Planning your wedding is fantastic - and it's awful, too. And I've got the data to prove it.
Well - perhaps not prove, exactly. Every year, I survey a cross-section of our wedding clients to ask about their experience planning a wedding in Chicago. We don't serve enough couples for this info to be statistically significant (no single vendor does). But we do get some great feedback. And we see trends that match up anecdotally with what we've already learned ourselves about the world of wedding planning.
I was not surprised to learn again this year that wedding planning could feel overwhelming. But I was surprised to see our survey hinted at a way that you can make it easier.
Here are our suggestions, based on client feedback, for how you can make your wedding fun again.
The overwhelm is real.
First, let me confirm the part you know already: Planning your own wedding in Chicago is a lot of fun. But it's also confusing. And it's overwhelming.
In fact, when I asked 17 couples who had used our band and DJ services to pick words that described the way they felt while making wedding plans, "fun," "overwhelming" and "confusing" were the words they chose the most.
As you can see, those weren't the only words our couples choose - but they were the most common. In fact, out of all the couples surveyed, only one didn't choose any negative words.
Feeling stressed? Good news - you're normal. A wedding is a big event, and it's bound to feel a little much from time to time.
But since my company's motto is "happy made easy," I wanted to understand WHY things got hard sometimes. And guess what? Couples told me.
Unlimited options; limited time.
Our couples gave us lots of written feedback about their experience - which I pored over with a fine-toothed comb.
Lots of couples wrote about their fears of being overcharged for wedding services, or expressed how tiring it could be to have to take a tour or meet a vendor before they could get pricing info. "I wish it was more comfortable to talk about money," one bride wrote. "It's a huge part of this whole process."
Still - the biggest trend I saw wasn't budget overwhelm. It was the challenge of just having too many options to weigh.
The Chicago wedding market is a big pond full of little fish. No Amazons or Wal-Marts here; just lots of local business owners trying to serve you well. You've got a ton of choices - and unless you've been engaged before, you've never heard of ANY of us.
And the Internet is bringing ALL of us to your front door.
How are you supposed to narrow down the list when you're starting with hundreds of options?
- "It's hard to pick from 20 florists who all have 5 stars," one client wrote on her survey.
- "It took a lot of research and time," said another.
- A third put it even more succinctly: "I cast too wide a net."
You need help narrowing the field.
Here's where things get interesting.
I asked our couples where they went for help as they were choosing wedding vendors. Wedding websites ranked high on the list. So did input from family, friends and other wedding vendors.
No surprises there. But look what happened when I compared feelings like "confused" and "overwhelmed" with the resources couples used to plan their weddings:
78% of the couples who asked married friends for help and input still felt overwhelmed. Just 43% of couples who relied on vendor input felt that way, So for this small group of couples, getting help from vendors seemed to be the most effective way to cut down on confusion and overwhelm.
I was not expecting this - but it makes sense! Asking family and friends for wedding help is fun (the survey showed that, too!). But they're not necessarily experts in the Chicago wedding world. Sometimes their advice will even conflict.
What you need is someone who can help you narrow down the field of choices, fast. You want to choose your favorite vendors from a couple good ones - not from an enormous list of hundreds.
So how do you make that happen?
Find a trusted expert. Let them simplify for you.
If I were getting married all over again today, I'd still start off by asking married friends for input. But I wouldn't ask who make their wedding great - I'd ask them who they trusted most to help them navigate the process.
This might mean a great wedding planner, a trusted venue contact, or a DJ or photographer with remarkable client service. You need one or two experts who you trust to help you navigate the wedding world - so you don't have to take the time to be an expert yourself.
Then, let your trusted experts narrow down the list by pointing you to other vendors they trust too. You'll have a shorter list of options - short enough to hopefully enjoy the process of selection without being overwhelmed.
And that should make things fun again.
Here's how one bride put it on our survey: "If our venue hadn't provided preferred vendors, the sheer number to look through would have been extremely overwhelming. But after we met with the venue and started talking/meeting with their preferred vendors, we knew we were in good hands."
I hope you find yourself in good hands, too.