Like any other girl, I've planned my wedding for most of my life. I always had ideas of what I wanted it to be like, what I wanted to wear, where I wanted it to be, the list goes on. However, when it really came down to it, I quickly realised that there's no such thing as a perfect wedding. A million things didn't go according to plan, and at many times, I was at the peak of frustration, but one way or the other, by hook and by crook, and with a lot of faith and perseverance, the day came and it was AMAZING!
I've compiled my top 10 tips for newly engaged brides to hopefully make your journey a little easier.
1. BE FLEXIBLE AND FOCUS ON WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT
So, I was a covid bride who got engaged in March 2020 - the week before we went into a lockdown. I was very sure it would last only a few weeks and life would go back to normal by the summer. In hindsight, my belief was rather laughable. I spent my lockdown days planning my wedding, making notes, looking for outfits, morning till evening - I was planning my wedding for October 2020 and nothing was going to stop me. For context, I had picked my wedding date long before I even got engaged. That's how much of a planner I am. Eventually, it became clear that we couldn't have the wedding we wanted with the people we needed in attendance at such an uncertain time in the world. Both families agreed we have a wedding with 30 people (lockdown rules) and call it a day. I was highly irritated at the world for ruining my plans, but I eventually decided to focus on what REALLY mattered. 500 people or 30 people, the bottom line was that I was getting married and starting a new life with someone. Sometimes, not getting what you want when you want it really sucks, but it doesn't mean it's not going to happen eventually. In my case it did, albeit 16 months later. When you find yourself getting upset and overwhelmed, sometimes take a step back and choose peace of mind. It's hardly as deep as it seems at the time.
2. GET A WEDDING PLANNER
Look, I literally cannot stress this point enough. I like to think I'm very organised. In fact, I know I am, but I also knew that I wanted to be as stress-free as possible. At first, my dad wasn't in support of getting an event planner because he thought it was a waste of money and 'we' could plan it ourselves. I just kept thinking "who exactly is the we?" My mum is late, my siblings don't live in Nigeria, my aunties have their own things going on and, just the both of us couldn't plan everything ourselves". I went ahead and hired an event planner. I Paid the deposit myself and figured I'd get my money back from him when he realises I was right. P.S don't bank on getting your money back from your parents on decisions you made yourself. You might get it back but its not guaranteed and you just have to be okay with it. In my case, my dad hasn't stopped talking about how perfect the day was and he's been taking all the credit for it but i don't mind, i like being right.
When you're picking an event planner, make sure you do your research. Go on their Instagram pages, look for past brides and speak to them. Have a conversation with the proposed event planner to make sure you vibe and he/she can see your vision for your big day. I went with 2706 events and I loved working with them. I was able to give them control because I trusted Deola was able to bring my vision to life based on her previous jobs. Make sure you don't go for a planner you'll be intimidated by because you need to be able to stand your ground if something you don't want or like is being imposed on you.
3. HAVE YOUR OWN MONEY
This is more of a personal point and may not apply to everyone. In fact, if it doesn't apply to you, that's a good thing. In my case, I wanted some things that I knew my family members weren't going to pay for.
So, I made sure to have my own money so I could get those things. Some things are going to be personal to you, no other person may understand why it's so 'expensive' and that's okay because it's not their business. If it makes you happy and you can afford it, go for it!
4. BOOK YOUR VENDORS EARLY
Although the Nigerian wedding industry is very saturated with vendors, if you're like me, you know who you'd like to use for certain aspects. Book them early because anyone good at their job is very likely to already be booked, considering we have a million weddings every weekend in Lagos. For me, it was my makeup artist and my photographer. I went with Tennycoco and she beat my face for the gods. For photography, it was Bedge and ONLY Bedge for me. His work is amazing and he's usually fully booked months in advance. If I were you, I'd book him before you even get a boyfriend. If the vendor you want is already booked, it's not the end of the world. There are other good vendors. Just make sure you do your research and test them out before the day- where applicable.
Also, make sure your photographer captures all your beautiful moments. Memories fade but pictures last forever. Bedge did good!!!
