Ah, weddings... they always say it's the "best day of your life" or whatever, but don't let "them" (whoever "they" are) fool you or pressure you into this big master plan of grandeur. Your life is definitely destined to be filled with so many great moments that will fulfill your soul and occupy your beautiful mind — moreso than just one simple day you can ever define or pinpoint as your "best day ever". Yes, it's a big deal, but don't make it the biggest deal.
Let me first put this out there: I'm no wedding planning expert, nor have I ever claimed to be one. But you guys, we've finally reached that season in life where almost all of our friends, coworkers, and acquaintances are either engaged, married, pregnant, or have something between a newborn or 2 year old running around. We're getting old y'all! I'm already used to asking people when they're planning to have baby #2 which is super weird to me, because I'm just trying to figure out when I'm getting my darn puppy (that'll be for another blog post - promise).
In this day in age where we're bombarded with social media, I feel as though the line between inspiration and expectation are more often than not blurred and misconstrued, and in the pursuit of perfection and that *instagram-worthy wedding*, the budget just goes out the window. SO. In an effort to shed some light and insight on the whole process, and to share some secrets on how I personally stayed organized and saved money on my own wedding — this blog post was born!
**WARNING** LONG READ AHEAD!
TOP 5 WEDDING TIPS
Tip 1: Decide what's most important to you and invest there first
I won't get into the whole "budget for your wedding" BS because it's obvious that if you're planning a wedding, you've already decided you're going to have one, which will inevitably cost you money. Thus, be smart about it. Don't spend money you don't have because how we saw it, it was never something we felt was worth living in debt for. It's a great way to celebrate your love — but at what cost? If it's something that will limit your time together afterwards because you'll have to work double time to pay off, or if you'll have to cut back on the honeymoon, or limit your adventures together then... maybe take a step back to rethink why you're doing this in the first place. But when you *do* decide to invest money into your wedding day, think of what things are MOST IMPORTANT to you. Everyone prioritizes things differently, and not everyone will value things the same way.
Photography + Videography
For us, we valued photography and videography the most (surprise, surprise), so after we found our venue, they were the first things we booked. When we found the photographer and videographer whose style and vision we both liked, we contacted each of them immediately and after meeting with them both, we booked them right away. My word of advice is to make absolutely sure both you and your significant other agree on their style. Photography and videography can be very personal, and not everyone will like the same kinds of pictures. Some people, for instance, like bright, over-exposed, soft wedding photos, whereas others like more contrast, shadows, and more candid or moodier shots that are more journalistic and less posed. There are so many different styles; it's impossible to even summarize, but you just need to both be on the same page or else someone's going to be VERY unhappy and that's the last thing you'll want when the pictures come back! Patience is also key when you're looking for a wedding videographer. I almost ripped my hair out flipping through random wedding videos trying to find a videographer because all of the obnoxious wedding music was driving me absolutely insane. But when you find the one, you'll know. You'll just feel it, and it'll speak to you.
Why did we chose photography and videography to invest in? Because at the end of the day, these were the memories that we'd be holding onto. These were the images that would be burned into our minds, and decades from now, these were the things that we'd remember and documenting things is just in my DNA somewhere. These were our obvious choices, and it was barely a discussion we had to make - more like a nod of the head and we were already on the same page (totes why we're bffs).
Food + Alcohol
Second to the photographer and videographer was the food and alcohol. (Duh? what else do we take pictures of on this blog haha). We wanted to be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN people would enjoy their food at our wedding. I mean, how many countless times have you attended a wedding as a guest and just had a so-so dinner with a meal that was very uneventful. Lame, right?! And they payed for all of those meals! What a waste. I wanted to make sure our guests were well-fed from start to finish, and that they didn't leave hungry wanting to hit up In N Out or anything as if we didn't treat them right at our own celebration. They're our guests! Our food package included 4 tray-passed hors d'oeuvres for cocktail hour, and for dinner, we saved money by opting for buffet style over a seated dinner. This was also to the benefit of our guests because they didn't have to choose between the entrees (they could have both!) and we didn't need to obtain entree choices beforehand (which saved us time during wedding prep). Our reception included 2 salads, 2 entrees, 2 sides, rolls with butter, water, and tableside champagne (or cider for the non-drinking guests).
