In an old journal, I found my twelve-year-old wedding plans. I had music picked out and my maid of honor (who still ended up being my maid of honor ten years later). The only missing piece was the groom. At the time, a wedding felt exciting and romantic. “One day I am going to walk down that aisle in white towards my Prince Charming!”
When the season came, however, I felt a little differently. Though I was excited to walk down the aisle to my handsome man, I was less than enthused about planning the wedding. On my list of top 100 talents, event planning is somewhere around #99. Thank goodness I had help! Eric had ideas about how to bring our vision to fruition. My godmother, Becky, put so much time into the planning and executing of details (details are not my jam). The ladies of my home church provided food and helped us pull off the reception. My Uncle Wade made a turkey, a family friend made the most delectable chicken I ever put into my mouth (I can taste it now), and my family rallied together to pull off our big day.
Wedding planning is a dream come true to some and a complete nightmare to others. One of my friends is a wedding planner and she does amazing work. You will see some advice from Alicia later in this post. She thrives on planning everything from dinner parties to lavish weddings and I thank the Lord people with her talents and passions exist! On this site, we normally help you prepare for marriage; but, when it comes time to plan the ceremony and reception, you will want a wedding planner in your life!
Without further ado, here are 30 wedding planning tips to keep in mind! (But the first step is to get good pre-engagement counseling first, and then propose. ~smile~)
- First, ask – or say “Yes!” “Can you see me as a farmer’s wife?!” My friend and I laughed as we discussed the prospect of me marrying my then-current boyfriend (I was sixteen at the time). After listening to us giggle for a while, my friend’s dad cut in and said, “Heather, do you love this man?!” It took us all by surprise. We got quiet as he began talking to us in depth about the sacrifices and seriousness of marriage. It was a fork in the road moment for me, and from that day forward, my relationship began to crumble. I realized, “No, I don’t love this man. I am playing grown up.” As it turned out, he ended our relationship the following month which was absolutely for the best. Had I continued down that path, I might have planned a wedding with someone I did not truly want to marry. Do not get the cart before the horse, or the wedding before the engagement. Be honest about your own thoughts and feelings and wait until you know you are getting married to start planning your wedding with your significant other.
- Enjoy the goofy, elated stage for a few weeks! All too often couples enjoy a vibrant dating life only to feel completely let down in the engagement stage. We recommend couples keep on dating. Yes, there will be details to plan and iron out, and you will have wedding work to do, but for the first few weeks or so, enjoy being engaged. Then once your wedding planning is underway, keep on dating and having fun.
- Have an opinion. Although my desire was to be a hands-off bride, those helping me wanted me to have an opinion. In retrospect, I wish I had given them more input. For some, giving opinions is super easy… barely an inconvenience, but for others like me, forming and expressing viewpoints is unnatural. If this is you, fight the urge to “sleep” through the process. Instead, roll up your sleeves and be a contributing author to your wedding story.
- Outline your priorities. First, brainstorm everything (even if it does not seem warranted). If you have an idea, write it down; you can cross it out later. Think of everything from the programs to the last picture. After you brainstorm, nail down your top three priorities. These are the three items which matter to you more than anything else (e.g., a professional videographer, a beautiful cake, and my grandfather officiating, etc.). Ask yourselves the question, “What will matter to us most in ten years?” If you need a few weeks to mull before coming up with your top three, take the time. Prioritizing your must haves will help you and your wedding planner know which way to steer the ship when it is important.
- Hiring a wedding planner is a good idea! Having an unemotional third party to help with details is invaluable. In some cases, he or she can even help mediate between family members and deal with local businesses. We planned our wedding from another state, and if I had not had someone in New Bern working on the details for me, I would have keeled over from the stress!
- Pay attention to the following aspects: The venue, the invitations, the cake, the flowers, the dress, the photography, the videography, the reception, the guests, the unity candle (or other unity ceremony [e.g., unity sand, foot-washing, etc.]), the director/planner, the officiant, and the vows. This may seem like a lot but take them one at a time and ask for help when needed. Be sure you like what you are choosing instead of settling to make someone else happy or to avoid conflict. (More about these at the end of the post.)
