This former bride enjoyed cake tastings and gown fittings as much as the next gal, but the reality is that planning a wedding isn't all pearls, peonies and parties. Prenup discussions and marriage license applications are every bit as essential as the fun details (fondant vs. buttercream, anyone?).
Keep the finer points from falling through the cracks with our handy list of 10 tasks that absolutely must be addressed in the days and weeks before the big event. Everyone from your guests to your dog will thank you for taking the time to check these items off your to-do list.
Handle Your Workload in Advance
No one likes a slacker, particularly if she comes back from vacation tanned and blissed-out. Avoid becoming the office pariah by tying up projects and other loose ends before you check out for your wedding. Discuss your workload with your boss and co-workers, and divvy up tasks that must be handled while you're out for the wedding and honeymoon. Inform everyone who will be even a little bit impacted by your absence, and give them the name of the person they can turn to if necessary.
Fulfill Local Marriage Requirements
Paperwork is a necessary evil -- even when it comes to joyous occasions like weddings.
Pre-wedding marriage requirements vary by location. Some states still require old school blood tests, proof of vaccination from specific diseases and documentation of the legal dissolution of any previous marriages. Other states are much easier by comparison, requiring the couple only to fill out a form in person and observe a waiting period before walking down the aisle.
Because of the wide variations in marriage laws, every bride and groom should look into local requirements months ahead of the big day.
Prenup It Up
There's a reason wedding vows don't read "Til death do you part or you get sick of each other, whichever comes first." No one wants to admit the possibility that a happy union could dissolve down the line.
Despite this sunny outlook, more couples are opting to protect themselves in the event of divorce with a prenuptial agreement. Obviously, a prenup safeguards the wealthier person from getting taken to the cleaners in divorce court. But on the flip side, a prenup provides protection for the other person, who might've given up a fledgling career to care for the kids.
Experts insist that prenups shouldn't cause contention. If arrangements are conducted openly and honestly, a prenup can help couples express their financial expectations. And with any luck, the prenup will eventually prove to be a waste of time and money (but a smart precaution, nonetheless).
Figure out Your Finances
No one's saying you have to tell your future husband all the tawdry details of your past. However, full financial disclosure is an absolute must.
Financial stress is the top cause of divorce and fighting among married couples. To avoid this oh-so-common pitfall, couples should schedule a financial sit-down well before the big day. Take this opportunity to expose all financial demons: loans of any variety (student, car and mortgage), credit card debt, outstanding medical bills and the like. Run credit checks to find any red flags that could prevent or delay future purchases.
Although retirement may seem eons away, it's never too soon to start planning for the future. Discuss your budget and the percentage of all incomes that should be dedicated to retirement, college funds for the kiddos and general savings. Take steps to prevent financial discord by having regular, calm discussions about any concerns, rather than pointing fingers in a he-said, she-said manner.
Couples with modest incomes who are open and honest about their financial expectations are more likely to ride off into the sunset than big-spender counterpart couples.
Discuss Living Arrangements
Unless you already live together, chances are good that moving in with the new hubby will carry its fair share of surprises and compromises (trust us -- sharing a bathroom with a boy is not without its challenges).
Before taking the plunge, you obviously need to discuss where the two of you will be living: his place, yours or a new one altogether. Finding a place to live and moving come with their own sets of challenges, so make the decision far enough ahead of the wedding to avoid mega stress.
Be Accessible After the Send-off
Emergencies don't take a vacation -- even if you're on one.
If you'll be honeymooning (and this is doubly important if you're traveling outside the country), draft a detailed itinerary with your emergency numbers and hotel and flight information. Give it to a trusted friend or parent in case they need to contact you, and be sure to let others know who has the information. This is particularly critical if you have pets or children back at home that might require sudden medical attention.
It's also a good idea to check in every couple of days by e-mail or phone in case any surprises have popped up in your absence.