Needless to say, we couldn't hold back on the alcohol either. This was a freaking party! We needed to make sure the guests never felt like they had to rush to the bar before a certain cut-off and wanted to have a hosted bar for the entire duration of our reception, so if this is something that is important to you, consider the price difference between a cash bar and whether a hosted bar is feasible. Depending on whether your venue allows you to provide alcohol that they will serve for you, or if they provide alcohol that they charge per head count, the price could vary greatly. For our wedding, it was a cost per person, for a certain time limit. We did open bar from the start of cocktail hour until the end of our wedding, but our cost savings came in the form of the liquor package we chose. Our package did not include top shelf liquor, but covered all your basic liquor as well as beer, wine, and champagne (sorry bougie friends). We figured it was enough to allow everyone to have a good time without eating too much of our budget up, which was the kind of balance we had to make when the dollar $igns kept on piling up! Since we didn't have the option to bring our own alcohol, the cost for our 5-hour open bar (no cash bar) was $27/person.. which we felt was a fair price. Think of it this way: it's like going to a bar and buying everyone in the room 3 reasonably priced drinks, right? Meh - not so bad! It definitely adds up - don't get me wrong, and if you could provide your own alcohol it'll probably be a lot cheaper, but not having to worry about lugging a crap load of alcohol to & from the venue also saved us a ton of headache as well, so we have no qualms with the hand we were dealt. Because we had an open bar, we were able to provide pre-poured champagne post-ceremony for guests to enjoy so the bar could be somewhat relieved of a whole mass of people charging right at them - take advantage of this amazing idea if you get the opportunity! Guests will love the idea of being greeted with alcohol and it'll help disperse the guests to your bars.
I still receive positive feedback about how great the food was at our wedding to this day.. and even the kids had their own buffet #win :)
Tip 2: Book as early as possible
This applies to everything as you plan for your wedding. Don't hesitate to book. If you've got a good feeling about your vendor, venue, or whatever, trust your gut and don't let them slip away because you never know who else might be eyeing your date. If you think you're booking too early, chances are, someone else probably is too. Wedding planning is crazy these days and if your vendor is a popular one, it's likely that they're booking well in advance of a year already!
Not only do you risk losing a potential vendor, but you also risk losing money. Prices these days go up crazy fast, and you never know what season a company or vendor may decide it's time to re-evaluate their packages, especially if they're in higher demand!
Case in point: When we first booked our venue in 2016, the dinner menu we chose started at $39/person. When finalizing our menu for our tasting, they'd sent us their pamphlets for 2017 and I'd noticed that their prices had gone up to $45/person. For a 200 person wedding, this would have resulted in a $1,200 increase in food costs alone if booked later. That's nuts!
Tip 3: Keep your budget in mind, but know you get what you pay for
I can't stress this enough. Yes, something's gonna have to give somewhere, but it's why I recommended investing first in the areas that mean the most to you before looking at everything else because at the end of the day, you'll realize that it's rare you'll stumble upon a stellar deal where you walk away with a top of the line vendor at bottom shelf base prices (unless, of course, they totes knocked off the price for you and hooked a homie up). If you want quality, you'll likely have to invest - just like every other part of life - unless you were that lucky duck that scored a deal or won that giveaway. You could make the grandest of requests, and show your vendor the most specific things, but if you're not paying them the equivalent of what your pinterest dreams are really worth, it's unlikely that you're going to get the equivalent on your day of. Just be weary of those that promise you a day filled with grandiose things, and are only charging you a fraction of what other vendors are quoting you for - you get what you pay for, and sometimes that's not a risk you should be willing to take if you're not willing to face the consequences! If you can, pay close attention to the vendors' past work - especially their more recent work. If they don't have much recent work documented, maybe it's a red flag. Don't just look at their portfolio though - it usually showcases only their best work. Perhaps ask to see an example of an entire day's gallery, from start to finish, to see how an entire day went. That way, you can get a feel of how they work from start to finish, and not only a "highlight reel" of their best stuff. You want to get a feel of them as a whole, and not only what they want to show you. They have good days and bad days too, so the more examples of their work you can see, the easier it'll be for you to get a feel of their work.
Tip 4: Don't overlook these seemingly "minor" details!
