DANGGGG GIRLLL!!! This is real! You’re actually getting ready to freaking PLAN. YOUR. WEDDING.
You’ve been thinking or dreaming about this since you were pretty much in diapers. (K that may be an exaggeration… but I’m trying to make a point. Cool. Moving on.) AND NOW IT’S HERE!
But with all of the excitement… I also know you’re feeling a few other emotions: a little overwhelmed, probably stressed, confused, lost, unsure of where to start… I get it. I’ve got you. I tell all of my couples that I’m here for them from day one, and I mean that. So whether you’re one of my own brides (or grooms!) that I’m sending this article too, or you found this through a frantic google search, I’m really glad you're here. I see a lot of weddings. (A LOT.) And I walk through the planning process with a lot of brides + grooms. I’ve noticed specific things that can help make the entire planning process and the actual wedding day ten times easier, and I wanted to write those up now. I raise my glass of wine to you today, girl. You’ve got this.
K enough talk. You ready to dive on in + kick that stress to the curb? Cool. Me too. Let's go.
First, set the budget!
It’s stressful enough trying to plan an entire wedding. Things get expensive REAL FAST, no matter how hard you two try to keep the costs down. So before you even begin searching Pinterest or Instagram for wedding day inspiration, know what your top dollar is. If the money is coming from the bride’s parents, sit down with them and see what they’re thinking. If it’s coming out of your own pocket, sit down as a couple and discuss the same thing: money. It’s not fun… but I guarantee it’ll make the entire planning process so much easier.
Second, figure out your top three priorities
Even once the budget limit is set, it’s so easy to feel your heart and eyes pulled in fifty different directions at once: flowers, chairs, catering, linens, bridal party gifts, “OH A REALLY COOL GETAWAY CAR!!!” Yeah. It’ll probably happen. So, I always tell my own couples to sit down and hash through all the options and set their top three priorities for their wedding. That could be a dress, venue, and photographer. Or: a venue, cake, and florals. Whatever that looks like for you, just know what’s most important. Book the venue of your dreams, find that photographer that just makes your heart come alive with their work and attitudes and get the dress that makes you feel like the queen you are. Beyond that, cut corners, rope your friends into helping with DIY, have your friend’s mom bake your cake, etc. It’ll make the entire planning process feel so much easier when you know what is most important to you and where you should spend a good chunk of that budget.
Third, give yourself TONS of extra time in your timeline
Next, as you’re getting closer to the actual wedding day, give yourself TONS of extra time in your timeline.
Trust me on this one. I think the biggest mistake I see brides make is trying to cram everything into a tight schedule on the wedding day. They want to fit everything in that they can, so they budget the smallest time frame for each event and on the day-of, when (not if!) things run late, suddenly the entire day becomes stressed. In my opinion, budget extra time for almost every single event. If you think the ceremony will be 30 minutes, budget 45. You might start 5 minutes late and go over by 5 minutes. Small pockets of time, but knowing that you put in a time buffer will help keep you calm and relaxed all day. If you’re guessing family photos will take 15 minutes, budget 20 or 25. Family can be hard to wrangle (we’ll talk about that next) and it’ll keep that experience as stress-free as possible to know you have extra time budgeted. I could talk about almost every single part of the day and explain why I would add extra time… but I think you get the idea.
When it comes to your schedule, that’s one HUGE and very easy way to keep the whole wedding day feeling relaxed and calm. Ask your photographer for time frames for photos (if they aren’t already helping with the entire timeline) to make sure you’re not making the whole photo experience feel frantic and chaotic. (Although if you have a good photographer, they’ll make it feel calm even if they’re internally stressing like crazy. *cough* inside scoop into my brain during certain weddings.)
Next, hire vendors you TRUST (explicitly)
With all of that being said, vendors play a huge role in the smoothness of the wedding day. Bottom line? Hire vendors you trust explicitly.
If you’re hiring a wedding planner or day-of coordinator, make sure it’s someone who makes you feel peaceful and relaxed when you’re planning things with them. They should make you think that if the whole sky exploded above your heads, they’d know what to do and you could keep on sipping your cool beverage.
As a wedding photographer, I can’t stress this next one enough: find a photographer who makes your entire soul come alive when you talk to them or look at their work. They’ll be with you pretty much every minute of your wedding day. You want someone who feels like a close friend, and definitely someone that you trust in the same way as I described with the wedding coordinator. Raining? My photographer’s got it. Bright sun? They can handle it. My dress just ripped? My main squeeze with the camera can probably fix that too. (Inside scoop #2: I carry an emergency kit with me to all of my weddings and I’ve repaired dresses, shoes, fixed stains, hair, makeup…) Your photographer does so much more than carry a camera around on your wedding day. They can pretty much play as your wedding coordinator: especially if you don’t have an actual coordinator. They do a lot. Make sure you love them and trust them with everything under the sun. The same thing goes for florists, DJ, caterer… hire people you feel confident in. It’ll make everything so much less stressful for you knowing that the professionals can handle anything that might possibly happen.
Finally, have a day-of wrangler.
K. Last but not least, a little tip, but one that I’ve seen make a night and day difference at weddings: have a day-of wrangler.
I’m not necessarily talking about a coordinator. I’m talking about a friend, a family member, or someone close to you who can help round up people during the day for photos. The last thing you want to be doing is running around the cocktail hour trying to round up your college girlfriend… or shouting yourself hoarse trying to get your large family all in the right combinations for your photos. I personally have all of my couples send me a family list ahead of the wedding so I can go down the list and make sure I’m getting every combination they want. But one thing that can save me a lot of time (and therefore you a lot of stress) is having someone (a sister, brother, best friend… someone who knows pretty much everyone) going around and rounding up the family and friends for photos so I can just call out the combinations and snap the photos. Avoid the rodeo. Assign someone the job of grabbing your college girlfriends from across the room and your uncles chatting and smoking in front of the venue. It’ll save you a big headache, trust me.
That’s all I’ve got for you today!! Those are notes that I’ve taken and noticed at multiple weddings and finally HAD to put down on paper. Just remember that this is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. If you take a few steps ahead of time, you can make it one of the most relaxed, happy, and fun days of your life. Also, you have people in your corner who are ready to help - I know for me, you can ask me (your photographer) for help with the timeline, venues, other vendors, DIY ideas, exit or send off brainstorming, etc.
This is exciting. Maybe a little scary. But I’m hoping that this sparked a few ideas in your head and you’re feeling ready to tackle that to-do list again with vigor.
If you have any follow-up questions or if I can help in any way, I’d love to hear from you.
You rock. You’ve got this. I’m cheering you on!