There were parts of wedding planning that my husband and I absolutely loved. And there were parts that made both of us want to hop the next plane to Vegas. With a few months of perspective, I’ve realized that we learned some lessons that are worth sharing.
There’s lots of good advice out there. This is not a comprehensive list. Just what sticks out to me as critical. This is the first of two posts. The second will be day-of advice. With that…
Top 10 wedding planning tips from a newlywed
with 122 days of perspective:
1. Repeat after me: “our” and “we” — not “my” and “me”
The wedding industry would have you believe that weddings are about brides. We met with countless vendors over the course of our planning process and nearly every one turned to me at some point and cooed the phrase “it’s your day,” which was clearly intended for me and not both of us. Ugh. Drove Daniel crazy. It’s easy to slip into talking about “my wedding” and slipping into the behavior that goes with that: taking too much on yourself, not communicating with your partner, etc.
2. Decide what matters most
Everything can’t be equally important. You’ll have to make tough calls that will be dictated by your budget, timeline, or competing priorities. We prioritized having an open bar and a live band because we knew we wanted to throw a really fun party and those are the ingredients that mattered to us. Decide what matters and assign your budget accordingly.
3. Hire professionals
Hiring a “limited services” coordinator was the best decision we made. It meant that we had a sounding board, someone to keep us on track, and someone to run the show on the day of so we, and our friends and family, didn’t have to sweat the details and could enjoy the party we had planned. We trimmed the budget in other areas to make room for this investment in our happiness and sanity.
4. Value your time
We also did not hire a full service florist — we decided to do the centerpieces ourselves — and wish we had. We may have saved a little cash, but what we ended up spending in worry and frustration wasn’t worth it. You’ll have moments of absolute shock and anger when you get some quotes ($200 per centerpiece?!?! I MEAN, REALLY!!) but if you account for the cost of goods, the cost of services usually comes out to be pretty negligible in the scheme of things. The three trips I took to Ikea looking for just the right vase and plate combo to work with the wreaths are evidence enough of this one. This isn’t always true, but worth considering carefully before you decide to do something on your own.
5. Keep your bridal party small
Let your friends enjoy the party in a pretty dress/dude duds of their choosing. You’ll save on tons of random expenses. And your good friends will then be free to help with wedding projects if/because they want to, not because they feel like they have to.
6. Forget “perfect” and shoot for “memorable, unique, fun, and personal”
Again with the damn wedding industry making us obsess over everything being “perfect.” There’s no such thing. There will be glitches. There will be things you’ll wish you had done differently. There will be people who will judge and think of all of the things they would have done differently. Accept this. All you’ll remember 122 days after the fact is the awesome little details and amazing things you loved. Try to focus on those during the planning.
7. DO sweat the one thing that very well might get you down 122 days later…
The photos. Our photos are gorgeous. We love them. Our photographer was lovely. We loved working with her. Two things that have caused us stress after the fact: we screwed up the contract and didn’t have it CRYSTAL clear that we own the photos and can do with them whatever we want. We can get them printed anywhere we want. We can give them to anyone, for any reason. Trying to get that now is challenging. Thing two: there are a ton of friends and family who were at our wedding but aren’t in a single picture. We really needed to reemphasize that we wanted them to be EVENT photographers…not portrait artists. We have about 1,500 photos of the two of us (we could make a flip book…seriously) and one of our best man’s wife. Make a point of having them do table photos at dinner so at least everyone is captured. Or do a photo booth. That’s $600 we cut that I wish we had kept. Siiiigh.
8. Focus on the ceremony
The party takes the bulk of the planning. The ceremony is what really matters. We wrote ours in partnership with my husband’s brother, who officiated. It was one thing we got absolutely right.
9. We know you’re excited. Hold off on telling people they’re invited
How to say this without sounding callus…you’re about to spend a lot of money on a party for your friends and family. As the planning process proceeds, having the ability to take your 120 guest list down to a 110 person guest list can also mean the difference between going on a honeymoon or not. Once you’ve let someone know they’re invited, you can’t take it back. Give yourself as much time as you think is prudent to firm up your plans before finalizing your guest list. Try to keep your mouth shut about your planning process until you know for sure who’s coming or not. [Darling friends who are reading this and came to our wedding: we loved having every single one of you there. This was good advice I got early on and I’m just passing it along…]
10. Plan a honeymoon
I don’t care if you drive to a motel 20 miles from your hometown for a long weekend spent ordering pizzas and drinking from the lobby vending machines. Do it. You’ll be dying for some quiet time together once the whirlwind stops. It doesn’t have to be a big expensive trip. It does have to be just the two of you lounging around and enjoying each other’s company completely worry-free for at least a few days. Doooo it.
Now back to enjoying my newlywedded-no-longer-planning-a-wedding-but-sort-of-missing-some-of-the-excitement-of-it-ness.