So there's a lot to take in, and a lot to keep track of. You're bound to overlook a few things during the planning process, but don't forget to think about these major ideas which some brides forget to take into account - plan for them accordingly! Here are a few special things I made sure to put a lot of thought into, because I knew I needed to have them taken care of or else they'd get overlooked somewhere in the whole process.
Consider Where you're getting ready
Depending on your venue(s) and your budget, you may initially consider choosing the cheapest or closest, most convenient location to to get ready in with your bridal party. Maybe you're having your ceremony somewhere, and you're getting ready near your reception. Great! But think about this: wherever you'll be getting ready is where a pretty significant chunk of your PICTURES will be taken, so they'll play an absolutely significant role in your wedding day. Don't opt for a cheapo motel to save money, and also take into consideration what your suite looks like - you don't want the oldest nasty looking room either, because it'll be the backdrop for your pictures. Sure, we're looking at the people in the pictures, but will you feel truly comfortable getting ready and lounging around in your robes all morning in a room that feels icky? Better yet, maybe take a look at some nearby AirBnb's - those might provide great private backdrops for your photos and first looks as well! Think outside the box and run your day through your head to see if you and your wedding party would feel comfortable with where you plan on getting ready. I made sure to look at all the hotel room pictures when booking our getting ready venue to make sure it was decent, clean, but also budget-friendly and had enough space for everyone to fit comfortably in (hair and make-up included - don't forget!).
Make sure you're both fed throughout the day
This means taking into account breakfast for the early morning wake-up/makeup & hair call for the girls, as well as snacks throughout the morning to sustain everyone through the alcohol and into the ceremony, and into cocktail hour and dinner... then some after party food to make sure you don't have an unpleasant hangover! I made arrangements to have trays of our favorite strawberry croissants picked up for the bride and groom's suite for breakfast and to munch on throughout the morning, and we brought along snacks and champagne/liquor for the rest of the morning. Our hotel provided a pretty great complimentary continental breakfast already, which the entire wedding party definitely took advantage of (and helped ease all of our appetites tremendously - highly recommend!), but having these snacks on hand was great for soaking up any alcohol consumed in the room. When planning the wedding, I also specifically requested our venue's coordinator to provide a tray of ALL our hors d'oeuvres for ourselves and our wedding party (since we had our own private server) as soon as cocktail hour started, so I made sure my team was fed right after the ceremony ended. Jason and I had a sunset photo session that began right after we walked down the aisle, so we were swept away for pictures and didn't get to indulge in any food until the end of cocktail hour, but when we did return, the staff was great at quickly running trays of all the hors d'oeuvres to us - if you can, EAT! Your guests will want to say hi, they'll want to take pictures with you (and we did), but make your way to the bar, get yourself a drink, get yourself some food, and eat and drink your damn heart out because you deserve it! It's your freaking party! Excuse me for sounding rude, but by now, you've had a long day and it's time you took a moment for yourself - don't feel bad about it. You need to get some food in you before you pass out. #sorrynotsorry, this is personally how I felt, so there are some pictures of me literally stuffing my face in a corner table and taking quick picture breaks with people, but stuff my face shamelessly is what I definitely did until cocktail hour ended. :) I also requested our venue to pack up a box of leftovers for us to bring home at the end of the night since I figured we might be a little hungry at the end of it all. We did have to sign a waiver for it, but it was no trouble at all! It's just a little insurance in case you actually don't end up having time to eat at all, like a lot of people I know. Luckily though, Jason and I were actually STUFFED after cocktail hour because the hors d'oeuvres were so good haha! We barely touched our dinner because we were so full, which is such an amazing feeling because we always hear horror stories from almost every married couple about how they didn't have any time to eat at all because they were so busy with people. Um, I'm gonna go ahead and say it - be a little selfish and just eat. No one wants a bride or groom to faint from low blood sugar (and fyi, alcohol lowers your blood sugar). Even with all of this, I was somehow still half awake begging for pizza after returning to our hotel - shoutout to the bestie and her man for coming through. ✊🏼
Be picky with your music: Make a playlist for your DJ
I might've been the only bridezilla crazy or picky enough to follow through with this one, because I don't know any other bride that's done this ... but I went through my insane music catalog, as well as Spotify and all of the current hits of the past 10ish years and I made a playlist not only for the ceremony seating, but also for the cocktail hour, dinner, and reception.. AND all of our key moments (procession, recession, bride, first dance, father/daughter & mother/son dance, cake cutting, etc etc). Oh, and you bet I didn't forget a 'Do Not Play' list, and it was an incredibly long one. If you ask our DJ, he'll probably tell you it's one of the longest ones he's ever seen, and it probably actually looks more like other couple's actual PLAYLISTS because I seriously hate radio music and it included more like 90% of all the songs you'd hear come on the radio. You can say we had a pretty untraditional wedding where music is concerned. No Pachelbel Canon in D... no Vivaldi Four Seasons... no De Beers theme song... no Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift. Our wedding party walked down the aisle to Nujabes. I walked down the aisle to Ornella Vanoni (think Oceans Eleven). We walked off the aisle to Moguai. Our first dance was Tony Bennett. We're a little different - but your wedding should absolutely reflect that. You do you, boo. And luckily enough for us, our DJ absolutely killed it. He worked with what we gave him and absolutely killed it. I probably put him in the toughest situation ever, but he nailed it and we still get compliments on our wedding music to this day. Another #win - but only a #win that we were able to achieve because we voiced our opinions and made our preferences heard. You need to make sure you're clear about what you want/do not want so that your vendors can work with you!
