Hey guys! As I’m writing this, we’re coming up to the 200 day mark until the wedding, and my word, time is moving fast! My fiancé (from here on out, HB, for “handsome boy”) and I are doing our best to keep ourselves distracted by focusing on our schoolwork and working. We’ll both finish school in May, so it kind of feels like a mad-dash to get there.
Our engagement is long – 13 months, so we have a lot of down time, to enjoy being engaged and to figure out our future. Since the time we got engaged in August to now, five other couples I know and/or are friends with, have gotten engaged. Of the six of us, HB and I were the first to get engaged, and we’ll be the last to get married. We were also engaged, and got through that first month before anyone else got engaged. I also know that I am at the age where everyone around me is also getting engaged and/or married, and so, with all of this in mind, I thought it would be fun to share my wedding planning tips and tricks!
I want to preface this by saying that every couple is going to have a different budget and a different idea of what they want their wedding to be, and that’s totally fine! I really enjoyed hear what other brides have done, as the exchange of tips, ultimately, helps lessen the stress and anxiety of planning a wedding! This tips are things that I have found to be really helpful.
Quick note: The following tips are presented, as closely as possible, to chronological order, from the time of getting engaged to the present.
- As a couple, sit down and create an idea of what you want your wedding to be, as soon as possible. This is something HB and I neglected to do for awhile after getting engaged. We had known we wanted to get engaged for quite some time after we started dating, and thus, I had started to gather ideas and inspiration. However, I didn’t share this collection with him until a bit after getting engaged. We definitely had moments of tension where my ideas and his ideas didn’t line up, and then we got frustrated with each other. The sooner you can sit down together and talk about what you want, the easier it is moving forward. At this time, make sure to talk about what you want in a venue, what kind of feel you want the day to have, what kind of vendors do you want to use, what is most important for you on that day, etc
*It should also be around this time that the two of you, and whoever else you want/need included in the financial aspect, sit down and create a budget. It is foolish to reach out to, and visit venues, and talk with vendors without an idea of how much money you have to work with. I’m going to put this here as well, but the final bill due to the reception venue is based on how many people will be at the reception/ need food. This should include you, your bridal parties, families, and any and all vendors that will be at the reception, on top of the invited guests. Therefore, keep in mind that the total for the reception venue could be fluctuating up until the day of the wedding. Always estimate your remaining budget with this in mind.
2. Have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. This is actually really important. HB, my parents and I had no idea how popular our area was for destination weddings. Apparently a lot of people from out of state love Lancaster County’s charm .. However, this made finding a venue we loved at the time we wanted really tricky. Our first initial plan was to get married on a Saturday shortly after I graduated in May; however that was shot down by my parents within the first few hours of being engaged. Then, we wanted to get married in the fall. My favorite month ever is October, and when we tried for this with venues, we quickly found out that all fall Saturdays were booked for 2019. At one venue, the earliest Saturday they had available was November 23, which was two days after my birthday and would have put us at a 15 month engagement. We considered it for a split second, and then realized it wasn’t right for us. At this point, we did some soul searching, and decided a Sunday wedding was an option. This opened more room for us, but still not in October. Our final date is September 29, and is at a beautiful venue, which we had originally ruled out. Have several different plans for your date and venue, and be patient if the first few don’t work out.
*Ask for information from venues like applying for jobs. That sounds weird, but the more venues you ask about and visit, the better of an idea you will have about what you want.
3. Use social media. Now I know not every bride has social media, and that is totally fine! However, I have found social media to be incredibly helpful, in terms of finding vendors. Pretty much from the moment of being engaged, I have used wedding and engagement related hashtags on Instagram. Videographers, photographers, stationary companies, bridal shoe stores, and even jewelers have commented on my pictures! I actually found the videographers for our wedding from a comment they made on one of my pictures! If this is something that appeals to you, use it! Instagram, especially, is a great way for companies to network, and then exhibit anything they do for you! This also lets you connect with other brides, and to follow wedding inspiration pages.
4. Go to wedding showcases/ conferences. I’m going to be honest here, wedding showcases generally exhibit things that aren’t my style, or HB‘s style. (For reference, I prefer weddings that are elegant and graceful, and totally not flashy or extravagant.) However, vendors at these showcases include caterers, venues, tux rentals, wedding dress boutiques, cake bakers, DJ’s, lighting, wedding insurance, honeymoon/ travel agencies, some jewelers, registry companies, etc. When we went to one, we got booklets from Sandals about honeymoon resorts, we got coupons for a wedding cake company, I was able to set up two wedding dress appointments, and we were able to set up an appointment to start our wedding registry.
