To say that I was waiting my whole life to plan a wedding is an understatement. I started my Pinterest board as soon as I received a beta invite way back in very early 2011, without a prospect of a ring. I frequently shopped for dresses and songs -- you know, to have some ideas on deck just in case I had to make quick decisions. I was so excited to get to make those bridal decisions some day.
Funny enough though, as soon as Mark put the ring on my finger and I needed to plan an actual wedding, I could have cared less. The idea of planning a wedding seemed like such a waste of time and energy and, most of all, money. I had daydreams of a small ceremony followed by bougie pizza and fancy champagne, but that wasn’t going to fly with our families (and I don’t think it was flying really high with Mark either). So I had to figure how to make a large wedding, with all of its daunting decisions, work for me.
We learned early on in our planning how wasteful the wedding industry could be. The average wedding creates 400 to 600 pounds of garbage. Just for one day! A wedding could also produce 66 tons of CO2, which is how much 4-5 people make in a year. That wasn’t going to fly for us.
Considering how we live day-to-day, we needed to make a commitment to a simple, practical, conscious wedding -- one that still felt traditional and made everyone happy. We decided on two principles: the wedding would be eco-friendly and budget conscious. Budget conscious sounds like a no-brainer, but believe me, it was a constant struggle to stay on track. Having these ideals helped us navigate decision-making, and even helped cut down on the decisions we had to make. It was a life saver.
Here’s how we stuck to those principles and planned a day that went off without a hitch.
/ Finding Our Mission Statement
It goes without saying that you should sit down right away with your new fiance to discuss the big picture; bonus points if you have this conversation before you get engaged. Mark and I only spoke about our wedding metaphorically before he popped the question -- we knew we wanted it to be near water -- so we went into the process with a pretty clean slate.
Once engaged, we needed to figure out the absolute basics. What did we want the day to feel like for us and our guests? What would be the mood and tone? Mood boards work, but we needed something a little more portable, so we decided on two words. Bohemian Elegance. (Clearly, I work in advertising.) This was the driving idea for our decisions, and it came in handy a lot.
For instance, when it came time to find complimentary yalmukas for our guests to wear during the ceremony, we had to pull out “Bohemian Elegance”. Hosts usually purchase satin yalmukas in bulk printed with their names and the wedding date. Not Bohemian, not the most elegant. So we broke modern tradition and found handmade yalmukas from Israel on eBay. Each one was different and so special. While they didn’t have our names in them, guests were sure to remember where they got them (and it was ok if they didn’t.)
/ Deciding Where We Weren’t Willing to Sacrifice
In addition to deciding on the tone of the wedding, we also talked about the elements of the day that were most important to the both of us. Figuring out what those details were upfront helped us decide later what could be cut, or at least deprioritized.
Our deal-breaker details were:
- Photography. We would budget around our dream photographers since having the most beautiful photos was so important to me.
- Suiting. Mark’s custom suit would get more wear aprés wedding than my white dress.
- Invitations. While an electronic invitation would have been more eco and budget friendly, there were some people on our guest list without email addresses. For real! Plus, I was so in love with the idea of designing a suite that our guests could hold in their hands to set the tone for our special day, weeks before they would attend. Reminder: I work in advertising.
/ Using Instagram to Shop for Vendors
Want to talk about the anxiety of being riddled with decisions? Try shopping for one photographer from a sea of talented candidates, a florist when you have little concept of what actually goes into their art, make-up artists when you only wear mascara, and a DJ you probably won’t hear until your actual wedding day. Naturally adverse to decision-making, I needed to sift through options in a way that was relaxing and not foreign to me.
So I started by following local photographers and wedding planners (although I had no intention of hiring one) to see which vendors they were tagging in their photos. From there I perused profiles like portfolios to see if they fit with my theme -- all in one place without having to jump from website to website. I went deep into the rabbit hole and ended up finding the perfect people to work with on our day.
/ Finding Vendors that Reflect Your Values
Once we found the vendors that fit our aesthetic, we still had to find people we actually wanted to work with. It was important for us to find people and companies that understood our vision so there would be less work and worry for us.
We held late night video chats with vendors to make sure they were cool people we would want to hang out with. It sounds picky, but communication is so important, and we all needed to jive.
We also looked for people who knew how to say no to us. For instance, while vetting my florist, I told her I wanted everything to be in season and local, followed by wanting greens on dinner tables, she told me that greens were impossible in Philadelphia in October. Do you know how many other florists told me that before this meeting? Zero. Either they weren’t listening to me (not cool) or they were just going to wait until I paid a deposit to manage my expectations (also, not cool.)
/ Setting a Strict Local & In-Season Policy
The decision to stay in-season and local was one that we knew would affect our carbon footprint, as well as the budget -- both in favorable ways.
To bring this to life, we found a florist with a local farm and told them, under no circumstances, should anything be ordered from out of town/state/country. People would be travelling to my wedding, not flowers. This meant I had to learn what those flowers were so we could adhere to the gorgeous color-story Mother Nature was providing.
This ideal also came to life in our menu. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost ten years so the traditional steak-chicken-fish menu wasn’t going to feel right. Plus, we took the above carbon footprint stat very seriously and decided we would offer lighter fare: a chicken dish, salmon, and a vegan quinoa cake with seasonal squash. Of which, I ate none.
/ Learning to Say No Thanks
In case you don’t know by now, I hate making decisions, so I’m all about reducing them where I can. “No thanks” came in handy when there was something offered to us that wasn’t necessary, like an expensive videographer or favors that people were probably going to throw away.
For areas where “No thanks” wasn’t an option, “You decide” was my new fave. Things like vases for table arrangements and cake flavors was a lot easier to pass off since we already trusted our vendors so much.
/ Live Happily Ever After
Be conscious at every point of planning that this is just one day. The success of this event has no bearing on the strength of your marriage.
And since it is just one day, enjoy it!