We’re planning a simple wedding. We are simple people, we live frugally and spend consciously — so a simple wedding totally fits with who we are. But, here’s the thing: Between the two of us, we carefully manage life-long illnesses, a building site, full-time jobs, and four children. So even a simple traditional wedding would push us beyond our physical and financial comfort zones.
We thought a simple wedding would be simple to organize. What we didn’t count on were other peoples’ expectations for our day, and the strength of the Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC) which constantly justifies their expectations.
Somehow, it is portrayed as perfectly normal to make huge exceptions for your wedding day, from going into debt to inviting too many people, to having melt-downs over canapés. Of the traditional wedding “must-haves,” we didn’t want most, don’t need many, and can’t have some. We said “no” over and over — feeling like rather fussy inconsiderate people (which we’re not at all usually!).
Why was our simple wedding planning snowballing into something we did not want? And worse still, why were we creating an event that would leave both of us exhausted, stressed, and likely to fall ill?
Because the WIC — or consumerism, as we like to call it — operates solely by making you think the things you want are things you actually need.
First, let’s talk about “need” for a second
In this day and age, hardly anyone needs to get married at all. But, if you’ve decided to go down that route, all you really need for a wedding is the right partner — and nothing else is more important than that. Everything else is optional.
Armed with that realization, we threw all our plans up in the air, put each other’s needs at the heart of wedding planning, and started again. It was an eye-opening exercise, but our wedding suddenly made sense again to us and to our friends and family, without offending anyone (yet!).
Here’s what we did…
Identify your main life needs as a couple
These will be present on all of your days, not just your wedding day. For us, our needs included:
- We need to support the children emotionally and financially
- We need quality time together away from the children and our work
- We need time to rest, or we become ill
- We need people more than we need things
- We each need space to be ourselves
Spend some time figuring out your main life needs, and then do not lose sight of these needs during wedding planning. See it as good practice for the big things you’ll face together in the future.
Grab some paper and fold it into these three columns:
- Wedding needs
- Things we can do
- Things others can do
Now, let's break down these three columns:
1. Specific wedding day needs
What do you need to happen so you can enjoy the day without worry? What do you fear might happen, and what is the need behind this? What can you not imagine your day without, and why is this? Once you’ve got them all, put them in order of priority. Ours boiled down to this:
- Everybody (including us) needs to feel comfortable and loved
- Everyone needs to have activities they can engage in at their level
- We need minimal fuss and wedding crap
- We need to have a few meaningful mementos of the day
2. List all the ways in which YOU can and want to meet each need
Nobody else should decide these things for you. You decide the venue, the guest list, the amount of DIY. Be realistic on how much you can do yourself without compromising your needs as a couple, and whether you’ll do these things together or separately. You’ll quickly realize that you’ll need that another column on the right…
3. List all the things OTHERS will have to do to help you meet that need
Here’s some of the ways we decided to meet our most important wedding day need “We need to be comfortable”: marrying at home, no disco, no speeches, clear evening cut-off point, close friends and family only, wearing comfortable clothes, comfort food buffet, short ceremony, lots of seating. Others will help us with the decorations, lifting heavy items, running errands and hair and make-up.
We noticed that many things overlapped — things that made us more comfortable would also make the guests more comfortable, and somehow all our plans just fell into place from there.
Allocate your energy, time and money to meet those specific wedding needs first
Time for the small stuff
Hand-drawn stationery? Owl ring bearer? Personalized dressing gowns for the bridal party? If you want them, have them. No shame for sweating the small stuff!
What’s happened since we’ve put our needs first
We’ve brought the whole wedding forward by a year. We’ve already got all our wedding needs covered, booked, and budgeted for. Discussions with friends and family have become much less confrontational. We no longer make excuses, because our wedding day choices stem from caring for each other.
Yes, I care more about my husband’s welfare than someone else's opinion of our wedding. That’s the way it should be and will always be.