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 you'd 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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