I decided to write this post to share what I have learned with whoever may find it helpful. Maybe they are all things you already knew, but wanted validation. Maybe you have just gotten engaged and are looking for a little wisdom from someone a little further along in the process. No matter what, I hope every bride to be can take at least one thing from this post!
I am currently 13 months into planning my wedding with 2 months to go until the big day. I did not hire a wedding planner and our families are scattered across the country so they have not been able to give us much planning help.
Luckily, I have always had a knack for planning and organization, so that has been a tremendous help for us. I literally had a full checklist ready to go the day after my fiance proposed. Okay, so I may be a little neurotic, but I was excited! Tell me I am not alone brides to be!
Included are the tools and websites that I have found the most useful as well. There are so many out there! It can definitely get overwhelming. I am not going to lie, I actually had to try quite a few tools prior to settling on what I would ultimately use. Hopefully by posting what I found to be the best here, I can save you some time. Then you you can just skip right to planning instead of wasting your time researching planning tools!
What have I learned during this very long marathon called planning a wedding?
1. Make a master checklist as a guide for the ORDER of events…
Tool I used: WedHappy
The WedHappy App was honestly essential in my wedding planning process. I tried many others, including the big name sites, but they lacked the functionality I was looking for (many of them do NOT allow you to enter in your own tasks).
2. But don’t get mad at yourself if you go past your due dates.
It is going to happen. If you are like me, it will stress you out. DON’T LET IT STRESS YOU OUT! The items will get done, and the due dates are only estimates to give you a guideline. It is perfectly OK if they take longer, or even if they get out of order.
3. Prioritize what you want most from your wedding to help make your budget and simplify your choices.
Tool I used: Wedding Wire
Wedding Wire has a fantastic budget tool. It has been a life savor for me as I have tracked all of my wedding payments and expenses with it. You start out by putting in your grand overall budget and it automatically breaks it down per category by using average percentages in the industry. Then you can tweak the planned budget amounts based on your preferences and priorities. This budget tool does much more than just this initial set up, but I will go in more detail about the Wedding Wire budget tool itself in a future post.
The thing is, this tool isn’t going to prioritize your wedding choices for you. This is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give. Sit down with your honey before you start spending a dime. Have a list of all the categories (you can even look at the category list right from the Wedding Wire website) and pick your top three. For us, it was photography, wedding rings, and venue. Therefore, we expanded on those budgets a bit and shrunk the other ones. The great thing about this is it allows you to still have your wonderful dream wedding in some areas, as long as you are willing to sacrifice in others.
This is going to be the hardest thing throughout your wedding planning journey. You knew in the beginning that flowers weren’t as important to you as photography, but now sitting with the florist it all looks so beautiful and you want that huge bouquet! Can you stretch your budget later to accommodate these things? Of course. But at least do it knowingly and with purpose after discussing it with your groom and knowing full well it will either increase your overall budget, or it will cause a different category to go down. If increasing your budget or skimping on the DJ in exchange for a bigger bouquet is unacceptable once you have thought about it, it will make your choices much easier and dare I say, more practical.
4. Break everything into pieces and accomplish one piece at a time, especially when it comes to hiring vendors.
Everything will feel more manageable if you focus on one category at a time. For example, your first vendor to go after is your venue. This will not only set your date, but it will help you to know what other vendors you will need (your venue may provide catering and then you wouldn’t need a caterer!). Next, go after your photographer. Continue to focus on one thing at a time and it will be much less overwhelming.
In order to pick your vendors, I think Wedding Wire and The Knot are the best websites. They both have thousands of reviews given by brides who have actually used the vendors, and as far as I can tell they are very honest and independent reviews. I also think they do a good job of giving you relevant information about each vendor on their profiles without having to necessarily click to the vendor’s website. Last, both sites have the option of messaging the vendors for more info right from the site. This saved me so much time since it is pretty much a one click process if you are logged into your account. Much easier!
5. Use tools that will save you time and simplify your life, not make it more complicated.
I used a number of online tools to make my wedding planning process easier. However, there are a lot of options out of there and it can be confusing to know what to use. I did a lot of research before settling on each of my choices and I was very happy with each of them. Hopefully this list will help some brides to be out there!
Here are all of the tools I used:
Checklist: WedHappy App
Budget, Vendor search, Guest list and RSVP manager, Seating chart: Wedding Wire (best overall planning website in my opinion!)
Making our website: Appy Couple
Collecting all personal guest photos: WedPics
Collecting wedding inspiration ideas and organizing them: Pinterest
Items and ideas for decor, signs, favors, gifts, etc: Etsy
Wedding music management: WeddingDJ (I haven’t actually used this one yet since my wedding day hasn’t arrived yet, but I will let you know how it goes later!)
