Gold Circle Films
Wedding planning is always fun, easy, and romantic. Just kidding. Wedding planning is more stressful than a big job interview, more confusing than calculus, and just about as frustrating as finding your new favorite Netflix show and then learning it only has one season out. With wedding planning, you have family breathing down your neck, decisions to make, deadlines to struggle to get everything done by, and high expectations to meet for the Instagram-worthy wedding of your dreams.
In fact, it's hard to believe how stressful and un-fun it is to plan such an amazing, love-filled event. But, after all that planning (and maybe some sweat and tears) when that wedding day finally comes, you know it’ll be amazing. When I got married six months ago, my husband and I had the perfect day and we were so glad we'd worked so hard to plan it. All of that work was worth it... and yet, there were so many things that I wished I knew going into the planning process. There were so many tips that I learned along the way that, if I'd known them going in, would have made everything so much easier, cheaper, and way less stressful. That's why I think it's important to share your best tips with other brides. Here are 19 hacks you must know going into wedding planning.
Image by Sweet Ice Cream Photography via Upsplash
As soon as you say the magic words: “I’m engaged,” people will start tossing their opinions at you like a hot potato. From family to friends to complete strangers, people will tell you that you and your fiancé “must” elope or that you “need" to get married in the mountains. They’ll tell you that you “absolutely can’t” have a naked cake or a swing band or… well, you name it and someone will have an opinion about it.
Of course, you don’t want to let other people’s style get in the way of your special day, but you also probably don’t want to offend your friends and family… or worse, your future in-laws.
Practice saying, “That’s a great idea, we’ll consider it,” whenever someone pushes an idea on you. It’s polite and satisfying to those making the suggestion but it’s also non-committal. By the time the wedding happens, that cousin probably won’t even remember how adamant they were about you having a donut wall. They’ll just be happy to see you getting married.
Image by Rawpixel via Upsplash
Through wedding planning, I found that it was hard for my husband and I to keep a handle on emails. Sometimes I’d give a vendor my email, sometimes he’d give a vendor his. We’d forget to tell each other about when we heard back from the DJ or the photographer and then when we wanted to look up our contract or find the address of a bakery, we’d be scrambling, looking though both of our emails trying to find it.
When you start planning your wedding, create a new, duel email account out of your wedding hashtag or simply your names. Put the email on both of your phones and check it periodically. You’ll be able to stay organized and up to date, plus, you’ll have an email account for joint bills once you’re married.
Alterations are where a lot of dress shops make most of their profits and some salons will hike up those prices to pay for overhead. While a dress might not necessarily be a different price at different stores, alterations might, so ask for an alterations quote before you buy.
When I bought my wedding dress, I picked an appropriate size and thought everything looked great. I went back for a few small alterations and got a quote for a hem that was almost the price of the dress. My stomach sank. I had no idea how much to expect from alterations but I had a bad feeling about the quote they’d given me. I ended up taking my dress to a local bridal seamstress and she did a great job for less than half the price I would have paid at the first place.
Bundo Kim @Bundo
These days, couples have so many options for invitations. Invites could be stickers, fridge magnets, or even puzzles.
Whether you go with old-fashioned paper invites or something super creative, just make sure you order extra return address labels. You might not realize how many return labels you’ll need for all those save the dates, invitations, and thank you notes, and you don’t want to be stuck writing your address 300 times when you run out.
Plus, if you’re changing your name and want to make a cute “Mr. and Mrs.” return address label for after you’re married, order that beforehand so you don’t have to sit on a bunch of thank you notes, waiting for that package of stickers to come in.
Image by Joanna Kosinska via Upsplash
Wedding guests notoriously don’t know how to fill out RSVP cards. They write “yes” when asked to choose between chicken or fish, they check both boxes for attending and not attending, and they almost always forget to put their name on the card before mailing the RSVP back.
A trick to knowing who sent a nameless RSVP is to mark your cards (before you send them out) with numbers that correspond to your guest list. This works great but, if you’re thinking ahead enough to number your cards, you might as well fill out your guests’ names on the line provided. It saves you a step so that you don’t have to go back to your list and see who numbers 12 or 45 were, and it’s also a subtle way to let your guests know who exactly you’re expecting. Hopefully it will cut down on the chances of your guest bringing a surprise date or their uninvited kids.
