Being engaged is no doubt one of the life-changing periods of your life. It’s a transition period to the most precious relationship you are committing to.Hands down, it’s also the…
When we were deciding on our wedding venue, we already had an outdoor wedding in mind. It fit our personality: we love the beach, nature, and the sweat that comes with tropical weather.
Though looking back, I must confess that the sweat part was something I didn’t really think through at first. It was over 80 degrees Fahrenheit during our garden ceremony, and my makeup turned into pebbles of perspiration on my face.
Besides the heat and sweat, there are plenty of perks to having an outdoor wedding--the sky at the background, the breeze of fresh air, real flora, and the flexibility of an open space that you can design from scratch.
Couples have taken their weddings from churches and hotel ballrooms to the beach, a cliff, a vineyard, a forest, a backyard, a park, a campsite… the list goes on.
On the other hand, an indoor wedding has its conveniences. You get your privacy. You have more control over the foot traffic in a contained space. Then there’s the obvious convenience of not having to deal with weather-related contingencies.
But whether it’s an indoor or outdoor wedding that you decide on, you can still make your uniqueness, creativity, and resourcefulness shine.
If you decide to go al fresco, I want to tell you upfront that there’s extra work that needs to be done. Like I mentioned in this post, you should treat your wedding venue as your home. You ought to extend nothing but excellent hospitality towards your guests.
But how does that look in a venue where there is no room over your head, where insects can wander freely, and temperatures, humidity, and precipitation can not be controlled?
Let me be the first to tell you that you are in for a discussion with your partner and your suppliers about these 25 things that you need to consider when planning an outdoor wedding.
1. An indoor space nearby in case weather changes
A sudden change in weather (rain and wind particularly) can throw you off - literally. While a venue that’s vulnerable to extreme weather conditions can be a treat for your more adventurous guests, it poses as a threat if the weather goes on a rampage. In cases like this, a tent might not be enough shelter. Thus you need to have an indoor space nearby even when you already have tentage for your outdoor event.
Another thing to consider would be the guests your are inviting for the venue. Elderly guests, pregnant women, kids, babies, and others who need the extra care might need some indoor comfort at some point.
2. Accessible bathrooms, or portable toilet rentals for remote venues
Needless to say, this is basic courtesy to your guests. Consider the ratio of bathrooms to your number of guests too. This article suggests having two bathrooms for every 25 guests. Beach weddings, in particular, may mean that you’ll need to share the bathroom with other guests of the property.
Consider the distance, too, of the bathrooms to your main venue. Are you okay with making grandma walk 100 meters in the sand, then queue up for the lone, unisex loo? Think of your guests’ basic comfort.
If you’re aiming for remoteness (e.g. forest), you may need to consider portable toilet rentals. The best gauge whether that’s a good idea is if your were a guest at your wedding, would you be alright with the setup? Since we attract people similar to ourselves, your friends may feel the same way. But then again, don’t forget about your elderly, pregnant women and differently-abled guests. They might have other needs altogether!
3. A cover, shelter, or holding area for your suppliers
As you consider ways to make your guests feel comfortable at the wedding, bestow the same amount of consideration to your suppliers. Most of the things they need on the day of your wedding like meals, transportation, and lodging, are usually already covered in your service contract.
With this, kindly check if your venue options have an area where they can prepare their supplies, have their meals, or wait before packing up. Again, count them and their paraphernalia (think sounds systems, musical instruments, and food carts) in when you make plans for a shelter.
4. The accessibility of the venue for the elders, parents with strollers and small kids, pregnant women and guests with disabilities
I’ve attended a wedding that had me walking up hundreds of steps while carrying my 10-kilogram baby. The wedding was fabulous. We love the couple. But the memory of that treacherous climb up and down haunted my memories. With this, I am resolved to share with future brides that your thoughtfulness about the safety and convenience of your guests will be more appreciated by them than the grand entrance doors or elaborate floral arrangements.
Imagine the walking journey of your guests from where they can be dropped off by vehicles to where you exactly want them sitting. Is any path along the way unsafe? Will it be too inconvenient? Ask the venue coordinator if there are alternative routes. Or if they have provisions to make the journey more convenient, like setting up rubber carpets on the beach for wheelchairs or strollers.
5. A sheltered walking path from drop-off area or parking spaces
Again, this is all about the accessibility of your venue. Test the walking distance from the guests’ drop-off points and parking spaces to where you want your guests to go. In case the rain suddenly pours, is there shelter for guests along the way? While, yes, you can provide umbrellas at their drop-off points, do consider the same path under extreme weather conditions.
6. The holding area for you, the bride
Is there a nearby room where you can get ready, have makeup touch-ups, or wardrobe changes? A pretty isolated venue may leave you with a tent or your bridal car as options.
If you’re going for a tent, consider having side panels to keep the space private. You can recreate the space like your own hotel room by having a cooler, mirrors, and everything else you’ll need to keep yourself feeling refreshed. All these can be rented. Like I’d always suggest, include all these costs as part of your venue budget.
Don’t forget to think about your own access to the bathroom. Because of your dress (think train, multiple layers of fabrics, 5-kilo skirt, et cetera), you’ll need extra care when using the bathroom. (Will your dress fit inside a portable toilet? Just checking!)
7. Costs involved in using any outdoor space
Needless to say, always make sure you’re getting the cost breakdown of all the various spaces you’re considering, even within the same property. For example: You might be thinking about doing your cocktails at the garden, steps away from the hotel ballroom you’re eyeing for your reception. The hotel might charge an add-on fee for that.
8. Permits involved in organising a party in a public space
The municipality office or community association might charge for a permit to organise an event in a public space. While the costs may not necessarily dissuade you from booking such a venue, possible limitations might be involved.If you and your partner are gung-ho about doing a beach wedding so you can release lanterns at the reception, you might be disappointed if the town council doesn’t approve of your idea. For this, I recommend that you and your partner are clear about what your deal breakers are before booking a venue.
9. Cost of tent rentals
If you’d like your wedding programme to be outdoors even in the event of rain, consider renting tents. You might also want to consider a tent if you’re holding a summer wedding, so your guests can get some shelter from the sweltering heat of the sun.
Do your research on the costs before even booking your venue, and check out the rental services that are in the same vicinity of your prospective venues. Costs differ from place to place. Your goal should be to keep your venue cost and tent rental costs within your venue budget.
10. Neighbor’s noise
One thing that can go out of hand (and beyond your control) on your wedding day are the distracting noises in the neighborhood. Properties advertising their outdoor spaces cannot always guarantee the behavior of their neighbors. A relaxing spa resort at the beach may be the perfect venue for a solemn outdoor ceremony, but the resort next door that holds afternoon family sports activities may compete with you for airwaves. Another example of noise competition would be a neighbor’s live band performance that may swallow up the audibility of your own band’s performance. So ask the hotel’s coordinator what activities the neighbors do on a daily basis. Better yet, go visit the neighboring properties and investigate.