6. Be sure you have a contract for every vendor and read them!
If any vendor goes into a verbal agreement with you, something isn’t quite right. Vendor contracts are important and they protect not only the vendor, but also you as the couple. Be sure to read through the fine print and make sure there aren’t any hidden surprises you weren’t aware of. For example, the DJ may charge you fees if you go past your allotted time. Or your may not have the copyrights to your photographs you are getting from your photographer and therefore would not be able to reproduce them. If you are not comfortable reading your contracts, I am sure you have a friend or family member that can help you. Don’t skimp on this!
7. Don’t skip the trials! (hair, makeup, tanning, etc)
I am sure you have seen the nightmare scene in a movie when the bride decided to have a spray tan for her wedding and looks like a streaky orange mess. Don’t let this happen to you. I know it is an extra expense, but it is way better than having a surprise orange tan or even just not being happy because the makeup look wasn’t quite what you were looking for. Whether these things are being done by a professional or a friend, be sure to try them all out months prior to your wedding so you can make tweaks and get things exactly the way you want. This is your wedding day and you deserve to feel confident and be the most beautiful version of yourself!
8. Don’t freak out too much if you aren’t able to stick to your “fit in your dress” workout routine
This is a tough one for me. You buy your dress months in advance. Then you have all the time in between to worry about if you are going to look good in it on your wedding day. You try a million diets or fitness routines, but the stress of wedding planning and the lack of time really keeps throwing you off your game, leading to even more stress.
I have had to talk myself down from this cycle of self fulfilling stress many times. Ok, so my friends have maybe had to help me as well. At the end of the day, is more stress really going to help? No, if anything it will make things worse. If you fall out of a fitness routine or if you veg out on a bag of chips, DO NOT LET IT FREAK YOU OUT. Just keep going as if nothing happened. Work out if you want, or don’t, but just keep going one way or the other.
You will be the best version of yourself no matter what because at the end of the day despite everything, your wedding day is not about being a skinny perfect porcelain doll. It is about vowing to love your sweetheart forever and for always and declaring that love in front of the people that are important in your life. Don’t forget that, and you will stay grounded.
9. If you are going to DIY any projects, start early.
I can’t stress this enough. There is nothing worse then spending the day before your wedding rushing to put together the favors you thought were super cute on Pinterest and you really, really wanted. One of the following will happen: you will have some awesome friends trying to rush to get this done (which isn’t the funnest thing for them), it will end up having to get scraped because there isn’t enough time (which will leave you disappointed), it will be so rushed it wont be what you envisioned (once again, disappointment), or you or your friends will be up all night trying to get it done (need I say more on why this isn’t good the day before your wedding?). Trust me, no matter what it is a recipe for stress, the opposite of fun, and possible disaster. There is going to be enough that has to get done the week of your wedding, so if you can do it earlier, then please do. Your friends will also thank you.
10. Take breaks!
There have definitely been some solid weeks or even months that I declared as “no wedding planning” times. I would get so burnt out from everything I had been doing to make my day “perfect” that I would start to get irritable and actually start to resent the whole thing, which is definitely NOT good.
Although you don’t have to take as long of a hiatus as I did at times, do yourself a favor and at least take a week long break here and there. Even a date night with NO WEDDING TALK is good for you and your relationship. Remember WHY you are getting married and spend some good, quality time together instead of focusing on the how and stressing over details every single day.
11. Don’t forget this is YOUR wedding, not someone else’s.
Although you can listen to ideas from others, ultimately it is YOUR wedding. If you really want to have some color in your wedding dress, do it. If you want to have a Nintendo themed wedding cake, go for it!
Now, I am not saying to make decisions you know will make your guest miserable on purpose. I am also not saying you can’t make decisions specifically for your guests’ enjoyment (I did a lot of things for my guests that I knew I would never get to do myself). What I AM saying is if you are being held back from doing something you really want to do solely because you are scared of what others will think or say about it, DON’T LET THEM HOLD YOU BACK. You will never make your entire guest list happy all at the same time. Dare the share #yourweddingvision no matter what anyone else thinks about it!
12. But be sure to compromise with your honey.
One person you should be sure to listen to always, however, is the person you are marrying. Even if your other half said they don’t want to make any decisions, be sure to listen if they do have an idea. MAKE COMPROMISES! You will probably not agree on every aspect of the wedding. But if you force every decision to go your way, you are not setting a very good foundational beginning to your marriage. This is the start of the real world folks, be sure to dust off those sharing and caring skills and get to work!
13. Try to have fun along the way.
It can be really easy to get caught up in the stress and decision making of the wedding planning. Try to look around you along the way and see the cool things you get to do and the pretty things you get to see while planning for your wedding. Since we live near the White Mountains, we got to see some gorgeous views while touring wedding venues (see pic of us at Loon Mountain above). From cake tasting to spending some fun quality time with your gals, there are plenty of really fun aspects of wedding planning to make you realize it is not all about the wedding day, it is also about the journey along the way.