Simplify Your Wedding Plans

Whitney Hopler

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Sharon Hanby-Robie's new book, A Simple Wedding, (GuidepostsBooks, 2007). 

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the enormous responsibilities of planning a wedding. As you and your fiancé’s families prepare to unite, it may seem like everyone has an opinion or expectation to express, compounding the pressure you face.

But you can find the peace God wants you to have if you simplify your wedding plans.  Here’s how:

Invite God to guide you. Rely on God’s unlimited wisdom and power to help you prepare for your wedding. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed; stay connected to God through frequent prayer about all the details. Expect God to inspire you and your fiancé with many wonderful ideas as you go through the planning process. Recognize that God wants to use your marriage to help both you and your future spouse grow and serve Him through serving others. Make a commitment to view your upcoming marriage as a ministry and ask the Holy Spirit to help you see ways your marriage can contribute to the world. Ask God to help you see your fiancé as God sees him, and to value his input as you plan your wedding together. Establish a habit of praying with your future spouse often.

Celebrate your engagement. Before announcing that you’re engaged, decide who should be told first. Once you’ve revealed the news to both sets of parents, help them get to know each other better. Have them participate in an interactive activity like a barbecue or sports game, to encourage conversation. Be prepared for the many questions people will ask you once they hear you’re engaged, and practice giving your answers in advance so you won’t be caught off-guard. Throw an engagement party for people who will also be invited to your wedding.

Learn all you can. Begin premarital counseling to think about, discuss, and pray through important issues you’ll need to deal with in your marriage, such as: communication, conflict resolution, personality issues, financial management, sexual expectations, marital satisfaction, leisure activities, children and parenting, family and friends, role relationships, and spiritual beliefs. Seek to create a framework for merging your separate lives into one shared life. Read books about marriage together. Ask a couple with a strong marriage that you admire to mentor you and your fiancé. Consider whether or not a prenuptial agreement would be wise for you and your fiancé.

Do it your way. Don’t feel pressured to please your family and friends if they don’t agree with some of your choices; remember that your wedding should reflect what’s most important to you and your fiancé. Work with him to decide what type of wedding experience best symbolizes the kind of life you want to share together. Privately discuss what’s important to you, and then present a united front to your family and friends. Be clear and upfront, yet respectful, when communicating your desires to them. Keep in mind that if your parents are paying for the wedding and insist that something be done their way, you may need to pay for the wedding yourself to avoid conflict. Pray for peace as you make your plans. Incorporate some old traditions that are meaningful for you and your fiancé into your wedding plans, and feel free to start new traditions as well. Consider creating a theme for your wedding.

Look to the future instead of the past. Deal openly and honestly with the baggage you and your fiancé are bringing into your marriage: Perhaps one or both of you has been married before, you and he might have issues from your backgrounds that require healing and reconciliation, or maybe you all have divorced parents who don’t get along and could spoil your wedding plans. Ask God to give you realistic expectations and help you resolve conflicts.

Choose your wedding’s style. Figure out the type of wedding you want – formal, semiformal, or informal. Choose a style that best reflects your personalities and the message you’d like to send about what you esteem most in your relationship. Once you decide on a style, check to make sure that the wedding location you have in mind has everything you’ll need.

Establish a budget. Don’t hesitate to discuss wedding costs thoroughly with your fiancé. Know that it’s acceptable to split the costs with your parents, his parents, or another family member or friend who wants to contribute. Realize that you can’t make everyone’s wedding dreams come true. Decide to focus on whatever will have the greatest impact on your wedding and your families. Make a list of all your expected costs, including amounts for: ceremony expenses (church or other location, pastor or other officiator, and marriage license), transportation, rings, pre-wedding parties and rehearsal dinner, reception, cake and food, florist, photographer, invitations, attire (bride’s dress, veil, accessories, and groom’s outfit), gifts for bridesmaids and groomsmen, accommodations for people attending from out of town, and the honeymoon. Track your expenses as you spend so you can see how even small costs add up. Understand that, if you want a lavish honeymoon, you’ll likely have to scale back on how much you spend on the wedding. Consider scheduling your wedding before May or after October to take advantage of out-of-season discounts. Be creative about taming costs, such as by choosing a standard meal for all guests and paying for a set amount of drinks only. Save even more money on food by scheduling the reception in between traditional meal times and serving just hors d’oeuvres.

Choose your attendants and guests wisely. Keep in mind that your attendants should be people you know you can rely on to help you with whatever you need. Consider appointing a maid or matron on honor, bridesmaids, a best man, groomsmen, a wedding coordinator, a ring bearer, a flower girl or boy, Scripture readers, etc. When figuring out your guest list, don’t cave into pressure to include people you don’t truly want there – such as people you don’t know well. Focus on what and who is most important in the long run and make your decisions accordingly. On your invitations, be clear and specific about exactly who is invited. Be sure to include the spouses of all married guests. If you don’t want children at your wedding, address the invitation to “Mr. and Mrs. (Guest)” rather than “The (Guest) Family” to avoid confusion.

Create a countdown calendar. After you have established a wedding date, create a calendar that lists the timeline of everything that needs to be done to prepare. Refer to it often in the planning process to stay on track.

Choose your rings well. Remember that your wedding rings are symbols of the love that you and your fiancé share. When selecting rings, be true to who you are and your lifestyle, choosing rings that can naturally become a part of your lives. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be wearing your rings every day for years to come; decide on ones that you’ll be comfortable with for a long time. Decide whether size or clarity matters most to you, and choose accordingly. Have your rings sized when you and your fiancé are both calm and your body temperatures are normal, to obtain the most accurate measurement. Consider engraving the inside of your rings, and don’t forget to insure them.

