Our 10 Best Wedding Planning Tips for 2016


Photo Credit: Aya Sato

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:

Play Nice. 

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.

Wonderstruck + Canvas I Do Sodo Wedding Show Seattle James Bond Theme Wedding 007 (3)

Photo Credit: Love Song Photo

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.

Froggsong Gardens Wedding Vashon Island Charise+Brian Love Song Photo (16)

Image Credit: Love Song Photo

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.


Photo Credit: Shoda Love Pgotography

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!




26 thoughts on “Our 10 Best Wedding Planning Tips for 2016

  1. I like the recommendation to utilize assigned seating and tables for the dinner reception. I think this could be a great way of making sure everything stays organized. I’m helping my sister plan her wedding, and I’ll have to make sure to get the right amount of seats, tables, and a large enough tent to be efficient. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much Tyler. We’re so happy we could help inspire your planning ideas for your sister’s wedding. 🙂 We hope you have a very happy event. Best Wishes!

    2. HI Tyler! I hope you’re sisters wedding was stress free and so much fun! Thanks for reading, and glad we could suggest a few tricks to help her day run smoothly! -Katie

  2. I liked a few of your tips for how I should plan my wedding. You’re right about how I need to create a realistic budget before I start choosing a venue and vendors. I have a list of a few vendors and caterers I would like to choose from, so I should create a budget that I can work with so that I can know if I can afford to hire these services. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Thank you for sharing valuable ideas for making a wedding beautiful and memorable. I liked all above mentioned tips specially “Make a Realistic Budget BEFORE you start selecting your venue and vendors” because it can help us to save money.

  4. I’m getting married in a few months and have a lot of planning to do. Thanks for the advice about setting a budget before you plan catering and venue. Now I just need to find a catering company that has little cakes and stuff that we can serve.

  5. Weddings are great. It can be one of the best days of your entire life. I agree that having a videographer is great because they can capture a lot of things that static pictures can’t.

  6. I agree, budgeting is definitely a necessary if you want to start off marriage on the right foot. My sister has been planning her wedding for months, and the only thing that worried her was her budget. Well, I also think she’s been worried about her venue, but I’m supposed to be finding one with her today.

  7. This is some really good information about planning a wedding. I like that you pointed out that you should set a budget before you start looking for venues and vendor. My fiance and I want to get a good caterer, and it seems like we should set a budget before we start looking for one.

  8. I really like your tip about creating a realistic budget and not getting into any kind of debt before you are actually married as a couple. My fiance and I are trying to pull things together for our wedding in the spring and having a set budget has really helped us decide what is really important for the event. We want the reception to be one big dance party so we will be renting some lights for that. We are really excited and definitely encourage people to be smart with their money!

  9. I really like your advice to make sure that you are doing what you want to do. Don’t worry about what trends are popular. Just make sure that you are doing what you can to stay happy. After all, it is ultimately your wedding. Do you have any articles about finding a good wedding venue?

  10. My friend and his wife are finally getting married and they really want to find a place that will allow their cat to be a part of the ceremony. You stated that “You DO have to be authentic to yourselves, and you DO need to choose traditions that are meaningful to you.” Do most wedding venues offer pet-friendly options or is this not usually an option?

    1. HI Derek,

      Congrats to your friends! In my experience, many outdoor venues will allow a pet for a short period of time – if it is fully supervised for the duration of its visit. Many indoor venues do not allow pets – but a few do. It definitely never hurts to ask. If not being allowed to have your pet at your wedding is a deal breaker, make sure to ask before signing a contract with a venue, to avoid any heartache. When my clients want to include their pets, I recommend that the pet is taken care of all day by a reliable pet sitter or a friend who is not necessarily a guest at the wedding. This way, that pet sitter can bring the pet to photos (usually an hour or so before the ceremony) and then the pet sitter can manage the pet during or after that pet’s participation in the ceremony. After the ceremony, I suggest that the pet be taken home by the pet sitter, so the couple and all of the other guests can focus on the fun of the reception, and not the pet. 🙂

  11. I know my fiance has a lot of ideas for our wedding that she wants to do, but I’m worried she’s going to get in over her head. That’s why I like how you advise to sit down with your fiance and discuss what’s really important to you at your wedding. Doing this will definitely help us stick to our budget too, so thanks for sharing.

  12. I loved your tip to be nice to the caterers and other people that are helping you with your wedding. You also said that most people choose to work in the wedding industry because they have a passion for events. I think it’s a good idea to choose a wedding package that gives you a lot of opportunities to go on excursions so that you can make the most memories.

  13. I like your comment that when you are planning for your wedding you should do what feels right for you. I would imagine that you would want to find something that is unique to you even if that doesn’t go with trends or traditions. I’m looking for a wedding venue with my fiancee so we’ll have to find somewhere that feels right for us.

  14. Thanks for your advice about figuring out your venue and catering budget and then doubling that to figure what your total wedding budget should be. I imagine that catering could be one of the most highly variable factors in your budget, as there are so many options to choose from and everyone probably has a wide range of packages and pricing options. I imagine that some caterers may be preferred by specific venues as well, which could impact your price.

    1. HI Luke, Thanks for your comment! Yes, some venues definitely have in house catering only, or they only allow a select group of caterers to work on their property. This will narrow down your choices quite a bit, but I usually find that most venues who have a select group of catering options have a pretty robust list of choices that can accommodate different budgets and tastes. One other trick about managing your catering budget is selecting the right food service. For example: Plated dinners will likely be the most expensive option for your guests (because they require the most staffing to execute) while Family Style dinners will be a little less expensive (less staff required, but depending on the menu, more dishes may be required) and Buffet Style dinners will be even more economical (least amount of staff required). That said, you can spice up a Buffet with live action stations, or you could also opt for a heavy Appetizer Style reception- which often saves couples a lot of money, but still provides ample food for your guests. Last, food trucks are a fun option that is really cost effective, if your venue allows them, BUT – make sure you hire additional staffing and someone to manage them to help with cleanup and set up if you go the food truck route at your wedding. Happy Planning!

  15. I agree that you need to define your wedding budget before you find a venue. It would seem that if you are able to define your budget beforehand you run much less a risk for going over it. My fiancee and I are planning an outdoor wedding so we’ll have to figure out our budget before we rent a space.

  16. I agree that hiring a wedding designer would be really helpful when trying to decide the style you would like on your special day. It would definitely be less stressful to hire a wedding planning service to help pare down the ideas we find on the internet than try to incorporate them all into the ceremony. Since my friend is getting married next summer, I definitely would like to have some help in planning everything.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *