Make it So—aka Planning vs Execution

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Almost all the guides out there start the countdown at 12 months. A couple will go so far as to mention 18 months out, but it’s pretty rare. So, if you’re settling in for a nice long engagement (18 months, 2 years, maybe 5 if you’re wanting to walk across that stage and get your PhD before walking down the aisle to get your MRS), can you really start planning that far out?

Yes and No

Yes, absolutely, you can start making lists and pulling together inspiration and maybe use this extended time frame to adopt some healthy habits or ditch some unhealthy ones, all in preparation for starting the next chapter of your life. Go for it!

But can you put down deposits and buy a dress 3 years out? You could, but I’d advise against it.

Things change over time–styles change, wants changes, trends come in and out of fashion–and putting down dollars sets things in stone. Or at least risks cancellation fees. I’m not overly worried about a trend going out of favor but still wanting to use it 2 years from now, but it’s worth a thought that a location you scout and reserve today might not even be in business 2 years from now! And with the economy still taking its time to bounce back, so many places close up shop or get new owners, it’s just not smart to pin your hopes on location A or Dress Z with so much lead time involved.

So what do you do in the mean time?

You plan.

But, wait, you just said we can’t plan because what it someone closes or someone else comes up with an idea we want to do instead and might have wasted our moneyandohmygodijustdon’tknowwhattothinkanymorewhere’sthechocolate?!

Shhh, shhh, there there now, it’s okay. I didn’t mean to confuse you.

The difference, to me at least, is that planning is dreaming and list-making and researching. The other stuff? The paying of deposits and signing of contracts? That’s the execution phase–aka the getting things done time.

I once read that planning a wedding of any scale or scope takes, on average, 20 hours a week during the first few months and then another 20-40 in the weeks closer to the actual event. That’s like a second job–no wonder you need a honeymoon afterwards!

But think about it: would you really want planning a wedding to be like ordering a fast food meal?

“Yes, I’ll take Rustic Wedding Combo 2, upsized, with a side of Cupcake in a Jar favors.”

“That’ll be $12,000, please pull up to the first window.”

If so? Head to Vegas, m’dear, where they really do have drive-thru chapels (though I can’t guarantee the cupcake favors).

For the rest of us, planning is the fun part, but it’s still a lot of work. And, if you’ve got the luxury of a long engagement, you can spread out those 20 hours/week into 2-3 hours per week for the next year without hitting overwhelm or running out of time.

Now, me, personally? I’m a dive in head first kinda girl and limiting myself to 2.5 hours of planning/research a week would be torture. I just love it too much to not think about it during every 3rd available moment. So that’s when scenarios and what-ifs come into play, so I can feel like I’m getting something done without actually committing too soon.

Of course, if you’ve been following along, you know we went ahead and booked our venue at 19 months out. Did some of those what-ifs cross my mind? Absolutely and then some! But, for me, the stress of not being able to make real plans and the limbo feeling we were in far outweighed the what-ifs.

Just make sure everything you talked about with your venue is in the contract and keep that contract in a safe place. If there’s a staff or policy change between now and then, verbal agreements aren’t going to hold up the way that contract will!

How far out did you start to put down deposits and made contract decisions?

Scenarios Abound

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
question mark made out of lavender, heart-shaped crystals

image via stock.xchng | photography by Cieleke

Where you’re staring down the barrel of a 2 year (or more!) engagement, it’s tough to make any absolute plans at the beginning. Not that that stops any of us from looking for inspiration, right? And as much as I love to fill in all those Who, What, When, and Where questions*, the big one is How.

The Who is easy: Bride & Groom. An officiant. Everyone else is technically optional, but we know it’s more than that; having an idea of the size of your guest list is a good idea right now, but the details aren’t absolutely necessary just yet.

The What? Simply put, a wedding. Another blank filled in. (Though if you have a theme or something, this would be a good place to put it.)

The When? With a long engagement, you almost have your pick of dates unless you’re in a major metro area where venues book up to 2 years in advance anyway. Still, have a goal date in mind and your first and second pick for time of day. When = done.

The Where could be broad–a city or country preference–or specific to a location. What I keep finding though, is that the where has a lot to do with the How.

I, at times, can be the most optimistic person on the planet. We all have those rather Pollyanna moments, I think, looking at a situation and thinking, ‘hmmm, I could make this work, it could fabulous!’ even if it’s not what I was really looking for.

Turns out, doing this with men is not such a great idea. Doing it with venues? Could be, indeed, fabulous!

Especially in the early stages of planning, it’s great to keep an open mind on the details but have some priorities. For instance, our priorities looked like this:

  1. Great food and drinks
  2. Pretty location that can do ceremony and reception
  3. Just the people we really want there

With those 3 things in mind, each location presented various opportunities.

