A 10-step guide you probably won’t find on other wedding blogs.
Our wedding was… less than conventional. But it was exactly what we wanted. It was not perfect. But it was pretty much as good as I could have asked for. So I’m going to tell you how to make your wedding everything you could want. These are probably not tips you’ll find on most wedding blogs.
1–Let go of the idea of it being perfect. Imperfections are what makes life interesting. Guests aren’t going to notice small mistakes, and if you’re worrying about it being perfect, you’ll enjoy yourself less. Also, remember that photoshop is a thing–you can always airbrush those minor mistakes!
The way I handled my perfectionism is I stressed the details SO MUCH until the day of my wedding. Then I let everything that went wrong go! I also used a trick I learned in theatre: If it doesn’t bother you from a distance (4–6 feet), then don’t let it bother you at all. No one is bringing a magnifying glass to your wedding.
2–Make some lists with your fiancé/fiancee. Sam and I made 4 lists in the beginning of our engagement for our wedding: Must Have, Want, Do Not Want, Must Not Have (aka-Wedding Will Be Cancelled If This Happens). On the Must Have list we had things from Good Food to Fun to Open Bar. On the Must Not Have list we had Bow Tie for Sam (he hates the way he looks in them!). It can be literally anything, concrete or abstract. Just what you want. These lists get the two of you on the same page, and help any decision making processes: Should I spend $400 on chair covers because this blog told me they were necessary? Was having fabric covered chairs on my ‘want’ list? Then, no. [Actual example from my sister’s wedding.]
3–Find everything you hate about weddings and fix it. Maybe you, like us, don’t particularly care for dancing so you want other activities for guests to be able to do (We chose yard games! One of my favorite weddings had karaoke!). Maybe you think it’s ridiculous to have your bridesmaids spend $200 on a dress that they have no say in, and that, if you’re honest, they’ll only wear once. (My bridesmaid dresses were $50 on Amazon, and many brides let their girls choose any style of dress in a specific color or color range). Maybe you can’t stomach paying thousands for flowers that will literally die within the week (we did fake flowers from Eco Flower). Or maybe you hate bouquets (we did baskets instead, other favorites I’ve seen include lanterns, pinwheels, and balloons).
4–Only sweat the details that bring you great joy. I designed my invitations from scratch, and then printed them on an invitation kit I picked up on clearance at Walmart. Part of that invitation was my envelope liner–but practically no one noticed it. I probably spent at least 8 hours perfecting that–just on design, not including cutting and stuffing–and maybe got 2 compliments outside of people who I specifically showed it to. Still one of my favorite details! A detail I did NOT sweat was having every table full and balanced. We could fit 8–10 people at our tables, some had as few as 6 people. I placed people where it made sense, and didn’t worry about the rest. (But I was fortunate enough to have a venue that was flexible with me on this detail.)
6–Be Organized. I cannot stress this enough. We were able to store things at our venue overnight, but only had 3.5 hours to set up before guests arrived on the day of our wedding. (Thankfully, my venue had already set up the tables and chairs, so everything we did was decor). I had an ultra detailed setup list that I gave to my coordinator, made sure my mother knew most everything, and then put a post-it on every single item for where it should be. I wrote up instructions on how to tape down our aisle runner. We had a table layout map so we knew which tables went where. I arrived at the venue with my hair and makeup done, I only had to make up one table so people could see my vision, and then I had zero setup questions for the rest of the morning while we were taking photos. After pictures, we had some time so I was able to go over everything and make sure it was good. A few of my scoreboards were in the wrong area, but that was it. And let me tell you, my friends and family absolutely exceeded my expectations. A lot wasn’t set up exactly how I envisioned it, but it still looked spectacular.
