Congratulations! You're getting married! I'm sure you've been dreaming of this time in your life since you were a small child, but you may not have been thinking about what tactics you would use to get through the process in one piece! Because it's exactly that – a process. These wedding planning tips are a combination of tips I received from fellow brides, and things that I learned along the way – the hard way, in some cases – as we prepped for our wedding in Grand Cayman.
1. Create a budget and do your best to stick to it, but expect to pay more. This means that you should tack on a $5,000 buffer (more or less, depending on where you are getting married and how extravagant your day may be) to your overall budget. I know, I know… $5k sounds like a lot. But things come up in life. Things DEFINITELY come up when wedding planning: underestimates from vendors, last minute wedding guests, “we just HAVE to have this” decor or favors, “oops, forgot we would need that” vendor items, fine print service fees, the list goes on.
I won't disclose our numbers, but let's just say that we certainly didn't tack on as large of a buffer as we should have! Plan ahead, you'll thank yourself later. If you don't use it… awesome!
2. Comb through your guest list with a fine-toothed comb. Let's be real, you can't invite everyone and their mother. As soon as you invite everyone and their mother, you'll be inviting their mother, their mother's cousin, that cousin's girlfriend and her 3 kids. The guest list is one of the most difficult parts of wedding planning, especially if you have large families, a lot of ‘close' friends, and differing opinions on how big the party should be. Fortunately for us, we were pretty much on the same page when it came to ideal guest count, but you've got to believe there are couples where one wants 50 people and the other wants a serious party on the dance floor, 250 please!
Create a tiered system – the must-haves, the would love to haves, and the (sorry) don't really care either way, but I have to invite them peeps. Are kids invited? You could easily be spending $100-200 a person for food and drink, so the guest list is a surefire way to save a bit if you're list is looking a bit huge. In the end, this list should be pretty refined before you start locking down a venue – you don't want to run into capacity issues! We weren't able to even consider a handful of the private villas we were looking at because we knew we couldn't stay under their capacity limit (this turned out to be a good thing in the end, since we got our dream venue, but we still had a few panic moments when we had to cross off yet another good option).
Expect that approximately 30% of your guests will decline, so that may be factored into your estimated guest count. We anticipated that at least 50% of our invitees would decline since it was a destination wedding, and actually stuck pretty close to our overall count estimate.
3. Take other people's opinions with a grain of salt. You will naturally want to ask your friends, siblings, parents and extended family members for their opinions on certain things, but don't take it to heart if they don't agree with your choices. You will be picking up the phone quite a lot, especially when you are trying to make the biggest decisions – this is totally understandable! You should ask mom and dad if so-and-so will feel offended or take notice if they don't make the guest list. You should pick the brains of friends who recently got married (or friends who are also planning) to find out if the quote you got is out of this world or reasonable.
But for the smaller things, like bridesmaids dresses, color theme, flower choices, processional music, etc. – girl, that's up to you and your hubby-to-be. It's YOUR wedding, so it should be YOUR taste! Trust me, your feelings will be hurt here and there if you're a sensitive person like me – don't let it get to you too much. The day should be your best day ever.
4. Schedule designated “no wedding talk time.” Here's the thing, ladies. I 100% understand how exciting it is to finally be able to plan your *real* wedding, not just your imaginary wedding. This is coming from someone who was buying wedding magazines just days after my husband proposed. Because we chose to get married here in Grand Cayman, the wedding was treated as a destination wedding because the majority of our guests were coming from the U.S. This meant that pretty much all of our planning happened between the two of us and our wedding planner – it was a lot of work! On top of that, we are both pretty busy worker bees so when we finally got to settle in after a long day, it was too easy to tumble into the “wedding planning trap.” Don't let your planning absorb your relationship. Even if you set aside an hour each day, perhaps dinner time, where you can talk about anything but wedding tasks… it's really important that you remember that it is ONE day of your life and you had plenty of other things to talk about prior to getting engaged.
5. Make lots of lists, take notes, and do your research. Unless you've had every fine detail of your wedding planned out since you were a kid, you've got a lot of research ahead of you. Where are you going to get married? Will the ceremony and the reception take place at the same location? Who is doing your hair and makeup? What needs to be DIY and what can you afford to have done for you? Will you have open bar? What style dinner service will you have? DJ or live band? Heels or flats? How many hours of photo? Will you have a videographer? The. List. Goes. On.
Along with your budget, make a spreadsheet outlining all major and possible expenses, when you hope to have each vendor booked, and what your options are. You will be receiving a lot of quotes, you will want to negotiate, you will change your mind a bunch of times, and you will exchange thousands of emails. Get a wedding planning diary, make your lists, check them twice, and write down names, phone numbers, what you were told and when. You'll be referring to that bad boy all the way through wedding week! I can't even begin to explain how helpful it was for me as the details fell into place.
6. Take the help when it's offered. Our families saved our butts in the weeks leading up to our wedding. Like I said, it was hard for anyone but us and our planner to do anything because we are abroad, but our families flew down to Cayman early to help us with our DIY projects. If we hadn't had the extra help, I a) wouldn't have gotten the projects done, b) would have grown a head full of grey hairs before I even made it down the aisle, and c) would have had multiple mental breakdowns.
They say that wedding planning should be a fun and enjoyable experience. Well, I am going to be blunt with you. It is – but only to an extent. You will get overwhelmed and it won't all be rainbows and butterflies. So, if someone offers help with something you aren't feeling overly controlling over, take it! You want it to be a happy time, right? Minimize the stress!
7. Complete your planning tasks at least 3 days before wedding day. Ha, ha, ha, Katie. Real funny. I'll be honest, we sure didn't. But if I had found a way to be a little more on top of the DIY stuff, I would have been able to focus more of my attention on my fiance, my visiting family and friends, and my upcoming wedding day. Don't get me wrong, I managed to enjoy myself. But I could have been better! We were finishing up some of the wedding signs and the guest seating display on the morning of the wedding, before hair and makeup started. Yikes.
This is when you refer to those lists and spreadsheets so you can be productive during the months and weeks leading up to the #bestdayever. If you have time to really treat yourself… relax, get a massage, take a hot bubble bath, and indulge!