15 Bullshit-Free Wedding Planning Tips
Let me start this off with an obnoxious, overdue ********uuuuuuuuuhhghhhhhhhh***** to how frustrating wedding planning can be. When I started planning my big day, my job title, though represented in fancier words, boiled down to Project Manager. I could talk budgets and timelines all day. I came into the wedding game feeling like Beyoncé, and I was going to strut down the aisle like she did on the Coachella stage (sorry, just watched Homecoming and I’m still recovering). TLDR; I was gonna SLAY. THIS. WEDDING.
I was humbled pretty quickly when I started getting 52 emails a day from a combination of venues and vendors. I didn’t know which questions to ask and I felt like I wasn’t getting the full story with anyone right off the bat. Thankfully, I work in this biz, and I had some heros come to my rescue, albeit, later in the game than I should have called for help. Of course, everything turned out perfectly in the end, but damn–if I had these tips with me from the start, I would have felt a lot less unstable (psychotic) going into full planning mode. To get these 15 nuggets of gold, I had some help from wedding vendors, event planners, and former brides (including me!). Pleeeeeeease feel free to throw down some of your own tips in the comments below or slide into my DM’s on Instagram if you have any questions/thoughts/wanna rant to me about your second cousin’s girlfriend who asked if she could wear white to your wedding.
BOOM. Hit ya hard with this first one. To a lot of you, this might sound ludicrous, and you can probably already hear your parents yelling at you as if you were 16 again. But that’s the thing, you’re not 16. You’re old enough to get married, and there is NO reason anyone but you and your partner needs to be looking at that guest list, unless you want someone else’s input. From my perspective, sharing it is like opening a can of snakes.
So why the HELL would your family or close friends go for this idea?
Easy. You take the responsibility and guilt off of them. Normally, guests will go straight to your parents or siblings to ask about wedding-related stuff. You are giving them the gift of being able to say, “uhh I don’t know if you’re invited, ex-neighbor from 1998, I haven’t seen the list. You should ask the bride and groom.” This way, YOU can own the tough conversations and minimize any death-triangles of miscommunications.
As far as “well my parents are paying for my wedding so…”. Yes, I get you. Our parents helped out a TON too. From the start, we told them that if we were going to accept this gracious gift, we weren’t going to accept any strings attached. No guilting. If they had someone super important to them who was not on our list, we talked it out and developed a plan together of how we would make that request happen, if it made sense. In the end, everyone was happy, and we didn’t end up with 4 million people that we didn’t know at our wedding.
“Don't feel pressured or guilted into inviting or including people in your day. Take the total cost of your wedding and divide it per person. Choose people your willing to spend that type if money on.”
– Samantha Sammetinger Arizmendi, Sam Samm Custom Cakes
Think of your guest list as a sports team. You’ve got your starting lineup, second string, and…the other guys. Send save-the-dates to the people who 1. you have to have there (first string) and 2. people who would be flying out/traveling far. Second stringers + everyone else would get your wedding invitation, about two to three months before you have to give a final headcount. Stationary is expensive, and sorry to say it, only a small percent will actually keep that cute photo of you and your fiancé up on their fridge.
“When making your guest list or narrowing it down, ask yourself, ‘would I treat this person to lunch?’ If not, they probably don't need to be invited to your wedding.”
– Nicole Marie Hughes, Nicole Marie Events
It can get overwhelming hearing everyone’s opinions, and sooner or later, you’ll snap. As much as you can, try to lead with empathy. People just want to be heard, whether you agree with them or not. If people are sending you requests that make you want to call the whole thing off, sleep on it. Literally. You don’t owe anyone an immediate answer. Stall with “Appreciate that thought. Let me think on it and get back to you,” or, “I’m not sure how I feel about that, can I sit with it for a day?”
“Stay true to yourself and what you really want and value. Tune out the noise.”
– Jennifer Bean-Conn, Rustic Events
If you’re expecting help from parents or others, have those conversations early. You don’t want to waste any of your time shopping for things you can’t afford, or swinging too low when the sky is the limit (lol if the sky is the limit for you get off this blog and consider a donation via Venmo to me pls thank you).
If you’re on a budget, like most couples out there, the knot has a great wedding budget tool. I, however, being the nerd that I am, used a really ugly Google spreadsheet.
“Know your budget. This is the most important part of planning. As you set your budget break it into 2 categories: the things you need & the things you would like to have. When you break down the categories start your research on vendors you need.”
–Ashley Vancil-Savage, All Things Imagined Events
Finding a venue is the hardest part, and their packages can be rather confusing. After receiving about 20 proposals, I restructured my outreach strategy. I emailed them with everything I needed, included my all-out budget for the wedding, and asked if they had a solution that would fit my needs. I got fewer proposals back, but saved a lot of time.
“Be mindful of selecting venues that fit into their budgets. Often times couples are excited about blank spaces with lower numbers on paper and don't factor in labor and third party delivery fees from multiple vendors. More vendors doesn't mean a cheaper price when you compare.”
