Ah, weddings. Let me just start out by saying how much I love them. I always have. As a little girl, my mom and I would pick up bridal magazines and go through them together while turning the corners of pages that featured wedding dresses we adored. As a 10-year-old, I was drawn to the puffy, Cinderella-esque ball gowns. The more tulle, the better. Like most young girls, I dreamed about my own wedding that I would one day have. I never thought about the details or what it would cost or really anything other than I wanted it to be a fairytale. I mean, who actually thinks about all that is entailed in the wedding planning process at that young of an age? I never imagined what all was in store for me as an engaged adult woman.
But then, I blinked…and there I was. 26-years-old and engaged. I met the man that I was ready to spend the rest of my life with and he popped the question. Now what? Being a bridesmaid and witnessing firsthand a couple of my close girlfriends getting married, I was able to see how crazy, stressful, fun (did I mention stressful?) it all was. I was given this warning by many, but always thought to myself…how chaotic could this really be? Like many girls, I like to think of myself as Superwoman – I can handle just about anything thrown my way. I was working a full-time job, in grad school and participating in a flag football team that raised money for a non-profit organization all while juggling a social life, time with my fiancé, dogs (they’re basically my children) and three sets of families. SURELY, I could take on one more thing. Let me just state that planning a wedding is one of the most incredible experiences you will ever go through. But understand that it is in itself a full-time gig.
Let me just say – I am no wedding guru but any means, but I experienced a lot during a year and a half of planning. I can offer up some advice based on my knowledge and what I’ve seen others go through.
To all my lovelies who are about to get hitched, here are 8 simple rules to consider:
1. KEEP CALM. This process is fun (really, it is) but it is going to test you in every way possible. Your emotions are running high during this time and there is a lot to juggle and make decisions on. Understand going into this: you will have obstacles. I can guarantee you there is not one bride in this world who has not encountered at least one issue (if not several) during the wedding planning process. Just remember to breathe. Talk yourself down when you’re feeling as though you’re about to be worked up and remember: the stress will not last forever – there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, find some activities that can help you unwind. Take up yoga, go for a run, write in a journal, do some painting…anything to have some sort of release. Remember to wooooosah.
2. STAY ORGANIZED. The only way to make it out alive is to find an organization method that works for you. Think about all of the information that is being thrown your way: vendor quotes, contracts, pictures of your vision, contact information, budgets, spreadsheets, charts, timelines etc. It’s pretty intense. Keep a notebook or a three-ring binder – it will be your best friend! I carried mine around everywhere and to be perfectly honest, people probably thought I was insane – but there was a method to my madness. I even made tabs for my binder to take it a step further. By doing so, I kept myself together, was prepared for meetings and had a way to quickly reference something. There are also various apps for your smart phone that you can download such as iWeddings or The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner. You can also pop into Barnes and Noble and see what wedding planning books they have. One of my bridesmaids purchased one for me as a gift and I found it very useful! Additionally, I have recently had some girls ask me what wedding website I used – after doing quite a bit of research, weddingwindow.com was recommended to me and in my opinion, it was the best. Your customizing options are infinite and you can even save your wedding website in a zip file or have it sent to you on a CD after your wedding – what a sweet keepsake to have forever! Lastly, the wedding registry I used was Gift Registry 360 (powered by The Knot), however, it was recently changed to the Knot Wedding Gift Registry. It’s great because you can create one master registry list and it syncs to all of your registries. Want to add something to your list from another retailer that you may not be registered with? This will allow you to add items from any website. It’s an easy, stress-free way to keep everything organized.
3. MAKE IT YOURS. Yes, Pinterest is fantastic – In fact, I swear by it (ask any of my friends). Use it as a tool but as you cultivate your various inspiration boards, remember, that is what they are: inspiration boards. I say this because it is so important to make sure this day is about you and your fiancé. There is nothing wrong with taking different elements of various weddings you like and building on to that, but there is no need to copy someone else’s wedding exactly. Think about it – what would be the point of emulating another couple’s big day? It wouldn’t be as unique and special because it would not truly be yours. Determine what your vision is by conducting some research. Browse various websites and wedding blogs. The sites I found most helpful are: Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, Hi-Fi Weddings, Etsy, Wedding Gawker, Pinterest, BHLDN, 100 Layer Cake, Ruffled, Rock N’ Roll Bride (for the nontraditional couple), Wedding Chicks, Emmaline Bride, Kiss the Groom and Weddingbee. If you are interested in more fantastic wedding websites, check out the Top 100 Wedding Blogs. Figuring out your vision is so vital. In the end, you want your guests to look at your big day and think wow…this really encompassed the bride and groom perfectly. Once you’ve decided on the direction you’d like to go in, start thinking about your color scheme, setting and details. Build Pinterest boards so you’ll have a visual and your ideas can start coming to life.