Be Considerate of Guests
If handled in advance and with care, making provisions for guests with special needs is a snap. Study your guest list and make note of any people with special considerations, such as food allergies, dietary restrictions and limited mobility or other health conditions. Include a vegetarian option on your RSVP card to avoid serving steak to a non-meat-eater. Offer sparkling cider as a toasting alternative to underage guests and those who don't imbibe. Most venues have a coordinator on staff who can help you handle these arrangements. Guests with special considerations will certainly appreciate your efforts to make the event extra-enjoyable for them.
Channel Your Inner Tour Guide
Chances are good that your out-of-town guests will spend a good chunk of time and money to travel to your nuptials. Show your appreciation by making the finer details of the trip as seamless as possible.
Provide a detailed itinerary of wedding-related events, and be sure to include maps and driving directions or transportation information. Consider comparing guest itineraries to see if anyone is arriving at the airport at similar times. If so, put them in contact with each other so they can share a cab.
While you might be swamped with last-minute details, many guests will have time to kill. Help them enjoy your fair city by providing restaurant suggestions, entertainment guides and admission information on popular tourist attractions.
Make Other Arrangements
Fido and Fluffy don't care that you're getting married -- they still want to be fed and walked like usual. Make arrangements for pets during your honeymoon and the days leading up to your wedding, if necessary. The best kennels and pet-sitters book up fast, so don't put off this task until the last minute.
You'll have to make a few more plans if you provide for children and elderly relatives. Be doubly sure to supply your emergency contact information, itinerary, health insurance information, doctors' numbers and anything else they might need. Make the caregiver's life even easier by providing a loose schedule for naps, feedings, school and lessons. Also include necessary supplies, such as diapers, medications (include dosages), food and spending money.
Manage Your Mail
You might think this one falls under the "duh" category, but many people just let their mail pile up, leaving them vulnerable to criminals who can easily cash checks or fill out credit card applications. Either have a trusted neighbor pick up your mail while you're away, or put it on hold via your local postal service. If you'll be moving after the wedding, have it forwarded and change your address as soon as possible. Speak to your current landlord, property owner or that trusted neighbor about retrieving any gifts or packages that arrive while you're gone. Chances are you'll be pretty distraught if that gravy boat from your Aunt Mildred winds up storing jelly beans in some thief's kitchen cabinet.
Some wedding traditions are lovely and others don't make much sense. Test your knowledge of wedding traditions with our HowStuffWorks quiz.
- Casey, Mary. "The Perfect Out-of-Town Gift Bag." Favor Ideas. (June 30, 2010).http://www.favorideas.com/learn-about/wedding-planning/out-of-town-gift-bags/
- Rose, Jeff. "Just Married: Financial Planning for Newlyweds." Good Financial Cents. Oct. 2, 2008. (June 30, 2010).http://www.goodfinancialcents.com/just-married-financial-planning-for-newlyweds/
- Sahadi, Jeanne. "What?! You Want Me to Sign a Pre-nup?" CNN Money. March 14, 2006. (June 30, 2010). http://money.cnn.com/2004/03/19/pf/prenups/index.htm
- "Ten Finance Tips for Newlyweds." Chatham Journal Weekly. April 18, 2006. (June 30, 2010).http://www.chathamjournal.com/weekly/business/money/newlywed-finance-tips-60418.shtml
- "Top 10 Financial Considerations for Newlyweds." Wedding Channel. (June 30, 2010).http://weddings.weddingchannel.com/wedding-planning-ideas/wedding-budget/articles/top-ten-financial-considerations-for-newlyweds.aspx
- U.S. Marriage Laws. (June 30, 2010).http://www.usmarriagelaws.com/
- "Welcoming Your Out-of-Town Guests." Wedding Channel. (June 30, 2010).http://weddings.weddingchannel.com/top-honeymoon-destinations/wedding-guest-hotel-travel/articles/welcoming_your-out-of-town-guests.aspx