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Avoiding Wedding Planning Arguments: Prenups, Family, Finances and Fiance’s Lack of Interest

Wedding Planning Arguments are more common than you think, and a major source of stress when it comes to organising your Big Day. Whether it’s family, finances (or family finances), prenuptial agreements, or your fiance’s complete lack of interest, if your engagement and wedding planning begins to feel like a minefield of topics to avoid, go through this list and work out how to deal with each situation.

Avoiding Wedding Planning Arguments

  • When you’re planning the wedding of your dreams and your fiancé ‘hates’ wedding planning or shows no interest in helping you, it’s easy to feel disillusioned with the whole thing. Begin a conversation by talking about why you both want to get married, and also why you want to have a wedding. Sit down together and each make a list of wedding priorities – keep them safe in your little white book – you’ll return to them often.
  • Agree on how much involvement (including financial involvement) your families will have. Family relations are one of the leading causes of engagement unrest, whether they have long guest lists to ‘contribute’, are chipping in for the wedding budget (or chipping in unevenly). If you decide to have your families pay towards the Big Day, you may also expect some demands along the way, so get on the same page now.
  • If you disagree on where to spend the big bucks (dream dress or Hawaii honeymoon), it can be really hard to get in the zone together. If one of you wants to ‘splurge’ on something the other doesn’t agree with, ask yourself how you’ll feel looking back on the wedding and not having that item; whether you can make cut-backs elsewhere to compensate for the splurge, but if you’re still having trouble, take a moment to consider whether it really is that important (I probably wouldn’t have spent so much on my dress had I taken a few weeks to think it through and do a bit more shopping). If you still feel the same after taking a breather, explain to your future spouse why it’s so meaningful to you.
  • It can be even harder if you have completely different choices for the same part of your wedding, such as where to get married. This can be particularly difficult if you have families or grew up in different States. In terms of logistics, it is probably going to be easier to plan a wedding close to where you live, or if you can’t agree on that, consider a destination wedding which everyone will have to travel to. Where you have completely different views, it’s all about communication. I suggest reading The Five Love Languages you Need to Know – chances are you communicate differently and could benefit from seeing how the other expresses themselves, especially when it comes to love.
  • You’re arguing about cultural/traditional or religious influences in your wedding. if you each come from different backgrounds, particular where one partner is secular and the other has strong family beliefs or religious values, it can be difficult to find common ground. Start by explaining what traditions or customs your culture has, and what each of them mean. This may bring you closer, and even if your partner doesn’t have the same beliefs, you may find they are more likely to want to include those customs because of the meaning behind them.  
  • Your fiancé wants to invite an ex-partner to your wedding. If the ex-girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse still has a great involvement in your lives together, i.e. you have the same friend groups, or they share a child together, consider whether it’s worth cutting them out of this celebration. Remember, your partner has chosen you, not them – to spend the rest of their life with. However, if the ex-partner has caused any drama or disruption to your relationship, I would advise against their attendance, as it is likely to cause you unnecessary stress in the lead up to the Big Day.
  • Your future spouse wants you to sign a prenuptial agreement and you can’t understand why. Being the child of divorced parents, as well as my legal background (I was a lawyer prior to creating the little white book), I see this as a common-sense approach to future planning. However, any discussion about separation and division of assets is not going to be a romantic one, and may feel at odds with planning your ‘Happily Ever After’. If you are starting your lives together with unequal contributions, it may be sensible and reasonable to discuss and agree on what would happen if for whatever reason the marriage did not work out. Your partner’s practical and thoughtful side may be one of the reasons you fell in love with him/her, so try not to see this as them questioning your trust, commitment and faith in each other or the future of the marriage.
  • If you’re having trouble getting your fiancé involved at all, remind them of the priorities they identified at the beginning and see if there’s a way of involving them in those particular elements. Maybe they’ll want to take charge of the catering or beverages if they’re a foodie, or if they love music, have them organise the entertainment.

