10 things I learned planning my own wedding

What’s that annoyingly true statement…”hindsight is 20/20.”? It is.  Unfortunately, that’s even true in the world of wedding planning.  Seems like kind of a crap deal doesn’t it?  Experience is the best teacher, yet you really only get one go-round at one of the biggest most memorable days of you life! Fortunately, today we have the internet, and instant communication…we can learn from the experience of others.  If, of course, we’re willing to do a little research and read blogs like these 😊 In the spirit of said research being done, I’d like to take this week to talk about some of the things I took away from my big day after the fact: things that I am so glad I did, and things that I wish I would have been a little nicer to myself on. It was tough to narrow it down to 10, but that just means there’s room for more later.  May my shared experience make at least one planning journey a little less stressful!

  1. It’s 2022: it’s ok for some traditions to change.  It’s just a fact of wedding planning (and family blending) that this day brings out everyone’s strong opinions on the “right” way to do things: from the invitations to the menu, to the vows and ceremony, who sits where, who wears what.  Weddings ARE a huge tradition, in themselves.  It makes sense that as a society we have created structure to them, and threads of commonality to each event.  Over the last several years especially, there have been some pretty huge shifts in wedding traditions, and what is and isn’t acceptable.  Don’t feel like you HAVE to have an element in your day that you don’t like or relate to, simply because it’s tradition.  Because, guess what? You DON’T.  It’s ya’lls day.  Don’t want to spend a ton of money on paper invitations and have mostly younger guests? It’s ok to do an electronic invite or save the date! Or both.  You could even still have a smaller number of paper invitations printed for your older guests who might need them in place of the electronic option.  The purpose of tradition is to solidify memory and to bring happiness and connection: they shouldn’t be a cause of stress, and it’s ok to create your own.  Tradition was a tough one for me to navigate, planning a same sex wedding, as most traditions are really formulated for straight weddings (especially when your parent sets are both 65+.)  We had to make some things work, and I love everything we adjusted to fit us.  Our wedding was very much, 100% Ellie and I in every way.  If we hadn’t changed some traditions to fit us it would have only robbed us of a better experience. 
  2. Go with your gut and listen to yourself.  Limit the amount of opinions you let in.  Even as type-A and organized as I am, this wonderful world of a million options for EVERYTHING can be so overwhelming.  Especially when you want everything to be perfect! AND you’re spending tons of money left and right! I remember literally crying and spending months painfully trying to make the “right” decision picking my shoes for the day…just my shoes!  Or hours on Amazon, searching through 100’s of gold votives that are all basically the same, but slightly different…a little better price, a few more in the package….whew…it can be a black hole.  I had to pull myself out of it more than once, and remind myself to go with my gut.  Usually, my first inclination is what I love the most, and what I will ultimately end up coming BACK to after my rounds of searching, so I might as well cut out the crazy time in the middle! I gave myself a limit of three options for everything I needed to make a decision on.  So much simpler and much more time effective. Also in the same concept, I can be a total people pleaser. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and I have to be mindful of my own wants and opinions and how to effectively voice them, and not allow myself to be swayed by a stronger personality. Ergo, that people pleasing bit: not on this day! I had to really push myself to use my voice a few times, and also to simply tune out unwanted/warranted advice from stronger personalities. I didn’t have to fight them on it. But I didn’t have to actually go with their suggestion, either 😉
  3. Only I know my full vision, so only I will know everything that didn’t go according to plan! Basically, don’t sweat the small stuff, and just know that more than likely, there will be a hiccup or two on the big day.  They won’t be major, they won’t ruin the day, and most likely, no one will even notice them but you.  If you have a great planner and helpers to execute your day, YOU may not even notice them! There were most certainly a couple things on my wedding day that were not executed exactly the way I dreamed, or exactly the way I would have done them had I done it myself: but it was still perfect, and I hardly even noticed I was way too wrapped up in all the love and happiness and excitement of our day! It also rings true that a well-laid plan is much easier and smoother to execute: because I was so type-A and super detailed in my instructions, no one had any question of what I wanted, or where anything was located or supposed to be, décor and wedding party included.  It also ensured that any hiccups would be likely to be small and manageable by the awesome team of people that helped make our day happen.
  4. Pick your wedding party wisely.  Oooof.  This can be a tough one.  For my own wedding, then and now, I am so grateful I had a small party.  We had two on each side, and my hands were full with just that! I know myself, and I am very detail oriented, super organized, type-A, timeline followed, checklists, the whole nine: not everyone works like that.  This was never so apparent as during times I had to wrangle my wedding party and get everyone where they needed to be, when they needed to be there, wearing what they needed to wear, not fussing with each other, or other friends that are going to be at the wedding that they used to be friends with but can’t stand anymore: it can be a little like babysitting.  And that’s ok, because at the end of the day, this is YOUR wedding day, not theirs! Of course they don’t care about every little detail as intensely as you do.  BUT, that being said, it still pays to be selective when choosing your party.  Don’t fall into the trap of having a huge wedding party because there are friends who you just can’t not ask.  Pick the people that you know will take it seriously.  It’s an honor to be a part of someone’s wedding and to be so closely involved, and true friends there for the right reasons understand that concept and embrace it.  You will save yourself a lot of time, heartache, and crushed expectations if you reserve the spots for the really important ones: if it’s a super huge group, well, you’re a lucky duck!