11. These other extra costs related to outdoor events
- Tents and related transportation and installation costs: as explained in #9
- Delivery charges for remote locations: some vendors will charge extra transportation fees to get to areas outside of their usual coverage
- Rental of portable toilets: as explained in #2
- Hiring security: for high-risk, open locations; to make sure your guests’ or your own belongings don’t go missing
- Extra manpower: for when you’ll need to move the set-up quickly to an indoor space in the event of weather changes
- Lighting: I listed possible lighting requirements you’ll need in my Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet
- Fans: because breeze is not always a guarantee, have some industrial rental fans to keep the guests cool
- Coolers: for warmer weathers and locations, you might need some cooling equipment
- Generator: to power all your lighting, sounds systems, and other electrical equipment outdoors (Before planning our outdoor wedding, I thought that we could just plug all the equipment to a power extension connected to an indoor outlet. Wrong!)
- Transportation for guests: especially for remote locations, you may have to provide the transportation for your guests from a common meeting place
For this next part, I am assuming that you have already decided on a venue. Congratulations, you can start planning for these things:
12. How to communicate your venue and set-up to your guests
One of the most treasured feedback we’ve received from our wedding guests was “great communication of information”.
“There can’t be too much communication for a wedding event,” said one of our friends. And since then, I’ve started to believe that.
The main hosts of the wedding (that’s you and your partner!) will be too preoccupied during those times when your guests would need crucial information the most. And those moments would be when they need to get to the venue, or move to a backup venue in the event of weather changes.
So it’s best to provide all these information to your guests ahead of time - meaning, before they even get to your wedding venue. It would be great to include this in your invitations or wedding website, and to communicate these things together when you ask your guests to RSVP.
13. Communicating to your guests about the attire
Specify in your communication channels to guests (in your invitations, wedding website, et cetera) what type of venue it is. Are they going to stand on grass, sand, cobble stone or an outdoor carpet?
Give them a good lead time to prepare for their wardrobe by having this detail announced at least a month before your wedding.
14. Having mobile, easy-to-set-up decors
If you’re not going to use any tentage, the next best insurance you can have are easy-to-setup and ready-to-install ceremony and reception set-ups.
First, you’ll have to agree with your vendors how much time you can afford to wait the rain out. If the rain stops, great; then you can have your troops re-setup in a flash. I’ve seen this happen time and time again - the things that make it to the set-up are the ones that have wheels and big display pieces. For this, you must understand that a certain table’s place card slipped inside a cut cork standee that will only stay up if positioned at a certain angle will be the least of the troop’s priorities in a 20-minute re-setup - if the rain stops at all.
15. Decors and displays that won’t be blown away
I’ve been talking about the sun and the rain as key elements that can make or break an outdoor wedding plan. But let’s not forget there’s also wind.
Plan for decors that won’t easily be blown away and end up in the sea or another couple’s wedding reception. Again, you may refer back to # 14 when you decide on weighty decors. Loose paper items, fabrics, and lightweight floor decors are the usual victims of the wind’s wrath.
16. A Plan B script for your master of ceremonies (A.K.A. emcee)
After you plan your plan B in case of weather changes, brief your emcee about it. He or she is the other person, apart from your coordinator, who should know exactly what will happen in case the bad weather ensues. He or she represents both of you, so bring up with him/her how you’d like to address your guests during this critical period of logistical changes - if he/she is writing his/her own script. If you’re writing the emcee’s script yourself, please include this bit of information.
17. Consider where the sun is pointing
If you have options as to where to face your guests and yourselves during the ceremony, ask where the sun doesn’t point directly towards. If placing your guests in a specific position would ruin the concept of the backdrop that you’re aiming for, perhaps consider angling the guests even just a few degrees away from having to face the sun directly.
18. Seats that can really be sat on
With the advent of Pinterest came the unique wedding locations and creative seating furniture. We’ve attended a wedding in the forest and it was beautiful. I observed though that the older and weightier guests were not comfortable, let alone fit, on the tree stumps as seats. Again, think about how you’d want to make your guests feel comfortable. Think about the grannies, the pregnant women, and your other guests who need extra care and attention.
19. Food that won’t easily spoil
Putting out food outdoors makes it more vulnerable to changing temperatures. And you know what thrives in such? Bacteria. Especially for food that doesn’t keep in the heat.
No matter how amazing a cheese bar would look at your wedding, it might spoil even before your guests enjoy it (Unless it’s cheese fondue!). Your local caterers should know about these things so they can prepare for proper storage. If you’re going DIY, then there’s more to the food planning than just doing away with dairy on the menu. Here is a guidance I found online on DIY Weddings and Food Safety.
20. The amount of time your florals stay out
If the flowers of your choice are extremely sensitive to heat, then plan with your vendors on when to set these up. Your florists should know this. However, if you’re going DIY and it’s your friends or family who’ll do the setup, research more about the florals you’re using. If they’re not tropical and are known to easily wilt under the heat, then only pull them out right before your guests arrive.
21. Your dress
I’m talking to you, bride. A wedding dress designers’ first two questions are usually: “When is your wedding?” and “Where is it going to be?”
What they really want to find out with the second question would be the actual venue. The beach? A church? A hotel ballroom? A castle? That’s because the dress has to be functional enough to allow you to move around the wedding venue with ease. A ball gown with multiple layers of fabric is the last thing they’ll suggest for a beach wedding.
22. Your hairstyle
This is again for you, bride. An outdoor wedding in the tropics, like ours, might make you want to consider having your hair worn up. There’s just something very stressful about having your hair touch your neck or shoulders when it’s warm, you’re starting to sweat, and your hair has made its way around your neck. Do you feel me?
23. Flowers that are natural pesticides
Insects are another natural element you have to contend with outdoors. Many florists are smart enough to have flowers on their menu that repel insects. Options are citronella, lemon balm, lavender, marigolds and peppermint.
24. Outdoor weather survival kits for your guests
Thoughtful gestures for your guests include giving them the following (and in no particular order): umbrellas, fans, hats, tissue, bugs spray, water, sunscreen, first aid kits, paper towels, bath towels, scarves, pashminas, plastic heel protectors, flip flops, and other easy-to-carry accessories.
These come at extra costs, but become memorable and useful to your guests. Just make sure to place them where they can be easily seen by guests. Oftentimes, I’d only find out in photos that there were these thoughtful items at a wedding I had just attended. If I only knew, I wouldn’t have gone home with bug bites.
25. Agreeing with your fiancé on weather-related responses
Last, but definitely not the least, it’s important to agree with your fiancé on two things:
- What your plan B should be in the event of weather changes
- How you’d like to be supported/comforted if plan A doesn’t push through
Some brides end up being too emotional hours or minutes before the wedding when they hear that their plans have been overruled by the sudden weather change. Since you and your partner most likely won’t be together during this critical decision-making moment (as you both are getting ready in separate rooms), make sure to agree ahead of time on the two things I mentioned.
The groom is usually the one consulted by the wedding coordinator about the contingencies on the day itself, while the bride waits somewhere else for her dramatic entrance. Would you like to be consulted by your groom first before making any decision? You can agree to have your maid-of-honor or someone you trust to liaise with the groom on your behalf. This is in case you want to maintain the element of surprise, and not talk to your groom directly before you walk down the aisle. You can also break the “rules” of not seeing each other before the walk down the aisle and decide to pray together and make the decision together.
Whatever you think will comfort you the most, bring honor to God and one other, and provide convenience to your guests will be the decision you will want to make in the event of the unexpected.
