From A Recent Bride Who Wishes Someone Would've Clued Her In
Let me start by saying, I loved my wedding day. Don't let the subheading here confuse you; it was perfect in almost every way. There were no major crises, everyone remembered their lines, and after a lot of hoping and praying, the forecast changed and the weather was a beautiful 72 and mostly sunny. Praise Jesus.
That said, we had our fair share of almost disasters. We managed to avoid a lot of near crisis experiences because of the army of people who were helping us prepare for what turned out to be the best day of our lives, but there are still a few things that would've been good to know.
For instance, buttercream icing will melt in the heat. Who knew? Fortunately, our wedding was in October so, no qualms there; however, it is those kinds of issues that can ruin a reception if you don't do your research ahead of time. So, learn from my experiences, and heed these seventeen do's and don'ts before planning your fairytale wedding.
1.) Do: Make Your Reservations Early
People will start booking venues, photographers, and caterers over a year in advance. It's crazy, I know, but it's true. If you have your eye on the area's most popular reception hall or trendiest photographer, make it your priority to reach out to them first thing after the engagement. The same is true especially if you are getting married in the months of May, June, September, or October. Saturdays during these months often go the quickest.
The purpose here is twofold. Obviously you want to secure your favorite vendors for your wedding date, but the earlier you book, the more of an advantage you have price-wise as well. If your photographer, venue, or whoever decides to raise their prices a few months before the wedding, most of the time, you will be locked in with the original booking price.
2.) Don't: Forget All of the Day Of Detail Pieces
Guilty as charged. The wedding day is such a busy time—getting ready with your girls, doing any necessary first looks, last minute decorations at the venue—no one can really blame you for overlooking some of the minor details, and I forgot... a lot. Fortunately our venue was on my family's property, so going home because I forgot the rings (oops) was not a big deal. Here's a few items that you should keep in mind. Some are really obvious, but trust me, come wedding day, you'll understand my brain lapse moment:
Nice, wooden hanger for pictures of your dress
Printed copy of your invitation suite for detail shots with your photographer
Both wedding bands and the engagement ring
Parents' and bridal party gifts (if you plan on giving them out on wedding day)
Flower girl basket and ring bearer pillow
Garter and throw away bouquet
Printed copy of your vows if you plan on reading your own
3.) Do: Have a Designated Day-Of Contact (That Isn't You)
Even if you don't hire a day-of coordinator, assign a close family member or friend to the task. My aunt (shoutout to Hazel) did a great job of working with all of our vendors to make sure that everyone was on the same page the morning of the wedding. The last thing you want is to get a phone call while you're putting on mascara asking where the cake should be delivered. Make a list of vendors and ensure that they have your coordinator's contact information and schedule for the day. After all, they always say, "call anyone but the bride."
4.) Don't: Wing the Rehearsal
The preacher who married us warned us about this ahead of time. Efficiency is key here. Find someone—a member of the wedding party, your coordinator, or the officiant—with a large and in charge personality, and assign them to the task of coordinating the rehearsal. Make a detailed outline of the ceremony and give it to this person beforehand. Be sure to include everything they will need to know to make things go smoothly: the names of your wedding party, ushers' cues, the musician's time marks, etc. Otherwise, your hour long rehearsal will turn into two hours of people standing around, looking confused and annoyed, and waiting for someone to take charge.
5.) Do: Have a Rain Plan
Do as I say, not as I do. I feel like a hypocrite for this one because, despite the fact that our wedding was outdoors, we had absolutely no backup plan for rain. Call it crazy or call it faith, but it worked for us; however, not everyone is that fortunate. The forecast called for rain all week and finally on Friday morning, they changed it to mostly sunny. *Deep sigh of relief.* That said, I could've saved myself a lot of pre-wedding stress and torment if I would've planned ahead. While you may be tempted to gamble with Mother Nature and risk the chance of bad weather to avoid spending any unnecessary money on a backup plan (trust me, I feel), it is much better to spend a little extra on a plan b, indoor venue or a tent than risk it and ruin all of the plans that you've already sunk so much money into in the first place.
6.) Don't: Make Impulsive Spending Decisions
I guess it really depends on the length of your engagement, but treat it like a marathon, not a sprint. Really do your research before you buy. SO MANY vendors mark up their prices if they know that you are using their services for a wedding. Wedding cake tastes the exact same as birthday cake, but at a lot of bakeries, the former will run you hundreds of dollars more. You ever wonder why wedding dresses cost more than the average mortgage payment? Because they know that we women are creatures of emotion, and once we fall in love with the perfect dress, no amount of logic or reason can convince us that it isn't the one. So, we buy it, and the cycle continues. Resist the urge.
7.) Do: Squirrel Away Extra Money for Hidden Expenses
I recommend setting aside a couple hundred dollars as a cushion just in case, because no matter how many times you've gone over your budget, you will inevitably forget to account for postage stamps or gratuities or the marriage licensing fee. It is much better to have an extra hundred bucks after the wedding than to be scrounging around your savings account at the last minute because you forgot to account for something important. If you still have that money sitting in your account after the wedding, treat yourself to a nice dinner on the honeymoon or put it towards your first month's rent as a married couple.
8.) Don't: Forget to Eat
Especially if you have a larger bridal party like I did, it can take hours to get everyone primped, prepped, and ready for the big day. My seven bridesmaids and I started getting ready around 9 in the morning and finally finished around 1:30 that afternoon. Thankfully, my other aunt (shoutout Teresa) was on site and made us the most delicious food to eat throughout the day. Those four and a half hours flew by and, although we were fed, I can easily understand how many brides just forget to eat. Do yourself and your girls a favor and make sure you plan ahead for lunch, whether than means recruiting your awesome aunt or ordering food in, you need something on your stomach to get your through the most important day ever!
