Mid-Week Listicle: 25 Things I Learned While Wedding Planning
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Hello and welcome back to the blog my beautiful friend!
This week my husband and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary; we went out to dinner, reminisced about the day, spoke about our future, and dove into some wedding photos.
The nostalgia is hitting hard, so you will have to forgive me in advance, but we are going to turn our focus to all things WEDDINGS this week on the blog, beginning with today's listicle treat: 25 things I learned while wedding planning.
Of course, this is an extremely long list, so feel free to browse: I actually only started with "7 Things I Learned While Wedding Planning," but I could NOT stop writing, so here we are with almost 4 times that amount LOL. Honestly though, a wedding is an enormous undertaking that deserves an enormous blog post.
So for today, let's discuss all the thoughts about wedding planning: what went well, what I loved, and what I wish I knew BEFORE beginning my wedding planning journey.
1. You Don't Need to Do All the Things
Now, your big day is absolutely special: you deserve to have fun, memories, and the perfect day. HOWEVER, please do not forget that the wedding industry likes to tap onto your sentimental wallet and drain you for all your worth.
It can feel like you will not be able to survive without that t-shirt or coffee mug that says "wifey," or that you absolutely MUST have a doughnut bar instead of sheet cake. It can feel like you will not be able to get through the day UNLESS all your maids are wearing six inch heels, or that you won't be a "real" wifey unless you shell out seven thousand dollars on a honeymoon to Bora Bora.
Now, I only have two short things to say: 1. you don't have to do ALL the things, and 2. your happiness as a new wife does not hinge on how many bridal activities you take part in.
2. Establish where the money is coming from
This is big: establish your budget early on, and establish where the money is coming from. Are your parents paying? How much is your fiance contributing? Will his parents take over the traditional roles of paying for the rehearsal dinner and the wedding alcohol? Do you have enough money for a large wedding or do you need to invite less guests? If you don't nail down these answers, your wedding is going to be a disaster.
Money does not appear out of nowhere; we must plan for what we would like to purchase and respect those who are paying for those items. Stay respectful and refuse to become a whiny wifey. Remember: your relationships with the people funding your wedding are more important than having the perfect wedding.
3. Don't pressure yourself about the "dress"
Honestly, as an avid "Say Yes to the Dress" watcher, I believed that I would feel some sort of emotional connection to my "ultimate-dream-dress." And you know what? I DIDN'T! I didn't cry, I didn't feel euphoric, I didn't really feel anything but pleasantly happy and confident when I found a dress that worked for me.
Remember that you don't need to feel crazy-attached to your dress: all you need is to feel confident, happy, and positive towards the dress. Don't psyche yourself out, and always say yes to the celebratory champagne.
4. Be realistic
Weddings are stressful, yes, but they also need to be a celebration of our love, relationship, and future. Keep in mind WHY you're having your wedding and what the end goal is. We shouldn't be so focused on the Big Day that we forget about the man we're marrying.
Remember that you are undergoing this stress for the incredible honor of becoming a wife to the man you love. Not everyone will get to be married in their lifetime, let alone throw a wonderfully large and exciting party to celebrate it. Having a wedding is an enormous blessing and one that we should not take for granted.
5. Register WISELY
Some couples choose not to register and I really think that's a mistake. Oftentimes people will give you more value in gifts than they would in straight cash. Of course we're not here to milk our guests for all their worth, but the great thing about registries is that people can feel good about choosing a special gift for you, instead of just sticking a check in a card.
Don't worry though, you will still receive your fair-share of checks and cash. Appreciate the gifts and enjoy registering! Set up an appointment with the store and have a consultant guide you through the registry process. We use absolutely everything from our registry and don't regret a single item.
6. Give guests enough notice
Send out save-the-dates and send out invitations with enough time in advance. Don't forget that people need to make travel arrangements, take off work, and arrange the funds necessary for travel, gifts, and other expenses. Don't assume that people have automatically blocked off your date: wait for RSVP's and call people if necessary.
Don't wait until the last minute to spread the word about your day, and be respectful of holidays, special events, or other obligations that your guests might be wanting to attend. For example, don't schedule a wedding on the Fourth of July or on the date that your cousin's OTHER cousin is having her wedding. Be respectful and try to think ahead towards what obligations people will need to attend to.
7. Have a receiving line
I have heard from SO many couples that they left after their ceremony for photos and didn't have a receiving line, only to spend more than half the reception greeting their friends and families. Don't fool yourself; you're going to want to say hi to everyone and thank them for coming.
Have a receiving line immediately after the ceremony and THEN take photos. A line takes about 20 minutes to get through for 175 people. Don't skip this part otherwise you're going to miss out on valuable time at your reception, making rounds to all the tables.
