Hello Brides and Grooms to Be!
Its April and here in Seattle, and we’re just getting our first taste of sunny weather for the year. (Happy Dance in Progress) Additionally, Wonderstruck just celebrated its third official year in business, and in honor of that, we’d like to share our 10 Best Wedding Planning Tips that we’ve learned over the years. These tips will help you plan for and execute the wedding you really want.
Follow these tips, and you’ll definitely reap the rewards on your wedding day, and throughout the planning process. Whether your a DIY-er or a couple who has hired a wedding planner or coordinator to help you along the way, you’re sure to glean a few helpful tips here. We hope you enjoy our suggestions, and in no particular order – here they are:
Wedding Suppliers (Everyone from your Venue Coordinator to your Wedding Planner, your Floral Designer, Photographer, Caterer, Videographer, Photo Booth Company, DJ, Officiant, Rental Company, etc) are people with feelings, just like you. Most of them choose to work in the wedding and event industry because they have a passion for events and they truly love helping people have amazing experiences. Be nice to these people. It is to your advantage to keep them on your side. If you are nice to them in the planning process, they will often go out of their way to ensure that your wedding day is extra amazing. Treat people how you would like to be treated, and you will get much more exceptional service than you ever imagined. Simple fact: Vendors often go above and beyond for the clients they enjoy working with the most.
Avoid Trends. Do what feels right to you.
“Do we have to….” Nope. You don’t.
Your wedding can be anything you want it to be. Today, there are no “right” or “wrong” ways of doing things. You don’t have to have a blush and ivory floral palette. You don’t have to have a traditional sit down dinner either. You don’t have to have a wedding party if you don’t want one. You don’t have to do a bouquet toss or a garter removal if you don’t want to. You don’t even need a wedding cake – instead, eat something for dessert you enjoy, like ice cream or a Bourbon cocktail. You don’t even need anyone to walk you down the aisle, and you certainly don’t need to have classical music played for your ceremony if you don’t want to. You DO have to be authentic to yourselves, and you DO need to choose traditions that are meaningful to you. That’s it. You never “HAVE” to do anything that you don’t want to do. There are no traditions in today’s wedding industry, in fact the new tradition is to break all old traditions and do what makes you happy and most comfortable on your wedding day.
Make a Realistic Budget BEFORE you start selecting your venue and vendors.
Budgeting isn’t romantic, but it is necessary if you want to start your marriage off on the right foot and not buried in credit card debt. Create a realistic budget, then find that one item you want to splurge on — dramatic flowers, that great band you know, photography, or some Hi-Def Videography. Don’t feel bad about splurging on areas of your wedding that are important to you, but be sure to balance it with realistic budgets for the other areas of your wedding. One good rule of thumb is to figure out your venue and catering budget and then double that number. That’s usually going to be you base budget number. For example, if your venue costs $4,000 and your food and beverage cost is $120 per guest (including taxes, rentals, and gratuity) and you have 140 guests, then: $120 x 140 guests = $16,800 + $4,000 venue rental fee = $20,800.
Doubling that number will give you a fairly realistic wedding budget estimate. So, according to our sample wedding, if you have 140 guests, $41,600 is a good initial budget estimate to work with if you plan to hire seasoned professionals for your wedding. Remember – this is just a general estimate, and will vary greatly, depending on your taste and style preferences – but it’s a starting point. A wedding planner is a great resource for helping you plan your budget wisely, and stick to it. If you are just starting to plan your wedding, and are searching for your venue, this simple math is an invaluable calculation that can quickly let you know whether or not a venue is a good match for your pocketbook.
Don’t feel like you need to have every idea you see online at your wedding.
There are so many wedding planning resources online – its easy to get overwhelmed. There are wedding websites, chat rooms, Pinterest and countless other resources available that often leave couples really confused about what they want. Before you start scouring Pinterest for table decor ideas, sit down with your fiancé and discuss what’s really important to you at your wedding. Make a list. Write down all your ideas, no matter how big or small. Then, use that list as a strategic guide to help you define your design ideas and select only the ones that are meaningful to you for your big day. You don’t need mason jars and burlap just because everyone else is doing it. (In fact, I may refuse to work with the next couple who requests mason jars and burlap – choose something else!) You don’t need to have perfectly scrawled chalk signs and a 10 story s’mores station just because your favorite blog emailed you a link about how cool they are. These resources although designed to help you throughout your planning process can sometimes just add unnecessary stress. Don’t feel like you need to have every idea you see online at your wedding. Your wedding doesn’t need to be picture perfect in every way, it only needs to perfectly tell your story to your friends and family. Pick and choose a few unique items that speak to you and incorporate them into your special day. Simple is better and the less you try to incorporate the less stressed you will be to make sure it all gets done. If defining your style is still overwhelming – hire a designer. You won’t regret it.
Beware of Scams.
