Planning a wedding is hard work. Fun, but hard! There are a few things to keep in mind no matter what stage of the planning process you are in. Most of this advice is just good old common sense, but a repeat never hurts.
1. Follow your own heart… As soon as you tell someone you’re planning a wedding, you’ll be given advice; even if you’re not asking for it! Everyone will know what is best for you, and they may even be critical of your plans thus far. It’s always kind to listen…but remember you don’t have to follow their advice. Learning how to inject phrases into the conversation such as, “I never thought of that.” or “That’s something to consider.” will help to keep you all involved and happy.
2. Have the wedding you want to have. . . You and your fiancé should be the two most influential people planning your wedding. Mom, Dad and the future In-laws will all want to play a part in this special day, but ultimately – your wedding, your memory. If you and your fiancé have a definite vision for time of year, venue or theme, by all means follow your hearts. Those who don’t agree with you may sulk or even refuse to be involved if you decide to go through with your own plan, making for a very uncomfortable and stressful situation. This is where compromise comes into play. Perhaps give in to the little things that are not extremely important to you. This will allow you to have more leverage when you stand firm on the make-or-break decisions which could impact your feelings about your wedding day for many years to come.
3. Don’t break the bank. . . One of the biggest issues surrounding the wedding is the budget. Now, whether you are paying for your own wedding or you are getting assistance from Mom and Dad, no one should ever take on debt to pay for a wedding. Staring out a new life together in debt will only lead to heartache. The budget is a very important area which needs compromise. Make a list of the “must have” items. Perhaps the best wedding photographer or videographer is at the top of your list. Or maybe a live band is an absolute must. Now, make a list of the things you would really like to have, but may be able to live without. If getting rid of chair covers can help to balance the books, then consider eliminating the non-essentials. The details of your wedding will fade for most guests, but what will not fade is their memory of a happy, relaxed and in-love couple, who used their heads when planning.
4. Plan and plan some more. . . What time of year do you want to get married? How many guests will be attending? Will the ceremony be inside or outdoors? Before you even begin to shop for vendors, have a clear idea about what type of wedding you would like to have. And don’t buy your dress until you have an idea of your wedding location! “I bought my dress first with no idea of where my reception would be or what type of party I wanted.” says Melissa, a recent newlywed. “I chose a casual dress but then when I chose my reception hall, my dress was no longer appropriate for the venue.” Birgitta, a soon-to-be bride, has her own planning tip, “Don’t do anything until you have completed your final guest list…my fiancé and I made this mistake and it has come back to haunt us several times in the planning stages. We wish we would have finalized the list first, then we wouldn’t be dealing with a situation of too many people, not enough room!” Forethought can save you time, money and many headaches!
5. The early bird gets the worm. . . This one is easy, the earlier you begin the planning process, the more likely you are to secure your preferred vendors. Katie, a June bride, warns of the dangers of not starting early enough, “My sister got married in October and didn’t start planning until late July, early August, and she was fine. However, I waited until around February…I had a lot of problems with booking the wedding florist and photographer that I wanted. I also ended up spending a lot more than I was planning on spending.” After I had spoken with Katie for this article, her wedding had to be postponed indefinitely, due to not being able to secure the appropriate wedding venue in time for her big day. She now has to kiss thousands of dollars in non-refundable deposits goodbye! It is not unusual for wedding photographers, reception venues and churches to book clients up to two years in advance. So if you have always dreamed of getting married at Heinz Chapel, you had better be the early bird, or you may be disappointed.
6. Organize, organize, organize. . . Keeping yourself organized while planning your wedding is one of the easiest things that you can do to keep your sanity! Make detailed notes on all conversations with vendors. Have a binder or individual folders to keep all important documentation together in one place, such as signed contracts and informational paperwork. This will also come in handy if you need to make any last minute changes or quickly review a contract. All of the brides I have spoken with have told me that being organized is the single most important part of the planning process.
7. Outsource when you can. . .Don’t try to do it all yourself. Will you really have time, three days before the wedding, to make forty, fresh flower centerpieces? Or bake and decorate your own wedding cake the day before the ceremony? Please, who would want to? With the costs of a wedding increasing, the Do-It-Yourself bride is here to stay. But be reasonable about what you can and cannot do on your own. If there are D.I Y. projects which can be done today…do them today! The more projects you can complete far in advance of the big day, the better.
8. Little details can snowball into big projects. . . The details of the planning process can be overwhelming. Start small and make detailed lists for all of the components of the wedding. Let’s do a case study of the out-of-town guest. Guests will come from out of town to share your day. Sounds simple…but is it really? Well, you will need to book a block of rooms at a nearby hotel. Do you hire a bus for transportation to and from the ceremony and reception? If they want to drive themselves, will you need to print out directions to and from the hotel for all of the events? What about a welcome gift waiting for them at the hotel? Or a welcome dinner the night before? Or a brunch the morning after the wedding to thank them for making the journey? Things that may seem simple can turn into huge projects for the bride. This is another time to have a plan, have a helper and do as much of the work as far in advance as possible.
9. Be done by the big day. . . Many brides try to cram in last minute wedding chores the day of the event. This is not the time to be printing seating charts or running to the store for a shiny hair accent. If you can, try to leave this day as open as possible. “Our wedding went really well but I think that it was because I was very well organized.” says Darlene, a recent newlywed. “This way I could go to bed the night before and sleep, rather than lay awake thinking about what I needed to do. I did as much as I could on Wednesday and Thursday because Friday and Saturday were busy…I was relatively stress free on my wedding day.” Aaaahhh, stress free, that is the goal. Having things wrapped up by the day of the event will allow you to indulge a bit, if your budget allows. Have your hair and makeup done professionally. Get together for a light breakfast with your bridesmaids. You will want to be relaxed, enjoy everyone’s company and experience all of the wonderful emotions of the day. If there are last minute snafus that need handling, designate a go-to person. They will be able to help Aunt Lois scuff the soles of her new shoes, or run back to the house for the missing ring pillow, without bothering you.
10. Take care of yourself. . . Please remember to get enough rest, eat well, stay hydrated and add a little movement into each day before the wedding. Eye bags and dark circles do not a blushing bride make! Running yourself ragged before the nuptials will only leave your immune system vulnerable to illness, and who wants to be sick on their honeymoon? You may also want to consider not overindulging in alcoholic beverages the night before the ceremony, your body and looks will thank you for it in the morning.
Your wedding day, and the days leading up to it, should be some of the happiest of your life. Things may go wrong, people may disappoint you and everything may not be perfect, but that’s OK. Recently, I was collecting wedding photos of my parents and grandparents. When I asked my mother for a wedding picture of her parents, she said that there weren’t any. My grandparents had gotten married during the Depression, and no one could afford the luxury of a camera. There was not a single picture to commemorate the backyard event. As I watch brides fuss and fret over the planning of their weddings, I think of my grandparents’ decades long marriage and happy life together. Even though there was not one photograph of the bride and groom, it all turned out more than fine in the end. Remember, the wedding is only one day in your life, but a happy marriage is forever. That’s really the goal here, isn’t it?
Article by Pamela Jeschonek
Photos by Ryan Zarichnak Photography and Hello Productions Wedding Planning