8. Cut small costs to save BIG money
I made my own veil: we didn't have a cocktail hour, and we didn't order a limo. All you REALLY need for a traditional wedding is a pastor, a location, guests, and food on everyone's plates. Everything else is negotiable. Reconsider your invitations, your alcohol choices, or even the cost of the seamstress you're using. Every dollar will add up, but the good thing is that every dollar CUT will also add up.
9. Arrange your own wholesale flowers
We purchased $300 worth of floral and greenery through Sam's Club the night before the wedding and left the flowers chilling in large garden buckets on a bellhop inside a frigidly air-conditioned hotel room. The next morning, my husband's female cousins gathered together for a brunch and floral arranging party at the hotel. My bouquet was STUNNING and they turned out incredibly. Task someone responsible with this, but honestly, if you're not having floral centerpieces, I think this is the way to go.
10. Know who will be cleaning it up
Weddings do not just spring up and tear down out of nowhere. You need to make sure you have an action-plan for how everything is getting cleaned up! It grinds my gears when people don't plan the take-down of an event as flawlessly as the execution of the set-up. Just because you're not there for it doesn't mean you get to let everything go to chaos!
Even if the event-location does the tear down, you will often still need a point-person to bring home odds and ends that you don't want thrown out. Figure out who is picking up all the gifts, and don't forget to make sure you have a plan for the guestbook, your dress, and how everything is getting stored and shuffled during your honeymoon.
11. Invite your fiance's opinion
My husband had a surprising amount of opinions about our wedding day... a shocking amount actually. I was here for it though! He had thoughts on the colors for the wedding, the event space, the meal, the songs at our ceremony, and so much more. I think it makes planning easier to have someone helping with all the decisions. Invite your fiance to share his thoughts; you might be shocked or pleasantly surprised at what he has to offer.
12. Do premarital counseling
I cannot stress this enough. Premarital counseling is essential for smoothing out the rough edges of your relationship before the big day. You can discuss finances, children, sex, and any other hot topics you desire. Your pastor can lead you or even act as a mediator between you and your fiance as you talk about your expectations.
13. Plan it to the minute
Now, I am NOT a type "A" personality, but I had our wedding planned down to the second. We finished our ceremony at approximately 3:55pm, followed by a receiving line from 4:00pm - 4:20pm. From there, we had one hour for transportation and photos, until we HAD to be at the reception at 5:30pm for an entrance and the start of dinner. Having everything planned out and squared away logistically helped everyone feel more comfortable.
I emailed an itinerary to all my bridesmaids, my relatives, and anyone else involved in the preparation for the day. I had all the vendors listed, and even included outstanding checks and payments we had not delivered yet. Keep this in a secure location, preferably with your wedding coordinator, your maid of honor, or a trusted aunt.
14. Don't do a first look
Alright, I'm being controversial. I said it: don't do a first look. I have heard it all when it comes to first looks, and nothing has convinced me. I don't care about photo logistics, timing, or the "privacy" of the couple. I'm sorry, but if you wanted a private wedding, you should have just eloped because if you invite two hundred people to take off work, travel to the suburbs, sit in an un-air-conditioned barn, AND gift you a seventy dollar toaster oven, they deserve to be part of your big day.
The purpose of a wedding is to celebrate and display your love and relationship before God and many witnesses. You will have time for your groom to gawk over your beauty when you two are alone; save the first look for the aisle.
Many men have said that there is nothing like seeing their bride walk down the aisle towards them, ready to pledge life together. That is so different than seeing a woman in a beautiful dress in a beautiful backdrop with a photographer present. The aisle symbolizes commitment, love, and forever; the first look symbolizes "look at me, I look different in white with a good set of snatched lashes." The first look is about the bride while the aisle is about the couple.
It is the symbolism and the magnitude of the aisle that gets the groom's emotions going: not the beauty of the bride, although that is certainly something to behold.
15. Don't go crazy the night before
Yes, you need more sleep, and YES, I am a voice speaking from your future: you will regret not resting the night before your wedding. Don't go nuts at the rehearsal dinner, and don't accept that extra glass of wine. The night before might be a time when you need to do some last minute decorations, but it is most of all for relaxing and winding down. You will probably wake up at the crack of dawn on your wedding day from all the jitters and excitement, so make sure you go to bed early enough!
16. Get your hair professionally done
Unless you are some sort of bohemian free-spirit girl, I recommend getting your hair professionally done. Bad hair ruins a look, and that adage rings even TRUER on a girl's wedding day. Make sure you do a trial run with your hairdresser, and don't forget to get some good volume in your hair! So many brides allow their hair to get pulled small, flat, and tight into an updo just because it looks fancy.
Remember that fancy doesn't automatically equal GOOD. Something can be fancy but still look wrong on your face or your frame. Choose a style you will feel confident in, and that looks best on your face. I will admit however, that I have heard updos are good for weddings because they last all day.
