From enchanting ceremony backdrops to luxe reception décor to lighting tricks and more, here's how to bring your wedding-day vision to life.
From the time you get engaged to your big day, with every decision you make and hurdle you overcome, you're putting all kinds of wisdom into play. Along the way, you're also fine-tuning skills that can help build a successful marriage, such as sticking to a budget, navigating family politics and knowing when to take a de-stressing break from it all.
Apply these learning experiences from your wedding-planning journey to your future together:
1. Don't let money fights tear you apart.
Disagreements over finances can strain even the happiest of marriages. According to a study by The National Survey of Families and Households, couples who disagree about money once a week are 30 percent more likely to divorce than couples who report fighting about finances a few times each month. In order to protect your marriage and live with far less stress about those credit card bills, take your family budget seriously and be patient for those big things that you want, whether it's a new car or maybe even a baby.
If you went over-budget for your wedding (many couples do!) make it a goal to live within your means now. Start by recording everything you spend over the course of a month — and we do mean everything — in an easy program like Quicken or Mint.com. Next, see what you can take a break from or scale back on, like going out to eat two times a month instead of six. Aim for painless cutbacks that add up to big savings and help you pay your bills more easily. Even little things like choosing affordable cuts of meat when grocery shopping and filtering water from the tap instead of buying water bottle cases can add up to big savings.
As you may have already learned with unexpected wedding expenses, it's also crucial to have an emergency fund, especially if you own a house or car that could need pricey repairs.
2. Make time for your other favorite people — they helped make you who you are.
During the wedding-planning process, you likely involved your parents and siblings somehow, whether it was inviting them to your gown-shopping appointment, honoring your family history with a photo table, or other thoughtful gestures. During your marriage, make a plan to connect with both of your families — immediate families and extended families — on a regular basis.
If you live far away from them, set up a Sunday Skype date and send thoughtful emails or texts just to see how they're doing. Share family traditions with your spouse: holiday traditions, recipes, great stories, visits to your families' favorite places and other insights into your family life before this new life you're sharing.
And let go of family drama — just like a squabble over the budget or guest list may have stressed you out, family dramas can also create tension in your marriage. Stay out of the fray, forgive what you can and don't get sucked into attention-seeking ploys. Learn how to let things go and embrace the happier, more positive people in your life, whoever they may be.
3. Gratitude is essential to leading a happy life!
Just like you sent thank-you notes for gifts you received and to loved ones who helped you with wedding projects, it's just as important to say “thank you” to anyone who adds light and laugher to your world during your marriage. It might be for a dinner your parents took you to, the wheelbarrow your neighbor lent you when you were putting in your garden or anything sweet your husband does for you. Everyone wants to feel that they are appreciated.
Keep a gratitude journal in which you record five things that made you happy that day, whether it's a phone call from a friend, the way your husband smiled at you that morning or the smell of really good coffee. This will ensure that your mindset stays balanced even during challenging days so that you don't spin out into negative thoughts, only seeing the bad because you've lost sight of all the good things in your life. It makes you a happier person to be around, which is contagious!
4. The couple that plays together, stays together.
One of the biggest wishes among brides and grooms planning their weddings is that the entire event be a ton of fun. A great band or deejay. Interactive food stations. Photo booths. Weddings are fun experiences for guests and unforgettable celebrations that show how fun you two are.
Make your marriage stronger by incorporating lots of play, inside jokes, and new activities, as well as making time for the things you already love to do together. Burnout occurs when couples are all work and no play, so make the pursuit of pleasure an important part of your everyday life.
5. Honor each other’s boundaries.
One “no” = no. If your groom originally wanted a pig roast rehearsal dinner but you wanted a more formal event, your “no” meant no. If you wanted a harpist at your ceremony but your groom didn't, then that didn't happen. The same goes for any plan that either of you wants for your married life. If you want to move to a particular town but your husband is against it, that's a no. If he wants an outdoor bar on your terrace but you don't want your home to become his buddies' makeshift pub, that's a no.
Make this a rule and you'll get rid of (most) battles in your marriage. It's not just the “no” in play here…it's take the time to listen to each other, to prioritize, to communicate what you want your life to feel like, so that each of you understands why the other feels the way that they do. Then you can make decisions that honor your partner's comfort level and values.
It's all about teamwork in a happy marriage, which comes from compromise and from balancing out what each of you wants. Neither of you is The Boss — resentments can boil over when one partner feels like they're getting overruled all the time. Mix up the decision-making and come to an agreement that neither of you should have to do something you feel strongly against or uncomfortable with.
