So I haven’t blogged in quite a little while. Sorry about that. Although chances are that 99% of you didn’t even notice. Except my mom. She probably noticed. (Thanks Mom!)
Anyways. I just kind of had social media-aversion during all the election chaos. And then I was in the heat of the job search and am happy to say I have accepted a job with GEICO’s Corporate Office here in Maryland in their marketing department! Apparently I have a thing for animal-themed marketing strategies because I will be transferring from working on the Cow campaign at Chick-fil-A to working on the infamous Gecko now! I start December 12 so I’m glad I have a couple more weeks of being a trophy wife left 😉
Speaking of being a wife… I have gotten a lot of questions this year about wedding planning tips and tricks. Not that I by any means did everything perfectly but I did learn a lot through our wedding planning process and felt that the weekend of our wedding went extremely smoothly (once again, thanks Mom!) and am more than happy to share what I know. When I was engaged, SO many brides gave me such helpful advice that I always want to be paying it forward to others. Since I’ve gotten a lot of requests for wedding planning help recently, I thought I would share some of top 10 best pieces of advice with all of you! This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully it will at least help all you engaged women out there a little bit. And if you’re already married, please comment at the end with the best piece of advice that you would love to give future bride-to-be’s!
- Make it Your Own
The first piece of advice I will say is that this day is about you and your future spouse so make it your own! It is SO easy in this day and age to think that you “have” to do this, or “have” to do that… when really you don’t. And to be honest… no one really cares all that much what you do except for you (ok unless you have bad food… ;P). So make the day uniquely you! Those are the parts of the day that you look back and smile on. We love that we walked out of the ceremony to “The Office” theme song, because it’s our favorite show, and that we served Chick-fil-A nuggets at our reception… and those will always be special memories to us, even though those are not very traditional wedding features. And I’m very passionate about following proper etiquette so Mom helped make sure I followed all Emily Post’s best guidelines to the tee… but hey, that may not be as important to you! What I’m trying to say is: add your own touch and personality to the wedding and DO NOT COMPARE. There will ALWAYS be a wedding that is prettier, more expensive, has better food, etc. But the best weddings by far are the ones where the bride and groom are happy, because everyone else feeds off of that. I’ve been to extremely elaborate and gorgeous weddings where the bride and groom seemed miserable… and it made me feel miserable. And I’ve also been to weddings where they’ve run out of food and everything was on a tight budget, but had the BEST time, because the bride and groom’s joy was infectious. So just remember it isn’t about money, and it’s all about you, your spouse, and the lifelong marriage you are about to begin. This is just day 1 🙂
- You Don’t Have to Spend That…
But speaking of money…one of the best pieces of advice I could give to all you brides to be is that there are ways around paying full price for just about EVERYTHING. Oh my goodness. The average cost of a wedding is ASTONISHING to me. And although ours wasn’t cheap, I’m very proud of the discounts we did find and the money that we saved. First of all, we had our wedding on a Sunday which cut the price of the venue in half. And we got to tent share with the bride who had her wedding the day before ours (hey Shelby!!) which saved major bucks there. Having our wedding on a Sunday saved lots of money with other vendors too because they were less likely to be booked otherwise. We didn’t do save the dates which saved a few hundred bucks. We got all our bridesmaid and flower girl dresses at the same store where I got my wedding dress so we got a discount on the other dresses. I borrowed my veil (thanks Caitlin). Our reception venue was already beautiful so we barely had to spend money decorating it at all (and I got most of my decor from Amazon what what!). And so many things were generous gifts from family and friends (some of the flowers, the nugget trays, etc.). I have a friend who got a major discount on her cake cause she paid in cash, and she also got a huge discount on her venue (which was INSANELY GORGEOUS) because they were doing construction when she booked it. So the moral of the story is… don’t accept the “wedding industry standard” of what you are “supposed” to pay. Decide up front what 2-3 things are most important to you and your fiancé, and splurge a little on those. Then save money on the rest! You will truly be amazed when you take the time to do research and just ASK how much money you can save. And remember… the amount of money spent isn’t what dictates the success of the wedding anyways!
- Be Gracious
This can be hard. As fun as getting married is, you will be shocked at the things some people do. People will ask if they are invited to your wedding or bring uninvited dates or kids. Maybe they’ll ask how much you spent on the wedding or why you’re not serving steak and lobster. Perhaps your family and friends will interject their opinions and expectations. It can be hard, I’ll be honest. But, as a married woman with 20/20 hindsight, my advice is to be gracious. Chances are, your mom has dreamed about this day as much as you have. So make sure you let her pick out a thing or two. And your in-laws too! They are your new family so make sure they feel loved and respected throughout the process as well. Now I know, it is your day and I just spent piece of advice #1 telling you to make the wedding YOUR style. But remember, no opinion about flowers or music or cake is worth damaging any relationship over. I have seen girls make a mess of relationships when they are brides because they have myopic vision that makes them think the whole world is revolving around their wedding, just because their lives are. But it’s not true… all of your bridesmaids have lives and other weddings they’re in and jobs and families. So be gracious if they can’t attend things. Be gracious to your in laws or parents if they had really imagined one or two things going a certain way. Be gracious to guests who ask annoying questions or bring uninvited guests. Is it annoying? Sure. But it’s just not worth losing a relationship over.
- Talk Expectations Early
And speaking of maintaining relationships: talk expectations with your parents and in-laws at the very beginning. What things about your wedding are important to them? Are there one or two little ways that you can make them feel special and loved during your big weekend? What about your fiancé…? Are you just assuming that he envisions your wedding day the exact same as you are? How many guests are your parents and in laws expecting to invite of their friends? The earlier you can talk about expectations, the more headache you’ll save yourself down the road, as you realize what little details are important to those that you love.
