“You need to envision the kind of wedding you want — outdoors, cocktail reception, beach — and then work inward from there,” says Kathi R. Evans, event coordinator for All the Best Weddings and Celebrations, based in Toms River, New Jersey. When you know it’s a beach wedding, for example, you can choose your colors, and the rest of the details — décor, flowers and food — will start to fall into place.
Create a ‘Wants’ and a ‘Needs’ List
“Try to separate your ‘wants’ from your ‘needs,’ ” says Samantha Goldberg, owner of Gold Events Planning, in Bridgewater, New Jersey. “The ‘needs’ list consists of the items you have to have to make your special day work, such as a good photographer and an affordable venue, while the ‘wants’ are the items you get after the ‘needs’ are acquired (such as ornate centerpieces or customized favors).”
Know Your Budget Really, Really Well
“Do not spend a dime or book a single service until the two of you have thoroughly worked out your budget,” says Jean Picard of Jean Picard Wedding Consulting, based in Santa Barbara, California. “This is where a couple can go wrong early in the game and never recover. They fall in love with a venue and book it right away, then find they have to skimp on everything else, including necessities.”
Don’t Cut the Wrong Corners
Sure, Uncle Harry would love to take your wedding photos, but will you be happy with them? Probably not, says Barbara Thleiji of Belle Occasions, in San Francisco. “Always hire professional, licensed vendors,” she advises. “You will save yourself a lot of stress by hiring well-qualified people, whose work you can count on.”
Don’t Be a Superwoman
“Brides often get this idea that they can do everything,” says Terrica R. Skaggs, a wedding and event designer based in Jekyll Island, Georgia. “They’ll say, ‘it’s cheaper’ or ‘it’s more fun if I do it myself.’ But it takes over 240 hours to plan a wedding, so get plenty of help from family, friends or a wedding planner.”
“One thing that always works out really well for my clients is a ‘one task at a time’ planning schedule,” says Kelly McWilliams of WeddingsbySocialites.com, based in Cape Coral, Florida. “Give yourself twelve to fifteen months to plan, and tackle one item on your checklist at a time. Some things will take one hour, others will take three weeks or a month, but having just one goal at a time allows you to focus on the task at hand and not get overwhelmed.”
“Special touches are always memorable,” says Julie Pryor, owner of Pryor Events, based in West Los Angeles. The amount of money you spend is really less important than the thought and care that go into your choice of details. Flowers from a neighbor’s garden, heirloom family pictures on display, family recipes used for the menu — all of these things will make your wedding stand out.
Look for Hidden Treasures
Related to making it personal, don’t forget the local dollar store, advises Lindsay Wendt-Sheikh, president of Trips Down the Aisle — Weddings on the Go! “You never know what you may happen to find there,” she says. “Something simple and inexpensive may make a surprisingly eye-catching touch or inspire a theme.”
Watch Your Due Dates
“Carefully watch cut-off and final-payment due dates, and schedule RSVP returns for at least two weeks prior to those dates,” says Geri Simpson, wedding consultant and owner of G. Simpson and Associates, LLC, based in Opelousas, Louisiana. “That way you will have an accurate head count and can adjust those numbers before a payment is due.”
Seven to 10 days before the wedding, call your vendors to confirm details. Give everyone a timeline of the day. The biggest mistake is leaving any of this to chance, warns Emilie Duncan, a professional wedding consultant in Columbus, Ohio.
Hire Help for the Big Day
Even if you choose not to hire a wedding planner to handle the bulk of the wedding, then at least hire someone for the “day of,” advises Melody Enella, event coordinator for True Love Events & Custom Bridal, in Northern California. “Even if you’re a planner at heart and you’ve got things well under control,” she says, “the best stress reliever is to have someone professional there, taking care of the things that can and do come up.”
Let the Honeymoon Wait (at Least for a Couple of Days)
“We always suggest to our brides that, if at all possible, they should not leave for the honeymoon immediately,” says Michele Landers of Bridal Potpourri, in Lexington, Kentucky. “This serves a couple of purposes. One is that they can spend more time with close relatives and friends who have traveled to attend the wedding. The other reason is that it is good for the bride and groom to relax a little bit, decompress and savor the moment.”
Have a Blast!
Far too many brides wish they’d spent less time worrying and more time having fun. “My advice is to be in the moment,” says Isha Foss, wedding consultant and owner of Isha Foss Events, in Chesapeake, Virginia. “The day goes by so quickly, and you really want to be there, emotionally. So try not to check every detail — like whether the napkins are the exact shade that you wanted and folded just the way you requested. Instead, take in the whole reception, and enjoy the people who are there to celebrate your day with you. Remember: Guests are only as comfortable and as happy as their hosts.”
HAIR AND MAKEUP ALWAYS TAKE LONGER THAN EXPECTED:
Are you getting your hair and makeup done professionally? This applies! Are you DIYing your hair and makeup or getting help from a friend or family member? This still applies! There is just something about hair and makeup on a wedding day that practically never fails to take longer than we expect (especially if it’s more than just you getting ready). So instead of planning to be ready at exactly the time your photos will start, aim for twenty to thirty minutes before that.
