What the bloody heck is this? Tell me now, before I nuke it, you GTKY-ing day log wannabe punk!
- anticipated comment from random editor

Having recently entered into the harrowing experience of wedding planning thanks to my recent engagement, I started writing a rather sarcastic guide to wedding planning, based on my own experiences. This is that guide.


Before the Engagement

As you look across the dinner table at that significant other in your life, imagine that person twenty years from now. Add twenty years of bitterness, a big spare tire, and the burdens of a life slowly being sucked away by the vampiric capitalist society in which you choose to live. Do you still love this person?

If yes, turn to page two.
If no, abandon all hope ye who enter here.

The moral here is don't bother even entertaining the thought of marriage unless you are unquestionably, absolutely sure that you want to be around this person for a long time to come.

Sure, he's got a six pack of steel and eyes that make you shiver.
Sure, she's got more joints than a BMW and more flexibility than Billy Mays at a marketing convention.

But is that all that you want? Look over there, add a few wrinkles and a few rough patches and a few family skeletons that you don't know about yet. Take away that youthful vigor. Once you've peeled away the skin, do you still want the banana?

A Short Guide to Engagement ... For Guys

Do not buy her an expensive ring! Most of you will be looking at that previous sentence with a resounding look of confusion, but hear me out.

Engagement rings are holdovers from the middle ages, when they were meant to demonstrate the wealth of the bridegroom and his ability to financially provide for the bride. It was not, is not, and never will be a symbol of love in and of itself.

However, now is not the time to celebrate by taking that cash and buying a new car or some other such foolishness. Here's the game plan, guys, for what to do with the money you would have otherwise spent on a ring.

Step 1: Look at that wonderful lady that you're going to spend the rest of your life with. Think of the handful of moments that you have with her that really remind you of why you love her.
Step 2: Think of a particular physical object that is associated with that moment. In the case of myself and my significant other, that item turned out to be stationery, because we fell in love through writing letters.
Step 3: Now, take that object and turn it into a means of proposal. For me, it involved a short letter written on the stationery, expressing the proposal, and an invitation to write back with an answer.

That's the real proposal. Then, ask your new fiancee what she would like to do with the money you would have spent on a ring. Some options include going ahead and buying a ring, investing it into more extravagant wedding plans, or (the one we chose, see below) a much nicer honeymoon than what otherwise would have transpired.

A Short Guide to Engagement ... For Ladies

Do not expect an expensive ring! Most of you will be looking at that previous sentence with a resounding look of confusion, but hear me out.

Engagement rings are holdovers from the middle ages, when they were meant to demonstrate the wealth of the bridegroom and his ability to financially provide for the bride. It was not, is not, and never will be a symbol of love in and of itself.

If you've always dreamed of a jewelled ring around your finger, then by all means, encourage your groom-to-be to get you one. However, this is not the way things have to be.

Your best bet is to be direct. In my situation, an unwanted ring would have been purchased had there not been some direct discussion between the bride and groom. Instead, the groom came up with a much better plan for the situation that left both members of the couple much, much happier.

I'm Engaged ... Now What? A Countdown to the Big Day

Congratulations! Now prepare to start forking out the cash.

The first thing you need to do is inform the families, starting preferrably with the bride's family. This is especially important if you have any type of healthy relationship with your parents and don't want the half-delirious mother of the groom (or the bride, for that matter) to show up at your wedding with a big bottle of sherry, stumbling down the aisle singing "Here comes the witch ... you two-cent bitch." Trust me on this one -- tell your immediate family as soon as possible.

The next thing you need to do is decide when and where. You'll want to reserve the church and the pastor as soon as possible. If you're not overly religious and thus don't have a preference of churches (but would like to be married in one), I recommend ELCA Lutheran services -- quite short, direct, and relatively secular. Do this with at least six months to spare.

Now that you've gotten the big things out of the way (you've got the bare essentials for the ceremony in place, anyway), you need to select your wedding party. My advice is to simply pick people that are closest to both members of the couple. For example, at our wedding, the best man is going to be a female simply because the two closest people to the bride and groom are both female. This will create the most memorable experience. It's also up to you whether or not to involve children in the ceremony ... I personally recommend it, especially if there are nieces, nephews, or children of the bride and groom. Trust me -- give these people at least six months' notice.

Now comes the time to start shelling out the dough. Here's a wedding vampire checklist ... feel free to cut people out as you see fit, but these will cover the bases:
If you want a wedding dress, get ahold of a tailor. Six months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want a tuxedo, get ahold of a tailor. At least three months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want a reception, select a location and reserve it. Six months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want a rehearsal dinner, select a location and reserve it. Six months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want a wedding cake, get ahold of a baker. Three months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want a dinner at the reception, get ahold of a caterer. Three months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want music at the reception, get ahold of a musical act or a DJ. Three months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want flowers, get ahold of a florist. Three months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want pictures, get ahold of a photographer. At least three months notice is important here. Proceed to fork over cash.
If you want dresses for bridesmaids, visit your tailor again. At least three months notice is important here. Prepare to (likely) fork over cash.

Now that you've broken yourself financially, you get to do the really "fun" stuff!

You'll have to settle on a guest list. This part is particularly fun, as the bride and groom discuss whether or not to invite Cousin Eddie and his sixteen children to the wedding ... just reading that last sentence makes me think that they need to do a "Vacation" movie based on a wedding. Regardless, the best way to do it is simply to make a huge list of everyone you might remotely consider inviting. Once you have a target head count, start cutting upwards from the bottom. Those that remain will be invited.

There are also a few optional items that you might want to take care of before the wedding gets too close. Honeymoon plans will often have to be made three months or better in advance, especially if a cruise is in the works. Also, you may want to fill out a bridal registry at a local store. Target's bridal registry system is very nice, due to the fact that it is available easily on a nationwide basis. You might also want to make arrangements for out of town guests so that you don't wind up with Cousin Eddie asleep on someone's porch.

When you reach the three month mark, you need to finalize a few more items. For starters, you may want to order invitations, or make your own... regardless, you'll need to acquire an address list. You'll also need to shop for wedding bands if you plan on using them in the ceremony, and you'll also want to meet your wedding officiator to plan the details of the ceremony. If you're really splurging (and we are, since we didn't dump a ton of money into a ring), you might also want to contact a travel company and reserve a limousine.

Now we're getting down to business. With a month and a half left to go, you'll want to send out your invitations (probably with instructions for finding the wedding and the reception). You'll also want to make sure that you have a marriage license, as this will allow you to actually be legally married; they're usually very simple to acquire. This is also the best time to make sure things are OK with the people you contacted above. You might also want to hand out a few responsibilities at this point to others, especially the best man: ours will be handling the return of all formal wear, among other things.

When you get down to a few days before the wedding, most everything is locked into place. The only major issue to deal with is paying people, and in this case, the father of the bride can really help (as he is in our case). Prepare payment envelopes for each of the people requiring payment, and have the father of the bride give out the payments to these people. Basically, on the wedding day, the bride and groom are going to be very very busy, so it's best to hand off menial tasks such as these to other people. If there are concerns about the bride's father's ethics in this case, have someone else you trust do it, such as the best man.

If you've reached this point and managed to do everything listed above, you should be able to just smoothly sail through your wedding. And then, if you followed the above advice about using the engagement ring money for a great honeymoon, the bridal couple can take a graceful exit and get out of Dodge before the cleanup begins.

Good luck!

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