Image by Bin Thieu via Upsplash
Weddings are expensive and planning for them is time-consuming. Lots of couples get to the end of their engagement realizing they’ve run out of money to pay for the cupcakes they wanted to have... or they ran out of time to do the cute DIY project for the table settings.
Before you even start planning, sit down with your future spouse and write down a list of wedding “must haves.” Give each of you three or four things that you know you’re really going to want. If you absolutely must have a horse-drawn carriage at your wedding or a crêpe bar during the reception, book those first.
If you run out of time or funds, you might have to cut some stuff, but at least it won’t be the things that are most important to you. Even if you don’t end up cutting it close towards the end of the planning process, at least you’ll have that secure feeling knowing what’s most important to you is already done.
Image by Alasdair Elmes via Upsplash
One of the best ways to get ideas for your own wedding is to think back on your favorite parts of weddings that you’ve attended. Maybe you loved the flowers in your brother’s wedding or were amazed at the desserts at your cousin’s reception. Maybe you loved a friend’s wedding photos and thought their videographer was amazing too.
All of those memories are so valuable when it comes to planning your own wedding, especially if that wedding wasn’t too far from your venue. You could ask the bride and groom for their vendor’s contact information and get whatever it was you loved for your own wedding. The couple who had that wedding you went to will probably be so flattered that you loved their wedding vendors and will be thrilled to dig up their phone number.
Finding a wedding photographer can be tricky. While lots of photographers take great photos, you’ll want to find one who not only has a style you love but also someone you and your partner feel comfortable around. Of course, you can always look through their portfolio to see their style and talk to them on the phone to see if you “click” but you can’t really know if a photographer is right for you until you take some pictures with them.
So, plan an engagement session with a photographer and see how it goes. If you love them (and the photos), you should feel confident booking them for your wedding. If you don’t like the work they did, try another session with a different photographer. Engagement sessions are usually a couple hundred dollars, but it’s better to pay hundreds of dollars for multiple sessions than to pay thousands for wedding pictures you hate.
Image by Sky Studios via Upsplash
When it comes time to send your DJ your song list, you’ll probably have been thinking of your reception entrance song and your first dance song for a while, so you’ll probably have those on hand.
However, don’t be surprised when your DJ asks for a “do not play" list. You might struggle to think of all the songs you don’t like, typing out “chicken dance” and then spend the weeks before your wedding emailing them back with another song each time you turn on the radio.
This is exactly what happened to me, only my DJ was so kind as to ask for a “favorite song” list as well so she could make sure songs that didn't make it as a first dance song could be played too. I had no idea what to do and ended up emailing her up to the night before the wedding, trying to update my lists.
As soon as you start planning your wedding, start a list of your favorite (and least favorite) songs. Keep a list on your phone so that you can have them all in one place. Be ready to send them to your DJ ahead of time so they have time to prepare.
Image by Cindy Baffour via Upsplash
While you’re in the habit of keeping a list of songs, keep a list of must-have photos too.
Before your wedding, your photographer will ask you for a list of shots you want (for example: a photo of you with your siblings, a photo with you and your spouse with the bridal party, a photo of you and your spouse kissing under the veil, and so on). But, in order to make sure you won’t miss out on any great photo opportunities, you’ll have to do some research.
As you start to plan your wedding, make a Pinterest board for wedding photo poses. This is great because not only can you send your favorite photo inspirations to your photographer to make sure you get the right shots, but these ideas might even help you plan your wedding. Did you find that you love outdoor ceremony photos? Then find an outdoor venue. Love the idea of twinkle lights brightening your reception photos? Order some lights to hang up.
Image by Mahkeo via Upsplash
If you’re planning to go on a honeymoon right after your wedding (as many couples do), set the budget and dates for your honeymoon at the same time as you do this for your wedding.
This is because you’ll want to plan your trip for when your honeymoon location is at its best. For example, if you have your heart set on a beach vacation, don’t set your wedding for December. You have to keep both in mind when you start making reservations.
The same goes for budget. If you know you have a certain amount for both your wedding and honeymoon, calculate the costs of your dream wedding and ideal honeymoon and work backward. If you have to compromise on the deluxe suite at the hotel so you can pay for the dress you want, so be it. Just don’t let yourself feel unprepared when it comes to your first trip as a married couple.
