Real Life: 8 things to know about wedding planning

Every bride will know this statement to be especially true: hindsight is always 20/20. When you first get engaged, it’s an experience unlike any other. Think you’re a champ at organization and have your big day all planned out in your head? You will still feel overwhelmed. Emotions you didn’t even know you had? Totally surface on the daily. Etiquette that’s standard protocol in the wedding industry? Completely news to you!

So today, with only 3 days to go to our big day, I thought I’d look back and share my biggest takeaways from wedding planning with you. And I know you guys have opinions about this as well (um, hello, this post?), so please, fellow engaged gals, current and previous maids of honor, new brides, and old married ladies, share your tips, however serious or not, with fellow brides and grooms to be. Because I’m SO glad I learned about some of these things early on, and wish someone would’ve told me about a few others going in!

1. Be honest about what it is you want. This one is really hard. When you’re at Point A of wedding planning, it’s difficult to anticipate or comprehend the number of decisions that will be forced upon you, and also how you might feel at any given stage during the process. One thing I wish I would’ve realized earlier on is that it’s okay to be Bridezilla-y about some things. Not to the point where your family and friends think you’ve purchased yourself a first class ticket to Crazytown, but I mean more about what you think is most important to you. Do you want family to arrive on a certain date? Not have to go through endless family dinners? Want private time with you and your beloved the day before or morning of the wedding? Everyone envisions the time leading up to their big day differently, and we sometimes forget what we envision is not what our family or friends envision. So make sure you’re on the same page with everyone and either a) get them on board or b) strike some sort of compromise so there are no surprises (or disappointments) when it’s too late in the game to change things around.

2. Allot extra budget for random stuff. This one seems obvious, but trust me when I say that you will need it. Here’s a good example: when I first started putting a budget together for our wedding, I had no idea that many vendors typically receive gratuities day of. Luckily, I’d padded our budget with a little extra ‘cushion funding’ which we could devote to things like this, but I would’ve been panicky had I not anticipated this. Another thing about gratuities — it’s customary to write some kind of nice thank you note along with it (which seems really obvious, but when you’re busy with wedding mayhem, sometimes it’s easy to forget these things!) . I planned ahead and wrote out my vendor thank you notes way ahead of time, then handed them off to our coordinator for distribution day of. Easy peasy.

3. Be okay with saying no to things. One thing I’m so grateful for leading up to this week is that I had planned out my schedule pretty well. Once the time was booked, it was booked, and it’s taken some of the pressure off. This week hasn’t been as insane as I was anticipating, because I was honest with myself about what my limitations would be. I decided early on that the last thing I wanted was a wedding week where I was stressed, overly anxious, and overly booked. Because the reality is, you’re already going to be busy, stressed and anxious due to the nature of what’s on the horizon, so why make it harder on yourself?

4. Wedding dresses. Start shopping early. The first time I went to try on dresses in March, I found a dress that I really liked and was initially a serious contender. I ended up purchasing my dress elsewhere, but had this dress been The One, it would’ve been very anxiety producing — because it had a 7 month lead time before I would’ve even been able to get it for alterations. My actual dress ended up taking about 6 months between the day of purchase to the day I picked it up. So be aware that in this industry, some dresses, depending on where you’re buying, just take a long time to make. Plan early!

5. Hire a planner or coordinator. If you can swing it, of course. I hired a coordinator to come in two months before the big day to help with things. I think I would’ve been institutionalized had I not done this. Besides being amazing at her job and helping out with aspects of the wedding that I didn’t even know were issues, it’s also been great to have someone to email with (basically) daily about all the little details to even emotional venting. Your spouse will only be able to take so much of this. A coordinator has seen it all, and understands the complexities of a wedding. Best money we spent on this wedding, for sure. I honestly feel like I can go into the weekend not worrying about anything except getting my butt to the right place at the right time.

6. Everyone feels differently about your wedding. This has been one of the most striking things to me. There are the people that want to know everything about our nuptials, to those that have no idea what time to show up. I don’t say this in a mean way or anything like that, it’s just the truth. You will see the full range, and just remember it comes from that same place that I mentioned in number one…everyone has different emotions, approaches and feelings around and towards these big life events. I’m learning (though it’s taken a long time!) to just go with it and let people celebrate us however they want to.

