20 Tips when planning a wedding
You’re engaged and you’re planning a wedding. Congratulations! You’re taking on a project that can only be accomplished with a whole lot of love! Planning a wedding is not easy.
You’re planning a multi-event day and night, with professional hair and make-up sessions, multiple professional photoshoots, religious or spiritual ceremony, cocktail hour, professional catering, most likely a family reunion, the largest dinner party you’ve ever thrown, the largest dance party you’ve ever thrown, with possibly hundreds of people, over a 14-18 hour day/night, while being the center of attention and spending more money than you’ve probably ever spent. Wheh! And on top of it all, everyone has an opinion and desire for how your wedding should be and what you should do.
It’s no wonder planning a wedding is stressful. But it is worth it. It’s your one big day. And I’m writing this post to help reduce your stress. To help you with the classic post-wedding thought “I wish I knew then what I know now”.
Tips when planning a wedding
As someone who has spent almost every weekend for the past 16 years photographing weddings, I have seen it all. I have seen what works and I have seen the mistakes. These tips will help you plan your wedding regardless of if your wedding is big or small. Let’s get started!
Tip 1: Wedding Day Timeline
The first thing you should do when you get engaged is make your wedding day timeline. This is the timeline for the order and times of events on your wedding day. It is often the most overlooked, but most important part of your wedding day. It is also the key to reducing stress and saving money for your wedding.
If you have your wedding day timeline made (even if you adjust it later) before you start hiring vendors and wedding venues, you’ll know when your morning is going to start, when you’re doing photos, how long it takes to travel from locations, and when your reception is going to end.
This means when you interview venues and vendors, you’ll know exactly how long you need their services and if the venue or vendor can accommodate what you’re planning.
In a recent wedding, I was at, on the day of the wedding, the bride was informed that her reception, which she planned on ending at 11:30 pm, had to end at 10:00 pm because the venue had noise restriction they had to abide by.
Somehow, when they booked the venue, and throughout the planning, no one realized or communicated or was asked about when the reception would end.
This was naturally a serious and unexpected stress to the couple and the wedding on the day of. And the loss of money from the expensive band who suddenly had to play less than half of their contracted setlist.
Had the couple had a timeline before they booked the venue, this issue would have been realized right away and prevented by hiring another venue or adjusting their wedding day timeline.
You can make your own timeline, or use weddingdaytimeline.com to have it all done for you professionally in minutes.
Tip 2: Your wedding date
When selecting your date, be sure to check with all the A-list guests for possible conflicts. This includes your parents, siblings, wedding party members. You’ll also want to check for any known events that might be happening on that date that could cause issues for your wedding. Usually, events will not stop your wedding, but, they could cause travel issues or delays.
For example, there was a wedding on the coast and the only way to get to the getting ready Airbnb was over a bridge. On the morning of the wedding, there was an annual triathlon taking place. What should have been a 10-minute commute from the hotel to the Airbnb took almost 90 minutes. Not even the best timeline can buffer 90 minutes!
Other common events which can cause delays are sporting events, college events (homecoming and parent weekends will very quickly take up all the hotel rooms in a city and cause unexpected traffic – it will also reduce your choice of vendors as they often get hired for these events).
Tip 3: Consider a First Look
Over the years a First Look has become increasingly popular and now it’s commonplace. A first look gives you an amazing emotional connection with your partner. You’re able to see each other for the first time privately, hug, talk, and connect. All of which you can’t do when you see each other at a ceremony.
Logistically, you can typically get all your couple photos, bridal party, and immediate family photos completed before the ceremony. This means after the ceremony you only have to do a few extended family photos which means you can be part of the cocktail hour.
If you’re part of cocktail hour, you enjoy the food and drink you selected and paid for. And more importantly, you can say hi to all your guests.
If you can say hi to your guests at cocktail hour, it means you can have a relaxed dinner without feeling obligated to scarf down your wedding dinner in order to visit tables and say hi.
Tip 4: Outsource
You’ve probably never planned such a big event and probably never have run into such emotions and pressures. So when it comes to hard decisions or seemingly impossible pressures, outsource the questions and answers to your wedding vendors.
Wedding vendors have seen it all, and often have easy solutions or compromises that will work to save your day.
Tip 5: Get off Instagram and Pinterest and outsource
The infinity scroll of choice is very stressful. Rather than trying to find someone else’s perfection, reduce your stress by outsourcing to your wedding vendors.
Talk to them about your wedding location, time of day, and time of year and ask them what they recommend would look amazing, or be great, for your wedding.