6. Stay flexible and safeguard your happiness by putting a Plan B into place.
Smart wedding planning involves having a back-up plan that you’ll be equally happy with: an indoor space for the ceremony in case it rains or an alternative bouquet in case your floral designer can't get an out-of-season bloom. In your marriage, don't get so hung up on that one big wish to the extent that you're absolutely devastated if it doesn't work out, or else you'll suffer disappointment, anger and stress if anything goes wrong with your original plan.
When you're too attached to an outcome and having things go according to your timetable, you're a bridezilla without being the bride anymore. For instance, let's say you wanted to paint your bedroom this weekend but the painting company called to say their crew can't make it until two weeks from now, or you wanted to have a 4th of July party but you've been called away on business. If you flip out, your spouse might get turned off by your over-the-top reaction, but if you have a Plan B — a different painting weekend or a barbecue in August instead — you'll both be much happier and your spouse won't look at you “like that.” It's not about what happens to us; it's how we bounce back.
7. Nobody wins when you try to keep up with the Joneses.
Even if your best friend had a $100,000 wedding and yours was just a tiny fraction of that, it doesn't mean that your wedding was any less awesome or special. Although it's perfectly natural to be envious from time to time, it's not worth acting on by trying to outcompete or match what someone else has. That just shows that you're unhappy with what you do have, and with what you or your partner can provide now. Ouch!
The same goes for the home you choose to live in, the furniture you buy, the car you drive and so on. No one wants to feel like they're not doing well enough in life and if you're always miserable that you can't afford to have a massive house/engagement ring/wardrobe like your friend, acquaintance, coworker, or whomever, then your spouse can take it personally, as a judgment that he's not making enough money or doesn't want you to have nice things. And you'll also suffer from your feelings of not measuring up, which may impact your relationship with the person you're jealous of and many other negative things can spiral from there.
Let the Joneses be the Joneses and you live your wonderful life filled with beautiful people and your own special touches to the things you do have. How do you tame that green-eyed monster? Again, we’re back to #3: gratitude makes life fabulous!
8. The people you hire had better be good.
You put a lot of time and thought into researching, interviewing and hiring the best wedding photographer, florist, band/DJ or other pros for your big day. The same goes for hiring real estate agents, doctors, contractors, plumbers…the experts you can't afford to entrust your home (or your life) to without fully investigating them and investing in the best.
You know that when you hire someone without doing due diligence, you're more likely to get crummy service and bad results. You don't want that with your plumbing or your health.
9. Every now and then, get away from it all and get back to being “you.”
When stress builds up, it’s not pretty. You may find yourself snapping over minor things, sleeping poorly, overeating, skipping workouts, breaking out…stress is bad news for you and for everyone who loves you. Every now and then, make time to go on a vacation as part of your “happy me, happy us” plan. And even if you can't get away because of budget or time, find ways to switch up your scenery like checking out shops in a nearby town or going for a hike.
Whether you revisit your honeymoon resort, check into a quaint bed and breakfast a few hours away or even just take a day trip somewhere, the important thing is to recognize when you and your spouse are overworked from the daily grind. Escaping your to-do list and unplugging for a few hours/days will dial down your stress levels and make you better partners.
Photo Credit: Caneel Bay Resort
10. Be present – it all goes by too fast.
The wedding day passes by so quickly — one minute you're slipping that ring on your groom's finger and the next minute, the band is announcing that this is the last song of the night. You didn't even get to eat very much of your wedding menu! In your marriage, as in your wedding, make sure you stop, look around, and take in every detail (every smiling face and beautiful thing around you).
Be fully present and you won't look back on your life saying, “There's so much I didn't take the time to appreciate and enjoy.” Enjoy every moment to the fullest.
Sharon Naylor is the best-selling author of over 35 wedding books, including Home from the Honeymoon: The Newlyweds' Guide to the Celebrations and Challenges of the First Year of Marriage.
Visit sharonnaylor.net for more great tips and advice.
As one of the original colonies and the birthplace of America’s Camelot — by the way of the Kennedy family — the state of Massachusetts has long been a vacation destination for history buffs. Nature lovers also score big in the Bay State thanks to its picturesque mountain region and glittering coastline. Whether you are a city, country or beach bride, this storied location has a destination wedding option for you.
Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, Cape Cod
Located in the seaside town of Brewster (named for one of the pilgrims) this sprawling resort has all the expected beachy amenities, along with multiple pools, tennis courts, four restaurants and a newly revamped golf course. Accommodations are spread among the property’s historic mansion and three “villages” of one-, two- and three-bedroom villas. Wedding venues are just as varied. There’s the new Linx Pavilion, a transparent structure set on the golf course’s 18th hole. The rambling lawn fronting the mansion can host more than 300 guests; smaller affairs can be celebrated inside the coffered rooms or at the romantic Carriage House. Cosmopolitan brides who desire a sea view can book the chic Ocean Terrace with its panoramic vistas of Cape Cod Bay. Ceremonies can be held throughout the property or on the resort’s beach. Additional sense-of-place touches include traditional lobster bakes and s’mores bonfires on the sand (wedding packages start at $130 per person and include hors d’oeuvres, one-hour open bar, a three-course plated dinner, champagne toast, wedding cake and basic décor. Ceremonies start at $1,250; oceanedge.com).
Photo Credit: Virtual Visit
Seven Hills Inn, the Berkshires
The mountainous region in the state’s western corner has long beckoned travelers in search of fresh air, outdoor pursuits and world-class cultural attractions (most notably Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra). Hotels here reflect the setting and most are housed in historic buildings. The Seven Hills Inn is one such outpost set on 27 acres with a main house that was once a summer mansion of the Gilded Age. Wedding ceremonies at the three-season resort are held on the exquisitely manicured grounds or in the ornate drawing room. Receptions take place in the mansion’s ballroom and windowed music room. All events on the property, which are expertly crafted under the watchful eye of owner Robin Gerson Wong, are personalized and limited to one a day. Guests enjoy a variety of accommodations including 11 antique-filled rooms in the Manor House, 28 basic rooms in the bi-level Motel and 5 rooms with kitchenettes located in the Carriage House. All have views of the rolling grounds and pretty gardens (site fees start at $3,300 and include basic reception set-up and wedding coordinating services. Ceremony site fees are $375 and include basic set-up and décor; sevenhillsinn.com).
Photo Credit: Bryce Vickmark
Photo Credit: Bryce Vickmark
Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Boston
In addition to its championship-winning sports teams, Boston is known for its winding cobblestone streets, landmarked buildings and famous port, the site of the Tea Party that incited the Revolutionary War. The upscale Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center is an anchor of the city’s revitalized waterfront district, offering sweeping views from its 813 rooms. Couples here can choose among five grand ballrooms for receptions. The Harborview Room with its adjacent canopied deck affords uninterrupted vistas and can accommodate up to 190 guests. The bi-level Lighthouse Room is a more modern option with a specialized LED-lit wall. If you have an intimate number of guests, consider a private dining room. Or opt for one of the suites, which can hold eight for a formal dinner. For a special treat, ask the concierge to arrange a private cruise and picnic to a small harbor island (wedding packages start at $182 per person and include one-hour open bar, basic décor, wedding planning service, a dance class for the couple, complimentary parking for reception guests and more; seaporthotel.com).
Photo courtesy of Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center
Legally Wedded: Although the fine details may vary from county to county, a marriage license is required to wed in the state of Massachusetts. Couples must apply in person at the local city or town hall and — depending on the county — furnish a birth certificate, Social Security number and photo ID. Some may require a death certificate or divorce decree, if applicable. Fees range from $10 to $50. There is a three-day waiting period and the license is valid for 60 days from issuance.
Don't Dodge the Debt
Make sure all the financial skeletons come out of the closet before the big day — discuss school loans, credit card debts and other prior obligations (child support or private loans). As uncomfortable as this topic might seem, you don’t want any unexpected surprises when it comes to debt obligations. Your debt — and your partner’s — impacts not just your collective bottom line, but also your ability to jointly make financial com- mitments, like buying a first home.
Take Financial Inventory
Now is the time to have a heart-to-heart with your future spouse about his financial past, present and future. Talk about retirement and other savings, whether you have wills that need to be updated and work benefits such as retirement accounts, health and life insurance and disability benefits. Explore whether you can save money by going on each other’s health insurance after marriage and consider whether you may need disability insurance to protect your paycheck if one of you becomes disabled and can’t work. Also ensure you are both contributing enough to your workplace retirement plans to take advantage of the employer match.
Take notice of whether your future spouse spends money frivolously, frugally or somewhere in between. Dinners out, expensive vacations and buying the latest “it” item can reveal a careless approach to money. On the other hand, your partner might be frugal, ordering the cheapest item on the menu or splitting the bills down to the penny. Turn the microscope on yourself as well to identify your money personality. Tuning into these clues can help you set realistic expectations for yourself and your partner.
Create a Support Network
Your financial inventory should also include financial professionals who can support you as a couple in working toward achieving your financial and retirement goals. If you already work with an accountant, attorney and/or financial advisor, make sure your partner also establishes a relationship with them — and vice versa. If neither you nor your spouse has ever consulted with a financial advisor, now is the perfect time to find one together.
