What a time to be planning a wedding! You have thousands of prospective talented suppliers at your fingertips, fewer “rules” than ever on what’s expected for your celebration, and virtually limitless ways to make your day unique. The wedding world is your oyster.
However, when you’re spoilt for choice, how do you sort the “not negotiable” from the “nice to have”? And what happens when you and your partner differ on what you deem essential or a hard no for your wedding? Don’t even get us started on when your dream floral installation is a must-have in your eyes… but is getting a firm no from your budget.
For this article, we’ve surveyed real couples about their wedding planning experiences, asking all the nosy questions so you don’t have to. Let’s deep dive into what real couples deem not negotiable: from the hands-down must-haves to the absolutely hard-nos.
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So, how many non-negotiable must-haves do real couples actually have?
While you might feel like you’re surrounded by easy-breezy couples who go with the flow, the reality is that only 3.6% of couples we asked had no non-negotiables for their wedding. A whopping 47.5% of respondents had one or two factors they wouldn’t budge on, while 36.5% had a whole list!
We completely understand. Weddings carry high emotional and financial stakes and, consequently, high expectations to match. With the wide number of personalisation and vendor options available compared to even ten years ago, couples are getting more discerning. Besides, who could resist stunning champagne towers, an exquisitely made wedding dress or suit, or a delicious celebratory feast to be devoured with your guests?
Our real couples spilled the beans on what were their firm wedding must-haves — you might be surprised by the wide variety of answers!
- Adult-only weddings were high on the non-negotiable lists for many couples. “Absolutely no kids at our wedding reception,” one respondent stated. “It’s a grown-up celebration!” If you’re planning an adults-only celebration and need some advice, check out this article for everything you need to know about children at weddings.
- Accommodations for loved ones. “My sister is deaf, so we’re getting an interpreter so she can make a speech,” replied one survey respondent. Others expressed that they needed their venue to be wheelchair accessible or to have a quiet space for guests sensitive to stimuli.
- Suppliers who understand the vision. “I want a florist who can create the epic fresh floral installation I’m picturing in my head,” responded one bride. “I think it’ll make the planning process much more fun if I have a supplier who is on the same wavelength creatively.”
- Second reception dresses. “I just really want another dress to join the party in,” replied one bride. With so many gorgeous reception dresses available, we’re on board with this one!
… And what about the hard-no, absolutely nots?
“I don’t know exactly what I want… but I definitely know what I don’t want!” is the nearly-wed couple mantra. Almost every couple has a list of wedding “hard-nos” they want to avoid at all costs. Here are some of the responses that featured repeatedly with our real couples:
- NO to plus-ones. While it was once commonplace to give every guest on your list a plus one, this is no longer expected. Whether it’s to keep costs down or just because they only want their nearest and dearest in attendance, more couples are giving a firm “no” to excessive plus-ones. It’s a good rule of thumb to invite the partner of any guest in a long-term relationship and to extend the offer of a plus-one to any guests who are unlikely to know anyone.
- NO to long speeches. More and more guests are putting a time limit on speeches and being selective with who they ask to speak at their weddings. “We asked our mums to tell part of our story in the ceremony. That way, they got to be involved but didn’t need to have speeches each,” explains one groom.
- NO to garters and outdated wedding traditions. Bouquet and garter tosses were hard-nos from our survey respondents. Another couple weighed in with: “We’re giving a firm no to any patriarchal traditions or language. It’s our wedding, and we want it to be inclusive. It wouldn’t feel right to have a celebration that’s not reflective of our modern values.”
- NO to wedding day proposals. Sorry, TikTok and Instagram. Our couples are saying ‘no deal’ to guests proposing at their wedding receptions. “Absolutely NO guests will be proposing at our celebration. It’s our day. Save it for a romantic evening at the beach,” quipped one couple.
Eek! What if my partner’s hard no is my non-negotiable or visa versa?
It was bound to come up. You desperately need a videographer, but your partner is painfully camera-shy. Or your partner has a raging sweet tooth and can’t wait to splash out on a six-tier, buttercream-frosted wedding cake, while you’d prefer to skip desserts and head straight for the cheese platter. You’re not alone. Our real couples reported these non-negotiable clashes repeatedly and offered some handy advice on how to deal with them.
Meeting in the middle can be a positive way to iron out disagreements on hard-nos. “My partner really hates the idea of videography or photography at the wedding. It’s just not their vibe, and they feel it’s unnecessary,” explained one respondent. “So we compromised. We are getting photos, but not the video.”
Taking the time to discuss the reasons behind your partner’s non-negotiable wedding must-haves or hard-nos can help you to better understand their point of view. “I didn’t really get why my now-wife insisted on us having dance lessons before the wedding. If I’m being honest, I took it as a bit of a dig at my moves!” explains one groom. “When I asked her about it, she confessed that she felt really nervous about having a first dance in front of all of our guests, and she wanted the assistance of a professional.”
Money matters: making your budget work to fit your wedding non-negotiables
In an ideal world, your must-haves would include each and every wedding day feature that tickles your fancy: a Rolex for every guest, an ice sculpture carved in your likeness, you name it! Unfortunately, the big, bad budget, everyone’s favourite wedding planning buzzkill, might make this a bit tricky. Working out what you and your partner deem to be non-negotiable should be step one on your budgeting breakdown.
Take the time to sit down with your partner and map out your top five non-negotiables that are bound to put a dent in your budget. Once you negotiate what is important to you, you can work the less important aspects of your wedding day around the pillar stones that are your must-haves. For example, if a lavish venue is high on your priority list, but you’re not worried about timing, you can save money by considering a winter or mid-week date. Similarly, if you’re allocating a sizeable chunk of your budget to securing your dream photographer, but an expensive couture gown isn’t high on your list, you can balance your budget with less expensive wedding day attire.
Must-haves and hard-nos for your guests
Your wedding day is all about you and your partner having your dream celebration. That said, there are some must-haves that should be locked in if you want your guests to have a fantastic experience and remember your day for all the right reasons.
- Sufficient catering. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but there does have to be enough food for everyone, including those with dietary requirements. No one is their best, most celebratory self when they have to stalk waiters for an extra canapé.
- Plus ones for married couples and live-in partners. You don’t want to invite your 16-year-old cousin’s boyfriend of two months? We get it! However, asking someone to celebrate your relationship while not accommodating theirs is a big ask for married and long-term couples. Do the kind thing.
- The option of safe transport post-celebration. If you’re planning to wed in a city venue, this isn’t an issue. If your venue is in a rural area with no public transport or ride-share or taxi services, we highly recommend organising a group transport option for those who need it.
Handy questions to determine if something is really a wedding non-negotiable
- How will this make my partner and I feel on our wedding day?
- How will this make our guests feel during the celebration?
- When I look back in ten years, will this be something we regret not having?
- Is there a form of this that fits within our budget?
- What are we willing to sacrifice in our wedding plans to make space for this?
- How long have I been thinking about this wedding aspect? Why is it so important to me?