Freshly engaged & already overwhelmed by the wedding planning process? I know- it seems like you go from "YES! Let's plan this!" to "umm our parents won't hate us TOO much if we elope, right?" With all of the sparkly new bling I've seen in my feed lately, I felt it only made sense to share some planning advice from folks who have been through it- including someone who does it for a living!
To provide some context, I reached out to three of my former brides and asked them to share the following:
1. What is some advice you wish someone had shared with you?
2. What was your top advice received?
3. What was your biggest learning experience regarding planning your wedding?
The responses were so great & practical- and varied about as much as the styles of their weddings! I loved that all three placed a strong emphasis on enjoying the overall experience with the people they cherish most. The other thing they all made sure to mention? Organization.
Jerri, married at the Thomas Center, pointed out that "a bridal party loves an organized bride. Make sure you (or your planner) equip your party with enough information in advance (details for day-of, etc.) The 7 p's learned as an undergrad were helpful here- 'proper prior planning prevents piss poor production'".
Jessica, a Cannon Farm Plantation bride, suggested that "making a very detailed checklist of what you would need hour by hour" would be a good route, even though "many people ended up saving her day".
Sydney, married at C Bar Ranch, commented that "hiring a coordinator for the week or for the entire process" was ideal, because hers shared important details such as how far in advance she should book certain vendors and spread out the planning process so she wasn't really scrambling to do anything.
Speaking of staying organized, I reached out to pro-planner Rachel Griffin, of Masterpiece Weddings here in Gainesville, FL. I wanted to hear her top advice to couples while working together to plan their weddings-and boy did she deliver. Once a venue & date has been confirmed, she recommends starting with the five "F's"... Food, 'F'otos, Flowers, Fashion, & Fun (entertainment, DJ, photobooth, etc). Since these are usually the largest budget items and most are vendors that can only commit to one wedding per date (like photography and DJ), she advises nailing them down first to ensure they secure the vendors they really love & have budgeted accordingly.
Speaking of BUDGET, Rachel offers that the best way to keep costs down is to keep your guest count as low as possible. "It's not just the cost per person for food/bar that should be considered- for every 6-8 people, you're adding an extra table, linen, centerpiece, dinnerware, favors, etc. All of those items in addition to food really add up!" Sheepishly, I admit I've never looked at it this way before, but it is oh-so-true.
Perhaps the most important gem she shared is the following: "Biggest mistake I see is when couples aren't being true to themselves & the real wedding they want & what feels right to them. When couples try to please their parents or family and go against their personalities and interests, they end up with a wedding that doesn't feel true to them & many times they're much more nervous or anxious because they're trying to please everyone else instead of celebrating their own love story." I LOVED that she thought to mention this, as I'm sure it is something she has witnessed many times throughout her career!
When it came to tips and advice regarding interacting with guests, I loved that Sydney had her wedding party arrive a couple days early for a small welcome party versus a rehearsal dinner. Jerri wants all brides to relax. "Take in all the beautiful moments & dismiss anyone who even attempts to get you rattled or stressed out. You may have that one person (a bridesmaid, mom, sister, friend, etc.) who can normally get under your skin...kindly just say "Not today!" Jess reminds couples to prioritize straying true to themselves- and insists they will thank themselves one day.
At the end of the day, it's all about enjoying the event with your most important people, right? I loved Jerri's final tip: "Try to have some fun with the process and be present on the day of the wedding. It is so easy to miss special moments because you are worried about whether the cake came out right or if the DJ played the wrong song. Don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy your time with your husband (or wife!)." She embodied this advice on her big day- she even took a few minutes to step outside with her new husband so they could get some fresh air & enjoy each other's quiet company! She also emphasized how important it was to simply be grateful. "Be kind and show gratitude to folks who have helped you plan and execute your special day. It means a lot to others when it is clear that you have thought about them even though it is your day." Jerri, I'm pretty sure everyone felt the love from you two that night!
The planning process can be stressful, but attitude & preparation are everything. Sydney reminded me that not all goes as planned, but if anything went wrong on her wedding day, it was amiss to me and everyone in attendance because she was so laid-back all day. From my experience, the couples who didn't sweat the small stuff & maintained an attitude of gratitude & joy had the best time on their days- & I would love to see more if it!
If you are planning your wedding- or are now considering eloping- I wish you the best experience possible! Your wedding day is a huge milestone, but your future marriage is an even bigger deal.