A note about the showcases: Though they are full of helpful information, they are also full of not so helpful things. At every stand, you can put your name into drawings for prizes. Some of these prizes are great (like a significant amount off a wedding dress), others are not quite so helpful. I won a free spa treatment for me and my bridesmaids; however, when we got there, we realized it was a Mary Kay presentation. I have also been contacted twice by companies, indicating that I had won a three-day trip to a destination “of my choice”, and several other prizes. HB and I make a point of researching these things before we say “yay” or “nay”, and both times we realized that they were timeshare presentations. We would have been required to sit through an hour long presentation about some product, sit and talk with representatives before leaving, and it was only after that would we be given our “prizes”. Showcases are great, truly, with all kinds of information at your fingertips, but just be on your guard and don’t fall for anything that seems too good to be true.
5. Secure your vendors as soon as possible. The sooner you have your budget set, and the sooner you narrow down the types of vendors you want, the more likely you are to have those vendors be available for your set date. This isn’t nearly as important with wedding dress boutiques and tux rentals, but it is crucial for all others. It may be common sense, but the longer you wait, or the longer you take figuring out what you want, the less chance you have of securing those desired vendors.
*One of the biggest questions HB and I faced when picking vendors was whether we wanted to support strictly local companies, or if we wanted to reach out to others. We both have a strong desire to support local business; however, some of the local prices are higher for a lesser quality product than out of state businesses. This is the case with our videographers; they are a traveling couple from Missouri, and offered us an exceptional package priced significantly lower than the highest ranked videographer in our area. If this isn’t something that is important to you, that’s totally fine; I just figure it’s something good to keep in mind.
6. Use a wedding planning app. Again, this may not be something that appeals to every bride, but I have found it to be very helpful! There are a ton out there to choose from; HB and I use Wedding Wire. These apps are designed to provide a timeline of when things need to be done, to help keep vendors organized, offer deals on wedding related businesses, and oftentimes, they offer access to registry companies. Pick the one that feels right to you! I am not sure about all of the others, but Wedding Wire also has a countdown until our wedding, so whenever I feel rundown by life, a quick look at the ticking days reminds me of what’s coming!
7. The first month is absolutely crucial. I’ve mentioned this throughout the post so far, but figuring out vendors, venue, budget, etc. as soon as possible is imperative in order for you to get the experience you want. Generally, if you wait until after the first month, the likelihood of everything still being available to you is slimmer and slimmer with each week. Prior to getting engaged, I had wanted to wait a little bit and enjoy being engaged before diving into wedding planning. I thought I had already had a lot figured out, and so I thought we would be okay to wait a little bit. We waited about a week to get started, simply because HB had started school the next day. If we had waited any longer, I’m pretty sure we would have struggled more, and experienced even more tension than we already did.
8. Use Minted.com. This has been one of the most helpful things for HB and I while wedding planning. This service is multi-faceted, and has been so easy to use. First, we decided early on that we wanted to use a wedding website, so all of our out-of-state guests could have easy access to our registries, the venue information, etc. We had also decided to create a space on the web page for RSVP’s, so we could include customized questions about our reception. Second, we are using Minted to find our Save the Dates and Invitations. There are constantly sales going on, and the pieces to choose from are beautiful. Minted also allows for customization of a vast majority of the stationary, so it becomes even easier to create the “perfect” Save the Date and Invitation. Third, Minted will print all of the addresses of the guests onto the envelopes for you. This has been a huge time saver. There is a section of the Minted account simply dedicated to keeping track of the guests and their information. HB and I decided to send the Save the Dates out early (which kept us ahead of the game); however, this also meant that we’ve had more time spent receiving back Save the Dates that had the wrong address. (This was user error, and not having updated addresses.) Minted has made this revision process very easy, as I am able to go back into the database and correct the address for the Invitation round.
