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A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration

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An Insanity-Free Wedding: It Can Happen!

Getting engaged is exhilarating…until it sets in that a wedding costs three times what you thought, and takes five to ten times the effort it reasonably should. And then there are the expectations: from calligraphy invitations to satin chair-covers, all those things that Must Be Done or everyone will be Horribly Offended. Or will they?

A Practical Wedding helps you create the wedding you want—without going broke or crazy in the process. After all, what really matters on your wedding day, what you’ll remember ‘til you’re old and gray, is not so much how it looked as how it felt. In this refreshing guide, expert Meg Keene shares her secrets to planning a beautiful celebration that reflects your taste and your relationship. You’ll discover:

The real purpose of engagement (hint: it’s not just about the planning) How to pinpoint what matters most to you and your partner DIY-ing your wedding: brilliant or crazy? Affording a wedding without having to cut your guest list How to communicate decisions with your family Why that color-coded spreadsheet is actually worth it Wedding Zen can be yours. Meg walks you through everything from choosing a venue to writing vows, complete with stories and advice from women who have been in the trenches, the Team Practical brides. So here’s to the joyful wedding, the sensible wedding, the unbelievably fun wedding! A Practical Wedding is your complete guide to getting married with grace.

256 pages, Paperback

First published December 27, 2011

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Meg Keene

4 books9 followers

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5 stars
1,154 (42%)
4 stars
1,062 (39%)
3 stars
393 (14%)
2 stars
58 (2%)
1 star
30 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 342 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer.
2,039 reviews62 followers
January 7, 2015
Many folks who know me would look at me and say “You’ve been married twenty years. Why on earth are you reading a wedding planning book?” My answer: eleven years of coordinating weddings at my church has me addicted to all things wedding. Also, there are a lot of wedding planning books out there and I know, as a busy bride, I would have appreciated someone saying “This one! You must read this book!” So, brides I’m telling you: “READ THIS ONE!”

While I have two other books I consider must-reads for the newly engaged (see last paragraph), A Practical Wedding should rank at the top. What makes this title so special? Down-to-earth, realistic planning tips that focus not just on the details of the wedding day but also on building a foundation for your marriage. Gasp! What a concept, eh? A wedding planning book that focuses on the end result: a happy, healthy, long-lasting marriage with a partner you love. Throughout the pages, the author, and the fellow brides who shared their own stories, will continually bring the bride back to remembering that end product.

The practical advice oozes from the pages of the book – and there is a companion website that oozes even more fantastic tid-bits. I had so many post-its tucked in the book when I was done that, had it not been a library book, there would have been highlights and margin notes throughout! Chapters include The Basics: Who Where, When, How; Battling the Myth of Tradition; The Planning – In the Party Trenches; Doing It Yourself (Together); The Hard Stuff (i.e.: fighting, crying, bridezilla moments, cold feet); The Ceremony; One Wildly Imperfect Day; and best of all: It Wasn’t the Best Day of Your Whole Life … it was instead one best day in many best days to come with your new partner.

I only had one gripe and it came nearly at the end of the volume. When discussing the wedding day time-line the author suggested that, for the ceremony, “guests tend to run late, so plan on starting your ceremony at least fifteen minutes after the time listed on your invitation.” The church coordinator in me screamed: “Uh no! We start on time because there are other events happening at the church!” Other parts of your day will start to run behind but there should be nothing that keeps you from racing to the altar to become one with your new spouse.

Still looking for more wedding advice? Try Bargainista Bride by Aimee Manis offers quick realistic tips to help plan your wedding and may even save you a buck or two. Or try How I Planned Your Wedding by Elizabeth Wiggs-Maas & Susan Wiggs which will have you laughing until you cry.
Profile Image for Thomas Gizbert.
158 reviews5 followers
April 17, 2020
So my big problem with this book is that it's supposed to be all irreverent and down-to-earth but it 100% assumes that the reader is a woman. Like, it's modern and untraditional enough to be equivocal about whether the person you're marrying is male or female, but you, the reader and primary wedding planner, are certainly female and definitely primarily concerned about your dress, and your fiancé(e) shouldn't really be involved with wedding planning except to outline the broad strokes of what they think the wedding should be like. Gross!

My secondary, related problem with this book is that - because, you, the reader, are a woman, and thus have been inundated from birth with expectations about what your wedding will be like - most of it is taken up with soothing straight-talk about how your wedding will be perfect even if it's imperfect and how you have permission to have the wedding you really want to have. Despite the title, actual practical advice is very thin on the ground here except for a couple of the later chapters. Probably others would get more mileage out of this antidote-to-the-wedding-industry approach than I did.

