As a wedding photographer, I’ve had the opportunity to see dozens and dozens of weddings. I’ve worked with so many brides and absolutely love getting to be a part of such a special time in their lives. Some of my brides have it all together from the beginning, while others really struggle with planning their wedding.
Fortunately, all of my brides have been able to pull it off amazingly and we’ve gotten some truly incredible photos as a result. But I have heard some horror stories, most of which were completely avoidable. So I want to share ten of the most important things I’ve learned about planning your wedding in hopes that you can get the most out of your experience as a bride.
- Don’t Procrastinate.
- Know your budget and don’t blow it.
- Don’t skimp on a photographer.
- Don’t hire friends or family unless they’re professionals.
- Hire a wedding planner, or at least a day-of coordinator.
- DIY, but don’t.
- Don’t get too many opinions, but listen to the ones that matter most.
- Have a rain plan.
- Use a wedding day timeline and don’t make last minute changes.
- Don’t forget what it’s all about.
1. Don’t Procrastinate
The number one complaint I hear from brides while planning their wedding isn’t about an unavailable venue, an uncooperative vendor, or even an opinionated future in-law. By far, the most common complaint is simply the stress of all that needs to be done. And let’s face it, there’s a lot that goes into planning a wedding. It can be overwhelming. It’s no surprise that many brides want to put it off for as long as possible, but this only leads to an even more stressful situation.
Start planning immediately. As soon as you say “yes”, start planning. Maybe even sooner if at all possible. If you do, you’ll have your pick of the best dates, venues, and vendors, plenty of time to work out all the details, and a whole lot more time to pay for expenses. These things can really pile up if you wait too long, so don’t procrastinate, be proactive.
2. Know your budget and don’t blow it
The first thing you should do when you start planning is to figure out your budget. Before you book anything decide who’s going to be paying for the wedding. This may be one person or a few people. You’ll need to sit down with them and determine exactly what you’re going to be able to spend. Be realistic.
Your initial budget may change a bit as your plan comes together, but you should use this as a reference point and try not to go over it. When you have an overall dollar amount, divide your budget up according to what’s most important and what’s not. Don’t blow it all on things that won’t last.
3. Don’t skimp on a photographer
This may seem a bit self serving, but it’s still sound advice. I can’t tell you how many wives have told me the one thing they regret is not hiring a professional wedding photographer.
This is one area where you definitely shouldn’t try to cut corners. You should spend as much on photography as your budget will allow, and I absolutely suggest investing in a professionally designed wedding album. Your wedding photos, especially if they’re in an album, are one of the few things about your wedding day that will still be around years to come.
I know you’ve seen friends and family post bad wedding photos online, and then you’ve seen those incredible images that inspire you to make changes to your own wedding plan.
There are some things to keep in mind when choosing a wedding photographer. First, don’t wait. Quality wedding photographers get booked up quickly. I suggest booking a year in advance.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you get what you pay for. Quality wedding photographers aren’t cheap, but there’s a reason brides continue to invest with them.
The right photographer can do wonders for making your wedding day less stressful. There’s a difference that anyone can see. Budget for that difference and you’ll be thankful you did.
4. Don’t hire friends or family unless they’re professionals
When it comes to hiring vendors for your wedding don’t make the mistake of thinking cousin Jim or aunt Sheryl can do just as good a job as a professional. It isn’t necessary to go all out on flowers, catering, and a band, but at least find vendors with a good reputation. If your plan is really simple, family and friends may work for these kinds of things, but be careful.
Professional vendors are better equipped when problems occur. I didn’t hire a professional for the sound system at my wedding, and it almost cost me. The problem was fixed at the last minute, but only after the groom, half of the groomsmen, and a few guests spent thirty minutes fiddling with buttons, switches, and cords to try and make it work.
This isn’t a hard rule set in stone, but know that you’re taking a risk if you don’t hire someone who has experience and a good reputation.
5. Hire a wedding planner, or at least a day-of coordinator
Once you’ve set your budget and booked your photographer, look into hiring a wedding planner. It’s likely that you’ve never planned a wedding before. So this is your first go at it. A wedding planner has done this many times before. They know exactly what needs to be done, the mistakes to avoid, how to get the best deals, the inside scoop on reputable vendors (and the ones to avoid), and so much more.
Working with a wedding planner can make a huge difference in your attitude toward planning too. Trying to learn all there is to know about wedding planning and taking on too much can leave you feeling discouraged, stressed out, and frustrated about your own wedding. A planner can take much of the weight off of your shoulders.
