If you are pre-engaged, engaged and in full wedding planning mode or just curious, you came to the right place. First of all, Congratulations! I am so excited for you in this next stage of your life. For me, once I got over the giddy feeling of being newly engaged and telling all of my friends and family, I started to feel anxious about when the wedding should be, and how to pull it off. There are so many TV shows out there that display these gorgeous weddings in gorgeous venues, and the brides seem so relaxed about the whole process. I read magazine articles and watched Youtube videos about spending time with your bridesmaids, going on a Bachelorette weekend, and going on diets to clear your skin and get toned before the big day.
All of those things sound amazing, but I was in medical school gearing up to take Step 1 (a hugely important licensing exam). I had very few vacation days to take off, very few free weekends when I wasn’t studying, and no friends and family that live nearby. I just had to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to have all of those fun things (like a proper Bachelorette party), but I was going to marry the man of my dreams.
In terms of choosing what kind of wedding would be best, I much preferred the idea of a small courthouse wedding with close family (ie parents and siblings) followed by a fun reception at a nice restaurant. You know, rent the private room and have a blast on a budget. But life has other plans. My mom wanted a larger event for us, Mark wanted to celebrate with a larger group of friends and family and my dad wanted the wedding to be close to home. We ended up having a larger wedding with 75 guests at a nice golf resort instead.
I don’t agree with the idea that the wedding is all about the bride. Weddings are a special time to bring all of the special people in your life, friends from different life stages and extended family together to celebrate with you. After all, when are all of these people going to be in the same place with you again?
The wedding day should be the first selfless decision you make in your marriage. Be grateful for every single person who could make it to celebrate with you, because there is no guarantee you will see them again. This is true whether or not they showed up on time, brought a gift, or wore the wrong color shoes. Keep that in mind when you are on the verge of becoming a Bridezilla.
The wedding was perfectly us, quirky in every way, and a little bit romantic as well. While we may have spent more than we originally anticipated spending, Mark and I pitched in alongside both sets of parents. The money was well spent and we don’t regret a single thing. While the wedding was fantastic, wedding planning was sometimes a challenge. Here are five things I learned that might be helpful for you as you start planning your big day.
1. Give Yourself Some Time to Plan
If you’re in school, give yourself at least one summer or one block of time when all of your energy is not being devoted to studying. This gave us time to travel to our venue site and take care of business, dress fittings, hair and makeup trials, tastings, meetings with the event planner, etc. If you are planning a local wedding, this may not be as crucial. However, it was certainly nice for me to take time away from the day-to-day and celebrate our upcoming nuptials.
Additionally, give yourself a lot of time for wedding invitations. We bought our cards separately on Zazzle and assembled the invitations ourselves. This in addition to curating the guest list, wrangling guests for their addresses and sending the envelopes off for calligraphy required a lot of extra time, and I am glad I got this done over the summer. The summer before our wedding was crunch time (six months out).
Even on a regular 9-5 work schedule, if you can schedule your 6-month mark to fall on a break or schedule a two week vacation for yourself at 6 months, you can reap similar benefits. While not necessary, planning a wedding is like managing a huge project with an upcoming deadline. Taking the time to completely focus on that project can help get the ball rolling and avoid last minute chaos.
Taking dedicated time to plan the wedding will also keep you focused on school or work because you are compartmentalizing your focus. Don’t do any planning during those protected hours. Maintain your focus, meet your deadlines and excel, that way no one can say anything negative about your work ethic. I think this is the key to “having it all”. You can be a stellar employee, or high achieving student and still have time for a relationship, for planning a wedding and later on starting a family. You just need to be strategic with your time.
2. Have a Support System to Help You
If you live close to friends and family, take advantage of that! Invite them over for some wine and invitation assembly, for example. My Maid of Honor visited from out of town (so generous) and helped us put together invitations and celebrate with other members of our bridal party. One of my biggest regrets with regards to wedding planning was not making people work. If we had assigned more tasks ahead of time to other members of our bridal party, we likely could have eliminated some last minute scrambling on the week of the wedding. Your family and your bridal party know what they are signing up for when they agree to help you with wedding tasks.
Don’t be too much of a control freak to delegate or you may risk not being able to relax and enjoy your wedding day as much as you could. I was also lucky that the wedding venue, though not near to me, was very close to where my mom lives. She was able to go in our place to attend initial meetings, handle scheduling and book vendors. This was such a lifesaver.
