Weddings are meant to be one of the best days of our lives. It’s a celebration of a start of a new life together with the people you love most. At least that’s what we’d all hope it to be. But so often the stress of weddings can take all the joy and celebration out of your day. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time with my best friend as she plans her wedding for this August and as excited as she is to be married, planning it is also one of the biggest stressors in her life right now. It’s not like anyone should find it really easy or always completely stress-free, but it definitely shouldn’t be the thing that keeps you up at night. Wedding planning should just make you more happy and excited to be married to the love of your life. I’m hoping this bride’s guide to wedding planning will help you feel that way again.
Before we get down to business, there’s a mindset I want you to adopt for the entire duration of your engagement: there is no perfect wedding. And at the same time, all weddings are perfect. Let’s start with the first statement: “there is no perfect wedding”. As hard as it is, try to keep from envisioning exactly how you want your wedding to be. Doing this will create unrealistic expectations of what your day will be like. The sad truth is that no matter how close it is in reality to that perfect idea in your head, if you go into the wedding with a notion of how it should be you’ll probably end the day disappointed. Approach your wedding with an open mind. Yes, you should have a general (probably more than general) idea of what your day will be like, but there are details and things you have no control over. Do yourself a favor right now and let go of those things. Now for the second statement: “all weddings are perfect”. I have seen a lot of weddings in my years of being a photographer. All of them were extremely different. Some had huge budgets, some had almost no budget. Some had pink and blue for their wedding colors, some had red and black. No two weddings are the same, and that doesn’t make one or the other “better”. As you get excited about wedding details and start looking around for ideas about the different things you could do, you’ll start to notice that two wedding styles could be completely different and you could be equally drawn to both of them. You might start to get stressed thinking that it’s up to you which one you choose and you could make a huge mistake by picking “the wrong one”, but the thing is “the wrong one” doesn’t exist. All weddings are beautiful. Make your choice and stick to it and you won’t regret it. Okay, now buckle in, it’s go time.
You just got engaged, or maybe you’re just waiting on a ring and need to get going. The first thing I want you to do is dedicate a notebook to your wedding planning. This is now your official wedding notebook. If you’re calling a vendor, write down all the information they give you in it. Collect a few color swatches from a paint store for the colors you choose and tape them in, keep good track of dates, times, appointments, ideas, anything that’s related to the wedding should go into the notebook. This will help keep you organized and sane. Don’t try to just remember everything! The more of it you can get out of your head and onto paper the better you’ll feel. Now that you’ve got somewhere to keep all the details, set your date. Before you set it you’ll want to check on the availability of your family and your venue. Again, this is especially important if you’re getting married during “wedding season”, which is May through early September.
Start establishing what’s most important to you and make a list from most important to least important. Is a nice venue a priority over flowers for you? Or pictures over video? You can even make a list of things you don’t plan to invest in, such as hiring a hair and makeup artist. Another list can be made for details and things you’d like to delegate. For example, your maid of honor and best man can be put in charge of clothing for the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Anything that you don’t need to do should be delegated. Enveloping invitations? Delegate it. Picking up photo prints? Delegate it. Especially the week of your wedding, delegation needs to be your best friend to keep you from getting stressed.
Next step in wedding planning is to start getting price quotes from vendors. Get price quotes for anything and everything you can think of. Flowers, food, photographers, videographers, venues, invitations, decorations, travel, the wedding dress, his suit, hair and makeup, everything. Be sure to get quotes from several of each type of vendor, and preferably all from vendors you would actually hire. It’s gonna be shocking and overwhelming, but don’t panic, we’re not done yet. Base your budget for your wedding on the price quotes you got, give yourself a range by calculating the total if you went with all the cheapest options and the total if you went with all the most expensive options. Considering what you know you can afford to give, as well as any help that parents are offering, is that budget range realistic for you? If not, start at the bottom of the priority list you made and start looking at ways you could save on that item. You may need to consider other vendor options that you hadn’t originally. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get what you want, it may mean that you need to compromise or that you need to dig deeper. It’s also extremely important to be realistic with your budget. Be realistic when considering what you can afford and be realistic about what things cost. If you’re only willing to have real flowers at your wedding and you want them on all the tables as well, you can’t allocate $100 to flowers. No matter how much you don’t like it, there’s a price to everything, and most businesses are not charging outrageous amounts for their services.
