Wedding Planning Tips From A Recent Bride

Hi everyone!  I just got married and went through the process of planning a wedding, so today I will be sharing some things that I learned throughout the process that I wish I had known before.  We did not use a wedding planner, so our wedding was entirely planned by us and our parents, with a little help from our venue event coordinator, once we chose a venue.  None of us had been involved in planning a wedding (at least, not in the past 30 years!), so we learned a lot as we went.  Our venue’s event coordinator was a great resource who answered all kinds of random questions about the planning process and choices, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them if your venue has a person like this.  

1. Order your save the dates and invitations as soon as you nail down the details.  Whether you are ordering them online (Minted/Shutterfly/VistaPrint), making them yourselves, or using a stationary store, order these items as soon as you have the details locked into place.  Even if they end up sitting in your dining room for a month because it’s too early to send them, it’s better than sending them late because you didn’t realize how long the process takes.  Remember that you will have to order them, give the production company time to produce them, wait while they are shipped to you, and then you will also have to look them over, stuff the envelopes, address them (if you are not having the publisher do it), and give them a few days to get to people in the mail.  In addition, you will need to gather all of the invitees’ addresses.  This can add some time if for example, you are waiting for your obscure relative’s address from your aunt.  You don’t want to be those people that send the invitations the week before the rsvp due date.  In addition, put all of the addresses in some sort of electronic document/database.  This will be helpful when you need to look up people’s addresses for thank you notes down the line.  

*We used Minted for save the dates and invitations, and they were great.  We loved that after we added people’s addresses to our Minted address book, the save the dates and invitations came with the addresses already printed on the envelopes.

2. Use a spreadsheet to stay organized.  When we got within the last few months before the wedding, we made a giant spreadsheet with every single thing left to do, color coded by who was handling each thing.  It doesn’t matter how small a task seems; put it on the list.  This was an easy way to keep track of exactly what was left, make sure someone was handling each thing, and to make sure nothing fell through the cracks!

3. Make a Pinterest board, but don’t get too attached.  This really helped me, as a bride that didn’t already have my whole wedding planned in my head.  Even just browsing Pinterest gave me ideas of what my options might be, so I was better prepared when it came time to choose things like “What type/color of chair?” And “What do you want the flowers to look like?”  In the same vein, don’t get *too* attached to having the exact flower wall/centerpieces/dresses that you saw in that one pin on Pinterest.  For example, the flowers that were in all of the bouquet pictures that I liked turned out to be not in season for my wedding.  The florist said he could get them from Alaska, but they were expensive and small/wilt-y compared to the ones in my pictures.  I was perfectly fine subbing in another flower that looked similar.

4. Choose as many things as possible far ahead.  We made the mistake of saying things like “We can’t pick the program yet, because we don’t have the ceremony details nailed down yet.”  We definitely could have (and should have!) chosen the program far in advance, and just added the details once we figured them out.  If you find yourself with a lull in planning at any point, use that time to research and pick out anything that you can.  Examples of things to research and pick out as early as possible: save the dates, invitations, programs, shoes/jewelry/other day-of accessories, bridal party gifts, box for cards, favors, and sand ceremony/unity candle items.

5. Start a thank you note document.  We used a google doc that my husband and I could both modify.  We had columns for gift, gift giver, date gift was received, and date thank you note sent.  This was extremely helpful because we got lots of gifts that trickled in before the wedding, so it was nice to have a central list to keep track of thank you notes and make sure we weren’t forgetting any.  This also helped for our bridal showers and engagement party.

6. Register early.  We had an engagement party thrown for us almost a year before our wedding, so we had to register early.  This ended up being very helpful because it was one less thing to worry about as it got busier and busier as our wedding got closer.  

(Check out the second post in my wedding series - Wedding Registry Tips and Favorite Items)

7. Get a return address stamp or return address labels.  Having a stamp with our return address saved us from writing our return address literally 400+ times, between the save the dates, invitations, and thank you notes from the wedding/showers/engagement party.  The stamp we chose just had our first names, so it could be used before and after the wedding, without worrying what last name it had for me since I changed my last name.

8. If you choose an outdoor venue for any of the day, make sure you are comfortable with the backup plan in case of bad weather.  I was very insistent that we love our “backup rain room” for our ceremony that we hoped to have outside.  This even played a part when we were deciding between two venues.  The chance that it would rain was small, but we did not want to be worried about the weather leading up to the wedding, when we’d have lots of other things to worry about.  The forecast the entire week before our wedding said we’d have a sunny day for our wedding day.  The day was sunny - except for a 30 minute torrential downpour that started 20 minutes before our outdoor ceremony was supposed to start.  Fortunately, we were totally fine with our backup room, so after some momentary panic and waffling about moving inside or waiting out the rain, we made the call to move everything inside.  When we think back on the day, we sometimes forget that our ceremony was even supposed to be outside since we weren’t disappointed with our backup indoor room.

9. Take pictures of EVERYTHING that you see when you are looking at different choices for things like venues, dresses, decorations, flowers, etc.  With lots of people potentially involved in planning (bride, groom, parents of each, bridal party, etc), it makes it a lot easier to remember the choices and show them to other people if you have good pictures.  Of course, you do not *need* to show all of these people pictures of the choices if they are not involved in planning that aspect, but it’s nice to have pictures when you need them.  This is especially helpful when you look at a lot of choices and things start to blend together.  This happened to us with venues, and it was nice to be able to use the pictures we had taken to jog our memories.  Having pictures of past dresses I had tried on was also helpful when I was dress shopping.  That way I could show the stylist at the store what styles I had liked or disliked, which gave them some direction for when they were pulling dresses for me.

All of these are things that I wish I knew before planning our wedding.  Hopefully they help you if you are in the  process of planning your wedding now!  Keep an eye out for my other wedding posts that will be coming soon.  Next up: a post about our favorite registry items!


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