However, despite it not being the useful, practical, gender-equitable book I wanted it to be, I still teared up a little reading it and it made me pretty excited about my upcoming nuptials. Three stars.
Profile Image for Ariel.
45 reviews5 followers
December 30, 2013
The friend that recommended this book to me told me that while she found the title somewhat misleading (in that she thought it did not offer a ton of practical advice), it was very good for giving you permission to not do things that don't matter to you at your wedding. I very much agree with her assessment. This book isn't exactly a step-by-step planning guide, but I found the spirit of it very helpful for calming me down about wedding planning by reassuring me that (a) a lot of the so-called "traditions" that TheKnot, etc., emphasize are inventions of the last 30 years or so and do not have to be done (b) I do not need to DIY any aspect of my wedding if I don't want to, and my wedding will still be fun and personal and not overly commercial even if it doesn't look like it could have taken place on a rooftop in Williamsburg. I am still buying a more conventional wedding guide because I feel like I need checklists, etc., but this book had the very soothing effect of giving me permission to check things I think are dumb/too much/too time-consuming/that I cannot afford off said conventional wedding planning checklists.
11 reviews
February 11, 2015
Is it really important that you impress all of your friends, family, coworkers, and strangers with your absolutely perfect wedding? Then this is probably not the book for you. Are you, instead, reading wedding blogs/checking pinterest incessantly, and thinking, "Really? ALL the things? I actually need ALL the things? I don't know if I can handle ALL the things- maybe just SOME of the things?" Then you will love this book.

What a breath of fresh air. If I were to reduce the main points of this book it would be: 1) You're choosing to spend the rest of your life with someone- that's AWESOME. 2) When planning a ceremony/party to celebrate that, do what makes you comfortable. You're allowed to not care about All The Things. 3) Don't be a jerk to people just because you have the temporary title of "bride." 4) Other people are grown-ass adults and are allowed to and capable of making their own decisions. 5) Not every moment is going to be roses and bunnies, but every moment is going to be worth it, because in the end, you're choosing to spend the rest of your life with someone, and that's AWESOME.
Profile Image for Olivia DiGiammarino.
37 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2018
This book was semi-helpful and mostly a permission-giving monologue. Going into this book I knew I could do whatever I wanted; I wanted tips on how to SAVE MONEY. Instead, I found this book quite remiss of actual help, tips or facts. My secondary issue with this book is that it was super PC, LGBTQ positive, feminist and then the black hole : brides & mothers.

Not all brides have mothers, not all brides want to be reminded that the best way to make something affordable is to make a craft out of it with your mum. Going shopping? bring your mum. Making flowers, bring your mum. You'll remember this day forever, with your mum. It was excessive and exclusionary and painful for someone with a late mother. Why are we so gender-conscious regarding partners but not about parents? It actually bothered me so much I reached out to the writer and heard nothing back. Unfortunate.
Profile Image for Michelle Gaudet.
109 reviews4 followers
February 2, 2017
I picked this up after researching how to have a feminist wedding, and finding Meg Keene's various interviews on my favourite podcasts. This book is fantastic. Give it to every bride in your life, give it to every groom, give it to all your bridesmaids. It's about cutting the crap and planning the wedding you actually want. Planning a feminist and realistic wedding is hard, but this book put everything in perspective for me. I see the whole wedding industry and all the planning ahead of me with a different lens now. Hopefully that means I'll be less likely to lose my mind..
Profile Image for AJNels.
208 reviews
July 15, 2016
I loved it because it told me exactly what I needed/wanted to hear:
- you don't have to do anything you don't want to
- ask for help
- here's why Mom might be going bonkers
- figure out the things that really, REALLY matter to you both and let the rest go
- get to your "f*ck it" moment, the earlier the better

Plus practical advice (but not endless Must Do checklists) for any kind of wedding under the sun. So glad I read this early on!
Profile Image for Aleesia.
444 reviews2 followers
September 15, 2017
"I will not remember what my wedding looked like, I will remember what it felt like."

This was such a great read and really put everything in perspective for me. So many highlights, notes and post it's! :)
Profile Image for Andrea.
291 reviews55 followers
March 19, 2014
This is not a step-by-step how to on planning your wedding. This is how not do go insane while planning your wedding. Meg's book encompasses the entire journey - from engagement to post-wedding. She gives you tips and advice on how to stay sane and keep everything in perspective.