7–Remember there are NO RULES. Outside of any religious requirements or venue restrictions, the only rules are the ones you place on yourself. Don’t want alcohol at your wedding? Have a dry wedding. Don’t want dancing to be the focus of your reception? Then don’t let it. Want a total of 6 honor attendants? Do it. Want genders on each side of the aisle? Go for it. Want a casual wedding on top of a mountain when 65% of your guests are from the midwest? Why not?! This is where I thank my LGBTQ friends, because they were able to break down the one remaining rule-wall of it has to be a man and a woman, and, with that wall collapsing, the rest of us are free to plan the most off-the-wall wedding we want to. Our wedding was casual, out of order (Toasts happened almost at the end! Dancing before dinner! The horror!), and had a bouncy house.
8–Let your guests know what to expect. This was a tricky one, because I didn’t want people to think I was telling them what to do, but I also knew they would be miserable at my mostly outdoor venue if they showed up in stilettos. So I told them Garden Party Attire, no heels, and to bring a light jacket for the evening on the invitation. On the website, I gave more specific guidelines, because what does Garden Party even mean, really? Here’s what I put on the website:
“This will be a very laid back wedding! Guests are encouraged to wear what they feel comfortable in, and to feel free to use this as a guideline:
Garden Party Attire: Women are encouraged to wear sundresses or a nice summery top. Men are encouraged to wear button down shirts and slacks or nice shorts and polos. Tie optional. Light jackets or sweaters are encouraged, it can get chilly on top of the mountain!
Due to the nature of the venue, high heels are very discouraged. Even the bride will be in flats! Also note that there will be a bouncy house! We have some shorts to throw on under dresses if you want to jump!”
This way guests knew what to expect–not tuxedos and formal gowns–but still could choose what to wear. There are some people who feel the need to wear a suit to a wedding, but many of my male guests were thrilled when they found out it was tie-optional. Also side note to say how unfair it is for men to be able to dress for an occasion. Show up over dressed and shove the tie in your coat pocket. A woman shows up over dressed and is stuck wearing a formal gown to a cookout.
9–Separate your wedding from your marriage. Your wedding reception is a party. Your marriage is a lifetime commitment. You’re working really hard for about a year to plan a big, fantastic party that is everything you could dream of. You’ll be working for the rest of your life to have a long, fantastic marriage. Do NOT make the mistake of prioritizing your wedding over your relationship, and do NOT think that if something goes wrong at your wedding that your marriage is doomed.
10–The ‘most important’ thing is NOT that you get married. This line kills me and I’m certain that every bride hears it at least a dozen times leading up to her wedding day–and it infuriates me! It’s up there with telling an expecting mother that the most important thing is that the baby is healthy. (The most important thing is that the baby is loved and cared for–saying that a healthy baby is the most important would mean that a sick or disabled baby was somehow a failure–not true!) The most important thing on your wedding day is that you and your husband enjoy yourselves.Everything else is gravy or can be fixed. You cannot fix having a bad time at your own wedding. YOU CAN FIX not getting married by going down to the courthouse the next day if something is wrong with the paperwork, or if your religious leader doesn’t show up, YOU CAN FIX not getting married in the eyes of your religion by having a small ceremony after the fact. BUT YOU CANNOT FIX HAVING A BAD TIME. Sam and I had a BLAST at our wedding, because we knew it was the one day that we were surrounded by both families and our closest friends. The next time these two groups of people are in the same place at the same time will likely be one of our funerals, hopefully not for decades and decades to come. So ENJOY IT! Take it all in, take moments to yourselves throughout the day to just soak it in. The day will be through before you even notice.
Honorable Mention: Have a “go-bag” with everything you need in it for that night and the next morning (toiletries, change of clothes, etc) so you don’t have to send your husband into your old hotel room that has all of your stuff but now has a guest staying in it to get your things so you don’t have to wear your wedding dress to breakfast.
Extra Honorable Mention: Stay the heck off of Pinterest and Wedding Blogs unless searching for a specific solution. Otherwise you’ll drive yourself mad with things you’re “supposed” to be doing. Those pictures are often from styled shoots, not even real weddings with real budgets.