Oftentimes I see women of color spending so much time planning for the wedding, they forget about their marriage. The wedding planning process is a very stressful time, and if couples aren't on the same page, it can lead to a very rocky first year of marriage or divorce. I got married young (24) and canceled my wedding and 300-plus guests 60 days before it was set to take place because we were not ready.
We went back to church and worked out our issues. We ended up having a small wedding in the Bahamas a year later. It was super embarrassing at the time, but the financial and spiritual lessons we learned were needed. I know in my heart that if we would have gone through with that wedding, God wouldn't be in our marriage now. So, as a wedding photographer, I try to connect with my brides on a personal level to give them some guidance during their planning process as the wedding industry and social media set unrealistic expectations. So here is a quick sample of some of my tips!
1. Review your finances and set your budget early.
Before you get a wedding magazine, set a date, or go to Pinterest, you need to know how much you are willing to spend on your wedding. Finances are the number one issue in marriage in America today, and you don't want to start off headed down the wrong path. I know weddings are expensive, but that doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful day within your budget! Once you have your budget set, stick to it. Splurge within your budget! If you want more flowers, cut back on the number of guests. Sis, I promise you no one will remember the type of chairs you had at your wedding. Do what's best for the family you are creating!
2. Set family boundaries.
My husband is Bahamian so not only were we blending two families but two different cultures. We were still learning each other's family dynamics, and I had a hard time understanding them, so I found myself at odds while planning. To cut down on the drama, we came up with a rule that he would communicate negative feels to his family and I would talk to mine. We would be a united front even if we had to make compromises coming to our final decision. It worked so well, we kept it in our marriage for both births of our children! It saved us a lot of time and energy!
3. Hire a bomb photographer.
I know you're thinking this is totally self-serving of me, but honestly, it's going to be the only thing you have left from your day. I always tell my brides when they get into their first significant disagreement with their husband after their wedding, pull out their album to remind them of the happy times! The goal here is to have your great-great-grandchildren look at these photos one day. Think about it as an investment in your family's history. I have so many brides come to me after "going a different direction" because they hate their photos or important moments were missed. It's the one area of your wedding you want to make sure you have made a personal, and you can see yourself in that person's work.
4. Have a Beyonce moment (make it exclusive).
Facebook is going to be a complete snapshot of the human experience. However, I am a firm believer that not every moment of our lives should be shared with everyone. This is an intimate moment of two families becoming one. Why not just enjoy the moment with the people that are in the room? An unplugged wedding is when the bride and groom request their guests put their phones/iPad/Gopro/Christmas DSLR cameras away during their wedding. I'm down for the idea of having an unplugged wedding, however, if that takes it too far for you, why not just the ceremony?
When I walked down the aisle, I wasn't trying to see my husband through a sea of cell phones, I saw him. His eyes, his smile, my mom's smile, my mother-in-law's tears. It was a powerful moment and I am glad we did it OUR WAY.
I always ask myself what happened to all those iPhone photos after the wedding anyway? Do they just sit in the cloud? Like really, you hired a photographer and I promise you won't regret having an unplugged wedding. Wait, why not have an unplugged marriage too? See, I know my story is different. However, I have found social media to be unhealthy for my marriage in the beginning. So, I kept mine off completely. To me, marriage is too real for the fake land of Instagram. My husband doesn't have social media and I have it for my businesses. I just found keeping my private life private is best for my little family. It works for us and may not work for you! it really may not be that deep. But I suggest you have a conversation with your partner to see what works best for your relationship especially when you have kids.
5. Support black-owned businesses.View More: http://unique2chicphotography.pass.us/swanhousefavs
This is your opportunity to keep your dollars in our community. I hate that we have this stigma in our community about the level of service black business have. It's simply not true. We are here. We are ready and we are luxury honey! I have seen a new wave of "woke" brides actively searching to hire all-black vendors and I'm all the way here for it. There is nothing like having a photographer that went to an HBCU or a DJ that was in the band. There are so many vendors to pick from in different styles and at each price point. I know if you take your time, you can find great ones that are within our community. Just know we love the support and will provide the same if not better quality of service as our counterparts!
6. Start marriage counseling and stay in it.
Planning a wedding can introduce a new level of stress into your relationship. Managing finances, family expectations, and personal time can all be a lot to handle. I see couples learning after the wedding that marriage isn't as easy as they thought. It requires a lot of hard work and commitment every single day. I personally found counseling helpful during the process of building our marriage once the honeymoon stage was over. I think of it as a tool to help fix things if we fall off track, which we do. It's funny because you think you really know a person otherwise you wouldn't be married to them.
However, life as a way of throwing you curveballs. I'm here to tell you, that you will face problems that you never thought would be an issue. For me, my unexpected life surprise was being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 27 years old. I know when you see cancer, you think the worst but my situation was far from it. It did, however, take a toll on my mental health and my marriage. My husband and I didn't know how to navigate through that storm so we sought the help of a professional. Marriages have ups and downs and different seasons. It's OK to have an outside neutral party to help you through it.
7. On the 7th Day, God rested.View More: http://unique2chicphotography.pass.us/swanhousewedding
The planning is over, the wedding is done, now it's time to relax on a beach and enjoy the first days of your marriage together! I will honestly say not taking a honeymoon was my biggest mistake during my planning. We were getting married on an island so our reasoning was the wedding was a honeymoon -- NO, it wasn't. We spent so much time entertaining guests and we really didn't see each other that much, which is normal during a wedding weekend. We should have taken a few days to ourselves just to relax. The world is open now, it's affordable to get to Thailand or Aruba for a week. My husband and I always said we would take a "honeymoon" later, but five years and two kids later, I'm still waiting. Trust me, you won't regret the time, vacation days, or the money spent.
Featured image via Elizabeth Austin Photography.
Elizabeth Austin-Davis is a northern girl with a southern heart. While in Alabama pursuing her business undergraduate degree at Tuskegee University, she continued to follow her passion of photography. In 2013, she successfully launched her photography business. Since then, she has photographed weddings internationally, and her work has been featured in Brides, The Knot Magazine, Martha Stewart, HGTV, Black Bride Magazine, and many more. Her ability to artistically translate her couples love through images, has been a catalyst in developing her unique style.