Engaged? Many congrats! Now, you may think you know what wedding planning is like, and you may have repeatedly heard things like, “expensive!” and “stressful!” But, I’m here to tell you that you can’t truly understand what lies ahead. As a recent bride with a practical sensibility (see my white dress engagement photos and classic and traditional wedding photos), below are my stress-free tips and advice for brides on wedding planning.
Hint: it can be more stressful and anxiety provoking than you can imagine, even when you try really hard for it not to be that way.
And since the focus of this blog is “where books meet lifestyle,” the book I am pairing with this article is the simple and cheap, yet super effective wedding planner I carried with me during my entire wedding planning process:
It had everything I needed to stay organized from checklists to contact information to song choices without being as overwhelming and burdensome as a huge binder (which, I personally don’t really think you need in a digital age).
Here’s my own picture of the wedding planner, and if you click the arrows, you can also see some photos from my wedding:
(wedding photography by Sarah Canning)
Now, we all know it’s about the marriage and not the wedding, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are trying to plan something memorable and wonderful for yourselves and your people.
But, wedding planning is also a lot of fun and gives you something fantastic to which you can look forward. Maybe you envisioned the details of your wedding day since you were a little girl, or maybe wedding planning fell into your hands one day.
Either way, wedding planning is a marathon, not a sprint, and these are ten things that I learned in the wedding planning process that you simply must know to get through the minutia and enjoy each of the twenty-four hours in your one special day.
1. You will get unsolicited opinions about all of the details.
Everyone has an opinion about what you should do, sometimes about every little thing, and everyone thinks his or her opinion is the best one.
General advice, like the types of tips you are reading here, are helpful to managing the process on your own, but constant, unsolicited, detailed advice about everything from how you place your veil to what the favors should be (speaking from experience here) is more harmful than helpful for many reasons, including costs and the burnout of pleasing everyone but yourself.
After my mom told me four times the night before our wedding that we should move our ceremony indoors (although my fiance and I preferred outdoors and the weather looked to be worth the risk to both of us), I politely reminded her that she had stated her opinion four times even though I hadn’t even asked, and that it was a decision between me and my fiance.
These uncomfortable moments with polite reminders are about the best you can do at times to maintain your sanity and independence. Waiting a while to respond to texts or phone calls can also diffuse a situation. Because the unsolicited, detailed advice just will not stop. This is one of the most important of all tips and advice for brides on wedding planning.
2. Your feelings will be hurt.
Wedding planning brings out a spectrum of emotions, and that makes you extra sensitive. It also incorporates a spectrum of people, making the process harder to control. For those reasons, someone, at some time, will, in fact, hurt your feelings badly.
Again, there is not a whole lot you can do but take a step back and try to manage the situation the best you can. When a small handful of people we invited both showed a lack of appreciation for the invite to our relatively small wedding (in which dozens of others were cut from the list), and were also unnecessarily rude in the way they declined the invitation, it truly hurt that not everyone else cared about my wedding in the deeply personal way I did, but I knew I had to focus on my fiance and the many others who were there emotionally and physically to support us.
On a side note, I learned there truly is an art to giving a polite “no.”
3. Your wedding can be whatever you want it to be.
I repeat, your wedding can be whatever you want it to be! I truly believe this is best of all tips and advice for brides on wedding planning. There is so much pressure to do this or that because “that’s how it’s done” or that’s how another person did it, and you will hear a lot of “you have to’s” — from the guest list to the food choices to — but, the only thing you truly must do is exchange vows (and sometimes even that is done at a different time and/or location).
It’s really important to be true to yourself and to also be true to your personal circumstances and those of your guests.
While my wedding was very classic and traditional overall, I strayed from the norm on a few things: I didn’t have a bridal shower, bachelorette party or rehearsal dinner. I also sent minimal invitations and eliminated extra paper products like programs and menus.
My reasoning varied from costs to what felt right to being respectful of others’ time and money. There is so much room for your wedding, too, to be whatever is right for you.
4. It’s also as hard or easy as you want it to be.
As a caveat to the above tip, if you choose for your wedding homemade invitations with seventeen pieces to put together, they will probably be as beautiful and unique as Lillian’s bridal shower invitations in Bridesmaids, but the process will also inevitably be more time consuming and more frustrations will arise.
Early in the planning process, I learned the experts were experts for a reason and I should leave a lot of trust in them. It took my mom months to arrange centerpieces for my sister’s wedding, and two days to put the room together and take it down.
I chose to trust the reputation and team of my seasoned, in-house florist, and it cost the same amount of money with zero stress. I also made an effort to be decisive and then “let it go” after making any type of decision, and to not reinvent the wheel.
