Picture this: you’re inviting all of your friends and family to the biggest party you’ve ever had. They’re expecting something amazing. You’re working with a limited budget. And you’ve never planned anything before.
Welcome to the wedding planning world. Your task: to have the wedding day you want, with your favorite people, all within budget. (And without losing your sanity!) Need help? Luckily, there’s a lot of help to be found. Here are our top 5 books for happy wedding planning.
A Practical Wedding, by Meg Keene
Keene is the creator of APracticalWedding.com, a site for “independent-minded brides.” Consider this book the voice of reason when the stress of wedding planning strikes. The chapter about the “Myth of ‘Tradition’” should be required reading for every couple. Read it to counter well-meaning friends and family pushing the way things have “always been done.”
Read this book: if you need permission to create your day, your way. Also recommended if you’re feeling overwhelmed by planning. It’s a big, sensible reminder of what really matters.
Most valuable advice: “Wedding planning…involves a lot of hugs and smiles, but also a fair number of arguments and tears. This is normal.” File this with many other things I wish I’d known! By recommending that you find comfortable boundaries for this new family you’re creating, Keene provides helpful advice certain to ease a lot of family tension.
Favorite quote: “The things your guests really want to admire, talk about, and remember? The love they share for you and each other.” –Cara Forbes-Stenning, a contributing Practical bride. (Remember when I learned that weddings aren’t all about the stuff? This right here is what’s important.)
Inspired Weddings, By Matthew Robbins
Matthew Robbins is a NY-based event designer and planner, as well as a Martha Stewart contributor, so you won’t be surprised that his book is absolutely gorgeous and, as promised, inspiring. Robbins invites us into his process with stunning examples, translating each sentimental object into a setting and vibe, elaborated with color, shape, and texture. Designing the event around an object that’s meaningful to the couple creates the most personalized of events, where the resulting “theme” is the essence of the couple.
Read this book: if you find yourself struggling to select just one palette or theme idea. It can be hard to narrow down your choices, but working from one single, meaningful object with its colors and associated memories can help you find the direction you’re looking for.
Most valuable advice: We love his suggestion to keep bridesmaids’ bouquets to a single flower type and color to “make them all feel special” as well as to keep the bouquets less pricey. His ideas for decorating with food, dessert tables, and floral arrangements of every shape, size, and hue are some of our other favorites.
Favorite Quote: (about floral arrangement) “I think it’s important to let the plants do the talking—don’t force a plant or flower to do something that it doesn’t want to do naturally. If you keep that in mind, plants will end up doing most of the design work for you.”
The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner, by Carley Roney and the editors of The Knot
Nearly all wedding planning books talk about getting organized, and while each couple will do this a little differently, many will wind up with a workbook of some kind. Sure, there are lots of online tools and apps, but it can be nice to put pen to paper to work out these details. Carley Roney and the editors of The Knot are the experts on weddings, so their wedding planner is one of the best (and most popular).
Read this book: if you need a workbook with checklists, budgets, and timelines to help you plan. There are also lots of Q&A’s and stories of real events. The Knot has also created a ring-bound edition of this book that some find easier to write in.
Most valuable advice: “Most of all, maintain your sense of humor. Laughter will go a long way toward keeping the love bug alive throughout the planning process.”
Favorite quote: Shared by real bride Robin: “Customize. It’s important to adapt and reinterpret traditions. We didn’t want to do anything just because we had to.”
The Handcrafted Wedding, by Emma Arendoski
Emma Arendoski is the founder of EmmalineBride.com, “The wedding guide for the homemade bride.” (Full disclosure: we love EmmalineBride.com’s support of handmade bridal artisans, which is why we’ve advertised with them since their beginning.) Arendoski’s book includes many features I’ve long admired at the site: beautiful photography, hundreds of ideas, and fine handmade wedding details with incredibly personal touches.
Read this book: if you’re crafty and are looking for lots of DIY ideas to add meaning to your event. Oh, and keep your budget in check! There are over 300 ideas, and a few in each chapter include detailed tutorials with pictures. Get ready to consider new possibilities for personalization.
Most valuable advice: We love the handmade touches that were just for you and your attendants. The secret tags in the groom’s tie or suit jacket pocket, embroidery in the dress hem—these embellishments make your wedding party feel as special as your guests. The tutorials are also straightforward, and so useful (hello, cake stand!).
Favorite quote: “Long after the cake is cut, the last song is played, and you’re whisked away on your honeymoon, the memories of planning your beautifully handcrafted wedding will live on.”
Bridal Bargains, by Denise & Alan Fields
Let’s face it: the budget can be the biggest cause of stress during wedding planning. Did you have any idea that a single dress could cost that much? And don’t get me started on the flowers or photographer. This book is just packed with advice for the price-conscious wedding planner (which is to say, almost every wedding planner), from where to buy that dress right through invitations, tent rentals, and yes, even how to hire a photographer.
Read this book: if you’re working with a tight budget or fear those horror stories about couples who were overcharged for wedding services. Money-saving secrets and resources abound in this thick guide. At the very least you will be informed about your options.
Most valuable advice: Using local visitor centers as resources for venues and wedding vendors. Find ratings of the best (and worst) dress brands and designers. All the hidden fees to be aware of. Many, many pitfalls described along with ways to avoid them; all make this book worth its weight in gold.
Favorite quote: “You CAN plan a fantastic wedding at the budget you can afford.”
– – – – –
We’ll be sharing more wisdom from these authors in the coming weeks. Do you have a favorite wedding planning book? What do you love about it?