Getting engaged is exciting!… until you realize the next step is planning a wedding. Where do you even begin? Who do you invite? Who can you get away not inviting? What’s the budget? Where can you cut costs? What are the most important aspects of the big day, and what are the little things you shouldn’t waste time worrying about? A lot of daunting questions, yes?
Well, we wanted to help ease some of the stress and confusion, so went to the experts: Everygirl readers who have gone through the wedding process and lived to talk about it! We wanted to learn what their wedding planning process was like, and what advice they have for the future betrothed of the world. We also went to the industry experts for advice on what it takes to land your big day on the virtual pages of top wedding sites; TheKnot.com Photo Director Rebecca Crumley and Style Me Pretty editor Abby Capalbo clue us in on what stands out when combing through thousands of wedding submissions every year.
So grab your pen, paper, a glass of wine, and soak up these words of wisdom!
What Matters Most?
When you consider seating charts, flower arrangements, the cake, signature cocktails, speeches, the dress… there is no doubt a lot that goes into making weddings the beautiful special events that they are. We asked editors and readers what they think matters the most, so hopefully you can worry less about the rest.
“The venue is definitely a big deal,” says TheKnot.com Real Wedding editor, Rebecca Crumley. “[When reviewing Real Wedding submissions], I love a stunning venue, the more creative the better. Bringing your guests into a space they would never go to had it not been for the ceremony of your wedding is really amazing. Taking them to a place that means something to you makes the whole day that much more special. And it means so much for couples, as well, to be able to go back to the spot where they wed.”
Bringing your guests into a space they would never go to had it not been for the ceremony of your wedding is really amazing.
Crumley went on to say, “At-home weddings have been really big lately. I think a lot of brides have been planning to get married at home with the thought of budgeting in mind, but it’s important to keep in mind there are restrictions with parking, noise ordinances, getting a tent, dealing with a possible rain delay, etc. There are a lot of things that can make it not as glamorous or as easy as we think. But of course it’s a great way to invite people to your home.”
Style Me Pretty editor Abby Capalbo had another opinion. “While there are SO many things that make us squeal over here at Style Me Pretty headquarters (we get a little giddy about everything–florals, gowns, stationery–you name it, we love it), we would never be able to truly appreciate all those details without amazing photography. A wedding doesn’t have to be overflowing with details for us to really want to stop and stay awhile, but if those really thoughtful details and moments are captured in a way that just can’t be ignored, well, that’s when we know we have a real winner on our hands.”
The readers we interviewed confirmed these as two of the three most important aspects of the wedding, after the number one expense: food and alcohol. Readers also said it was the food and bar that guests seemed to care the most about and complimented the most, followed by the ceremony itself and the venue. The little decorative details that many brides spend a lot of time pining over (like table numbers, envelope liners, and linens) seemed to go mostly unnoticed by guests, so try to not let the little things stress you out.
What caused the most stress during wedding planning (that you later realized didn’t matter)?
When it came to wedding planning, the budget, seating arrangments, and “everything going smoothly” seemed to be the biggest stressors for Everygirl readers.
“The little details: the ribbon on the programs doesn’t reeeally matter that much and neither does the seating chart. It was hard for me to remember that everyone coming to the wedding was there for us and they loved us. It’s not high school prom where everyone is being catty in the bathroom. Don’t sweat the small stuff!”
“The last 5 pounds.”
“The guest list. We finally decided to keep it really small and the rule was: if we have eaten at your house or you have eaten at ours, you are invited.”
“Whether to give a guest or not. In the end, it didn’t dramatically change our numbers.”
“A lot of the more detailed decor elements – no one cared or noticed. : ) “
“Photography. I really wanted to make sure we got all the great shots, so we even hired a second photographer. In the end, our original photographer came through in a big way.”
“I worried too much about seating charts; everyone is really social at weddings and tend to be out of their seats anyway.”
“The invitations. My mom and I disagreed again and again about the design and layout of the invitations. It was a lot of wasted energy on something that will eventually be tossed into the trash.”
