If you’ve given thought to the pros and cons of planning a double wedding, and you know you want to share your special day with another couple, it’s time to start planning the perfect wedding (well, weddings) day. The great news is: since you’re sharing the costs of the venue, décor, catering, entertainment, and other wedding vendors, you can go twice as big with all of them!

The Planning

The first step in planning a happy double wedding is getting all of the participants on the same page. This means you, your fiancé, and both halves of the other couple–and it also includes any family members who are contributing financially (or otherwise have a stake in the wedding details).

Since double weddings run the risk of “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome, it’s important to agree on as many details as you can ahead of time. That way, everyone can make their peace with the inevitable compromises months before the big day, averting a tearful showdown in the florist’s shop.

Start by making a list of every possible wedding decision. (You won’t get them all, of course, but if you all contribute the top decisions on your minds, you’ll at least have a good shot at covering the basics.) Include the big things, like wedding date, officiant(s), venue, guest list, and theme. No detail is too small, though: if you feel strongly about the ribbon detailing on the flower girl’s basket, by all means include that too. The point of this list is to provide a basis for assigning responsibility and creative control to the person or people who care most about each item.

Get ready to compromise. There will almost certainly be some items everyone wants to control. If you and your fiancé want blue and white wedding colors while your sister and her fiancé have their hearts set on pink and white, both of you may have to grit your teeth and smile about a wedding with blue, pink, and white tablecloths. It may help to remind yourself that the details of a wedding are less important than the overall meaning of sharing your pivotal life moment with your nearest and dearest–and that includes the other couple getting married that day!

The Ceremony

There isn’t just one way to plan a double wedding ceremony. The only hard and fast rule is to watch the time, since your gathered guests do have to sit quietly through two wedding ceremonies in a row. Traditionally (and especially with siblings), the eldest bride has her ceremony first, but if you want to have your ceremonies simultaneously, you may.

Simultaneous ceremonies are easiest if both couples follow the same religious tradition and want the same ceremony style. Speak with your officiant about ways to merge your ceremonies (perhaps saying your vows one after another, then listening to the officiant’s speech together) that will still highlight the uniqueness of each couple.

Worried about too many bridesmaids and groomsmen? Keep your bridal party to a manageable size by choosing only one or two special friends each. In the case of siblings, there are often family members who are appropriate choices for both bridal parties. Some couples decide to be in each other’s bridal parties, with the bride of one wedding serving as maid of honor for the other and the grooms serving as each other’s best men.

The Guests

Since many of your invitees won’t be familiar with attending double weddings, it’s up to you to communicate your expectations. The top question on most guests’ minds will be whether they need to bring two gifts, especially if they’re only close to one couple. Spread the etiquette by word of mouth: only bring a gift for the couple(s) you know well.

When planning ceremony seating, forget separating your guests into the “bride’s side” and the “groom’s side.” With four sets of guests present, it’s easier to just provide enough seating and let people choose their own spots. (The same goes for the reception!)

Making Your Part Special

Even though you’re sharing your wedding day with another couple because you treasure their presence in your lives, it’s not wrong to want a bit of your own spotlight too. Give some thought to how you’ll stand out and make your half of the celebration special.

The wedding cake is a perfect symbol of the two distinct couples because it can be cut into two halves. Ask your baker about doing a “half and half” cake with two flavors and two colors of icing. Maybe your sister’s half of the cake is decorated with roses while your half is more punk rock; both halves are sure to be delicious.

Wedding music is another place where you can let your uniqueness shine through. For the “first dance” song, both couples can hit the dance floor at the same time. But the song of one couple’s choosing changes halfway through to become a song for the second couple. Ask your DJ about meshing your top two songs–even if they’re of radically different styles. You can even coordinate some dance moves to surprise your guests as the music unexpectedly changes.

Of course, you don’t have to worry too much about the details of making sure your half of the celebration stands out. It will stand out because it’s you and your fiancé tying the knot, and all of your friends and family are there to celebrate it with you. The other couple getting married will enjoy their own spotlight–but it won’t dim yours one bit. Besides, the very fact that you chose a double wedding is so unique that you’re sure to stand out in your guests’ memories for years and years to come.

GAEA DENKER-LEHRMAN

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