Choose your gown wisely. Select a gown that reflects your own style instead of other people’s opinions of what you should choose. Think about how you will feel looking at your wedding photos years from now. Be realistic about the right size, cut, fabric and price for your needs; have your gown accent your best features and play down the rest.

Choose your music well. Understand that not all of your wedding guests will share you and your fiancé’s taste in music. To help everyone enjoy the event, select a variety of different musical styles.

Choose your flowers wisely. Go with flowers that reflect your style. Keep your stature in mind when selecting bouquets: If you’re tall, a cascading bouquet could work well for you, and if you’re petite, a small bouquet may work best.

Plan to capture your wedding on photos and video. Before choosing a photographer, decide on the style of photos you and your fiancé would like (formal or more informal and candid, color or black and white, etc.). Research the best options for getting photos and a video made. Get specific, detailed contracts with your photographer and video technician, and make sure you understand their policies. Communicate your boundaries clearly so they understand what strategies are and aren’t appropriate for getting good photos and video without disrupting the ceremony.

Register for gifts and plan to give them, as well. Register for wedding gifts with at least two stores, but no more than four. Select a wide variety of items in different price ranges to give your guests many options. Be sure to remember the people who have helped you plan your wedding – as well as both sets of parents – by giving each of them gifts. Don’t ask guests to give you cash or make a donation in lieu of a gift, and don’t ask them not to bring gifts. Make sure you send a handwritten thank you note within two months to each person who gives you a gift.

Schedule wedding showers and parties. Know that if you have a large family and many friends, it may work best to have two wedding showers (one with family and one with friends). Consider creative ideas for wedding parties, such as a brunch, a day at a spa for the women, or a day hiking in the wilderness or enjoying paintball for the men. Don’t schedule a bachelor or bachelorette party for the night before the wedding to avoid being too tired for your big day, and when you do have them, avoid activities you’ll regret later.

Choose your invitations wisely. Save money by having your invitations printed by the thermography method instead of engraving, and using basic black ink instead of color. If you realistically have the time and ability to do so, make your own invitations. When you’re addressing the envelopes, however, don’t use a computer – handwrite them or use calligraphy. If you’re planning a destination wedding that involves travel, send a “Save the Date” card before mailing invitations to give your guests plenty of notice.

Plan your reception well. Understand that the time of day or night you choose for your reception will determine what guests expect to eat, which will significantly affect your budget. When considering a reception location, take a thorough tour to make sure that the location features all the resources you’ll need (space, equipment, bathrooms, parking, table linens, etc.). Find out what other events are scheduled for that day and how much time will be allotted between bookings; plan enough time to set up and take down everything, and for your guests to enjoy their meal. Remember that you’ll need to submit a final head count a few weeks before your wedding, and that count will determine the amount you’ll need to pay whether or not all your guests show up. Set an RSVP date accordingly. Ask your caterer plenty of questions so you understand their policies completely.

Reduce your stress. Let go of futile attempts to please everyone or have a perfect wedding. Expect that something will go wrong, and know that’s okay. Be flexible and have a sense of humor. Be sure to get enough sleep and exercise so you’re not run down as your wedding approaches. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day; slow down your pace as much as possible.

Prepare well for your honeymoon. Make travel plans with your fiancé and enjoy looking forward to experiencing your upcoming trip together. Be sure to visit a doctor for a thorough checkup before your honeymoon, and have your fiancé do the same. Keep your honeymoon expectations realistic, considering that you’ll just have come through a very stressful season leading up to your wedding and you’ll need to rest both physically and emotionally. Be patient with each other.

Deal with doubts wisely. Know that wedding jitters are normal to experience. Deal with your fear of losing your independence by maintaining old friendships and activities that are important to you. Remember that, while some things in your life will change, some things can stay the same. If you’re plagued with more serious doubts, face them honestly. Pray about them, and seek feedback from trusted family and friends. Don’t go through with your wedding just to try to avoid the pain and embarrassment of canceling it. If you’re not at peace, look beyond to the wedding to the potential marriage and consider your situation from a long-term perspective. If you can’t truly work through the issues standing in the way of your peace, go ahead and cancel your wedding to save yourself future misery. Send out a simple note to your guests simply informing them that your wedding won’t take place, and don’t feel the need to explain why. If you don’t have enough time to send a note, ask family and friends to help you call your guests to inform them, again without having to give a reason behind your decision. Be sure to return all the gifts you’ve already received.

Keep the focus on worship. Remember that your wedding ceremony is also a worship ceremony. Design it so that it sends the right message about you and your fiancé’s faith in Christ. Make your primary goal to express your eternal covenant with God and each other. Incorporate symbols that illustrate the meaning behind your vows, such as a unity candle lighting. Be sure that your vows fully express the promises you want to make to God and each other, that they reflect what each of you expects from marriage, and that they’re consistent with biblical doctrine. Practice saying your vows before the ceremony, so you’ll be confident saying them during your wedding.

Adapted from A Simple Wedding, by Sharon Hanby-Robie, copyright 2007 by GuidepostsBooks.  Published by GuidepostsBooks, New York, N.Y.,    

Sharon Hanby-Robie is an acclaimed interior design professional and the author of several books, including My Name Isn’t Martha, But I Can Decorate My Home and My Name Isn’t Martha, But I Can Renovate My Home (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, 1998 and 1999) and Beautiful Places, Spiritual Spaces (Moody Publishing, 2004). Sharon is the resident home décor expert for QVC Home Shopping Network. She has been featured extensively as an industry expert for both radio and television programs, appearing on The Today Show, PBS’s Handy Ma’am, HGTV’s Decorating with Style and Interiors by Design as well as The Maurey Povich Show and The Gale King Show. Visit Sharon’s website at