I've found myself surrounded by Weddings. I recently just celebrated my 1st Wedding Anniversary with my wife (and in celebrity years, that's 15, so thank you very much) while I'm scheduled to MC another two weddings in 2012. I'm definitely at the point in my life where Weddings are all around me and so the topic of conversation turns to that a lot of the time. That was what inspired me to write my take and impressions on the Wedding process, trials and tribulations. I'm going to do my best not to preach any one-sided advice because I know how much I hated that when I was engaged. There's enough written content on the web for ladies to sink their teeth into... this blog is for the gentlemen that have recently gotten engaged or soon planning to be. Feel free to comment below if you agree or disagree with some of my thoughts... I'd love to hear from you.
My thoughts on the proposal differ depending on the day or even the time of the day. Some people like to go all out while others prefer to keep it simple. When I was deciding how to propose, I put a lot of energy into the process. I wanted it to be memorable; perfect. When speaking with my friends or colleagues about it, I received a ton of advice on what I should do. I actually planned a trip to Montreal so that I could propose in some romantic location but the ring wasn't ready in time so we enjoyed a nice vacation away instead. The advice I'll give here today was the advice my Dad gave me back then - and it turned out to be the best advice possible in this situation. Make it personal. Whether or not it's the most calculated event you could plan or the most elegant moment you found - make the proposal about her. In my case, I thought back and made a list of all her favorite things. I then tried to include and incorporate all of those things into one day. The day was all about her and I think it made all the difference. Score one for the men.
They're expensive. There's no way around this so don't even try. If you tell your fiancee that you would prefer her spend less money on the dress so you can have 3 different types of rye at the Wedding instead of 1, she'll probably reconsider accepting your proposal. This will be one of your top 5 expenses at the Wedding and there's absolutely nothing you can do to fight this. We all agree that Wedding dresses are way too overpriced and over-hyped but this is the one piece of cloth that she's been dreaming about wearing since she got her first Barbie doll. You only have one hope - her Mother. Just pray to whoever you believe in that her Mom will buy her dress... then you don't have to lie awake stressing about the fact that you just spent $2,000 on an article of clothing that she will only wear once (and sometimes change out of at the reception). Enough said, let's move on.
This one's tricky. The first question is always, how many should you have? Well, you're probably going to need enough to match her side of the receiving line. If she has 4, you need 4. If she has 8, call up some of your old hockey buddies, because you need 8. My advice here is that you should pick the guys that have meant the most to you up until that point and the guys that will be the most solid and reliable when you need them. The truth is, the Groomsmen don't do much other than show up, wear a tux (or suit, or cloth) and pay for a lot of the partying. The brides need to put a lot more thought into this one than the guys, but it's still an important decision.
I am personally not religious so I cannot provide any insight into religious ceremonies or venues. I have been to church weddings and they have been incredible. I have also been to an exotic beach wedding and that was incredible. If you're not religious and therefore not choosing to get married in a church, my advice is all about the level of amenities and service you require. You and your bride need to sit down and create a list of needs and wants. Outside versus inside. Winter versus summer and Destination versus Close to Home. Once you have some of the big items down on paper, look at the small details: can you bring in your own flowers, do they have electrical outlets, sound systems, risers, platforms, etc. How are the acoustics from the far back seat, do they even allow seating, can I put up a tent or bring in an air-horn? All of these things need to be considered. Probably the main consideration you will need to know before you book a venue is capacity. Your guest list will change - and it will most likely go up. Will your venue be able to hold everybody you've (or your mother without warning) has invited? Important to know. We went with an outside garden for our nuptials (Elysium Garden Nursery). The natural flowers looked great and served as the perfect backdrop for our pictures. The selling feature for me was the huge bell I got to ring after we said I Do. Literally - when I saw the bell we signed the contract.