For me, it made sense to focus on maximizing the traditional elements of a wedding, which made planning easier, and minimized stress, but to each bride her own. It’s all about knowing whether you are willing to make a certain effort for a certain detail to come to life at your wedding.
5. You will have disagreements with your fiance.
Yes, you are in pre-wedded bliss with your fiance, but there are so many elements to wedding planning that you are bound to disagree on something of significance. In the end, it’s a good practice run to see how you manage an issue in which you are both emotionally vested.
Although my husband and I cooperate in decision making very well, at one point, we disagreed over major additions to the guest list. After a sleepless night for both of us, we reconvened and realized that emotions were getting in the way of logic, and we resolved the problem pretty easily. It’s really important to get lost in the forest, so to speak.
6. The costs will surprise you.
You will be seriously floored when you learn the true cost of a traditional wedding. I had done the research and estimated numbers in my head, cutting numerous corners to maintain a reasonable budget, but when we sat down and made a spreadsheet of each and every estimated cost, my jaw hit the floor. It was $10,000.00 more than I anticipated!
It’s really important to get everything down on paper and to make sure you are including all taxes, tips and gratuities as early in the planning process as possible.
We updated our spreadsheet every time we incurred a cost, no matter how small, and it really kept me on track throughout the process. In the end, we went over our budget by about $1,000.00, which felt reasonable overall to me, considering we received gifts that cut the costs down. And I wrote all the details about how I saved $22,000.00 on our wedding.
7. There will always be more planning to do.
Planning a wedding is now your part-time job. There is quite literally always something you can be doing, and there will be so many things that pop up unexpectedly that it’s best to do things as early as possible.
I wrapped my bridesmaids’ gifts a few months in advance because it was freezing cold outside and I had nothing to do, and it was beneficial when closer to the wedding I received detailed surveys from each vendor to fill out, which took a great deal of time (like searching the DJ’s database and designating songs as “love,” “like” or “hate”) when my free time was more limited.
8. You will make mistakes.
As much as you try to control the details, it’s likely your first “go” at planning a wedding, and you will likely wish there was something you could go back and change. This is another of the more important tips and advice for brides on wedding planning.
For me, it would be hiring a videographer, as video was something I truly craved after the wedding was over (but luckily got some great footage from guests), and spending less on paper goods (which are quite expensive for what they are and really add up fast, even though I had thought I was being cost effective with my choices).
It may be helpful to ask others what their biggest mistakes were and then assess whether you may have the same regret. And when you make decisions, remember to take a step back and examine the worst case scenarios and whether you accept them or may have regrets.
9. It’s really fun to receive RSVPs.
Unlike the gloom overhanging many of these tips, I am truly ecstatic to tell you how exciting it is to receive RSVPs back in the mail.
For so long, you plan and plan and plan, but nothing really happens and it feels like your wedding is this existential event, until one day, months later, you actually send out the invitations. And to hear back from those you love that they are coming builds so much excitement that I had not expected.
The mailbox can be one of life’s greatest joys to come home to in the weeks prior to your wedding.
10. It can’t be perfect, but it will be yours.
By this final tip, you may have thought more deeply about the many intricacies involved in planning your wedding. And in the weeks closest to your big day, you will have anxieties you hadn’t even imagines before, like, “What if the main road gets shut down?” Or, “What if I fall down the steps?”
Life is not perfect, and your wedding won’t be perfect either. It is simply with every hope and prayer that nothing of true significance will impact your wedding.
After countless weather alerts, including ones threatening a thunderstorm during our ceremony, I asked my fiance, “But what if it starts pouring rain right in the middle of our ceremony?” He responded, “Then we will all run inside as fast as we can and finish it up in the foyer.” I realized then that imperfection can be beautiful, although it didn’t actually end up raining on our wedding day.
Several other elements were not ideal, like a flub by the strings group during the processional, but the insignificance of these errors floated away because our day was ours and that alone made it special. I wish you the same.
I left my own wedding with a sense of happiness and relief thanks to my stress-free tips and advice for brides on wedding planning. I hope you can too. Congratulations and best wishes!
And, as a reminder, if you don’t yet have a wedding planner, check out the one I recommended above here:
Additionally, if you are looking for classic and traditional wedding inspiration, follow my Pinterest boards with inspiration for my wedding and photographs of my actual wedding because they are filled with my hand-picked favorites:
Also, if you are crafting related to your wedding, check out my:
Lastly, pin this post to Pinterest because you can refer back to it later.