If your budget is more comfortable, look at vendors and hire them based on what you like. In preparation for writing this blog I asked my Instagram followers what advice they would give to those trying to plan a wedding. One of the most common answers I got was to make this your wedding. Stick to what you want if it’s important to you. Don’t focus on trying to please others. At the end of the day, it’s a single day, if they don’t like every little detail you chose for it, they’ll get over it.
Chances are, you have an idea of what you like, the style you’d like your wedding to have, favorite colors, etc. But if you’re not sure, I suggest going on Pinterest and looking at wedding pictures. Save anything that stands out to you, whether it be for the color, the dress, the style of the photo, etc. Figure out what you’re leaning towards, and start making a physical “Pinterest Board” in your wedding planning notebook. You can make several to consider if you want, but organize them based on what you would do for that style wedding. All of these “Pinterest boards” are the weddings you could have, and one of them is the wedding you will have. Once you’ve picked a style, pick your vendors based on their past portfolios and their ability to provide the style and look you’ve chosen. It can be tempting to go with the friend or family member who’s offered to do something for free or significantly discounted (this is especially common with photography), but I would highly advise against going with that option. If the family member is a professional whose style you love and ability you trust, then sure! Go for it! You can also consider allowing the family member to take part and get the experience while still hiring a professional you trust to give you exactly what you want. But it’s important to remember that this day has no do-over. The photographs of that day are the only thing you’ll invest in for your wedding that will stand the test of time. Your grandchildren will look at those photos. It’s not an area of your wedding you want to have regrets over.
Now let’s move into specifics.
Venue: The venue you book can be based on your budget, your priorities, your location, the style of your wedding, or any number of other things. The kind of venue you book will have advantages and disadvantages. If your budget allows, I suggest booking with a venue that can do everything for you. Having your venue take care of food, decorations, and cleanup allows for you and your family members to enjoy your wedding day to the fullest. Instead of spending the day of your wedding setting up and decorating, you can spend it together and enjoying each other’s company. And when the happy new couple has left for the honeymoon, your family will thank you when they don’t have to stay up until midnight cleaning up after the guests. It’s a serious stress-saver and if you can afford it, it’s well worth it. If that kind of venue isn’t a possibility for you, there are plenty of other options. You’d be surprised at what some Christmas lights, lanterns, and flowers can do to a seemingly plain place. Your venue is one thing you’ll definitely want to have booked well in advance. Most places are happy to let people come on tours and see the location in person, as well as providing pictures from real weddings that have been hosted there. When considering booking a venue be sure to ask all these questions: “Is there a difference in price based on season and day of the week?”, “Are there different packages available based on services provided?”, “Are decorations provided, and can we see them?”, “What kind of technology is available for music and video?” There may be other specific questions based on your plans for the day, but start with these basics to establish the basic details about the venue.
Once everything is planned and booked, start doing anything that can be done well ahead of time. Get your wedding dress as soon as you can so there’s plenty of time available to order it if necessary and to make any alterations that need to be done. Depending on the state you’re getting married in, check on how soon you can get your marriage license and get it as soon as possible. Be on top of getting your wedding registry done. In some states you have to wait until the week of your wedding and in some you can get a month in advance. The goal is to have as much off your plate during the week of the wedding as possible. Avoiding stress will help you enjoy the week more and will keep you calm as the day approaches. When it’s finally here, on the day of your wedding try to delegate as much as you can so that you can take your time and enjoy the whole day. Remember that now that it’s here, you’ve done everything you can. Whatever is going to happen will happen, so instead of stressing just take each moment as it comes and love it!
No one can guarantee that planning your wedding will be completely stress-free or that you’ll absolutely love it. But wedding planning doesn’t have to be the most stressful thing you’ve ever done. Keeping organized, sticking to your guns, and being confident in yourself and the decisions you make will make your wedding planning experience ten times easier. I hope this post has been helpful, and if it was or you have another helpful tip to share leave it in the comments section! Best of luck in all your wedding planning adventures my cuties!