By Tracy Haney/Accent editor

Michelle Hickcox, a junior public relations major, is counting the days until her May 29th wedding – not just because of the excitement of the big day, but so she can finally get back to a normal life after months of planning. Hickcox’s fianc, Joey Sedgwick, proposed on May 12, 2003, giving the couple a little more than a year to plan an out-of-state wedding.

“The first thing we had to decide is where we were going to have it,” Hickcox said.

They picked a spot in Arizona, where Hickcox is originally from, and will have to fly in around 60 guests from Sedgwick’s home state of Maryland, including the pastor conducting the cermony.

Hickcox said having the wedding out of state is not only extra pressure, it adds extra cost. She has already had to fly to Arizona four times this year to finalize planning.

“As much as you try to just keep everything simple, it just doesn’t happen,” Hickcox said. “It’s just those little things that start creeping up on you that you have to budget.”

She said the couple has already spent over $300 on stamps.

“Stuff like that wasn’t on our budget,” Hickcox said.

As a student, Hickcox said planning a wedding is even more pressure because she had to organize everything around classes.

“Finding the time has not been easy at all,” Hickcox said. “There is just too much involved …. If I were (out of school) and working, I think my time would be a little more flexible.”

Her advice to other brides is “to follow the (planning) timelines, make a list and stick to it.”

“If you just do a little bit at a time, it will go a lot smoother,” Hickcox said.

Crystal Wilson, wedding consultant and manager of Bridal Garden in Richmond, said around 40 percent of her customers are college students, and she can definitely tell their stress levels are higher.

“The combination of school and the wedding keeps them stressed out,” Wilson said. “A lot of kids wait until they’re graduating (to start planning).”

Wilson suggests couples first make a list of everything they need for the wedding before actually purchasing anything.

According to Wilson, couples planning a traditional 100-guest wedding should start planning about a year in advance.

Wilson also recommends couples not start planning right after the engagement because 25-30 percent end up canceling.

And although the financial burden of paying for a wedding can become expensive, Wilson said, “you should never go into debt for a wedding” by taking out a loan.

She suggests saving up money while planning, but not actually putting money down until a year before the wedding.

“Make a budget out,” Wilson said. “You know what you can truly afford and what you can’t.”

She said very few college students ask for wedding consultants because students make the mistake of thinking they can do it all themselves. With a wedding consultant, Wilson said, you save money on your vendor selections, and the consulting ends up paying for itself.

But overall – through the financial burden, the stress of time management and the stress of planning – she said couples planning a wedding cannot forget to simply “have fun.”

“A lot of people get caught up in the details. It’s your day – enjoy it,” Wilson said.

Reach Tracy at