4. STAY TRUE TO YOUR VISION. Oh, we’ve heard all before. The classic tale of the “zillas”. It’s not even necessarily bridezillas and mother-of-the-bridezillas. There are sisterzillas, bridesmaidzillas, friendzillas, plannerzillas…everyone has a different experience. Even when someone is just trying to help, it can come off as pushy or opinionated. Remember: everyone is working toward the same common goal and 9 times out of 10 – your friends, family and vendors are in your corner. Just remember to play it cool when someone offers up their thoughts about your wedding day. They may offer a valuable perspective or constructive criticism based on experience. Take a moment to really listen and let it resonate – what they have to say may be something to consider. With that said, it is also critical to stay true to your vision. Yes – there is always room to flex as there are so many factors and circumstances that can change things (cost, space, etc.). But if someone is trying to lead you in a completely different direction and you are uncomfortable with it, stick to your guns. This is your day and you’re more than likely only going to experience it once in your lifetime.
5. PRIORITIZE. Most of us do not have an unlimited budget and as much as we want to, we cannot have it all. Therefore, you must decide on how you want your money spent. If you’re unsure of what the “typical” percentage of your budget for each vendor should be, there are tons and tons of resources out there that can give you an average. However, keep in mind that the wedding industry gets increasingly more expensive as time elapses and it’s forever growing and changing so you cannot 100% depend on that solely. The best thing to do is gather a few different quotes from each type of vendor. By doing so, you can kind of gauge who is reasonable, unreasonable and so on which will be contingent on cost, what each vendor provides you with, etc. A way of figuring out how much you want to spend in each area is making a list of what is important to you and prioritizing from there. Sit down and write out a list of the most imperative aspects of your big day. What is most important to you? Is it flowers? Rentals? Food? Entertainment? Videography? Keep in mind that everyone is different. Some people have 0 interest in spending a large sum of money on paper goods (save the dates, invitations, programs, etc.) because they feel that guests will probably end up tossing them. With that said, they may want to have a much smaller budget for that part of their wedding and use a larger portion on something else – such as food and alcohol. For me personally, photography was #1 because that was something I knew that I would have to look back on forever. Food, alcohol and entertainment were also important to me because that is what everyone remembers – if the party was fun and the food was good. Trust when I say, Chiavari chairs were really important to me as well but let’s be honest, do you think anyone legitimately remembers (or cares) what my chairs looked like? Maybe a handful of people. What really matters is that they had a good time.
6. GET CREATIVE + DIY. Now given, I purchased many props and other goodies on Etsy as well as from various shops and antique stores, but there were some things I wanted for the big day but was not willing to spend the money on. This is where I took the DIY approach. I read articles and watched YouTube tutorials until I was cross-eyed. But with some time, supplies and a little help from bridesmaids, I was able to take on a few projects that ended up saving myself some cash money. One particular DIY project was an old, vintage door that needed to be turned into an escort card display that my bridesmaid, Stephanie and I took on. Do not be afraid – there is honestly nothing to fear. Just remember, not everything you create is going to be a winner. So what if you “messed up”? Brush it off and start over – as cliche’ as it sounds, practice makes perfect. Go into each project with a positive attitude and open mind – I promise you will not be disappointed!
7. ASK FOR HELP. If there is anyone in this world who consistently thinks she can do it herself without any assistance, it is me! I’ve always been someone who puts her head down and works without asking for help. Let me be the one to tell you, that is not going to work when planning a wedding because you will end up biting off more than you can chew. It’s a lot for multiple people to take on, let alone, one person. Do not (I repeat, do not) be afraid to ask for help. I received a great amount of assistance from family (my mom in particular), several of my bridesmaids and believe it or not, my fiance’ at the time (now husband). Believe me, everyone wants to help in any way they can. Put your pride to the side and take your stubbornness out of the equation. Ask for the help – you’ll be surprised with the overwhelming support you’ll receive.
8. BE GRATEFUL + SHOW APPRECIATION. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of wedding planning. Make sure you remember to be grateful (and having a little humility always helps too). With that said, it’s also important to show appreciation to those who have assisted you along the way. Make sure your family and bridesmaids know how much you appreciate all of their hard work, effort and dedication. Whether you get them a small gift, buy them lunch after a DIY project or just write a nice thank you note – you are getting the message across.
Throughout all of this – remember the real reason you are having a wedding. It’s not for the show, the numerous events leading up to the big day or the gifts…it’s about you and your fiancé. I think some bride’s minds get a little clouded with all of the pressures during this time and the production of the wedding begins to consume their life all while completely missing the boat on what this day is truly about. Enjoy all that is involved in the planning process but do not let it overshadow what it is actually for. The reason we have a wedding is because we are uniting as one with our significant other and celebrating the sanctity of marriage. We love this person, can’t live without them, they make us better people and give us a reason to live. Let’s not forget that it is about the very genuine and pure love we are celebrating. Believe it or not, married life is even more beautiful than the wedding itself and once the party is over, life has just begun for you two – and it is one, grand adventure.
Photography: The Schultzes