Cake tasting and spitballing: 6 tips for planning a wedding TOGETHER

March 28 2016 | Guest post by Jen Barr
NYEwedding72
Photo by Wild About You Photography

“Why are all of these websites geared towards brides?” My fiancé bemoans, throwing his hands up in the air. “Seriously — all of them.”

He’s right, for the most part. The titles or graphic layouts of most of the wedding websites seem to assume that the bride is doing all of this planning by herself, or maybe a bunch of her female friends or relatives. One checklist I found suggested that a great way to get the fiancé involved with the planning is to take him cake tasting — as if he wasn’t involved with any of the rest of it!

My fiancé and I decided to plan our wedding together. Our relationship has been a partnership, and we plan for our marriage to be a partnership; foisting the work on me for the wedding planning is out of sync with our relationship values.

As much as we try to make the planning process a partnership, though, it’s often been a struggle and feels like swimming uphill against our own and others’ expectations. When we went cake tasting, the wonderful woman who was working with us expressed her surprise that the groom was there. When we went to a venue, the coordinator spoke to me only and generally pretended my fiancé wasn’t there.

As we’ve been working through this whole process, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a couple. While the amount of talking can get exhausting, we’re committed to doing this together. As we continue the planning process, we’ll take some of the lessons we’ve learned so far and apply them forward:

1. Don’t assume things about each other’s expectations

Engaged couples tend to think they know their partner’s tastes and desires quite well, especially if they’ve been living together for a while. But my fiancé and I have found that we are continually being surprised. My fiancé was surprised by the fact that in spite of the fact I have a degree in writing, I really didn’t want to write my own vows (way too much pressure for me, thanks). I was surprised that my generally casual fiancé really wanted to wear a three-piece suit for the wedding. Talk through everything. Go through checklists, and express your general visions or thoughts on each of the topics before getting too attached to any one idea.

2. Talk about your emotions about planning

I think that wedding planning is kind of fun. But when I think about setting the date (which requires me to figure out when I’ll finish my dissertation), I get panicked. For my fiancé, talking about wedding planning brings up some family feelings that he’s working through. Knowing these kinds of things about each other changes how and when we talk about planning. Make sure you talk about your feelings about the wedding and wedding planning as separate than your feelings about getting married.

3. Understand your respective planning styles, and work around them

Planning a wedding is more like a work project than a personal one, and many couples have never worked on a big project together before. I’m a writer/anthropologist with a creative bent; my fiancé is an engineer with the Army. We approach things very differently. In the early stages of planning, I would just be spitballing ideas at random times, which would drive him nuts, since he wanted to proceed in a more logical, ordered way. We’ve come to fuse the styles, setting aside time to spitball, then making a logical plan from there. It’s made both of us happier.

4. If something doesn’t work for one of you, it doesn’t work for both of you

This will be an important day for both of us. If there is something that your partner really doesn’t like, then find an alternative. We looked at one venue that I found absolutely charming and perfect; my fiancé thought it was junky. I had to let that place go; it was more important to me that we both enjoy our day and that it was a day about both of us than it was for me to get married at that one venue.

5. Use pictures

“I’d like the tablecloths to, be like… um…” He waves his hands in the air.
“Like what?”
“Like…” More hand gestures.
“Here,” I said, shoving my laptop at him. “Google it.”

After a few minutes, he came up with a picture that approximated what he was trying to say. It was charming, and not the weird thing I had been envisioning from his less-than-stellar description. While talking through your ideas is important, a picture is worth a thousand words. Having visual aids prevents one person’s ideas from being shot down before the other person actually understands them.

6. It won’t always be even all the time

I’m waiting for a research visa to come through, so my work time is pretty flexible. My fiancé, on the other hand, has an 8-5 job. Right now, I’m doing more of the wedding work. However, when I start my research, he’ll be the one calling all of the vendors. Trade-offs are going to be a part of the process. I just have to be careful that I don’t take on so much extra work that I get bitter, because society tells me that I should be doing more of the planning work.

Overall, planning a wedding together can be a fun and rewarding process. Try not to lose sight of that while arguing over the color of the cummerbunds.

  1. I happened to be out of town the weekend of the local, annual wedding expo, so me fiancé went by himself. Some vendors treated him very well, and others ignored him altogether. Which narrowed down our choices quite a bit!

  2. #4! So #4!
    We had a "rule" that if there was something one of us absolutely didn't want, then we didn't have it. But, that rule can't be hard and fast because there were things one of us didn't want that the other did. Example, I did not want a bouquet / garter toss or dollar dance. He did. The compromise was a joint toss where we tricked our guests and threw helium balloons that they couldn't catch, and a joint dollar dance where guests danced with both of us in turn, not just me.

  3. It seems crazy that the groom-to-be wouldn't go to a cake tasting! My fiancé has been involved in everything, basically I do the research (because I love to research basically everything and he doesn't), get some shortlisted results and talk them over til we agree on one. Couldn't imagine planning a wedding without his involvement.

  4. Good advice! This is so tough! We struggled because my husband didn't want ANY hype. He wanted to elope. I wanted medium hype. So the fact that we even had a wedding was his first major compromise. Then I felt like he dragged his feet on everything.

    I'll admit, it was hard for me to stay mature. Once, in a really, really, really bad moment, I blurted out at him, "The worst part of wedding planning has been YOU!!" (I would not recommend stooping to that level!)

    But in the end, compromise after compromise, we ended up with a really, really fun wedding that made both of us feel comfortable. AND we didn't break the bank, which was super important. I had to admit that he kept me grounded, and he had to admit that I can host a fun party after all! 🙂

  5. This post has so much great advice. All of these points have applied to us so far over the course of our wedding planning, though in different ways. E.g. my fiancé is job hunting at the moment, which in academia is pretty much a second full-time job what with interviews, grant applications and so on, so a lot of the organising is on me. But I make sure we take all the important decisions together, and then I make sure it gets done. And he does the stuff I can't do, like photoshopping stuff for our stationary.

    Also: what the hell is up with the idea that only the bride cares about flowers, cake etc.? We got an offer from a florist which said something to the effect of "all designs can be adapted to the bride's wishes"… WTF?! My fiancé is way more opinionated about flowers than I am, but apparently he's not entitled to an opinion on this particular matter.

  6. I wanted to elope. He wants a wedding. I am helping him when I can, but I am going to school full time, directing two shows, and working 20 hours every week. My wonderful wonderful husband-to-be is doing so much for our wedding.

  7. Pro-tip:
    When first contacting vendors (usually by email) if I was the one making contact first, I would make sure to cc my fiance and request that he be cc'd in future correspondence as we are planning this together. He did the same if he was the initial contact. Most vendors followed my instructions and responded well to that, addressing us both in their emails (Dear My Name and His Name…) etc. It was also a good way to tell who was paying attention- especially when I would fill it into a web form with my request to include him typed in their comments box. I also consciously stuck to "we" and "our wedding" phrasing, not "my", just to reinforce the message consistently that we're in this together, even when my natural writing style would have included both singulars and plurals.

    I haven't really had anyone be surprised that he was involved or treat him as lesser, probably because I opened with such clear expectations.

    It also made passing the torch back and forth on particular projects easier, since we'd both have all the relevant info in our inboxes to look up later, not just one or the other.

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