Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the best days of your life. But the wedding planning itself? Not so much. For a detail-obsessed person like me, the planning may more closely resemble hell than heaven, especially if you’re on a modest budget.
Because, when you have money to burn, you can pay somebody else – a professional somebody – to carry the weight of all the research, decision-making, coordination and execution on their shoulders while you daydream.
Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that lucky. But that doesn’t mean your big day can’t be lovely, memorable, and romantic. Here are just a few things to keep in mind during the planning process – pearls of wisdom I wish I’d known before I said “yes” to that whole wedding-planning mess.
Get a point person
If you can’t afford a wedding planner, appoint an organized, capable volunteer, such as a friend or family member, to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Give them a checklist. There are so many moving parts and details that might be important to you can easily be overlooked by vendors.
For example, nobody drew an “X” on the ground where my groom and I were to stand – as I had requested – so we were off-kilter in all the photos, and I had the sun in my eyes the whole time. Groan.
The venue matters
You may get a great off-season deal at a venue, but don’t sacrifice comfort for frugality: If your guests are freezing or sweating, you’ll never live it down.
You and your partner’s needs come first
Enlist the help of family and friends for grunt work (stuffing invites, getting quotes, etc.), but make clear that all final decisions are yours and your partner’s. Otherwise, you’ll have too many opinionated cooks in the kitchen.
Don’t be afraid to ask for samples
Ask for samples from vendors as much as possible, especially food and floral arrangements. Even if they protest, it’s better to be bridezilla for a moment than have your buttercups out of whack.
Figure out what matters to you
It may seem like everything needs to be done ASAP but prioritize based on your preferences. For us, the music, seating chart, and ambiance were more important than party favors and welcome bags, which we saved for last.
Hire a videographer
Hiring a videographer in addition to a photographer can be costly, but video catches the emotions of the day in a way that photos cannot.
You get to pick the music but try to include everyone
You want guests to have a great time but this is your day, and you need to enjoy it too. So even if your family is a little bit country and you’re more rock ‘n’ roll, find a middle ground.
Likewise, don’t just pick tunes that your friends will like unless you want kids and older folks to feel unwelcome on the dance floor.
Remember that everyone is rooting for you
If you’re the anxious type, you may feel panicked about standing up in front of all the people who matter most in your life. But that’s just the thing: they matter to you, and you matter to them.
They want to see you do well and be happy, so, even if you stumble over your vows, they’re rooting for you and not laughing at you. (Except for tipsy Aunt Milly, but she laughs at everything.)
You don’t need to include everyone
Don’t feel pressured to have a giant bridal party to fit all your friends. It’s not a contest. If a simpler solution presents itself – say, just including siblings and their spouses – that could save everyone a lot of grief.
You can always take your close friends aside, give them special mementos and express how much they mean to you.
You don’t have to let the open bar get out of hand
If you don’t want your guests getting too wild, consider keeping the bar open for two or three hours max and stocking just beer and wine. They can always get the hard stuff at the after-party, and it saves money.
Remember this is your day so only do what you’re comfortable with
If you’re on a tight budget, foregoing extras like an engagement shoot and a second dress for the reception can shave off a few dollars.
The same is true for ancillary events; an engagement party, a bachelor party, a bachelorette party, a bridal shower, a welcome dinner, a rehearsal dinner, and a farewell brunch entail more planning and spending on your behalf and more obligations for your guests. Choose wisely. Don’t do anything you don’t want to.