· Plan and Budget FIRST. This is the stage where critical decisions are made and where you should get input from all parties: bride, groom and parents. Remember, a wedding is the joining of two families, not just two people, so you should be thoughtful of other parties involved. A firm budget can keep all parties from going overboard.
· Compromise. This might be the first lesson of marriage. If live music is really important to your future mother-in-law, but not so much for you, discuss where she can include chamber music in the ceremony and how she plans to pay for it. If it is not in your plan or budget, find alternative means of including those special wedding touches that may mean a lot to others. Sometimes, these negotiations will set the stage for smoother relationships later.
· It is YOUR wedding. OK, I know I just said to compromise, but since it is your big day, do stand firm on making it what you want. If your future mother-in-law is more of a “church and organ” person and you are planning a beach destination wedding, go with what you want.
· Something borrowed. Use your resources to find a dress inexpensively. If you like vintage, visit antique or consignment shops, or even Goodwill. You can find discount dresses for rent at some shops, or you can borrow one. Remember, you will wear this dress only once, so it would be a shame to spend thousands on fabric that will sit in a box in your attic.
· Go green. As the royals did, use live plants, bushes and flowers, then donate them to a local project. Sometimes the simplest decorations are easiest and can continue to benefit others long after the ceremony is over.
· Feed others. When the reception is over and the crepe paper is taken down, have your caterer take stock of any leftovers and donate them to a shelter or other charitable organization. Others will appreciate your generosity.
· Give to others. If you are combining two households or if you are having a second marriage, gifts may be hard to select and for your guests to purchase. Consider requesting that your guests make a donation to your favorite charity in lieu of gifts.
Regardless of the size of your wedding, consider your budget as you plan. Starting a new life under the veil of carryover debt can put a strain on your new marriage. If you feel overwhelmed with trying to financially combine two lives into one, be sure to talk to someone – your minister a counselor or a financial planner. After all, who needs financial planning more than two people getting married, except two people getting divorced? But that’s another article.