Secure your gifts towards the end of the night
It's a beautiful day for you and everyone celebrating with you, and while you'd hope to expect the best from everyone there, truth is, you honestly just cannot trust everyone (or their guests). I say this with caution only as a warning because I know people close to me who have been victims of theft at their own wedding, which means it could happen to anyone. It means someone they've invited into their own hearts and into their own celebrations willingly and knowingly stole from them, which is why we took measures when planning our own wedding to ensure it didn't happen to us. We made sure our card box was secured with a lock and key, and I kept the key in a safe location, far away from the wedding venue. We also made a special request from our wedding coordinator to keep an eye on our card box once reception started, and to also move the card box closer to our sweetheart table where it was more visible once reception started (and guests could drop off cards when coming to say hi to us there also). Our venue did have a security guard at the front door, but how diligent were they going to be? Card boxes are usually left near entrances, which also makes it easy for uninvited guests to wander in and walk away with whatever they wish, so just keep these things in mind. You never know, and it's better to be safe than sorry!
Tip 5: Don't fret the formalities
After you've gone down your whole checklist of all the things you need to plan for, you'll start to feel like there's an overwhelmingly large number of things that you just feel like you're "supposed" to do. Or at least that's how I felt. A lot of traditions here and there, only because someone somewhere in society said that this was how it "usually" happens, and this is what people "typically" do. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's okay if you feel like totally blowing all that to the wind. There's a way around this, and it's important to remember that you don't have to be like everyone else. You don't have to do things like everyone else is, and it's okay if your day doesn't fit the cookie cutter definition of what a wedding is. Blow caution to the wind when it comes to these things, because this is how I handled them:
- The Engagement Party
We got engaged a few months before we moved into our new home, and during the whole chaos of closing on the house and moving and buying all of our furniture and assembling our life together, it wasn't until November - a full 8 months after we'd gotten engaged - until I was ready to have our engagement party. Yes, that sounds like a hell of a long time, and for some people, they could've planned their own wedding in that amount of time, but I also decided to make it a joint housewarming party at the same time. Why not just celebrate a year of milestones at the same time? Kill 2 birds with one stone? People live busy lives, and we just thought this was the most practical thing for our family and friends. Everyone was able to see our new home, and also celebrate with us. It wasn't formal or anything, just some food and drinks, but I was happy to have people over to break in our new home :)
- The Bachelor / Bachelorette Party
Tradition says they are to be separate - but we don't like tradition much, so we decided to do a joint bachelor/bachelorette "party" and took our whole wedding party on a trip up to our favorite city, Portland, Oregon for Memorial Day Weekend. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we hiked, and we had the best time with everyone (watch our video here!). Opportunistically enough, we were able to visit the Columbia River Gorge just before the Eagle Creek Fire engulfed miles and miles of the beautiful gorge up, and I'm so thankful we were able to visit with all of our best friends. After everyone left, Jason and I spent the rest of the week there by ourselves, and made a whole vacation out of it (our little vacation video can be found here!). So in a sense, we're basically inseparable like a lot of our friends' speeches pointed out... but that's just how we are and we stayed true to that and still had a great time we all of our buds. Again - you do you. Don't let society define how you should be spending your time/money.