Image by Andrew Neel via Upsplash
Your wedding day timeline will probably change a lot over the planning process. You’ll start out thinking you’d like a 3 o’clock ceremony start time... but when you start scheduling hair and makeup, you realize that you might not be able to start until 4, which means you’ll have to push everything else back too.
This is why it’s helpful to create a “living” timeline. It keeps your times straight and can help you plan for what the day will look like. Throughout wedding planning, you’ll be faced with lots of options: like, whether to take extra time for photos before the ceremony or to extend cocktail hour. You'll have to decide if you want to have your first dance before or after dinner. You can try different schedules, change the times around, and see what you like best.
Once you have your schedule, complete with songs and bridal party names and other details, send it to your vendors. They’ll appreciate it if you send it to them about a week before so they'll have some time to look over everything and know what to expect. They might even spot an error ahead of time, which will give you enough time to correct it.
Photo by Alvaro CVG via Upsplash
Unless you have an exceptionally busy schedule, or are planning on having an elaborate, 300-guest wedding with entertainment and lots of of fancy decor, you probably don’t need a wedding planner.
Yes, wedding planners come with many advantages but most people find that they want, or prefer, to plan their wedding themselves. However, even if you decide to skip the planner, you’ll definitely want a day-of coordinator. These coordinators meet with you days or weeks before the big day and take down every detail of your wedding. They take your schedule, the info for your vendors, make notes on what kind of setup you need, and then... they make it happen.
My wedding was pretty simple, all things considered, and while I knew I’d be busy with hair and makeup before the ceremony, I thought I could recruit bridesmaids to do all the little things that needed to be done, like place centerpieces on tables, set out the guest book, and show the baker where to put the cake. But I realized really quickly that this plan wasn’t going to happen. I needed a professional to handle anything that might go wrong, someone not in my family or friend group, who was going to be able to make sure everything was on time — and without needing to miss some group photos to do it.
Image by Ben Rosett via Upsplash
Maybe this tip is a little too trendy, as it seems every wedding has an old mirror painted and repurposed as a sign, but this DIY trick can save a lot of money and hassle.
While you might think of it as just one more thing to make, signs can be very helpful to guests. Signs let them know the schedule for the evening, where to go for cocktail hour and where to put gifts. Repurposing a mirror, or a piece of wood, can make for a great, inexpensive solution.
Image by Scott Webb via Upsplash
You'll hear people tell you to make a rain plan, and that’s smart. If you don't have a back up plan for your outside ceremony or a place for people to park that isn't in covered in dirt (now mud), you could have home pretty unhappy guests.
But, you’ll want to make plans for if there is a lot of wind or a big heat wave, too. If it's a particularly windy day, get some small weights for your veil and maybe even for your outside decor. If it’s a hot day, get some ice water to put out before your ceremony and buy some paper fans for your guests to cool off.
Image by Emily Gouker via Upsplash
A lot of brides and grooms get new shoes for their wedding day. And why not? New shoes are clean and look good in pictures. But since the soles on new shoes aren't scuffed up yet, you could be slipping on all those slick floors. To avoid any embarrassing fumbles, rub the bottom of your shoes with sandpaper before the wedding. It will give your shoes better grip and will ease your mind.
Speaking of shoes, don't force yourself to wear those six-inch heels all night, in fact, after a few glasses of champagne, you might not want to. Consider buying a smaller set of heels (or even a cute pair of tennis shoes) to change into after the first dance and hide them under your sweetheart table. This way you’re comfortable, but discreet about it, and you don’t have to start your honeymoon with achy feet.
While you're at it, hide some lipstick at your table, too. This way, you can re-apply after eating without needing to schlepp up to the bridal suite.
@everythingcaptured Edward Cisneros
Before you order two hundred sparklers or six pounds of confetti for your big exit, ask your wedding venue what they allow for grand exits. Many places don't let guests light sparklers for fear of fire and some don’t allow confetti because of the cleanup.
Make sure your venue is okay with whatever it is you're thinking about, and if they’re not, ask for suggestions for what to do instead.
@thomasae Thomas AE
After your wedding, you might not know what to you with your bouquet. You don't want to just throw it away, but you know it’ll start to wilt in no time.
The day after your wedding, take apart your bouquet and press the flowers into a magazine or book. Let them dry, and when you get your wedding photos, print some out and put them, with the pressed flowers, in a double glass frame.