Planning a wedding can be a huge undertaking, but it’s meant to be a huge event. As we went through this process, we read a lot online and heard a lot through the grapevine and we pulled the best of what we could from it all. For anyone looking for some advice or suggestions, we thought we’d offer some ideas. I’ve spent the past month typing up our memories of our wedding season and these tidbits are things that we felt were important throughout. Everyone has their own style and list of priorities, so take from this what you will. Without further ado, here’s what we recommend to the couple, both for the planning stages and during your wedding.
Work Together. Marriage is a partnership, so the ceremony that starts it all should be one too. There are so many aspects to a wedding, it’s impossible, and unfair, to leave the work heavily leaning on one person’s shoulder. Both members of the engaged couple need to split the work and to be wholly invested it, even when it feels like drudgery. People laugh about how the bride coordinates the grand majority and the groom seemingly just shows up. It should never be this way. Building our wedding together strengthened our relationship and if you can’t come together to set up the event that starts your married life together, what going to happen when you’re trying to decide on buying a house or having or raising kids?
Have A Theme. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. But choose something that represents both of you and make use of it throughout your wedding season. For us, it was the concept of magic and code and that graphic we had drawn for us. Yes, it cost us around $200 to have it created, but we used it on envelopes, RSVP cards, menus, programs, table signs, and so on. It was a great investment and a beautiful keepsake.
Remember That It’s YOUR Wedding. It’s your day. Everyone will give you advice. Let them. See it as them wanting to be involved. An idea or two may be useful to you but in the end do what you want to do. If money is a factor, find a balance. Offer the benefactor a table of guests to arrange or some part of the day they want some control over that won’t impact your other plans.
Involve Others. There is a lot of work to do so ask for help. Do your best not to overwhelm people. Be gracious when asking. Show your gratitude with dinner or a small gift. People want to be part of your day, so let them.
Contact Your Vendors Again. Odds are, there are some vendors you haven’t contacted in a while. Reach out, check in, make sure you’re all on the same page still. If two months have passed and you’ve had no interaction, then reach out. We ran into a critical issue because when we reached out, we were given the wrong information. When the estimated bill came after that, it was for nearly another thousand dollars that “should” have been included. It took three weeks to resolve and we weren’t even able to resolve it. We had to replace the vendor. If we hadn’t been in touch all along, it would have been a huge shock and stressor at the worst possible time.
Watch Your Budget. It is very easy to go over budget. One way to help this is to see if there are things you can do yourself instead of outsourcing. For us, that was printing our envelopes ourselves all throughout. It cost some ink but the savings were noticeable. We printed many things ourselves and used better paper for all of them. From consultation fees, setup fees, printing fees, and shipping fees, we saved a lot with a trip to Staples for supplies. Take the time to cost things out before just jumping the gun, unless it’s a task that will add massive stress and no one can help you with it. Sometimes hiring help is the answer too.
Pick Something And Splurge For It. It sounds contrary to the last piece of advice, but choose something you want that’s above and beyond and let yourself have it for your wedding. For us, it was our cake, dragon and all. It became a star feature of our day.
Revisit Your Venue. If you haven’t been back to your venue several times, then you should set up appointments and start going. It’s going to be your very special place for an important day in your life. Spend some time there taking it in repeatedly. Talk about where you see things being set up. We averaged a trip per month to our venue. In that time, we made several changes to where we wanted things. We even flipped the direction of the seats for the ceremony because we decided we wanted everyone to have the castle in the background, not someone’s backyard. We didn’t even realize it until our 6th or 7th trip. Other times, we just walked around and let the joy fill us up.
Consider A Second Photographer Instead Of A Photo Booth. If you price them out, they’re similar in cost. In a photo booth you get low quality shots with lots of goofy props. With a second photographer, you get to record much more of your special day with high quality photos. You can still set up a backdrop with goofy shots if you want a photo booth kind of effect, but having an extra professional photographer around will get you more bang for your buck. If you haven’t considered it, ask about the costs. You might be surprised.
