A reader writes:
"Yes, I'm a woman (gasp!) and you didn't scare me away. Nice try.
"It's like this: Neither my fiance or myself really care about the wedding or wedding planning. We both care about marrying each other and that's it. I know I want some kind of wedding, but planning is like pulling teeth. I don't give a fu#k what kind of flowers are in my bridesmaids' bouquets and 80% of me wishes I could just wear jeans.
"Problem: Both of our families are INSISTENT that we have a "real wedding". His grandmother would most likely have a heart attack if we didn't (his father eloped... twice). I like the woman. She's cool. I don't want her to die. We're going traditional on payment (wedding - my parents, booze and rehearsal dinner - his parents), but yeah, both families are insisting on a "real" wedding, and my parents honestly aren't that thrilled about the marriage to begin with.
"I love my family, I love his family, I don't want to piss any of them off, or break ties, or kill his grandma. So, what do we do? Hire a wedding planner (ack!)? Turn one of my girl (or gay) friends lose on the planning and just police them? HELP! How do I plan so huge-ass girly event that I don't want to plan?!?!
"P.S. He's also military, so we're trying to make plans and discuss from across an ocean, which is a pain in the ass."
First off: your dude's a lucky guy. This is one of the best emails we've received, male or female. And here's the good news. You can plan your wedding in 40 hours, tops. Easy. Just follow these 10 rules:
1. Understand what wastes time.
It's not the time you spend licking envelopes. It's not the time you spend tasting cakes. In fact, the actual time doing real things is usually quite minor. What wastes time? Agonizing over decisions. Second-guessing and quintuple-guessing and wanting to see more options, always more more more. Hmmm, on second thought, maybe we need a third entrée? Why don't we get your mom's thoughts on that bouquet? Instead of exploring an infinite array of possibilities, keep things ruthlessly simple, trust your gut, and that's that. Channel your inner-Malcolm Gladwell and "Blink."
2. Defer to the caterer.
Most caterers will offer you the world. Tell her you don't care. Essentially say, "Look, we have X people, and I'm writing a check for $Y. I need it to look decent, I need a full meal, I need a champagne toast, and I need an open bar. I want to see your plan before it's finalized, but don't involve me in the details. Thanks." Done and done.
3. Eliminate options.
As we've pointed out before, sites like TheKnot literally have features on 900 Different Table Decorations. Junk like this is what gobbles up time. Brides can fritter away an afternoon clicking through option after option, evaluating, ranking, swapping links with friends. If you're planning your perfect wedding, maybe you need to do this. If you're planning an okay-enough wedding, you don't need to do this. Simply point at the first one that meets your budget and isn't busted-ass-ugly.
4. Get a book.
We know. It's counter-intuitive. You're trying to save time, so why in holy hell would you read a book? Here's the weird thing. Most wedding websites, paradoxically, take longer to process and comprehend. They're constantly pumping new "fresh!" articles and trends and nuggets of news, so in all the blinking links, it's awful hard to find out the basic stuff that you need to do. All your absolute MUST DO items can be more easily skimmed in a book, and this way you won't get distracted by all the promotions, links, ads, and trends. (Note: Yes, we are masochistic. We are a wedding-industry website that just made a forceful argument against using wedding websites. Told you we gave it to you straight.)
5. Treat it like a race.
If you and your partner truly see eye-to-eye on this, you will actually have fun with it. Laugh together as you bombard the cake baker and see how fast you can get out of there. There are worse errands.
6. Know your budget.
Go top-down. Decide that you have X thousand dollars to spend on your wedding, and then use one of those online calculators to figure out how much, roughly, you should spend for each category. (We're fond of the online tool at Wedsnap.) This gives you confidence that you only have $300 to spend on a wedding cake, for example, and not a nickel more. When you know you have $300--and you're not freaking out about the details--it's a snap.
7. Give yourself an hour a week.
And that's it. Or maybe during the crunch of the planning, you go two weeks. It's amazing what you can accomplish in an hour. Just look at Jack Bauer. If you and your partner sit down for 60 minutes and go through all the junk you need to decide--read some brochures, email vendors, whatever--you will knock out the critical tasks. And then for the rest of the week do nothing. Thematically, this is what a lot of those time-management gurus recommend for email: that instead of checking email all the time, you pop in once in a while and knock out chunks of messages. Take that philosophy and push it to its limits.
8. Trust the florist.
And the photographer. And the officiant. They're pros. Wedding planning takes forever when you have a very, very specific vision of what you want, and you second-guess every vendor. Let them do their jobs. On the other hand, this does require that you follow the next step, too:
9. Vet the vendors.
Think of yourself as a good delegator, not a micro-manager. Of course, just like in business, this requires that the "delegatee" have a certain stock of competence. Invest your time upfront--in finding the vendor in the first place--instead of frequent follow-ups. Lean hard on referrals. Talk to your friends who have been down this road before. Unapologetically plunder their contact-lists. Why reinvent the wheel?
10. Think about a [yes, really] wedding planner.
The trick is finding the right kind. Often, wedding planners are trained to give you lots and lots of options, which can add more stress and meetings and the feeling of this-shit-never-ends. BUT. If you find someone who's down to earth (again, use referrals), you can plainly tell her, "Please don't call me more than once a week, tops. I'll write you a check, and you plan a wedding that won't give grandma a heart attack. I don't fu$k with you, and you don't fu#k with me. Deal?"
Good luck. For more on this, check out our articles in Wedding Planning.