TELL A LITTLE WHITE LIE… OR A FEW:
I always recommend telling your family, wedding party, and maybe even your partner a few little lies during wedding weekend. Just let them all know that they should be at the rehearsal at 4:45 p.m. instead of 5:00 p.m. and at family photos at 3:20 p.m. instead of 3:30 p.m. This is one of the best time-saving tricks to make sure that people are where they need to be when they need to be there. And since late happens, a white lie or two won’t hurt them (and will ensure some buffer time for the latebirds).
NOT ALL PENS ARE CREATED EQUAL:
There are about ten thousand different versions of a guestbook out there in Pinterest-landia and beyond. Regardless of which version you choose, test out the pens that you’ll use in advance. It’s a bummer when your guest book (or guest picture frame, or guest quilt) is covered with smears before you ever get to read it
WALK THROUGH THE DAY… BEFORE THE DAY:
A minimum of one time (or twenty-seven times) in the planning process—you should walk through the actual venue in person (and in your mind). This is the time to think about the flow of the day, everything that will happen at any given moment, and how it will all come together. This is when you’ll realize that you printed really beautiful programs… but you have no idea how guests will get them. Now, you know to ask your cousin Joe to hand them out. By thinking about the day from your perspective, a guest’s perspective, and even the vendors’ perspectives, you’ll be able to prepare for all kinds of kinks and work them out in advance.
TAKE A MOMENT, OR A FEW:
I always recommend that my clients take a ten minute break together after the ceremony. In Jewish wedding tradition this time is called the yichud, but I just believe that after the excitement and anxiety that can come with the day and the ceremony, taking a moment to breathe is essential for everyone! Try to do this together, but also, alone. When you’re walking back from the restroom—just stop, take a breath, remind yourself to appreciate your wedding day, and look out at all the people who are there because they love you and your partner. You won’t regret it.
BRING SOME SNACKS AND EXTRA HYDRATION:
Remember when I said earlier to schedule time and a plan to eat? Well, you still might end up hungry, dehydrated, and faint at some point in the day. If you have a secret stash of protein bars and waters or Gatorades, you can refuel and get back to the party—stat!
This is task that will be completely off your plate if you work with most coordinators and planners, but about a week or two before the wedding, you should confirm with all of your vendors and key players. Send out an email, your timeline, and your wedding day contact list to everyone involved. A lot of your vendors will ask for this, so it’s best to beat them to the punch.
PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY… ALL DAY:
It’s you and your partner’s day, and you’ll be surrounded by loved ones, so put (or give) your phone away for the whole thing. Worried that vendors or guests will call you for important information? Pass it off to a friend or family member to manage. Kick your phone habit for a day and stay present with your guests and your partner. Your emails and Facebook notices will all be there tomorrow! (I promise.) Not to mention—where, exactly, in your dress or suit were you planning on stashing that thing
SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG:
This isn’t just me being a Negative Nancy—this is the truth. No matter the amount of planning and effort you put into scheduling, assigning, and delegating—something will be forgotten, lost, or messed up on wedding day. It’s best to know that in advance.
That way, at 9 a.m. on wedding morning when you can’t find your shoes and your sister has to drive forty minutes back to the house for them, you can just agree with everyone and the universe that that was the big moment. And after that, it’ll be smooth sailing!
2 Words. Buffer Time.
I know, I know…You’re not going to be late for your OWN wedding day. HAHA! Almost EVERY wedding falls behind (yes even the ones with planners can fall behind too). Things happen! From hair and makeup running behind, ferries delaying, or the weather causing you to wait until the last minute to set up that tent for your outdoor ceremony ( been there! ). You’re going to want to consider these things when building your wedding day timeline.
Create some buffer time for when these things happen, instead of getting our panties in a knot we can all relax knowing we have time. Another reason why buffer time is good to have in your timeline is so that you can RELAX during your day. YEP, a lot of the time its go go go and we don’t like that. We want you to enjoy your day and take that moment with your new husband before you walk into your reception. Its so important to us that you guys have some YOU time. I mean…it IS your wedding day after all.
First Looks aren’t all about the looks.
1. First looks are pretty cool. I’ve heard it quite a few times that my brides would love to have a small intimate wedding but they just can’t. Too many people love them and want to be a part of their day. Which, I totally understand – This isn’t a bad thing! This is where first looks come in handy. If having that moment with just your soon to be hubby is super important to you, I highly recommend you consider ditching the traditional timeline.
2. Putting your first look/portraits, bridal party portraits and family photos before your ceremony means you get to PARTY down a lot sooner than later and your guests aren’t waiting around for you to come back from photo time!
3. One last thing about first looks..for those of you who feel nervous in front of the camera – a first look might be for you! It gives us SO many juicy candid emotions, they’re so much fun to capture and YOU don’t have a to do a damn thing but love and admire the person you’re about to marry!
Share your timeline with everyone, not just your vendors!
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Details, details, details!
The more people who have your timeline and the more detailed your timeline is the smoother your day is going to go! As photographers we love knowing exactly how much time you’ve allotted for us to get our part executed. It helps that we’re all on the same page! Ya’ feel me?!