“Planning the wedding is a trial run for your future marriage,” says Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author of True Partners: A Workbook for Building a Lasting Intimate Relationship. It can actually be very useful to have these serious financial and planning discussions so that you can work out how best you can negotiate, compromise and hopefully agree. It’s far better to ‘hash it out’ than for either of you to feel like there are issues bubbling away beneath the surface. 

As issues arise, rather than getting into an argument immediately, I suggest writing it down in your wedding journal and coming back to it when you can have a focussed and thoughtful discussion. It may even help you to take a few days to think about it, instead of coming to blows immediately.

Trust me, these won’t be the last disagreements you have in your long and happy lives together, wedding planning is just the start. Of course, once the wedding has been, communication is still the most important aspect of a relationship, and having regular discussions about your future is so valuable. The wedding anniversary journal I still do is ideal to keep working at your relationship and communication, prompting you to have many of these conversations you may otherwise avoid.

Managing Anxiety in Pregnancy

Being pregnant is an understandably anxious time for anyone, especially if it’s your first baby. Add to that the obvious complications the last year has thrown at us, with lockdowns, travel restrictions and constantly changing rules at hospitals and birthing suites, it’s no wonder you’re feeling a little (or a lot) more stressed than usual.

However, there’s also no more important time to be aware of stress levels, and manage anxiety, than in pregnancy. There are potential health complications if you are under significant stress for an extended time during your pregnancy (it’s not good for either you or baby), and increased anxiety now can also lead to having post-partum mental health concerns too.

Rather than focus on the causes of stress during pregnancy (because you’re probably already pretty aware of them), I’d like to help you find effective ways of managing anxiety and reducing stress.

Identifying Stressors and Managing Anxiety in Pregnancy 

1. Take care of yourself

It goes without saying, pregnancy is a time to really take care of your body, as it takes care of a very precious new life. Now, more than ever, you need to listen to what your body is telling you – get as much sleep and rest as you can, continue exercising if you feel up to it, eat as well as possible, and of course avoid alcohol or smoking. Exercise is an excellent tool for managing anxiety.

Many women question what exercise they can continue. It’s safe to stay fit and active – up to the level you were pre-pregnancy, of course, taking precautions and making adjustments as you go (see Adapting F45 during Pregnancy). If you weren’t particularly active before getting pregnant, you will still benefit from light and regular exercise. Pregnant women should aim for 20-30 minutes each day, 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking, can reduce stress and improve sleep. 

2. Make time for yourself

You possibly feel busier than ever, while also having less energy than usual. Now is definitely a time to be selfish. Put your feet up, read a good book, do yoga or schedule yourself a massage – whatever it takes to get some alone time.

Massage has so many benefits for both you and baby. A little pressure in the right places can relieve many other physical and mental pressure you might be facing/ Studies show that during massage, the fetus moves around less, bringing calmness to both mother and baby. Massage in the second and third trimester also relieves stress and discomfort especially the lower back.

3. Journalling

Did you know that journalling reduces your stress and anxiety, improves your mood and give you a greater sense of overall emotional well-being and happiness?

As journaling habits are developed long-term, benefits increase even more as you become in-tune with your health, connecting inner needs and desires. Journaling evokes mindfulness and helps you remain present while keeping perspective.

All of these benefits are so incredibly important during pregnancy. Having now had two pregnancies and recorded them both with made with love, I can honestly say being able to look back on my unique journeys is invaluable.

4. Get better sleep

It might be easier said than done, but as well as resting and sleeping as much as possible, you also want to be getting better quality sleep. In the third trimester, this gets especially hard as the pressure on your bladder often demands frequent bathroom breaks, but there are definitely steps you can take to get a better night sleep.

  • Reduce your stress before bed – as above, journalling is the perfect way to do this, get all your thoughts down on paper before you hit the hay.
  • Eliminate caffeine in the afternoon. You might be needing an afternoon pick me up more than ever, but cutting out tea and coffee after lunch will do wonders for your overnight sleep.
  • Limit your naps to just 30 minutes throughout the day.
  • Get lots of exposure to sunlight during the day (with an SPF, of course) and cut down on blue light at night.
  • Sleep with a pregnancy pillow to reduce the pressures on your body, make it easier to sleep on your side and keep your hips aligned.

