When we first started the wedding-planning process, I did what I usually do when navigating something new—I read everything I could get my hands on. This technique worked splendidly when we were searching for our first condo (might I HIGHLY recommend 100 Questions Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Ask by Ilyce R. Glink; after reading this book we sounded like real estate geniuses and were constantly impressing our Realtor with our knowledge), but I didn’t find it panning out so well this time around.
At one point not too far into the planning process, my dad exclaimed “I thought you were trying to save money on this wedding!” when he saw the massive stack if wedding-related books on my coffee table. I of course pointed out to him that these books were all from the library: what kind of Budget-Savvy Bride would I be if I had paid for all those expensive and limited-use volumes?
Yet there are a few fundamental problems with wedding-planning books. The first and biggest of these is that they are often put together by vendors in the wedding industry and/or by wedding designers. This fact means that everything they include is elaborate and expensive.
The second is that even the wedding-planning books that claim to be budget-conscious repeat the same (rather obvious) money-saving tips over and over. It doesn’t take reading many—or probably any—of them to figure out that you should a) book your wedding off-season, b) invite a small number of people, c) have a small wedding party, and d) DIY as much as possible/ “hire” your friends and family to take on tasks.
So, after reading way too many of these books (at some point the librarian commented “Wow! You’re going to have the best wedding ever!”), I have put together a list of my favorites, for your reading pleasure:
- The Off-Beat Bride: This book is not the best option for helping you actually plan your “big day.” However, it is a pretty entertaining read in the midst of what can be a stressful time, and it does provide support for nontraditional brides to work up the courage to do what THEY want for their weddings, rather than what everyone says they have to do.The companion website is also fantastic resource for finding countless [very] nontraditional weddings, philosophical musings about all of the controversial wedding issues (i.e. gay couples getting married, changing your last name [or not], weddings and feminism, etc.), as well as countless Real Weddings that range from interesting themes (Renaissance, carnival, etc.) and images. Brides-to-be who are actively planning weddings can also join the Offbeat Bride Tribe for free and access even more great content and discussion boards! The site is nearly a one-stop shop!
- Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget: There are a lot of books with titles like this, but few of them (at least after you’ve read one or two) are actually very helpful. This book, however, gives you ideas about a ton of creative options.
- A Practical Wedding book (and corresponding website):Like Offbeat Bride, this website offers a wonderful forum to discuss the many life issues that accompany the wedding-planning process. This site offers a particularly fantastic sense of community, as well as topics that continue past the wedding day. This is a supportive and inviting community to visit when you’re feeling alone with your wedding issues, or if you want other people’s educated and articulate opinions about a given topic. For example, they have a fabulous series titled “Reclaiming Wife,” which focuses on all kinds of issues regarding what it means to be a wife/woman in today’s modernized and equality-focused world. I imagine I will continue reading information on this site long after my wedding is over.The book (just released in January 2012), is wonderful as well, providing everyday brides with practical support. The book helps provide new brides-to-be with a valuable sense of perspective on the whole wedding-planning process, as well as a clear message that any issues you may be dealing with—from family drama to cold feet—are natural and OK. Read this book when you first get engaged, and read it again when issues arise—you will love it!
- The Knot: I actually would “Knot” recommend using The Knot for wedding inspiration searches. Why? Because the Knot is run by wedding vendors who like to tell you that a “typical” wedding cost is $27,000. Don’t believe the hype! You do not have to spend that much money to have a beautiful wedding! What it is good for, however, is its budget calculator tool, which allows you to set and keep track of your expenses. Just make sure that you ignore all of its advice regarding how high those expenses should be, and promptly delete anything that you don’t need to spend money on. Might I suggest putting this system in place at the same time that you read A Practical Wedding?
- Wedding Guide Chicago: This is a free magazine that can be found at various venues throughout the Chicagoland area, or in an online version on their website. What I particularly appreciate about it (besides the freeness!) is that it offers a number of actually useful articles and checklists about the wedding-planning process. It also had an extensive index that lists tons of different venue locations, including many of the lesser-known venues we visited as well. This chart had includes at-a-glance information about the amenities each venue does or does not offer.
- MyWedding.com: Similar to the Knot, this website offers a number of helpful tools to plan your wedding, including budget calculators and other items. What I particularly appreciate is its wedding website function. Many places (including the Knot) offer free wedding websites, which allow you to share information with your guests; however, I have found MyWedding’s version to be more customizable, offering you the ability to include whatever information you want for up to 5 or so pages beyond the traditional options. You can also turn each page on or off whenever you choose, which means your blank website doesn’t show up before you are ready.
- The Wedding Ceremony Planner: The Essential Guide for the Most Important Part of Your Wedding Day: Given that this book is written by a reverend, I would not have pegged it for being especially helpful in my wedding-planning process. It is, however, one of the better books I’ve found on the subject of actually creating your wedding ceremony. Reverend Judith Johnson provides many different wording options for each part of the ceremony, and these options range from the religious to the secular to everything in between. She also offers a number of practical suggestions for wedding-day logistics, how to instruct your wedding party on what you are wanting from them, suggestions of ceremony wording if your situation is nontraditional (i.e. you are getting married at an older age, one parent has passed, you have children already, etc.). I was really impressed with this option!
- Your Wedding Your Way: Break with Tradition and Create a One-of-a-Kind Celebration You’ll Never Forget! While this book is a little more of a general overview than some of the others I’ve mentioned, it does offer some valuable insight that can be very helpful in your planning process. Some favorite sections of mine:
- Tweaking the Traditional Wedding & Reception Plans: These sections list a variety of different “nontraditional” elements (you already have children, you don’t want to be separated before the wedding, you want to be escorted by someone other than your father, you want to alter the receiving line, etc.), and gives suggestions for how to tweak them to fit your needs.
- How to let your parents/family know that you are planning a nontraditional wedding.
- Getting more time with your guests through pre- and post-wedding activities (and maximizing the wedding-day timeline to allow you more time with guests as well!).
So, if you’ve been reading your share of wedding books and are frustrated with the expensive, cookie-cutter suggestions that many of them provide, try one of my above-listed pics. They are a great read, and a great help!
What wedding-related literature has been most helpful to you?