Whether it’s hair and makeup, flowers, decorations, photography, or food, by letting your vendors help you, you’ll not only end up with amazing results, you’ll save yourself so much time, money and worry.
Tip 6: Toasts at rehearsal dinner
Have a lot of friends and family who want to make toasts but are worried about how much time it will take at the wedding reception? Consider having them do it at the rehearsal dinner. You can leave a few of the bigger toasts for the wedding night.
Tip 7: Wedding Bands
Bands are great and bring a great vibe. But there is a difference between a band and a wedding band. A wedding band understands weddings and often has someone who acts as an emcee. They will understand the need to communicate the night’s events with guests and vendors (so nothing is missed) and will avoid awkward silences and confusion (which is common when weddings have bands who don’t understand how weddings work).
Tip 8: Sunset
Before you set your wedding ceremony and reception times, check sunset and daylight savings time. I can think of several weddings where the ceremony was set at 5:00 pm and they didn’t forget about Daylight Savings Time and it caused issues for taking photos because they were doing them after the ceremony, and it was going to be dark by the time the ceremony was over.
Tip 9: Personality of vendors matter
You’ll be working closely with most of the vendors you hire for your wedding. It is important that you’re happy with their personalities. This will make your wedding planning and day of experience much better and easier.
Tip 10: Guest List
This is often a stressful part of wedding planning. Your parents, your future in-laws, everyone is going to have an opinion about who is invited. One way to help manage this is to ask each parent and in-law to make their own separate list of who they want to come to the wedding. Get the lists and cross-reference who everyone agrees with. It will give you a starting point from a positive, which will help when it comes time to decide who has to be left out and help you make the best seating chart possible.
Tip 11: Table photos with guests
If you want to have your wedding photographer take photos of you with all your guests at the tables, it usually takes a lot longer than you think, and the photos aren’t that good. Instead, try standing at the center of the reception room, and having each table come to you before they’re released for dinner (this is especially easy with a buffet). Your photos will look a lot nicer, and it’s much faster than going around the room.
Tip 12: Number the back of your RSVP cards
It can be frustrating to get back RSVP cards with missing information or that are illegible. Before you send them out, assign numbers to your guest spreadsheet, and write the number on the back of the corresponding RSVP card.
Tip 13: Walking with your wedding dress
The idea of your new spouse holding your dress as you walk is very romantic, but oftentimes can be frustrating as your walking speeds aren’t in sync, the dress is pulled or your veil is pulled. Try draping your dress and veil over one arm, and holding his or her hand with your free hand. You’ll be more connected, and less annoyed!
Tip 14: Family photos
A constant at almost any wedding is the delay of family members when it comes time for extended family photos after the ceremony. Delegate family to your parents and in-laws to remind them both the night before and before the ceremony begins they’re not to go to cocktail hour until after they’ve had their photo taken. This will save you time and frustration.
Tip 15: Wedding Website
The easiest way to keep in touch with your guests is to make a free wedding website. Zola, The Knot, Wedding Wire, and many more sites offer free wedding websites, it is easy to take advantage of them.
Tip 16: Wedding Invitation
If you’re looking to save money, your wedding invitation might be a place you can do some DIY. Etsy has a lot of great invitation designs, and you can find a lot of printers online who will print at a low cost. Everyone has their own things which are important to their wedding, so find what is important for you, and DIY the less important things.
Tip 17: Video
If you don’t have a videographer at your wedding, have someone video the toasts, at minimum. You’ll want to be able to go back and hear those special people loving (or roasting!) you.
Tip 18: Let go of the little things
It’s hard, but, the little things you see go wrong, no one else notices or realizes. And it definitely doesn’t take away from their experience. Once the day starts, try to let go and just enjoy your day for what it is, not the little detail that is missing.
Tip 19: Marriage license versus certificate
Your marriage license is your permission to get married. The marriage certificate is proof you’re married.
Tip 20: Remind your vendors of your wedding
On your wedding planning checklist, or your phone’s calendar set a reminder to send a message to all your vendors a week before your wedding. This is a good template: “Hi (Vendor), it’s (Bride/Groom), we’re excited to see you for our wedding this ________ at ______. Is there anything you need from us?” There are times vendors get very busy. This quick email will make sure they’re on the same page, and help you feel good about the week before your wedding.
Tip 21: Day of coordinator
If you think you need help, and can’t afford a full-time wedding planner, look for a day of coordinator. They’re very helpful and perfect if you have already selected your vendors, and worked out all the details, but just need some help the last few weeks and the day of the wedding.
These planning tips should go a long way to making sure you have the wedding day you want. And remember, there are no rules. Make it your own, and have fun!