Unsolicited wedding advice? Just add it to your “Sh*t People Suggest” spreadsheet!

Guest post by Carolyn
unsolicited wedding advice

The fella and I got engaged right before we traveled home to see our families for a vacation. We both have incredibly kind, welcoming families, so I was prepared for the outpouring of joy that came — his dad hugged me no fewer than six times within five minutes of walking in the door — and I was prepared to answer the inevitable when-where-who questions, too.

I was a bit overwhelmed, of course, but the post about being newly engaged helped put it in perspective for me: “an expression of joy and excitement, with a question mark on the end.” So true!

But then, the unsolicited wedding advice started rolling in…

My sister kicked it off with a idea for our “theme.” My parents provided a series of possible venues. My aunt suggested a month, explaining how I “should want to be a June bride.” Caterers. Bridesmaid dresses. Floral arrangements. Table names. Centerpieces. What was I supposed to say? Thanks? That's… an interesting possibility?

At the same time, I felt like my ideas were being dismissed out-of-hand. I wanted an outdoor event under a tent? Tents are too expensive. I wanted a barbecue? Who would provide that service? (Who indeed.) I wanted a nontraditional venue? You can't. You simply can't. And heaven forbid that I wanted my friends to pick their own bridesmaid dresses!

On our last day of our vacation, I had a minor meltdown in the car. I didn't know how to respond to the onslaught of unsolicited wedding advice we had received, no matter how well-meaning they were.

I knew that each idea was just that, and didn't commit us to anything. Still, I was worried that a positive response from me would be interpreted as binding, somehow. And we hadn't even sat down and discussed our ideas for our own wedding! After we came home, I got another text from my mom, offering two suggestions for caterers and one for a venue!

Where to put all this unsolicited wedding advice? Easy: a spreadsheet

Fed up, I created a Google spreadsheet called “Shit People Suggest,” with five columns:

  1. The idea
  2. The type of service
  3. The website (if I like the suggestion and want to follow up)
  4. Notes
  5. Who suggested it

And just like that, I felt I could handle any recommendation anyone threw at me. Having a place to store all the ideas made me feel like I could respond in a positive way, without committing to anything, and keep the outpouring of excitement in perspective.

“I'll put those on the list of possible vendors,” I texted back, adding the venue and catering companies to the spreadsheet.

My sister texted me a few days later: “You're planning on getting a spray tan, right?”

“I wasn't, but I'll put it on a list of possibilities,” I replied.

I want to be gracious and respect everyone's unsolicited wedding advice and enthusiasm for our upcoming love-fest, but also keep sight of our goals. The growing list of possibilities puts a smile on my face: some are slightly absurd, many contradictory, and all well-intentioned.

An added bonus? Some of the ideas are pretty good, too.

Meet our fave wedding vendors

Comments on Unsolicited wedding advice? Just add it to your “Sh*t People Suggest” spreadsheet!

  1. THIS ist the.best.posting.ever. for my situation right now. Last weekend, I tortured my boyfriend (aka fiance) with nothing less than an emotional breakdown, coming from an overpowering opinionated bunch of people. Everybody – collegues, family, soon-to-be sister-in-law, maid of honour, soon to be in-laws have great ideas for our wedding – we need a colour scheme, the groom has to wear black, there has to be this and you absolutely have to have that, and oh, will you have this – of course you will.

    I think this idea of a spreadsheet will save my sanity, the nerves of my boyfriend and every social contact I have 🙂 Thanks a lot!

  2. This! I love a spreadsheet &; have about four on the go at the moment. I also have found that they seem to instil some degree of confidence in others (i.e. my mother). Instead of suggestions,we were bombarded with questions about “what” we’d planned, some of these (like table centres and my mother’s exact hair appointment time) were on the radar but not decided 14 months out! Every time I explained this I at least *felt* that my mum was thinking “she’ll never pull this off, she’s not capable of organising this”.

    As a Project Manager by trade, I figured I needed some “stakeholder management”, I sent an email detailing that they obviously would have questions and we had a detailed timetable of when we were deciding things, which I shared. This is now printed & up in my mum’s kitchen and the bombarding questions have mostly stopped. She knows everything is in hand! Winner 🙂

    • OMG I LOVE THAT IDEA of a timetable.

      I may have to snag that, holy shit.

      (I am also a PM and my life is ruled by spreadsheets)

  3. This is fantastic! Love the spreadsheet, I am a planner myself and I wish people would back off from planning someone else’s day. I LOVE all the outlandish requests from my brides&grooms but as soon as the mother-in-laws and MOBS get involved its another story. I had one client plan her day they way she wanted it and it was going to be perfect until “dun dun dun” mother-tobe-in-law try to change things. She kept calling and calling and trying to change linens to the time of the ceremony all the way to the theme of the wedding. She none the less drove everyone up the wall and all I kept saying was, I will have to check with her before I change anything. But everything turned out to be perfect day of and sometimes family members plans just need to go through one ear and out the other!