5. Ask for help

“It takes a village” – and this doesn’t only refer to the time after the baby is born. If you’re feeling stressed about the future, surrounding yourself with a support network of friends is an excellent tool for managing anxiety in pregnancy. If you haven’t already, you may wish to join an antenatal group – you may find people who have similar concerns to you. Accept all offers for help with chores, take whatever relief your employer can do for you prenatally, and lean on friends and family wherever possible.

Having the right kind and amount of support when you need is essential for managing anxiety in pregnancy and postpartum. If there were ever a time to ask for and accept help from friends and family, it is during your pregnancy and in the early days after the baby is born. Identify the type of support you need – if you need more help around the house, talk to your partner, consider hiring a cleaner or buying ready meals to cut down on time. If you need more emotional support, make sure you let your friends know how you are feeling.

It can be hard to let others help, but remember that you are doing the best for your baby when you are at your best. Finding ways to lighten your load will be one of your greatest tools for managing stress during your pregnancy.

6. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is simply defined as awareness of what you are experiencing as you are experiencing it, without judging yourself. Mindfulness is an excellent way to treat stress and naturally manage anxiety in pregnancy, linked to improvements in mood, depression, anxiety, sleep and self-compassion. During stressful times, mindfulness can help you calm your body and mind and appreciate the journey you are on.

  • Breathe – Connect with your breath, following the inhalation/exhalation cycle without trying to control or change the breath. This may also be a great tool for you during labour – breath is a great resource to ground the body and focus the mind when feeling overwhelmed, so connect with your breath often.
  • Use a Meditation app – there are many apps to guide you in mindfulness-based practices, such as Calm or Buddify, or even just listening to a Spotify Meditation playlist. 
  • Record it in your Journal – Journaling evokes mindfulness and helps you remain present while keeping perspective over what you are going through.  Instead of getting caught up in the emotional distress you feel or the mental worry of why you are feeling that way, practice identifying the feelings you are going through, even labelling it, and writing it down. Writing down all the worries you have is a proven way of reducing your anxiety about them. Our new gratitude journalnote to self‘ is the perfect way to start.

I truly hope these tips will help you to manage any stress you may be feeling – save this as a bookmark to return to if ever you are feeling overwhelmed.

All the best over the next few weeks and months.

Your Ultimate Guide to Wedding Planning in New Zealand in 2023 (In Just 5 Steps)

Maybe you’ve just got engaged and you’re wondering how on earth to start wedding planning, or perhaps you were engaged pre-pandemic, and it’s finally time to plan the Big Day of your dreams. Whether you’re still blinding friends with a brand new sparkling rock, or you’re looking down and wondering when you last cleaned your engagement ring, I’m so excited that you are ready to plan your wedding.

Wedding planning has changed over the past few years, and although the pandemic caused devastating disruption to thousands of New Zealand couples’ wedding plans, I do believe there is a silver lining too. Times have changed, we have had more opportunity to think about what is important to us, and probably attended fewer weddings over the past few years than we would have otherwise. The benefit to that is that rather than be influenced by the choices of friends’ nuptials, when you start wedding planning this year, you can really focus on what is right for the two of you.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve made changes too, with a focus on simplicity and inclusivity. No longer does our wedding planner suit only ‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’ but rather uses inclusive language such as ‘Wedding Party’ and ‘Attire’ – and of course the biggest change is that we are no longer called “She Said Yes” – because a) there’s not always a ‘She’ involved, and b) even if there is, how outdated is the expectation that it’s always a woman saying ‘Yes’ in the first place.

In 2023, it’s your wedding, your rules.

