I’m not sure anyone can say with certainty that they are a wedding planning “expert.” Surely, no one has seen it all, experienced it all, or planned for it all. That’s what is so inspiring about this industry — there are always new ideas, new décor options, new Pinterest finds, and new ways to organize how a wedding day is structured. So I don’t claim total and all-knowing expertise over your wedding planning process. After all, the best part of a wedding is that this is YOUR day, which means that there are no wrong answers.
Here is what I DO claim: I’ve attended a lot of weddings. I’ve helped plan a lot of other people’s weddings. I’ve helped set up a lot of other people’s weddings. I’ve been a lucky member of a lot of bridal parties. And I planned my own wedding from start to finish, which offered a whole new kind of learning experience as I faced the process directly from the mindset of a bride. Through these experiences, I’ve paid a lot of attention and I’ve learned how to focus on what’s most important, how to keep a bride and groom happy, and how to avoid obstacles altogether or tackle them appropriately when they are unavoidable.
So here I offer you my biggest tips based on my own experiences. These tips are not meant to be taken as requirements by any means. Instead, they are meant to guide you, make your day special, bring up ideas you may not have thought of yet, and allow your wedding day to flow smoothly. We’ll start with five important tips for your wedding planning process in the months prior to your big day and we’ll follow up with five more in Part II. After that, we’ll cover five pieces of day-of advice in a separate post.
5 TIPS FOR YOUR WEDDING PLANNING PROCESS
1. Do what YOU think is important. Each of us has our own favorite part of a wedding. Often, that part is a favorite because of an emotional attachment — it’s a tradition that means something to us. But unless you are having an extremely religious wedding, most traditions that usually accompany a wedding day can be customized. So don’t do the parts that you can live without just because you think you need to go through the motions. If you don’t care about the rituals of cutting the cake, tossing the bouquet, or ending the night with a big send-off, don’t pause your party to do those things. If you’re not dancers, skip the music and break out some yard games instead. If you don’t like champagne, don’t pay for a fancy toast. If you’re not into the idea of a formal bridal party, don’t have one.
On the other hand, do the things that are important to you and have meaning for you, whether they are traditional or not. Again, there are no wrong answers. Have both your parents walk you down the aisle. Incorporate a Christian psalm, a Hebrew prayer, a Native American proverb, and an Irish blessing into your ceremony script. Place your ceremony chairs in a circular pattern. Serve your favorite local ice cream for dessert instead of cake. Make some off-beat music selections. Are you dog-lovers? Give puppies as favors. Ok, not really — but you see my point. There are no rules regarding what you’re allowed to do these days. So be creative! Make it personal. Do everything for a reason, not just because it’s expected.
2. Buy pretty umbrellas. Obviously, if your ceremony and/or reception will occur outside, you run the risk of experiencing less-than-perfect weather. But even if your day will take place primarily indoors, chances are you will be outside at some point — whether you’re traveling to and from beauty appointments, walking from the bride’s quarters to your ceremony in a different building, or taking pictures in front of the church. More than likely, your photographer is going to be snapping pictures during each of those occasions. You may not realize it in the moment, but that picture of you and your bridesmaids making a mad dash from the car into the building will be one you’ll want to hang on the wall. The panicked expressions on your faces will be honest and real and that picture will remind you exactly how you were feeling in that moment. You know what you don’t want your eye being drawn to in that picture? A ripped umbrella. An umbrella with bright pink polka dots. Your nephew’s umbrella that looks like a green cartoon frog. So get on Amazon, search for wedding umbrellas, and invest in 5 or 10 (just enough for your bridal party) that are plain black or white. It won’t break the bank and the worst thing that happens is that it doesn’t rain and you don’t use them!
3. Do a first look and take pictures before your ceremony. This is a controversial one, admittedly. Again, if you and your fiancé feel strongly about waiting until the ceremony to see each other, that’s okay! I’m not here to tell you that “you’re doing it wrong.” But, I think I have some valid points, so hear me out.
First, the argument I hear most against doing a first look is that it takes away from that super special aisle moment you’ve probably always dreamed of. For some people, I’m sure that’s true, but I had a completely different experience. For me, getting to experience that “wow” moment in private made it infinitely more special. We didn’t have to be on our best “ceremony behavior” in front of 100+ people; we got to be ourselves. We got to laugh, cry, and HUG. I got to spin around and show off my dress. And I truly don’t think that our aisle moment a few hours later was diminished in any way because we had already seen each other. If anything, it just made us even more excited to see each other again.
Second, doing a first look allows you a little more time to spend the day together. After all, it’s your day. Whether you do a first look or not, the time after your ceremony will largely involve entertaining guests, meeting relatives, listening to speeches, scarfing food (like a lady), and getting after it on the dance floor, which doesn’t allow room for much one-on-one time. Doing a first look and taking pictures before your guests arrive gives you a little more breathing room to enjoy each other’s company throughout the day before putting on your ‘gracious host’ hat.
Last, waiting until your ceremony to see each other means that you’re waiting until your cocktail hour to start bridal party, family, and portrait photos. Personally, I can’t imagine what my wedding day would have been like had I missed my cocktail hour. It’s an hour. Literally, 60 minutes. But that was the 60 minutes I used to travel through the crowd, mingle, and thank guests for coming. Without that cushion, I would have only been able to talk to members of the bridal party at the head table during dinner and smile at a few guests who walked by on their way to the buffet. If I was lucky, I might have been able to visit a few tables during the reception to say hello between speeches. But once it was time to dance, talking time was over and dancing was my main objective. And then I would have felt guilty for not spending enough time with Aunt XX who flew in all the way from YY or for forgetting to introduce this person to that person. So again, I stress, you’re not wrong if you choose to go the more traditional route but remember that this is your party! You conceived it and you planned it, so just make sure that you enjoy it under your own terms.
4) Break in your shoes. Pretty obvious. Pretty basic. Applicable to both bride and groom. Not something that is usually top priority in the weeks prior to your wedding but is totally necessary. It’s a long day.
5) Assemble and pack a day-of emergency kit. (Or assign someone else to be in charge of it.) This is a pretty common tip, but a necessary one. There really is no telling what sorts of odd scenarios might present themselves, so just be prepared. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and most of the items are probably things you already have. My mom was in charge of my emergency supplies. In addition to the very important “snacks that aren’t chocolate” and “snacks that are chocolate,” I requested that she include: band aids, mints, clear nail polish, bobby pins, tissues, deodorant, pain reliever, Imodium, Tums, hair spray, straws, water, safety pins, scissors, baby powder, sunscreen, tide stick, nail file, contact solution, and extra contacts.
Stay tuned for five more planning tips coming soon in Part II!