Okay, you are getting married, congrats!! Planning for the big day is a huge undertaking, and it can put a lot of pressure on the bride, the couple, and everyone else in-between. I’m not a wedding planning expert but, I have gone through the motions and am excited to share some key takeaways. Even if this only helps out one other bride, I know that will make all the difference!
First up, the damn budget!
Alright, let’s face it, this guy dictates it all. Pinterest photos should come with price tags attached to each item photographed because holy crap, would that be eye opening and help us all out. But really, the budget is important and tackling how you want to break it down from the start will alleviate stress down the road. So, some ideas is to make a list of what you as a couple care about and want to spend your money on and things that you’ll nix or just take the inexpensive route, an example would be:
Less important items
-cake and other desserts
-gifts for bridal party
-party favors for guests
My second takeaway for the list is to put an estimated amount that you’re willing to spend next to each item based on your budget. This will be important and a better way to look at your budget when contacting vendors.
So you’ve found the perfect venue, this is exciting and allows you to pick a date and get the ball rolling. My biggest piece of advice as you navigate the rest of the process is to trust no one and ask the hard questions before signing anything. You might be thinking, wow Bre, that sounds pretty intense, but you know what, it’s true. Be sure to be asking what the price of venue includes. How much is it to rent a tent, chairs, tablecloths, place settings, lighting, a dance floor, space heaters, bathrooms if the facility doesn’t offer them. The list goes on and on. And depending where the venue is, that price will fluctuate. With living in Montana, there are parts of the state that honestly cost more to get married in than others, and venders charge accordingly. An outdoor venue in a picturesque place is lovely, but it comes with more moving parts than one that has an indoor space and comes with the simple amenities that we all need to host an event.
During your whole wedding-planning-process don’t be shy to shop around. When we were looking in October of 2021, there was a lot of vendors saying, “I’m only taking on one more bride for 2022 weddings.” And this caused a lot of stress and panic-booking. But, you’re planning to only get married once so take your time and read the fine print.
All planners are different and tend to offer a tier of packages. I would suggest hiring one at some level because there are so many things that people like you and I would overlook without one. Something that ours didn’t include and I had put more trust in than I should was the damn budget. I would suggest that all couples keep that list of items and their estimated prices near and dear to their heart. Excel will also become your best friend. Punch in your total allotted loot and then subtract everything you spend as you go. This will help you keep track of spending and what has been booked because your email folder will be nuts for the next few months.
No matter what, make sure your planner will be there for your rehearsal dinner. What is the point of having a rehearsal dinner if you don’t know what you’re suppose to be practicing? Our gal was, and it made all the difference. Getting married is somewhat of a show. Things are done with purpose, and then it’s over in the blink of an eye.
She went over the bridal party’s lineup, my husband shaking my dad’s hand and giving him a hug before taking my hand, my maid of honor taking my flowers and fixing my dress, our officiant getting out of the way for our kiss, things like that!
She also stayed on her timeline during the whole day of and there was never a moment of lag time with guests wondering what was next. Which is important because you only get 24 hours however you want to dice it up. It might as well be packed with memories and not worrying about your next move.
DJ or MC
So before our wedding, I had only been to three others! We are 27, 28 so one of the first in our friend group to tie the knot. With that being said, I didn’t realize how big of a role that the DJ or MC plays in a wedding. And I’m here to tell you, it’s a pretty big one, especially if you’re a little type A like me and want things running like a well oiled machine. So, don’t cheap out on this one or see if you can phone a friend (unless you really trust them.)
Our DJ was honestly perfect. He was there but did nothing to cause attention to himself. We met with him a week before our wedding to give him our list of songs for walking down the aisle, our parent dances, the last song and a general idea of what we wanted to hear throughout the night. And let me tell you, I had just about every guest say that they’ve never been to a wedding where so many people were dancing and having fun. Music is important, and reading the room is also important. He kept the day on track with announcing what was going on and made sure that Dustin and I were having a good time.
The first priority when looking for a photographer is to make sure your style aligns with theirs. Most of the time this comes down to editing style, the colors that the photographer focuses in on and how they frame their subjects. Second and less thought of in my opinion is to make sure that their energy matches yours. It’s your day, and you should feel comfortable around them because they’ll be documenting moments for you and your spouse to hold on to for the rest of your lives. You want the day to feel easy and effortless.
Having a photographer who lives near your venue will cut down added costs as well. If they need to travel, the cost of their time, gas and, or lodging will typically fall on the couple. If you’re still torn if you’ve found the right person, ask to see full galleries of previous weddings. Instagram is a highlight reel so full galleries will allow you to see how they captured the whole day.
