Don't want to be a bridezilla? Read this.
Planning your wedding is no mean feat, and that is when both parties involved live and work in the same place 100% of the time. Add in one partner working away for possibly 4 weeks at a time and the entire process really starts to seem daunting doesn’t it?!
Don’t be disheartened, you’re not the first, you won’t be the last and while it's certainly going to be a little bit harder as the whole, the general wedding planning process is still the same. I really feel for you, but if it is any consolation, I’ve been there myself. I’ve been a FIFO wife and I’ve also worked FIFO rosters so I’ve seen both sides of the coin. Here are some tips to help get you through!
1. Plan from the ground up
Just like any project, when you start planning your wedding you must start with the building blocks. Yes it’s the boring bits but they are so essential to making sure you wedding gets off on the right foot.
When would you like your wedding? What season? What month? What day of the week? School holidays or not? Or have you got a date special to you both in mind? Bear in mind on the whole, weekdays are cheaper than Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and the winter months are cheaper than late spring, summer and early autumn.
Where would like your wedding? Overseas? In your home city? In a winery just outside or in your back garden? Where is going to be the most practical for you and your wedding guests to get to? Things to note that just because you want your wedding in a certain location, it may not be feasible for your wedding guests. If you desperately want certain people to be at your wedding, you may have to spring for transportation and possibly even some accommodation for your closest family and friends.
Your wedding style dictates everything from your venue, to the vendors you pick right down to the little guest favours on your table. The aim of the game is to pick a style and make sure it spans across everything. And you probably already know what it is without even knowing. It’s in your closet, your interior décor, the fonts you choose when you write a document, and it’s definitely on your secret Pinterest board that we all know you have ;)
Go to your Pinterest board and you’ll see the style running through the images you’ve saved; you might have a few images that don’t make sense, my advice, delete them. If it doesn’t all fit together it doesn’t have a place there unless you’re going to modify it to suit the other images you have. Always try to keep your images to less than 40, more than that and it just gets confusing. So what’s your style? Fairy tale princess, farm, luxe, classic, moody, vintage?
Mock Guest List
Your guest will ultimately be your budget decider; the more people you have, the more your wedding is going to cost. The more guests the bigger the venue, the more food and drink, tables, chairs, cutlery, invitations etc you’re going to need. Don’t get me wrong you can have an intimate dinner for 20 people and spend double what some might spend on their entire wedding, and you can certainly have a wedding for 100 guests for less, but the good rule of thumb to be aware of is that the more the guests, the more your total wedding budget is going to be.
Right at the beginning, take a few hours to write your guest list with every single possible person you would like to invite, friends, family, work colleagues, tennis team members etc. Then you have a good idea of the maximum figures you could be working with. If these figures are over what you are comfortable spending, you know you are going to have to cut your numbers.
2. FIFO rosters
The very obvious overarching issue of all wedding planning with a partner who works away is the fact that they are not there all the time. They can work away 1, 2, 3 sometimes 8 weeks and so this is going to impact a lot of things, not least the actual date of your wedding. Sometimes things don’t quite match up with available venue dates but trying to organise your day for your partner’s time off is always going to be appreciated so they don’t have to take off more time than necessary. Although saying that having a good week either side of your date to prepare and to decompress is always a good idea.
Another thing to think about is if your partner works FIFO, their friends may also work FIFO and they may not be able to see their day without them. Make sure you talk to your partner when you write your guest list and work out which FIFO friends are non-negotiable so you can work out the most practical date for everyone. Saying this it is your wedding day and if those people end up having to take time off to come, that is their decision.
3. Group everything together
FIFO rosters also make trying to organise meetings with venues and vendors a lot harder. Try to group these meetings together in 1 afternoon every time they’re home. Too many meetings is lots of information and tiring (for both of you!) but it’ll help you decide what you do and do not want from each vendor and you can then plan for the next swing off.
If you’ve decided you want a destination wedding or a wedding local but outside your city, best to make it a bit of a holiday. Book some accommodation, get away for the weekend or week and go see all of the local venues and vendors on your hit list. Bear in mind this in itself can get a bit expensive if you go multiple times so make sure your organised and schedule all your priority vendors.
Be open and honest with your vendors; tell them your partner is FIFO and that your time is very limited. The majority will be understanding and try to accommodate you outside their normal working hours.
4. Google docs / drop box
Having a mutual place where both parties can view wedding planning docs (mainly budgets!) can certainly be very handy. Using Google docs or Dropbox can help both of you track your progress while you’re apart and pull the other up when it’s getting a bit out of hand!
5. FIFO money – do you spend it or not
It is no secret that anyone on a FIFO wage has a rather nice remuneration package at the end of each week, but just because you might have the funds doesn’t mean you have to spend them! Your partner has worked long hours for that cash and they may have other plans for it e.g. putting a deposit on a house to start your lives together, paying off some debt, investing in something. Having that discussion right at the beginning asking what each is comfortable spending on your wedding day is crucial to work out where each other stands. That’s not to say you can’t splash out on a few things if both agree!
6. Dealing with COVID-19
The dreaded COVID; I know we’re all a bit over it but at the moment it’s so important to know your contracts. Make sure you know a) who your non-negotiable priority vendors are so you can contact them straight away to make your new plan and b) what your rights and obligation are to those vendors. One of the first things to remember is that your vendors want your wedding to go ahead just as much as you do and they will be just as disappointed.
FIFO is certainly a grey area because your partner may not physically be to fly back due to lockdowns and so in this instance it is essential all your vendors know 1 party is FIFO from the beginning. If a government mandated lockdown occurs, weddings are still allowed but all flights in and out of site have been cancelled, this is out of your control and all vendors should do everything within their power to reschedule your date with no transfer fees. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Wedding planners will have to go back to the drawing board to move your entire wedding will most likely incur a transfer fee. Bakers and caterers have already made your cake and wedding feast will have already spent money on materials and wages. While you can ask for your cake and food prep to go in your freezer, you will likely have to pay for this again, whether that is full price or cost price you will have to negotiate with your vendors.
7. Be compassionate
The average FIFO roster is 2 weeks on, 1 week off, working 12-hour days. That’s not counting the 1-2 hours before and after getting breakfast, dinner, and possibly going to the gym somewhere in between and getting the odd drink with colleagues. While weddings might be on your brain, it is very likely they are not on theirs and that’s ok.
Try not to talk weddings all the time, set aside 1 day a week to talk weddings and remember to ask them how their day was!
Ultimately communication is key! Being open and honest throughout the process is going to make the planning so much easier in the long run. Bottling things up like ‘they just don’t care’, ‘I wish they’d stop talking about it’ or ‘why don’t they want any input?’ is not going to be good for anyone. Planning a wedding should be fun, learning new things about each other along the way and enjoying what you create together.
Always remember that the FIFO life isn’t for everyone and you’ve got to give yourselves some credit getting this far, and you’re all the stronger for it.