To be honest, I didn't read every section. The reason for these skipped sections is either because I'm beyond that point in my planning (venue picking, budget, vendors) or that it did not apply to me (DIY wedding). However, I did scan these sections and they seemed to be just as helpful/informative as any other section I read. Had I not been as far into planning as I am and had found this book a few months ago, I would have read each and every section.

An aspect I found to be very cute when when Meg included stories, snippets, or quotes from other married couples in relation to each chapter. Having been married herself, Meg is well aware of the stress wedding planning can bring on, but to hear specifically from other brides regarding DIY, family drama, budget, tradition or the like is a nice touch. She also includes a list of resources you can use along with books she consulted in her research in case you want additional readings to ensure your sanity.

While I enjoyed every section, I really liked the section on traditional. She debunks a lot of things people see as traditional when they've really only been around since the 1920s! White dresses, elaborate parities, church weddings - all those things came about in the time. Also, did you know the unity candle was "invented" in the 1970s for a soap opera!?

If you are recently engaged or know somebody who is, this is the perfect book to read. Meg does an amazing job of putting things into perspective so that your wedding day will "be the happiest day of your life so far" (204).
Profile Image for Cheryl.
91 reviews
January 26, 2015
I'm a bride who wants to avoid the nuttiness and materialistic nature of the current wedding industry as much as possible, so much in fact that I'm reluctant to even use the word "bride" to describe myself. I felt like Meg Keene was speaking directly to me. She keeps it real. (I should add that she lives in San Francisco, and I once met her briefly in person, and she's even funnier and sassier than I imagined.)

Since reading this book, I feel inspired and empowered. Like my partner and I can do things how we want. Like we can actually have a beautiful and meaningful wedding on our budget, and can be sensitive to our families while still drawing clear boundaries. I was also reminded as to why weddings are important and lovely. She includes a lot of great history, quotable inspiration, and anecdotes. I laughed and cried. Also, I actually feel closer to my partner as a result of reading this book. I kid you not. The questions really helped us bond.

Meg's advice is no-nonsense, but not self righteous, preachy, nor insensitive. The information she provides runs the gamut from addressing emotional questions and problems, to providing concrete numbers and specific recommended tasks and procedures. All while maintaining a light and conversational tone. I was not bored once while reading a wedding planning book. I repeat, I was not bored once while reading a wedding planning book. I can hardly believe it myself. Feminist, intelligent, and even jaded brides: rejoice!

This is an excellent book, and the only you will need if planning a wedding (I also use the amazing spreadsheets that are free on her website). You can look at some pretty (overwhelming) pictures later. Don't start that process until you read at least chapter one. For now, STEP AWAY FROM THE BRIDAL MAGAZINE RACK. Seriously.

Profile Image for christine cooper.
30 reviews2 followers
March 29, 2012
Yes. I read a wedding planning book. Why? because it was free.

I was expecting the worst and as a result found myself very pleasantly surprised by A Practical Wedding. What was great was that this book was not an explicit "how to have the most perfect dream wedding ever" and it did not provide any tips on what trends were "in" for flowers, dresses, and locations. Instead, Meg calmed me down, and helped me feel more secure about the decisions I was making for myself.

Chapters 1-3 reinforced the fact that it's not so important how you do it as long as the "who" and the "why" are good. All this "traditional wedding" stuff has really only boomed in the last century, and you should just enjoy yourself with the people you want to be there.

Chapter 7 "The Hard Stuff" was amusing -- by addressing such things as "The Bridezilla Myth" and the various "F*ck it" stages -- as well as supportive, guiding the reader through a wedding after a death and sorting out cold feet. It also gave me what should be my wedding mantra: "Your wedding is NOT an imposition." I'm not yet quite so thoroughly convinced of that, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

All in all, Meg Keene plays the part of the level-headed friend who's there to help you listen to your heart. This is not the book with all the "must-have-" and "how-to-" -answers of the specific details, but it IS a must-have and how-to to get started planning (or not planning!) the way you want to celebrate and start your life together with your partner.
Profile Image for Moira Katson.
Author 34 books93 followers
April 27, 2013
Do you remember when you started wedding planning? When you had all of those glorious ideas about how it was going to be so simple and meaningful and elegant, quirky and yet devoid of craziness? Then you got mired in the depths of, "but if we don't have BLUE candelabras, Uncle Bernard will be so dreadfully upset!" and, "well, I suppose it's just $0.38 more per invitation if we..." And now you're pondering a wedding that costs four or five times what you imagined, and wondering if you will need to sell a kidney on the black market to pay for it.

