“I was gazing into his beautiful chocolate brown eyes when he popped the question. On bended knee, the velvet tones of his voice delighted my ears with, ‘Will you marry me?’. Delirious with happiness, I felt as if I was drifting away on a candy floss cloud. ‘Yes, yes!’ came my eager reply, my voice breaking with emotion, and tears of joy trickling down my delicate face…”
The Proposal…the stuff of which romantic novels and movies are made! We bet your moment was every bit as dreamy as this one. Congratulations! You are officially a Bride-to-Be. And now for a quick reality check – you have a wedding to plan! Read on to take our Twelve-Step crash-course in project managing your Big Day…
Step One: Secure a Marriage Officer
The majority of couples choose to exchange I-do’s in a religious ceremony in a place of worship, like a church, synagogue or temple. If you already attend a particular place of worship, you may naturally choose to hold your wedding service there. You may, however, want to choose an alternative venue, within your particular religion – ask your religious leader to make suggestions here, and enquire whether he or she is available to perform the service there. Should you not formally attend a place of worship on a regular basis, but would like a religious ceremony nonetheless, contact religious leaders and ask whether they would be happy to perform a wedding service for you. Some will require you to meet certain requirements before they will take you on. Find out, too, whether they are comfortable performing the service at your home or an outdoor venue, should you be after a more casual approach.
For those who prefer a non-religious service, civil marriages are solemnized at offices of the Department of Home Affairs by a Marriage Officer. Marriages are conducted from Mondays to Fridays, but advance bookings are in order.
Step Two: Secure a Wedding Venue
With your wedding date confirmed by your Marriage Officer, you now need to choose an appropriate wedding venue. Do your homework and choose a few places that suit your budget, number of guests and specific wedding requirements. It’s wise to phone shortlisted venues before visiting them, to eliminate the unsuitable ones. When viewing a venue, have a checklist of items to consider – can they cater for both the ceremony and reception, do they have sufficient parking space, do they have a liquor licence, does their colour scheme match that of your wedding, and so on.
Step Three: Compile a Guest list
Coming up with a guest list can be tricky – it seems everyone wants to have a say in who should attend. Before long, what started out as a manageable list has snowballed out of control. A good rule of thumb is to only include those people with whom you’ve been in contact within the last two years. Remember, it’s your day – don’t allow family and friends to pressure you into inviting people who weren’t on your initial list. Having said that, there will be some guests over whom various parties don’t agree and, in these cases, some compromise is in order. You may not want your beau’s Aunt Betty on the list, but as a special person in your future spouse’s life, you may just have to breathe, smile and invite her.
Step Four: Hire a Wedding Planner
Why do all the legwork yourself, when you could hire a professional to handle it all for you? Wedding planners may seem like an extravagance but when the chips are down, it’s three weeks from your wedding day and your cake baker has let you down, she or he will seem like a godsend. Most wedding co-ordinators are quite flexible when it comes to designing a package which suits your budget, so discuss the cost options with them at the outset.
Step Five: Choose a Theme
Choosing a theme is one of the most difficult decisions to make; it seems so many other details hinge on the concept of your wedding. Your theme should fit your wants, your personality and personal style, as well as your budget. Ask your wedding planner to make suggestions, browse online wedding websites, directories and blogs, page through bridal magazines, go to bridal fairs and think back on themes of some of the weddings you’ve attended. Creating a storyboard or look book – in which you include objects of inspiration – can be immensely helpful.
Step Six: Organise Wedding Invitations and Other Stationery
Your invitations should relate to your theme. They can be hand-made – if your wedding is small, you’re creative and have the time – or printed or e-cards. Find a reputable printer and ask to see samples of previous work, as well as design samples. Pay attention to the wording of your invitation and always have them proofread before printing. Invitations should be sent out six weeks prior to your wedding date. Other stationery required includes ‘save-the-date’ cards, order of service pamphlets, seat placement cards and thank-you notes.