I’ve pretty much exhausted all possible considerations for an outdoor wedding. But the truth is, there’s still a possibility for your well-laid out plans to face challenges.
What else is there to do then? Here’s something I wrote to help you prepare for any weather on your wedding day. Hope it encourages you!
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Outdoor weddings have undoubtedly become more and more popular. I’ve been seeing more and more couples taking their wedding party to the backyard, the courtyard, the beach, or wherever else a clear sky can be seen.
We had ours in a garden nestled under tropical trees overlooking the beach. The sun was high up in the afternoon, and everyone without sunglasses squinted throughout our ceremony. My face had collected sweat by the time my groom and I were permitted to kiss, and I didn’t feel as pretty as when I walked down the aisle. We were glad it was a sunny day, but I wouldn’t lie about hoping that it wasn’t THAT hot.
If I was slightly unsettled even with clearly good weather on our wedding day, how much more would it be for couples whose outdoor weddings got rained on?
Here’s a post where I wrote about what four of my married female friends felt when the sky sent showers on their wedding day.
Knowing that the weather is out of our control, how can couples prepare for the least-liked weather conditions?
There are logistical steps that you can take to have a Plan B so that you and your guests don’t end up getting soaked in the rain and waking up the next day with a flu. Check out my post on 25 Things to Consider When Planning an Outdoor Wedding.
We all know that a Plan B is a Plan B because it’s not Plan A, our preferred plan. And for a bride and groom, that really sucks.
So how can you prepare yourselves mentally, emotionally, and more importantly, spiritually for any kind of disappointment that bad weather could bring on your wedding day?
Here are 5 steps you can take to prepare for any weather you wake up and sleep to, on the day you say “I do”:
1. Think about how you can showcase God’s creativity through your wedding.
I believe that God allows us to bring out our creativity on our wedding day. After all, He’s like a Father who’d like to see His children use their talents. We ought to create excellent things because our God is excellent.
Now, think of how you can make your wedding look just that - excellent. Oh, for sure your ideas abound! The good news is that we all want our wedding day to be superb, and that’s not a difficult thing to do.
Next, think about what a poorly executed wedding would look like. It obviously doesn’t showcase God’s creativity. List down the elements of such a wedding so you can really imagine them with your fiancé.
This time, ask yourselves these questions:
• If the flowers that you’ve been wanting to use for your wedding fail to bloom on THE day, are you failing God?
• If the sun dries up the lake where you wanted to get married in, are you failing God?
• If it rains on your wedding day, and you have to bring all your guests indoors for their safety, are you failing God?
The answer is definitely no because these things are obviously out of your control. So if you have anything on your “poorly-executed-wedding-be-like” list along those lines, scrap them.
When we end up feeling bad about not getting something we want, is it because we are just too insistent on what we want?
The exercise above is one way to help us check our intentions when we make certain decision for our wedding (or in life!). I know you will be planning excellently for the things that you can control, so be easy on yourself! God is already pleased at the intent and the effort you’ve put into planning!
2. Use your wedding funds wisely.
Anything unplanned that happens on your wedding becomes too painful to handle when we put in too much of our resources in it.
If an outdoor wedding gets rained on, and you have to revert to Plan B, then the effort, time, and money you put in for your venue and all your outdoor decors no longer give you the full return on investment. And this hurts couples badly. Sometimes we can overlook the cost of effort and time, but not easily money. Why? Because we tend to be more attached to our money, and we earn it through effort and time after all!
So what’s the antidote? Decide wisely where you put your wedding fund into.
When you take a biblical perspective on spending your wedding money, you make wiser decisions. What does spending look like in the Bible? That which will honor and celebrate Him. There are tons of Biblical scriptures on it. Here’s a list of some of them.
An example of how a couple could be spending their wedding fund with God in mind is this:
Lillian and Thomas chose a beach wedding to complement their water-loving personalities (God likes how we embrace our uniqueness.), to showcase the beauty of the natural scenery (God created them after all!), and to share the Gospel during the ceremony even to passers-by (Wow, that’s letting go of any privacy on their wedding day!).
But if you’re telling me, “Hmm, we’re not choosing our venue for all those reasons, just that it’s really pretty and it suits us!” Then that’s totally fine too!
You can now then check your choice against your budgets.
If your choice of venue stretches your budget beyond what you can afford, especially that you will need to spend also on any rainy-day logistics (like tentage or renting an alternative venue--read my post about that here), then it might not be the best choice.
I’d be careful about “praying for that venue that is 40% beyond our budget because God grants the desires of our hearts!” Yes, He grants the desires of our hearts, but only if they are the desires of His heart too! And I don’t think He wishes any of us to begin married life at a deficit. More on the topic of Weddings & Money here.
In the end, whether it’s a church venue, a palace, a garden, or the slope of a volcano where you are getting married, God is okay with any venue, as long as you are choosing it for Him and using the resources that He has given you wisely. And when you choose Him, of course you are also choosing to make it safe for your guests!
3. Pray and ask God about your choice of venue and setup.
You’ve heard this before: “Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)
When it’s time for you and your fiancé to choose your wedding venue and setup, first, pray about it. Remember, praying is seeking God’s desire for you. And as you both pray for what He desires for you both, He’ll work in amazing ways to speak to your hearts, and make them want what He wants for you.
Then dive into the Word. Communicating with God is a two-way action. Just praying without seeking for His instructions is like talking to your counsellor without giving your listening ears to know what they think. Getting into the Word is also a way to affirm if what you are desiring is what God desires for you both.
Which part of the Bible do you go to when you’re in the middle of making a big decision? And I’d consider picking a wedding venue as a big decision. It will define most of your other wedding decisions!
I don’t have a prescription on which scripture would help you exactly, because there are tons. I suggest you read this article on How Do I Study a Specific Topic in the Bible. It will suggest to you using a concordance. When you search for topics using an online concordance like Bible Study Tools, I suggest looking up some of these words to study scriptures about them: “decisions,” “plans,” “wisdom,” or “hospitality.” As for why I included the word “hospitality”, read my fourth point below. As you pray with your partner, write down the words that come to mind that you’d want to study.
When you make decisions based on what God wants for you, then it should be easier to heal from disappointments when your plans don’t prosper. What happens if your wedding day still gets a weather that you don’t prefer after you’ve prayed, heard from God and obeyed God when you both decided on a venue? You get full assurance that it’s the weather that God wants for a bigger purpose!
On the note of prayer and studying the word: This whole period of wedding planning is a great opportunity to exercise your praying muscles and develop Bible study habits. You and your fiancé will be making TONS of decisions together. While your decisions would seem to only be relevant to a one-day event, they have long-term effect. So I really believe that this is a period when you really have to prioritise even more your time with the Lord. You will be busy planning the wedding, but prioritising your time with God will realign you with the real purpose of this season. How I wish I heard about this when I was in your place!
4. Think of the wedding venue that you choose as your home on your wedding day.
Your wedding venue, every area of it, is your home on that special day. If anything, it’s your first home together as a married couple! You are welcoming your most loved people to that place that you meticulously prepared for their coming.
This said, won’t the way you design the wedding venue similar to how you would get your home ready if you were to invite them to your actual marital home? You’ll probably even pour out more resources on your wedding day than any other occasion you would host in the future. What a great act of hospitality!
