How to Communicate Effectively As You Plan Your Wedding
During the year leading up to her wedding, Jessica* waited patiently for her bridesmaids to share their ideas for her bachelorette party. It never occurred to her that they wouldn’t be planning one; wasn’t that one of bridesmaids’ standard responsibilities? By the time Jessica realized the idea of a bachelorette party had never occurred to her friends, she didn’t feel comfortable asking them to pull one together. Now, five years later, she wishes she’d broached the topic. It’s not that she didn’t enjoy her wedding; it’s just that she missed out on an element she’d been looking forward to.
Jessica shouldn’t feel bad about her discomfort. Asking others to do something for us, especially something that will cost them time and money, can be uncomfortable. But clearly expressing concerns, ideas, and yes, hopes and expectations, is an important part of successful wedding planning.
“If you find yourself dreaming of something, thinking of an idea you think might be crazy, or even just wondering about something, don’t hold it back,” says a recent blog by wedding-planning resource, Every Last Detail. “Share it with who you’re working with, because you never know what could come from it! Besides — if you have something you want for your wedding that you hold captive in your head, it’s going to become an expectation, and you’re just going to be disappointed if you don’t have it!”
While that blog emphasizes brides’ interactions with professional planners, the advice it shares applies to anyone you’ll be working with to shape your wedding. What’s more, making yourself heard shouldn’t be limited to sharing your long-standing dream to exchange vows in a garden or how much importance you place on an all-vegan dinner menu.
Making the effort to communicate effectively — whether you’re relaying information or receiving it from others — is one of the best ways to minimize aggravation during your wedding planning and create the event you really want.
With that in mind, I’ve put together some tips for effective wedding communication with your partner, your wedding party, and the wedding-industry professionals you’ll be working with.
Conversations With Your Partner
When you and your partner talk about your wedding, you’ll likely be trying to mesh your visions for your wedding day and your ideas of a doable budget. Without some communication strategies, these conversations can shift quickly from exciting to nerve-wracking.
Your conversation about money should be high on your list. Until you’ve agreed on how much you’ll be spending on your wedding — as a whole and for particulars like photography, food, and entertainment — it will be impossible to know if the show-stopping flower displays you’ve been envisioning are doable or if the band your groom wants to hire is outside of your price range. Be honest with one another: Share what’s most important to you and areas where you’re open to compromise. The goal is to develop a budget you both feel comfortable with.
Whatever you’re discussing, whether it’s money, reception ideas, guest lists, or the allocation of planning responsibilities (all of which should be addressed), it will be important to listen carefully to each other’s ideas and concerns and respond respectfully. That approach will go a long way in protecting your relationship, setting a pattern for a lifetime of successful communication, and giving you the satisfaction of creating a wedding that you and your partner will love.
A few other tips:
· Timing matters. If one of you is tired or dealing with a stressful work situation, it might be best to reschedule your serious wedding discussions. I’m not talking about procrastinating, though. Set a new day and time that will work for both of you.
· Don’t rely on your partner’s mindreading abilities. Sure, your best friend knows you’ve been dreaming of hearing a string quartet play The Beatles’ “In My Life,” your parents’ favorite song, when you walk down the aisle. But don’t be so sure your partner knows how much creating that moment means to you. Make a point of speaking clearly and explaining your thoughts and priorities.
· Keep your cool. Even when you have the best of intentions, wedding planning can get stressful. Disagreements are very normal. Maybe your partner doesn’t seem as excited as you think they should be or they have a much different idea of what a reasonable budget is. Believe me when I say that yelling, name-calling, and other hurtful behavior only will make your path more difficult. If you need to take a break or return to the planning another time, do that, so you can keep the conversation productive and respectful.
Communicating With Your Wedding Party
When it comes to your bridesmaids and groomsmen, the more information you give them, the better equipped they’ll be to pull off their responsibilities successfully and provide the kind of help you need.
So, have a conversation about how you see their roles and make sure you’re all on the same page. If you’re like Jessica and want a bachelorette party, ask your bridesmaids how they feel about helping you with one. Let your bridesmaids and groomsmen know what to expect when it comes to ordering and picking up their outfits, too, along with any time and money commitments they should be aware of.
