You don’t have to be a prince of the House of Windsor to realise that getting engaged is the easy bit. Making it to the wedding with your relationship in one piece is the real test of your husband credentials.
How much should you budget? How much can you save? What should you sort and what should you definitely not? Above all, how can you be the loving, supportive partner she’ll want to say “I do” to at the finish line?
"Making it to the wedding with your relationship in one piece is the real test of your husband credentials..."
We quizzed London’s leading wedding planners and California’s definitive relationship experts on how to navigate the stress of organising your big day together.
Follow these ten rules of engagement to get to the church on time — in one piece and argument-free.
1. Decide who is responsible for what
She said “yes” – congratulations, old sport. Now, in her eyes at least, it’s full steam ahead on Operation Wedding. Rather than standing out the way, it’s time to take responsibility, says Peter Pearson, who set up the Couples Institute in California with his partner Ellyn Bader in 1984.
“Make a master list of all the things that need to be done and apply the ‘51/49’ rule for who has the final say on each job. Initial who’s going to be responsible for what. It makes things go smoother and encourages interdependency and trust.” If you treat everything like it’s 50/50 you’ll inevitably clash.
2. Remember, this is your day too
Your bride should rightly take centre stage, but it takes two to tie the knot. So speak up on items that really matter to you, otherwise resentment can build up.
“Focus on getting three things that are really important right,” says Natalia Hollingsworth, event director of London’s Golborne Events. “Several brides have told me they wished their fiancé would speak up more and show some passion. Don’t just assume the bride wants to organise it all.”
3. Don’t be outraged by cost
Inevitably, the subject of money will rear its ugly head, so you need to be prepared. “Talking about money is like walking through a minefield wearing big clown shoes,” warns Pearson. “You need expert negotiation skills and the ability to manage your emotional reactions when your outrage meter is spinning out of control.”
You need to tread carefully. “Take turns speaking about what you desire, why you desire it and how it fits into your budget. When one is talking, the other is recapping what is heard and asking questions for clarity. No ‘yes butting’ from the listener until both have had their turn.”
4 Form a budget contingency fund
The word “wedding” instantly escalates fees for everything from your venue to your transportation so don’t go into any negotiations with suppliers without having done your research. “Figure out what things should cost and haggle hard,” says Hollingsworth. “Then add 10-15% to your budget as a buffer.”
What can you expect to spend? Assuming the Royal Wedding figures aren’t skewing the stats, the average cost of a UK wedding is £27,161 – about the same as the average UK salary – and the highest it’s ever been. According to 2017 data from the free wedding planning website Hitched, if you live in the Big Smoke that number jumps to a whopping £33,884 while the most frugal region is the Midlands, where couples spend £25,915 on average.
By comparison, last minute return flights from London to Las Vegas this weekend start from £582 and a wedding licence costs just $77 in Nevada. Harry, Meghan – it’s not too late!
5. Get your parents involved
Kick offs are just as likely to break out with your future in-laws as your future bride – especially if they’re contributing to the costs. Keep them sweet by giving them one or two tasks. “This can be something as simple as ordering confetti to writing the order of service,” says Hollingsworth. “They’ll cherish being part of the process – plus it’ll keep them busy so you can focus on the rest of the decisions.”
6. Be considerate to your mother-in-law
“I don’t care how outrageous and controlling they are, be nice to your mother-in-law,” warns Ellyn Bader, co-founder of the Couples Institute and co-author with her husband of Tell Me No Lies – How to Face the Truth and Build a Lasting Marriage.
Ask your bride: What can I do for your mother to make her feel special? “That’s a bullseye question. It shows great consideration and awareness that this is a special day for your future in-laws as much as your bride. She might just tell you to be yourself, but whatever you do, pay the hell attention to what she says.”
7. Write your vows earlier rather than later
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. “Your wedding vows are the perfect map for managing arguments in your marriage – both before your big day and long after it,” says Bader. Write them early on in the process. Then when you have a whopper of a fight, review those vows and use them to diffuse arguments before they go nuclear.
8. Don’t be afraid to be sentimental
“The groom’s speech is a very special moment for the bride,” says Hollingsworth, so make sure you mention her. “If you’re worried about your delivery or aren’t having a videographer, write prompt cards and present them to your wife afterwards. Being able to look back on what your husband wrote is pretty lovely. I’ve saved my husband’s scribbled notes and I’m more sentimental about them than any picture.”
9. Set a game plan for the wedding night
“Couples will rarely talk about consummation ahead of time,” says Pearson. What if you’re too damn tired? What if you drink too much? “When you go to bed you may not be all fired up for red hot, bed-squeaking, neighbour-waking sex and you or your bride might take this as a bad omen for your marriage.”
Ahead of time, talk about what your romantic expectations are for your wedding day and perhaps agree to wait for the day after for the fireworks. “Learn to have these difficult discussions ahead of time and it’ll help the rest of your marriage go smoothly.”
10. Show enthusiasm throughout the entire process
When the subject of your wedding crops up, resist the urge to roll your eyes at all costs, says Pearson. Brides tend to interpret that rather badly. “Instead, be enthusiastic,” says Hollingsworth.
“Remember it’s supposed to be fun. This is a very special time in your lives leading up to a life changing and very happy occasion for both you and your families. Smile and enjoy it. You are planning a party after all.”
Worried about your best man’s credentials? Send him this, to ensure he gets his speech just right…