One picture of hospitality in the Bible is found on 1 Peter 4:9 which says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” The next verse goes on to say that, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
In the first point, I talked about how God is pleased with you when you use your talents to plan, organise, and design the venue on your wedding day. The verse above affirms that!
Then I talked about spending your wedding funds wisely on point # 2. And this verse also encourages us to be faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms! I believe that you having money to spend on your wedding is just by God’s grace! Isn’t that cool?
So in the case of your wedding venue and setup, what you need to prioritise is how to make people feel comfortable in the space, how you can make them feel accommodated through your logistics and programme, and how you can do that while using your skills and talent within what you can afford. All of these already showcase excellent hospitality!
5. Remember that God is the God of all weather.
Undoubtedly, more couples prefer a clear sky and just the right amount of sun compared to rain on their wedding day, given the type of venues being booked nowadays. Even couples who choose to do their event indoors definitely find it more convenient to have a rain-free weather, as going to the venue on a rainy day can be a hassle for the guests (think long dresses getting wet upon getting off the car!).
So I assume that there are more soon-to-be wed couples PRAYING for sun than those praying for rain.
I turned to a friend to seek a counsel on whether or not it’s biblical to pray for good weather. She said, “Yes. It is biblical to pray for anything including good weather for special occasions. But remember that God’s answer is always ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’”
That shouldn’t be a surprise to us, but somehow, it still surprises us and hurts us when bad weather meets us.
When we pray for something and God answers it, it is for His glory. If He says “no” and it rains when you prayed for a sun shiny day, that’s also for His glory. It may be difficult to accept because it’s not what we want, but that’s really the deal and is what glorifies God ultimately.
When it rains on your wedding day, God is not punishing you. Firstly, no one punishes someone using something that’s good. Rain is good because He created it. Secondly, God is not in a punishing mode when a certain weather that we don’t prefer shows up at the wedding and marriage that we’ve submitted to Him. He has a story for it that we may not understand immediately, and that’s another reason to pray--so that God reveals to you what His purpose is for the weather that He’ll bring on your wedding day.
So, gorgeous bride, take comfort that you can have a beautiful wedding, no matter what the weather becomes. You can also take inspiration from this post.
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We totally risked not having a rainy day back-up plan for our garden wedding in Bali. But I have to be honest; it was a decision that leaned more towards frugality than faith. And the sun did shine that day. Too much, in fact, that our guests went home with an extra strong tan.
But what would it be for you, if it rained on your outdoor wedding and things don't go as planned?
Here are some reflections from friends whose weddings were rained on.
An Opportunity to Be Served
I had the honour of coordinating for the wedding of my dear friends, Eric & Kelly. Being the planner that I am, I thought I covered all bases--up until I felt a raindrop on my nose. Then I realized that I didn’t have a rainy day back-up plan.
It just totally slipped my mind! After all, among the 30+ weddings I had attended at that time, I have not been to one that had been rained on.
There’s a first for everything.
I remember our team of friends setting up and tearing down the beautiful garden set-up at least three times, as the rain poured and paused on repeat. With thirty minutes off schedule, we had to finally decide to move the ceremony indoors.
Kelly recounts her emotions:
“When I saw the rain fall, I wanted to burst into tears. I held it for my make-up’s sake. But inside, I was like, ‘God, how could you let it rain on my wedding day? Did I do something wrong?’ That was my immediate thought, having had a well-planned outdoor wedding that now wouldn’t happen.
Then God reminded me during the ceremony of the time Eric asked me to be his girlfriend. We were hiking, and it started to rain hard. Eric helped me realise that our life together was going to be an adventure involving some ‘rainy days.’ A few years later, it rained again when our first son was born!”
Unbeknownst to Eric & Kelly was how forthcoming ALL their guests were in helping set up the alternative indoor venue. Everyone gladly made sure that the wedding would remain special and beautiful for the couple.
Eric and Kelly are two people who find so much joy in serving other people. They met at Every Nation Church Singapore where my husband Mike and I also attend. I believe God used the rain to show them how much they are loved by the people they have been serving.
God also showed them His consistency! Pastor Larry spoke during his sermon:
"In the Bible God says, 'Man plans his ways, but God directs his steps.' Although this wedding may have been planned as an outdoor wedding, I believe God, in His divine plan, wanted it indoors. A lot of us don't know this, but years ago, this used to be a church (referring to White Rabbit, the wedding venue). And I felt that before this ceremony started, the Lord just whispered to me, 'Eric and Kelly met at church, I want them to get married in church.”
A Reminder of God’s Consistency
Rain was also a factor in Dust and Carla’s story.
Carla recalls, “It reminded us of our first date - it was also a stormy night! So the rain during our wedding day showed us that God was involved.”
At their dinner party, it continued to rain. While this made it difficult for guests to go anywhere (the venue was on top of a hill), it allowed us guests to focus on the couple, and catch up with friends we had not seen in a long time. It was a lovely picture of a big family getting together over fun and food!
The Gospel Was Heard More Audibly
“The reason we chose our venue was because of its beautiful outdoor patio. Our wedding was going to lead up to an evening reception at a courtyard, as I had imagined us under the stars. Then it rained, and we had to scrap all of that to move indoors.” recalls Ina Mendez-Tan.
The Instagrammable outdoor dream wedding that was no more caused Ina’s groom to feel very unsettled.
“When we had to move indoors two hours before the start of the ceremony, I had peace about it. I learned later on that Edson, my then-fiancé, was very anxious about the idea that his bride won’t get her dream wedding! That made me love him even more!” shared Ina.
After the wedding, the couple reflected on how focused the guests became to the wedding programme when they moved the venue indoors. “There was just too much to see at the outdoor space that our guests would, for sure, get too distracted!” says Ina.
And most importantly, because there was less distraction, the gospel message during the ceremony was more audibly delivered to the audience who were seated very close to each other, according to the couple.
A Rainbow and God’s Promises
In the middle of John and Rachelle’s beach wedding, a drizzle decided to pay them a visit. Then, while the pastor was talking about God’s promises about marriage, a rainbow came out.
Sitting as their guest and marveling at the sight of such a beautiful stream of colours, I remembered the rainbow in Genesis 9. God made a promise to Noah after the flood and said, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.”
I’d like to believe that there was at least one person at the wedding that needed an assurance from God about that promise. And Rachelle and John’s wedding was used for that purpose.
A Silver Lining and Some Disappointments
While there comes a silver lining to some of these rainy weddings, there’s always a level of disappointment that couples have to deal with.
Just think about all that’s been paid, planned, and hoped for: outdoor lights and decors, seating arrangements, or the sound of birds chirping in the background as the couple says “I do.”
Rachelle, for one, shared, “I didn’t let the rain dampen my mood that day when it caused us to move our dinner plans from the beach to an indoor venue. But I also couldn’t stop thinking right there and then about the costs we’ve incurred having planned it to be on the beach!”
Meanwhile, Kelly and Eric never got to see the entire DIY decors their friends put together.
There will always be feelings of disappointment to battle with when plans don’t turn out the way we hoped. I’ve not heard of anyone who was absolutely unperturbed on their wedding day, or even the days that followed, when things go amiss.