  4. I was so overwhelmed with other peoples opinions about what my wedding should (or will) be, that I cancelled my wedding. I told everyone that we would start planning again at a later date, and I would let them know when. My partner and I ended up planning a secret wedding with just our two best friends and witnesses, our officiant, and a photographer, and we told nobody about it until after it was done. We lost some friends over it, and our families still like to try to make us feel guilty about it, but what’s done is done, and now I’m happily married and had an incredibly stress free wedding. What we did wouldn’t work for a lot of people, but it ended up the right decision for us.

    • Lost some friends? *eyeroll* You’d think they’d realise that it isn’t about them. Glad it worked out for you!

  5. added bonus: when everything is said and done and you are tempted to stress out about the things that maybe didn’t go off quite as planned, instead you can pull out your spreadsheet and say, “So what if the music guy missed his cue for the Final Fantasy victory theme! At least we don’t have sand in our shorts!”

    It may also give you plenty of fodder for procrastitherapy: you can make a Pinterest board for all the wedding ideas you weren’t really interested in, creating your own personal Katamari wedding board where you can imagine what you might end up with if you rolled all those ideas up into one shindig.

  6. I sooooo wish I had done something like this! Everyone and their brother has a way to make your day special, and it’s freaking crazy! However, sometimes they come up with a gem, and then you forget about it. It would definitely be amusing to employ!!!!

  7. This is pure genius.
    I think we all have this experience, but you definitely made the best of it and found the perfect way of organizing the crazy. Go you!

  8. bless your face! I have been getting serious grump about all this wedding stuff because I’m being bombarded with suggestions I don’t want. I may try something like this.

  9. “You’re planning on getting a spray tan, right?”
    “I wasn’t, but I’ll put it on a list of possibilities,”

    Ahhh… you’re so sweet! What a great way to handle that. I know there’s at least a 50% chance I would have told her to go fuck herself so believe me I’m impressed.

    • I’d probably just burst into hysterical laughter at the suggestion. Fortunately, everyone who knows me would do the same.

      • Is is ok that I don’t get why people want to look tanned? I love my ‘type 1’ super duper white and freckled skin!

  10. What a fabulous suggestion. Luckily my family has been pretty low-key about making suggestions because we’ve made it known that we’re NOT doing the normal thing and nipped it in the bud. However, I love spreadsheets and this is a great way to channel the annoyance and bombarding about wedding things – and you’re not exactly saying no to anyone. Happiness all around!

  11. Over the years I’ve read many posts here on OBB related to dealing with unexpected ( and often unwanted ) wedding suggestions and I always ask myself the same thing :

    “Have I done this myself?”

    I mean, I don’t think I have. But I’ve been to my fair share of weddings and some of them I was involved in as well. I’m not a mean-spirited person but neither are any of the people offering up suggestions.

    So, realistically, there’s a very good likelihood I have done this …and blithely forgotten!

    Does anybody else worry about this?

    • my reactions to people telling me they are getting married has changed since I’ve started planning my own wedding, or rather the tone has.

      It’s really hard not to squeal in excitement “ooooohh what are you doing/wearing/having?” because it comes from a place of love and happiness for the person but I’ve learnt to make it open ended and let the person guide me in how much they want to share.

      But I think there is a difference in people being genuinely happy for you (and when several at once are, it becomes overwhelming and makes each well meant enquiry seem more forceful/overbearing than it is I think) and people who have no boundaries and want to take over. If you are telling a group of people you’ll probably get both of these types and then the take-over unboundaried types tend to, well, take over. Which is why it’s really worth considering the group dynamics of how you tell, small groups can be more manageable…

      I do love the “thank you, we’ll add it to the list approach” though, genius. Follow up could be “how sweet of you to ask, yes we’ve made our choices since we saw you last, but we want to see the suprise on your face on the day, you are going to love it!”

  12. What a wonderful idea!!!! That way people can see that you are listening to them and not just passing them off as being unimportant. This would also be good for parents and all the advice that people give!

  13. An Ode To Spreadsheets..

    A table of values arranged with perfection,
    columns and rows in any direction.

    From top to bottom and left to right,
    the info you need, so tidy & tight.

    Formulas, filters, labels & cells,
    for these wonderful tools, my heart swells.

  14. Marvelous plan! I did this verbally when my mom suggested I include a wedding announcement in all my hometown newspapers. “Thanks for the idea, Mom. I’ll consider it” made us both happy.

