I have to be completely honest here: I wish we could’ve just gone to City Hall by ourselves (or Vegas, for the fun of it) and gotten married quietly. Surprise, mom and dad, we got hitched!
But I am an only child, and my mother has dreamed about this day since I was born. So have I (well, it was more like high school), until I actually got engaged.
First of all, you really only read or think about the fun parts of wedding planning – finding pretty things on Pinterest, buying tons of glossy bridal magazines and clipping the pictures you absolutely love onto a frilly binder, going dress-shopping with your nearest and dearest 15 girlfriends and having that ‘OMG THIS IS IT’ moment. You might even consider becoming a wedding planner after you get married.
So, from the standpoint of a “absolutely zero DIY” bride, here are some tips that will hopefully make your engagement much easier.
1) Your ideal venue may be completely the opposite of what you actually choose. Keep an open mind when it comes to this; we were pretty set on an oceanfront/beach wedding, and we pretty much zoned in on one venue to visit (selected based on our budget, location, and the amenities they offered). We didn’t even want to consider going to see some wineries or other types of locations. At one point, I remember getting really annoyed with Pinterest because everyone had these beautiful rustic barn wedding ideas, and I wanted a preppy beach wedding, and I could use none of those pins. At the last minute, on a whim, we decided to visit a second location, more of a backup, but absolutely fell in love with it the second we saw it. And guess what our wedding will be? A rustic barn wedding. The beach venue we originally had in mind turned out to be a complete bust: flights of stairs leading to and from the ceremony and reception (no elevators!), more than one wedding going on at a time, etc.
2) You may not fall in love with the first dress you try on, or even the tenth. And it’s okay. Shows like Say Yes to the Dress are meant to create some hype and drama. I didn’t like the first twenty dresses I tried on (I wish I was exaggerating) from 3 different dress shops, and it wasn’t until I went to the last shop that I started liking a few dresses. Don’t be discouraged – I totally was. You might not have that “OMG TEARS EVERYWHERE” moment, but you definitely will have a good feeling about the dress you ultimately end up choosing.
3) Mother may actually know best. It was down to two dresses for me: a contemporary one, and a romantic one. I was 95% sure I was going to buy the contemporary one, because it was the first one I really liked on Pinterest, and I thought it looked great. My mother, though she insisted, “choose whichever one you like, since it’s your dress,” said the romantic one was much better in terms of quality, looks, and photographability. So I ended up with the romantic dress and zero regrets. Actually, I saw the contemporary dress a few months later, in the window of another shop, and all I saw were the flaws of the dress and was so grateful that I didn’t buy that one.
4) Get everything done ASAP. This means hiring the photographer, makeup/hair person, bakery, DJ, and florist. A few reasons for this: they get booked up very quickly, and if something doesn’t pan out the way you want, you have time for plan B without having to scramble. I had my heart set on one florist, but when weeks passed without them returning my email or phone call, I ended up choosing a different florist, whose designs (and great personality) we absolutely LOVE. Plus, getting the big things out of the way will give you plenty of time to focus on the small, annoying details.
5) It’s okay to crowd-source. We couldn’t decide on a first-dance song. Should we hire a videographer? Do we need to print wedding programs? No idea. So we put it to our friends on Facebook.
6) Order your invitations early. Our save-the-dates were ordered from minted.com, but though the digital proof looked fine, we were not fans of the paper or the color quality (oversaturated maybe?). So when it came time to order our invitations, I wised up and ordered the minimum quantity of the invitation we wanted. When they arrived, I was able to see them in my hands, in regular daylight, and make the tweaks I wanted from there. (Hint: minted.com always has some sort of coupon, so make sure you troll the interwebs for a discount code. Try retailmenot.com)
7) Cake tasting is harder than it looks. You’ll love almost every flavor, trust me. After you decide on the flavor, you have to decide on the way it looks. Unless you have complete authority over this, your soon-to-be hubby, mother, father, or friend will, without a doubt, have a different opinion on the way it should look.
8) Pinteresting is fun, purchasing is not. The problem with Pinterest is that there are too many good ideas. At some point, you have to choose between pink-gradient pom poms and coral-turquoise-lemonade pom poms. These decisions are by far the hardest ones, because they’re these tiny little details that you really don’t care that much about, but they will live on forever in your wedding photos.
9) Speaking of little details, there are a zillion. Where is everyone getting their nails done? How is everyone getting to the venue? Do we need to invite this person’s boyfriend of 2 months, or do we think he’s a douchebag and he should be excluded? Good luck.
10) Bridesmaid dresses: get them done ASAP. They give you a sizing chart when you order, and your bridesmaid might actually try one on in her size and order it, but when it arrives after a few months, the sizing was way off and it’s way too small. True story. If this is actually a manufacturer error, you’ll have time for them to send you new dresses. Otherwise, you have to keep your fingers crossed that the seamstress can work magic, especially if the dress is too small.
11) Set a budget for yourself. Even if your parents are paying for the wedding, you’ll no doubt be spending money of your own on miscellaneous things: accessories, gifts for the bridesmaids, etc. It’s really easy to see something cute and get carried away.
12) Ask your photographer for the timeline early. You may have your own expectations and ideas for how the wedding day will go, but the photog is the one who’s really going to be directing the day, especially the events leading up to the ceremony. This will give you a better picture of what you can and can’t do, that way you don’t plan on hanging out at the beach in the morning, then having a leisurely lunch before heading to the venue; your photographer may need everyone prettied up and dressed by noon for the start of the photos. This way, you can also coordinate with your hair/makeup artist to see when they realistically think they need to be there to get all the girls done by the time photos start.
13) Menu tasting is really the best part. You get to sample food. What could be better?
14) The last, but most important one: choose your battles wisely. I almost flipped out when I told my mom “NO CHILDREN” and she invited her coworker’s 7-year-old son, insisting that he was her godson (really, I almost died at this point). She was adamant, and so was I, and my poor hubby was stuck in the middle (she emailed him to ask if he could convince me otherwise). In the end, it just wasn’t worth it, so I sucked in my pride and let my mother have her way. No bad feelings, no grudges held.