Sooo...I got married about two weeks ago. Let me just say, it was awesome. And I've heard from other people who were there that they thought it was awesome too, so it wasn't just because I was the bride!
We planned this event for about nine months, so I feel like I learned a lot from the experience, and thought it would be good to share with those of you who are planning weddings/thinking about getting married/just interested.
- Get a wedding planner. They've done this a billion times before. They know who to go to for what. They make paying your vendors much easier. But do your research. There are a lot of wedding planners who limit their services to only a few visits or phone calls before the actual day, and may even charge you extra for being there the day of the wedding. To me, this is a bit ridiculous. The woman who we worked with was available to answer any questions we had, was there for the entire day of making sure things were getting done, and probably saved us more money than we paid her for her services.
- Research your venues. Some venues may seem less expensive, but they may not include as much in that cost. Ask the venue if the cost entails any rentals (i.e. tables and/or linens, chairs for ceremony, dance floor, etc.). If these come with the venue, you could save a lot of money. Another thing you may ask is whether you can bring your own alcohol to the venue. If so, you end up saving a lot as well!
- Delegate tasks to bridesmaids/groomsmen/family. Since our wedding was a bit of a destination one, most of our guests took the opportunity to create a little mini-vacay out of it. In doing so, we wanted to put together a few activities to maximize our time with everyone. But with all the planning we were doing for the wedding and honeymoon, we asked for some of the wedding party and our families to pitch in and help plan the activities the days before and the day of the wedding. To make things easier, we had a list of things that needed to get done, and asked for them to speak up on what they were comfortable helping out with!
- Decide what to splurge on, and what to cut back on. From the beginning, we had a set budget, and needed to abide by that. Because we had our hearts set on a photographer who would be more than we planned for, we figured out what wasn't as important to us - because where we were getting married was already so naturally beautiful, we decided for less florals/decorations, and also because it wasn't a formal wedding, I chose a less expensive dress (but totally appropriate for the environment). For some people, the dress may be the most important thing, or the food - whatever it is, make those choices, and rearrange your budget so that you can make it work!
- Speaking of which - think about where you're getting married, and plan the wedding/reception accordingly. We got married outside in Florida in August. It.Was.Hot. We knew it would be, so we didn't want to make the ceremony last excruciatingly long. We also ordered program fans, so the guests could keep cooler during it. As I noted before, my dress was less expensive because it was fairly simple in style (read: less fabric helped me stay cooler!). We also didn't require the men to wear tuxes, or even suits. Eric was the only one in an actual (cotton) suit - while the others just wore shirts and a tie, nice pants and suspenders.
- Decide what traditions are important to you, and skip the rest. We didn't do a garter/bouquet toss, or even cut the cake. But we did see each other before the wedding, announce the wedding party and have a father/daughter and mother/son dance. Why? Well first of all, the garter and bouquet toss always made me feel a little uncomfortable as a single person (hello...I'm already single, do I need to be called out for being so?), and we don't even really like cake that much. But we wanted to acknowledge our friends and family. And we saw each other before hand to help make my walk down the aisle a little less tearful. I wouldn't change that choice either - it was special to have the moment of us seeing each other for the first time be a little more private than it would have been otherwise.
- Don't forget about your groom. He's a part of the wedding too. Eric didn't care about a lot of what went into the planning, but he did care about some of it - such as the music, food/drink, favors. I always tried to keep him in the loop with what was going on and got his input - sometimes it was just "whatever you want, I don't care," but I felt better knowing that he had the opportunity to make decisions as well. There were a few times when I wasn't completely convinced about what he wanted, but still went with it. In 20 years, what really matters besides the fact that you married the love of your life? (And actually, some of those things got some very positive feedback from our guests!)
- Remember who you are as a couple, and try to make your day reflect that. We're mostly a laid back couple who like to have fun. Our family and friends are important to us, and to make this known, we incorporated many of them into the ceremony and reception. We let the bartender serve drinks before the wedding, and people even kept them while seated for the ceremony - why not? We let people eat dinner when they wanted. We gave our guests crazy colored sunglasses as favors (one of Eric's staples), and promoted them wearing them throughout the day/into the night. We wear our sunglasses at night. It was the little details like these that weren't big deals, but were important to us because it helped make the ceremony ours.