Don't worry. Breathe. Then get this book, and read about the extraordinary range of weddings that were meaningful, beautiful, and overall amazing. You don't need chiavari chairs or an aisle runner, or you can have both if you want. Don't let anyone tell you that a potluck is bad form. Wear a poofy princess dress, a smart white suit, or a Star Trek costume - just create a wedding that is true to you and your partner!

Oh, and cool fact? This whole book is gender-neutral.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
3,923 reviews84 followers
May 27, 2014
A lovely gift from my little sister when Tim and I got engaged. Lots of down-to-earth advice, and the author has a very genuine tone.
Profile Image for Maggie.
129 reviews1 follower
April 12, 2018
I didn't read this cover to cover, but it was a great introduction to the process of planning a wedding for someone (me) who isn't especially keen on the whole thing. It breaks it down in practical pieces, and it's formatted a bit like a textbook with little info boxes here and there, which made it easy to find important information or suggestions. It's slightly progressive in that it gives a nod to plus-size brides, mentions a few traditions from other cultures, and includes a lot of content for queer couples and feminist couples. That said, it's definitely primarily about (and for) upper-middle class white people. That's not a criticism, as I'm squarely in that demographic, but if you're not you might want to find something tailored to your family, culture, economic bracket, etc.
Profile Image for Maria.
454 reviews39 followers
August 19, 2019
Woohoo! I just got married last week, so I'm finally marking this book as read!

I read the first half of this book early in my engagement when I was feeling overwhelmed by all the decisions and the budget (weddings are crazy expensive). It helped me re-focus on what's really important when you're planning a wedding and how to balance so many different expectations about what your wedding will be from all the people who feel invested in it (i.e., parents).

I didn't fully read the second half of the book, but I did revisit it as a reference throughout the rest of the wedding planning and again when writing our vows. So I never read it cover to cover, but overall I did read most of the book and found it to be a great reference throughout the planning process. I decided to give it 4 stars and would absolutely recommend if you're planning your wedding. It really gets to the root of what matters.
Profile Image for Kristin Overbey.
6 reviews1 follower
November 1, 2022
Overall, fantastic! Funny and to the point. Lots of examples and stories from real people in addition to the author. One month of being engaged has been one month of people asking about our wedding plans - I was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of planning a wedding at all. This book was recommended to me and it has helped me feel more relaxed, secure, and hopeful for planning “The Big Day”.

A bit dated - I’m curious to read the updated edition. Definitely written for women, mainly in hetero relationships.
Profile Image for Celine.
359 reviews16 followers
March 27, 2019
The most helpful wedding book I've read thus far (despite the quite horrible cover/title) and the first to actually make me excited about wedding planning as opposed to filling me with dread. Essentially your wedding is a big party with all the people you love so utilize what you need/want to plan it as such as and chuck all the rest. Helpful things to think about/consider are included while also avoiding the frenetic "this is the biggest day of your life so every decision has to reflect your perfect wedding style" propaganda. Refreshing.
Profile Image for Sareeta L.
16 reviews
August 24, 2018
So incredibly helpful! She really helps you figure out what type of wedding you should plan for YOU, not what everybody else wants and thinks you want. I love that she delves into how to handle your emotions and drama too. I am definitely going to pick up her planner to help implement!
Profile Image for Erin.
57 reviews
January 30, 2019
This isn’t a step by step guide really, but it helped ground me during the oft overwhelming wedding planning process.
Profile Image for Laura M.
140 reviews3 followers
February 14, 2023
This book has been invaluable in my wedding planning process! It helped me take a step back and remember what a wedding is really about: getting married. It breaks down the big to-do items, offers alternatives to traditional aspects, and features advice from real brides.