Wedding Planning in New Zealand – First Steps

1. Find Your ‘Why’ – Prioritise and Plan the Wedding for the two of You!

Although the first step to planning a wedding are considering your wedding budget and guest list, the most important thing to think about really is your “why”? What is important to you about getting married, about spending (usually) around a year of your life emotionally and financially investing in this one big celebration of your relationship, and about doing so in front of all your family and friends. In fact, that’s one of the key questions to ask yourself right off the bat, do you really want all your family and friends present, or are you finding yourselves swayed already by the wishes and suggestions of others?

The key to wedding planning in a stress-free, enjoyable way is to never have to second-guess yourself about the choices you make – you have to really, really want whatever you are committing to – whether that’s a big budget, a big guest list, or a teeny, tiny elopement with just 10 people you feel closest to.

As of this moment, set aside any expectations from others (even if they are offering to contribute to the cost) and think about what you both really want from your Big Day. From there, talk about your non-negotiables, your must-haves, your wedding priorities. See How to Priorities your Wedding and Plan with Purpose for more guidance.

Our wedding planner book is a simple one, it doesn’t instruct you on exactly what we think a wedding should look like, but instead guides you as you plan the one that is right for you – starting with questions curated from our couple’s journal our love story, things like ‘what are your favourite memories together’ and ‘what do you love and value most about each other’. You can download a sample of the little white book here, for more of an idea – but however you find inspiration, it’s important to get on the same page about what you both want. Wedding Planning in 2023 is not about ticking every possible box for wedding rituals, traditions and decor (or inviting every cousin unseen since 2019).

2. Balance Your Expectations around Wedding Budget and Guest List

You can’t do a thing without at least an approximate wedding budget, nor does a budget really mean anything until you have an idea of your guest list. Put simply, your wedding budget will be divided between the number of guests you have. Although there will be big ticket items such as photography, wedding attire (dress/suit/jewellery/shoes) for each of you and your wedding party, and a venue hireage fee, the bulk of your wedding budget (at least 30-40% will usually go on catering for food and beverages).

So, before you look at wedding venues, consider how far your approximate wedding budget will stretch, if catering was around $150-180 per person (a fairly average cost for catering a wedding in 2023 in New Zealand) – and with that in mind, work out how many guests you can afford (on the basis of 30-40% of your total wedding budget going to catering).

Though the ‘average cost of a wedding in New Zealand‘ is commonly cited as $35,000, most couples actually plan the weddings of their dreams for less than that, while more expensive (6-7 figure weddings) increase the ‘average’. To take an easy number, for a $30,000 wedding, with 35% on catering and a $150 per person budget, you could have 70 guests.

So, at this stage, rather than try to finalise a wedding guest list, discuss with your partner how best to balance your budget, and your expectations around inviting friends and family. If you are choosing to accept financial contributions from others, of course they will want their ‘say’ but in my experience, and in conversations with wedding planners, it’s extremely important to be clear on every expectation from (most often) parents who wish to pay for part of the wedding.

In my opinion, you should begin by envisioning the wedding you both want, according to how much you can afford, and approach parents or other contributors with your wishes (perhaps being ready to negotiate a little) rather than taking the money immediately and planning the wedding that they want. Return to your ‘why’ – are you really getting married just so that your parents can plan the party of their choosing, with the guests they wish to impress?

See more at Wedding Budget Guide, Planner and Samples, and How to Start Your Guest List

3. Consider Wedding Venues, Find a Suitable Date and Make your First Booking

There is so much more to wedding venues than the more obvious ones – vineyards, garden venues and hotels. Think about whether you may wish to bring your own alcohol, which may involve a ‘Dry Hire’ venue (see How to Organise a Marquee Wedding for more advice on this), and open yourselves up to wedding venues that are a little out of the ordinary, especially if you need to be clever about your budget. Public gardens, beach weddings, gallery or museum, lakeside restaurants, golf club, rooftop function venues, boathouse, family homes, woodlands, rustic barns, inner-city urban spaces, distillery, community hall, the zoo, and of course destination weddings – see Alternative Wedding Venues and Destination Wedding Guide.