For our Wedding, we wanted to hire outside catering (rather than pay $50 a head for a plate of chicken). We also wanted to bring in our own liquor (so we could offer an open bar). We also wanted ambiance, a great layout and something different. We spent a lot of our energy finding the only place that would allow us to accomplish those things. Mind you, we did have to go out of province to find them. We looked at a ton of places that offer turn key weddings (one price for all of your needs). The problem we kept encountering was the curfew time - we had to be out by 11. Out by 11? I don't know who these people think are getting married in today's world but who ends a wedding before midnight? Again, a list helps in this circumstance. Write down your needs and wants and keep looking until you've find your ideal place or you've exhausted all of your options (then stop being so picky and re-write your list). Venue can be as important as anything else. We chose the Kelowna Art Gallery (they had only ever had one wedding before us) and saved a ton on decorations (the art on the walls acted as such).
Writing down the heading Budget actually made me laugh. It's an incredible sight to see your budget literally become a figment of your imagination when planning a wedding. I am considerably smart with money - I know all the money coming in and coming out of our house and I can properly budget to ensure we never overspend. I took on the role of 'budgeting' for our wedding. I used a spreadsheet given to me from a friend (thanks Paul) but I had to add more columns and rows based on his advice. My wife and I sat down and thought about how much we were willing to spend on each product and service we would need for the wedding. We then added a 10% buffer to each item to make sure we never exceeded the budget. Good intentions, bad execution. The problem isn't staying within the parameters I set out originally - the problem was finding all of the expenses you would never think of. Never. For example - table decor items that you probably didn't know you "needed". PS - you don't... even if she says you do. Sit down with friends that have had a wedding recently and ask them for their budget or list of paid items. You will discover costs you didn't know exists. Also, all of the suppliers need to be paid before the wedding, so make sure you've been saving up - you will need thousands of dollars in cash ready 2 weeks before the big day.
My opinion in this matter is a guy's opinion. Make sure there is enough food. So many people worry about the type of cuisine or the quality of the food (both very important) but it would be as big of a disaster if you were to run out of booze. If you are using catering, make sure that they offer enough food - appetizers, main meal and dessert. Bread is cheap and should be plentiful, while portions should be as large as Restaurant's would provide. If you're doing your own catering, know that you can return any unused and unopened food. Buy extra and keep it intact so that you can return the food you do not use. Food is only truly memorable if it runs out. The next big debate is buffet or table service. As a guy, there is nothing better in this world than a buffet. As a guy, there is nothing worse than waiting in an hour long line for a buffet. When you don't want guests waiting or portion control is a concern, table service is preferable (table service is also considered more elegant as well). For our wedding, we combined the two - tapas style plates brought to each table. Help yourself without having to get up. For dessert, individual cupcakes... and candy bar. A very inexpensive way for your guests to truly enjoy themselves... especially when they take the leftovers to the after party.
As I mentioned above, we had our reception in an Art Gallery. For this reason, we didn't have to spend a lot of money on decor. Instead, we looked at creating some originality to the event. All of our decor ideas came from trying to innovate on traditional wedding ideas. This is what I found to be the most fun part of planning a wedding. Go on Google, look at ideas of place cards, programs and gifts and then add your own twist to it. As a guy, you'll be amazed at how creative you can be - my wife was!
To my wife, this was the most important aspect of the Wedding. She HAD to have the best photos to remember the wedding from. I grew up in a family who couldn't care less about photos (our one and only family photo was when I was 6). I didn't get it nor did I want to pay for it. Similar to the dress, I didn't have much of a say with this one. I learned that if one aspect of the wedding is incredibly important to one of you, they will get their way. Everything else is up for grabs - this wasn't. As we got married out of province, we made a special trip to find the perfect photographer. I gave the assignment to my wife to find her top 5 photographers, based on their portfolios. At that point, all I cared was getting value... not pay less necessarily... just receive value. We met with the first photographer (a young couple) but they were completely inflexible with their services - packages, dates, pricing, etc. This threw me off in a big way and I knew that in order to pay what we were going to pay, I needed to find someone that would work with me. Our next meeting was our final one. We found the best wedding photographer in Kelowna (www.WeddedBlissPhotography.com) in Renee. Not only were her pictures incredible, but she was personable and her business model was accommodating. We canceled the rest of the photographers we had lined up to meet. My advice here - find someone that makes you comfortable to deal with and offers flexibility in service on top of having a great portfolio. It's tough enough for guys to pose for pictures, you don't want to be regretting the choice as well. In the end, we actually had a stand in photographer fill in (our photographer gave birth to her son a week before our wedding). Renee's choice for a backup was superb and the comfort we originally felt with Renee translated quickly over to Kate. The photos turned out great and we couldn't be happier (just a note, there are going to be things like this that happen at your wedding - DO NOT freak out. Somehow, someway, it all works out. Your job is simple - keep the bride calm and happy and the rest will take care of itself).