But here’s some good news: we can control our attitude even when we can’t control the weather!
Planning for Any Type of Weather
So what do you do to prepare yourself for the possibility of bad weather on your wedding day, while having to fight feelings of disappointment during such a special occasion?
Well there’s the logistical approach, which I talk about on my post 25 Things to Consider When Planning an Outdoor Wedding.
Then there’s the non-logistical approach that I believe is much more important (think long-term. Check it out on How To Prepare For Any Weather On Your Wedding Day.
Do you have a similar story to share? If you’re reading this after getting married, I’d love to hear of your experiences in addressing changing weather conditions on your wedding day. If you’re a bride still planning your wedding, tell me about how you plan to make your wedding day weatherproof!
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"What in the world are wedding guiding principles?" you might ask. I answer these questions on The Step to Planning Your Wedding That Nobody Talks About to understand how having guiding principles for your wedding season can help you.
After you’ve made the necessary engagement announcements to your family and closest friends, sit down together and pray. Pray about how you want this wedding planning period and your wedding day to look like.
Here are the questions many couples wish they have discussed before planning the logistics of their wedding, plus more follow-up questions:
1. How would you like your fiancé/fiancée to feel after the wedding day?
- How often will you have date nights while you’re engaged?
- How do you want your date nights to look like? Will they be:
- Wedding planning sessions to be efficient with time
- A mix of wedding planning sessions and marriage preparation sessions
- Absolutely no wedding talks
- Spontaneous / anything goes
- How will you communicate with each other whenever you feel loved?
- How will you communicate with each other whenever you don’t agree with certain choices for the wedding?
- What would you do if someone from your family disagrees with your wedding decisions?
- How will you split the wedding planning tasks?
- Are you going to have your honeymoon right away? If no, why not? If yes, why so?
- How will you receive financial assistance from either family that wouldn’t trump your decision-making powers for your wedding?
2. How would you like your guests to feel after attending your wedding?
- How much effort are you willing to give in order to provide information to your guests?
- What will be your reasoning for choosing the guests you are planning to invite?
- Are you inviting the kids of your guests? If you’re inviting kids, how would you make your wedding friendly to parents with little children?
- Are you inviting “plus ones”?
- What experience would you like your guests to have when they arrive at your wedding venue?
- What message would you like to convey to your guests through the ceremony proceedings and reception programme?
- Are you giving gifts to your friends? If so, how would you like your guests to feel when they receive them?
3. How would you like your marital finances to look the day after your wedding?
- Are you going to budget for your wedding in such a way that you’ll also have funds for your honeymoon?
- Where are you going to get your wedding funds from?*
- Who will be the bookkeeper or accountant?*
- Are you going to create a separate account for your wedding funds?
- What is your justification for taking on debt for the wedding?
- What are the things you’d like to do during your first year of marriage that won’t intervene with debt re-payment, or won’t incur you any new debt?
- How do you plan to use the monetary gift/s you’ll be receiving?
- Are you going to stick to a budget for your wedding?
- How do you plan on sticking to your budget?
*To learn more about how you can be wiser about your wedding and money, click here.
4. How would you like to use this planning season to learn?
- How do you plan to handle vendors who may not deliver as agreed?
- How will you handle unsolicited suggestions from family and friends?
- How much help are you willing to receive or ask from family and friends?
- What would you like to learn more about your fiancé / fiancée?
- What would you like to learn more about God?
5. How would you like to honour God during your engagement and on your wedding day?
- How will you protect your prayer time?
- How will you exemplify excellence in planning a wedding that’s inspired by God?
- Would you use this time to exemplify godly stewardship to others?
- How will you use this season to share about God to other people?
- How will you practice giving thanks to God during this season?
I suggest answering these questions before you even start planning the wedding. That’s the idea of guiding principles. The wedding planning process can be overwhelming in itself. You’d want to protect your relationship by being better at communicating. You'll be surprised at how rich your conversations would be!
Let me know in the comment section below what your experience was like when you talked about finances with your fiancé for the first time.
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….is actually the first step.
Venue or date? Budget or guest list? Theme or venue?
Where do you begin in planning your wedding?
If you pick the venue first, it may not match your theme, budget, or fit the number of people you plan on inviting.
If you work on your budget first, how do you know what to budget for?
If you pick a theme first, you might end up frustrated if your budget isn’t enough to execute the idea you have in mind.
Oh! What a headache! Does it really need to be this difficult?
When we were planning our wedding, we received all kinds of advice from our married friends on how to get started. But amidst all the how-to’s, we heard something resonate in all of them.
Many of them have shared what a grueling process it was to agree on the hundreds of details they had to deal with. On hindsight, they all shared how they wished they had more discussions that dealt with how they really felt about all these big and small details before getting so close to each and every deadline.
The first crucial step that no one really talks about when planning their wedding is the establishment of your guiding principles. My then-fiancé-now-husband Mike and I distilled what our friends were saying, and came to the conclusion that what they hoped they had to start with were some set of these principles.
Guiding principles are a set of rules, agreements, or philosophies to help you make better and smarter choices together.
These are elaborations of what you, as a couple, believe in - which are pretty much affected by your faith and preferences. Your vision for your wedding day will likewise define your guiding principles.
They are ideally talked about and written before jumping into logistical planning, so your planning could be easily determined by what you’ve already agreed on.
We only really fully realised the benefits of having these guiding principles after our wedding day, and we could even say that these enabled us to actually enjoy planning our wedding!
That’s why I’d like to share with you these 5 things that you can have Guiding Principles for.
1. How you’d like your fiancé to feel after the wedding day
When the dust settles, what will your fiancé remember you by the way you treated him during the engagement period up until the wedding day?
I remember when I went ahead and printed out our wedding programmes without getting my fiancé’s inputs, which made him feel disrespected. I remember when he overhauled the content I wrote for our wedding website, which made me feel insulted. We both just wanted to be helpful, but we couldn't make sense of our own good intentions because we weren't communicating enough!
On a brighter note, I felt really supported by him when he prioritised me over his family. He definitely treated my in-laws very well, but he had to make careful decisions as to who gets time first when we were all in the same town days before our wedding. And that was even with the premise that he only sees his parents a few times a year! I believe my in-laws exemplified it well to him that his future wife would be priority over the family, and he was already practicing this during our engagement.
This will help determine:
- How you’ll spend time with your fiancé when you’re planning and when you’re not planning for the wedding
- How you’ll both communicate during this season
- How you’ll prioritise things
2. How you’d like your guests to feel after attending your wedding
I couldn’t have agreed more with Maya Angelou when she said,
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Our friends Angel and Abiel Pascual wrote each of their 100+ guests personalised handwritten letters. That really made my husband and I feel that they value us as part of their life.
This will help determine:
- The guest list
- The programme
- The gifts for your guests (if applicable)
- The welcome and send-off logistics of your guests
3. How you’d like your marital finances to look the day after your wedding
With the social pressures of pulling off an extravagant, most Pinterest-worthy wedding--which include but are not limited to an extraordinary prenup pictorial, the highest quality same-day-edit video, the most exotic location, and the most pompous menu--couples throw most, if not all, financial boundaries out the window.
