As an Indiana Wedding Photographer, I thought I knew a lot about weddings, details, and planning. I thought I knew how to throw a great party, with adorable DIY details, and make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Turns out there are some things you just can't know until you actually go through it yourself. Even after getting a backstage pass to dozens of weddings, the best lessons I learned were through my own wedding planning experience. Perhaps some of these lessons can be helpful to you!
1. Ask, "Does this really matter?"
Early on in our engagement, I lived on Pinterest. I had many ideas, and quickly found out that most of my ideas were going to cost a pretty penny. I remember a conversation between Alex and me about wooden farm tables. I knew I wanted them, and the idea of plastic tables just sounded awful...mostly because the picture in my head did not include plastic tables...gross. After pricing them out I found that I could rent 8 barn tables for $1000, or I could rent 12 plastic tables for $250. I still wanted to fight for those barn tables. Alex asked me to sit on it. He said to really think about if this was important enough to take up 1/5 of our budget. It didn't take me long to realize, that the kind of tables we eat on just doesn't really matter that much. Ten years later I wasn't going to still be kicking myself for not splurging on the wooden tables. From that point forward I asked Alex, my mom, and my friends to keep me in check by continuously asking, "Does this really matter?" In the end we were still married, still in love, and still had a great party...on PLASTIC tables.
2. Traditions don't matter, if they don't matter to you.
Alex and I are not very traditional. Getting married in a church, having a first dance, and shoving cake in each others face just didn't really matter to us. We didn't want to do the traditional wedding things because we thought we were supposed to, or just to fill time. We asked our parents what mattered most to them, and asked ourselves what was most important to us. The answers that stand out were my dad walking me down the aisle, a personal ceremony, and good food! We decided to forego the traditional wedding dance, garter/bouquet toss, and cake cutting(because don't we all just really like brownies better anyway). And the best part is that no one felt like they missed out!
3. You don't have to run everything past your mom.
I really did most of the wedding planning on my own. I would run the occasional idea past my friends and co-workers, but most of my conversations with my mom were not about wedding planning. I see so many mothers and daughters get frustrated and annoyed with each other throughout the planning process. My mom and I did not want that to be us. So, instead of helping make every decision, my mom and I talked about the things they could do that would be enjoyable for them and helpful to us. My dad made a huge easel for one of our signs, my mom took care of our honeymoon, and they both listened while I ran through the execution of the weekend and pointed out any holes in the plan. I think this helped keep us from getting stressed out and frustrated with each other, and the wedding wasn't the ONLY thing we talked about.
4. Surround yourself with your best friends.
Yeah, I know, that should be a given! However, you'd be surprised by the amount of people that choose a wedding party based on making both sides have an equal number, or because so and so had them in her wedding. Alex and I actually struggled a bit at first because we have a lot of friends, but very few really close friends. We landed on asking the people that we would both want by our side that day. It wasn't His friends and My friends....it was our friends. Our wedding party was uneven (Ah! I know some of you are cringing), but the friends that stood up next to us that day could have been standing on either side of us because we both had a relationship with them. They were OUR best friends and I wouldn't change it!
5. A small guest list has its perks.
I'm not even talking about a smaller food budget, or saving on wedding favors! I am a bit of a homebody. I get overwhelmed by big parties or large groups of people. Alex is quiet around people he doesn't know, but is most comfortable around those he knows well. Knowing these things about our nature, we knew a large wedding didn't really make sense for us. We wanted to be ourselves on our wedding day; comfortable, happy, easy. For me, that meant I couldn't even invite my aunts, uncles and cousins (seriously, my family is huge). For Alex, that meant immediate family, grandmas, and a small group of friends. And guess what.... the sky didn't fall in, the world didn't crumble, we didn't even get one piece of hate mail! My favorite perk of a small wedding is that I didn't ever have to catch up with a guest. I wasn't having conversations like "where do you live now?" or "What do you do for a living these days?" We were able to engage in heartfelt meaningful conversations because our guests were our dearest friends.
6. Delegate, delegate, delegate!
The day of my wedding had literally zero stress. I woke up with my best friends, had a latte and bagel at a local cafe, walked through the farmers market, and a stranger bought me flowers because it was my wedding day! It was so great and peaceful. This peaceful morning happened because I was able to delegate everything to amazingly willing friends and family. I worked hard to communicate EVERYTHING and had a point person in charge, someone writing checks, and a wedding packet with key people, important phone numbers, and a detailed schedule of who what when where and how. We even used an iPad app to draw images of the ceremony and reception set up in detail. Doing the work upfront, over communicating, and having some very incredible friends/family gave us the freedom to just enjoy the day and each other.
7. At some point you just have to STOP.
This was Alex's idea, so I won't take credit. We came up with a date where we would be done looking at Pinterest, done adding new things to the list, and done shopping for more. There will always be something more you could have done. There will always be a million ideas you loved but didn't get to, but at some point you just have to make a decision to stop. This gives you a few weeks before the wedding where everything is purchased, made, and planned....and then you just get to sit back, relax, and enjoy your last few weeks of engaged life without being stressed out and rushed.
There are so many more lessons that I learned in the process, but these are the most notable. I am hopeful these lessons will be helpful to you as you plan your big day! If you have helped plan a wedding, what advice or tips would you give to a wedding planning bride?
[Photos for this post provided by Aaron Ottis Photography]