Some couples rely on technology to maintain ongoing communication with their wedding party. That could involve group texts (without overdoing the messages and annoying your friends); a private Facebook group where you can post updates, reminders, and announcements; or maybe a secret Pinterest board for sharing ideas.
Another potentially helpful tool is Doodle, which lets you poll people about the best days and times for pre-wedding events like parties, showers, and dinners.
When all is said and done, don’t forget to express your deep gratitude to each of your wedding party members.
Working With Vendors and Wedding Professionals
One area ripe for miscommunication is your work with wedding businesses and professionals, from your photographer to your planner. Yes, many industry professionals have processes in place to help prevent this. My venue, for example, provides a detailed written service agreement and a point of contact for our customers, and we hold meetings with customers to make sure none of our responsibilities fall through the cracks. That said, it’s impossible to fully prevent misunderstandings and false assumptions from occurring.
I strongly encourage you to work proactively to encourage an ongoing, clear dialog with your wedding professionals and vendors. Make sure they understand your expectations, and you are familiar with their policies, requirements, and limitations.
Some strategies for working with wedding professionals:
· Agree on a communication method. If you have questions for your planner, should you call, text, e-mail? What if someone needs to reach you with a question or update, what’s the most effective way for professionals and businesses to reach you?
· Aim for a single point of contact. This works both ways: Should businesses work directly with you or with your wedding planner? And when you communicate with a vendor, try to speak with the same person each time to prevent miscommunications and confusion.
· Discuss timing. If you email your caterer, when can you expect a response? When is it OK to call your planner? And…when are you available to take calls from the businesses you’re working with? Working out these details in advance helps minimize stress and anxiety for everyone involved.
· Go above and beyond. Often, even if you relay information in person, or during a phone call or video conference, details can slip through the cracks. I suggest recording your conversation (with all parties’ permission) and following up in writing with a list of the important points you covered, along with any commitments your contact made to you. Make sure your contact responds and acknowledges the items you’ve listed.
· Help them understand your vision. Some requests, like cake ideas or floral requests, are best conveyed with photos or videos.
· Slow down and read carefully. When businesses and professionals send written information, whether it’s a text or a detailed email, do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. Don’t scan. I know you’re busy, but you don’t want to miss a critical detail (like a changed delivery time, a question you must answer before an order is filled, or even a cancellation) that’s woven in there. Also, try to read slowly or even more than once: It’s easy to misinterpret the information when you’re rushing.
· Listen carefully, too. The principles above apply to spoken conversations, too. When you’re juggling multiple responsibilities, your thoughts might wander — or you simply can miss something important. Ask questions, Repeat what the vendor told you, and make sure you got the gist of what they’re saying. And, politely repeat yourself when you relay information so your vendor doesn’t miss anything.
· Keep people on the same page. If there’s a chance that some of the businesses and professionals you’re working with will need to cooperate, help make that happen. Give vendors and your venue one another’s contact information. If one vendor announces a schedule change, share that information with others who could be impacted.
· Keep yourself organized: Since you’ll be communicating with multiple people and businesses, you’ll want an easy way to save and access information as it’s relayed. Choose something that feels right for you, whether it’s a binder holding printouts of emails, texts, and your notes; an organizational app like Microsoft OneNote; or a project management app like Google Drive or Trello that will allow you to share your materials with others.
You Can Do This
Communicating sounds simple enough; it’s part of day-to-day life. But even people who do it for a living can make missteps. Effective communication requires some work and a few strategies. By making that extra effort, you’ll be dramatically reducing your risk of unwanted wedding drama and conflicts — and giving yourself a wonderful wedding gift.
*Name changed for privacy.
About the Author:
Roger Igo is the founder and CEO of special events venue, The Bell Tower on 34th, along with Excellent Events, and Venues in Houston. He is the author of “Keep On Going, The History of The Bell Tower on 34th,” a former radio host, a graduate of CEO Space International, and an alumnus of The Disney Institute.