Step Seven: Get a Gift Registry Going
Do you prefer buying your own gifts, or do you like to be surprised? If you perish the thought of receiving four toasters, get down to your favourite homeware store and set up a gift registry. The store will create a profile for you, and scan into this profile the items which you desire to be on your list. This list can be sent out to your guests – either via email or with the invitations – and as guests purchase items, these will be removed from the list to avoid duplication. What a handy way to ensure you get what you want!
Step Eight: Suggest Guest Accommodation Venues
Chances are certain guests will be traveling from out of town to attend your wedding. Include a list of nearby accommodation venues along with your invitation. If you’re having a destination wedding, you should also include information about the accommodation available at the venue, as well as provide a list of alternatives. Remember, don’t encourage guests to stay with you during this event – you already have enough on your plate without worrying about accommodating house guests.
Step Nine: Consider an Ante-nuptial contract
While weddings are all about that warm, fuzzy feeling, there’s also a business side to marriage. Should you not draw up an ante-nuptial contract, then, in terms of South African law, you will, by default, be married in community of property. This means that everything you and your spouse accrue – whether it be assets or debts – will be held in a joint estate, making both of you responsible for them. An ante-nuptial contract will stipulate that you wish to be married out of community of property, and you can further choose whether you do this with or without the accrual system. Briefly, being married out of community of property with the accrual system means that both of you will subsist separate estates during your marriage, and won’t share in each other’s profits or losses during the marriage. Upon dissolution of the marriage, however, whether it be via death or divorce, assets will be shared. Importantly, this option protects either spouse from being responsible for, or being held liable for, debts incurred by the other party. Being married out of community of property without the accrual system ensures a complete separation of assets during the marriage and upon dissolution. Again, neither spouse can be held liable for the other’s debts. Consult an attorney specializing in Family Law for more information or to have an ante-nuptial contract drawn up.
Step Ten: Choose outfits for the bride and groom’s parties
While a wedding is mainly about the bride, you do want everyone to look their best on the Big Day. As far as your wedding gown is concerned, select a style that suits your body shape and get the ball rolling six months in advance, particularly if you’re having a dress specially designed. Fittings for your gown and your bridesmaids’ gowns should take place three months prior to the wedding date. As far as the groom and his groomsmen are concerned, hiring wedding suits is common, with just the key accessories, such as ties, being specially purchased. As with wedding dresses, there are a variety of styles available – opt for a style which will universally suit the groomsmen and which complements the bridal gowns. The groom and his party will also need fittings. Hired suits must be booked in good time and collected a few days in advance of the wedding. Ensure that the suits have been correctly dry-cleaned.
Step Eleven: Trial a Hair-do and Make-up Style
Your wedding is a special event, which means you have permission to splash out on a hairstylist and professional make-up artist. Ask your hairstylist for style suggestions and clearly communicate your preferences and dislikes. Trial the hairdo in advance of your wedding and wear it for a full day to assess how it works for you. If you’ve never used a professional make-up artist before, you may want to source a few options and take advantage of the free trials many offer brides-to-be. Again, ask for suggestions, discuss trends and communicate your preferences and dislikes. Assess how the make-up application endures through an entire day. Many brides also get a professional manicure and pedicure for their wedding day, often incorporating nail enhancements. Again, you may want to give this a trial run. Other than looking great, it’s important that you feel entirely comfortable on your special day.
Step Twelve: Book a Photographer and/or Videographer
Looking and feeling utterly fabulous, there is no doubt that you will want to make like Vogue and strike a pose! Whatever you do, don’t cut corners and use an amateur photographer; you’ve invested way too much time, money and emotion to be captured forever in substandard snapshots. Hiring a professional photographer for still photos and a professional videographer to film and edit the movie of your wedding is simply the best investment any bride can make.
Whew! You’ve reached the halfway mark in your epic wedding project! Planning Your Wedding – Part II will help you with the rest of the arrangements. For now, give yourself a break and chillax. Call a friend and go and enjoy a chick flick and cappuccino!