With my own wedding looming I thought it’d be fun to write up a list of my own advice for brides-to-be after planning my wedding for a little over two years.
1. Do-It-Yourself: The best fun I had during the planning process was designing and editing everything from the actual invitations to the favor tags to the save-the-dates, plus I saved hundreds of dollars. I could pick and choose what I liked, lay everything out the way I wanted, and I could do it my way, in the time-frame I wanted without relying on anyone. It was beautiful. I received a lot of compliments on the invitations and the save-the-date postcards. Those two were probably the most fun to create. I had the invitations strewn out all over the floor while I meticulously placed pearls on the flowers and glue gunned everything together. I had glue on my fingers and glue in my hair at one point. So. Much. Fun. My fiancé loved the invitations too…we all win!
2. Plan Early: I had the luxury of planning for TWO years. I know, some people want to get married right away, but we had a lot going on when we got engaged, and getting married earlier than 2011 just wasn’t in the cards. I was completely fine with that. I was able to fully develop my vision, interview lots of vendors, and get everything as close to my vision as I could. The average is a year engagement, but I’ve seen people pull together absolutely perfect weddings in 6-months or less. It’ll depend on the the bride, but I can guarantee that the more time you have, the more the wedding can flourish, and the more you’ll have to really enjoy the process. First thing is first, you HAVE to pick you ceremony and reception venue before you book anything else. And, make sure you absolutely love this venue. This solidifies your date, and ensures you actually have a wedding location before you start filling it with vendors. Interview several vendors before settling on “the” vendor. I was lucky in that I worked with several of my vendors through other events so some of my decisions were incredibly easy. But for others, like flowers and make-up I started on http://www.theknot.com, took other brides’ suggestions for my area and went from there. Best wedding planning site of all time. Every single one of my vendors (other than the easy ones) came from a recommendation through theknot.com. I wouldn’t recommend working on any “details” until the big vendors are booked. These vendors will help shape your ideas and colors, and the details can spin off the vendor’s ideas intertwined with yours.
3. Wedding Coordinator: Do you NEED a wedding coordinator? Absolutely not. I promise you can tackle this huge event yourself. My fiancé and I did not want to pour thousands and thousands of dollars into our wedding, and a wedding coordinator was just adding to a miscellaneous expense that is just not needed. For everyone that knows me, this is not new, but I am incredibly organized and a HUGE planner. If you’re completely at a loss for ideas and have no idea where to start; a planner may work for you. But, with all the wedding websites out there, I guarantee you could pull it off on your own and save yourself a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars!
4. Decide on a budget: To be honest, my fiancé and I didn’t really have a budget. We knew we didn’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money, and that was it. But what I did do was look up the averages for vendors/items, so when I went to interviews I knew what was a rip-off and what was reasonable. I then used these averages and my gut-feeling to cut where I saw appropriate. I wrote down every single expenditure, and we definitely stayed within a reasonable area with 55 guests. I would recommend laying out a budget first though. Decide where you want to spend the most money, and decide on an area or two that doesn’t really matter to you. Other secret areas that can help cut costs: Friday or Sunday weddings, out-of-season wedding months, and morning instead of evening weddings. Also, remember that this day is about you and your groom!
5. Don’t underestimate the power of Amazon.com/Zazzle.com/Picaboo.com: These web sites were my saviors. As it got closer to the wedding I found myself relying on online purchases more and more out of convenience, and each time, I was not disappointed. Fantastic prices for one! Sometimes pictures can be deceiving so be careful when ordering things pertaining to color, but for little odds-and-ends items, these sites were amazing. Picaboo did an amazing job on my guestbook!
6. Buy, do not rent: linentablecloth.com, how I love thee. We needed linens for our tables and napkins. I was all for renting, until I saw the ridiculous prices for renting and set-up. Linentablecloth came in and must have saved me hundreds. You can always sell the linens to another bride on ebay, or sell to a friend. You can’t go wrong with a reasonable buy. Check out some of the rental places in your area, and I can promise you that linentablecloth.com will beat the price or come very close. Plus, when you re-sell the linens, you should be able to get at least half your money back. Good deal to me! (Side-note: the quality was amazing.)
7. Research, Research, Research: Don’t be taken advantage of and don’t be naive. Know what you want, what price is reasonable and what your options are. The best way you can do that is to research anything and everything, talk to other newly-weds, and read through wedding websites. This might just be the law student/journalist in me, but once you arm yourself with knowledge your chances of being scammed or duped are low. If you’re not sure of a vendor, and you can’t find information on it, go with your gut feeling. You want to be able to trust that your vendors will deliver when you need them to deliver.
8. Stay Organized: This is huge. I made a binder and kept all my receipts, addresses an phone numbers in one place. It saved me plenty of grief and panic to have everything in one place. You never know when you’ll need a receipt either, so hold onto everything until the wedding is done and long over with.
9. SIGN CONTRACTS WITH ALL YOUR VENDORS: As a law student, I know that a promise may be stated in words either oral or written, or may be inferred wholly or partly from conduct, but it helps to have everything written down if a vendor tries to change something. As long as there was offer, acceptance and consideration…your contract is binding! (Of course, there are exceptions like unconscionability, duress, fraud, but, you get the idea). All changes in the contract should be agreed upon by both parties before they are binding, and PUT IT IN WRITING. To put it bluntly, you do not want to be screwed on your wedding day. This goes for vendors who you personally know too! Do not take anyone’s word.
10. Utilize Connections: Do you personally know an awesome photographer? Is your grandma an amazing calligrapher? Do you work at an engraving shop? To the first and and last question, I could say YES, I DO! Not only will knowing people/places related to weddings help cut down on researching for these vendors, but it will also give you peace of mind. I worked at an engraving store for about two years before law school and utilized my discount when I engraved flutes for our reception. Otherwise, the price would have been absolutely outrageous. I probably would not have done any engraving if not for my discount, and I also had peace of mind because I was doing the engraving! Check around in your family and friends for help, but make sure they are trustworthy, can show you samples of their work, and have them sign a contract to seal the deal (as stated above).