Planning a Wedding and Looking for Tips?

Here are my top 12 wedding planning tips when planning a wedding.  Because, let’s be honest — poor planning and unrealistic expectations is what turns a starry-eyed bride or groom into a bridezilla or groomzilla.  You know what I’m talking about.  A bride or groom who has huge aspirations to create the perfect wedding, and when all isn’t going well, takes it out on everyone around them.

These tips will help answer some of the tons of questions that are occupying your mind right now.  They may even help you to still have your best friends by the time your wedding takes place!  No promises on that one — that’s up to you!

Tip #1:  Set Your Budget

Financial planning is the hardest part of wedding planning, but it’s the very first thing to do.  You’ll need to figure out who will be contributing to your wedding expenses. Then establish your budget with your fiancé and anyone else who will be part of the financial responsibility.  This will allow you to make choices for your wedding based on your budget, rather than just rely on a wish and a prayer.

Prioritize Your Spending

You can assign a percentage to each item, adjusting those percentages up and down as needed (refer to the chart). Unless you have an unlimited budget, you can’t have everything on the list.
You and your fiancé should pick 1 or 2 items that are important to you, then find ways to save on the not as important items. So, if you decide that the venue and the photos are the most important, go all out on them. Then find ways to cut back on things like the flowers, music and stationery.

Expect the Unexpected

Be sure to leave a cushion for unexpected and unplanned expenses.  Things will come up that you don’t think about until later in the planning process.  For example; a wedding party attendant may need help paying for their attire; there may be hair and makeup trials; rehearsal supplies & outfits.  These are just a few things that can come up at the last minute.

Tip #2:  Every Decision You Make Affects the Next One

Most brides start the wedding planning process by going dress shopping and engaged couples begin touring venues.  This makes sense, actually!  The dress and the venue can set the tone for the entire wedding!  Plus, let’s face it, these are the most fun things to do when planning your wedding!

Make the Right Choices

But before you can do that, you’ll need to decide on a budget (as we’ve already discussed), determine a style that you want to achieve, and create a guest list.  Each decision you make affects the next one.  Needless to say, a dress for an ornate chapel or venue will be a lot different than one for a small garden party wedding.  The perfect venue that seats 125 guests obviously won’t work if you have 300 on your guest list!

One of the most important things you can do when planning a wedding — do things in the right order to avoid doing them more than once!  Determining your guest list and your budget go hand-in-hand.  After all, your caterer is likely going to charge per person — so it will make a big difference when trying to work within your budget!

Tip #3:  It Takes a Team to Plan a Wedding

Getting help from family, friends and your wedding party will ease a lot of stress.  But … if you don’t have the time, energy or a bunch of helpful friends, Hire a Wedding Planner!  They can help you will all or part of the many, many details that will need to be addressed.  No, they aren’t free —  but a wedding planner will save you a lot of time and money along the way — and relieve you of unnecessary headaches and stress!  A Wedding Planner often offers many packages or services to fit your needs and your budget.  (See my Wedding Planning services by clicking here.)

Getting Help From Friends & Family

If you find yourself relying on friends or family to help you — follow these tips.

Assign tasks based on each person’s personal strengths.  What are they good at?  Making phone calls?  Going shopping?  Do they have nice handwriting or love decorating? Find jobs for them that they like to do — but always follow up with them often to ensure everything is getting done in a timely manner and according to your vision.

Grooms Can Get Involved, Too!

These days, more and more grooms are getting involved in wedding planning.  This goes without saying if you are a male same sex couple!  The days of a wedding being “all about the bride” are gone — and in every type of relationship, grooms can play a very important role in the planning process.  This is their day too!

A Wedding is Like a Broadway Play

Think of your wedding as if you were putting on a Broadway production. There are pre-events — costumes, hair and makeup, rehearsals, props (décor), etc. Then there is a one-act play — the ceremony. Then there is a huge after party — the reception!

The details of all of these events aren’t going to just magically fall into place. It takes attention to detail, dedication, and on average, around 400 hours to plan a wedding!

Tip #4:  Please Yourself & Not Everyone Else

This is a big one!  It’s hard to tell grandpa that you’re not planning on covering up your tattoos or to say, “Sorry, Mom, I know you and Dad don’t get along, but he is going to walk me down the aisle.”  Parents and grandparents mean well; they have all kinds of ideas from ages ago … but … (insert a feeling of nausea).

Even if they are helping pay for the wedding, remember — this is YOUR day!  As much as you want everyone to have a good time, they won’t remember it like you will. You will cherish these memories for the rest of your lives.

Communication is key.  Sit down with your parents and tell them what YOU plan to do for YOUR wedding day.  Tell them you appreciate all their ideas and you want them involved.  Explain to them about your dreams and plans for your day.  This way you can hash out things early on, rather than later.