More at litandflicks.com
Profile Image for Jaime.
114 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2020
I’d recommend this to anyone getting married; it’s the only resource I’ve found that isn’t trying to sell you on something stupid.
Profile Image for Renee.
Author 1 book52 followers
August 9, 2017
No, I am not engaged. :) But a good book is a good book. And having attended close to 30 weddings, I still found it relatable.
Profile Image for Amanda Lewis.
3 reviews
December 13, 2018
(Unsurprisingly) Practical Advice

Great book, it made me feel significantly less out to lunch about my worries and feelings. Money can’t buy a day where you are emotionally present.
Profile Image for Kate Kaput.
Author 2 books48 followers
August 6, 2017
Keene is the chill-bride mastermind behind the website of the same name, APracticalWedding.com, & boy, was this book ever a reassuring lifesaver of a read. It's all about the many options for throwing a wedding, including some I'd never thought of, & more importantly, it gives you permission to ignore everyone's expectations. There's lots of great - & practical - advice in here for a wedding that doesn't bankrupt you, turn you into bridezilla, or make you lose your ever-loving mind.
Profile Image for Liz Powell.
38 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2017
I'm a maximizer and was therefore paralyzed by indecision for approximately a year during our wedding-planning process, while making a larger quantity of decisions than ever before in my life. I read this book while planning our wedding and its message of "only do what makes you happy" became my mantra. I would highly recommend it to anyone overwhelmed by the pressures (from other people, their own expectations, or from society as a whole) of wedding planning, or who just wants a nice reality check.
Profile Image for Sarah Cauble.
35 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2012
I received this book as a gift from my (future) mother-in-law and didn't quite know what to expect. But I found "A Practical Wedding" to be a great read for all brides-to-be. It doesn't just discuss practical ways to budget, decorate, and create guest lists; it also dives into subjects such as "planning a wedding when a loved one is seriously ill" and other tough issues. My grandpa, who is like a father to me, is that loved one in my life. And here I was, thinking I was the only bride-to-be struggling with this kind of thing. Duh! Of course I'm not. The author, Meg Keene, also reminded me I'm not the only one with problems, family drama and the like. She writes, "Weddings are about hope. Weddings are hope for the future, for a new generation, and the hope that love and family can win over everything else... So on the days it seems too hard to go on, too hard to pick out flowers in the face of deep pain, remember the why of weddings."

Another thing I loved about this book is it gives you a little wedding history and battles the myth of tradition. When I first thought of words to describe my upcoming backyard wedding I thought, "my wedding's going to be very untraditional." How indie-chic of me! However, in reality, an at-home wedding, and even a church wedding or a court house wedding, could all argue to be traditional. "The real key is discovering what tradition means to you and your family," Keene writes.

I basically went through this book and highlighted and dog-eared the heck out of it. I'll definitely be referring back to it throughout the next year and a half of my engagement.
Profile Image for Kyla.
561 reviews
March 11, 2012
A friend of mine told me how great this book has been for her as she plans her wedding, so I decided to take a look at it. I am not married or engaged, but I have helped lots of brides-to-be pick out wedding guides in my roles as bookseller and librarian. What I wanted to know was, is this book really that different from others on the market? The answer is YES. It is so refreshing to have someone say that it's OK to get away from "tradition" and do what means the most to you. Keene's theme is that the wedding is about what you'll feel (make it emotional and meaningful), not what you'll see (don't worry about the details, whether they are big or small). No matter if you want to go big or small, remember to tie everything you do and plan back to what you'll feel and not what you'll see. Sometimes it feels like Keene is beating the reader over the head with this theme, but if you are a bride reading a little bit here and a little bit there, I think it would help a lot to periodically come back to this reminder whenever the details start to drive you insane. The book is based on a blog, apracticalwedding.com, which contains more resources for brides-to-be. If all you want from a wedding book is a checklist, this book isn't going to work for you. If you want/need a down-to-earth look at weddings from those who recently went through it, you should pick this up.
Profile Image for Carrie.
13 reviews2 followers
November 1, 2013
Getting engaged is not all that exhilarating, and can be downright terrifying. Balancing family expectations, society's traditional and sexist roles, fear of losing your identity, fear of conforming in a world you have fighting for a place to be original in, and, oh yeah, every OTHER fear you successfully repressed through whatever your awesome brain devised to get you past it, can come out through this insane life-commitment ceremony planning time.

This book will help you through this, ESPECIALLY if you have no idea, clue, thought of where to start. If you loath bridal magazines, bridal stores, and really anything that the wedding industrial complex is trying to sell you, this is the book for you. I found it immensely helpful and down-to-earth, not at all preachy or condescending.

I gave it 4 out of 5, because the book does establish it's target audience as those-who-have-been-thinking-about-and-wanting-to-plan-this-party-since-they-were-5-years-old, which, spoiler alert, I'm not. I really like how the book focused on the actual important topics that last far beyond the pictures, open-bar and dancing, which is a celebration of love, commitment, and building a kick-ass life together.
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