7. No matter what, remember that everything will work out. When I wrote this post, I just remember how freaking overwhelmed I felt, with every single aspect of this thing, or like I was doing everything wrong. I still feel that way on some days; on others, I feel like I’ve got this planning thing down pat. You feel how you feel. It’s okay to feel completely overwhelmed and joke about wanting to elope. Or just eloping, period. If people tell you platitudes that don’t make you feel better, it’s okay to ignore them and just smile and nod. Or tell them to drop it. Whatever. Don’t feel guilty about being put on this emotional roller coaster. Your fiance asked you to take the ride with you, you said okay, and it’ll be over eventually. That’s honestly the best advice I could give someone. Give yourself permission to feel how you feel. And know that when you’re at Point B, looking back from where you started at Point A, you might even feel a little proud of the amazing shindig you put together for your loved ones!

8. Ignore everything I say here. Everyone’s wedding experience is different, and what works for some people won’t work for others. Do you!

Your turn. What’s something (logistical or emotional!) you wish you knew about wedding planning?

{Image Credit: Jose Villa}

Leave a Comment


  1. 10.31.12

    BOOKMARKED! i have a feeling this will come in very handy. thanks for this, victoria! x

  2. 10.31.12
    Kirby said:

    I love this! I just got engaged a few weeks ago so I will definitely have to bookmark this!

  3. 10.31.12
    ly said:

    Don’t forget to reapply lipstick! :) Enjoy your day xx

  4. 10.31.12
    Victoria C said:

    This is spot on! I haven’t even had my wedding yet, but I know if I was doing this over I would hire a wedding planner from the beginning. I think she would have saved me so much time, stress, and money on certain things that I have no interest in. I feel like my wedding will be beautiful regardless of what happens, but I wouldn’t call it my “dream wedding.” That sounds sad, but it’s really not. I just didn’t know what I wanted when I started out because it was a completely different world. A planner probably could have helped back then and maybe I would have found a different venue. Venue hunting was by far the worst and most stressful thing I’ve done.

    I still have 5 months to go and am considering hiring a coordinator for the month of package, but the venue coordinator seems to cover most of that type of stuff, so I don’t think it’s worth my money. The only problem is I just don’t really like her. She’s not mean or is pushing anything on me but I just don’t feel like a friend with her. If anybody has any advice for me on this, I would love it!

    I would add 9. Find vendors you love and trust!

  5. 10.31.12
    rita said:

    i love this! i agree with everything you wrote (particularly 1, and i’d add, just OWN what you want on top of being honest, and 6, it was hard for me when some of my friends and our families acted differently than i expected to during the process and it at times i couldn’t get over it and it could have damaged relationships… my husband pushed me to let it go and that was absolutely the right thing to do!)

    i’d also add- do everything in a way that feels comfortable to you and aligns with your values. I have no issue spending money (ha!) but weddings are insanely expensive. to help us feel better about what we were spending, we made sure to work first with people that we loved and would want to be friends with later on, but then even more importantly people and companies that aligned with our values- local, small businesses, independent artists, etc. This helped me prioritize (why get crazy expensive linens from a big box company when i can get amazing geronimo balloons from jihan herself/use a caterer that uses organic foods/etc., etc.) and feel a lot better about the amount that we spent!

    so excited for you! getting married is the most amazing, crazy thing ever and i will be thinking of you this saturday! (hope that’s not creepy!)

  6. 10.31.12
    Cameron Martin said:

    I got married two months ago, and could not agree more with your advice. Planning a wedding is a TRIP. Also (and random) – my dress was Amy Kuschel and I adored it! Best of luck – the day goes by so fast , but it’s amazing.

  7. 10.31.12

    PLANNER PLANNER PLANNER. that is all :)

  8. 10.31.12

    All great advice! I am planning my wedding to and you’re right – everyone has their own opinion! :) Good luck!

  9. 10.31.12

    The number one most stressful part of my wedding (aside from Ethan trying to get his leave approved to actually be there), was the guest list. We wanted a very small guest list. But my husband’s family is quite large and everyone wanted their best friends’ mothers’ cousins to get invites. Ultimately, I had a lot of tears over it…looking back, I should have stamped my foot down and said no to the people who were pressuring me.
    Another thing that was terribly frustrating was the inconsistency of RSVPs. Many people we had to contact to even ask of they were coming! And on the actual day, people that told us they would show did not. We had a lot of leftover food we did not anticipate after the fact.
    But the main thing is, we got married and are happy and the people that really cared about us were there to share in the occasion.

