First dream a little bit, then prioritize your wedding categories by importance, and then come back down to earth and make a budget. Yes, I am suggesting something different than most of the bridal magazines recommend to begin the wedding planning process; start with making a list of what is most important to you and your fiance. Maybe this includes the venue, wedding planner, photography, catering or flowers – depending on what you value the most. Consider 3 or 4 items that are at the absolute top of your priority list in terms of “must-haves,” jot them down on a piece of paper, and then go on to list the other items in order of importance as well (keeping in mind that your Top Priority items will likely make up a greater portion of your budget because they mean more to you). Remember, it’s never to early to reach out to your vendors that you place a high value/priority on for the big day, they are more likely to be available the earlier you inquire!
You’ll want to decide what is most important to you before you create a budget, this will help you apportion value and investment amount accordingly. It will encourage you as you make choices throughout the process, the fact that you are investing more in what matters to you and less in what doesn’t. You don’t always have to follow those “Wedding Planning Checklist” articles that you might find on The Knot or in wedding magazines, instead do what YOU feel is right for you two as a couple (and do things your own unique way, rather than do what you feel you are expected to do).
You get what you pay for, so you can intentionally choose to invest more in what you care about and less in what’s trivial to you.
This is something that might not be at the front of your mind when it comes to planning, but hopefully it is after reading this! Whether its the area you are getting ready and stepping into your dress, your ceremony location, or your portrait location, think about how much window/outdoor light you will have.
Discuss problematic spots with your photographer or coordinator ahead of time, chances are they will have some wonderful suggestions and solutions, depending on what mood/feel you are trying to achieve. Natural sunlight (or even sunlight diffused by clouds on an overcast day) is the most flattering lighting situation, so always consider how it will appear, both in person as your guests experience it, and also as your photographer will document it on camera.
Planning a little extra ‘padding’ into a wedding day cannot be overstated, as most days just naturally run a bit behind due to so many unknowns! Consult with your planner (and maybe also photographer) when you are laying out a timeline, to ensure that you’ve left enough time for travel, setup, photos, dinner, dessert, basically everything. If you’re traveling between different venues for the ceremony and reception, leave extra time for potential traffic. Wrangling family for formal portraits might take longer than expected if you have large groups or wandering family members, account for that as well.
And then there is dinner. Delicious, but a real timeline killer in most cases. Even if it gets started on time, a dinner hour rarely lasts only 1 hour, especially for 100+ guests. I call this the “Dinner +30” rule, which means you can likely add 30 minutes to however long you and the caterer expect dinner & dessert to last and you’ll probably be right on. The bottom line is if you aren’t sure about timing, ask the vendors/creatives how much time they need!
If the thought of all those choices, color combinations, venue contracts, and varieties of flowers have your head spinning before you’ve barely popped the champagne, that’s a sign you’ll want to hire a planner! Sometimes planners work hand in hand with stylists, and sometimes you just need one or the other, but it’s always a great idea to hire someone to hone in on your vision and really bring everything together in a cohesive way. You’re a busy bride as it is, and your time and attention is stretched in so many different directions, so if you have the option it’s best to hire a professional.
This means first of all (and most importantly) on a personal level, and secondly, with their work! This is SO crucial to creating natural-looking and beautiful photos, and I’m not just suggesting it as a photographer, but also as a bride! Find the person who you just absolutely have to have if photography is important to you (if you’re reading this, it likely is very near the top). Then, trust them because their work and personality speak for themselves. If you let them take the reigns, you can really get a creative and unique result, personalized to you and your honey.
The best part? These images are forever. Each image signifies a moment, and even if you don’t quite realize the significance during the whirlwind of your day, believe me, you will appreciate it SO much in the future! These are your first family heirloom, some of the first moments of your married lives, and you’ll want to proudly pass them down to your children and grandchildren. If you’re comfortable with your photographer, it shows in your photographs – you can almost hear the laughter and sigh of happiness when you look at the photos above, am I right?! Also, give your photographer the time they need – Have lots of personal touches and details planned? Do you have a large family? Are portraits really high on your priority list? Discuss all these things with them ahead of time, and then you can rest assured that they will be able to come well-prepared for your day and have plenty of time to be creative.
Meaning that, if at all possible, avoid enlisting family members to do big/many tasks on the day of the wedding, in order to let them be in the moment as well. Of course have your mom or close female relative help you into your dress, or have a loved one escort you down the aisle. But aside from those types of tasks, let family know how much you love them by giving them the priceless gift of time that day – time to really embrace the wonderful feeling of gaining a whole new family, watch or be part of the fun anticipation before the ceremony, enjoy dinner and conversation, and dance the night away.
Accept that, relax, and enjoy it as much as you can. It will be a perfectly imperfect day. In other words, small things (or big things) will not go according to plan, but if you choose to focus instead on the fact that you get to marry the person you love most in the world, everything pales in comparison. If you can, plan a few minutes sometime after the ceremony (maybe during the reception) to just take a quick walk or sit down with your new spouse and soak it in!
Finally, do things the way you want to, not the way that you are expected to do them – in the end it will work out and you will both be happier because you stayed true to yourselves. This will allow you to infuse your personalities into the wedding day, making it personal for both you and your guests. What a better way to celebrate the beginning of your marriage?!
Cut out traditions or things you don’t want to have (like a time-gap between ceremony and cocktail hour, travel between the ceremony and reception, and the bouquet/garter toss as some examples) because after all, it’s YOUR day. Focus on what you two as a couple want most, a create a fun guest experience.