Look Ahead to the Retirement Horizon
Growing old might seem like it is years away, but planning for retirement doesn’t happen overnight. If you and your fiancé are already saving for retirement through an employer-sponsored retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA), you are off to a great start. If not, you may want to consider getting started saving for retirement and set up automatic deductions from your checking account or paycheck directly into a retirement account. This is also an opportunity to talk about your collective budget and make sure retirement savings is a shared priority.
Think About 'Til Death Do Us Part
It may be in the marriage vows, but “death” is not something any bride wants to consider before marriage. That said, marriage is a major event that entails joining you for life with someone else. Protect each other through life insurance and update your beneficiary information on financial and retirement accounts.
Establish Your Roles
You don’t have to figure this out right away, but start to talk about how the two of you are going to divide household finances. Perhaps you pay the monthly bills and day-to-day expenses, while your spouse handles the insurance and retirement savings, or vice versa. Figure out each other’s strengths and natural abilities and play to those in how you divide up the financial responsibilities.
Be Each Other's Biggest Cheerleader
Make sure you are each other’s biggest support when it comes to making financial decisions. Confide in each other and offer constructive advice. If the financial inventory uncovers debts or other financial challenges, figure out how to tackle the issues together as a team. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes, too. Promotions, raises and reaching financial and retirement goals are milestones that deserve recognition.
Holly Kylen is an ING Retirement Coach and financial advisor at ING Financial Partners, where she developed a Retirement Planning for Women seminar. She also serves on ING’s Women’s Advisory Network Board.
Let the wedding planning begin! This should be one of the most enjoyable and creative processes you will ever experience. Yet many couples tell me they get so overwhelmed they feel as if they’ve taken on a second job they’ve had no training for. As for me, I started at 14, learning the craft of floral design while working at my grandfather’s flower shop. That’s where my journey began. I truly believe I was bound to create parties. Here, some of the planning aspects I love most — and least. Get the more difficult wedding elements under control and the rest should fall into place.
The Pros (What I Love):
Setting the vision: Getting a chance to dive in and understand what a couple is looking for and the style of the event they want to create is the all-important first step to a beautiful event. My television work makes it seem as though a super-specific theme for your wedding is mandatory, but please trust me when I say it is not. Themes are only great when it makes sense to the bride and groom. However, I do love when a couple knows the types of looks, colors, feelings and moods they want for their wedding. Ask yourself: What are your favorite…colors… historic eras…flowers….seasons? The answers to these questions will help you better envision the overall look of your wedding.
Flowers and décor: I love meeting with vendors and seeing the details come alive in all areas from invitations to flowers, colors and lighting. Invitations, for example, truly set the tone of the overall celebration to come. And flowers make the event literally come to life. A bride without a bouquet or a table without a centerpiece isn’t, to me, a wedding. Soft colors, bold colors or combinations of both work to create an overall style or even evoke a period in time. These visual components can be the most pleasurable parts of wedding planning.
Food and drink: It’s great to use food to tell the story of your culture and background, but take care not to get on the full-on foodie bandwagon when planning your wedding, incorporating too many exotic ingredients. When it comes to beverages, specialty drinks have been a major trend; newer are specialty bars featuring whiskey, champagne and/or wine. Any of these options can make your wedding more unique.
The element of surprise: I love the opportunity to make special moments happen: perhaps a dance that no one knew about or changing up the timeline. I always say that something different should happen every 30 minutes. This allows guests to become interactive participants vs. inactive participants following the same old routine (ceremony to cocktails to dinner) and results in something special. This is what I will always love about doing weddings.
The Cons (What I Don't Love)
Who's invited?: Determining the guest list can be a tough task, as can deciding the seating arrangements: who should sit next to whom. Once this gets set, the sailing will become much smoother, I promise!
Too many cooks: You do not want a committee of opinions. Pick a few supportive friends and family members (three at the most) and trust in them to guide you and support you. The key word is support.
Travel logistics: Coordinating travel details for all your wedding guests can be mind-numbing, not to mention time-consuming. Instead of being the point person for travel questions, I suggest finding a good travel agent ahead of time (especially if you’re having a destination wedding!) who can handle these issues. It will be worth it if it means you now have time you would have otherwise lost to focus on the other important details of your day.
Details, details: Picking the perfect songs for your processional, recessional,first dance and all of your important formalities (e.g., toasts) can be challenging, since these elements require a final, set- in-stone decision — you want to make sure everything is exactly as you want it. These all-important nitty-gritty details can be a chore, but they are essential to get right.
Oversharing (especially on social media): One of my ground rules: Don’t forget that some parts of your wed- ding should surprise your guests, so don’t spill too many details ahead of time!
Photo Credit: Michael Segal Photography