Our gal did a great job during our whole day of and gave us around 100 photos literally the morning after our wedding which felt unheard of. We had asked her ahead of time if she would be able to give us a link for some ceremony photos because it was unplugged, and she more than delivered. She was extremely kind to both us, our wedding party and all of guests.
Okay this is the fairy godmother part of the post. Things that we did that really worked and things that we could’ve done better.
Unplugged Ceremony and how we handled it. I knew even before we were engaged that this was something that was important to me. I wanted to walk down the aisle and see faces, not phones and be able to look back on photos and also see faces and not phones. So, we put it on our website. There was a tab on there labeled, unplugged ceremony and a description as to why. I also wrote in there that once we had a link to our photos, that we would link it there too. I am a photo person and don’t believe in gatekeeping photos but everyone is different. I think our guests really appreciated this and it eliminated the want to sneak any pics in. We also had our website on our welcome sign reminding guests that this was our “policy” and that the photos could be found there within 48 hours.
The wedding website.
Being a bride a lot of work. You’re contacting people for their addresses, making a seating chart and creating a website? Phew. Well yes, but I promise you, doing it well will eliminate stress down the road. I would highly suggest getting everything perfect before sending invites out. Because, that is when you’ll get the most traction on your wedding website. Have your registry up and ready to go, directions to the venue, list if the venue is outside, and if it’s on grass, dirt, concrete, what the weather is like that time of year and if there will be shuttle. Also put the ceremony start time on your homepage once you know so that you’re not being contacted the day of by guests.
If there is a shuttle, have a shuttle tab where guests can RSVP if they are using it and from which pickup location. We did not have this on our website initially and had to send out RSVP requests closer to our wedding date in order to book the right amount shuttles and create a timeline for pickups. Having a shuttle is worth it for the safety of your guests if ubers or taxis aren’t an option. It also allows them to have more fun which is always ideal.
Having a menu and name cards.
One of the biggest takeaway I’ve had from wedding planning is that people like direction. Too many options is not a great thing. Picking out which table people sit at and their seat gets everyone seated a lot quicker than if they have the ability to make the choice on their own. This also keeps gaps from forming and people who don’t know each other being awkward and shuffling around. Make choices for your friends and family and they’ll thank you later.
We had done our catering family-style with a chicken and steak option being passed around. On our wedding RSVP card, we let people know that it would be family-style and to write down if they had any dietary restrictions. And you know what, a lot of them had many of them. It became stressful and overwhelming but we whittled it down and made sure to have options for everyone. We offered one vegetarian/vegan dish for the five guests who fell within that category. On their menu, there was an additional tiny menu with their entree listed and it’s ingredients. Our caterer knew where those guests were sitting so that they could pass out their dish in a timely manner. This was nice because we didn’t have to spend x-amount on enough mushroom dishes for most people to not have one.
A second look for both the bride and the bridesmaids.
Ah, this was so fun and one of the best decisions that I made. We didn’t change until around 8:00pm after all the sunset photos, parent dances, cake cutting, that kind of stuff. It was solely for dancing and partying the night away. Which was perfect, even my mom changed and ended up shutting down the dance floor. But in all honesty, it made all the difference. None of my gals or myself would have been able to have had nearly as much fun in our long dresses. I let my gals pick out whatever dress they wanted, I knew that my bridesmaids dresses weren’t cheap and didn’t want this to be another expense so I just left it at something short and fun.
This one is tricky, but I’m glad that we only had four people speak. I know that everyone is different but, guests are there to have fun, celebrate you and get up and move! I let my dad know that he had to keep his under five minutes, he was the first to go and set a really nice tone for the rest. We also had our best man speak, my maids of honor (there were two) do one combined speech, and my step dad. Less is more and if you have an open mic, it really slows the roll on other fun wedding activities. And again, you only get 24 hours however you want to cut it.
Sit with your wedding party.
I understand why couples do a sweetheart table, the day goes by quickly and it allows time for the two of you to chat but, we are people people and we wanted to celebrate with our people. In all honestly, even if you are at a sweetheart table, you will probably walk around, say your “thank yous” to family and friends for coming, and then sit down once it’s time to eat. But you won’t be near your bridal party for toasts, speeches and all the laughs and tears that happen during those moments. We got the idea to do a massive long table that included our wedding party and their plus ones/spouses because my husband’s sister had done it that way and it was fabulous. I really think it is the only way to do it. It creates this feeling of inclusion and was such a nice way to spend time with our close friends because there will probably never be another time like that where everyone is in the same room again.
However you choose to plan your wedding, it will be perfect. Don’t stress about the little things and loose yourself in the process. If you have any questions or would like help with day of details, I’d love to be of assistance. Shoot me an email and we can chat about your ideas and see if I am able to lend a hand!