Bells rang, vows were exchanged, music played, and your wedding day is over. After all is said and done, you’re left with endless wonderful memories that will go down in history as one of the best days, and times, of your life.
If you’re lucky, everything went smoothly, but regardless there are always pieces of advice that you’ll put in your back pocket for future brides. With my wedding just a month behind me, my experience feels like it was just yesterday, and all the planning and to-do’s remain fresh. Though I hear that “just yesterday” feeling never goes away, I did feel it was necessary to pass along a few little tricks of the trade that I learned while they’re still top of mind. After all, there’s no one better to give advice than someone who just went through it!
1. First things first: Book your venue.
This can’t be overstressed as it all stems from the venue. Within a week of being engaged, I had picked out countless dresses to try on, decorations to explore and colors to combine. While it was fun to dream up many different themes, the fact is that you only get one wedding day, and many of my initial efforts were wasted as a result of not being focused enough.
Truly, I was all over the map — one day trying on beaded dresses fit for winter, and the next pinning summer-themed floral inspiration — which ultimately led to unnecessary frustration until a venue and date was decided upon. Had I started with the venue (which typically also means securing a date) I would have been much more productive in the beginning stages of planning.
2. Make an inspiration board.
Inspiration boards are helpful for many reasons, the primary being that they help identify common ideas you’re gravitating toward. Until you see all the pieces of the puzzle in one place, it’s so hard to visualize how everything will come together, which is why they’re so helpful when planning an event like a wedding.
My chosen method while planning was Pinterest (Here was the inspiration board for my wedding), but in hindsight I wish that I would have printed all of the ideas that I stumbled upon throughout the process and made a big, real life board. As I winged a lot of my DIY projects and touches without seeing them done before, it would have been helpful to have all the details that I did have visual references for on hand. I kept taking out my phone and scrolling through my Pinterest inspiration board, which was definitely helpful, but perhaps not the best way to keep sane with a million things going on.
3. Lists are your best friend
…As evidenced by this blog post!
In all seriousness, wedding planning lists & resources kept me sane. I hadn’t really thought about my wedding prior to kicking off planning, so I really had no idea what to do, when to do it, and the ideal timing on things. Lists like this one from RealSimple helped to keep me organized throughout it all. What I loved most about these lists as opposed to making my own, was that the to-do items were broken down by month. This kept me in check on timing and even allowed me to get ahead of the game on months where I already had many of the items completed.
4. Once a decision is made, don’t look back.
With so many decisions to make throughout the process, there’s no room for second guessing yourself. My wedding dress was the perfect example of this. I was choosing between two very different dresses initially, and once my decision was made, I kept second guessing my choice. Ultimately I stuck with my original decision, and I’m so happy that I did because I ended up loving it. But there was an interim month there when I slowly drove myself mad, constantly looking at pictures of the dress I didn’t choose. Finally I put my foot down and reminded myself that there was a reason I chose the dress that I did – it was a gut feeling that I shouldn’t second guess. All the back and forth seems so silly in hindsight, because here’s the ultimate truth above anything else: There is no wrong choice. Everything will turn out fabulous, especially if you remain confident in your decisions.
5. Accept help
At first, I didn’t. I thought that asking for help and opinions was a bother for others, so I kept all the details to my now-husband and I. After a few months, my mom called me up and said, “I just want you to know that I want to help. This should be fun for you, not stressful. Please don’t be afraid to give me things to do.” At that point, it hit me: The people close to you want to be involved and a part of the planning. From that point, when someone asked if I needed help and I genuinely did, I delegated. My parents even came in for a weekend where we did nothing but DIY projects, which ended up being so much fun.
6. Over communicate
There’s no such thing as being too communicative when planning one of the biggest days of your life. The people surrounding you will be looking to you as the driver of it all, so you need to be prepared to express your opinions clearly, articulately and in an organized way. It is not, I repeat, NOT rude or off-putting to have an opinion on how things are done for your wedding. In fact, people need clear direction from you on how things should come together, or else it’s confusing for those trying to help. Have an opinion and don’t be afraid to express it! All in a kind way, of course.
7. Prepare notes, gifts and speeches well in advance.
The final weeks leading up to the big day will be filled with so many things to do that it’ll be hard to keep it all straight. Adding speeches, pending thank you notes from bridal showers, gift bags, etc. will make it that much more stressful. If you’re able to, get all these things checked off the list as soon as possible so that you can be more focused and less stressed once your day rounds the corner.
As you can see, Part I of my “Lessons learned” was all about the planning process. Overall, if I had to consolidate my lessons learned into one sentence, it’d be to simply have fun and don’t take things too seriously. It’s such a unique time of life – be sure to enjoy every moment!
Be on the lookout for Part II coming next week, where I’ll dive into key lessons for the actual wedding day.
About Emily: Emily lives, works and plays in the skyscrapers of Chicago. By day she’s a digital advertising professional and by night she blogs at Isn’t That Charming, where she documents *Inspiration for a charmed life*. Follow along on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!