Considerations for your venue of choice might include

  • nearby accommodation for out of town guests
  • do you need any special access, such as wheelchair accessibility?
  • do you want an all-inclusive package (and possibly a venue manager to co-ordinate the day for you)
  • would you prefer a ‘blank canvas’ that you can fully decorate in your own way? Do you want to put your own stamp on something (possibly with a lot of cost/work for yourselves) or find somewhere perfectly suitable ‘as-is’
  • will you be having children present – is the venue safe and suitable for them?

Don’t write off a potential wedding venue just because it doesn’t have amazing photos online. For our wedding in 2016, we hired an incredible private home (you can see our actual wedding budget breakdown here) and the photos on the website simply did not do it justice at all. See if you can find images of the wedding venue on photographers’ websites or on wedding blogs like ours.

Once you have a shortlist of wedding venues, I suggest using the questions in our wedding planning pack to narrow down your options, and also to fully understand what is included in your venue hireage. From simple things like ‘What is your cancellation policy from both sides?’ to ‘Is the glassware included with the fee’ and ‘will we have exclusive use of the venue for the entire hireage time’ to things you may not think of, such as ‘will you have enough staff to serve drinks all evening’, ‘is there a safe place to store our personal items’ and more.

Of course, once you have found a suitable wedding venue (it may not be the ‘perfect’ wedding venue, but one that will work for you), you will have to find an available date to suit your schedule – consider availability of accommodation nearby (especially if near to public holidays), all possible weather, and any possible work commitments.

Once you have got through these three ‘first steps’, celebrate your achievements – you have made a brilliant start to wedding planning, and hopefully the rest will ‘fall into place’ a little more easily.

4. Choose your Wedding Photographer

You don’t need to rush into finding all of your wedding suppliers, but if photography is of importance to you, then you may wish to lock them in first. Of course, a photographer can only shoot one wedding per day, so (especially if you’re getting married on a weekend during the key summer ‘wedding season’ months, start making enquiries ASAP.

Choosing your wedding photographer isn’t just about the style or aesthetic they take (which is of course important) but also how you feel with them. Of all the people at your wedding, you may spend the most time with your wedding photographers, they will be responsible for directing you, making you feel comfortable enough to relax, be yourselves, be intimate and be open to trying new things. It’s not often we have personal photo shoots, and your photographer will probably have some ideas of shots to get, but you need to be able to trust their advice and at ease following their advice.

Browse photographers’ websites, get a feel for their photography style and ask for recommendations from friends. 2023 is already seeing a trend of very natural, almost ‘documentary’ photography, with less of the ‘filtered’ look that we had seen over the last few years. Talk to any short-listed wedding photographers about their packages, how many hours of coverage there will be, whether there are any ‘extra’ costs after the wedding, how long they will take to supply the photos, who will cover them if they get sick on the day of the wedding, etc.

As a ballpark figure, budget for approximately 10% of your wedding cost to go to your photographer.

5. Secure your remaining Wedding Vendors (but don’t rush)

Before you book any other Wedding Vendors, return to your ‘why’ and think about what’s really important to you. Your remaining wedding budget can now be divided across a multitude of wedding vendors’ services, and physical items for your wedding, but which will mean the most to you?

You can spend tens of thousands on wedding flowers, or you can spend a few hundred dollars on wholesale flowers and do it yourself; you can spend almost an unlimited amount on a wedding dress to rival any royal wedding, or you can pick up something stunning and chic off-the-rack (or buy second hand). Once you have booked your wedding date and venue, and photographer booked, think about the top 3 things each of you want for your Big Day, and of those 3, which would be each of your ‘big ticket’ item, if there is one.

To be able to afford these top 3 things, you may need to be smart elsewhere about allocating your wedding budget. There are lots of ways to save money on your wedding, with thoughtful use of decor, flowers, stationery and more, so head to our wedding planning step by step guides, choose just one thing to tackle at a time, and try not to dive headfirst into every trend that catches your eye!

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download a sample of the little white book wedding planner to see examples of how to use the pages, and how it can help you plan your wedding.