Lessons from organising two weddings in two continents

by Bridechilla Mateja

My husband and I always knew that getting married will be a big project. Him being Australian, and me Croatian, we established early on that the only way to pull this off would be to have 2 full weddings – one in each country.  We just didn’t want anyone to miss out! We had set out to organise 6 events in total, all in September 2018 – each wedding would also have welcome drinks the day before, and recovery meal the day after. We had 9 months to plan all of this, all while working our very demanding jobs.

Yet, miraculously, we pulled it off, and had the best of times!  

Here are a few things we learned along the way, in a hope that it might help someone else.

1. Write down what is important at the start, and use it to make decisions

I was warned of a sheer number of decisions we will have to make. And I didn’t believe what I was told. You just pick a venue, a dress, a photographer, and you are pretty much there – right? Nope. Each one of the “big” decisions (e.g. which vendor) has another thousand smaller  decisions behind it. So how did we cope with all this decision-making? We wrote down what is important for us before starting any planning. Some of the things that were important to us were that every one of our guests feels included and comfortable. And then when making decisions, we asked ourselves “Does this really matter for the day we would like to create?” If it didn’t, we just picked the most convenient/cheapest option. If it did, we took the high road. This meant, for example, that in Croatia we had both the ceremony and all the speeches in both languages, just to make sure everyone can participate.

2. If organising additional events - either delegate or make fuss-free

Yes, we had six events. That sounds scary. But quite honestly, there was very minimal work involved with pre & post wedding events.

For our Croatian wedding, my parents threw welcome drinks for everyone in their backyard, and we booked a pizza place 100m from where most of the people were staying for recovery lunch the next day. In Australia, we booked a gorgeous Airbnb apartment with a pool to stay at, and invited everyone  around for BYO pool drinks. All we had to do was get some snacks from the supermarket, and book the café for recovery brunch the next day.

It was really important for us to spend plenty of time with our guests that travelled from near and far to celebrate with us. This way made it happen, with minimal effort.

3. You are a team, and each player has their strengths – play to them!

I love planning and organising, while my husband is great at making – both decisions and things with his hands. So we tried to play to our strengths, and divided our list of tasks accordingly. I did most of the planning, mapping out tasks, keeping us honest, and researching options. He, on the other hand, did a whole lot of making – he learned how to make our gorgeous rings, and also my bridal bouquet using combination of flowers from the markets and our backyard. We couldn’t stick to this plan for 100% of the time (sometimes one just needs to do what they don’t like), but we did where we could, and it made our planning process much more enjoyable. 

4. Think about little ones, but also trust that their parents know what they are doing

A lot of our friends have small children. In keeping with our wedding priorities, we gave parents the choice whether or not to bring them – we wanted them to be able to choose what is best for their family. This meant that at both weddings we had 10+ kids aged between 3 months and 4 years. To make it fun for them, and also keep them entertained, we made them little kiddie packs. These were simple bags with a few fun things – colouring books, soap bubble bottles, glow sticks. The kids loved them and got hours of fun out of them! One lesson learned however, was that we worried too much about how to accommodate logistics – e.g. where are kids going to sleep. We forgot that parents take care of those logistics every single day, and that they will work out what is best for their kid, without us needing to worry or plan.

5. Carefully incorporated traditions can make everything more fun and meaningful

Traditional Croatian weddings include numerous traditions. However, most modern couples decide to ditch those traditions for the sake of having a modern wedding, whatever that means to them. My husband rightfully pointed out to me that these traditions make Croatian weddings very unique and special. So we went through a long list of traditions, and picked the ones that we found fun and that worked for us. That is why we assigned someone to smash a plate before dinner, we made the best man look for the right bride to bring to the groom, and we toasted with the traditional drink of rakija. The ceremony, on the other hand, was very Australian, but it incorporated the Croatian tradition of a bridesmaid  presenting the bride her bouquet along with a little speech to say farewell to her bachelorette days.

In incorporating these, we were careful to bring our guests along to the journey. So we made sure that there was an explanation of what is going to happen, and why, so that they could all participate.

6. Go an extra mile to make it personal, but be selective about DIY

It is so easy to get carried away with all the gorgeous ideas one can find on pinterest. But if adding additional work (especially when it involves DIY), we tried to ask ourselves “Is this going to make it more us, or just a prettier picture?”. Pretty pictures are nice, but not really worth our precious time. And DIY is such a time investment! We did some of it – in addition to rings and bouquet, we made little ceremony booklets featuring Our Story, and tables named after the favourite places we travelled together. Involving our talented friends also made the whole experience much more meaningful and personal for us and (we hope) for them. We had a friend play out ceremony songs, another one make our wedding cake topper, our friend was our celebrant in Croatia and the groom’s brother our photographer in Australia. Involving them brought us so much joy!

7. Having two weddings? That is two chances to get it right!

While the remainder of the advice can be applied to any wedding, this one really just works if you have two of them. having two weddings really takes the pressure off, because the chances are you’ll get it right at least once. So we reused what we could (our outfits, guestbook, ceremony songs, first dance) and mixed and matched the rest. We had a cake in Croatia, and a dessert table in Australia. I wore the same dress, but had different hair style and accessories to make it interesting. We had a professional photographer and videographer in Croatia (where it is much more affordable), but not in Australia. You get the point – if you are doing the whole (or part of the) thing twice, take advantage of the freedom that gives you

Happy days!

Mateja (and Jason)

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