“The event flow. I’m a control freak and kept stressing out that the schedule wasn’t going off as planned. About two hours of being late, I realized it didn’t matter and I was still doing what I was supposed to be doing- marrying the man I love. Going with the flow was hard for my personality but worth it.”
“The chairs! Silly, I know, but I didn’t want crappy chairs! Nobody commented on the chairs, so they must have been fine!”
“There wasn’t one thing in particular, but rather, I remember being so aware of whether everything was going right or not (during the ceremony, was the music timed right, etc.) and I wish I had just ignored that and relaxed more.”
“The weather. Our wedding was planned for early August in Idaho, so very, very little chance of rain, but I still worried. The venue was so beautiful and the thought of having to move the ceremony inside was tragic. In hindsight, it would not have been a big deal at all – as long as we got married!”
“Table linens! I stressed for weeks over the color, pattern, texture, and material. I couldn’t decide what would look best in the venue, what color napkins to go with them, how they would look at night with dimmed lighting, etc etc etc. In the end, NO ONE noticed the linens! My guests commented on how lovely the centerpieces were, and the custom signage all around the space, and the interactive guest book we had. Moral of the story: linens are NOT worth your stress!”
“The decor. I DIY’d most of our ceremony and reception decor but in the end, while everything looked beautiful, no one remembers what was or was not on the tables.”
“Being a perfectionist, I stressed and worried about everything! However, in hindsight, nothing really matter. The day turned out beautifully and I am now married to my best friend!”
“What others would think of my wedding and how it would stack up against their expectations. Between blogs, Pinterest, and other engaged friends, it was easy to lose sight of what was really important to my husband and myself and what wasn’t.”
“The little details. My father-in-law said it best, “No is one going to remember how the table cards are going to look.” And it’s true. They remembered the food, the atmosphere, and the day. When it finally came down to the finish line about getting those small details (like table numbers and cocktail straws), I realized there was no point in worrying about it. I had everything else that I really wanted in place and all the rest didn’t matter.”
“Oh, everything — and then I realized that none of it was a big deal.”
“All of it.”
What were ways you saved money on your wedding?
The biggest ways people saved money on their wedding: favors (don’t have them), invitations (make them yourself), flowers (again–keep them simple and make the arrangments yourself, and use the same arrangements at the church and at the ceremony), music (use an iPod and rent speakers), and alcohol (serve just beer and wine).
“We didn’t higher a DJ. We made a playlist on an iPad and our venue acted as the DJ by playing the songs and letting everyone know it was time for the speeches, etc.”
“Buying ivitations from a local vendor was much less expensive than the online stores.”
“Had a bakery which did not focus on wedding cakes make the cake. Bought flowers from a kiosk in the mall. They had a blast designing everything and gave me extra for free.”
“We were able to buy the alcohol directly from the distributor and save on retail costs. Also, we used flowers that were in season, and mixed in some foliage.”
“My family is very large (my grandma had 12 kids!) so we had a formal, day-of ceremony and reception that included only our 40 closest family and friends. The venue we chose had a built-in sound system, so I created a playlist of all the music and we paid a total of maybe $40 for music (just b/c I had to purchase some new tunes!). I spent hours researching photographers and found the best one for our budget. I bought my dress and shoes on sale, but splurged on the sash and headpiece. I saved money on flowers by not decorating the church (which is beautiful in its own right anyway) and by purchasing fake flowers. You couldn’t tell unless you were holding them that they were fake, and now I have a precious keepsake to display in our home. A week after our formal ceremony and reception, my parents held a big outdoor picnic reception that we invited our extended family and all of our friends to attend.”
“We picked a venue that we thought was stunning enough that we needed very little decor. The venue also allowed us to use any caterer, florist, etc. that we wanted, so we rationalized that by spending more on the venue, we could choose where to cut back. But looking back, I would never spend the amount we did on our venue again.”
“All of the arrangements from my wedding were used in the ceremony and in the reception.”
“We negotiated like crazy with the venue, and my mother and I saved money by being our own wedding planners (we are event planners anyways), but had a fellow event planner friend help to keep everything in order on the day of.”