Unfortunately there are some vendors out there desperate to get their hands on your cash, and that’s about it. Luckily, you can do a few things to prevent falling victim to bad vendors. Always do a background check on the vendor. Check out their website, contact references, and meet them in person if you’re able to. Most importantly, read the terms and conditions of their contract closely. Make sure you have a secure contract that protects your interests too. Get it in writing. Even if a “friend” is providing a service for your wedding – have them confirm in writing exactly what they will provide for you so there is no confusion on your wedding day. Most of all use your judgment and choose vendors you feel comfortable with. If you are having trouble finding vendors you jive with, ask your venue or another vendor you’ve already hired who they recommend. Wedding planners are an invaluable resource for this kind of information!
Like Momma said, “Don’t invite too many cooks to the kitchen.”
Don’t get too many people involved in the decision-making. Sometimes, just you and your fiancé are the best decision makers. Sometimes it’s ok to involve one or two others who are close to you -like parents, a sibling, or your maid of honor or best man. Just remember – If you keep asking all your friends and co-workers for their opinions you will only end up confused and it will be harder to plan. Plus, we think you should surprise them on the day with all your thoughtful details. Finally, this is your wedding day, and its most important to please yourself and your partner first, and your guests second. Do what you feel is important because you’ll only do this once! Besides, pleasing everyone is an impossible task.
JUST DO IT – Hire a Videographer.
Hire a videographer. This is the most fun and beautiful way to record the story of your wedding day. Video is so different from photography – it’s so much more sensually engaging, and often its the only way you will be able to see everything that happened on your wedding day. Couples often tell me they didn’t even know “such and such a moment happened” at their wedding and they are so glad that it was captured on video so they could see it later. Failing to hire a videographer is the number one regret I hear from couples who have recently been married. I’ve never had a couple regret hiring a videographer – in fact, getting to relive their wedding day via video is usually one of the most anticipated post wedding moments for my couples. You may think you yourself, “We don’t need a video, we’ll never watch it!” But, I promise, you’re going to want that footage of your father walking you down the aisle, and those magical, funny, and emotional speeches that your best friends made, and uncle Fred’s crazy dance floor antics — and you’ll want to share it with all your friends and family – and your future family. Just do it. You will be thrilled you did.
Timing and Organization are the Keys to Success.
Keep detailed lists of all personal and decor items you need to bring to the wedding. If you don’t have a wedding planner – delegate, delegate, delegate as many tasks as possible to your friends and family who are not in your wedding party to take care of. (You and your wedding party will be too busy for set-up and strike on your wedding day.) Most importantly – create a detailed written timeline of your entire day and share it with all of your vendors and your family and friends who you’ve assigned to help on your wedding day. We also think it’s a good idea to get event insurance, even if its not required. Also – pack an emergency kit with useful items like band aids, lighters, scissors, trash bags, tape, extra safety pins, a needle and thread, clear finger nail polish, etc. – you’ll need them. To ensure your sanity – make sure you appoint someone to act as your “Day of Coordinator” if you didn’t hire a professional – to make sure all of your wishes are carried out, and to make sure your ceremony runs smoothly. If you are a DIY-er we highly recommend giving yourself the best gift ever – and hire a wedding planner to work with you for the final 2 months of planning and on your wedding day – this will be a huge stress reliever, and will ensure that you have a wedding day that aligns with your expectations.
Have an “Unplugged Wedding Ceremony.”
Unless you think that wedding ceremony photos of all your guests on their smartphones is cool, we highly suggest asking your guests to participate with you in an “Unplugged Wedding.” This means that all of your guests will turn off and stow their cell phones and cameras during your wedding ceremony, and fully participate with you in the moment. They’ll be allowed to break them back out as soon as the ceremony has ended. Ask them to leave the photography and videography to the professionals, and promise to share images with them later. Most guests will respect this request, and you will be able to enjoy a wedding ceremony free from devices. Your photographer will also thank you. We advise either having your Officiant make a small announcement stating your wishes before the ceremony begins, or simply post a small sign at the entrance of your ceremony. You’ll be happy you did.
Do assign guests to tables when you have a seated dinner reception.
We cannot say enough good things about seating charts. It is crucial to the success of your dinner experience that you take the time to assign guests to tables. You do not need to assign guests to specific seats at tables, unless you are planning a plated meal where entrees need to be selected in advance, but you DO need to assign guests to a table where they can choose their own seat, and here’s why:
- People like to be given direction. Without direction, many guests will wander, and feel awkward about where to sit. Also, if you don’t assign guests to tables, you need to add about 10% extra seating to your floor plan because numbers won’t work out evenly at tables.
- Without a seating chart or escort card display, your guests will take on average, 15 minutes longer to be seated – which cuts into valuable reception time. You are paying for every minute of your reception – why waste time on people finding a seat?
Bottom line: Save yourself time, money, and headaches on your wedding day by creating a seating plan in advance. It may be a small hassle to group your friends and family into tables, but it will save you and your vendors a lot of stress on your wedding day.
Was this advice helpful? What are some of your best wedding planning tips? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below!