- The Rehearsal Dinner
It doesn't have to be formal, and in fact, your wedding party might actually very much appreciate a very laid back and casual dinner. It's more of a "thank you" to your wedding party for putting up with all the shenanigans that come with being in a wedding, and for spending the evening with you, and for having to listen to the final details that you've had to go over with them over dinner. I mean, they already have a full day of formalities planned for the next day - it wouldn't hurt to lay back and relax a little would it? If you aren't exchanging speeches during the actual day, this is also a good time to do it because it's a more personal setting. It's a good time to let loose before your big day, but don't get too sloppy because you've got to wake up early and be decent! Our rehearsal dinner consisted of drinks at a local brewery, then burgers and drinks at Umami Burger. It's also good to keep your budget in mind at this point, since it's still an added cost that people might not factor in. Depending on the head count for dinner, it could be as though you're adding almost 20 more seats to your wedding.
When you plan your wedding, people think favors are expected... when in reality, when you're a guest at a wedding, you almost sometimes forget about the favor. When approaching the idea of a favor, I definitely had a few in the forefront of my mind that I saw as "ideal" or "I wish", but I knew were definitely out of budget and impractical. They served no purpose other than to look pretty or impress. After much thought and consideration, I came to the conclusion that donations to 2 charities that were near and dear to our hearts on behalf of our guests would be the most practical and meaningful gifts I could think of. Doing this not only felt like the right thing to do, but it was something I felt would make the most impact and had the potential to go the furthest. Weddings come and go, and people often forget about their favors, but doing this in honor of something that truly meant something to me made it much more meaningful and personal than, say, spending that same amount of money on succulents or marble place cards (as much as I would've really loved to have those as well). It's a give and take relationship, but in this instance, I chose to give in a different way, and while my guests didn't walk away with anything, I hoped they took advantage of the photobooth to use pictures as keepsakes of the evening instead of expecting memorabilia that might be tossed aside afterwards.
Trick: How I stayed meticulously organized using spreadsheets
Google Sheets will be your wedding planning best friend. If you aren't familiar with Google Sheets, it's basically like a free basic version of Excel (super simple to use) that allows you to share a live version of your online document with anyone you want via email or text - just send them the link! You can choose to either give them access to edit, or just give them the ability to view. In this way, they can either collaborate (i.e. help plan a bachelorette, for instance) or you can use it to disperse information like I did. The document lives in the cloud, so you have access to it from anywhere you have access to the internet. I also have the Google Sheets app on my phone, so I can read, edit, and share the document from there as well. Here are the multitude of ways I utilized Google Sheets to my advantage:
- Information Packet
I assembled a spreadsheet with all the information anyone would need for the entire wedding day, so that on the day of, everyone in my wedding party, including the immediate family members, would have access to everyone's contact information, the timeline, all of the vendor's contact information, the seating charts, and the table layouts. It was a catch-all for everything and a good reference throughout the wedding planning process in case anyone had any questions. Bridesmaids and groomsmen both had access to information about their dresses and attire, rentals, etc., and all of the pertinent dates, times, and locations for rehearsal, dinner, bridal shower, wedding, and everything else available to them in this spreadsheet. Organization freak, yes, but I'm also an incredibly resourceful person and it pains me when people cannot be resourceful themselves which is why I go out of my way to ensure everyone has everything they need available to them at all times possible! I printed these out and passed them out to everyone during rehearsal dinner, so if they didn't have access to the digital copy, they would have hard copies the day-of as well. :) One of our best friends loved our spreadsheet so much that they, too, copied our spreadsheet for their upcoming wedding this April! And the idea of a spreadsheet isn't anything new - I got it from my own best friend's wedding because she also had her own packet to keep us all informed as well - do whatever you gotta do to keep your team focused!
While I didn't use this necessarily to keep within a certain budget, it was definitely useful to keep track of where our expenses were going. The spreadsheet was broken up into Ceremony + Reception (venue, rentals, staffing, bar, catering, cake, lighting), Other vendors (photography, videography, coordination), Flowers, Entertainment (DJ, photobooth), Hair & Makeup (don't forget to include the cost of trials!), Accommodations & Transportation, Attire (bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen), Decor & Stationery (including all money spent on DIY's), Gifts, and Misc (licensing fees, wedding insurance, rehearsal dinner, wedding bands). We did not include vendor tips in the totaling of our budget, and did not include my engagement ring or our honeymoon in the sum either. It's up to you how you'd like to consider your costs but this is just how we broke everything up. As time went on, whenever there would be a cost associated with anything, I would immediately add it to the budget so I wouldn't forget a single thing. I also had 2 different columns - an estimated cost and an actual cost, so I could get an idea of how much we'd need to save, and once that cost was realized, I'd fill in the actual cost column.
- Guest List
This is an important one! If you stay organized with this from the beginning, you'll only have to do it once... and if you keep it updated, it'll save you a lot of work in the end. I used the guest list not only to keep track of the guests we were inviting and their responses, but also to keep track of gifts and the thank you cards we were writing and sending out afterwards. Collecting names, addresses, total number of attendees, number of children's meals, and number of adult meals (but non-drinkers) was essential in collecting the head count and reporting meal counts, so staying organized was crucial when getting RSVP's. Maintaining an organized spreadsheet from the beginning in a way so as to keep all of this information correct and clear is key. I can't tell you how many times I had to run through all of the tallies to make sure everything added up correctly because some people would RSVP slightly differently, which would mess the numbers up just a little bit. Double check your RSVP's when they come back to you, just to make sure everything is correct! I had some people who forgot to RSVP for their +1, and if I hadn't followed up with them a month prior to the wedding to double check, their +1 wouldn't have had a seat (good thing I flagged them as a double-check)! Just be diligent and don't overlook them, thinking that they're all correct. Sometimes your guests are just overly excited to get your invites and will just send them back without fully reading them :)
- Music Playlist
Like I mentioned above, I made a playlist for our DJ. I used a workbook to share them with him, and had a different sheet in that workbook for each part of the day: key moments, ceremony seating, cocktail hour, dinner, party, and the almighty DO NOT PLAY. They each had their own different "vibe" which is why I basically just went through my entire library, and as I ran into a song I liked (or definitely didn't like) for a different part of the day, I just added it to that sheet. It was the easiest and fastest way to do this, and I found that starting this early on in the wedding planning process made sharing this information easy because going about my day, if I ran into a song randomly and thought to myself "OH I totally want this song to play during cocktail hour", I could just open the sheet up on my phone and add it really quickly, or vice versa if it was a song that came on the radio that I absolutely despised... then it was easy to add to my do not play list. Bing, bang, boom. After a few months, your lists are relatively full. Share, and done.
Trick: How I stayed flexible and productive with "Trello"
So there are a few ways people go about making "to-do" lists. Some people write it down, check it off, cross it out, etc. I'm the type of person that will literally ADD something to the list, just so I can cross it off and say I actually did it. Shows I was productive! I did something! But in a fluid and ever-changing environment, the permanence of pen-to-paper wasn't cutting it for me, and I find that having the ability to carry something with me electronically was just the sort of convenience I needed in my life. This is where Trello comes in. Trello is a great free visual organization platform for people who like the ability to create multiple lists, but also to add details, links, and attachments to them, and to move the items in these lists around easily and fluidly to adapt to whatever project their working on. I've been using Trello since the end of pharmacy school, actually, so for several years now. I first started using it when I began studying for my board exams - my lists consisted of disease states I'd need to study for, disease states I was currently studying, and then disease states I'd finished studying. As I found I would need to review some, I could easily move some back and forth as needed, or if my schedule just didn't go as planned, I could move them back and forth as necessary. Trello is accessible anywhere you have internet access, and you can also download the phone app, so you have quick access to view, edit, or share any of this information with anyone also - again, I'm all about that quick access and dispersion of information. Fast forward to today, and this is how I used Trello during wedding planning:
- The Seating Chart
There are so many programs out there you could probably use. They draw out different sized tables with little chairs and all of that, they let you add names to them and move the tables around, blablabla. But how much freaking time would that consume! I didn't have time for that nonsense. You could also use post-it notes, but I type a hell of a lot faster than I could write, and having an electronic copy that I could quickly edit (anytime, from anywhere) and forward to someone seemed far more beneficial to me than having hard copies of anything (and what if the wind blew my post it notes somewhere, or something?!) So with Trello, I made a list for each table and labeled them with the table numbers (1, 2, 3, .... 18). Within each list, I then began adding guest names, and I did so as the RSVP's began rolling in. That way, I wouldn't be stuck with a huge pile of names to drop in, and I could figure out the seating arrangements slowly but surely. Because it's so easy to move names around between lists (drag and drop), it really took less effort for me to move people's names from table to table than if I had to physically lift post-it notes and put them down somewhere else. And trust me - I went back and forth so many times... especially when it becomes a game of human tetris because the party numbers started getting funky. This was honestly the easiest and quickest way to do the seating chart for me. Just remember, if you get stuck: you can't make everyone happy!