  5. Find your wedding buddy.  Another biggie! I had my wedding buddy who literally saved my life a million times in the process and kept me sane.  She’s my best friend, and even though I didn’t “technically” have a maid of honor: she was it.  Of course, one of my wonderful type-A traits is to get tunnel-vision and be hyper-focused on a task: I learned quickly that just because I wanted to think about colors and textures and favors and cakes and dresses and venues and guest lists……Ellie didn’t want to think about it anywhere NEAR as much as I did! Her whole planning process was different because she’s a different person.  Our partner doesn’t always want to go at the same planning pace as we do or talk about it every waking moment.  In comes, the wedding buddy! She was my buffer, my shopping buddy, and my place to vent.  I literally don’t think I could have gotten through it without her.      
  6. Know which details count the most to you as a couple.  This is a good concept to start to nail down from the very beginning: really from the time you know your budget and guest list.  Take some time to talk about your overall vision together: what do you both picture for your day?  What are things that you HAVE to have, and what are your partner’s musts? What are things that AREN’T important to you? Knowing these things provides the framework for most effectively spending your wedding budget.
  7. I ABSOLUTLY needed my wedding coordinator! As I said, I took the planning process on full steam ahead, but I knew I would need someone to actually execute all of my carefully laid plans.  I also needed someone to take the lead and run the rehearsal so that I could focus on my butterflies and excitement, and what was coming the following day.  My coordinator really made my day go off without a hitch: I can’t say enough about what all she did! She and a team of our friends that were willing to help literally made sure Ellie and I had nothing to do but enjoy and be happy.  I was so in my emotions and focused on Ellie and our families and just the overwhelming joy of our day: I can’t even FATHOM having to have the presence of mind to execute all of the details AND get ready.  Let’s just face it ya’ll: there aren’t enough hours in the day, and these hours, in particular, are going to go by so incredibly fast you won’t even believe it.  She was definitely one of the best investments of our day and we couldn’t have done it without her.
  8. There’s going to be a lot of battles over the planning process.  Choose them wisely.  Especially with your partner.  There were several times that I had to slow my roll a little, and actually listen.  Often, one partner, in particular, will take on the bulk of the planning process, and the other will take a more laid-back approach giving input when asked.  If you’re the dominant planner, remember to slow down and listen.  And to give in some.  I found myself saying “no” too much because it didn’t fit MY plan (that I didn’t even really have yet but was going to 😉) I had to adjust a little bit, and remember that it’s HER day too, it’s about both of us.  She loves Dale Earnhardt.  There were two actual life-size Dale Earnhardt cutouts strategically placed at our wedding for photo opportunities.  It was so HER, people loved it, and it STILL looked amazing and beautiful and classy.  I had to fight to remember that the Pinterest image is just that: an image.  It’s the real parts of us that make the whole picture more beautiful.  So, trust me, if my perfectionist self can give in to Dale Earnhardt cutouts (and a couple other things too) to make my woman happy: compromise is possible!
  9. It all costs more than you think.  Be prepared.  This is one of the not so fun lessons.  We learned verrrrrrrry quickly that weddings have a pretty nasty price tag.  Oftentimes, just saying the word “wedding” can jack the price of something up several hundred dollars.  It’s the nature of the beast.  It seemed like every time we turned around, it would be another $2K for something.  Another not so fun fact: you get what you pay for.  It isn’t always best, even if it’s more cost effective, to use friends to preform services for your day.  Things can get a little sticky sometimes mixing business with personal, especially when there’s lots of big emotions mixed in with the big day.  If you do go with friends for some of your vendor options, try to approach working with them as if you were a client who didn’t know them.  Don’t assume there will be a discount, sign a contract like every good business deal, and tip if they are a service provider.  Be ready with that budget from the start and be smart with your vendor choices.  This is another place where a wedding planner comes in handy: they can help review vendor contracts and help confirm that your costs are on par with standards. All that being said, there is absolutely no reason you can’t have an amazing wedding on a budget! Have a good plan, know what areas are the most important to you, and where you really want the most bang for your buck.  Also, don’t be afraid of some DIY!  
  10. Do the bridal portraits.  Really.  If you can, do them.  I was originally not going to do them: we were going to use the photo shoot included in our photography package for an updated engagement shoot.  The stars just never aligned for that shoot: you know what they say about God and well laid plans sometimes 😉 We ended up opting for the bridal portraits after all and MAN was I glad I did! It was an awesome trial run that helped me see exactly what finishing touches I really wanted to feel perfect on the big day.  And, lets be real: any excuse to wear a dress that amazing more than once and I’ll take it!

So there you have it ya’ll! There are so many parts and pieces that go into designing your wedding day.  But don’t lose sight of what it’s all about.  Remember that it’ll be ok, everything doesn’t have to perfect, people are going to people and the sun will rise to meet another day.  Enjoy picking these parts and pieces! Enjoy picking the ways and means to create these memories on one of the biggest days of your life: because that’s what you get to take away when it’s all said and done.  The love and the memories. 

Happy planning ya’ll!


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