I had been expecting less bookings for next year because of the current economic uncertainty, but to my surprise they are still coming in thick and fast. I always ask couples a bit about what they're planning and how they'd like the feel of the day to be. From their responses I think that couples in general are becoming a lot more thoughtful about their budgets and scaling down their spending. In many cases penny pinching is proving to be a good thing, as it's helping couples focus on the stuff that really matters. Although I would never advise people on how to spend their own money I thought it might be useful, if you are planning a wedding, to list some things that will and won't affect how enjoyable your day is for you and your guests. Let's start with some of the things that are not important:
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to have loads of cash to make a great wedding. Some of the most memorable weddings I've been to are the ones where people spent little money but put lots of imagination into their day. Only recently I was a guest, rather than a celebrant, at a wedding where the couple had erected gazebos in their back garden, everyone brought along a plate of food and some booze and the groom and his band provided the entertainment. Formalities were dispensed with and a thoroughly good time was had by all. Whatsmore, we all felt that by bringing something along and enjoying the party, we had contributed to the couple's enjoyment of their wedding. I'm not saying that the most fabulously expensive weddings can't be fun but that low budget ones can be equally as good.
"What will people think?"
If I had a pound for every time a couple complained to me that relatives were worried about 'what people thought' I'd be wealthy enough to go on a low budget mini break to a European capital. Here's a question: what would people think if you have taxis deliver you to the wedding rather than a vintage car? What would they think if they didn't get a glass of champagne for the toast? What would they think if you decided to not bother with speeches or a line up for handshakes? The short answer is: they wouldn't give a monkey's. Go with what feels comfortable and right for you.
I would count orders of ceremony, table favours and wedding stationery as 'extras' because you don't need any of them. If you choose to have these things they're all the better if they are thoughtful rather than expensive. A home printed order of ceremony will be cherished if it has some of the lovely poetry in it from the ceremony. Table favours can be something as simple as crayons and paper for the children to play with and some home made tablet for the grown ups. If these things represent your personality and are things people actually want to keep then they aren't a waste of money.
I marry quite a few couples from the rest of the UK and abroad and they frequently say they are hoping for good weather, to which my question is, "Then why are you getting married in Scotland?" Nobody can buy good weather so stop worrying about it. One thing that can be good about bad weather is people do generally rise to the occasion. Just make sure there's a warm, cosy alternative to getting married on the rainy beach!
Now for some things that are important to consider:
Have you ever been to a wedding and thought 'what a wonderful atmosphere!' The atmosphere doesn't come from the ice sculpture in the corner but from the guests having fun and being in warm, high spirits. In my wedding ceremonies I make sure the guests are welcomed, told how important they are to the celebrations and at the end I tell them that their job is to have a thoroughly good time. People appreciate feeling part of a wedding and relish being told to enjoy themselves - it's an instruction I always take very seriously myself!
I can't spell this out enough: people LOVE to be asked to help. I remember being at a wedding where the bride's auntie had made the wedding cake. This cake was obviously home made but also very beautiful and was decorated with roses from the aunty's garden. I don't think I've ever seen a cake that was so utterly gorgeous. In fact, everyone commented on how delightful it was. Asking friends and family to help with decoration and baking to contributing songs or readings in the ceremony is a way to ensure your wedding will be personal and memorable to you, your guests and the people who've helped. I was at a wedding a couple of years ago where the bride's mother had grown sunflower plants to go on all the tables. Sure, I've seen plenty of professional centrepieces that had more of a 'wow' factor but what could be more amazing than the fact that this lady had planted each of those seeds, grown, watered and tended to those plants, all through that time thinking about her daughter's wedding day? I conducted a ceremony for two lovely men recently who had a Civil Partnership earlier that day. They got a very close friend to make their wedding rings for them, which were unique and truly special. The friend, a lovely woman, got up at the exchange of the rings and presented them to the couple. If the couple, and I'm sure they will, get as much pleasure out of those rings as their friend did making and giving them to them they will cherish them every day.
Put your own character and personality into your wedding. Presumably you like yourself, so if you put yourself into your celebrations, you will like your celebrations. I'm sure all your guests love and value you. If your wedding reflects you they will love and value your wedding. It's a pretty simple equation but one the wedding industry doesn't always reflect. If you are the kind of person who'd rather be dancing round a beach bonfire than waltzing round a ballroom then the former may be a better choice for you. People love going to a wedding that reflects the couple they are there to see, so you may find that if you please yourself, you'll please everyone else too.
Ok, I admit to a little self-interest here! However, whether you choose a Humanist or religious ceremony, choose one that it absolutely right for you. Put as much thought and effort into the ceremony as you would for everything else about the wedding put together. Really consider the promises you will make and what you consider the commitment to be about. The ceremony is the anchor of the day, the first time everyone is together, welcomed and included. It also marks the beginning of your marriage, so make it mean everything to you.
There's more to life than getting married
I'm not a relationship counsellor by a long mile but by the time some couples come to see me about their wedding they've already booked the venue, photographer, florist, etc and complain that everyone is beginning to have an opinion about how things should be done and who is on the guest list. The fun has gone out of the wedding planning, not helped by the fact that they're often saving up for the big day. All the time spent talking to friends, family and each other seems to be all about the wedding. My suggestion to them is to have some time when talk of the wedding is banned. If you are suffering some pre-wedding blues do something fun together. Go for a walk, take in a movie, treat yourself to a drink or dinner. Talk to each other about anything apart from the wedding. Whether you're spending five or 50 grand on your wedding it's invaluable to remind yourself why you're getting married in the first place.