The common justification is that it just happens once in a lifetime (ideally), and that the money can be recovered later on.
But what happens in overspending for a single day of fairytale wedding bliss is the exchange for many months or years of indebtedness and financial insecurity.
No couple in history has ever regretted being on the healthy side of finances after the wedding day, so there must be enormous benefits to making wise financial decisions while planning.
This will help determine:
- Where your funds will come from
- Your budget for each item
- Your choice of vendors
(I write more about how you can plan and commit to a wiser wedding through sound financial strategies here.)
4. How you’ll use this season to learn
The wedding is going to be your first ‘big project’ together as a couple. Your partnership in making decisions will be put to the test. The strengths and weaknesses of your characters will be most transparent.
Whatever you or your fiancé discover about each other during the process will be what you'll have to accept in marriage (or say ‘no’ to if there are serious red flags).
An openness to learn from each other and from what you’ll experience will bring you closer to one another.
This will help determine:
- How you’ll respond to conflicts
- How you’ll respond to stressors
- How you’ll communicate
5. How you’d like to honour God during your engagement and on your wedding day
The spiritual depth of a wedding can be easily taken for granted when the road leading to it gets very bumpy. That’s why it’s important to stay focused on its true purpose.
You and your groom are going to stand before the Lord and your witnesses to enter into a covenant. Your wedding day is a mirror of how both of you as believers and members of His church unite with Him.
As glorious as that sounds, often times, God is neglected altogether months leading up to the wedding day - because of stress, busyness, and fixation on the less essential parts of getting married. Couples go back to communicating with Him again when wedding planning has reached its conclusion.
But truth is, God deserves honour during the entire process of preparing for your marriage. He is the reason why you’re getting married after all!
This will help determine:
- How long your engagement will be (to read more on this, check out this article )
- How you’ll spend time with your fiancé during your engagement
- How you’ll prioritise things
- How you’ll respond to stressors
- How you’ll make financial decisions for your wedding (here's my blog series on 'Weddings & Money').
- How you’ll relate with people
Click the image to get all these questions as a printable PDF!
There you go!
I recommend you pray about these things, then schedule a date night with your fiancé to discuss about them. Encourage and show your appreciation to one another every time you both agree on each point.
Can't yet decide on something together? Take a break and pray individually whenever you disagree on certain things. Consult a married couple you both trust to help you navigate through tough discussions if you need to.
Do you need more help with going through these 5 ideas? I made a list of related yet more specific questions you can ask each other! Find them here.
Have fun during this season!
As a child, were you ever asked by an adult to buy something using their money?
When I was a kid, my mom would often send me to the nearby provision store and buy rice.
Where I grew up, rice can be purchased in quantities of 250 grams, scooped from a heaping mountain of rice. I was expected to buy as much rice as I could with the money that I had been given. Sometimes I’d spend it all, sometimes, there’d be spare change.
This, for me, is a simple and clear picture of what it means to spend within a budget.
This principle of spending within a finite limit seems to be taken less seriously nowadays. With credit cards, quick loan applications, and even digital money, our spending is no longer limited to what we have in the bank.
The lack of discipline to practice this principle when planning your wedding can result in financial woes and relational tension in your future marriage.
So I’d like to share with you 8 foundational ways to stick to your wedding budget so that you’re also investing for dividends with your future spouse.
1. Create a budget.
Planning a wedding without a budget is like taking a flight without a destination. You may not be able to come back!
So first things first:
Step 1: Talk to your fiancé about where your wedding funds will come from.
Step 2: Identify how much you can realistically afford based on your savings, plus whatever you’ll set aside from your income during your engagement period.
I talk about steps 1 & 2 more here.
Step 3: Create a comprehensive budget. In other words, decide on how much you’ll be spending on each wedding item. I provide guidance on this and a free Wiser Weddings: Budget WorkSheet that you can sign up for here.
Saying that you’ll set an overall wedding budget of $10,000 without further breaking it down is setting yourselves up for overspending. Because you’ll likely spend most (if not all) of that lump sum budget on the very first thing you’ll purchase.
2. Talk about your "Guiding Principles."
There are tons of tiny details that you’ll be wading through as you plan your wedding. And most of these details will help determine your budget. You will be asking each other questions such as:
“How will we determine who to invite?”
“Are we going to allow our guests to bring a ‘plus one’?”
“Are we going to ask for financial help from our parents?”
Guiding principles help set the vision for the wedding planning period and create the boundaries you’ll need to stay on track. Agreeing on these ‘Guiding Principles’ from the very start will help you and your fiancé to make better decisions throughout the process. Ultimately, the goal is to protect and invest in your future marriage. Check out this blog where I talk about how you can write your guiding principles.
3. Meet up with a financial planner.
A financial planner can help you plan for how you’ll pay off debt, if any (and, please, not debt you plan to incur for the wedding), and how to start saving for your future marriage fund. It’s a wise move to talk about this with a financial planner during your engagement period so that you can be future-thinking even as you plan your wedding.
A financial planner who believes in tithing even whilst paying off debt, and before saving and investing, and who encourages you to be benevolent on top of tithing is one my husband and I personally seek.
4. Have a financial vision for your early years of marriage thru Proverbs 3:9-10 and create a vision board.
If you really want to strengthen your resolve to be financially wise while planning your wedding, then you’ll need to have a strong vision for it.
One good way to give soul to your vision is to find a scripture (or a few) from the Bible that talk about God’s overflowing blessings following our obedience. I’ve chosen Proverbs 3:9-10 as one of them:
"Honour the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine."
As you honor God with your finances while planning your wedding, you are preparing the way for blessings to come to you individually, and soon into your marital home. Being financially free (let’s start with having no debt) during your first year of marriage also relieves you of lots of stress. Such bliss increases intimacy in the early stages, which is a crucial foundation for a life-long marriage.
And since we are visual creatures, try creating a vision board. A vision board is a physical display that contains images of the things you want to achieve, want to do, or want to be in your life (or in a particular aspect of life). It’s like the initial sketch of an architect, or a dress designer. Having the imagery of what you’d like your early married years to be will excite your senses, keep you focused, and help you achieve your goal.
5. Get organised.
Have you ever had to pay for excess luggage at the airport? It’s expensive! I’ve found myself having to take the hit whenever I don’t plan my packing well. A few minutes of good planning and organising can avoid a lot of unnecessary fees!
One of my husband’s favourite sayings is “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” And the same is true with weddings. Weddings become unnecessarily wasteful and expensive when the couples leave things in disarray.
“But I’m already so busy and there’s just so much to organise!” This is a cry I hear from many brides-to-be. And I feel you! What I’ve observed, and what I’ve experienced myself, is that much energy is spent on things that can be done more quickly, and less is spent on things that actually need more attention.
Think late fees. Simply setting calendar reminders will help avoid missing payment deadlines. For more guidance in getting financially organised, check out my blog on how to get organised with your wedding fund.
Another way to get organised is to...
6. Invest in a Wedding Admin Assistant.
I’m a believer that you’ve gotta spend money to make money. Now that may sound materialistic to you, but it’s a sound investment principle. Hear me out here:
Organising the various offerings of your suppliers in a worksheet may not be something that you or your fiancé particularly enjoy. And because you don’t enjoy the task, it will likely take longer, and cause frustration.You may even end up cutting corners and not reviewing the proposals thoroughly.
