Hindsight 20/20: Wedding Planning Tips After the Fact

Oh, hello readers!  Did you miss me while I was getting married and honeymooning over the past three weeks (#humblebrag)?

Well, even if you didn’t, I’m back, and I’m bursting with wedding-related memories, tips, and ideas now that my own big day is over.

All things considered, everything went off without a hitch.  Sure, there were some hilarious (and not-so-hilarious) debacles that seemed like crises in the moment (think: mixed-up hotel reservations, lost decorative items, and an ice delivery that came three hours too soon), but I can honestly say that the 13 months I spent planning my wedding really paid off, and we were rewarded with an organized, well-run, and fun event.

That is not to say I couldn’t have done a lot of things better.  Which is why I want to offer this little primer for those of you out there who have weddings to plan (or hey, any big event) and/or want a little insight into the world of DIY wedding planning.  So, here we go, in no particular order:

THINK BAR.  I had to write this one in all caps because it seemed as if the greatest number of mishaps were related to the bar and bar service, and yet the single most important part of a wedding (well, other than the actual marriage ceremony) is the bar and

I wish we’d had an ultrahuge bar area like this!

bar service.  For example, I did not specifically outline to the bartenders that the kegerators (keg refrigerators) I rented were actually supposed to CONTAIN KEGS, and found out later that the bartenders were “shipping beer” back and forth from the truck in plastic pitchers (sigh).  Second, we had reversible bar signs that had cocktail hour menus on one side and reception menus on the other side, but the signs never got flipped and replaced and so there was exactly zero information on drinks at the reception.  Third, we had drinks designated for the cocktail hour and drinks designated for the reception, only to find out that a) the bartenders didn’t know where to find the white wine set aside for the reception, and b) the groomsmen drank a good part of the reception alcohol prior to the ceremony (goodbye, Fireball supply).  So in summary, the lessons learned on this point are as follows:

  • make your bar instructions as EXPLICIT as possible, even if you are hiring pro bartenders and “think they’ll know what to do”
  • do NOT let your groomsmen/groom have access to (i.e know the whereabouts of) any wedding-designated alcohol prior to the wedding
  • designate a “booze baron” (think family member or bridesmaid) to enforce the above as well as have all the answers when it comes to the bar (such as the aforementioned sign swap, ice location, etc. etc.)

Audition the musicians.  Yeah, I know – a lot of people already do this.  And to some extent, so did we – we hired two musicians that play at restaurants and festivals that we’ve attended and whom we really like in those venues.  Key words: in those venues.  When you hand your musicians (who aren’t exactly pros in the English language) some sheet

These weren’t our musicians…but maybe they should have been.

music that, despite being really well-known, is way outside their comfort zone (“Here Comes the Sun” and “Wedding March,” were my two choices), you may not be pleased with the results (i.e. completely unrecognizable versions of both tunes).  So to that end:

  • despite that it’s “cheesy” or “corny” or whatever, just hire freaking wedding musicians to play wedding songs.  They’re the pros.
  • no matter how much you like a singer or group, if you can’t communicate clearly with them (due to language barriers or unresponsiveness or otherwise), you probably won’t end up with an ideal outcome.
  • make sure to hear the versions of the songs you request prior to the wedding.  You’re paying them to provide a service so make sure the service is up to par.

Stick to the checklist.  I made a super-detailed checklist for all “phases” of the wedding, from the day before to the day-of to the pool party the day after.  However, what I didn’t make was an “exit checklist” – a way to ensure that everything we brought IN to the event

A nice little OCD checklist never hurt nobody.

was actually packed up and brought OUT of it (think personalized cake cutter, gift card box, reusable items like extra glassware and napkins, etc.).  Sure, we had a great inventory on setup – but after the fact, when the mess has set in and everyone is tired and you just want to be DONE with it – things get stuffed in boxes (or garbage cans!) and you end up losing stuff in the process (like our top layer of cake for the 1st anniversary!).  Thus:

  • make an “exit checklist” with everything you need to bring OUT of the property with just as much detail as your initial inventory
  • share this checklist with your wedding planner so she can start to move things to their proper “exit” location even while the wedding is still finishing up

Number, label, and double-check everything.  Per the checklist above, I also had an inventory checklist, which listed every single thing we needed for the weekend down to the basic supplies like garbage bags.  Except that the garbage bags didn’t make it (despite

