From Bride to Bride

I’ve been wanting to do a post about all the things I learned from planning my do-it-yourself wedding and would do differently if I were to do it again. Hopefully this will be of some benefit to you brides planning right now. Of course, if you are anything like me you’ll just read this and say, but that was just her – my wedding will be different. πŸ˜‰

I went into my wedding-planning taking all the things I’ve seen at weddings I’ve attended over the years and wanting to make mine the best of them all (as I think every bride plans!). My two major determining factors influencing the planning were the number of guests and the budget – the former being much larger, respectively, to the latter. I knew that if I wanted to get all my really important “non-negotiables” I’d need to cut cost by doing a lot of it myself, which is what I did. So for those of you thinking the same thing, here’s some advice bride to bride.

1. Establish Priorities: Decide what are the 3 most important elements of the wedding (and by wedding, I am of course including the reception as well). For me it was flowers, invitations and decor – I already had my dress, otherwise that would have been in the top 3 for sure. This will give you a priority list on where to spend your money, time and effort.

2. Be Realistic: Look realistically (as much as you can) at your vision and how much $ you have to make it happen. My vision was round tables with eiffel tower vase centerpieces containing real flowers on white linen table clothes with matching chair covers, lots of twinkle lights and tulle. For me that was a bit much – it all worked out, with my small army of helpers, but I think I would have been just as pleased with a much simpler (aka: cheaper and less time-consuming) centerpiece and still achieved the “look” I was envisioning.

3. On Doing Your Own Flowers: Don’t do your own flowers. My only caveat there would be if you have perhaps only 1 attendant apiece and no ushers, etc. As much as I enjoyed getting to create exactly what I wanted for my bouquet, and my bridesmaides, groomsmen, etc. it was SO stressful having to do all the flowers the day before the wedding! My suggestion would be to go fake if you can’t afford to have a professional do them or find a friend who knows how and have her be in charge of them. I really just needed to be resting that day and getting ready for the rehearsal dinner, hanging with my friends and fam, etc. instead I (with my small army of help πŸ™‚ ) was creating 7 bouquets, 16 boutonnieres, 5 corsages and 20+ centerpieces as well as setting up and decorating the chairs and canopy for the ceremony and the tables for the reception. It was insanity, and I had a complete meltdown later that night, when it still wasn’t done after the rehearsal.

4. Connect with Guests: Do a receiving line – especially if you have a lot of guests. I know it’s cheesy – that’s exactly what we didn’t do one. But as it was, we didn’t get to see hardly anyone personally because we didn’t have one. Our plan was to go visit tables during the reception, but because of weather complications with our pictures we had to exit for about 15 min during the dinner for pics and a lot of people needed to leave shortly after we got back in.

5. Honeymoon Packing: Pack for the honeymoon early on in the week. I was up packing the night before and then again the morning of, and I was a wreck – I could barely remember what I should pack and if I had everything. It was just a huge stress that could have been totally avoided.

6. Transportation: Spend the money to hire transportation for the bridal party – especially if you have a large bridal party! (I had 6 attendants; Joel had 8!) This was something I figured I could totally skip the expense on, and everyone could just carpool from the ceremony to pics to the rehearsal. Bad idea. We had people getting lost, having to wait for everyone to arrive (cutting into already short time to take photos), plus on the return trip there was tornado weather (sirens going off, green sky and sheets of rain), so no one got back to the rehearsal at the same time – people were drenched and some had complete freak outs driving in that. It would have been much less stressful and quite fun to have had a bus or limo to take everyone – so worth the money. Definitely one of the biggest things I would do differently.

7. Day-Of Coordinator: Get someone to be your whole-day wedding coordinator. We had someone for the ceremony, but really I needed someone to be in charge of the timeline and event schedule for the whole day – someone not immediate family and not in the bridal party. As it was I was late getting ready (due to honeymooon packing and the ensuing emotional melt-down), late to getting pre-ceremony pics, forgot my vows (thankfully my pastor had a copy!), we forgot to ask our pastor to pray before the meal and basically I was just navigating telling people when things should happen during the reception. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal, but on your wedding day, you don’t want to be in charge of anything! You need someone to manage it all. So either hire someone for the day or get an organized/leadership-gifted friend to do it for you! This is probably the biggest thing I would do differently; it would have been a huge stress reliever!

8. Invitations: What the invitations looked like was really important to me – it sets the whole tone and theme for the wedding. However, it is just a piece of paper that most people will just throw away! We decided to make our own because the only printed ones I found acceptable were out of my price range. And boy was it a project! I LOVED them, but it took so many hours of work to create and assemble them, plus after it was all said and done I’m not sure that we saved that much money after all. I calculated it would cost $ ______ dollars, and it was almost twice that much. So just know going into it that doing your own may or may not save you money, and it will certainly be a lot of work – especially if you are having a short engagement like I was.

I think those are all my pressing thoughts that I wanted to pass on to upcoming brides who will hopefully glean some tips and wisdom from mine (and others’) experiences. For those of you married, what tip would you pass on that you either loved about your day or wish you could have done differently?

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4 Responses to From Bride to Bride

  1. Abby Hazelwood says:

    Oh Shannon!

    I wish you would’ve posted this before I got married…and I should probably write one myself!

    Overall I know my wedding costs way less than what you read in books (like how to have a wedding under $25,000….WHAT??? How about under $10,000?? $5,000??? Those are so doable!) I got a great deal on my dress (it was originally for $900 and I got it for $600…maybe less) and my veil was one they had ordered in the wrong color for someone else…it was supposed to be $200 and we got it for $75. My mom & I ordered fake flowers for the attendants even though I REALLY wanted real…but it really was outrageously priced to get real ones for everyone…and then my aunt knows how to arrange flowers to she spruced up the fake ones, put together all the boutineres (I know I spelled that wrong), corsages, and other things. We got Wal-Mart invitations and went to a store in Collinsville to have them printed and Brice’s secretary at the time designed & printed out our programs as a wedding present–and they were awesome.

    I had a day-of coordinator–who was like a drill sargeant which was EXACTLY what I needed with 6 bridesmaids, 6 groomsmen, 4 fairies, and a junior bridesmaid. I started my honeymoon packing earlier in the week but all I did for Brice was throw his stuff he had to bring in a pile and told him to pack it…bad idea. He has horrible packing skills and his best man had to run to Wal-Mart before we left for the hotel because one of his suitcases and broken. I however was late getting to the nail salon because I was late getting my bridesmaid & fairy presents ready…something I should have done like two weeks before the wedding! We had a limo (we found the cheapest one) however we forgot to tell our photographer our location and he got lost…so we were like an hour late to our reception…and overall I was not happy with the guy (wasn’t very aggressive…or helpful) and we had a receiving line! That is what I really wanted–it was a long one–but so fun!

    Sometimes I wish we brides could go through the whole day in a dream and see how it was going to pan out so we could fix everything ahead of time…but overall I am now a married woman, had a fabulous honeymoon, and am mostly settled in my house…and for that I am thankful!

    Great post Shannon! I hope others read it and learn from it!

    • Shannon says:

      Thanks for the comment Abby! I think we all wish we could see the day ahead of time and fix everything beforehand! I always joke with Joel and tell him “next time we get married let’s …….” πŸ™‚

  2. Melissa Paisley says:

    It’s fun to hear the ‘behind the scenes’. Your wedding seemed to go perfectly, as far as I was concerned πŸ™‚
    I don’t have many changes (that I would make), like you’ve listed. However, I was able to spend more that I thought… So, I didn’t have to do as much myself.
    Thanks for sharing!

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