Remember That People Are People. Even those with the best intentions can mess up. It’s not always on purpose. It can be hard to separate your expectations from actions taken by others. Do what you can to communicate your needs to others before something occurs. And when something happens, evaluate it. Address it if needed. Don’t let it fester and ruin your day or the preparation for your day.
Taste Your Food. This is a before and after tidbit. You should make an effort to sample the cuisine of the venue before selecting items for your guests. Maybe the shrimp scampi is a favorite but the caterer adds seasoning you’re not expecting because that’s how they cook it. See if your caterer operates a restaurant or has showcases. Make it a special midway-to-wedding date night. Then during your wedding, make sure you eat it there too. You’ll be running for a long time that day and you need sustenance. It’s not rude to have something to eat during your own party.
Find Something For Your Most Important People To Do. Certain roles are traditionally assigned automatically and unless you’re changing them, then some people may feel left out. If you don’t want that, then find something for them to do. They could be ushers, flower bearers, ceremony readers. They could give a toast or speech or have a dance. Set boundaries if needed so toasts are kept short. Consider asking them to share the toast with someone you trust to ensure nothing untoward is in there.
Write Your Own Ceremony. This is not as possible for all weddings, but if you’re able to, then spend time customizing your ceremony and making something that represents you. Whoever officiates your ceremony should be completely clear about what he or she will say. There shouldn’t be any surprises from the person presiding over your wedding.
Make An Effort To See Your Guests. During the reception, you should enjoy yourself, surely. But part of that should be in spending time with all of your guests. You can’t spend a lot of individual time but do it in groups. There’s nothing more awkward for a guest who comes to celebrate your day, brings you a gift, and never even gets to look you in the eye and wish you well. Some guests will seek you out but others will see you’re busy and not want to crowd you.
Thank Your Guests Personally. When you open your gifts, keep a record of each one. When you write your thank you notes, make a reference to each gift. If you were given money, make a reference to what you plan to do with it. Thank you notes should never be done in bulk or as a form letter. It is insulting but you may never directly hear that part. Show respect and gratitude by writing personalized notes. If someone did not give you a gift but they attended the wedding, then simply thank them for celebrating with you on your day.
Watch Your Alcohol Consumption. Lots of people drink at their wedding. Make a conscious effort not to drink much. Be sober or no more than tipsy all night long. You will remember so much more of your special day. When you’ve spent a lot of money and time putting this all together, you should want to remember it.
Designate Helpers For Your Day. Typically, members of your wedding party should be responsible for in-the-moment decisions during your wedding. You shouldn’t be dealing with paying vendors yourself. You shouldn’t be deciding if it’s okay for Uncle So-And-So to make an impromptu speech. You shouldn’t be concerned about Cousin Whosiewhatsit getting home safely that night. Your wedding party should be informed ahead of time of your wishes and then be in charge of those issues. For instance, we did not allow our guests to make music requests with our DJ but our wedding party had the power to allow a song or two if they knew it and felt it fit the night. We also had a car on standby if needed and members of our wedding party knew when to make use of it.
Keep A Record Along The Way. Whether it’s a journal, a set of computer files, photos, or physical scraps of these, keep a record of the process you went through in setting up your wedding. It’s amazing when you look back at all you did to set up your day. Consider making a scrapbook or blogging or journaling about it. Let it be an additional keepsake for yourself that you can look back on and be proud of.
Enjoy Yourself. Remember on your day that emotions will be high so focus on the positive. Laugh, dance, eat, be merry. If someone is stressing you out, hand them off to a helper to deal with. It’s your day and it is supposed to be the happiest day you know. Don’t let the little things get in the way. We had an arrangement of flowers on our arbor but the wind knocked it over and destroyed the arrangement. No one was hurt but the flowers were ruined. Our wedding party pitched in and came up with an alternative on the spot. We could have let it ruin our day, seeing it as a sign of terrible things to come. But we chose to focus on the result instead. No one else knew of the flowers on the arbor. It didn’t change the essence of our day at all.
Take A Moment Or Two Together. This was advice we’d heard a few times. Somewhere during your reception, step back and take some time to look around and just take everything in together. Look at the revelry your love inspired and feel the joy and honor your guests have for you. Escape once or twice to have some alone time. Cherish that time together.