You’ve probably seen this title a billion times but the truth is, no one experience is the same. During my wedding planning, I’d try and find solace in a recently married friend when I got stressed to see if they can empathize and what they did in that situation.
My wedding day still stands as the best day of my life, but the lead up to it taught me PLENTY. So, here are the nine things I learnt from planning my wedding:
- Small Nigerian weddings can happen: Even before I got engaged, I always knew that I didn’t want a huge owambe-style wedding. I wanted it to be a day to celebrate love with my close family and friends; luckily, my husband felt the same. I’d rather give a couple hundred people an intimate and amazing experience than give thousands a less then grand time. (No shade to those who are all about a massive wedding. To each to their own). We agreed on 300 guests max, divided it up equally between ourselves and each of our parents and based our budget on that figure. Many people told me that it wasn’t possible in Nigeria… because it’s ‘Naija’! (That’s reason enough apparently…) Plus, there will be the gate-crashers and the people your family chose to bring without telling you, but I guess we were lucky, or just very firm with our family that it was strictly invite-only, which leads me to my next point…
- Invite-only weddings can work in Nigeria: Contrary to what the masses think, it is very possible to have an invite-only (not access card but actual guest list) wedding in Nigeria. I did…even with assigned tables. You just need to be firm with your guests and family members on your policy, and have an amazing security team on the door! By making it strictly-by-invitation, it helps you determine your numbers, as well as helping you estimate your food and drink budget more easily, oooh my next point…
- Agree on a budget as early as possible: If you’re like me and you have slight OCD, when I say early, I mean from the month you get engaged. Trust me, it can solve a lot of future problems in the lead up to the wedding. You’ve probably heard this before, but try to leave a little room when estimating your budget for any additional charges i.e. if you’ve estimated N350,000 for your photographer, budget N400,000. Your proposed photographer may have to drop out and the next best alternative may be a little higher, or you may need an additional service from the photographer etc. I got my figures by doing a lot of research, asking a lot of recently married couple and contacting a number of vendors to give me an idea of what they charge. This also helped me identify key vendors I’d like to work with. This leads me to point 4…
- Don’t feel pressured to use vendors suggested by friends and family: It’s always great to get advice, especially when you’re not in the country that’s it’s taking place and have no idea where to start from. They may have a little more insight on who to choose. But there’s a difference between getting advice and feeling cornered. As many brides will tell you, wedding planning can be very overwhelming, particularly when you have a full time job and you’re planning it from another country. So this is definitely not the time for anyone to be putting added stress on you, especially if they don’t have a stake in your wedding i.e. your husband-to-be! Feel free do your research, look at various vendors and compare their quotes and services. Until you’ve signed a contract or made a payment, nothing is confirmed, so you are not obligated to use them – no matter what they say or how persistent they get. By God’s grace, your wedding will only happen once, and it’s your day so make sure you are completely happy with each vendor you have chosen to go with, rather than going with a vendor simply because they are a friend of a friend or a family friend said you MUST use that person.
- Don’t take it personally if a guest or bridesmaid declines your invitation: If you’re like me and you were planning your wedding internationally, then the majority of your guests will most likely have to spend a little more money than if it was in the same city/country. Of course you’ll have those that you expect to make it no matter what because of how close you are and hopefully you would have given them more than enough notice. But also understand that everyone’s situation is different. The truth is, they may not be able to afford it, no matter how much notice you’ve given them. At the end of the day, while it’s your special day (and it makes no sense to lose friends over it), it’s just that, YOURS, not everyone else’s. This leads me to my next point…
- Don’t expect the world to stop because you’re getting married As much as we’d love all of our friends and family to rally around us to help us prepare for our special day. As much they’d love to, they also have lives too; busy schedules may not permit them to make as much time for you as they wish they could. You have those people that are all talk and do nothing, or those who simply can’t be bothered to help but pay no mind to them. Wedding will finish right? Then we’ll all know ourselves… haha. But there are also those who aren’t aware that you need help because you haven’t spoken up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Don’t expect them to be psychic. They’ve probably got a lot on their plates too, but don’t want to stress you with it.
- Get a planner!: Chances are you’ve probably never planned an event before, so you wouldn’t know where to begin. The frustrating thing was, I’ve be working in Events Management since 2007, but being in a different country and holding down a full time job didn’t permit me the time necessary to plan my wedding myself ☹ So I definitely needed a planner. You may have the ideas, but they have the expertise to make it amazing. You may have the ideas and the expertise but they have the time to make it a seamless event and that’s all any bride wants. Just be sure to be very clear with what you want. If you’re not sure of anything then ask, if you’re not comfortable with any suggestion being put forward say so. Don’t be shy to speak up. It’s your wedding at the end of the day. But if you’re like me and trying to plan a wedding with a full time job, invest in a planner to ease the stress.
- Make your support system your bridal party: It shouldn’t be that difficult to create your dream bridal train. If there’s anyone that doesn’t come to mind immediately, then they most likely shouldn’t be there. My bridal party played a key role in keeping me sane (sometimes…Hahaha) during my planning period and on the wedding day. That could only work because I had people around me that I trust and have been there for me throughout our friendship. It wasn’t about making my bridal party my support system, but making my existing support system my bridal party.
- On your big day…RELAX!: It’s all come together, enjoy the moment. Don’t get stressed by what’s happening with your bridal party. That’s for your chief bridesmaid to handle. There’s nothing you can do now, but to take in the beautiful day that it is and make it memorable and remember that this is the first day of the rest of your lives as husband and wife.
If you’re blessed to have an amazing chief bridesmaid and bridal party like I did, they’ll be there to calm you down, stop you from getting worked up and keep you smiling all the way through!
There is always something to learn from each wedding experience, especially when you’re trying to plan a wedding in another continent, and I hope you’ve picked up a few tips here.
If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment below.