5. HAVE YOUR OUTFITS ON LOCK
Anyone who knows me knows that I MUST slay. Whether you now think I actually look good is something that's not my business. I didn't use a stylist because I knew exactly what I wanted. If you're someone who is clueless and doesn't know where to begin, and if your pocket allows for it, you should get a stylist. A lot of designers in Lagos are mad, let's start there. So be careful. The bulk of them only care about their high-profile clients and will offer the rest of us terrible service. I knew I didn't want this so I did my research. Ask multiple people who have worked with the proposed designer before you make your choice. Insist that you don't want your outfits made last minute and even with insisting, may the grace of God guide you. Two of my outfits were made last minute even though I ordered them months in advance and let's just say, it wasn't the most pleasant experience. You don't need the extra pressure of rushing, start things early enough and double, triple insist that you want your outfit at least 2-3 weeks before your wedding. Make sure you have multiple fittings till you're 100% satisfied with your outfit.
Also, don't take a dress that costs thousands of pounds from an international designer to your Nigerian tailor to make a copy for you, but you want to pay them ₦100,000. Come off it sis, you will end up with "what I ordered v what I got" and I'm sorry to say, but it will be your fault. And i'm not saying your outfits need to be expensive, no one loves a better bargain than me. I'm saying MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS!
6. HAVE A SOLID SQUAD
I cannot thank my squad enough. They were everything. They put me and my happiness first, irrespective of their personal problems. Some flew thousands of miles in the middle of a pandemic to be there with me and it was the most amazing feeling. You need to let your friends help you. Don't try to do everything yourself, you will burn out. Also, please don't get upset and throw a tantrum if you feel like someone isn't there for you in the capacity you'd like. It's worth having a conversation before you blow up. Yes, it's your wedding but the world also doesn't revolve around you. People have their own problems, multitudes of them sometimes. This will be a good time to say - please don't put anyone who isn't your true friend on your bridal train. It's a lot of work and responsibility. Don't put that responsibility on someone who doesn't have your back, because you will only get upset and your anger cannot do a damn thing.
7. YOU WON'T ALWAYS GET YOUR WAY - DEAL WITH IT
I'm not sure there are a lot of things in this world that require the level of compromise that weddings do. Look, it's your wedding but unless you are paying for EVERYTHING yourself, drop your expectations and be ready to compromise. There's you, your spouse, your parents, the parents-in-law. At the very least, that's about 5 other people whose opinions must have a place. I'll tell you this. Pick a maximum of 5 things you won't compromise on and fight only those battles. And even then, you may not get all of them. Focus on the things that are within your control. Learn to communicate your feelings without getting into a fight with the person who isn't agreeing with you. All of this is easy to say, I know. Sometimes, your parents are going to make some decisions that will really confuse you and you'll never understand but take a deep breath and remember COMPROMISE!. Don't be selfish, it's their day too. I know you don't believe it, but it's the reality of it. When you're a parent, you'll maybe understand.
8. HAVE A PICTURE SCHEDULE
This might sound crazy, but I had a timetable for the pictures I wanted to be taken on the day. However, when you consider that I have a timetable for my whole life, it might not sound as crazy. I spent weeks on end coordinating my outfit with my husband's, siblings', bridesmaids', and friends'. The only evidence I'll have of this is in the pictures. I also didn't want us to rush through picture time so I was willing to wake up earlier than necessary to be ready in time for my pictures. I made the timetable with very generous time slots in case there were any delays. I'm glad to say I got 95% of the pictures In my schedule. Also, you should share this timetable with your photographer and assistant bride. You can't do all the coordination yourself on the day!
9. BE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR GUEST LIST
I didn't want anyone at my wedding who didn't wish me well. I wanted to be surrounded by people who really knew and loved me. Before you get ahead of yourself, you will most likely have people you don't know there. You don't know all your parent's guests, neither do you know every single person your spouse may invite. Don't try to control everyone's guest list. Focus on yours and invite who is important to you. This doesn't mean you can't drop hints to your family members. ClubRen10 (My wedding after-party) surely had well over 500 people. It's a huge number but 90% of the crowd was invited by an important person. The other 10%, well who doesn't love a good bash? Of course people are going to crash your wedding if it's lit. You can't totally avoid it, but you can try your best to enforce a "no tag no entry" policy.
10. SMILE SMILE SMILE
I tried really hard to remind myself of this. I can't believe how many things can and will go wrong even when you've planned everything so well. There's nothing you can do about it. All you can do is remember that whatever Is going to happen on that day will happen, and you just need to keep smiling. Take what you see and enjoy your day. It's less than 24 hours and it goes by so quickly that if you spend any minute of it being upset, you're not getting a do-over. No matter what goes wrong, focus on the fact that you're getting married. Well, except your spouse doesn't show up, at which point I don't know what to tell you. But Goodluck!