There is definitely a debate with this topic. Professional DJ's cost a lot of money considering what they actually do for a few hours. Most will cost around $1,000 for the night but they argue to the fact that they provide the equipment and lighting (an expense in itself) and can read the mood and react appropriately. Most other guys would argue that you could save the $1,000 and create your own playlist from your iPod. In the end, we decided to go with a DJ. This is my advice - meet them first. We used a Wedding Planner to hire ours (we were out of province and with a baby on the way) and he came highly recommended. The day before the wedding we met Doc... or should I (he) say Doctor. Doctor of Music. No joke. He made reference to the fact that he uses a proverbial "tool belt" similar to a carpenter would that houses his tools. The Chicken Dance may be a tool he pulls out if need be. YMCA another tool. It took me about 3 seconds before I decided to fire him and my Wedding Planner for this colossal disaster. Luckily we agreed that his 20 something son would fill in. He was cool and the music was what we requested. For the hassle, an iPod would have been preferable.
Just because I mentioned Wedding Planner above, I'm going to give my advice on this one. We initially hired ours for set up and tear down of the event (TOTALLY worth it - only $450 for BOTH, and you/your guests don't have to spend the final minutes of the night cleaning), She was able to convince us to use her for booking some of the other details which required us to be in the province for. Her price sounded right and so we went forward with it ($45/hour for 10 hours max - future hours to be agreed upon first). There is a TON of good that comes with hiring a Wedding Planner. They know vendors, deal with vendors and are responsible for the vendors - this takes a lot of headaches away from you (and your bride - WIN!). They will however, try their best to subtly try and up-sell more and more things to your bride (she knows whose special day it is). We almost brought in leather ottoman couches to enhance ambiance ($105 per, not including delivery). I would rather say no and buy better quality booze (this was actually my comparison for a lot of things). In the end, our Wedding Planner delivered us an incredible reception without me, my wife or a single guest having to put an ounce of effort in. She also arranged our limos, flowers, paperwork, entertainment and venue. Her total cost came to just over $1,000. My wife and I both agreed that it was worth it.
Suits, tuxedos or casual? Those are your basic 3 options for a groom and his groomsmen. I love the look of a tuxedo and the formal attire brings an elegance to the wedding that nothing else can. I've done the casual - felt incredible on a hot day in Cuba. For that venue, linen was the perfect choice. For my wedding, I chose suits. The only reason I chose a suit was because I wanted another suit to wear to the office and have in my closet. This was 'killing two birds with one stone' and I was so proud of myself. I spent hours on Google researching images of suits to determine which colors, styles and fabrics I wanted. My best man and I went hunting for the best value and in the end we chose The Bay - surprised? I was. It wasn't even on our list but after stumbling in, we found the suit that we were all happy with. If you go with The Bay credit card and hassle the price down, you can come out with a pretty good value - over 60% off... just saying. Oh, and pay the credit card off right away and throw it away so you don't get caught with a 25% interest rate.
I think I've just about covered everything to do with Weddings (in a very small nutshell). There are going to be times when you look at your budget and regret ever popping the question and others when you can't wait to get it over with. When it's all said and done and you look back at the day, you won't regret any of it. Unexpected events are going to happen and something will screw up (none of our personal videotape saving), but it won't matter. It won't matter on the day and it won't matter a year later. People are going to say that the day flies by so quickly that you won't have time to eat or even say hi to your wife - it's all true. Try and plan to take some time for yourselves. Plan a dance other than the first dance. Plan to eat and plan to drink - a lot. You only ever get one wedding, enjoy the hell out of it.