- Involve your people. If you have an aunt, cousin, or friend who wants to help, let her (or him) help! Assuming they are trustworthy, allow your tribe to be involved in your special day and thank them for helping you make the occasion so special. If you do not like their opinions, you can politely decline them. Saying “no” is harder for some people than others and some personalities are quite aggressive; but it is your day and they can help capture your vision or they can sit it out – either is fine. Listen to suggestions but be firm on what you
- Discuss boundaries. Setting boundaries may start with your wedding but it is a great practice for your marriage as well. Boundaries are not about controlling others’ behaviors, but about controlling your reaction to those behaviors. “If you _______, then we will _________.” It can be done respectfully, but sometimes boundaries must be set. Drs. Cloud and Townsend’s book, Boundaries in Dating, is a great addition to your relationship library! You may need to be prepared to pay for your wedding if other people’s money is coming with strings attached.
- Delegate. Delegate. Delegate. If you have control issues, consider this therapy. If you do not, then enjoy passing out tasks to friends and family! Like we said before, involve your people! It takes a village to raise a child and to pull off a wedding ceremony, and it is a meaningful experience when a team of loved ones comes together to make your day special.
- Consider giving personalized notes to your guests. This is a lot of extra work, but extremely sweet if you are willing to do it! At each place setting, leave a specific note for each guest. This is easier if your guest list is small, but if you work on a few each day, you could knock out cards for even a large guest list. “Aunt Jane, thank you so much for coming to our wedding. You have influenced my life in so many ways. You are the one who first interested me in journalism! I cannot imagine this day without you, and I am honored that you traveled to be here. I love you! We love you!”
- Try not to get bogged down in perfectionism. Our wedding was far from perfect. The DVD picture montage Eric spent 50 hours working on would not play (in the church’s DVD player… it has played everywhere else!). The microphone went out while my cousin was singing. The live piano wedding march was… well-intended. Knowing how it was supposed to go, Eric and I counted multiple problems – problems we laugh about today; but many of the guests thought the ceremony (or most of it) went swimmingly. If you find yourself so swept up in the details that you are not having fun, then take a step back, breathe, and rethink your priorities. What is most important to you about your wedding? Answer that question honestly and then re-focus your attention on what matters most.
- Be willing to keep it simple when you can! Do you need decorations on every pew? Do you have to assign a reception table to everyone, or can they pick their own seat? Do the bridesmaid dresses have to be the same? My motto is the less stress the better. If there is something complicating the process, step back and determine its value. If it is not that important to you or your fiancée, is it worth the headache?
- Keep your vendors updated. “You have hired vendors because you trust them. Do not forget that they want to take care of you. There is a reason you have gathered a strong team of professionals for your day – because they are good at what they do. The last thing a vendor wants to hear from you is, ‘Oh! I forgot to tell you!’ Professionals are good at going with the flow, but if you have the opportunity to tell them you have gluten-free guests, or you want a different first dance song, or you want to have a first look after all, let them know as soon as possible.” – Alicia Cooper, Tina Lane Events
- Have one day a week you do not talk about wedding planning. Save some energy for each other! One of our former clients said, “Engagement is where the fun goes to die.” She said it to amuse us, but she was also quite serious. Their wedding planning experience was stressful for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, we get so mired in creating the wedding that we lose touch with the reason for the wedding. Be vigilant about your relationship. Be proactive in setting aside time each week which is just for dating and connecting. The wedding is one day, but your relationship is until death do you part.
- Set aside time for family and friends. When Eric and I were dating and engaged, he was my world. He got my free time, period. If I had it to do over again, I would have a weekly “date night” with my roommate, more phone calls to my family, and more interaction with friends both near and far. The wedding will get planned. The details will come together. This season will pass quickly, and you cannot get it back. Be sure you are enjoying your existing people.
- Ask yourselves, “How can our ceremony and reception bless someone else?” It is your day, but it does not have to be solely about you and your partner if you choose otherwise. Some couples give flowers to their new in-laws. Some make public thank yous to special people. Some couples ask for donations to a charity in lieu of gifts. There are so many ways you can bless other people on your day!
- Take a deep breath! Then take another one! Resist the urge to quit and elope. It can all feel overwhelming, especially as the day draws near. When those moments come, step back, breathe deeply, take a few minutes to regroup, and then come back. It is going to be okay.