When it’s time to pick suppliers, you pick one that looks most economical on the surface. But because you missed some details about their offering (e.g. limited-use only clause, late fees, service charges, etc.) you end up paying more and getting less.
In a case like this, you may end up wishing you had spent a little bit of money hiring someone to look into the details that you couldn't be bothered with. In the long run, you would have saved more.
Where can you turn to look for wedding admin help? One way is to find an Admin Assistant on a freelance services online marketplace like Fiverr or Upwork. Hourly rates are as low as USD $5. Another way is to make a crowdsourcing post on Facebook among your friends (I do this often). Be clear that you are looking for someone to support with online, short-term, freelance admin work. When I do this, I often get connected with talented people who are stay-at-home moms, part-time students, or in between jobs.
If you want to delegate the admin tasks, but just can’t bring yourself to pay for someone’s services, then…
7. Enlist friends and family to help.
My husband Mike is a master delegator and he knows how to do it with grace, order and integrity. And I’m learning from him in this area. I tend to hoard tasks, not considering that many other people would be willing, able, and happy to chip in.
When we were planning our wedding, two friends acted as our creative team, recommending colour schemes and design pegs. Another two friends (both skilled graphic designers) helped develop our wedding monogram and avatar logos. My sister helped me to compile a list of wedding dress suppliers within our budget and style. A few other friends helped distribute packages that we needed to send to our entourage members. Our officiant, our emcees, and our wedding band were all made up of friends who just wanted to pitch in and help!
Your wedding day is one of the most momentous events in both your lives. Family and friends would love to partake in it in any way. Asking for help is a virtue (humility) as it is an art. You’d want to do it in a way that holds them accountable if they fail to deliver, and allows them to find joy in serving you and your fiancé.
8. Be wise about who to invite to your wedding.
Catering and venue are the two largest costs at any wedding. And of course, the price increases as your guest list grows.
It’s relationally restrictive if you reduce your guest list solely based on budget. But conversely, it’s financially burdensome if you let your guest list blow up to include your entire Facebook friend list.
Some dear friends gave us wise advice to use as a decision-making filter when compiling our guest list:
“When creating your guest list, don’t ask yourselves who have been an important part of your past as single people, but rather ask yourselves who you want to be a part of your shared future as husband & wife. Not everyone from your past is going to make it into your future.”
We followed this advice and we’ve been reaping the rewards of this principle.
First, if you heed this advice, you will be left with the really meaningful relationships on your list. Second, these people will feel so honoured and valued because you’re not picking them based on what they’ve done, but based on the value their friendship can bring. Third, while you’re not planning your guest list based on budget, this principle helps to bring down the number to the very relevant few.
Your financial decision making skills will definitely get a workout during this planning season. Allow them to be put to the test. Work together with your fiancé in every financial decision you make. This is an opportune time to win each other’s trust that you will be transparent with each other about finances during marriage.
Any thoughts on how else to stick within your budget? Please share in the comment section below. And if you haven't signed up for the Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet yet, you may do so here. Happy engagement!
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Your city’s biggest wedding fair is coming soon, and you just can’t wait!
A wedding fair is a good place to get a feel of what’s out there. Options are endless, and it’ll get you thinking about what you should be considering for your wedding.
But having a sit-down meeting with a wedding supplier is different though. By this time, most suppliers are assuming that you’ve already done your homework. So it would be considered a waste of time for both parties (you and your supplier) if you sit with them without having first discussed these 4 important things with your fiancé.
Here they are:
1. How long you want to be engaged for
“What month of the year do we want to get married?” usually is the timeline question couples ask, since couples usually weigh in factors such as weather, cost of venues, theme, and vacation leaves availability. After all, you can’t have a beach wedding during the monsoon season in the tropics.
But I encourage you to do something different.
Talk about how long (or short) you’d want to be engaged for, independent of the aesthetics and logistics of your wedding day. There are other more important considerations around the length of an engagement that can affect your spiritual health and your relationship with your fiancé than the wedding programme.
To help you for this talk, I wrote about the 5 Things You Can Consider When Deciding How Long To Be Engaged For.
2. Where you want to get married geographically
This was an obvious consideration for my husband and I when we were planning our wedding, because we weren’t living in either of our home countries. Whichever place we picked, there would still be a good amount of guests who would need to travel internationally.
This brings us to the topic of destination weddings.
People automatically assume that it’s overall more costly if it’s done overseas. But the real answer to this is not necessarily. For example, a grand ballroom wedding in your home city can be more expensive than doing it at a beach in Phuket. You can go cheap or expensive at any place.
Decide beforehand where you’d want to have your wedding. You wouldn’t be able to compare apples to apples suppliers from different countries - so suppliers’ offers are not a good gauge of whether you’d want it in country A or B.
3. Where you want to be legally married
Due to varying marriage laws across the globe, where you’d want to have a church wedding (officiated by a priest or a pastor) may not necessarily be where you can or you’d like to have your legal ceremony - especially in the case of destination weddings.
It may not even be a destination wedding. Maybe you’re considering getting married where you currently reside, or where most of your guests also reside. But due to citizenship considerations, you may not be able to legally marry there.
It’s important then to discuss beforehand where you’d want your marriage to be registered, and research on the marriage laws accordingly. You may decide to have your civil wedding done in one city and the church wedding (where you make your marriage vows public in the presence of family and friends) in another, and that’s possible too. Our legal wedding was in Singapore a few days before our wedding ceremony and reception in Bali.
On that note, we only considered ourselves married after we’ve said our vows in the presence of our family and friends - and that was our personal conviction. I found this useful blog on the theology of civil and church weddings if you have questions on this subject.
4. How would you like this wedding planning process to look
Time and again, my husband and I have seen how the wedding planning process becomes a test of relationship, convictions, and faith for many couples. This was also true for us.
Since a test is something you’d need to prepare for, it’s a good idea to agree with your fiancé how you’d like your wedding planning process to look. Whether you’re doing a three-month engagement or a year, those months will go down in history and you’d want to go through it with grace.
An exercise we did before anything else was to write our ‘Guiding Principles’. These were rules, agreements, or philosophies that helped us make better and smarter choices together. Having this shared vision for this momentous occasion will help you navigate through the wedding planning process, which includes meeting your suppliers for the first time. I talk more about it here.
Once again, congratulations on your engagement! May this season be a time you’ll grow even more in love with each other and go deeper in your faith.
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One valuable tip I’ve received when it comes to protecting wealth has been “count your change.”
You and your fiancé will be putting hard-earned money into your wedding. One way to be good stewards of God’s wealth is to be diligent and wise about managing it. Shepherds know where their sheep are sleeping and where they’re going. Likewise, we ought to know where our money “sleeps” and where it’s going!
Here are 6 tips on how to get organised with your wedding funds so you don’t keep losing your change.
1. Use a reliable online budget worksheet.
“But I’m not a spreadsheet person!” is a familiar resistance I get when I start talking about using a cloud-based worksheet, like Google Sheets, for efficient wedding planning.