*I mentioned that we created a wedding website. I highly recommend doing so. Not only does it reduce the cost of using paper RSVP cards, but it keeps everything neat and tidy for the guests. Given that I only have experience using Minted, I can only speak to that. However, Minted keeps track of RSVPS, party size, and any other information necessary. This keeps us from writing out spreadsheets, and keeps everything really simplified. Minted does come with a $20 charge, but given how much the service offers and how much we use it, this was a price I didn’t mind paying. Even if you don’t want to use the website for RSVP’s, it is still a really helpful assets for your guests.
9. Before going to a high end bridal boutique to look for a wedding dress, go to a smaller, perhaps more reasonably priced boutique. That may sound like common sense. The first appointment I had set up when I was at the wedding showcase was for a high-end boutique with exquisite gowns. After doing some research on the store, and deep diving on Pinterest for dress ideas, I felt a little overwhelmed with pricing of dresses and the multitude of styles and elements I liked. My mom suggested that we go to a smaller, “cheaper” store first, so I could gather my thoughts. (It ended up being a very spontaneous trip, with only my mom and one of my maid of honors able to come with.) That visit allowed me to fine-tune what I liked and disliked, and helped me to have more direction for when I went to the higher end store. It was a great experience in terms of dipping my toes into trying on wedding dresses, and into finding my preferred styles.
*I want to make a note here about bringing people with you when trying on dresses. Know how you operate being the center of attention, while also listening to multiple opinions. For my second appointment, I ended up bringing 9 women with me. (It was kind of like a snowball that I couldn’t stop. I love every woman that was there with me, and I deeply valued their input.) Knowing how many people I was bringing with me, and my tendency to be sensitive towards opinions, and be a people-pleaser, I promised myself that I would not buy a dress that day. If I found one that I loved, I would come back another day, with a clearer head, and try it on again. (Spoiler alert: I did find a dress that day. I brought my dad to see it a few days later. He loved it. I cried. We toasted with champagne. We bought it, and now I’m waiting for it to arrive, customized just for me.) Bring as many people with you as you want, and as many as the store will allow. Just know who you are. Don’t let yourself be cornered into a dress because of the opinions and pressure from others. This is your day; be good to yourself.
10. Make time for you and your fiance to be together, without focusing on the wedding planning. This is so important, even after the first month of stressful planning. Heck, this week, the week of Valentine’s Day, HB and I have hardly seen each other for more than three hours, and not even on Valentine’s Day! Don’t let the stress of prepping, planning, working, and if you’re like us, school, get in the way of your relationship. You are getting married for a reason, and take time, as much as possible, to remember that reason, even if it is just watching Netflix together for hours. Don’t let your relationship become tense, strained, or weakened because of the pressures of planning a wedding. When you are together, honor that time, and don’t be on your phones, and don’t talk about the wedding. Value each other, and let this time make you guys stronger. Also, honor the times you have set to be with each other. Don’t let other activities, social events, or even call-ins to work (when applicable), take priority over the time set for you guys.
11. Remember why you are getting married. Don’t let the tiny details and potential arguments about the day distract from why the two of you have decided to commit yourselves to each other in marriage. Your love for each other and desire to be lifelong partners should be be greater and more important than the small things. It is only one day, yes. An important day, yes. But at the end of the day, it is the reason for the day that is the most important. Remember that. Also, because this is a day to celebrate the two of you and the love you share, let the day be what the two of want. Your marriage should be a celebration and a reflection of the two of you. Do what feels best to you. If that means a court house wedding and than a BBQ, rock it. If it means a destination wedding to an exotic location by the sea, rock it. If it means getting married suspended over a canyon, rock it. If it means getting married in the gardens of a beautiful estate, rock it. This is your day and a representation of you. Rock it, and remember why you’re doing it.
Just a few additional notes: 1) I keep all of my contracts, payment information, etc., in a three ring binder. I’ve found it to be really helpful in staying on top of payments and deadlines. 2) Scrapbook your memories from being engaged. I know this is going to be a time I will want to look back on when I’m older, and I want to keep all of the memories from this time of being engaged. 3) Etsy has some beautiful veils, at a fraction of the price of bridal stores. 4) Wedding bands should be bought at least three months before, especially if you are binding your engagement ring with your wedding band. It is way better to have them ready months in advance, than rushing to have them ready a few days before. Generally, ordering and preparing the rings can take up to three weeks.
Brides and those that are already married, I would love to hear what has worked for you! What are some tips and tricks that you wish you would have known when you were planning your wedding?
Ciao for now,