– Loriann Serna, Wife of The Party
“Our venue comes with a day-of coordinator who will help you with everything,” said every. venue. ever. Unfortunately, a venue’s coordinator isn’t really yours. Your future self will thank you for hiring your own day-of coordinator.
“Hire a planner or at the very least, a coordinator!!! Venue coordinators are NOT your coordinator, they only worry about the venue. Follow vendor recommendations. It’s best to have a team that works well together than a team that has never before met.”
– Mia Kartsonis, Pastiche Events LA
You want to look your best the day of your wedding–duh. But, let me tell you about the horrible spiral scenario that I was in. I was trying to get rid of some stress acne and a couple inches around my waist with a super-intense diet, and I ended up developing really horrible stomach sensitivity. Whenever I tried to eat something normal within the couple of days leading up to the wedding, the food caused me to have the worst, sharp pain–right up until it was time to walk down the aisle. The pressure from it all got to me in a big way, and though I was back to my high school weight at the time of my wedding, it wasn’t me. I gained all the weight I had lost (and all my acne) back on the honeymoon…and though I don’t look as cute unfiltered, I am sooo happy to feel like myself again.
Tip: Instead of “shredding for the wedding” (bleh that makes me want to puke every time I hear it), try a more balanced approach. Eat mostly healthy, most of the time, and move your body in ways that make you feel strong. Let yourself live.
I don’t know who decided that every friend you’ve ever had since kindergarten needs to be in your wedding but I’m gonna veto that right now. Here’s why:
Depending on your relationships with these people, you may have to help out with beauty costs, dress costs, ties, florals , gifts and matching robes/pjs, bachelor(ette) parties, meals throughout the day, alcohol throughout the day, etc. Don’t do this to yourself.
“Scale back! You don’t need seven bridesmaids. Your friends will understand :).”
– Stephanie Koncewicz, Former Bride
If you want something done right, hire a professional. End of story. You might save a buck or two by enlisting a friend or family member (a.k.a. “Frendor“) to do a job, but if you’re not happy with the results, it’s a lot harder to resolve the situation.
“Weddings aren't the time to go "cheap.” Do what you can afford BUT never use a ‘Frendor’. It might seem like a great idea, but if they don't do this on a regular basis, have the proper training, certification or God forbid, the right insurance, the money you ‘save’, could ruin the whole night.”
– Carlos Banuelos, Social Chemistry Events
I didn’t realize until the rehearsal that I wasn’t going to actually see any of my family or bridesmaids walk down the aisle because I was the last in line. I was so thankful that I hired a videographer to capture the perspective of our guests and all the other special moments that I had no idea were transpiring while I was off doing bride things.
“Hiring a videographer was the best decision we made!”
– Alexandra Worthy, Former Bride (who originally wasn’t going to hire one, but changed her mind as the day got closer)
I have seen some great wedding ceremonies, and I have sat through some really cringey ones. We didn’t want any surprises, any misinformation, and we certainly didn’t want anything basic. That’s why my husband and I met up with our officiant to talk about what we wanted to emphasize, proofed, and even rewrote some of our ceremony script (control freak, much?).
“Talk to your officiant at some point before you walk down the aisle.”
– Jessica Lombardi, CRASH
I started buying a bunch of stuff thinking I’d dedicate a weekend purely to crafting my own decor. But… I had never styled a wedding, things we’re getting super pricey, and that magical open weekend without plans never came. I ended up hiring a stylist who rented out decor to me and for what she couldn’t rent, she found for me at a great price. I was SO much happier knowing that I wasn’t going to have to do all that prep work, I no longer had to trek a million candles and votives to the middle of nowhere, and someone else would be setting it all up the day of while I was focusing on the good stuff. Tip if you’re working with stylists/planners:
“Be honest with your vision. Your team cant deliver if you aren't clear with your communication.”
– Cindy Melton Burreson, Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa
Giving your toasters a 3 min max prevents them from not only boring your guests to death, but it allows them to really focus on what they want to say to you and your new spouse without the champagne-fueled ramble. Short is sweet.
Tip: Have a designated family member or member of the bridal party “rehearse” with your toasters, even if just for a couple of minutes the night before the wedding. It’ll take some of heat off of them and release some nerves, while giving them the extra guidance (or thumbs down) that they might need.
DJ’s usually ask for a list of songs to play and a list of songs to absolutely not play, but what about the in-between? Ask your DJ for a sample playlist to make sure they’ve got your vibe right. It also might help you reform your do/do not play list.
Tip: Talk to your DJ on the phone at least once to go over name pronunciations, announcements, and rules you’d like to set (ex. don’t give the mic to Uncle Dave/no music requests from anyone but myself and my spouse, etc.)
I knew a couple who decided to end their night early and moved their grand exit up by an hour (bow chicka wow wowwww, am I right?). Another couple I know cut pizza instead of a wedding cake. Remember that this day is YOUR day and you can make it whatever you want.
“The night before the wedding just let everything go and trust the people that you have hired to make the day amazing.”
– Becky Schick Halbreich, The Traveling Traveler