Newly Engaged Starter Guide Part 3: Money, Money, Money

29 01 2010

Go back and read Part 1 (Words of Wisdom) and Part 2 (the Big Picture).

Studies have shown that married couples argue most about money so why not start with the wedding! Just kidding. Look at this as practice. I learned a lot about how my husband does finances during the wedding planning process. Not that I agree with how he handles money but at least I now know what I’m dealing with. I like to start with a budget that we can afford and are comfortable with and then see what we can fit within it. Whereas, he likes to start with what he wants and then figuring out a way to pay for it. Yeah – I can see why couples argue about money.

How much will you need? You will need to do some homework to figure this out but there is a lot of information out there.  Just like if you were to throw a dinner party for 10 people and you only have $100 in the bank. How would you figure out your menu? Will you have money left over for decorating your house? Maybe you go to the grocery store and party store and start pricing things out. Maybe you go online and research some affordable recipes. I love using home renovation as an example too. Say you want to renovate your kitchen. How will you go about it? You could tear out pictures from magazines of kitchen ideas you like. You could go on line and see how much that pretty sink would cost. You could go to your local tile store and check out your options. You get the idea. Do the legwork. There is no way to avoid this. Yes, it’s time consuming but you can quickly determine if this is going to be a $10k wedding or a $100k wedding. Order of magnitude is good enough at this point.

How will you pay for the wedding? I feel that the ideal way to avoid any potential stress resulting from people wanting to provide their input because they are contributing monetarily is to pay for the entire wedding yourselves. Just elimintate the possibility altogether. Now, I understand that we are not talking about a small chunk of change and that it may not be possible to pay for the whole wedding and honeymoon yourselves. Here are a few other possible scenarios:

  • If your parents/family/friends have generously offered to help, will they be contributing in general or for something specific? Will they want to have some say on the decisions made with their money? What to do here is different for every situation and depends highly on your relationship with your parents. If you foresee that this could become a sticky issue, pick something specific that they can pay for but you have to be willing to accommodate their wishes on this specific item. Maybe they can pay for the band or the rehearsal dinner.
  • But what if your parents/family/friends are unable to help financially or what if you have other current plans for your savings? Wait. Maybe it’s a few months. Maybe it’s a year or two. It’s OK. Start saving. Come up with a savings plan for a reasonable amount of time to reach a certain dollar amount. Nobody says you have to get married now. But if you don’t want to wait and you don’t have the money, then you need to adjust your expectations for your wedding to match the reality of your budget. Even celebrities have this dilemma!

There are a lot of demands for your hard earned money and in my experience, people tend to plan weddings amidst other major activities happening in their lives. Many of my clients were in law school, medical school, grad school, while others were getting new jobs, moving to a new city, buying a house, doing major home renovations. Basically, there were other major life changes happening while trying to plan a wedding. For example, John and I were finishing our previously unfinished attic and I was on a temporary work assignment that kept me away from home for 3 months while trying to apply to business school. Tiles, carpet and lighting were competing with DJ, flowers and honeymoon for the same pot of money. You just need to do what makes sense for you at this moment in time.

OK. I’ve got this money thing figured out. Now what? I’m a big advocate for setting up a separate bank account for wedding expenses. Later on, this account can be turned into your emergency fund, vacations savings or retirement account. I also have  some additional tips on setting up your budget here.

That was long. Next week, I will discuss some Keys to Success. Writing this series has also inspired others for future posts so email me if you have any topics you would like to cover vicky {at} eventaccomplished dot com – Vicky

Featured in A Foxy Wedding: My “Wedding in a Box”

27 01 2010

A Foxy Wedding

My friend Jessica at A Foxy Wedding started a series called “Wedding in a Box” recently. Originally inspired by a trip to Julianne Smith’s, aka GarterGirl, home and seeing her “wedding in a box,” the idea is to pull out the mementos you kept for your wedding and reminisce a little. What a fun idea!

Vicky Choy Event Accomplished Wedding in a Box

Photo by Emilie Inc. Photography

My ‘Wedding in Box” is featured today. I had a great time looking through all the stuff I kept. What great memories they brought back! I had forgotten about half the stuff I had saved but looking at them just brings a smile to my face. Check it out! You can also read about Jessica’s and Janice Carnevale’s (Bellwether Events) boxes.

