This week I want to share a few specific tips that made a big difference in our wedding planning. These are a pretty wide range of ideas, so each one may or may not be relevant to your specific situation/budget/overall direction, but hopefully a few would be helpful. Like I said, take what works for you, and set aside the rest. Everyone does things just a bit differently, and that is perfectly fine.
- Write down everything. Seriously. You will forget. I consider myself a very organized person, and I just got overwhelmed with the number of details, and my brain had little ability to remember almost anything unless I wrote it down. We used Trello.com to organize our wedding planning into categories (e.g., Decorations, Clothing, Stationary, etc) with specific tasks under each, and Google Docs for a few things as well. Those tools may or may not be helpful for you, but regardless, figure out a system (even if it’s paper and folders!) that works for you.
- Early in planning ask your parents and your fiancé’s parents what one or two things they would most love to see/have/incorporate/include in the wedding, and (within reason) do your very best to incorporate those things. It is a great way to honor your parents.
- Be proactive in including your mother-in-law. Many people told me it’s easy for the mother-of-the-groom to feel left out, so try to be intentional to ask her opinion and give her tasks to do (of course, this is dependent on your relationship with her, and her personality). I tried to do this, but I suppose you should ask her if I did it well!
- Do everything you can to get as much done in advance of the wedding week as you can. Because no matter what you do, things will come up that week, so you want to walk into it as prepared as possible. Being prepared will also allow you to spend more (enjoyable!) time with friends and family that week, and allow all involved to be less stressed.
- People consistently told me to make sure you choose a good photographer. Whatever "good" means for you, I would say that is accurate. It is the “one” thing you have with you after the wedding, so (regardless of your budget and how much you want to spend), make sure you get a good sense of the work the photographer has done and LOVE IT before you decide. My opinion is that if you have the flexibility in your budget to splurge on one thing, do it on a photographer. Well, really, I would splurge on food first, photographer second. Or maybe they're tied. Alas. When I got sticker shock, it helped me to remember that you’re really paying for the weeks and weeks they will (hopefully!) spend on editing the photos, not simply the 8-12 hours they will shoot on your wedding day.
- Flowers are one thing that can be crazy much more expensive to have a professional do than doing on your own (or getting a friend/family member to do), but turn out really lovely either way. It can also be super stressful and time consuming if you ask someone close to the wedding do it (e.g., your mother-in-law), because they need assembled right when everything is busiest. So, it might be worth it to pay a professional to do it. It just depends. We had a family friend do the centerpieces and a florist do the bridal party flowers, which we found to be a good balance, but irrespective, think about whether you know someone who could do your centerpieces/bouquets using wholesale flowers, and look into the varying costs of florists vs. wholesale, as it will vary depending on where you’re getting married.
- Jos. A. Bank has a Buy One, Get Three Free suit sale that comes up a few times a year. Get on their email list and jump on that sale. We had 3 groomsmen, and so we got 4 great suits for $700 total. Each guy paid less than they would to rent a tux for the night, and they got to keep the suit!
- We stayed away from wedding websites as much as possible. It was too overwhelming to browse The Knot or Pinterest or look at all the endless options, because it just made me think I wasn’t doing enough or wasn’t creative enough, etc. If I had a specific thing I wanted to get ideas for, I would Google or use Pinterest (e.g., “Ideas for centerpieces using books”), but otherwise, I found it much more helpful to stay away.
- Make a list of what you need/want on your registry before you start making it. There are websites where you can get sample lists and checkmark boxes and add quantities. It’s all too easy to browse target.com or walk around the Bed, Bath and Beyond store and in the moment feel like you “need” Fancy Kitchen Gadget X, so it’s better to think about it in advance. This was one of the more stressful aspects of wedding planning for us, because it took SO much time, way more than I expected. Give yourself a week or two of working on it in chunks, don’t try to do it all at once (believe me, I tried). For what it's worth, we also found Macy's to be the most helpful and easiest process, with the best "perks" for doing a registry there. Their customer service has invariably been stellar, and I highly recommend registering with them. BB&B, not so much.
- For our guest book we made a photobook on Shutterfly with our engagement photos and white backgrounds. That way we could have a nice album of our engagement photos, and guests could write more than their name. Definitely one of my favorite things we did.
- I bought a second dress for the reception. One of my best decisions. I wouldn’t allow myself to spend more than $100, but wanted to be able to dance freely and not be so hot (my wedding dress was very heavy) or “restricted” (my wedding dress was tight, with a structured bodice). If you spend a lot on your wedding dress and want to get every dollar’s worth out of wearing it and/or your dress isn’t heavy or doesn’t have a train (people will step on it, even if it’s bustled), you might not need/want to do this, just something to consider.
- We gave a friend a video camera and asked them to walk around during the cocktail hour and tell people they could have 30 seconds to give us advice or tell us something, and then record them. We had no expectations for the friend getting to every person or having it be professional, just a fun way to collect memories and thoughts. It was great.
- This is key- be intentional to stop a few times during your wedding day and literally just stop and take a panorama of what is going on. I thought for sure I would be able to slow the day down and not have it be a “blur” like everyone says it is. Nope, didn’t happen. But I do remember the times I literally just stopped and looked around and was intentional to take a “snapshot” of that moment.
So that's that. Like I've said before- Be flexible. Have grace. Be patient. At the end of the day, you WILL be married. And hey, even if rains while you take your bridal party photos, you can still have a blast, and maybe some of those outdoor-in-the-rain photos will be the most special and the ones you have printed and framed on your walls.
Were there specific things that were helpful in streamlining your wedding planning? Do you have any "tricks" or pointers to navigate all the different steps? Feel free to share in the comments.