basis in an everyday world.  This whole endeavor is just a facade.  It isn’t real life.  If we allow the mountainous tasks of planning to steal our joy, it absolutely will.

How can we as parents prevent needless stress and aggravation from the wedding process?  How can we get them to see past a wedding day, to life together, during this whole wedding planning process?

Prayer = Priority #1

 Somehow when the ring goes on, the joyful circus begins and Jesus gets shoved to the back seat.  A girl of any age dreams big about her wedding. Somehow when the engagement happens we girls are suddenly entitled to talk openly about wedding dreams, with anyone and everyone.  I did.  We all do.

The parents can gently lead here and focus instead on this upcoming marriage, what happens the day after the vows.   The bride and groom should set out in prayer, both together and with their parents.  Moms and Dads know what is about to happen, the stress and chaos that erupts when a big event is orchestrated.  The bride and groom really do not.  We as parents can set the tone here and make or break this day for our kids.

 We prayed for smooth transitions.  We prayed for creative problem solving.  We prayed for a sense of teamwork between the happy couple themselves. Prayer should always be our first instinct.  In lots of ways, the stress of a wedding is a good lesson for a bride and groom on how to give our decisions over completely to Jesus.  The new couple is suddenly tasked with making decisions about a project that they don’t know anything about.  Welcome to life. Isn’t that basically what we do everyday? Though this project is, in some ways, not representative of real life, in lots of ways the way we solve problems and need help overcoming obstacles is just the same.  With Jesus and teamwork.

Give the Happy Couple Time to Plan Alone

I would encourage the bride and groom to talk extensively about their dreams for their wedding.  And mostly here I mean the bride.  She needs to be honest about what her dream wedding looks like in her head.  Spill it all.  My advice to the groom:  just listen and understand how important this day is to your bride. Don’t dash all her dreamy ideas initially, or laugh if they seem outlandish. Chances are she knows unusual plans may not come to fruition.

 These initial talks are perhaps the first ones in nitty-gritty planning a new couple’s life together. Lots of emotions and ideas will surface, and most likely they are not identical.  Mom and Dad are still in the background at this point.  Let the couple mesh for a while, Mom and Dad.  Let them jive as a couple.  Bride and Groom: Map out a rough plan about what you BOTH might like for the big day BEFORE you go to Moms and Dads to discuss finances.  Do you want a full meal at the reception?  Do you want roses or daisies?  Do you want to sail away on a cruise for a honeymoon?  The couple here will discover that what may be important to one may not be important to the other.  Welcome to marriage.  Welcome to the land of compromise.

Tip for Grooms:  Be patient.  Be patient. And then be patient.   This is a fairytale day for your girl, second only to finding you.  Let her dream.  Be her teammate.  Join in the fun with planning.

Tip for Brides:  Be patient.  Your boy has not grown up dreaming of a wedding day like you have.  Odds are, he won’t really care too much about place settings at the reception. Or bridesmaids’ dresses.  But he longs for this day just as you do.

Parents:  Set a Budget

We have adult children now who are old enough and mature enough to enter into marriage.  They should be mature enough to enter into a budget as well.  All of life revolves around budgets.  A wedding is no different.  Parents can help find vendors and venues to make the magical day happen, without taking over any decision making.

If parents are willing to help fund the event, one idea is to just deposit the wedding funds into a wedding account and let the couple spend or not spend what they wish. Obviously anything left over would be theirs.  Really, the goal is to aid their thinking and teamwork as a couple.  How to spend what they’ve been given will be theirs alone, instead of continually looking to Mom and Dad for help. They will also be forced to prioritize what is important, and compromise with each other as well.

Words in Counseling are Important

Do premarital counseling with a pastor.  Period.  Do not pass GO without making this a priority.  Do not skip this step!  Parents, encourage the couple to do this.  Couple:  Do the homework that goes with it.

 Don’t get caught up in the magic of a wedding day that you pass over planning for a marriage.  

Plan for the MARRIAGE.  Counseling allows and encourages topics, that may initially seem silly, to surface and be seen as important. You will talk about ‘normalities’ within respective families and begin to see your own family history from a more objective viewpoint.  Being able to laugh at both of your families is a big step to meshing your hearts together.  DO premarital counseling.  That is all.

Words in the Ceremony are Important

How many weddings have I been a part of where at some point, usually on the way to the rehearsal, someone says, “We need to write some vows!”?  Uh, what?  You are making the biggest commitment of your life in front of God and everyone that is important to you!  Why are the vows an afterthought?

 In 10 years you may not remember the songs that you had in the ceremony or reception, but the words that are spoken in the ceremony are important.  They are a covenant with each other, and with God.  Your pastor can help you here. He will most likely know you well (after you’ve been through counseling with him) and will craft his words to your wishes.  The greater your relationship with him, the more memorable the ceremony will be.

Your vows to each other are VOWS to EACH OTHER.  Ask GOD to help you see the gravity of your words, and give you wisdom to develop the right ones.  That mean something.  You don’t have to write them yourselves, your pastor can help.

Don’t Kill Yourselves on Details that Mean Nothing

Don’t have every single aspect of your ceremony and reception heavy on details.  Pick one or two, and make them the ones that mean something to one or both of you.

 Simple is the new elegant.

 Does every tablecloth and/or napkin need lace sewn around the edges?  If that is important to you, then by all means sew the lace.  But if maybe you just saw it in a random picture on Pinterest and could spend the time doing something else, then let it go. Most of the details that you are obsessing over will not be noticed by the wedding guest.   Here’s a tip:  lighting makes anything look elegant.  Hanging lights, candles, twinkle lights.

Get Help and Let it Go

This goes for everyone, parents and the bride and groom.  Delegate, delegate, delegate.  Honestly, I tried to do too much myself, as mama of the bride, especially the actual wedding day.  Whether you have a caterer, or some good friends helping decorate, just delegate everything.

 The wedding day gets crazy, and that is the understatement of the year.

Find vendors or friends who share your vision, and let them carry it out.  Our friends and family all pitched in on the big day, both before and after the event.  They were happy to do it. Don’t deny them the blessing of blessing you!  Perhaps you will get to return the favor when they have weddings to plan.

This is true for a marriage as well.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Nix the pride and find your tribe.  We are not meant to journey through life alone.  In fact, Jesus tells to find a church community.  We need each other. As a newlywed couple it is so important to get into a church and surround yourselves with like minded souls.

Give Up on Perfection

The day has finally arrived.  All of your people, the ones who you love and love you, are rounded up from all over.

 The MOST important advice for the big day:  let go of perfection.  Let joy take its place.

 Things will go wrong.  Music may not start from the sound system.  It may rain.  Someone may forget to pick up the tablecloths (yep this was me).

AND interestingly, this one statement is also the MOST important advice for a marriage:  Give up on perfection.  Marriage is simply a union of two sinful people who are willing to forgive, over and over.  Find the joy in the imperfection.  Actually, that’s where the joy lives anyway.

A wedding can be a wonderful beginning to a beautiful marriage.  It melds and merges and meshes two hearts and minds and wills.  The planning process brings out the best and worst in a couple, just like marriage itself.  Obstacles are simply times to go to Jesus for help.  He is the Creator and the Author of Creativity.  He gives wisdom freely and provides out-of-the-box thinking if we go to Him.  Establishing this foundational habit is perhaps the MOST important part of planning for a beautiful marriage, by way of a beautiful wedding.