If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my recent call to brides to message me if they planned their wedding long distance. This is because an increasing number of brides I hear from are planning their wedding from afar, due to destination plans, school or just having long distance RELATIONSHIPS where they live states away from their fiance!
I didn’t have to plan my wedding long distance, but I heard from a lot of brides who did, so I’ve asked them to share tips to help some sisters out. 😉
First up is one of my 2016 brides, Michelle Maxwell:
I was living in Minneapolis during our engagement. Joel was living in South Dakota for the first month, but then moved to Warroad, where we had our wedding. It definitely helped having at least one of us in the same town we’d be married in for some things, though it really wasn’t necessary. It was a 7 hour drive for me from Minneapolis to Warroad, so I didn’t make the trek often.
No, we decided to get married in my hometown and where both of our families had lived for the past 10+ years. It was home to us. I was in school in the cities at the time, making it impossible for me to not plan long distance. Joel ended up finishing his on-campus classes a semester early, but we had always intended on planning long distance before that.
We were engaged on 11/27/15 and married 6/25/16 – so about 7 months! (Totally doable. I really don’t see the need for couples to have a year or longer to plan a wedding. We did keep ours pretty simple and had it in a small town, though. I have heard how soon in advance couples need to book venues for weddings in the cities these days – crazy!)
For us, the hardest part about being long distance during the engagement was less actually planning the wedding but more so our marriage counseling. We tried to do sessions on breaks when I visited home, but we still had to do at least a couple over Skype and it was really hard. It is such a personal, meaningful time, and it was hard to feel comfortable sharing much when I could only see my fiance and the pastor on a screen. It made it much less personable, and I was so thankful that we were all together for the majority of them.
In terms of wedding planning, though, there were some slight challenges. It was hard not being in the same place as my fiance (and my mom, actually) in the initial stages of planning, and we tried to make any bigger decisions while I was home and we were together in person (e.g. wedding colors, reception ideas, guest list). As I mentioned, my fiance was in the same town we’d be married in for the majority of our engagement, but because I wasn’t also, it made it hard for us to meet up together with our wedding coordinator to start hashing out church details. She was older and didn’t really use email, so communication with her was difficult. (Thankfully, Joel’s father is the pastor, so he was usually our messenger!) It was also hard to ask people for help from afar and I tried to do so in person whenever possible. Though I felt rude/bad asking people to help serve, etc. via messages, in the end no one minded and they loved to help – I shouldn’t have been afraid to ask!
Having Joel there helped a little, but visiting a few times during our engagement as well as being home for the couple weeks leading up to the wedding did help. We planned out all the things we would get done during my visits home and used those times to meet with people, plan decorations for the church, etc. Another big thing that helped for us was the willingness of our parents who lived there to help with whatever was needed. Having a good relationship with the pastor and using email/messaging is extra beneficial! (Especially when you’re in vet school and have no life outside of classes!)
I also was able to be home for a week or two leading up to the wedding, which really helped a lot with last minute decoration details, meeting with our coordinator, attendants, florist, etc. If possible, try to be in the area at least a couple days before to help get things squared away. Though, I will say, just do your best not to stress, and it will all work out just fine!
Honestly, I really can’t think of anything… my key tip is to just not get too stressed or nervous about anything. I was very sure things wouldn’t go “perfectly”, and that was okay! It all ended up working out in the end, and we couldn’t have had a better wedding day!
We found a wedding budget/timeline excel sheet online that we really liked, as it helped give us ideas of what to do and kept us on track. They have a bunch of different kinds online, you just need to search for one that works best for you. This one was great because we could choose a 6-month planning option. It even had tabs for guest list and addresses! (I believe the one we used was called Smart Bride Planner.)
Pinterest was a go-to for wedding decoration ideas, as we knew we wanted to save money with DIY-ing as much as possible. It also helped me visually find dresses that appealed to me in my price range.
Our photographer, Emily Mitton, was fantastic with helping us plan and schedule anything photo related! This is essential if you have plans to hire an outside photographer and/or videographer, as your schedules need to be aligned. (I know some couples who had less communication with their photographer, and they found themselves fretting when he/she would show up and if things would be done according to the bride and groom’s schedule.) I honestly think Emily was more planned for the day than we were… haha
I would really encourage you to use email/texting/Facebook to keep in contact with the church/pastor and/or coordinator. It definitely helps when you have questions in which you need the answer to move on with other parts of your planning.
– Don’t fret! Everything will work out in the end, one way or another (and no one else will ever know if it wasn’t exactly how you planned it)!
– If possible, visit the venue at least once (preferably in the beginning of the planning process), just so you have a good visual of it for decorations, guest size, parking, handicap accessibility, reception options, etc.
– If possible, I strongly encourage you to do your marriage counseling together in the same room with your pastor/mentor. It really did make a big difference for us.
– Accept help from others that may be local to your venue site! Even if it just means that they check out the flower shop for you, it is so helpful to have someone (whose judgment you trust) physically scope out things for you, as photos online are only so helpful. (Online reviews are often also quite helpful!)
Best of luck with everything, and God bless you and your future marriage!