9.) Do: Create Most Wanted and Do Not Play Lists
Trust me when I say, your wedding day is the quickest 24 hours of your life. In the hustle of saying I do, grabbing some quick pics, finding time to eat, and chatting with all of your guests, there are a lot of things that can easily be overlooked, and unfortunately, there is no rewind button. Do your photographer a favor, and create a list of most wanted shots. This way there is no ambiguity as to what your priorities are on wedding day. For some ideas on what to include in your list, think about any special moment or relationships you would like to highlight. One of my favorite wedding pictures is this one of my husband and I with a portrait of my grandma and grandpa on the day of their engagement.
Likewise, if there is a song that you really don't want featured at the reception, make sure you clue your DJ into that fact with a do not play list. Maybe it is a song you shared in a past relationship, or it reminds you of a loved one who has passed; don't let anything harsh the mood on your big day. Steer clear with a do not play list.
10.) Don't: Create an Unclear or Inconsistent Plus One Policy
This is your wedding; invite who you well please. I always hated the idea of inviting certain guests because you feel like you should. That said, just make sure you are consistent and fair. It can get awkward fast if some of your guests find out that they received a plus one and others didn't or vice versa. There are a lot of rules out there that say when you should or shouldn't include a plus one
with an invitation. These are helpful, but like I said, it is your wedding. If you really don't like someone's date or you simply don't have enough room for everyone to bring an additional person, don't pressure yourself. For our wedding, rather than, for example, giving all singles above a certain age a plus one, we tried to extend the offer of a date to all of the people that we knew were in serious relationships, or give them a plus one if we knew their plus one personally as well.
11.) Do: Continually Update Your Budget
I am notoriously bad at holding onto receipts. Somehow they always wind up wadded up and buried somewhere in my car. Before you wad, make sure you have logged all of your purchases in your budget. Updating your budget after each purchase helps to ensure that what you have allotted in your spreadsheet, lines up with what you actually have left in your account.
12.) Don't: Forget to Pay Vendors After the Wedding
Some wedding vendors will request to be paid before the big day or even on the day of the event; others are fine with waiting until the craziness of the wedding is past. As nice as it is to have one less thing to remember before the wedding, it also makes it easy to forget afterwards. Especially if you take your honeymoon right after the wedding, be sure to make arrangements to pay them before you leave, whether that means writing a check that your parents can mail or scheduling a payment online. If you wait another week, the odds of you forgetting only go up. (Guilty, again.)
13.) Do: Schedule Buffer Time
Don't get me wrong, I loved our wedding ceremony and reception, but some of my favorite memories from the wedding day came from that morning, listening to "Dear Future Husband" by Meghan Trainor and dancing around the room with my girls. You have plenty of other things to stress about; don't rush those precious moments away. Even if it means waking up an hour earlier that morning, give yourself some extra time throughout the day. Inevitably, pictures will take longer than scheduled, a groomsmen will be running late, etc.
14.) Don't: Overlook the Legal Stuff
Yay, you're married! Now what? Now you get the pleasure of sharing that information with the government so they can make it official. After the wedding, make sure you (or someone else in charge, like your coordinator or your officiant) turn in your wedding license to the county clerk's office. It takes a few days to process, but after receiving your copy in the mail, you can then get started on the process of updating all of your legal, medical, and personal information. If you are changing your name, you will first need to go to the social security office in your area and file for a new card. Then, after a few more days, you can complete all of the other necessary changes like...
Work documents (Payroll, Taxes, etc.)
Banking information (Credit/Debit Cards, Loans, etc.)
15.) Do: Send Thank You Notes as Quickly as Possible
The hardest thing about getting so many great wedding gifts? Writing thank you cards. My husband and I were blessed with so many amazing and thoughtful gifts from family and friends, that it actually took us probably a full month to finally unpack all of the boxes and clear our kitchen of all of the cardboard. We were so grateful, and we wanted to make sure that all of our thank you cards were each special and conveyed exactly how thankful we were. I still don't think my hand/wrist has recovered. I was writing thank you notes in all of my spare time: before breakfast, during all of the commercial breaks, in line at the drive through... you get the point.
16.) Don't: Forget Your Honeymoon Plans
Looking back, this one really makes me laugh. For anyone who follows the Enneagram Test, I am a Type 3; translation, I am so organized it's not even funny, but this wedding really got the best of me. Not only did I forget my sunglasses for our week long trip to the Caribbean, neither of us even packed sunscreen. We were so concerned making sure that the wedding was perfect, that when we left for our flight the next morning, we forgot almost all of the essentials. As a result, we ended up buying a $26 bottle of sunscreen at the resort shop, and we used every last drop. The moral of the story is, don't be so worried about the wedding that you completely forget the details of your honeymoon.
17.) Do: Relax and Have Fun
Last but not least, relax! After the vows are exchanged and the last guest has left, you will look back on the day and laugh at how much time and effort you put into planning the past 24 hours. My husband and I did a fake send off for photography purposes, and ended up hanging out at the venue for another thirty minutes or so until everyone had gone home. We went back to the altar, talked, cried, and prayed together. We wanted to spent whatever time we could before our flight left to soak up the crazy, amazing, whirlwind we had just experienced, alone.
However you choose to celebrate, make sure you take time amid the crazy to relax and have fun!