Planning Your Wedding

See also: Making Joint Decisions

Planning and delivering your wedding might be likened to running a major project in business. There are a lot of people involved, including you and your partner, both families and your friends, and any professionals engaged to take part in the day such as a minister or other religious leader, caterers, musicians and photographers.

This will lead to a lot of expectations to be managed, including your own. There is also an unbreakable deadline.

This is likely to lead to a stressful situation unless carefully managed. Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to reduce your stress, and this page explains some of these.

Starting Your Planning

It is conventional to wait until you and your partner have agreed to get married before you start planning your wedding.

The reason for this is simple: this ceremony, whether simple or elaborate, is the start of your married life together. You are, in most cultures, making a commitment to live and function together for the rest of your lives. It is not a great template to start it by doing all the planning yourself, and presenting your other half with a fait accompli.

You are entering a formal partnership. At least start it the right way by working together.

Taking the lead?

There may be cultural or personal expectations that ‘he’ must do the asking. This is breaking down somewhat as we start to recognise that partnership is just that, and also as same-sex marriage becomes more accepted in many parts of the world.

If you want to get married to your partner, it may be worth starting that conversation and not waiting for him or her to do so.

If you find this difficult, head over to our page on Challenging Conversations with Your Partner for some tips.

Negotiating and Decision-Making

Planning your wedding is actually a very good start to your married life, because it requires you to negotiate and make decisions together.

You will, almost inevitably, both have ideas about how you would like your wedding to be. These ideas may or may not be the same, or even complementary. One of you may want a huge, lavish wedding, going on for days, and the other may fancy a quiet ceremony involving just the two of you and a couple of witnesses brought in off the street.

Others, including your family and friends, may also have expectations that you need to acknowledge, and decide whether to accommodate.

Your first step is therefore to decide together what you want to do.

This is challenging because, especially if you have NOT lived together before marriage, you may be used to being able to make your own decisions. Having to compromise is tough, especially if you are not used to it.

The key is to understand what is really important to you, and to your partner, and build on that.

Old-style negotiation would have said that you should work out where you are absolutely not prepared to compromise, and where you can give something up, and then find a middle ground. In effect, one of you gives something up for the other.

New thinking on negotiation suggests that sharing information much more fully—for example, about why you have always thought something was important—may lead to you being able to build something even better together: win–win, rather than win–lose.

There is more about this in our pages on Negotiation.

Making decisions together for the first time can also be challenging, especially if you use different foundations—for example, if one of you likes a logical approach, and the other is relies heavily on instinct. You may find it helpful to read our pages on Decision-Making, and perhaps agree to try a decision-making framework to help you work together.

A Learning Process

The understanding that you gain from each other by working together to plan your wedding, even if you do not actually do much of the work yourselves, will stand you in very good stead over the years. This is particularly true of learning to compromise and understanding each other’s values.

You may already have lived together for many years, or your relationship may be fairly new, but you will still learn about each other going through this process.

Planning and Delivering

Your approach to planning and managing your wedding—like all projects—is likely to be very personal.

Some couples will only be happy with a huge spreadsheet setting out every last decision to be made and jobs to be done. Others will be perfectly content with a scrappy little list with a few ideas, or even just a discussion and a few phone calls to engage suitable assistance.

It will also depend heavily on the size and nature of your wedding: a small, informal event will need less planning than a wedding involving 300 guests.

Whatever your approach, you may find our pages on Project Planning, Project Management, and Action Planning helpful.

Guide to Personal and Romantic Relationships

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide Personal and Romantic Relationships

Personal and romantic relationships can be difficult to navigate.

Even those who are highly skilled at personal interactions at work can struggle to translate these skills to their home environment. This book is designed to help you do just that: to take your existing interpersonal skills, understand them better, and use them effectively in your personal relationships.

Managing Relationships during the Process

It would be unrealistic to discuss the process of wedding planning without touching on managing relationships. This applies partly to the relationship between the two of you—though hopefully by now you are on a strong enough footing to discuss any issues—but also with other people.

These include, for example:

  • Both sets of parents, whose expectations about their role in the ceremony and in your lives more generally may need to be carefully managed.

  • Any children that either of you may have, either together or with different partners. Their expectations of the day may be quite different from yours, and will also need careful handling.

  • Wider family and friends, whom you may, for example, ask to act as groomsmen or bridesmaids, and/or whom you may or may not choose to invite. There are a multitude of challenges to negotiate here, from whether you can ask them for significant amounts of help leading up to the ceremony or on the day, to whether they can bring a partner and/or their children, to whom to invite and involve in the first place.

  • Professionals whom you engage to support you on the day or beforehand, and how you set expectations with them.

There are very few hard-and-fast rules to guide you, so the key is to do what feels right to you, and use your judgement about who needs additional explanations and/or accommodation.

Our page on Managing Wider Family Relationships may be helpful here.

A word of warning!

Whatever you do is unlikely to please everyone.

Managing relationships as you plan a wedding will need strong communication skills, and particularly an ability to stand firm and be assertive about what you want. It is, after all, your day, and it needs to reflect that.

A foundation for married life

What you do during your wedding planning period, and how you work together, will set the tone for your married life. It is therefore advisable to start off as you mean to go on, and hopefully work together in partnership. Two heads are, generally, better than one.