    • 10.31.12

      Oh gosh, we faced the same thing! I am now a diligent invitation responder. I was amazed that almost 20% of our list never replied at all. So rude!

  10. 10.31.12

    Make a plan for yourself, and don’t expect it to be fun. It’s a lot of work, which is why some people make a living doing it. I think I was disappointed when it became a chore, and then procrastinated on some things because locating affordable flatware was no fun at the end of a full work day.

    Also, if your budget is small and you can’t get a planner, try to have a small wedding. This is controversial, I know, but all the DIY involved with stretching your money to cover lots of guests will drive you crazy if you don’t already have lots of free time.

    Finally, don’t compare your event to all the ones on Pinterest/blogs. Lots of what you see there was done by pros, which is why it ended up being publicized. If your resources are not the same as the bride with a $20K budget, then you are not a failure if your tables don’t look like hers. At the end of the day, you’re just as married. (I struggled with this until one day I realized that with less than half the resources, I’d have to be a miracle worker to pull off a reception like some of the ones on theknot)

    Great post!

  11. 10.31.12
    Natalie said:

    This is wonderful! I would say hire at least a day of coordinator. I would have died without mine! Unfortunately our budget didn’t allow for anything further out, but I totally agree that if you can, hire someone to help. It would have been really helpful for pre-planning.

    Also, I would suggest hiring a videographer. This was something else we had to cut due to our budget. We used Wedit instead, which had its pros and cons. Personal flip cams give you some really awesome, hilarious videos, but it’s definitely not the same. That’s probably the only thing I would change about our wedding. If you can afford it, do it!

  12. 10.31.12
    Lisa said:

    I’ll admit that I’m not yet engaged (but I am in a long-term relationship headed toward marriage), and only a few friends of mine have gotten married within the last 5 years – even then, I was a bridesmaid for 2 of them and really had no idea as to how much preparation went into the day. I never realized until now how stressful it can be to plan a wedding! So reading this and all the comments, even if not useful right now, is at least getting me ready for what to expect. So thank you! And congrats – best wishes on your wedding day!

  13. 10.31.12
    viv said:

    I wish I could’ve read this right before planning our wedding!

  14. 10.31.12

    Great tips! Love your blog!

    The Style Storm

    xo, Christina

  15. 10.31.12
    Abby said:

    Number 7 is spot on! It will all work out and it will be fantastic. Just take a deep breath. Along with being honest about what you want, OWN your decisions. Don’t let other’s opinions or social convention cause you to second guess your decisions. I got married on a Thursday afternoon, in a park in front of 20 guests, in a green dress. I hyphenated my last name and went camping on my honeymoon. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Except maybe I would have hired a planner :) Seriously, only 20 guests, I just wanted a planner to deal with all of the details!

  16. 10.31.12

    I LOVED this post. I married in March this year and my main advice is – dont be pressured into things because it is tradition or ‘meant to be that way’, SCREW that, it’s your day and injections of your personality traditional or not will make your day stand out. Stick to your guns girls! Xx

  17. 11.1.12

    I love that dress in the image you used – amazing!

  18. 11.1.12
    Rho said:

    Thank you for this. I am recently married and have a lot of recently engaged friends. I always give my advice but always end with your number 8 :) Best wishes to you and your love; I know the day…and everything after is going to be a great journey for you to share together…<3

  19. 11.2.12

    One of my favorite things my husband said to me during the process was “We will still get married, even if you can’t find the ‘right’ color cardstock”. So true. It’s about getting married in the end.

  20. 11.29.12

    Victoria, this is such a wonderful post! So few people realize # 4 – trying on early is key. # 6 is one very few people talk about., and I’m so glad you brought it to light. I remember being so surprised by the various reactions. There were people who had seemingly asked with interest (pressure?) during my entire dating life “when I’d be getting married” like it was the very thing they lived for, didn’t seem to care at all when the big day came. Then there were distant acquaintances who were offended not to be included. It’s really stressful! #7 is important too, really the day becomes whatever it will be, which is usually beyond one’s best expectations. And the marriage after is really the fun part! Great post and congratulations on your recent nuptials!