Will you marry me?

If you’re one of the many couples still giddy from becoming newly engaged, congratulations! Are you already beginning to plan your wedding? Or are you a little befuddled as to how to even begin?

If so, you’re not alone. Many soon-to-be brides find planning their weddings downright mind-boggling at first, especially if they’ve never been a bridesmaid, or have never helped with a friend’s wedding. But really, all you need is some simple pointers to get you on the right path. In part one of this series, here are some preliminary planning tips to help you get started.

Before you begin . . .

If there’s one rule to follow before you begin your wedding planning, it’s this: A wedding is only one day; your marriage is a lifetime. Which will you be investing in?

It’s all too easy these days to lose track of the significance of getting married while media messages about what we should have at the ceremony compete for our attention. And keeping your attention on the bigger picture – the sacredness of marriage – can help guide your decisions. So, since your wedding is the celebration of your marriage union before God and your loved ones, ask yourselves, How can we best glorify God in our wedding? and How can we throw a great party for our families and friends?

How to get started

As with everything in life, if your goals and priorities are Christ-centred, you’ll have a steady compass to help guide your decision-making. To help get you started with the practical side of things, here are a few tips on the first wedding details to tackle, eight to 12 months before (based on a one-year engagement):

  • Discuss your wedding budget and hold your expectations loosely. Will either of your parents help financially, or will you fund the wedding independently? What can you afford while saving enough money to get by after the wedding? Do you plan to take a honeymoon?
  • Share your wedding expectations with each other. Discuss details such as the location, theme, formality, number of guests and time of day – but try to be flexible: Many couples clash when it comes to what they want for the wedding. Don’t let small details become bigger and more significant than they should be.
  • Select your wedding date and book your venues soon. Popular wedding dates usually fall in the summer and spring, meaning that you may have fewer venue choices during these seasons. If there’s a special place you want but find it already booked, consider choosing a fall or winter date for more chance of availability. Or, if you have a long engagement period, scope out your choices and book early. Venues, especially popular ones, get taken fast!
  • Create an initial guest list at a minimum. First, consider your budget. If you’re planning a sit-down dinner reception, remember that the more people you invite equals the more you will pay per head. Start with deciding who you must have at the wedding at a minimum: It’s easy to invite more guests later, but it’s harder to uninvite them!
  • Find pre-marital counsellors. Begin looking for the right couple to facilitate your marriage counselling so you have enough time to prepare for the most important part of your wedding – your marriage. Because wedding plans can consume so much time for a couple, many make the mistake of skipping pre-marital counselling. It is truly important for an engaged couple to focus on building a strong foundation for their future marriage.
  • Choose and book your officiant. Even if booking your own church pastor, be sure to request him or her well ahead of time in case they are on vacation or out of town on your wedding day. If you assume you pastor will be around (because they’re usually at church every weekend), you may end up with a beautiful venue and no one to marry you.
  • Gather information and referrals from recently married friends. Their experience and insight can be invaluable. They may even have leftover décor or other supplies you can borrow.
  • Obtain travel documents if travelling internationally. Many travel and identification documents can take an extended period of time to obtain: Passports, visas, birth certificates, marriage license.

Of course, this is just a starting point to help ease you into the planning process. But despite the many details that are soon to come, remember to keep in mind what matters most while planning your wedding: It’s just one day!

To read, "Wedding planning tips: Part two," click here.

Matthea Schumpelt was an associate editor at Focus on the Family Canada at the time of publication.

© 2009 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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