Alright folks, the time has come…I’m going to let you in on my biggest secret- the most important step to planning a meaningful wedding day (or any other event for that matter). This secret will help you cut down on costs, trim your guest list, stay mindful of your impact on the planet, say “yes” to the things that matter to you, and say “no” to the things that don’t. Before you set a date, start looking for venues, determine a budget, or even choose a color palette, the most important and foundational starting point is this: set an intention. How can you move forward with how to plan your wedding if you never paused to ask yourself and your partner why you are planning this wedding in the first place? Your intention will act as the filter through which every other decision is made.
The intention behind your wedding may seem obvious: “to celebrate our love” or “to mark the beginning of our new life together.” But these vague and generic intentions won’t really help you get clarity on the deeper “why” behind your wedding. Why plan a big party and invite all of your friends and extended family; why not just go to the courthouse? The more you narrow your answer and find the specific reasons why this celebration is meaningful and important to you, the more helpful your intention statement becomes.
Is this wedding about celebrating the winding trails that have led you to each other and marking the beginning of a new path forward, or is it about honoring your parents and families for their role in your lives? Is your intention to host a joyous celebration or to create more intimate connections between the two families you are bringing together? Do you intend to privately share an intimate exchange of the vows you’re making to your partner or do you hope to share those vows with your larger community and invite them to hold you accountable?
I encourage you to sit down with your partner to brainstorm and write down all of the ideas that come to mind when you ask yourselves the question of “why are we planning a wedding?” and “what’s most important?” After you get all of your ideas down, find the themes and items that you have in common. Keep narrowing your intention statement down until it is as specific and unique as possible; a statement that truly resonates with both of you and speaks to your shared vision as a couple.
Here’s a great example of an intention statement that I created with one of my clients, and how it impacted nearly every decision we made for their wedding. The couple’s intention was this:
To create a joyful, connecting, and restorative experience where we honor and celebrate our community, our histories, and our new beginning as a family.
We kept coming back to this intention statement as we began imagining how to design and decorate their wedding. We chose a color palette of teal and terracotta, bright colors to represent the joyful and celebratory aspects of their intention, while also incorporating earth tones to invite a calmer, more connecting and restorative space. We hung orange and teal ribbons around their reception tent to give it a celebratory feel, but kept their lounge area focused on earthy colors and textures to create a space of relaxation that invited deeper connections.
In narrowing down their guest list, the couple’s focus was on the people who were important characters in their individual histories; those friends and family members who had played essential roles in helping them along the paths that ultimately led them to each other, and those who the couple most wanted to celebrate. When working through their budget together, they decided to invest a bit more into excellent food and music, as it aligned with their focus on creating space for connection, joy and celebration. They also realized that, while floral installations and fancy signage would be a nice touch, they weren’t core elements of bringing their goals to life and were a sacrifice the couple was willing to make so they could prioritize other things.
This couple discovered that it was important to them that their guests felt connected to the ceremony ritual as a participant rather than an observer. This led us to design a circle ceremony, where the chairs were arranged in an inner and outer circle and the couple stood in the middle. When guests arrived, they were invited to take a strand of wild grass foraged from the couple’s property and place it around the center of the circle, along with their blessings and intentions for the couple’s union.
I could go on, but I think you’re beginning to get the idea. A well-crafted intention statement really does play a significant role in every part of a meaningfully-designed wedding. With a clear intention, sustainability and cost savings organically flow.
Play by your own rules
Simply put, your intention statement gives you awareness of what is really important to you and your partner, and permission to say no to the things that aren’t. You can now take every single item on your list of expenses and examine it to see if it actually aligns with your intentions, or if you were just doing it because it’s the norm, you assumed you had to, or someone else expects you to. The best thing you can do for your budget is not spend money on things that don’t matter to you. This goes for elements as small as programs, favors, and centerpieces, as well as the big-budget expenses like determining whether to spring for a three-course meal versus a simple dessert reception. It can even impact whether you decide to host a grand, formal festivity or to elope and then throw a casual backyard celebration.
Consider this your formal invitation to break all the rules! Have breakfast for dinner! Have a sunrise ceremony on a mountain and a pool party reception! Wear a purple pantsuit! Have bridesmen and flower grandmas, or no wedding party at all! Play board games during cocktail hour! Serve crepes for dessert! Do what you want and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. It’s your wedding, gosh darnit, and it should be full of all the things that are most meaningful to you and your partner. The more you align your wedding with your true intentions and let go of everything else, the more you’ll save money, have fun, make incredible memories, and minimize your ecological impact.
The heart of practicing environmental sustainability is mindfulness; being aware of the choices you’re making and working toward educating yourself on the impact those choices have. When you begin making more intentional wedding planning decisions, you’ll automatically find yourself making more earth-friendly purchases, as well. If your intention is to make your guests feel at home, you might décorate with items that you’ll repurpose as décor in your house, or even better, things you already own. If you intend to deepen connections with loved ones while introducing them to the beauty of Colorado, you may consider eliminating unnecessary trinkets that might impress the Pinterest algorithms, but don’t ultimately mean anything to you, will add to your bottom line, and end their night destined for a landfill. Perhaps you décorate with natural elements like rocks, pine cones, or flowers from your own backyard. Through making these simple trade-offs, you’ll find that the items you adorn your wedding day with carry more meaning, cost you less, and lower your carbon footprint all at the same time.
Above all else, remember that your wedding day is yours. If celebrating your day with all of the traditions and conventions that you see in the mainstream wedding scene is what feels authentic and meaningful to you, then hell yeah! I support you! And if your dream wedding looks absolutely nothing like what is considered traditional, I support that too! To learn more about intention-setting and mindful event planning, I highly recommend a read-through of The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker; her work inspires many of the lessons shared above. If you could use a helping hand with crafting a meaningful intention statement, please reach out! There’s nothing my team and I love more. I hope you feel empowered to go forth and plan a wedding that is meaningful to you, easy on your budget, and mindful of our planet.
For the Earth,