A semi-local (within 30 minutes for most of us) event hall would give us plenty of space to have an outdoor ceremony with a seated supper complete with centerpieces and seating cards and twinkle-lights aplenty.

On the other hand, a set of lake houses we considered renting for the long weekend could become an extended, low-key affair where we could host our out of town guests for a couple of days and have more of a house-party style cocktail reception that lasts until the last one drops.

Finally, a local garden spot would give us an opportunity to do a whole-group processional and recessional, 2nd line-style, as we traveled from the pre-ceremony mix and mingle to the ceremony site and back for the swanky reception.

And each of these scenarios had a certain charm. Sure, there would be concessions made for one location over another, but looking at the day through rose-colored glasses meant I could envision the best possible outcome for each.

After checking out 4 locations, we still hadn’t decided on a where, which meant my How was still very much up in the air, too! And, oh, the possibilities are still swirling around my head.

Some things, however, are non-negotiable, no matter how tinted the glasses or bubbly the libation in your toasting flute. These stark realities include:

  • Capacity: If you’re preliminary guest list is 300, why are you even looking at a courtyard that will barely hold 50? On the other hand, a hall for 500 would feel very empty if you’re having an intimate wedding of 20.
  • Facilities: Renting or borrowing a house to have your way with makes for a lovely venue, but if you’ve only got 1 bathroom for 100 people, you’ll need to add the dreaded port-o-lets to avoid trouble. Not to mention what kind of kitchen facilities there might be and, oh yes, parking.
  • Budget: Yes, yes, I know it’s not a fun thought but if the venue you’re perusing is 90% of your budget, why torture yourself? Posted rates are not always carved in stone but there’s haggling for a discount and haggling for a hand-out. Let’s keep our dignity, here, shall we?

We went round and round but eventually settled on Honey Lake Plantation for all of the reasons in our original ‘pro’ column. For a while it and the Garden Center were running neck and neck, but when I started searching for caterers I found that it blew our budget all to hell over going with an all-in-one location. It also meant giving up my initial dream of a sunset ceremony followed by a tantalizing tapas reception in favor of a late-morning  ceremony followed by brunch. But we’re just as fond of breakfast any time of the day as we are of sampling lots of different foods, so it wasn’t too hard to get used to the idea.

After all, breakfast means bacon, right?

(*of course, the why is the simplest of all: because you love each other)

What came first for you, the where or the how?

Hills and Valleys

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

aka The Down Side to Being Prepared/Planning Ahead

Picture of 2 hills and the valley betweenIt doesn’t really matter what the situation is, at first your on an absolute high, on top of the mountain spinning like a deranged top, ideas flowing forth and just ready to burst.But you can’t spin forever.

At some point that initial high wears off and you slow down and you sit down and you wonder: now what?

Sometimes that low comes when you realize it’s time to buckle down and make those dreams happen, other times it’s frustration–like you’re waiting for Christmas to open the presents. You know it’s coming but it just won’t get here fast enough!

Todd and I had talked about it, we knew we were on the same page and he knew that I had a timeline in mind that was still quite a ways out, so no pressure to take that next step and officially become engaged. The only thing was I was on that mountain-top, spinning with ideas and plans and possibilities, but not able to shout and share the happiness.

Because we had agreed that we weren’t telling folks until we were officially engaged. And it was a good choice: it gave us time to get comfortable with the idea before going public. It made sense. But it also left me in limbo.

I find myself, often, somewhere between a methodical researcher/planner and a spontaneous decision-maker. Many times in my life it’s a now-or-never sort of thing (a haircut, a hair color, a shoe or dress buying impulse, registering yet another domain name) that finds me spending money at 2 a.m. and, generally, still liking it the next morning. But that’s when it’s just me.

When someone else is involved, I’m torn between pushing and asking and wanting until I get my way and being polite and non-threatening. The latter is how I really want to be–honest!–but the former is the impulse that I have to fight to be the better person.

So while I might pick up a copy of Brides magazine and tab pages for future reference or mention something I found that day as a fun project for the future nuptials, my fervor for planning had flagged.

And it was all about the what-ifs:

  • What if he’s not as into the idea as he originally thought he was?
  • What if he changes his mind?
  • What if he waits 6 months, 9 months or even–heaven forbid!–a year to pop the question?!

These were the thoughts swirling around my head right around summer. Yes, waiting was slow torture, like the aforementioned Christmas morning when you’re not allowed to go into the living room and open presents until the grown-ups get up, you have to content yourself with just your stocking goodies. And eventually I broached the subject with Todd and he assured me it was coming–by the end of the year, but I probably wouldn’t have to wait until Christmas.

Turns out, I didn’t have to wait even that long.

Pretty Book and Flower Icon

Did you know the proposal was coming?
Did it drive you crazy with anticipation or was it just me?