Enjoy! Vicky

Newly Engaged Starter Guide Part 2: The Big Picture

22 01 2010

If you’ve missed Part 1 of our Starter Guide on some words of wisdom, go back and read it first. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

So what if you are ready to start planning? As with any big project, you first need to discuss and come to a consensus on the 40,000-foot level, big picture aspects. Sit down and really ask yourselves this question:

What kind of wedding do you want to have? This is a loaded question, no? There are so many ways to answer this question so let me help you dig a little deeper with a few exercises.

  • Think back to the weddings or any big parties you have attended in the past. What do you remember most about them? Usually what you remember most are the things that are important to you. So two people can go to the same wedding and remember completely different things about it. Which elements did you like best and least? Use adjectives or phrases to describe them but try to be as specific as you can. It could be the way you felt or how you love the appetizers or how you really enjoyed meeting other guests.
  • Here is another exercise. Ask yourselves this: if money was no object, what would your wedding be like? This will represent the ultimate ideal but you’ll also discover that even if you need to scale down your dream to reality, there will be certain elements you are not willing to compromise. That’s important to know.
  • Last one. Forget that it’s a wedding. What kind of parties do you like to throw the most? Some people really like intimate dinner parties. Others like to invite everyone over for an open house.

My thinking is that your wedding would not be too far removed from your answers to these questions above. And if that’s the case, then you’ve just created a wedding that is really YOU. Some of you may be able to answer these questions very quickly without having to think about it very much. While some of you may need to take more time to think about it. That’s OK. Take your time. It’s important to have a clear picture of what you want.

Families.  I recommend that you discuss how your families will be involved. Families are complicated these days. Figure out how much and in what ways they will participate in the planning process, if at all. Couples planning from afar might need substantial help from parents that live in the area where the wedding may take place to do some leg work. While others may give specific tasks to a sibling or prefer to do all the planning themselves. Whichever combination you choose, make sure the expectations are clear up front.

Some people believe that a wedding is also the joining of two families. With that said, you also want to get a feel for what your respective parents’ expectations are for your wedding.

What is this all about?  Ask yourselves what this wedding is all about. Sometimes, the simple answers are the best guiding principles.

Next week, we will discuss money. Seems like everybody is talking about money these days.

Have a great weekend – Vicky

Newly Engaged Starter Guide Part 1: Words of Wisdom

19 01 2010

Congratulations on your engagement! What an exciting and happy time!

There is a lot to do and I often hear from couples that they are immediately overwhelmed with the multitude of tasks looming ahead. Everyone starts to ask “when is the wedding” or “have you picked a location yet” and you keep saying “we haven’t decided yet.” The more people ask, the more you feel like you are falling behind some imaginery schedule or asking yourself “shouldn’t I be doing more?” Worse is when you have other friends engaged the same time as you and they’ve already picked a location, date, bought a dress, and you have done none of that.

Well, don’t feel that way. Besides these tips on being engaged, I wanted to add a few others:

  1. Do it on your own time. Really, what’s the hurry? Unless you are being deployed or have some other circumstances that is putting a time restriction on your wedding, don’t feel like you need to start planning your wedding the minute you get engaged. I’m not advocating long engagements at all but rather that you shouldn’t feel pressured to plan on someone else’s schedule. There are plenty of planning to-do lists out there that tell you that you should do this task and that task by 12+ months or 9+ months or whatever their deadlines are. Throw those out the window. Ignore them. (The tasks on those lists are still good, just not the timeframes.) If you go by them, I will guarantee that you will drive yourself insane. I don’t believe in haulting your life to plan a wedding. Plan on your own terms – on your own schedule.  If you can only spare a few hours per week, so be it. It may take you longer to plan or you have to  adjust how the planning will be done. If you have more free time and your life is more flexible, then great! You can plan faster or plan in more detail. If you need to stop planning for a few months, it’s OK. Keep in mind that there are plenty of people out there that can plan a wedding in just a short few weeks. Fit planning a wedding around what your life will allow for, not the other way around. 
  2. Getting your head around it all. Once you are ready to start planning, be honest with yourselves. How much time do you have on your regular weekly schedule that you can devote to planning? What events might be happening in the near future that can affect planning? Are you good at planning and organzing a big party? How are you at making decisions? Prioritizing? Handling stress? Talking about money? Making compromises? Are you and your fiance able to discuss a big project openly and work collaboratively? No matter which way you slice it, planning a wedding could be the biggest project that the two of you may be tackling together for the first time. Knowing how to work with each other on a project like this is no different than working with teams at your work place. I promise that this will become useful later in your marriage like doing major home improvements (ask me how I know).
  3. Knowing when to ask for help. Once you start planning and figured out how it fits into your life, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know this is tough for us “do it all” women but seriously, the stress is just not worth it. Decide on which tasks you are willing to spend time on worrying about the details and which ones you are not. Then delegate. It’s ok to delegate a task to your mother and she generally would really like it too! Give her some guidelines and then let go. God forbid but you may need to let go a little bit of control.   
  4. Do Your Own Thing. If you don’t remember anything else, remember this one. Over the course of the next few months, you will be reading lots of wedding magazines and wedding blogs. You will see some beautiful images of other people’s weddings and they will undoubtedly inspire you in some ways. They will show you the possibilities but don’t let these glossy images dictate or persuade you into thinking that your wedding should be a certain way. You may, as my friend said, quickly go from “inspired to lost in a blog haze.” It’s important to find your own voice in all this – your own style, your way of doing things. Ignore the trends and only incorporate them if they really reflect who you are and make sense. Cupcakes and candy buffets are trendy but if you hate cupcakes and don’t really eat candy, what’s the point? If you don’t like to dance, don’t. Don’t do a first dance. Don’t have any dancing at all by doing a causal brunch reception where people would not feel obligated to do so. Twenty years from now, you want to look back and still recognize yourselves in those wedding pictures and not ask “why did we choose to do that?’ Or better yet, when people ask you if you were to do it all over again, would you do it the same way? Your answer should be, “I would not change a thing.”

More to come in Part 2 — Vicky

At Home Weddings

13 01 2010

Leesburg Virginia at home wedding tent

Over the weekend, the Washington Post Real Estate section had a great article about hosting weddings at home with lots of insightful thoughts on the topic by some of the area’s finest wedding planners. I wanted to discuss some of the points made in the article and add my two cents from our experiences planning at home weddings.

  1. Tenting. The couple in the article did not have a tent. Granted, they said the weather cooperated. But what if it didn’t? Since they had a fairly small guest count (about 60 people) and might have been able to squeeze everyone inside the house (I don’t know what their inclement weather plan was), but what if you had over 100 guests? Very few people can host that many inside a house. No tent is not a good idea.
  2. Catering. The article did not mention the couple’s catering choice but you will also need to consider where the catering staff will be preparing your food. For one of our clients, we actually needed to set up a small catering tent next to the main tent for dinner and then using the homeowner’s garage for staging the cocktail hour food. To use the house’s kitchen, while spacious, would not have worked. The distances were too great where the servers would have had to walk pretty far on ground that was nowhere near flat. Not fast and not safe.
  3. Bathrooms. Given the smaller guest count, I can see how the couple in article went without renting toilets. But honestly, if I had over 100 guests, I would not want them trouncing through my house messing up all the bathrooms. At one of our at home weddings, the home was on a farm and the sewage system would not have been able to handle 180 guests. Best to rent toilets even if it’s just 1 stall for men and 1 stall for women. The last thing you want to overflowing sewage. Ewww!
  4. Parking. At another one of our at home weddings, our clients lived in a suburban community. There was no street parking and only a driveway for the home owners. There was nowhere for their 150 guests to park. So they rented the parking lot of a nearby church (within 1 mile) and provided a shuttle bus from the parking to the house. At some homes, there is plenty space for parking but make sure that: a) the area is flat, b) that it is a reasonable walking distance for the guests and that the path is well lit, and c) that you are OK killing the grass that the cars will be parked on.
  5. Lighting. I actually want to address lighting outside of the tent. The last few at home weddings we coordinated, the grounds were pitch black after dark. There were no existing landscape lighting on the properties. Think about it from your guests’ perspective. Make sure that the paths to and from the parking area and bathrooms are well lit. This is a safety issue. The last thing you want is somebody twisting their ankles or falling and hurting themselves (especially after some drinking).

Finally, the first thing you should do when considering an at home wedding using a tent is to consult a tent company. You may have an idea where you want your tent but one site visit from a tent company will tell you the best location. Don’t do anything else first because the placement of the tent can affect many subsequent decisions.

Feel free to contact us if you have need assistance with planning your at home wedding! — Vicky