Bride and groom walking with their bridal party in downtown Chicago, planned by Chicago wedding planner Savoir Fête. The Blackstone Hotel wedding highlights elegance and joy.

Conversations to Have Before You Start Planning a Wedding

Around the wedding industry, a common genre of advice begins with the question, “So you’re engaged, now what?” What follows is usually pretty solid advice for the practicalities of planning a wedding: questions to ask on venue tours, the order to book your vendors, et cetera, et cetera.

At Savoir Fête, we believe skipping the “why” and moving straight to the day-to-day planning tasks can be a huge mistake. Planning a wedding is like building a house: the first step to creating a home is by pouring a solid foundation. A poorly built foundation will show up with problems later down the line in the homebuilding process, once it’s become impossible (or at least, incredibly expensive) to go back and make the necessary fixes.

Now, with the foundation of a wedding day, there’s at least less risk to life and limb. What is on the line instead is your experience of the planning process, the event experience itself, and the touchpoints your guests have as well. Again, little physically at risk here, but sometimes there are great emotional risks taken. As much as you’ll be assured of a perfectly-set table or timely coordination of your reception music, we believe you deserve careful attention to the emotional stakes of your planning journey. Honest and thoughtful conversations between you and your partner are the best way to begin to lay this planning foundation, and set yourselves up for success.

Below are a few questions we believe every couple should discuss before committing to a single wedding planning decision:

How do we want to feel on our wedding day?

Close your eyes and envision the cornerstone moments of your day. What is the environment like? Do you want it to be a relaxing and reflective day? An energizing rager of a day? Being able to communicate the “feel” of the day can be incredibly informative when you rely on others to shape your experience, and can help you decide on your priorities when it comes to allocating resources of time and money.

Who do we want to share this day with?

Not only is your guest count the number one factor in determining your overall spend, but it also affects the amount of quality time you might have with each guest. It’s simple math: the more people present, the harder it will be to spend time with each one. If quality time is important, you could consider trimming your guest list, or consider inviting larger proportions of guests to your pre-wedding events.

“Sharing the day” can also be taken fairly literally, as in, who will be around you all day? This is one of the top things we wish we could say to couples: please, don’t take decisions about your wedding party lightly. Larger wedding parties increase the number of people around you for most of the day. You’ll likely be a little emotionally heightened, so consider if more people will be energizing or draining for you. (And remember, there is NO requirement for a same-gender party, an even number of people on both sides, or even one or both people having a wedding party at all!). The choice of who you surround yourself with on the day is truly a “you do you” situation, and having been in a lot of wedding day getting-ready spaces, we don’t think this is a fruitful place for compromise.

How do we want guests to experience our event?

Similarly, what kind of atmosphere do you want to create for your guests? How do you want them to share in different aspects of the celebration with you, if at all? This one is incredibly open-ended, based on your cultural norms and event style. Frankly, it’s the question we’re asking ourselves the most often during the planning process. You may not develop a straightforward answer immediately, but having a general sense of your ideal guest experience is a helpful tool to shape the day, rather than making a string of unrelated decisions and only later considering what that guest journey might feel like.

Is anyone contributing financially? What is their role?

We will always, and I repeat, always advocate for financial transparency from day one. You shoud be prepared to have specific and thorough conversations with anyone contributing to the event about your mutual expectations. (Not to be too obvious about it, but a planner is an incredible resource when it comes to this subject.) Weddings are unlike cars or houses in that there’s no Kelly Blue Book or MLS to look up current pricing data. Among other reasons, this is because they are much more complex than purchasing a single asset: while you undertake the discovery phase to learn what a realistic budget is for the wedding you’re envisioning, everyone should understand that it may take some time and education through honest dialogue.

Where a planner can’t always help you? The implications of accepting any financial help. Is this a gift? Are they giving you money, or paying vendors directly? How involved is the giver with the event as a whole? Do they have final approval, or veto power over where their money is going? We’ve never seen two budgets shake out in the same way in terms of contributions: everyone strikes a different balance that works for them. Again, specificity, respect and transparency will always go a long way here.

Are there any external expectations to navigate?

A wedding can come with a whole host of familial, religious or cultural expectations from one or both sides, not to mention the desire to create new traditions to celebrate together. Sit down to discuss what is important to include and what you would rather release from your day: this will set you up for a smoother road ahead. 

Another thing we wish we could tell couples: this may include compromise, and that’s okay! Weddings don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re planned for a single point in time during lifelong relationships, and sometimes that relationship is priority number one. Artfully compromising on some elements while not compromising on your personal experience and well-being is something we know how to navigate all too well.

All that said…

You got engaged because you knew that marriage was the next logical step for your lifelong partnership: these conversations are just another part of navigating life together, and even though they aren’t necessarily the fun parts of planning a wedding, we promise, once you’ve given them some thought, the tours, tastings, and celebrations will follow soon enough! And hopefully, they will be all the better for it. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if our experience-driven planning process is something you’re interested in, or even if you just have thoughts on the above. Our doors our always virtually open!

Featured image by Christy Tyler Photography

with us

ready to get started?