So if you have the budget for it, hire a planner. If not, you should really consider having a day-of coordinator. This is the person who makes sure your wedding plan is executed. She’s the boss, the enforcer, the one who keeps things on schedule and ensures it all goes down without a hiccup. She’s there so that you can relax.
Remember that sound system problem I mentioned? It didn’t get fixed until literally five minutes before the ceremony started. You’d think that would have really stressed me out right? Nope. I didn’t even know about it until it was all over. My wonderful wedding coordinator was there to intercept every problem before it even got to me. I could just relax and enjoy my day knowing she was out there taking care of everything.
So if you can’t afford a planner, at least have someone there to make sure your plan get’s carried out flawlessly and who’ll take care of the problems so you don’t have to worry.
6. DIY, but don’t
Don’t take on more than you can handle. DIY weddings can be absolutely amazing. Most of my brides have taken this route. My own wedding was about as DIY as it gets. But here’s the thing, don’t get so committed to DIY that you try to “DIAY” (do it all yourself).
Choose a few aspects of the wedding that are special to you and let others help with the rest. Otherwise you’ll burn out or get overwhelmed quickly.
I’ve seen DIY weddings that could have been incredible, but the brides took on too much and weren’t able to finish all they wanted to do. I’ve also seen some brides who can literally do it all, but these are far and few between.
The best approach is to choose a few aspects of the wedding that you really care about and are confident that you can do wonderfully and concentrate all of your energy on those, then assign the other aspects to people you trust.
If you can’t sew, don’t try to make your own dress unless you have plenty of time to learn. If you aren’t great with carpentry, ask for help. You may be surprised how well your vision may look if you let someone else help out with it.
If you didn’t procrastinate and have plenty of time to learn to do things that you can’t already do then that’s great, but at least make sure you have someone to back you up just in case.
7. Don’t get too many opinions, but listen to the ones that matter most
Everyone will have opinions as to how you should do things. From your wedding date, to your dress and colors, flowers, venue, and food, there’s never a shortage of people who want you to do things their way. But this is your day. Your plan should reflect your vision. If you hear enough thoughts that aren’t your own, they can start to cloud your own.
If someone else is paying for your wedding you’ll have to take their input into account, but lay down the law when it comes to the final decision. Work what you want into the budget you have to work with.
Also, don’t forget about your husband. Chances are he isn’t nearly as involved in planning as you are, and you’re probably glad he isn’t. But I’ve never seen a wedding where there wasn’t one thing that he wanted done a certain way. Find out what he wants and make it happen.
If he wants a sports themed grooms cake with toy army men hunting a big buck, let him have it. More than likely he’s not going to ask for very much, so try to accommodate the little he does want.
An added bonus is that doing this makes for a more interesting set of photographs for later on.
8. Have a rain plan
If any part of your wedding is going to be outdoors, make sure you have a really good and realistic backup plan in case it rains. Make sure your rain plan can be executed at the very last minute is necessary.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about this, except that not having a solid rain plan could ruin the day. Have one.
9. Use a wedding day timeline and don’t make last minute changes
So you’ve made a budget, booked your photographer, hired a planner or day-of coordinator, secured the perfect venue, and meticulously planned every detail. You know where people will be sitting or standing, what everyone is supposed to say and wear, and what every inch of the isle will be decorated with. Your plan is perfect. But who else knows it?
Well, everyone else should. Your day-of coordinator, your photographer, all of your vendors, ushers, your officiant, and anyone else who’s doing anything at all for this wedding. Your schedule should be typed out and detailed down to the minute.
If you have a coordinator, she will be in charge of making sure it’s carried out exactly, but everyone else should have a copy too.
Once this timeline is finalized, don’t make any changes. One small change could cause chaos and bring down the building around your guests. Ok, so that’s and exaggeration, but making last minute changes means that your written plan is worthless.
Make your timeline and have your coordinator make everyone stick to it.
10. Don’t forget what it’s all about
Ultimately, your wedding is just a one day. It’ll pass just like any other. Your marriage to your husband, your wedding photos, and a few keepsakes will be the only things that last beyond that day. Keep that in mind.
Don’t stress about everything or get caught up in micromanaging. Enjoy every moment. Even if every detail isn’t exactly perfect; even if the mic stops working or the food gets cold before the guests are seated; even if uncle Larry hits on the mother of the groom; even if the CD skips or rain moves everyone inside at the last minute, a good photographer will be able to capture and tell the story of your day in a way that allows you to experience the emotions of your wedding for many years to come.
Your wedding is the first day of a brand new chapter in your life. Don’t let it rush by in a whirlwind of anxiety.