My sister got engaged a few months ago and has started the wedding planning process which got me thinking about all the things I learned along the way when planning a wedding. When we were looking a venues a few weeks ago I kept coming up with things she should know and thought, you know what, why not just write it all down to share with any of you who may also be going through the planning process!
So here it is, my lessons learned from wedding planning. I hope you find it helpful and avoid any of the mistakes that I made!
Planning Timeline – How to know when to do what
This was huge for me. Because I had obviously never planned a wedding before, and did not have a full service wedding planner to help me, I needed to know when things needed to be done by.
I found that the Knot app was the most helpful for me in this area. It offered an interactive checklist that detailed every step of the planning process imaginable and calculated when it should be done based on your actual wedding date.
The app allowed you to remove items that didn’t apply to you, add new to do items, and check things off as they were completed. It also offered a budgeter option that would allow you to enter in expenses and track your spending compared to your budget as you go.
Planning an Outdoor Wedding – Inclement Weather Backup Plan
I know, I know, if you are planning an outdoor wedding the last thing you want to talk about is a backup plan should it be raining on your big day. But, speaking from experience, this is an important topic to discuss with your venue. Make sure your venue has another option, should the weather not go your way, and make sure you like it! The last thing you want is to end up having to use the backup plan and hating it.
We had our wedding at a country club, and then back up option to our outdoor ceremony was to have it on the dance floor in the middle of the ballroom, surrounded by the tables which would be set for the reception. I hated this idea, but thought “it won’t rain on my day, so whatever”. Well, 2 days before our wedding when I saw rain in the forecast, I made my way over to the club and said I could not get married in the middle of that ballroom and that there HAD to be an alternative!
So, after walking around the club, we came across a covered area and I said “how about here?!”. They had never done a wedding there, but that they could make it work! Don’t be afraid to suggest other alternatives to ceremony spaces. Just because a wedding may not have ever been done in a space previously, doesn’t mean they can’t make it work. And make sure you are happy with your inclement weather plan from the beginning, rather than waiting until actual rain is in the forecast!
You CAN Negotiate
I had no idea negotiating wedding prices was a thing until I started talking to a girlfriend who told me they negotiated everything! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to do this, but was also nervous to negotiate because I didn’t want to sound cheap!
There was a photographer that I really wanted to use, but when he showed me his packages and pricing, it was more than I was hoping to spend. So I told him that. I said I wanted to use him but was hoping not to spend more than X amount and he worked with me to come up with an option that would fit into that budget.
Don’t be afraid to ask a vendor to work with you on pricing if their packages don’t fit within your budget.
When to Invite Someone with a Guest
This was a mistake that I made at our wedding. Because Kyle and I got married a little later in life, most of our friends were married. I didn’t want the single guests to feel left out in any way, so I gave EVERYONE an invite with a plus one. I was like Oprah on that episode where she handed out a car to everyone in the audience but for me, it was like “You get a plus one! And you get a plus one!”.
And of all of those people who brought dates to our wedding 2 years ago, I think only 1 of the couples is still together.
My best advice would be that if someone has a significant other at the time you send out your invitations, invite that person and include their partner. But if you have a single friend who isn’t dating anyone, don’t feel obligated to invite them with a guest. A lot of people in those cases will bring someone random, just because, and maybe never even talk to them again after that.
I know other friends who followed more of a 6 month rule. If you had been dating someone for more than 6 months, they got invited to the wedding… if not, they were cut.
At the end of the day, it is your wedding and you have to do what is best for you and your future spouse!
There are Some Things you shouldn’t go Cheap on…
This was another mistake that I had made. I wanted to hire a day of wedding coordinator to handle all of the important details and mitigate any issues that popped up on our wedding day so that my mom and I would be free to enjoy the day.
I interviewed a very reputable company located downtown who had a number of wedding planners that planned multiple weddings each year. I also interviewed someone local, who a few of my friends had used. When the quotes came back, there was about a $2,000 difference. So I of course went with the less expensive planner that my girlfriends had used.
She seemed very knowledgeable and organized in the meetings we had leading up to the wedding, but was less impressive on the day of. While she did help relieve some of the stress that we had hoped to avoid when hiring her, she also made some critical errors, like going missing with our wedding bands. When the officiant said “where are the rings” I said well, our planner has them…. And she was nowhere to be found.
I share this story because it is important to read reviews (which I did not do) and interview your potential vendors prior to hiring them. Don’t just go with someone because their fees came in the cheapest, or because a friend or family member has used them previously.
With this said, also remember to leave reviews for the vendors that you did use (whether it be good or bad) to help other brides in the future.
By the way, someone did finally find her so in the end, we were able to exchange our rings during the ceremony after all 🙂
Getting a Marriage License
I know that every state is different when it comes to a Marriage license, so this is just my experience here in Illinois. I would recommend when getting your marriage license to request multiple copies. The reason for this is if you are planning to change your name, you may be required to send out a copy of your marriage certificate in order to request that your name be changed for certain things. If you only have one copy, this can prolong the process. You also run the risk of it getting lost.
When we applied for our license, we were able to at that time ask for 2 copies (although I wish we would have gotten 4). If you don’t do it when you are there applying, you have to go back in person to request additional copies. And I don’t know about you, but going to any kind of government office more than I have to is the last thing I want to do! So make sure to inquire about this when you go to apply.
In Illinois, you also need to know the birth state of your parents. I had to call my mom from the office to confirm where my dad was born, so you may want to have this information ahead of time!
Changing your last name
I feel like this is something that people just expect to happen. You get married, you change your last name. But let me tell you, if I could go back, I would not have changed my name and here is why.
Think of all the things you have ever put your name on. Every credit card, bank account, frequent flier program, department store, and bill that has ever been in your name needs to be updated. Not to mention your passport and drivers license.
Some of these places require you to send them your marriage certificate, or notarized letters…. I’m surprised they don’t request DNA while they’re at it!
Kyle and I have been married almost 2 years and at this point, it would be less work for me to change my name back, that’s how little I have done because it’s such a pain. This is something people don’t tell you! So, I am here to say that you may want to think twice about legally changing your name. Why not just change your name on Instagram and Facebook, go by your new name, but skip the legal stuff. Your name on Facebook is what really counts, right?!
But in all seriousness, if I had to go back, I would just keep my maiden name… sorry Kyle 🙂
I hope you enjoyed the part one of two on Wedding planning lessons learned! I’ll be posting part of two my wedding planning lessons learned next week, so stay tuned!!
Want more about weddings now? Click here to see my post with tips about wedding registry along with a list of my favorite items off our wedding registry!