25 Things I Learned from Planning a Wedding

April 30, 2015

Ah, wedding planning. I’m sure many girls dream of what they want it to be like way before it’s time. The dress. The decorations. The people they’d have in their wedding party. It’s a special time, and definitely worth all the excitement! Seeing so many of my younger friends come to this milestone, and many very close to it, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the things I learned when we planned our wedding!

Our wedding story (the quick version):

Ben and I got married in September of 2012 in Murchison, Texas. We basically did a destination wedding in the middle of nowhere on a ranch with a rustic, vintage barn, spacious fields and lots of big trees. The shabby-chic style was extremely popular at that time, and I was a huge fan because there were so many cute, crafty things you could do without breaking the bank.

Our wedding was really small and intimate. We still invited everyone we knew, but were very aware that most wouldn’t come because it literally was in the middle of nowhere, and for many — out of state. That didn’t bother us too much though, because we just wanted to be together with our families and close friends!

We got married at an outdoor chapel at sunset. It was beautiful! When it got dark, strings of twinkling lights dazzled the enormous trees that lined the entrance to a beautiful, rustic, remodeled barn. We had sweet music, cheerful conversation, and a buffet line complete with chicken and steak fajitas, all the toppings, salsas, sides and sweet tea (in mason jars of course). We had a small, tiered wedding cake on top of a big tree trunk and two little white peacocks (had to incorporate the name somehow!) nestled in a bird’s nest for the topper. Ben’s groom cake was none other than his favorite — delectable New York cheesecake, topped with candied strawberries (I think that ended up being everyone’s favorite. We went through at least 3!)

We left the venue that night to a cheering crowd ringing little bells and blowing bubbles. It was a sweet night, full of warm memories that we will cherish forever!

Now here’s what I learned from my experience:

From an overall standpoint:

  1. You really don’t need a year to plan your wedding — I felt like 6 months was more than enough time. I think I may have had everything in place and done in three. That is my thing though — I like getting things done early and quickly. Everyone has their own pace. 🙂
  2. The way your venue looks matters — Your pictures will outlast this day. If you have your ceremony in an old, dusty church building with yellow can-lighting and wild carpet, your pictures will not turn out well (or at all in many cases).
  3. The time (and place) you have your wedding matters — Depending on how many people you’d like to have come celebrate your day, make sure you’re thinking about the time and day of the week. Think about traveling and traffic near your venue as well. For example: Friday at 5 p.m. is when most people are coming home from work. And Sunday is when many families have church commitments or it’s at the end of the weekend and too close to Monday. And again, think about your pictures. If you want to have your wedding outside at 2 p.m., the lighting will be harsh, and that pretty, white dress you have on can be blown out by the brightness.
  4. Be thoughtful toward your bridesmaids’ dress prices — It’s true; it’s your wedding and you want everyone to match and look perfect. But it really stinks to make your friends (many may be poor college students) drop $300 on a dress they will most likely never wear again. See if you can mix and match styles to fit their price range and body type while still implementing your wedding color palette.
  5. If you want to have an outdoor wedding, buy some bug spray — We had mosquitoes galore, and we totally forgot to plan for that. Thankfully there was a convenience store nearby to get that stuff and spray down the premises before guests arrived.
  6. Don’t go cheap on your photographer — It could be because I’m married to a photographer, but it is really important to document this day with someone professional and an expert in this field. Same with your videographer! You will keep these videos and pictures forever!
  7. Feed your guests if you’re having your wedding around dinner time — If people are spending their time to celebrate your special day with you around dinner time, give them more than just a selection of melon balls and hospitality mints. It doesn’t have to be a plated meal. A tastefully decorated buffet line worked great for us!

From a financial standpoint:

  1. Make a budget, stick to it, and keep all your receipts — It helps to see everything visible and lined up in an Excel document. It helps you keep track of how much you are aiming to spend in each area, and it automatically totals everything as soon as you enter your latest expenditures. And keep all your receipts. I bought and returned SO many things.
  2. You can cut your venue costs by setting a date in the fall and winter — Most people get married in the spring and summer, especially June.
  3. Don’t be too good for Dollar Tree — Surprisingly there are several things that you can find here that are so cheap and no one would ever suspect where you got them from (serving trays, bubbles, floating candles, wedding gift bags/boxes, vase filler, fake white rose petals, etc.)
  4. If the timing is right, stock up on white sundresses (for all your showers and rehearsal dinner) in the late summer — Once it nears “school season,” all the stores start selling fall fashions and you’re able to get all those white sundresses for cheap!
  5. See if you can rent most of your decorations from your venue — This will save you a lot of money, time and you won’t have to clean or pack up nearly as much when it’s all over.
  6. Trade your services — You may be able to cut costs on different things when you offer your own talents to benefit your vendors in return. This is how we were able to save money on invitations and photography.
  7. Sign up for Hobby Lobby’s weekly emails — I got a ton of things from here. It always helped to know what was going on sale each week, and they always sent a 40% off coupon you could use each time!

From an emotional standpoint:

  1. Don’t be a control freak — It is good to be flexible and not everything goes exactly the way you plan. Most things that you think are hills to die on are not actually anything that people would notice.
  2. You can’t please everybody — People are going to have their strong opinions and traditions. But this is you and your fiancé’s wedding, and what most people think doesn’t need to hold a lot of weight in your decision-making.
  3. Don’t burn bridges over wedding decisions — At the same time, you need to maintain a good relationship with those closest to you (i.e. your parents paying for the wedding, the mother of your future husband, your husband…). Obviously each circumstance is different, but pick and choose your battles. If it’s a matter of the color of a napkin, let it go. If it is some strange family tradition that compromises your morals, take a polite but firm stand.
  4. Pray before you get into any wedding planning conversations — It will be a much calmer and pleasant experience for everyone involved.
  5. Do what works for you — Some people require an intense wedding planning tool kit, other people (like me) just need a checklist on a sticky note. Whatever helps you keep your plans and sanity in tact.
  6. Don’t be so wrapped up in wedding planning that it’s literally all you talk about with your future spouse — Believe it or not, you guys actually had a thriving, wonderful relationship before all this that didn’t revolve around cake tasting and venue choices. It will also wear your groom out and it might create some frustration and arguing.
  7. Just expect most people not to RSVP — People are terrible about RSVP-ing. Just go ahead and expect it not to happen. I’m bad about this myself, but I’m trying to get better!

A few more tidbits:

  1. Your wedding can be an outreach to your lost friends — The topic of marriage and love is a great segway into sharing the Gospel. Ask your officiant or someone with a good understanding of the Gospel to include this in your wedding so that you and your groom can be reminded that marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church. And this can also plant a seed in the hearts of those who may not be Christians in the crowd.
  2. Send thank you notes to the people who you received gifts from — It’s a nice gesture and it shows that you care. This is a great practice to keep up for the rest of your life.
  3. Don’t include your registry on your wedding invitations — You will get plenty of gifts from your showers. Don’t worry. You will get all you need and more! (The first 3-5 months our marriage, we probably took a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond and Target 3 times a week just returning things and switching them out!)
  4. Don’t go into debt for your honeymoon — It seems like everybody is going on these exotic vacations to Punta Cana and Cabo, but don’t feel like you have to. If you can afford it, then great. But it really isn’t going to matter too much where you are because you are going to just love being together! Just enjoy each other. 🙂

That’s all I can think of. If you have any questions please drop a comment below! You might also find an older blog of mine helpful, “When You Can’t Afford a Graphic Designer” for help on ordering/designing invitations and save the date cards.

Happy wedding planning!

Photo Credit: Kristin Shyla

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