- Personal To-Do List
There's so much you'll have to do. Things will inevitably get pushed back and delayed, and if you're planning on DIY'ing things like I did, you'll find they may take a little bit longer than usual... which means you'll need a fluid and adaptive to-do list. Trello was perfect because I used it to keep track of items that I needed to purchase, things I needed to make/projects I needed to complete, projects I was currently working on, and as I slowly completed these things, I would then move them over to the list of items I had completed (more like my digital "crossing off" of things I was done with). This way, I could still keep track of all I had to do, was currently in the works of doing, and all I'd already done, and if I needed to go back to anything I could still easily do so. After the wedding, I then used the same items I had in my "completed" list, but this time added them to a new list which I titled something along the lines of "things I need to sell" - something I'm still working on. I love how Trello allows you to adapt your project to its changing environment, and to do so from any workspace - your browser, your laptop, or your phone. It's definitely been, and continues to be, a lifesaver.
FREQUENTLY ASKED Q'S
Q: Should I get a videographer?
The number one regret I hear most from people who had weddings and didn't have a videographer for their wedding, is that they wish they'd hired a videographer for their wedding. For us, it was a no-brainer. Jason does video, and video is his thing. We were going to have a videographer, so it was just a matter of finding the right one for us. It might not be as clear cut for most people out there, since it definitely is a large monetary investment, and many people feel that the photographer alone is able to capture enough images throughout the day to be able to forgo a videographer.
But guys, I'm telling you it's completely different. If you find *THE RIGHT VIDEOGRAPHER*, it's a total game changer. If you find the wrong one, then it probably won't be worth it, but we absolutely found the right one and I don't regret it one little bit. Our videographer captured emotion that we weren't able to see in our photos, and because we were able to keep all of the raw footage, not only do we have our beautifully edited videos, but we have all the pure moments from that day to relive if we ever feel like it. You absolutely cannot put a price on that. You probably only get one day to have a whole crew of paparazzi follow you around, and hell, this is the day to do it! You're surrounded by all of your supporters and your favorite people - soak it all in. Don't be on your phone. Tell them not to be on their phones. Be with each other. Let the pros do the work, and just be present. All I can say is, our wedding video made our wedding day feel more beautiful than I remembered it in my mind.
Q: Should I get a coordinator?
YES. Yes - in a million lifetimes, in a million years, in a million marriages - yes. But only, if it's the right one. I don't care how organized you are (as you might've guessed from the above, I am one seriously organized, type-A bride - and my coordinator can even attest to that), I promise you a day-of coordinator will be your lifesaver. The last thing you want to do on your day-of is to be in charge of running anything and directing people anywhere, right? Don't you just want to be a passenger on this ride? Hand off the reigns and just enjoy the celebration? Well you can't really do that if you don't have someone running the show for you, and if you think a venue coordinator is reliable enough, I'd hope you trust them enough to take care of all the other details and issues that may arise. Taking care of odds and ends during my own graduation and engagement parties was enough work to cue me in on the importance of a coordinator. And if you're an organized spreadsheet freak like I am, it'll just make your coordinator's life easier, and it'll help give them a clear idea of what you want. I'm sure the last thing they want is a confusing, frazzled bride that's all over the place, so it'll definitely help if you have a clear direction. Just think of this day as a day of pampering - if you can spare the money for a coordinator, it'll definitely alleviate the stress and spare you the work of potentially 2 people. Vendors appreciate having coordinators to keep everyone on the same page and on track too!