On a side note, with regard to dealing with vendors from afar, don’t be afraid to send long emails. You need all of your questions answered to feel confident about what to expect when you arrive. Ask for pictures of the venue decorated and undecorated, and send pictures of exactly what you want because sometimes you might have a different interpretation of what the color “peach” looks like. I may have sent a Pantone swatch to a vendor or two to make sure that the shade was exactly what I envisioned in my head. Don’t feel ashamed to do that. You are paying for your wedding, and it should be exactly as you imagined it would be.
3. Involve your Groom
For whatever reason, it seems like the bride is supposed to be planning the wedding on her own while the groom is apathetic. If that’s your relationship dynamic, then who can argue with you. But it was so nice to make decisions together with Mark about the flowers, the cake, the food, the music, the tuxes (and the dress!), and the guest list. We were going to share the day together, so I wanted him to feel like his style and personality was also represented in every aspect of our day. I think it makes it more special, and planning a wedding is definitely an experience you can bond over. This also guarantees that he won’t complain when he sees everything when it is all put together.
Give him assignments if he doesn’t know where to start. For example, I asked Mark to get the addresses of all the guests he wanted to invite so that we can split up the work. He was also in charge of ordering the tuxes and taking care of the photographer. This was less work for me to do, but of course I told him what color the pocket squares needed to be, because we make decisions together. Teamwork makes the dream work.
4. Hire a Wedding Planner
We used our planner’s month-of/day-of services, because we needed the extra hand but we didn’t want to spend too much on a full wedding planner. Our planner was our point person. She made sure everybody was where they were supposed to be, and that the photographer was pacing himself appropriately so that we could be done and start the ceremony on time. She ran the rehearsal (very important), and bustled my dress so that my mom and bridesmaids could go enjoy themselves at the cocktail reception.
These are little details you don’t want to be worried about on your special day. What is less romantic than looking at your phone every five minutes to make sure everyone is on time, or at the other end of the spectrum, having your guests wait unnecessarily because no one was ready to start at the stated time. She also checked in as the wedding date was approaching to make sure we were getting things done in a timely manner and offering us a hand when we needed it.
It may seem superfluous or high-brow to have a wedding planner, but it is just so worth it. The last thing you want is you, your mom or your bridesmaids to be scrambling around trying to keep track of everything and everyone when you are supposed to be enjoying this new stage in your life. The day is stressful enough. Your life is changing dramatically over the course of a single day, and while you will be happy, it is still emotionally draining to process what just happened and to be engaged and present with friends and family, some of whom you may have not seen in years. Leave all of the minute details to someone else will allow you to really absorb and enjoy your day.
5. Decide What 3 Things are Important to You, and Focus on Those
The most important aspects of our wedding was the food/cake. I wanted our guest experience to be fantastic because so many of them were spending a lot of money to fly down and stay a couple of nights at a hotel to celebrate with us. I also know that weddings can be long, and people get hungry, so it was a priority for us to have our guests be well fed. We ended up having a buffet with two entrees and a prime rib carving station, and a delicious vanilla rum cake that I can’t wait to eat on our one year anniversary. While we went to the tasting and loved the food options that we chose, we really were choosing for our guests. I was hoping to sit at the head table and eat and drink champagne the whole night, but that didn’t happen.
By the time we started to eat, we realized that we needed to stop by every table and chat with each one of our guests. That was important to us. I think I had two bites of my prime rib. By the time we got back to our table, our food had been cleared away and the buffet was cleaned up.
There is so much going on, so many pictures to take, so many official things to do, like the bouquet toss and cutting the cake (which took longer than I thought it would), that there wasn’t as much time to sit and enjoy everything. But it was a success, and for 3 months after the wedding was over, everyone was raving about the food. Find something you really care about and splurge on that. This way most of the decision-making about other things is easier and the budget for those items is kept low.
Don’t compare and have fun! Your wedding day is a unique reflection of you and your partner. Whether that is a backyard shindig, a courthouse wedding or a grand affair at the Ritz Carlton, you will enjoy and cherish your wedding day for the rest of your life. Life is too short to worry about what other people are going to think of your wedding.
If you are getting married in the Miami area, take a look at the vendors I used below. Click here to see my tips for taking great engagement photos!
Congratulations and best wishes!
Flowers, DJ, Videography, Lighting, Decor and Event Planning: Zeta Entertainment
Photography: Gary Wilson, PICWILSON Photography
Venue and Catering: Shula’s Hotel and Golf Club, Miami Lakes, FL
Cake: Edda’s Cake Designs
Dress: David’s Bridal
Tuxes: Generation Tux