Traditions Have Changed

Wedding traditions have changed a lot over the years. Cakes can be made in more than one flavor — or you can opt to not have any cake at all. More than one person can walk you down the aisle. Bridesmaids’ dresses no longer need to match.

You can even have Bridesmen or Groomsmaids. And, yes, an uneven number or attendants is perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to have a bouquet or garter toss. And please, please, please — no matter what, do not let anyone talk you into opening your gifts during the reception!

So, find ways to compromise. Sometimes giving in to a small detail is worth the respect it will earn you with others. Just don’t give in so much that it’s no longer a special day for you.

Tip #5:  Always Have a “Plan B”

OMG! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

No one has time for that!  Always have a backup plan.  Think about what could possibly go wrong and have an option that will fix those issues.

  • If it’s an outdoor wedding, plan for weather conditions.  Do you have shelter or tent for your guests?
  • What if the weather is warmer or colder than expected?  Do you have AC or a heater?
  • What if a vendor doesn’t arrive as scheduled?  Have a printed list (don’t rely on technology) of all your vendors and contacts so someone can call them.

Wedding Insurance

Purchasing Wedding Insurance is always a good idea so if you have to reschedule due to unforeseen issues, you won’t lose all the money you’ve invested.  Things like hurricanes and car accidents can change your plans in a moment’s notice.

Hire a Wedding Planner

Consider hiring a Wedding Planner to not only help you with the wedding planning but to oversee everything on your wedding day.  They usually work with you the month before the wedding, contacting your vendors and creating a timeline for what happens when and where.  You can also assign a trustworthy person to do the job, but keep in mind that they are a guest at your wedding and shouldn’t be working it.  A Wedding Planner has great wedding planning tips and the experience needed to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Tip #6:  Don’t Procrastinate & Leave Tasks For the Last Minute

Scarlett O’Hara said it best — “I’ll think about that tomorrow! After all, tomorrow is another day!”

However, tomorrow will come and you will be in a complete state of panic.  if you get behind, pull in the people who can help to get you caught up!  To keep from getting stressed out, plan and organize.

Have mini parties for making decorations or favors if you need to.  The month before the wedding should be a time to relax and have fun.  The few days before your wedding, you should make time to have hair and nails done, maybe even schedule a massage.  (But don’t have a facial within 2 to 3 weeks before!  They can sometimes cause redness on your face!)

You’ll end up mad at yourself for not having the day of your dreams just because you didn’t have time to finish all your projects. So get organized, plan ahead, make yourself a wedding planning checklist, and remember to enjoy the process!

Tip #7:  Book The Right — & Best — Vendors

We’ve all heard the sayings, “You Get What You Pay For” and “Good Work Ain’t Cheap, Cheap Work Ain’t Good!”  This couldn’t be more true then with wedding vendors.  You’ve heard the horror stories — vendors who don’t show up, aren’t professional or don’t deliver goods or services as promised.

Ask Questions

Ask a lot of questions when you interview each vendor.  Fox example, if the contract says they will provide dinnerware, what exactly does that mean?  You envision white china and gold flatware but you get paper plates and plastic utensils.  UGH!  It’s very important that you get everything you talked about in writing before you sign any contracts or agreements.

Ask how long they have been in business; do they have all the proper paperwork to perform their services?  Find groups on Facebook where you can get advice from other engaged couples, brides or grooms — or even from wedding professionals.  Ask for recommendations.

Know Who Will Be Performing Services At Your Wedding

Make sure you meet the person(s) that will actually be preforming the services.  Another planner told me that she once met with the assistant photographer who showed her stunning pictures of weddings they had photographed, and so her clients chose that photographer.  But, that photographer had left the company by the time the wedding took place and the person who showed up to photograph the wedding was an organizational mess.  Sadly, the photos were terrible and the couple was very unhappy.

Ask for referrals and then actually contact them.  Don’t be concerned about offending anyone by asking too many questions or double checking the details!  If something doesn’t feel right, walk away, break the contract if you must, and start with a new vendor.

Tip #8:  Don’t Hire Non-Professionals

You’re spending a small fortune on your wedding and the only thing you will have when the day is done will be your photographs and videos. These are the memories you’ll have to show your children and will be shared for generations to come.

Two of my most important wedding planning tips are … hire a professional photographer AND a videographer!

One of the biggest regrets for most couples is hiring a friend or an inexperienced photographer to take the photographs!  I did that with my first wedding — we asked a family member to take the photos and the end result was ….. NO PHOTOS!

A good Photographer does a lot more that click a button. They can spend hours editing just one photo! They create beautiful memories for you to cherish. Therefore hiring a student or someone who does photography “on the side” or asking a friend to take your photos to save money just isn’t a good idea.

A videographer captures the expressions in your voice when you say your vows. The laughter, tears, joy and emotions that are felt at your wedding. You will cherish those more and more as time passes. Imaging your children sharing your wedding day with your great-grandchildren.