You can use Google Sheets in its most basic form - simply to list wedding tasks or items with their corresponding dates or costs. If you really feel more comfortable writing things on paper, then so be it. You’ll just need to make that tool work for you and your fiancé because you both will need to constantly see the numbers and track their movements.
The benefits of using Google Sheets are:
- Collaboration. You and your fiancé may not always be physically together each time you work on wedding planning. If you have to do some planning over a call or video chat, you both can be looking at the same Google Sheet while typing your inputs at the same time. The file saves automatically with both of your entries.
- Portability. Your worksheet sits on the cloud, which means, you can access it through any device as long as you have a Gmail account. You don’t have to email each other back and forth with an Excel, Numbers, or OpenOffice attachment labeled “Version 12.a”.
- Automated Calculations. Other tools such as Excel or Numbers also offer this same functionality, and it’s tremendously time-saving. While those pull-out cardboard worksheets that wedding magazines provide may look pretty, be warned that you’re in for a lot of manual number-crunching.
- Revision History. “Can we reduce our budget for catering back to what we had agreed last week?” This is made easier using Google Sheets because you can see revision history and restore those older versions.
I’m all about leveraging things that already work! It’s one of my productivity mantras. By clicking on this, you can sign-up for my free Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet!
2. Modify the Budget Worksheet based on your needs.
Every wedding is unique. So feel free to modify my Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet to suit your needs. Feel free to remove items which aren’t relevant for your wedding. I’ve endeavoured to build a worksheet as comprehensive as possible to cover details of even the most elaborate of weddings.
How much detail do you need in terms of organising information? My rule is “just detailed enough to afford me more time in the future!” For example, I’d put the payment schedules for each supplier on the worksheet because that would save me time going through email correspondences with suppliers later on. Having these dates on the worksheet saves us time when strategising which suppliers to pay first.
Meanwhile, I would avoid adding links of the digital copies of the suppliers’ quotations on my Google Sheet because I can simply use Google Drive’s search functionality to find those quickly.
3. Put your payment deadlines on your calendar and set alerts.
Oh, those late payment fees. You’ll want to avoid them at all costs!
Being late for a payment means that you owe someone money for a period of time. And debt is not good. We all want to exemplify integrity. The wedding planning process creates opportunities to work with so many people. I encourage you to treat each contact with your suppliers as a chance to inspire them about Biblical ways of dealing.
Solution? Put all those payment deadlines on your online calendar! I use Google Calendar because it’s free, integrated with my email account, and easy to use!
- For every wedding item you need to pay for, check the payment deadline.
- Add the dates to your Wiser Weddings: Budget Worksheet under the ‘Budget Plan’ tab and under the ‘Payment Due Dates’ column. Having these dates on the sheet makes it easy for you to see the other payment deadlines for purposes of planning your cash flow.
- Add them to your calendar, or your fiancé’s calendar, or better yet your shared calendar. If you’re adding them to your personal calendar, include your fiancé as an invitee so that he can see the payment schedules on his calendar too.
- Set an alert one or two weeks before the payment deadline. This way you’re able to prepare the funds you need.
4. Study suppliers’ contracts, check invoices, and ask for receipts.
Let’s go back to my first point in this blog about being wise in managing our money. Since it’s actually God’s money that we’re managing (Read Matthew 25:14-30 about the ‘Parable of the Three Servants’), we have a responsibility to be diligent about it. So don’t be naive when it comes to dealing with suppliers.
As a diligent consumer, you’ll need to:
- READ contracts thoroughly. Ask about things that you don’t understand. Discuss them with your fiancé before signing together. A contract is meant to bind two parties, and if on your wedding day your supplier doesn’t deliver as agreed in the contract, you have the right to be compensated accordingly.
Wedding suppliers, especially those who’ve been at it for a while, think and act like business people (because they are). While your current state newly-engaged-bliss has you feeling like the only girl in the world (I recall the feeling), the reality is that you’re one of the many brides (and couples) that these suppliers are serving at this point in time. So contracts tend to be templated. But there is always room to modify based on what you agree on.
- Put everything in WRITING. “I think I would prefer if you write our order down, please” my husband often suggests in his courteous (but firm) tone whenever a waiter attempts to commit our meal order to memory. We’ve had enough bad experiences with food mix-ups to know that it’s not worth the risk to rely on memory alone.
The same is true with your orders from your suppliers. Insist that everything be put in writing, even the modifications you make to your requests. Thank God for email apps on our phones, you can email your supplier right away:“Ella, as spoken on the phone, we will have 6 bridesmaids bouquets instead of 4. Please confirm this on email.” It can be as simple as that.
- VERIFY the breakdown of what your suppliers are charging you. Once you receive invoices, make sure that you’re being charged correctly based on what you’ve agreed, and make sure that their computation is accurate. Check for taxes, service charges, miscellaneous fees, early payment discounts, and late payment fees.
One of our wedding suppliers had handed us a written invoice. All the components were correct. But I noticed an odd number. Their 10% service fee was computed as 20% instead! It was a matter of pressing the wrong buttons on the calculator.
- ASK for a receipt. An invoice is different from a receipt. An invoice is your bill. It’s not a confirmation that you’ve paid. After you’ve settled your payment, immediately ask for a receipt. Do your part in letting your suppliers know that you’ve paid the right amount within the right time frame.
Getting into legal disputes is the last thing you want to do when you’re focused on getting married. So being organised from the very beginning can spare you a lot of headache and heartache.
5. Upload digital copies of your contracts, invoices and receipts.
During the last stretch of our wedding planning, our planner fell silent for a few weeks. We were planning our wedding from Singapore and the planner was in Bali. We needed to know whether our service agreement included coordination with our guest transportation because we needed to finalise it at that point.
Having the contracts saved in our shared Google Drive folder saved us time from having to sift through over 150 emails with our wedding planner (no exageration!).
Another benefit of keeping these digital copies is so that you can attach them in an email later on to let your suppliers know of the status of your payments.
Tip for organising files on Google Drive: name your files in a way that’s descriptive, intuitive, and memorable, with simple words that you’d likely use when referring to the document in question. For example, ‘Latest Contract with 123 Caterer in Bali’. For the not-so-organised among you, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can just dump all of the files into one folder. There’s no need for subfolders because organising files into subfolders will likely take you more time than the act of doing a quick search on Google Drive using descriptive words.
6. Update your budget worksheet with every dollar that comes in and out.
You may be diligently paying your suppliers on time, but if you forget to to reflect this update in your planning documents, your partner will be wondering why your wedding funds are depleting so rapidly!
Practice discipline by updating your budget worksheet right after you make a payment to a supplier, or when you receive some income that you’ll put into your wedding fund. This way, you are able to commit to the budgets you’ve set.
If you decide to only merge your bank accounts after marriage, that means your wedding money may be coming from at least two bank accounts. Both of you may then have to do the updating of the budget worksheet with the money that you disburse from your own bank account, or anything that comes in that’s intended for your wedding budgets.
There you go! As you follow these steps throughout your wedding planning process, take confidence that you’re learning valuable skills that will be useful for your work and homemaking. Consider this as a training ground for planning other marriage milestones like a surprise party for your spouse, facilitating papers for your kids’ enrollments, and purchasing a home!
How do you get organised when planning a major project? Share in the comment section below!
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