My Top 8 Lessons Learned in a Year of Wedding Planning

769_10101891931905125_953911257_nExactly a year ago today, my fiance Nick proposed.  I was overjoyed!  We flew off to India, celebrated the heck out of our engagement, and came home full of love.

And then wedding planning was in full swing.

I have always been a planner, and my inherent planning gene is in high gear when it comes to my own wedding.  I came prepared with a general idea of what I wanted (outdoors, bright colors, lots of details) but when it came time to actually put it all down on paper, commit to it, and budget for it – well, that’s a whole different story.

Nick is a fantastic partner.  He lets me have what I want to a certain point, and offers input only when valuable and necessary.  That said, wedding planning is a huge task, and although I’ve planned smaller parties and events, this is definitely the “big one” when it comes to my own planning experience – so I thought I’d share some of my own planning tips from my first year:

1) Read contracts closely, and prepare to fight for what you deserve.  I am currently working with a contracted vendor that wants to change the terms of our contract; after consulting several attorneys it is clear they are in the wrong.  That said, it’s easier said than done trying to get a vendor to understand their contracted responsibility while also trying to maintain any sort of friendly/positive working relationship.  Be ready to strike a balance between what you want and what you absolutely cannot live without – and be firm on the latter.

2) Stick to your budget, even in the face of amazingness.  I have a budget that is tighter than a pair of Richard Simmons’ Spandex pants.  But because I refuse to budge on it, I am much more creative with what I need to accomplish, and I’ve even “talked down” some vendors to meet my bottom line (like the floral designer who cut his estimate in half after I offered to pick up the bouquets!).  There are a lot of trendy ideas out there that seem like “necessities” – but you don’t need them to have a great wedding (for me, these things are wedding favors, a dessert table, and a champagne toast – all eliminated, no regret).  Your budget is your religion – don’t let anyone else’s influence shake your commitment to staying in the black.

3) Spend lots and lots of time on Pinterest – but then commit.  Just when you think you’ve seen the final word in a certain category – let’s say, aisle flowers – you do another Pinterest search and BAM – you’ve got a new concept in mind.  Sure, I am in full support of checking out the goods on Pinterest and finding your wedding style through the copious images available there.  But once you’ve made a decision on something, forbid yourself to look further into that thing.  Send a photo to your wedding planner and/or vendor, and leave it.  You can go crazy looking for “perfect” when what you really need is “perfect for YOU.”

4) Customize your dress.  Without throwing out numbers, know this: the alterations on my wedding dress cost twice as much as the dress itself.  So be it.  I want my dress to be one-of-a-kind, special, and perfectly fitted to me – and I will do anything to make the dress fit my exact specifications.  Sure, the “base dress” should already be darn good.  But to take it to the next level – whether it’s changing the hem, adding sparkle or detail, or adding straps – you need a good tailor.  Get one and make your personalized dreams come true.

5) Consider details.  Can you have a great wedding without a personalized napkin?  A custom-printed wine label?  A monogram-engraved cake cutter?  Sure.  But why should you have to?  A wedding is all about expressing your personal vision of you and your fiance’s relationship, and often the details are where those expressions are most genuine and real.  I have spent hours on Etsy concentrating on details like matching, custom-made flower girl and ring bearer outfits, and when they walk down the aisle, my guests will see unique and special people – not cookie-cutter, conventional kids.  It matters.

6) Provide information, then provide it again.  And again.  And again.  We sent out Save the Date cards in April and May with a single piece of information – a website link, which sent guests to a comprehensive website on which every detail about the wedding (from hotel accommodations to registry information to the wedding-day schedule) was contained.  However, we still got questions on these details from lots of guests – many of whom had never even turned the Save the Date card OVER to read the text (!).  In retrospect, I would put the website link on the FRONT of the card, reiterate the information on the back of the card, and perhaps even send a mass email to guests to remind them how to find the relevant information.  Too much is never enough in the case of wedding-related communication.

7) Ask for help.  Although I am planning everything myself, I still hired a day-of wedding coordinator (who will also be serving as our floral designer) to make the actual day easier on me.  I have also recruited my parents heavily (thanks Mom & Dad!) since they live i1800205_10102140640491125_1983772613_nn the wedding location and are retired, meaning they have time to do some of the things I can’t (like put individual liners in each and every invitation envelope).  It’s not a sign of weakness, bad planning, or impatience to ask for help – it’s the only way to maintain sanity through the process.  For most brides, you have a planner, a set of parents, a set of parents-in-law, an officiant, and an entire bridal party.  Don’t forget that they are there as a support group – not an entourage.  Ask for help when you need it!

8) Remember why.  Throughout all of the planning, a lot of my married friends have reminded me simply to remember why I am having a wedding – to celebrate the union of life and love with my partner and our family and friends.  That’s it.  As long as we both show up, the people we love are there, and there’s a celebratory atmosphere – that’s all that matters.  The little stressors will fade and the big picture – that we are getting MARRIED, joining our lives together, and continuing our relationship in a completely new and important way – is all we need to remember.

Brides – what are your best planning tips?  What would you tell me to think about NOW – four months out from the big day?

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4 thoughts on “My Top 8 Lessons Learned in a Year of Wedding Planning

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