Where to start with wedding planning when you never dreamed about being a bride

Updated Dec 16 2019
Guest post by englishbride
A bright & lovely Islamic wedding in Mombasa, Kenya
WAIT I'M SUPPOSED TO PLAN WHAT NOW!? This baby's face says it all. Photo by Events By Merida from this wedding in Mombasa, Kenya

My boyfriend of six years popped the question at the Glastonbury Festival — caked in mud, me wearing purple wig from night before! (Although, as my friend pointed out, if he wanted me like that, it's probably a good sign.)

I went to an all-girls school and could never understand the girls who knew exactly what dress, flowers, rings, etc. that they wanted for their wedding and now only just needed to find a groom. I honestly had never really thought about what MY wedding would be like.

So, I thought I'd jot down a few pointers for those of you who, like me, don't have a scooby about this type of thing, but know that a meringue is not your cup of tea. Here are some things to think about first off:

1. Engagement rings

Ignore all the rubbish out there where, as soon as you say "engagement," the price is tripled. I ended up getting my ring at an antique jewelry site for a fraction of the price range I had to play with. Which, in turn, was a fraction of the apparent average. I recommend vintage and antique stores to find good deals on pretty rings. Or you could skip a ring completely. Plenty of folks do.

2. Start agreeing about what it is you both want

I sat down with my fiancé and we agreed on some of the things we want our wedding to be — eight in total, some of which are below. And while this is a nice thing to do, the next bit is sticking to it and making sure you don't get sidelined by anything along the way.

  • Simple, low key
  • No meringues (meaning massive dresses — pavlovas are of course allowed)
  • It's OUR day, not mine (i.e. no bridezillas here)

3. Personalization

My fiance loves his mountain biking, so we're looking at having bikes as our "theme." That way it's representative of us, and it's something he can get interested in. It gives us the license to truly re-think things — we're currently awaiting quotes for tandem hire as our wedding transport, and making decorated old junk bike wheels for a table planner. This made an easy theme for us, but I also love when people have no theme.

4. Don't fret, pet

There is shedloads of information out there, albeit ranging from pants to ridiculous, but plenty of it will fall in-between these categories and will be what you'll be looking for. Whether templates, time frames, things you never knew you had to do (applying for wedding papers three months beforehand — who would've thought?!), and lots of giveaways too from previous brides. Remember to refer back to item two when looking at this stuff — you can quite easily go cross eyed, but as with my motto for life "…on the grand scheme," this also applies here.

5. Dresses

Now I am having a bit of a 'mare trying to find a dress that isn't a meringue, or would require me selling a kidney. I'm looking for a shorter dress, partly as I'll be riding a bike, but also because golden rule #2, and I want to have a dress that I'll wear again. Not sure if the service will work for you in the US, but a great UK site is Style Shake where you can design your own/personalise from other people's designs. Pretty nifty, eh? Also department stores have some beautiful white dresses.

Beware doing an internet search containing the word "wedding," as you immediately seem to get meringues galore, and with ridiculous price tags for no apparent reason!

6. Family politics

Aaah, yes. Family drama. At some point, it is likely that politics will crop up, whether it's the fact you haven't asked your mum for help in picking the flowers, whether to seat the groom's mother with her ex-husband and new girlfriend, and why you're not inviting great-cousin Robert, four-times-removed. Or even disapproval of the marriage itself! But remember, this is an opportunity to test the waters on how you pull together when things are tough. I've said to my fiancé, if we can't get through some of the politics at the moment, we don't really stand a chance, as life is likely to throw up the occasional thing for us to deal with.

7. DUH: Use Offbeat Bride's tools!

Well yeah, duh. If you're reading this website, you probably already know about the amazing checklist, those useful spreadsheets, the list of wedding planning basis, and all the other Offbeat Bride wedding planning resources… but take it from me: they're actually really, really useful.

In summary, there is help out there, speak to your partner about things, and remember why you're doing this and what you both want. And do try to enjoy it!

  1. I REALLY COULDA used this early on! Now we're 15 days away and almost all details are finalized. I'm scared to read anything now for fear I might feel like I forgot something!

    • I'm 15 days away too! This post is pretty much my thought process going into planning, but it would have been way cool to know there were other brides who were anti-meringue, so to speak.

  2. Can I just marvel quickly about the nature of the interwebs? I went to check out this "Style Shake" to find that it's now closed. That quick.

  3. This article is timely. It's funny that I wanted to get married for sooo long but never put any thought beyond receiving a sparkly ring. I guess I sort of assumed I'd just elope!! But now that it's really happening I realize I can't miss out on a wedding with my closest family and friends. But now where to begin?! I guess with that list of of what we both want. And GO!

  4. Wonderful advice. If I may add one for those who want to get married but really don't care for weddings: Pull the word wedding out for a moment. Discuss with your intended what you think would be the most fun party you would love to throw for your closest friends and family (realistically speaking, of course). Once you think of it, then put the word wedding back in and incorporate your ceremony into that party. You'd be surprised at what fun and interesting ideas that may lead to!

  5. Love, love, love this!

    Even after I proposed to my Mr it didn't click that there would actually be a wedding…I kinda assumed we'd elope, but it didn't work out like that 😉

    A year and a half down the line, we're 8 days away from a wedding that's gonna be perfect for us as a couple. Win.

  6. You're so right about "engagement" and "wedding" rings (well, and wedding dresses too) – my fiance and I went to a jewelry store, the woman knew why we were there, and as I kept going back again and again to the beautiful sapphire solitaires, she looked more and more confused and kept directing me back to the diamond settings. Stone not included.

    I love my $250 ring. 🙂 (And my Goodwill dress!)

  7. Another tip: don't put too much pressure on yourself to be a certain kind of bride. That means not worrying too much about it if you realize you don't want a classic white fluffy wedding…and ALSO not worrying if you realize that's really what you want after all. I think a lot of the time we "never-though-I'd-be-doing-this" brides feel added pressure to be anti-traditional wedding, even if there are things about the traditional wedding that we secretly find appealing.

  8. So true! I am part way through and have found my feet a bit, what traditional bits I like, which ones I definitely don't and what bits I can work to make fit! Another place for rings is etsy, if you prefer crafty over antique. My ring was designed for me, with recycled silver and fair trade gems and I love it. You just need to get your finger sized…

  9. Ah! I wish this had existed before our wedding! 🙂 I know as soon as I started researching wedding related things I nearly keeled over from all the details you had to keep track of. Me and organization… well we do not cooperate well. I would really suggest making a notebook/binder/something like that to organize ideas that both you and FH can contribute to.

    FAMILY POLITICS BLOW CHUNKS BTW.

  10. #5 — I don't know if I'll ever get married; but if I do, I'm definitely NOT getting a "wedding" or "bridal" dress!

  11. How do you plan a wedding that is not at all the wedding you always envisioned?

    For me the most important thing is to have friends and family present – yet my fiancé is adamant about a destination wedding in Cuba. Which is great! But will definitely leave a lot of people out.

    I thought a BBQ back home would bring everyone together and those who couldn't make it – but will it feel real or fake?

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