So crunch your budget numbers and get rid of a few unnecessary expenses so you can have beautiful memories to cherish.

Tip #9:  Don’t Invite More Guests Than You Can Seat — Or Feed!

Everybody loves a party and free food!  Don’t assume that all or most of your guests will show up!  Typically, only 65% to 75% of those invited actually make it to a wedding!

Don’t 150 people to a venue that seats only 125 and, please, don’t tell the caterer there will be less than expected.  Make sure you track your RSVPs and give your caterer real numbers.  You can easily run out of food!

Guests sometimes bring uninvited “plus one” while others will either fail to RSVP altogether or will send their regrets, and show up anyway!  Always “pad” your guest count so that the caterer, bartender, cake baker, etc., can all prepare the proper amounts to serve your guests.

Make sure you know exactly how many guests your venue can seat. If the room capacity is 150, don’t try to cram in 160 into the space. Not only will everyone be crowded, but this will create a traffic flow problem which could be potentially dangerous if an emergency would arise.

Take Care of Your Vendors

And … don’t forget about your vendors!  Your wedding planner and his/her staff will likely be on site for 12 or more hours.  Your photographer and videographer will be there for several hours also.  They will be hungry and will not be able to leave the event to get something to eat.  Make sure your vendors have plenty of cold water and soft drinks also.

And here’s another one of my most stressed wedding tips regarding your vendors — be sure to seat them in the same room as your other guests.  Your vendors need to be prepared to handle any situation that arises or snap a photo of an unforgettable moment.  They can’t do this if you have them eating their meal in a separate room!

Tip #10:  Book a Block of Hotel Rooms for Out-of-Town Guests

Out-of-town guests spend more time and money to get to your wedding, so be sure to make their visit memorable.  First, make sure you notify them as early as possible so they have plenty of time to make travel arrangements. You can do this by sending them a Save the Date card, have a website with all your wedding details, or give them a call.

Reserve a block of affordable hotel rooms so your guests are sure to have accommodations for their stay.  This is one of the wedding planning tips that is often confusing to couples.  There will be no cost to you; it is a service a hotel offers to you so that all of your guests stay at their facility.  They hold the rooms for a certain period of time and release any unsold rooms to the public.  However, if the hotel wants a credit card to hold the block of rooms, ensure that you will not be charged for any unused rooms and be sure to fully understand their cancellation policy.

Provide hotel information in the invitation or on your wedding website and be sure to have all the options and directions clearly laid out for your guests.  If they’re flying, be sure to arrange for transportation from the airport to their hotel, as well as to/from your wedding venues.

Welcome Out-of-Town Guests With A Special Gift Bag

Provide a cute welcome bag in their hotel room (be sure to check with the hotel about their policy on this).  Include supplies like water and soft drinks, snacks, over-the-counter medication packs, and important information.

Provide guests with an itinerary of the weekend festivities.  Also include a list of places to eat, pizza delivery, stores and things to do around town so they can keep busy on their down time.

Don’t forget the phone numbers to important contacts for the weekend.

Tip #11:  Don’t Get Caught Without a Wedding Day Timeline!

If only use one of my wedding planning tips, let this be the one!  If you don’t plan, then you plan to fail!

You need to create a itinerary of your day for each member of the wedding!  From what time you’re getting out of bed, to what time you’ll arrive at your hotel at the end of the day, and every tiny detail in between.  This will keep the day flowing and give you allotted time for pictures, greeting the guests, and having fun.  It keeps the guests from being bored and ensures that everyone is fed in a timely manner — including YOU!

It seems like a simple little piece of paper, but creating a timeline can take hours to plan out.  This is another reason to hire a wedding planner.  I use a very robust and dynamic timeline creation program that includes every detail and can be shared with every vendor as well as every member of your wedding party!

What a Timeline Should Include

Here are just a few things your timeline should include:

  • When is your first dance — before dinner, while the guests eat, or after dinner?
  • Will you do a first look with each other?  When and where will that take place?
  • Which photos will be taken before the ceremony and which ones after?
  • How are you getting from the ceremony site to the reception site, and how long will that take?
  • If everything is running late, will the caterers be forced to serve cold food?
  • Are there overtime fees if you’re not off the premises by a certain time?

Every detail needs to be thought out and put into your timeline.

Tip #12:  Be Guests at Your Own Wedding

YES, please pass your wedding planning tips list to a point person that is handling all the details other than yourselves!  Better yet — hire a Wedding Planner!

You need to relax and enjoy your day and not be “in charge” of anything.

Put your phones away for the day and direct all issues to someone else.  Also make sure your wedding party and parents are able to enjoy the festivities without added stress.

Celebrate Your Love!

This is a celebration of your new lives together as a married couple!  So enjoy, laugh, smile, and go make those lifetime memories.


With Tender Loving Care,