- Number Your RSVP Response Cards
Now this is a handy little trick that I unfortunately did not learn until after getting married, but I find fascinatingly helpful so want to make sure you all know it! You’ll be surprised at how confusing some RSVP response cards can be. Thankfully I didn’t ever get any response cards with no name on them, but I know brides who have! And we definitely got some vague ones like Mr. and Mrs. Smith…which when you’re marrying into a family of Smiths, it’s not very helpful. When you make your guest list spreadsheet, put a number beside each name. Then put that number on the back of the RSVP response card, so that when you get them in the mail, you know exactly who it’s from! Even it was a little vague.
- Do all the Planning in Advance
Plan plan plan plan plan! Even if you are not a detail oriented person, this is the time to become one. Plan as many details as you possibly can and over-communicate to your friends and family. I sent all of my bridesmaids, in-laws, and immediate family instructions of where they were to be at all times of the day a month in advance so that NO ONE had to ask me any questions the day of! Make a detailed photography shot list, day-of schedules for each group of people, and instructions for every vendor. Now once again, our wedding weekend wasn’t perfect, but from a logistical standpoint, it was just about flawless. And that was due to lots of detailed planning and coordination leading up to it… and much grace and blessing from the Lord! I also recommend finishing all of your planning two weeks before the wedding, so that you can just enjoy your last two weeks of being engaged and doing all the little last minute things that you can’t do until then anyways. You don’t want to be stressed out the week of your wedding.
- Hire a Wedding Coordinator
Now, hiring a wedding planner is totally your choice. I didn’t have one, but I know plenty of people who have. Your call. But having a wedding coordinator is a MUST. This can even be a family member or friend. We had my sister’s best friend Abby be ours and she was fantastic! But unless you want someone coming and asking you a million questions the day of, you will need one. This is the person that will tell everyone when to go down the aisle, open the ceremony doors for you, give the photographer the props she needs, tell the caterer where the cake goes, make sure your luggage gets in the limo, gets the rings from the photographer to the BM and MOH, etc. You absolutely need this person. Make sure they are organized, dependable, sweet, but also direct and can make sure those groomsmen stay in line! They will make your day SO much more enjoyable! (Thanks Abby!)
- Take a Moment to Step Away…
This is a great piece of advice that someone gave us a week before the wedding. After all of the planning that you’ve done, the day goes by so quickly, so at some point during the reception, take a moment to step away from the dance floor, in a corner where no one is asking for pictures with you, and just take it all in. Andrew and I did this and that memory is forever etched into my mind… standing on the side of the dance floor, just inhaling all of the love and joy from the day, and getting to see everyone enjoy the fruits of the effort we had put into the planning. It’s such a special moment and really helps to pull your head up and just be grateful for it all.
One of the most exciting pieces throughout the engagement process is seeing how much friends and family love you and want to help you. We were blown away by how much people did for us during this season and it was so so special. So definitely take advantage of that and let people love on you a little. They want to! It’s really cool to see, too, how much you’ll reap the benefits of people who love your parents too. I don’t think my wedding would have happened with all of my parents church friends! So let people help you: They really do want to. I also recommend giving each bridesmaid a little task for the day of, because I know when I’m a bridesmaid, I want to help but don’t always know the best way to serve the bride at that moment. Tasks can include, carrying the train of your dress during pictures, guarding your phone all day, making sure you don’t see the groom, etc. These serve great purposes and also help your bridesmaids feel involved and helpful.
- Record the Day
I saved the best piece of advice for last. My coworker at the time, Leslie Neslage, gave me this piece of advice and I have shared it with COUNTLESS brides since then: throughout the whole weekend, take little pictures in your head of the best moments and things that you want to remember. Then, on your honeymoon, bring a journal and you and your fiancé record all of your memories in the journal. We are SO glad we did this because we will have so many memories of our wedding for the rest of our lives now! And it was so fun on our honeymoon playing the memories back over again and getting to hear special parts of the other person’s day that we might not have been present for. You really will forget so much of the day because it goes by so quickly and trust me, it is a day that you never want to forget.
The last thing I’ll share with you, is my wedding planning spreadsheet. I tried to figure out how to attach it on here, but unfortunately am not blog-savvy enough yet…but if you’d like to see it, please feel free to comment or message me and I’ll forward it your way! Now don’t let it overwhelm you, it’s quite lengthy, but it was SO helpful and I’ve shared it with countless brides since we got married. I’ve taken out all of the information that was specific to our wedding (guest list, budget, etc.) but left in any examples that might be helpful to you (tips from other brides, photography shot list example, etc.).
Ok let me hear from you now! Did you learn anything from this blog post? Have any other great pieces of advice you would like to share with brides to be?
PC: Mary Claire Photography
7 thoughts on “Wedding Planning Tips & Tricks”
This is fantastic advice, Mary! Thank you for sharing. I would love to see your wedding spreadsheet if you don’t mind sharing–I’ve got some friends with weddings in their very near future, and I would love to share your wisdom with them! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
P.S. Congratulations on your new job!! 😀
it was SUCH a fun day and you were a gorgeous, gracious, fun bride! Love the post and LOVE LOVE LOVE you!!!
oh and all brides should arrange to have fabulous sisters (and their hubs!) who persevere through stomach virus plagues on them and their children less than 24 hours before the ceremony – right??? Yay Katie and Jon!!
My daughter is getting married in July!! This was very helpful!! We would LOVE your spreadsheet!!
Mrs. Tomlin – I would be happy to send it your way! I’ll send it to your email now!
Loved your post! It was a fabulous day! I am blown away by your writing! You have a gift!