Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Establishing a Vision for Your Wedding

Hooray! A new year is here! Did you celebrate with champagne and resolutions?

I'm not someone who believes that the most significant personal growth and change happens overnight. I don't think we can be one kind of person with one set of habits on December 31, 2010 at 11:59pm and another kind of person with healthier and more positive habits on January 1, 2011 at 12:00am.

However, I do think that the new year is as good a time as any to set aside space to reflect, assess our lives, clarify our values, reconnect with our authentic paths, and set intentions for the upcoming year.

Every year, I try to cajole my friends and my partner into filling out this New Year's Reflection Form. First, we fill out a calendar that helps us remember the significant events from the year. Next, we evaluate ourselves in several different areas. Then, we set goals/intentions for the new year. Finally, we make a collage to visually represent the kind of year we want to have.

I find that setting aside time to start with the big picture is such an important way for me to live my best life (thanks, Oprah!). If I have a clear sense of where I'm trying to go throughout the year, then it's much easier to figure out the smaller steps that are aligned with getting there.

The same is true about wedding planning. If we start our planning by focusing on the "big picture" vision of what kind of wedding we want for ourselves, then we are more likely to create the best possible weddings for ourselves. If we start with our underlying principles and values, then we can work backwards from there to plan the smaller pieces that align with those principles and values.

Good friends of ours got engaged a couple months before we did, and by the time we showed up at their house with a "happy engagement" cake, our friend already had a folder going with magazine clips of dresses, bridesmaids' dresses, and centerpiece ideas.

Eight months later, when we sat down with them for dinner a couple weeks before their wedding, they confessed, "We just want the wedding to be done with so we can go on our honeymoon."

If we start with the small stuff--the dress, the centerpieces, the wedding favors--we can quickly lose sight of what a wedding is all about. It's about formalizing your commitment to your beloved and celebrating that commitment.

How we formalize and celebrate our commitments depends more on our values, personalities, and preferences, rather than the current consumer trends featured on the glossy pages of wedding magazines.

So many wedding books break weddings down into the details. Planning a wedding is not just a checklist of "to do" items. It's a chance to share your relationship with your nearest and dearest.

Who are you as a couple? What do you value together? What kind of life have you created together? How do you want to share that life with your friends and family? What kind of wedding will feel completely authentic to you both? What do you want to spend your time doing immediately before, during, and after the wedding? What will leave you feeling vibrant, connected, and joyful?

Of course answering those questions is easier said than done. The vision-setting process usually requires lots of discussion, compromise, more discussion, and more compromise. But then again, so does creating a life with another person!

Once you and your partner have a clear vision of the kind of wedding you want to have, it can be helpful to think through your vision for the wedding planning process. How do you want to work together to plan and execute your wedding? What are your non-negotiables? What are you willing to compromise on? How do you want the process to feel? What will your process be for reconnecting yourself with your vision when you start to get off track? What are the pitfalls you anticipate? What can you do proactively to set yourself up for a successful process?

This kind of vision- and intention-setting takes time and effort upfront, but it can really help make the process better.

For Matt and me, these were the goals that made sense:
  1. To bring family and friends together to reconnect and form new friendships.
  2. The experience will not be overly-orchestrated. It's a celebration of our love, not a show.
  3. We will fight consumerism by spending only $2,000 max. The Wedding Industrial Complex is conspiring to make us think we have to spend more money. But we want to make the event special with sincerity, not money.
  4. It will be good for the environment.
  5. It will be connected to nature.
  6. We will have real time to spend with guests. We want to be able to spend quality time with our friends and family. We don’t want to follow the traditional pattern of a few wedding “events” where the bride and groom only have time for a “meet and greet”: rehearsal dinner, reception, brunch the following morning. We want more of a family & friends reunion.
  7. We will make all the decisions ourselves so our wedding represents us.
  8. We only want to be surrounded by our closest friends and family.
  9. We want to be relaxed and fully present.

Every couple has to figure out what makes sense for them. That's the fun part of planning a wedding (and a life!).

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Sara said...

My husband and I utilized your NY Reflection Form this year for our first NYE as a married couple; it was the perfect opportunity for dialogue about what we want out of 2011 for both our individual lives and our marriage! THANK YOU! :)

lizzie said...

the reflection form is an awesome way to keep 2010 and the years past in such clear memory. i just realized how much our years together have run together into one year..."what was that, 3 years ago?" "no, four...i think.." hm..

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Sara and Lizzie: I'm so glad you liked it!

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