Today I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I learned while planning my wedding. I’m not an expert on weddings, nor a professional in the wedding industry. But I did just spend two years planning my own wedding, and I can tell you I learned a lot from it. I’ve both read and written a lot about weddings and wedding planning, something I’ll continue to do going forward to share the things I learned with brides-to-be. As you can see from the title, I’ve labeled this post as “Part 1”. Though the wedding has passed by the time you’re reading this post, I’m writing it a few days before. And I know that when I sit down to write Part 2, there will be so many lessons learned on the day of that I can’t possibly imagine right now. For now, enjoy Part 1 of the lessons I’ve learned while wedding planning.
1. Start early. When Dave and I got engaged, we set our date for two years away. It was difficult picking what seemed like an imaginary date in the future to have our wedding, but it was definitely the realistic and responsible thing to do. But that didn’t stop be from starting the planning right away. And you know what? It payed off. There wasn’t a single vendor I was interested in who had to turn me away because they already had my date booked. And in some cases I was able to sign a contract at 2013 or 2014 prices instead of 2015 prices.
It also helps reduce the stress of wedding planning so much. We were really able to take our time and not look at a check-list, worried we were falling behind. Here’s how it went. In September, I bought my dress (some people will tell you not to buy that early because you’ll fall in love with something else. I solved that by not looking at any other dresses, and I’m more in love with my dress than I was then). Then I didn’t do anything for awhile! In November we booked our venue/caterer, and took a couple of months off for the holidays. We didn’t book the next vendor until January, and the next one a few months later. By the time we hit the one-year mark, the vendors and large details were already worked out and I had an entire year to focus on DIY projects and small details.
There were definitely downsides to having a long engagement, but there were zero downsides to starting to plan as soon as I could. Whether your engagement is six months or two years, get an early start.
2. Consult previous brides. There have been a few other couples in our life who were either planning their wedding at the same time as us or had gotten married in the few years leading up to our engagement. These women have advice to share. Listen to it! It was a cousin who had gotten married four years before our engagement who suggested we have a wedding the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. It would never have occurred to me to get married on a Sunday, but we had the benefit of of paying discounted Sunday prices AND none of our guests having to work the next day because of the holiday. So it was basically like a cheaper Saturday!
3. Choose the most important things to splurge on. Unless you have an unlimited wedding budget (in which case I would be jealous), you can’t splurge on everything. Choose a few things that are most important to you and make them your splurges. Figure out a way to cut back on everything else. We chose venue, photographer and honeymoon as ours. We went over budget on those, and cut elsewhere. We found a low price on an awesome DJ, which made that part easy. We didn’t spend much on flowers, decor, cake, or paper.
4. Know when to DIY. NOT all DIY projects are cheaper. They just aren’t! Know which ones will save you money versus which will cost you the same amount, but increase your stress level. The things that you can DIY can save you a lot of money. I designed our Save the Date cards and invitations in Canva myself and printed them for cheap at a local printer. We paid a fraction of what many people spend on invitations. I also bought silk flowers and made the bouquets myself. They look the same to me (because I don’t care much about flowers) and cost maybe $100 for all 6!
5. Know when to compromise. If there is something wedding-related that you disagree with your or mother-in-law where they care a LOT and you don’t care that much, it might be a time to give in. It’s an important day for them as well. Throw them a bone once in awhile.
6. Know when NOT to compromise. People are going to have a lot of opinions on your wedding. People from parents, to coworkers, to odd distant relatives. While it’s important to compromise, it’s also your wedding and it’s important to hold onto the things that are important to you. The only person who’s opinion is as important as your is the one you’re marrying.
7. Stick to your budget. When you get engaged, you and your fiance should decide on a number you feel comfortable spending. Try your best to stick to that. There are a lot of pretty, shiny things in the wedding industry that someone will convince you you have to have. Well unless that something is a marriage license, you don’t have to have it to get married. You and your fiance know your financial situation best, so it’s okay to say no to things you don’t need. One magical day is not worth a loan the price of a new car.
8. Don’t obsess. I had a two year engagement. If I turned every day and every conversation into all about the wedding, people would have gotten sick of me very quickly and I would have gotten sick of my wedding very quickly. Planning a wedding is a big deal, but it’s not the only nor the most important thing going on in everyone’s life or yours! Don’t let wedding planning take over your life and don’t let if have an adverse reaction on the relationships in your life.
I hope these tips can help you. Some I learned from making the mistake myself and others were mistakes that I missed, but noticed in others. Wedding planning can be an amazing experience, and it’s important to focus on the best parts of it!