17. Find an up-and-coming photographer
I'll say it: photography costs are getting out of control. It is a competitive, expensive, and sometimes ridiculous industry that I am SO grateful to not be a part of. Now, we don't want to sacrifice quality, but an amazing way to strike a balance between quality and finances is to get an up-and-coming photographer.
Someone who is absolutely talented but absolutely not the most experienced or expensive. I chose someone I had classes with who does photography on the side. Make sure the contract is legitimate and that you sign and fill out some forms about your expectations, but don't worry about having the BEST photographer around. There is a middle-ground, and that is the up-and-coming photographer.
18. Get an adjustable dress
This is probably my biggest regret: I didn't get a dress with a corset. I wish I had gotten a corseted dress that also fanned out in the hips because I gained a little weight before my wedding and it made it difficult to fit into the fit-and-flare I had originally chosen. God help us women with big thighs who ALSO enjoy a good mermaid-fit.
Choose a dress that has room for fluctuation if you're one of those people who gains weight when stressed (@me.) Give yourself some room, and never underestimate the power of a corset when trying to achieve a particularly snatched waist. If it's good enough for Kim and Kylie, it's good enough for me.
19. Don't underestimate the cheap seamstress at the mall
I had my dress altered by a Vietnamese lady at the local mall. It was fifty dollars for a hem, and honestly, it was an incredible job. Most seamstresses will do a good job, so make sure you go to one with decent reviews. Feel out the place after your first fitting, but in the end, remember that most of them are going to do a good job.
20. Don't take a million minutes for photography
Okay this tip isn't from my wedding, but it is from a wedding my husband and I attended. We were at one location for the ceremony and the reception, but the bridal party took TWO hours for photos in between. The ceremony wasn't even that long! It was so miserable and made me angry I was even at that wedding.
There weren't enough appetizers available, and there was no air-conditioning. Honestly I feel like I died and came back to life during that "cocktail" hour. It was the most insufferable time of my life, but don't worry: the two hour photo session yielded some good results. Her pictures turned out gorgeous (all thanks to the men and women who sacrificed their comfort for two hours in a sweaty barn with no food or drinks. RIP)
21. THINK OF THE GUESTS' COMFORT
This tip is absolutely riding on the coattails of tip 20, but we really need less focus on the bride and more focus on the guests in my opinion. You might be worried about bridezilla, but I'm only worried about guestzilla! Because it's honestly not hard to keep people happy: give them a good place to sit, give them a good temperature, and give them food and drinks. (Bonus points for a nice bathroom, and minus 100 points for providing a porta-potty at an event that requires a cocktail dress.)
Keep your guests comfortable and put yourself in their shoes: would you like to be fanning yourself with a program at 2 in the afternoon in an old schoolhouse without air-conditioning? Many of these modern "venues" look cute, but I promise you that every barn, every tent, and every old chapel wedding in the middle of July WITHOUT air-conditioning in has truly taken some lives. RIP.
22. Don't plan too much on the day "of"
Yes, keep an itinerary, no, don't pack too much into it. Get married, enjoy the day, and HAVE FUN! Let's get this show on the road! One hour for a ceremony, one hour for a cocktail hour, and then four hours MAX for a reception.
23. Go to a nice hotel afterwards
This is the secret to luxury: a nice hotel bath and room service after your wedding. My husband took us to the Amway Grand Hotel in Michigan, which is one of the SWANKIEST places in existence. We took our time the next morning, enjoyed some room service, and most of all, enjoyed being married without rushing off to a red-eye flight or some nonsense.
24. Don't drink too much
This tip speaks for itself, but girl; you want to REMEMBER your wedding day! And you don't want to glance back in the corner of your memory to see yourself stumbling around a dance floor with a nipple falling out of your white sweetheart neckline gown. No, no, no.
I swear though, everyone is trying to help the bride enjoy her day, and part of that deal is that someone is ALWAYS trying to put a drink in your hand. Politely decline when you can, and remember to watch your limit. It's easy to get swept up in the fun, but if you end up a sloppy mess, you'll regret it forever.
25. Do the traditional things
Do the bouquet toss. Do the first dance. Do the cake cutting, and YES, do a registry. Have two formal showers and have a bachelorette party with a FREAKING SASH that says "bride-to-be" on it. Do the wedding things. It's fun!
It's so fun to do all the "wedding" things on the big day, so don't say no to those opportunities! I wore my veil all day and it was such a good choice. The only tradition I would baulk at would be the garter toss. That's just weird.
Alright thank you for cruising through this list with me! I could type forever about weddings, but I will stop for now.
Sending you all my love my sister, and most of all, remember that a wedding should be about you and your fiance.