  15. I did something similar to this but it was mostly to document that crazy things said to me so I could lighten up the mood when planning got stressful (e.g., “remember when so-and-so said ….”).

    Some highlights:

    When we announced we were engaged, one of my husband’s recently married relatives told us that weddings aren’t personal and that’s why they were planning a vow renewal for their one year anniversary. (The majority of the comments about our wedding were about how personal it was.)

    My MIL asked that we get married in their church which I declined and mentioned that I did not grow up going to church and I would not feel comfortable being married in a church. Her response, “A church is just a building to get married in.” That is not how I feel – I think it would be disrespectful because I think it would seem like I am pretending to believe something I don’t.

    Then there was the time we were having a hard time arranging the suit fitting for the best man (my BIL). Our plan was for my husband and the best man to wear suits (neither of them owned suits so my husband saw this as an opportunity to buy a suit for himself) and I was informed by the large, national men’s formal wear chains that they do not rent suits, they only rent tuxes (an employee at one store even laughed at the idea and said there was nowhere in the city where we live to rent suits). My husband decided to buy a suit from a small town menswear store (near where he grew up) which could sell or rent a similar suit for the best man. My husband tried to arrange going to the store with his brother (the store was a 20 minute drive from his brother’s house) but their schedules didn’t jive. We were discussing this with his parents (we were a bit frustrated since my husband arranged the fitting with his brother two weeks earlier and his brother cancelled on him the day before, and then his brother wouldn’t commit for a time in the next two weeks) and his father flat out said that it would probably be easier if my BIL just rented a tux from one of the large, national men’s formal wear chains in the city (where we live) an hour away (he also suggested that wearing a tux was the “norm”). This boggled my mind. How would it be more convenient for my BIL to drive an hour instead of 20 minutes? My MIL pointed that out to my FIL and mentioned that it was our vision to have the guys in suits and not tuxes since we were having a more casual wedding.

    • “Yes well, we can’t have him more dressed up than the bride and groom, can we?! Best he just sets an appointment then.”

      • My husband gave up on setting up an appointment with him and told him to arrange his own. That led to the conversation about him wearing a black vest and black dress pants. (To which my husband said no.)

  16. Hey, lovelies!
    This is such a great idea!
    It’ll also help people feel more listened to, even if you don’t take their advice, because they’re On The List. Simply brilliant.

    Regarding the tan, if you were to get one,
    May I suggest a cream tan, rather than spray?

    Spray, you stand naked I front of a disturbingly pretty stranger, and get cold, awful stuff sprayed at you while you pull crazy poses. It’s not nice, not cheap, and high maintenance.

    Cream tans….are an experience. They cost more, yes. For a reason.
    They usually include a full body exfoliation, which means the tan looks more even, and lasts longer. You skin is soft and delicious, and it feel really good.
    Then the tan itself is much like a massage. You lay on a bed, covered, and the tan is applied with massage strokes.
    The cream is hydrating, so it feeds your skin, making the tan look better, making you feel better, and lasting longer.
    It feels like a real treat.

    Just another idea, to add to your list.
    I wish you well.

  17. Oh I love this so. I’ve been engaged for a month and have felt exactly like this the entire time. It’s just suggestion after suggestion of things I hadn’t even considered. And so much negativity about what I and my fiancé want. I’d somehow convinced myself I was going to have this terrible, tacky wedding because I didn’t want all of the traditional things… I’m so glad it’s not just me.

  18. Great idea!
    You can also make it a collaborative document and share it online, and anyone who has a suggestion could just add it directly to the spreadsheet for you to check it out later.

  19. I had the same thing happen. I wanted an outdoor BBQ wedding (http://offbeatwed.com/2012/01/texas-lakeside-bbq-wedding), I wanted my bridesmaids to pick their own dresses, I wanted a smores bar, and this and that. Almost everything I wanted to do was shot down by one person or another. All and all I did not listen to all of the suggestions and the day turned out just how I wanted. I wish I would have thought about this! It would have made it alo teasier.

  20. It seems you’ve found a way to respond that works for you, but I wonder if the suggestions might be less frequent and demanding if you made your opinion known in the first place, and learn the beauty of saying “no!”


    My mom keeps (lovingly) suggesting crazy shit and I need something to organize the chaos.

  22. Glad you found something that works for you, I’m much more blunt, there is a great word that works for me, it’s “No (thanks).” the period at the end is really important (the thanks is optional depending on how much they are pissing me off) not “no, I don’t think it will work for me because…” see that leaves it open for discussion. No without an explanation is really powerful. Sometimes they will push you for a reason, but simply say “I don’t want to” or “I’ve already made my decision”.

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