“We chose our priorities–an awesome venue, open bar, and amazing photos because that’s what people remember the most. We knew we wanted those to stand out so the majority of our budget went to those. The things that were less important to us–favors, accessories, cake, we’re what we spent less on because they were as important to us.”
“We did our own flowers, paper goods, and calligraphy. We hired a student band from a local music conservatory. We had a cake centerpiece at each of the tables as opposed to floral arrangements. We price shopped the tuxes, and I bought second-hand or made all of my attire (including my wedding gown). We deliberately kept the guest list as absolutely small as possible.”
What’s your one piece of advice for brides-to-be for their wedding day?
We asked readers who’ve gotten married if they had one piece of advice for brides-to-be on their wedding day, what would it be? The overwhelming responses were to “take time for just the two of you” and some version of “Take it all in,” “Soak it all up,” and “Look around–it goes so fast!” Many also suggested hiring or asking a friend to do day-of coordination so that you can just relax and enjoy the day. And finally, and surprisingly, a number of readers responded with “Stay off Pinterest!” because it can lead to unrealistic expectations and cause more stress and a sense of feeling overwhelmed than actually helping.
“Take a few minutes with your new spouse alone either post-ceremony before the whirlwind of your reception takes place. One of my favorite parts of the day is when after the ceremony we snuck off to a room at our venue and just sat and talked for 5 uninterrupted minutes, alone.”
“Relax. Everyone is there for you because they love you already, you don’t have to impress them. Enjoy your day.”
“Remember that the day is just beginning of a lifelong commitment that matters much more than flowers or food.”
“Appoint a day-of planner or family member or friend to keep things moving smoothly and serve as a buffer between you and the chaos.”
“Don’t feel pressure to please everyone on your wedding day. It is your day, so enjoy it. Go dancing, hang out with your friends and the people you love and care about most, because those are the important things, not making sure you spend time talking to each and every guest for 10 minutes.”
“A wedding is not a marriage. The celebration matters, but it’s just one day. Plan to the best of your ability then just let go and enjoy whatever is to come.”
“Have one/all of your bridesmaids instructed to MAKE you eat. Mine kept checking on me but I needed to be *told* to eat, not asked. 😉 “
“Write a letter to your soon-to-be-husband [or wife], and have them write one to you. Have someone in your wedding party deliver them. You will end up crying (but that may mean slightly less crying later…maybe). You both will cherish those last thoughts you had before you became life partners, and it will give you both time to pause and reflect since much of the rest of the day will be a blur!”
“Shit will go wrong and the world will not end! Remember the real reason you are there: to marry your soul mate not to be featured on a wedding blog. If you end up married, consider the day a smashing success, the rest is just icing on the cake.”
“Don’t fall victim to social norms. You don’t have to do programs, favors, tons of flowers, etc. if you don’t want to. If you’re on a budget, eliminate things that YOU don’t care about.”
“You don’t have to have your Pinterest wedding.”
“The first thing my fiance and I did is go out on a date to celebrate and discuss the wedding. We wanted to get out of the house, enjoy some good drinks and talk about what we really our wedding to feel like, how we wanted our guests to feel, what words we’d use to describe the look and vibe of our wedding, etc. By going out on a date, it helped make the conversation feel like a fun activity – not a chore – and of course, discussing anything over cocktails never hurts! We were able to have a great conversation about what we each wanted from the wedding and how we could compromise to get there and throw the best wedding ever! I recommend this to all of my recently engaged friends and find that it sets the whole planning process up for success!”
“Spend the money on a great band, photographer and videographer. Did I mention get a great band? :)”
“Marriage course – do it.”
“With great food and great music, everything else will be forgotten.”
wedding budget image, menu image, planning image by Judy Pak // bride’s dress image by Marianne Wilson Photography // venue image by Studio Castillero Photography // bridesmaid images by Stoffer Photography // pictures 1 and 3 by Kien Lam Photography // picture 2 by Eric Kelley Photography // picture 4 by Cyn Kain