You’re engaged– and have simultaneously entered one of the most decision making seasons of your life. As a stylist, I took on the challenge of planning my wedding myself and I’ve never been happier about my choice. I looked at it as a way of displaying my heart, skills, and the world my husband and I share together. Whether you’re a stylist or not, I’m going to share some helpful tips for any bride on how to go about the planning process in a fun way. These days, I see brides jumping at the opportunity with all the resources we have including Pinterest. But before you go crazy with your wedding boards, take some time to think about who you and your groom are together and seeing it on display. What does it feel like? Sound like? Taste like? When you’ve envisioned that, you’ll be putting the pieces together effortlessly.
1. Venue – A Foundation.
Choosing a venue should be the first thing on your to-do list. It’s the foundation of your wedding and it’ll determine how much or little additional planning you’ll have. From what I’ve seen, choosing a clean venue always has promising results. When a busy venue is chosen (strong wall colors, unremovable decor, etc), it may take away from the freedom to “make it your own.” It’s tricky because half way along the process, I’ve seen a lot of brides realize that what they want doesn’t fit the venue they’ve already selected. Then, they need to make sacrifices they didn’t consider from the beginning. One of the best things I did for my wedding was choose an open, clean floor plan with lots of room to play with the details, decor, and colors (The Cordelle). My situation was interesting since it was still in construction when I saw it, but it wasn’t hard to see that it would be a great space to compliment our vision. See some before and after pictures below:
Whatever your taste may be, keeping it simple is always going to help you in the long run when you start adding things to the mix. I made sure that it was easy to modify anything when needed. Remember to stay flexible. Sometimes less is more. Begin exercising that imagination muscle when you look at a venue. It’s also helpful to bring photos of table decor, florals, etc to help see if the venue is suitable for it. If there’s ever an opportunity to be picky in your life, it’s now. You may need to change your mind several dozen times before you’re satisfied and that's ok.
2. Wedding Planner + Vendors
After you find a venue, there’s all those vendors to choose, as well as asking yourself how to go about planning. Here’s where I share some helpful tips in allowing you to be the planner if that’s what you desire. When we walk through an engagement, I think we all feel like it’s more complicated than it needs to be and there’s a lot of help available around us if we know where to look for it (I talk about this in the next tip). When I weighed what a wedding planner actually does, I realized I wanted to do those things myself. Not to mention, when there’s already so many expenses, it’s a great secondary option to plan yourself and hire a coordinator/planner for the wedding day. In my case, my day-of coordinator happened to be my rental supplier as well. She was recommended to me by our venue and when I chose to use her for both, I got a great discount. It was almost like having a wedding planner because a lot of our conversations revolved around the details of the wedding. I constantly updated her with my planning and what was getting done. Then, she took care of everything on the wedding day. Finding joint deals like this can be very helpful, and usually this is something your venue can help you with since they most likely have a list of vendors they work with.
3. Excelling With Excel
I often get asked what my planning process was like and it involved having a new best friend called ‘excel.' As soon as I had my venue picked out, I made an excel sheet. I wrote out a potential list of vendors that I planned meetings with and then I finalized who I wanted to work with. My layout included: vendor, service, price, deposit, first payments, second payments, etc. I’m a visual person, so seeing everything in front of me helped organize what and when things needed to get done. I also organized a separate folder in my email account only for wedding related things so I could easily find conversations and deadlines for payments. After my initial meetings, the vendors got back to me with estimates. I plugged in the costs and there was a lot of going back and forth with vendors and narrowing down until I was satisfied. I must’ve changed the numbers dozens of times, but with a simply coding, it did the math for me and I could see the progression taking place. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or remind your vendor of your budget. They will help you get what you want for the price you can pay. When you have everything in front of you, it makes it a lot easier to see the big picture.
I also felt like the vendors were mini wedding planners because they answered my many questions and supported me whenever I needed to make a change. Their input and advice gave me the tools I needed to make great decisions and my excel sheet was my best friend from day one till a few days before the wedding. I even shared it with family members that were helping us financially so they could be updated as soon as I changed something.
4. This Is Not A One Woman Job
When we get engaged, sometimes it seems like we’ve entered a one woman job and that our fiancés' will not be much help in the planning process. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a lot of hidden treasure waiting for us when we invite our husbands to walk this season with us. They love knowing they’re needed, trusted, and included because here’s the thing: their ultimate goal is to see us happy and give us the wedding we want. When you bring your fiancé in it cultivates a safe haven between the two of you when things get a little chaotic or stressful. That shoulder you want to crash into and cry on will have much more understanding, sympathy, and wisdom to give you because you’re both on the same page. It establishes a new partnership and opportunity to learn about each other. After all, it is for both of you and that’s what it’s all about. Lean into the people around you and learn to receive.
5. Think Long Term
Most of your vendors will only last the night of the wedding. You’ll see the flowers for just a few hours, eat the food and cake within minutes, wedding invitations will already be a thing of the past, and you’ll only have one thing to remember it all by: a photographer. I believe this to be one of the best things to invest into for a wedding. It will be on the pricier side, but the photos are all you’ll have. All the time and effort you put into a once in a lifetime event should be captured in its fullest beauty. The great thing is, photographers have many different packages to offer and negotiating a price with them is something they do with each bride. If you don’t know much or what you’re looking for in the photographer, look at their work and the “feel” of it. That’ll indicate a similarity to how your wedding will be captured.
Throughout the whole planning process, trust your instinct in the things you want to invest in. For my wedding, I skipped out on spending hundreds of dollars on save the dates and invitations and sent them online. I knew that putting money towards the presentation of our wedding was far more important than a piece of paper. I chose to invest in the floral centerpieces of each table. I chose handwritten gold calligraphy for the name cards. I carefully chose a full course meal as well as hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour. I made the bridesmaids bouquets simple, yet elegant without spending a fortune. All these things were give and take, and me thinking about what things would matter most and how I wanted our guests to feel. I wanted them to feel taken care of during cocktail hour while they were flipping from ceremony to reception. We had a full bar for guests to choose what they liked to drink. We even added a Photo Booth because it was a nice touch for guests to create candid moments in addition to our photographer. All these things were planned out of me thinking about how to honor our guests, our financial budget, and all while still getting what we wanted. Well, guess what? Every response we had from our guests were one of awe, admiration, and noticing the little things we did for them. Even our vendors were so grateful to have witnessed so much beauty, ease, and peace. When you choose to be fully you and do the things that make you happy, everyone around you will catch that vision too.
There are many ways to go about planning, but the ultimate planner is one who can have fun. However you decide to do it, these tools work great either way. Remember to have fun, learn a lot, and know that this is the start to an amazing journey.
Also, feel free to use this resource where you can download wedding templates for budgeting, list-making, and more here
What tools are you using or have found helpful in your wedding planning process?