In only slightly book related news, I got engaged a few weeks ago! While it wasn’t a surprise (at the start of the year we had a long discussion about our financial goals for 2012 and the main topic was debt payment vs. saving for a wedding…debt payment won and we’ll be doing a very small, affordable wedding), I’m still extremely happy. I’m also excited to finally share a great wedding planning book for anyone else in the market for a wedding book that won’t drive you crazy with expensive “must have” lists!


A Practical Wedding

A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene, is a wonderful off-shoot of Keene’s wedding blog by the same name. Truthfully, I started reading the APW blog about a year before we got engaged–unlike every other wedding blog I’ve found on the internet, Keene writes from the perspective that having a strong, healthy relationship is absolutely essential to having a good wedding. So while there are posts about pretty dresses and flowers, there are also posts on navigating a multi-cultural relationship, learning to put your relationship first even when you’re a people pleaser, and how to reconcile being a wife/mother and a feminist.

Keene started the blog while she was planning her own wedding in 2009, as a way to vocalize her confusion with what she calls the “wedding industrial complex”–why the wedding industry focuses so much on spending money for the best flowers/cater/reception site/dress/dessert bar/whatever to have a great wedding, instead strengthening the relationship between the two people getting married. So when she says that the colors don’t matter and the cheap chairs are just as good as the expensive ones, she’s speaking from experience.

When it comes to budget (one of the largest issues for almost every engaged couple), Keene suggests making two lists–one list of things you absolutely must have, and one list of things you don’t care about as much. She then gives your permission to get the best you can afford on the “must have” list, and spend the absolute minimum or even cut the “don’t care” items. For my fiance and I, our must have list was basically family and good food (good=local, organic, mostly vegetarian). Items on our don’t care list included flowers, a fancy dress, and wedding favors. After reading A Practical Wedding we’ve decided on a small courthouse wedding and dinner with our closest family and friends to work within my future sister-in-law’s schedule, I won’t wear a traditional wedding dress, and my bouquet will be roses made from book pages made by my future mother-in-law. While it’s not the choice all of my family and friend’s would make or understand, it’s the right choice for us; and as a bonus, Keene includes ways to explain sometimes controversial wedding choices to people in a way that makes everyone feel loved.

In my favorite section, Keene also addresses the seemingly endless list of wedding traditions. She debunks some common wedding practices (white dresses, unity candles, and sit down dinners) which only became “traditions” in recent years. Her research shows a simple wedding at home, in your best clothes, with closest friends and family for a punch and cake reception is the most traditional American wedding despite what the modern wedding industry tries to say. My fiance (yes, I made him read the book too) enjoyed the chapter called “The Real Purpose of the Engagement” because it gives a great number of topics to discuss to strengthen your relationship before you get married.

What you won’t find in A Practical Wedding are detailed spread sheets, dozens of budget suggestions, and a list of this season’s hot styles.  By focusing on the relationship at the heart of the wedding, Keene takes the stress and frustration of planning a wedding and turns it into a team-building time to start exploring your new life together. For the bride-to-be like me who starts to panic when looking at bridal magazines and budgets of tens thousands of dollars, you can’t find a better book than Meg Keene’s A Practical Wedding.