Since the original use for this site was a wedding website, it probably goes without saying that we recently went through the process of planning a wedding. Everyone and his or her mother has read an article on the top 10 things you should do when planning a wedding, but honestly, we didn't end up finding any of those particularly enlightening. So I'm taking my own stab at it, just in case I have something to add to the entire litany of wedding articles you can find out there.
Of course, maybe it goes without saying that your top 10 list will be different than mine, because your wedding will no doubt be different than mine. Nevertheless, here goes:
1. You don't need a wedding planner.
Literally every wedding magazine out there will assume that you're using a wedding planner. But the truth is that if you're trying save money, using a wedding planner is a sure-fire way to suck away some funds. At the beginning of our planning, we emailed a planner to see if it would work for us. When she quoted us at $8,000 to do the entire wedding, $3,500 to be there just the day of, or the option of $150 per hour meetings, we decided our funds could be put to better use doing pretty much anything but that. As a result, our wedding turned out to be exactly what we wanted because we planned it, and we were able to find vendors that weren't on the wedding planner's official list. Since they weren't "wedding" vendors, we saved money there too.
2. Don't limit your vendor options to just what you find on wedding websites.
While The Knot and Wedding Wire are good resources for initial research, we found a total of none of our vendors through those sites. All of our vendors were either recommended by friends who knew the area, or businesses that we regularly used and knew were reputable. Our caterer was decidedly the best example of that. We've gone to the same butcher for several years now because their steak tips are unbeatable. After we decided we wanted a backyard wedding, we realized that having steak tips on our menu would be delicious. We stopped in at the butcher one Saturday afternoon and asked about catering, and when they said yes the decision was made immediately. Technically, this could be a little bit of a risky endeavor - they had never catered a wedding before - but we knew the business and we knew their food. As a result of never having done a wedding, they were extra attentive to every detail. At some point, I'll probably write a post dedicated to wedding vendors alone!
3. You don't need 12 months to plan a wedding.
Every wedding magazine lays out the year-long checklist for planning. We "only" had 10 months (to the day!), which for us was the perfect amount of time. I also have friends who planned their wedding in less than four months, and it was still a beautiful. No matter how much time you have to plan it, the most stressful time is going to be the last two or three weeks before the event, because that's when you have to pull together all the smallest details. You'll get them done, and if you don't, be ok with letting them go.
4. Plan for the marriage, not just the wedding.
This is probably obvious, but a wedding is just one day. Marriage is not just one day. Both Chaz and I agree that pre-marital counseling was wonderful, and it was an important part of our relationship leading up to the wedding. Keep in mind that a lot of churches require it, and they also require that you start significantly early. If you're getting married in a church, check to see what you'll need to do well ahead of time. And then once you're there, enjoy it!
5. Shopping for a wedding dress is a production.
My mom and I went to four different bridal salons... on the same day. Say Yes to the Dress and the like make it seem like you need to have a full day to try on dresses at just one store. Nope. Make a day of it and go try on stuff at a variety of places. If you don't like anything, go somewhere else. You're not disappointing anyone. I ended up finding my dress up in Vermont, where I did another round of shopping (hitting only three shops in the same day this time). Although if you do find it in the first store, great! Also, the cost of the dress itself is NOT the only amount you'll end up spending on your outfit. Other fees: alterations, underwear, veil, shoes, jewelry, and pressing/steaming.
6. Have a flexible budget.
If you pick up any wedding planning binder/book/magazine/guide anywhere, the very first thing on all of their lists is figuring out the budget. Yes, a budget is important. It's good to have a ballpark idea of how much your highest limit is. At the same time, not everything you need to spend money on will fit into each category perfectly. If you dedicate seven percent of your budget to the clothing and that boils down to $1,072.13, don't box yourself in by not getting a dress you love because it's $1,073.00. If it's one of the most important things to you, spend it. Then figure out how to save in other areas. If I were to boil this one down, I'd say pick a budget range, not a budget number.
7. First look photos are awesome.
I HIGHLY recommend doing first look photos. I was anti-first-look for the longest time because it was traditional to have the groom see the bride at the alter for the first time. But at some point, I read an article that convinced me about 90% to do them. Here's why. First, the tradition of not seeing the bride until you're at the alter is not romantic at all. In fact, it was established back in the days of arranged marriages, because by the time you were together at the top of the aisle, there was no more opportunity for the groom to back out or run away. If you do first look photos, you remove the running away option even earlier! Second, it saves a ton of time between the wedding and reception. Pretty much everyone will agree that the worst part of a wedding is the waiting around period between the ceremony and the reception. If there are lots of photos to be taken, that period can be literally hours long. No fun. Third, on a more personal note, Chaz and I are both on the introverted side. We liked having that moment to ourselves, without being a spectacle for everyone else. There's enough of that during the rest of the day as it is.
8. Passing out during the ceremony is a real thing.
While I didn't pass out myself, one of my bridesmaids did. More than anything else, make sure you drink lots of water before the wedding. Mimosas sound great when you're getting ready in the morning, but alcohol dehydrated you and that's the last thing you need. I was much more nervous that I thought I'd be the morning of the wedding. One of my bridesmaids was kind enough to pick up a Starbucks chai latte (tall! no water!) for me before getting ready, and I ended up using the bathroom about five times and eventually throwing up. Gross! I would recommend eating something for breakfast, but only do it if it won't make you sick. Because puking = more dehydration. Water water water.
9. Be present.
Everyone says that your wedding will "go by so fast and you won't remember anything." I really wanted to remember everything, so I made a very conscious effort to pay attention the day of. I'm so glad that I did, because we didn't end up recording the ceremony (probably our biggest regret). I'm glad to have memories of the day besides what we have in pictures.
10. Enjoy the wedding!
Ok, this one you will hear everywhere else. But I'll repeat it because it's worth repeating. There comes a point where you literally cannot plan another thing. After that point, do not stress over the what ifs and just let it happen. No wedding is 100% perfect, but chances are the things that will go slightly awry will be things that no one but you notices. You've spent so much time pulling the thing together; don't miss out! All of your closest family and friends will be there, so enjoy their company. But most of all, rejoice in the fact that this day is a glorious day, and regardless of what happens during the celebration, you'll be married by the end of it. And that is the best thing of all.