Label everything. Number everything. Be vigilant!

being “checked off” the checklist, they fell out of their original box and weren’t located until well after they were needed, at which point we’d had to send for reinforcements).  An inventory is great until you realize that the items ON the inventory need to be accounted for individually and with systematic organization.  I suggest:

  • number every single item you receive using garage-sale style price stickers, then pack it in a box (also numbered) and keep track of which numbered items are in which numbered boxes.  We thought that having boxes like “reception” or “ceremony” would be clear enough – but they weren’t.  Numbering is a system everyone understands – so instead of asking a groomsman to grab the “orange chiffon ribbon spool” you can just say “grab item 7 in box 2.”  Much better.
  • do NOT check any item off the inventory/packing list until you’ve personally witnessed it entering the property.  We would’ve saved a lot of stress looking for garbage bags if we’d known they weren’t IN the box to begin with.

Let them bring gifts.  I mistakenly thought that only a few select folks would actually bring gifts to the wedding, seeing as we had received so many wonderful registry gifts prior to the big day.  Boy, was I wrong.  We ended up with nearly as many gifts “on site”

Make it clear: gifts go here.

as we’d had sent to us, and apparently the sign at the gift table (which, by the way, was placed directly in front of the ceremony entrance with an 8×10″ sign saying “GIFT TABLE”) was not clearly designated enough, leaving some guests confused, some handing us cards directly during the reception, and even some going home WITH their gift and mailing it back to us.  Le sigh.  To fix this:

  • even if it feels showboat-y, make your gift table LARGE and CLEARLY MARKED (maybe even throw a couple pre-wrapped gifts on there to make it clear)
  • keep your gift table “moving” through all the events of the party – ceremony, reception, and post-party/brunch (should you have one) – this way no one will feel like they “missed it” or didn’t know where to properly leave their generous gifts!

When all else fails, roll with the punches.  We had a team of groomsmen meticulously hang 50-foot strands of carnival lights….that were never turned on.  We had nice, bright bathroom lighting provided for our guests…that was also not turned on until someone nudged us nicely about having gone to the restroom in the dark (!).  We asked our hairdresser to do a quick hairstyle for our flower girl…and found out later we were charged full adult price for her ‘do.  We forgot to bring envelopes for the vendor gratuities…and ended up having our wedding planner thrust cash into their palms, shady-style.  We rented $1200 worth of heaters in fear that our guests would be chilly….and barely turned them on.  These are the sorts of “little things” that they’re talking in the old adage, “don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff.”  What seems like a big deal in the moment is hilariously minute in the big scheme of things, and if you can figure out how to get past it, you won’t even remember it when you look back on the overall event.

  • don’t let a minor hiccup become a major event – just solve the problem and move on
  • allow your wedding planner to take care of most anything that happens during the event – you relinquish your title as “planner” as soon as the day starts and you become “bride” – so don’t feel guilty about just telling your planner to “handle it” when it comes to this piddling stuff

Again, our wedding was perfect – fun, chic, colorful, modern, and festive, just like I’d always hoped it would be.  Everyone I spoke to had a great time and I truly believe Nick and I had the best time of all.  If I could do it again, though I’d definitely take my own advice (!), I’d keep most of it exactly the same.  It was the best day of my life.

And now – onward to the honeymoon update!  I’ll be posting pics and a full review soon, so don’t go too far…

What is your best wedding/event planning tip?  What do you wish you’d done differently?

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7 thoughts on “Hindsight 20/20: Wedding Planning Tips After the Fact

  1. Your wedding was awesome!!! I chucked reading the part about the bathroom. I think too it’s important for the guests to just roll with things (like the bathroom light, which seems most people did do just that). It’s hard — many things you can’t plan for (like how freaking windy your vow renewal will be when it wasn’t windy AT ALL THE DAY BEFORE WHEN YOU WENT THERE FOR REHEARSAL), so you can only do so much. I think you did a fantastic job; everything was so bright and fun and chic and totally you and Nick. That’s the part I love the most. The best weddings are personalized with bits and pieces of the couple both reflected in the details. Well done! Post some pics on the blog! 🙂

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  2. Congratulations Amanda! I am so proud of all you have done since I first met you and I am overjoyed for your marriage.

    Now you just need to update your “About me” section at ThisFitBlonde 😉

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