Working for WedSpace.com and writing wedding planning books means I’ve certainly talked a big game when it comes to doling out wedding planning advice to others, commenting on what I’d do for my own wedding, and how to do it best. So when I actually got engaged last September and embarked on a year of planning my own wedding, I’ve realized I had to learn *quite* a few things.
So here we go! Wedding planning, from the thick of it, from the trenches …
* Ask for what you want. Some people will negotiate with you and some will say “Psha, sorry,” but you won’t know unless you ask. For instance, if adding an engagement shoot puts you over your budget for photography, ask if the photogs will include it in your package. I mean, logically, someone isn’t going to turn down several thousand dollars worth of work over a few hundred dollars, right? Who probably isn’t going to negotiate? Your uber-trendy wedding venue that’s booked more than a year in advance for every Saturday between June and October. Sorry.
* You probably aren’t going to have the Say Yes to the Dress moment when you come out of the dressing room and everyone starts crying and wringing their hands. You’ll probably like a lot of gowns for all different reasons and feel a little confused. Then, there will be one (or two) you can’t get out of your head, and that’s how you’ll decide.
* However, you might “just know” when it comes to other aspects, such as your photographer. I wanted to talk to a LOT of photographers – partly because I wanted to make a decision based on good, hearty research, and partly because I work in the wedding industry and am very curious about the pros behind the cameras. I had in-person meetings with 5 photographers and phone calls/emails with 4 others. And, while I met some super-talented photogs, I knew who I was going to hire as soon as I left that meeting. We just had a connection. I mean, we met for coffee and stayed for over an hour. They hugged me goodbye. I loved that. Photography is all about chemistry and being relaxed. Someone to share in your excitement about your wedding day, and your marriage. And the folks I hired said something very smart, which is that you will spend more time with your photographers on your wedding day than even your family, so you’d better really like them. That’s good advice, people.
* Your budget might be bunk. I’d just spent 3 months working on our book Plan the Perfect Wedding on a Small Budget, (out in May, yay!), which featured real weddings with budgets of $2,000 to $10,000, so I started thinking I could have a wedding for under 10k. And you can! But not if you want to have 125 guests, an open bar, a Saturday night, and dinner, and it’s not being held in your backyard. When we made our real, realistic budget I got a little sad and overwhelmed at the prospect of spending so much money … But then I spent many nights talking it over with my fiancé, and once we chose our venue, I started to get really excited. You see, my goal for my wedding is to have it be very us and of value. Nothing ridiculous and extravagant or show off-y. Just what we love and what makes us happy. And spending money on those things is OK.
* Your fiancé might have a very different vision than you. My mistake in imagining my own wedding prior to actually being engaged was, at that point, there was just me! Enter my fiancé. I had pictured a laid-back outdoor wedding during the day, maybe a brunch with mimosas, maybe just beer and wine. Cowboy boots. On a Friday. Cupcakes! Nope – J was pretty adamant about a Saturday night wedding with an open bar and a wedding cake. Not because he’s a pain, but because he is very traditional and likes the classics, like the cake cutting. He doesn’t understand why I’m so against “everything normal,“ as he put it. So, we compromised on a few things. Like, we’ll have cupcakes, but also a small cake for us to cut. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about it, but I’m not marrying myself, as it turns out. 🙂
* Write “Will you be my bridesmaid?” cards. Even if you can ask the girls in person, write them a little note about why you can’t imagine your day happening without them. It’s a sweet message they’ll cherish. I have loved the reactions I got to see. Plus, I still think about the lovely email a friend sent me about wanting to choose people who she had in her past and wanted in her future.
* Don’t compromise yourself. No, I don’t want a traditional guest book with a giant white frame around a photo of myself. I can’t see us hanging that in our home, and it’s not my style, at all. I don’t care how much my mother-in-law loves the idea, it’s not happening.
The best advice I can give is keep your eye on the prize. You’re going to be marrying the person you love more than anyone in the world while celebrating with every family member and friend who means anything to you. It may be the only time you’ll have all those wonderful people in one place, so embrace the planning. It won’t be your favorite part — but the Big Day will be incredible and incredibly worth it.