Being at square one in the stages of wedding planning is extremely exciting and completely overwhelming. If you’re wondering where to begin, then this blog is for you. I have photographed more weddings than I can count over the years, but planning your own is a different experience altogether. There were days when I didn't want to think about the logistics for another second, but for the most part, I just wish I could do it all over again. I loved planning my wedding and I hope you do too! Hopefully, I can impart a little knowledge to help your day be everything you’ve dreamed.
Think about what’s most important first.
Before you search for vendors and definitely before you begin perusing Pinterest, decide where you want to spend your money. For me, it was my venue and photographer. The rest of my decisions were made based around those being most important. In order to have the venue and photographer I wanted, I chose to forgo a DJ, wedding planner (will talk more about this in a bit), live music, custom invitations, catered bar, and large guest list. Even so, my budget was tight. I could have decided to spend less on the venue and photographer and had much more wiggle room in other areas, but those were the most important to me and I was willing to make sacrifices for them.
Instagram is your friend.
Because I was planning my wedding from afar, Instagram was the most helpful tool. Once I started following planners, florists, and rental companies, I could start to see what their styles were like and who they liked working with. It gave me a clear idea of my options instead of blindly doing a google search and hoping for the best. Read customer reviews and if you are getting married in the area you live, you can’t beat word of mouth. Ask people who have had first-hand experiences working with the vendors you're interested in. This brings me to the next point…
Go with vendors you can trust.
This is a game changer. If you connect with your vendors personally and you respect their work, you will feel so much more at ease when your wedding day arrives. Knowing that you are in good hands with experienced vendors you can trust is so comforting. I highly encourage hiring professionals who know how to handle all the crazy, unexpected scenarios that tend to pop up on the wedding day. You will be so glad you did.
Two words. Bargain hunt.
It doesn’t have to be new to be beautiful. Secondhand sites like Poshmark are your friend. Keep an eye on sales, go to trunk shows, search Craiglist and estate sales. There are thousands of people out there who used decor, jewelry, accessories, and bridesmaid's dresses once and are dying to get rid of them. You can save so much money this way!
A few examples of things I did to save money:
Bridesmaids dresses were $50 each on clearance at Dillard’s.
BHLDN Headpiece - Poshmark
BHLDN Wedding Dress - On Sale - spent less than 1,500 total, including alterations.
Kate Spade Shoes - Clearance
Kate Spade Earrings - Online Sale + Coupon
Groom’s Suit and groomsman clothing - Express - On Sale
Spend your money where you’ll have the most bang for your buck.
For example, I love calligraphy, but the cost of having the invitations addressed didn’t seem worth it because I knew they would just be thrown away. Instead, I had one envelope addressed for a detail photo and chose to save the calligraphy for the handwritten note on each place setting. It had a high impact on the appearance of the tables and added a fun, unexpected touch.
Meaningful details will never go out of style.
Even if you are the most fashion forward individual on the planet today, chances are that in a few years, your clothes with be dated. The same is to be said about the wedding industry. It is constantly evolving and no matter what you do, the decor/colors/bridesmaids dresses will all look dated eventually. Don’t believe me? Have you seen your mom’s wedding photos lately? I don’t say this to be discouraging. I say this so that you don’t get too caught up in things you see online, instead, think about what is meaningful. If you make decisions based off of who you are and the experiences you’ve shared with your future husband, they are much more likely to be unique and original. I used plenty of ideas from things I saw online, but the meaningful details I chose were uniquely ours: playing croquet and bocce ball, having our place cards be handwritten notes to our guests, writing our own vows, incorporating our favorite drinks and desserts. I chose these things not because they were on Pinterest; I picked them because they had significance and meaning to JB and I. (And because who doesn’t love smores?!)
When is it ok to “have your friend” help provide a major service on your wedding day?
As a photographer myself, I tend to cringe when I hear the phrase, “I’m having my friend do my photography / flowers / coordination / catering etc. at my wedding.” Why? Because usually, that friend doesn’t have experience with weddings. Weddings are a whole different ball game where the rules of the universe tend to fly out the window and anything goes. This is why hiring a professional is a must. That being said, you should use your recourses and if you are lucky enough to have a friend in your life who is qualified and willing to help on your wedding day, then by all means, let them!
Hire a wedding planner
Ok, I might sound like a bit of a hypocrite on this one because I did not have a wedding planner. I would have loved to have had one, but simply could not make it work with my budget. I also had the unusual advantage of personal experience with the behind-the-scenes happenings at a typical wedding, I’m extremely organized and had a clear game plan, had a very small guest list, and the ceremony and reception took place at the same venue. Because of these factors, everything turned out alright without a planner. In almost all cases I would encourage having a planner or at least a day-of coordinator who is not a family member. You need someone to make sure everything is running smoothly. You and your family members need to be enjoying and celebrating your day, not frantically trying to solve last minute problems. This is where I used my recourses and had an amazing stylist and dear friend, Sara Gae, oversee the last minute details of the day. She was a lifesaver and truly allowed me to completely relax and enjoy my day instead of worrying about the details.
Don’t be afraid to delegate.
This is something I learned after the wedding and not along the way. Whoops. Because I was planning everything from another state there really wasn’t much anyone else could help me with, but the week before the wedding I got very stressed. Every detail was crammed in my head and no one else knew anything. DELEGATE. Did you hear me? I had about 6 separate Google documents with instructions and when I finally handed things over the day of the wedding I felt so. much. relief. I knew at that point, no matter what happened, I would be just fine because I did everything I could do. If you have the opportunity to delegate, will yourself to trust other people and do it!
Don’t forget about what is really important.
I started this post with “think about what’s most important.” But ultimately, throughout all the ups and downs of wedding planning, don’t forget why you’re doing it in the first place. Keep your relationship first and hold on to your perspective. There are many voices out there telling you what’s right and wrong or what you should or shouldn’t do (like this blog post!) but ultimately, do what you want to do and make your upcoming marriage the priority. Everything else will fall into place.