- Decide if you want to honor someone(s) at your wedding. Eric’s mom passed away before Eric and I met, so Eric’s dad placed a rose on the altar as a way to honor her (and we noted it in our wedding program). At another wedding I attended, the groom lit a candle in honor of his late father. Is there someone special in your life who cannot be at your ceremony? How would you like to honor that person?
- Honor the Lord. If you love Him, make your day about Him. He is the most important person in your marriage. He is the first strand in your cord of three. Honor him in your music, your vows, your decorations, and even in your reception. After all, today is the day you are making and taking vows, not only to your partner, but to the Lord. It is His day too!
- Have fun!!! Whatever you do, have a blast! You did not spend all this time and money to worry about other people’s opinions or to nit pick every imperfection. Laugh at the surprises. Make memories. Decide it is going to be a good day no matter what. Have the time of your life.
- Get ideas for your venue before you technically need them. Even before engagement, it is okay to start thinking about where you want to get married. If you are not already set on a location (e.g., your home church, your grandpa’s farm, the beautiful vineyard you visit with your family, etc.), it is not a bad idea to start researching venue ideas. Once you are engaged, you can talk to your fiancée and narrow down your list.
- Who do you want to officiate the ceremony? Before you make too many plans, determine who you want to perform the ceremony and make sure that person is available for the date you are considering. A modest monetary gift to the officiant is generally appreciated. “If they will not accept it directly, an offer to give a token to the church directly is nice.” – Alicia Cooper, Tina Lane Events
- Work on invitations early. You do not need to send them out until 6-8 weeks before the wedding but have them ready to go – or at least ready to print. Due to various circumstances, we did not get our invites out until a week and a half before the wedding. Yikes! If you plan to send save the dates in addition to invitations, consider sending those out 4-6 months before the wedding – especially if you have out of town guests who need to make travel arrangements.
- Pick out a good cake, but do not go crazy. Do you need a $1000 cake? If that is important to you, then go for it! However, if you would be just as happy with a modest $300 cake or a free cake baked by a family member (who generally does a lot of baking and knows what he or she is doing), then consider it. Decide which matters more to you – the taste of it or the look of it? Cupcakes are also a terrific option, and if you would rather have donuts, cheesecake, or a buffet of options, it is your day!
- Be confident in your vows. Vows are not simply tradition but a covenantal promise of what you will do for a lifetime with this person. Do not wait until your wedding day and blindly repeat what the pastor says. Review the vows. Find vows you believe in or write your own.
- Do not feel like you must invite everyone you know. A larger guest list can create more stress (and a much larger dinner expense), so if you want to keep it small, keep it small. “If you would not have them over for the holidays or go on vacation with them, think about why they need to be at your wedding.” – Alicia Cooper, Tina Lane Events
- Your dress is important. Or, whatever you choose to wear for your wedding is important. Saving money is great, but not at the expense of feeling beautiful. If you need to budget less for the cake or decorations to make room for a more expensive gown, consider it. You will always remember how you felt on your wedding day, and if you were uncomfortable in your gown because you skimped or rushed the choosing process, you will likely regret it.
- In addition to prioritizing your dress, really consider professional photography and videography. Well-meaning friends and family can take pictures and video the ceremony but having a professional do it gives you added peace of mind (and your friends and family can enjoy the wedding instead). You can also relax knowing your occasion will be captured and edited well. Singing to my Dad at my reception was one of the sweetest moments of my life and I wish I had that on video now.
- Try not to argue over flowers like we did. Compromise! ~smile~
- Do not feel pressured to have a huge reception. Some receptions are massive, and some are small with finger foods. Both are appreciated! The guests are not owed a huge party. Have a party if you want to have a party. Let it reflect your taste and your budget!
In 2009, I went to one of my favorite weddings. Our good friends, Mike and Amanda Lewis wed on a gorgeous June afternoon. When I walked into the bride room, I remember Amanda smiling with such joy on her face. She was ready to go, and she refused to get bogged down with last minute worries or details I hope everyone reading this experiences the same feeling of joy and calm on your wedding day.
No matter how the sanctuary looks, how the cake tastes, and how the soloist sounds, you are marrying your (hopefully) best friend. Focus on that excitement and let the rest of the world melt away.
We wish you the absolute best as your plan your marriage commencement party!
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26, ESV)
What excites you most when you think about your wedding day?