We first hired a day-of coordinator because our venue required us to, but I suppose all things happen for a reason, because it was WELL worth the investment. Our coordinators helped tie all the final details together (wedding day timeline, vendor timelines, set up, arrival, breakdown, disbursement of tips, etc) and when it came down to it, all I did was pass off all my decor to her after our rehearsal (along with detailed pictures of how they should be set up and an inventory of all the items I had to give to her) and the rest was history! From there, it was literally smooth sailing. I received a good morning text (and so did my bridesmaids and our groomsmen!) and confirmation that our party bus was on time, and before I knew it, we'd arrived at the venue and she was there waiting to greet me! Everything and everyone was on time and where they needed to be, and our coordinators were even there to greet the hubs and I with drinks at the end of the aisle after the ceremony - perfection! I had so many small requests and my coordinator was so amazing at meeting all of them.
I couldn’t recommend one enough, BUT ONLY if it’s the right one! For the future brides, just make sure they are experienced because their experience will truly show the day of. Their “packages” may all sound and look similar but when it comes down to the little details, you will definitely see and feel a difference between someone who knows the ins and outs of a wedding day and someone who may not be as seasoned, and that’s where our coordinators truly shone! When you wonder if anything went wrong for any of the vendors that day, you know the coordinators did a good job. They sent us all off on our sparkler grand exit right on the dot, and we didn't have to worry about lifting a finger!
There will be certain things you can never have control over. No matter how much you plan for, you just have to accept it and embrace it. I felt pretty helpless when it came to one aspect of our wedding, and this aspect was our guest list. I told myself when we first set out that it was our day, and that I wouldn't let others dictate or let others tell us how to run our day... but that didn't happen (as far as the guest list goes). It inevitably was a celebration for family, after all, and while I have to admit the invitations got out of hand, it was also something I had very little say in (partly because it wasn't my place to say something about). Because of this, our final head count grew nearly twice the size we had hoped it would, and thus, our budget had to grow to accommodate this as well. Luckily, we were able to afford it, but not everyone can say that. And for those that cannot, it's this word of caution (but mostly strength) that I hope I can leave you with - don't forget what this day is about. Don't forget why you're celebrating and who you're celebrating it with (hint: it's each other).
It will be difficult to hold your ground, but if it keeps you financially sound, do it in your best interest; and if your friends and family were truly close enough to you to understand and support you in that, they would already be invited. But for those that do not understand the financial and emotional hardship that comes with planning and pursuing a wedding, and they decide to make a big ordeal about not being included on your day... maybe they should be the ones reconsidering their relationship to you? I digress... but it's something to think about. A wedding is more than a celebration; for me, it was a mind opener. It helped define me as a person a little bit more. It helped me see myself a little bit clearer, a little bit deeper, and it helped me understand something about society that I wasn't quite able to see before. And if someone asked me whether I would do it all over again...
What would we have done differently? To be specific, no matter what your financial circumstances may be, I might recommend highly considering elopement. A very specific turn of events occurred late in the midst of my wedding planning that made me completely re-evaluate the meaning behind everything I was doing and nearly devalued all the things that came along with a "traditional" wedding - everything seemed so nonsensical to me at the time and I almost wondered why and how I even got myself this far into the process. It was then that I'd realized I wanted almost the complete opposite! What meant most to me weren't the flowers, the cake, the aisle, or even the hors d'oeuvres... what meant most were my vows; my parents; our health; our happiness; our friends; and above all... our love. And the only thing I would've wanted to do was to document the very emotion in all of this. So what I'd probably do, if we had to do this all over again, is probably skip straight to our trip to Iceland, but instead, bring along that photographer and videographer of ours, and just elope. Share our vows somewhere on a cliff or under the mist of a raging waterfall. None of the other fuss or all of those financial woes; we could've just let it go. But you know what they say...
What I am blessed with now, though, is the ability to share my experience, my opinions, and my little life hacks on how we made it through the wedding madness. It definitely goes by quickly, and it was pretty fun to finally plan out my big day just how I've always envisioned it, so enjoy it all while it lasts. You'll be thankful to hear though, that it'll all be over before you know it :) It isn't at all as stressful as people say it is, as long as you plan well enough and have the right people by your side. ♥︎ Thanks for reading it through this far, and I hope my words have at least helped guide someone in the right direction.
This post was not sponsored or affiliated with anyone in any way. All opinions are my own.
All photographs featured in this post were taken by Plum & Oak Photo!