I have a ton of friends getting married and planning weddings (( #coronabride am I right?! )) and many of them have reached out to get some tips and tricks for their big day. I remember the stress we experienced during our months of planning and scurrying to make our wedding day “perfect.” Let me assure you that eventually you will find a moment to breath and get your heart rate back to normal. For my type A readers or those who actually hired a planner.. it may be a week before you say “I do.” For me… it came a few days after the ceremony. Okay maybe a few weeks. There’s a bit of an excitement high that you have to come down from. Plus we had a ton of decorations to sort through and thank you notes to write. By the way – look for the laughs throughout all of these steps. They’re there. And it’s all part of the big celebration anyways. J was my go to stamp-licker for our thank you notes, save-the-dates, and wedding invitations. And if you know him, you know he can even turn that into a show. Give yourself permission to laugh.
I do have some things I learned along the way that I hadn’t read during any of my research and preparation. And trust me, there was a LOT of reading in the months after we got engaged. These 17 tips may not be something you’re interested in or things that work for you. Or you may choose to include all of them. I think there is so much value in hearing about other weddings up and downs and the in-betweens guests didn’t even know about. (You can read all about our in-betweens here!)
I love that there is so much detailed advice floating around the internet to help you plan your ideal wedding. It’s funny, though, when I think about it. I wish there were this many step-by-step guides on how to be an ideal wife, how to not nitpick everything your husband does. how to teach your dog to fold all the laundry, and other impossible tasks that would make marriage easier. Anywho… here’s a few things I’m SO glad we did for our big day and some that I wish we would have thought of.
Disclaimer- We did not hire a planner. We did stay way under our budget. We planned everything in six months. Many people have said it was the most fun wedding they’ve every been to. This part I do not include to brag, because that had nothing to do with me or James. We just have awesome people in our lives, and it was fun to connect our worlds. Plus there was tons of cake and a mashed potato bar.
- ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO BE INVOLVED. I can’t say this enough. This was huge. It not only made our day more personal, but it was fun for them. The Lord has definitely blessed some of our favorite people with big talents. And we took advantage of it for sure! Yes we paid some of them, depending on the task, and we were happy to do it.
- Keep decor simple, especially if your venue is beautiful in itself. I don’t even remember much of the decor we chose. To be honest we didn’t even have a set plan when we got there. We had boxes full of spray-painted mason jars, some fake – yes fake – flowers, and some Smilax we literally pulled off of a friend’s house/garden. (Kuddos to my mother-in-law for this idea!) But South Carolina is beautiful in March. God’s creation is green and fresh and eye-catching as it is. We didn’t want to take away from that. I printed table numbers off Etsy the week before, found some chargers on Amazon, and we ran with it. But it was seriously lovely.
- Designate a grandparents dance. This was my mom’s idea, and it was absolutely unforgettable. After I danced with my dad and J danced with my mom (and after the BIG SURPRISE you can read about here), we called up all of our grandparents to join us. Two songs were played – each of my grandmothers’ favorites, and we invited everyone to join in dancing to the second song. These pictures are some of my absolute favorite.
- Be yourself. Watching our wedding video, it was clear that we didn’t stray from who we really are to fit the “perfect wedding picture.” James did… his famous dance (( #iykyk )). I greeted people as I walked down the aisle, laughed through much of the ceremony, and sat in my dress crisscross applesauce on the bathroom floor for a while with my friends, because it was where we all needed to be for a bit. It’s okay to not be traditional or follow the “rules” of weddings. Be you.
- Games – we had a ton of yard games set up thanks to my grandparents. They were so awesome and picked things everyone could enjoy together. They were a big hit- not just at our ceremony but also for the groomsmen during the hours of hanging out before the ceremony. I also made some custom coloring pages that we set out at every table that had kiddos. Some of the little ones even gave me their pictures, which was such a cute keepsake!
- Have comfortable shoes to wear. Yes I wore converse. Yes I customized them. My dress was long anyways. Plus I just love converse and wear them to everything. (Prom, high school graduation, college graduation… everything.) Comfy shoes are the way to go on your wedding day, trust me! No broken heels. No blisters. No problem.
- Spend the money on food. This is something that many brides go in thinking, “we don’t need to spend a crazy amount on food.” I get it. I was you. Looking back, though, the experience that the caterers offered by not only cooking delicious food, but also setting up, passing out, and cleaning up their mess, made the night much more stress-free.
- Choose someone to officiate your ceremony that knows what they’re doing and also knows you both really well. This was the best detail for me. I don’t even really remember it much because I was so happy and excited to be there- the whole day was a blur. But I do remember that Izzy (our officiant) knew what to do and say, and he also knew J and I both very well. He could connect with us and to everyone watching. I love stories and he shared ours well… pointing everyone back to the One who we have to thank for everything.
- REMEMBER – it’s okay if things don’t go as planned. We forgot our first touch. I had pinned pictures of this for years. But it’s okay, because we were both enjoying time with our favorite people and simply forgot.
- Cake table- why pick one cake flavor when you can pick 5. Everyone loved this idea. Plus it was WAY cheaper than getting a fancy shmancy wedding cake!
- Let your bridesmaids pick their dresses. If you’re not going for the 100%, don’t dictate what they wear so that they look “same same but different.” To be honest, I wasn’t sure how all of ours would look once we put them all together, but these ladies looked STUNNING. And they all got to wear something that fit their style so they can wear it again.
- Unpopular opinion but… let the kids come. I guess the fear is that they’ll laugh or scream or shout for their mom during the ceremony. So what if they do? It will give you a second to breathe and calm your nerves. I think I counted them each as half a person when counting for food. I’m so glad they joined us.
- Write your spouse a note. It’s special. You’ll both probably cry. And reading it will stop time just for a minute on that crazy day.
wedding details I wish I had thought of beforehand
- I wish I took more pictures with my brother. That is all.
- I wish James and I had walked around and talked to everyone more at the rehearsal dinner instead of saving that for the reception. It was a much more casual environment. Plus we had more time and a better head space. I actually lost J for much of our reception- ha! I don’t think this is normal. We both just were so excited to see our friends and family. But for those out of town guests who we rarely see, I wish we would have known to talk to them more at the rehearsal dinner because our time was limited at the reception.
- Write bridesmaids notes- but do it early. I loved giving my ladies notes to thank them for their friendship. It made the group celebration much more personal. The days of planning slipped away from me though, and I spent too much time when we were getting ready that day to finish up these notes. Definitely don’t skip this. Just do it early.
- Designate someone to help clean up where you got ready. We forgot this part. J and I stayed in the little cottage that me and the ladies did our hair and makeup in, and then we had to wake up early to clean before we left. Not our best planning.
Planning is the tough part. But there are enough guides online to help you do it without a planner. I bought my dress online. J wore shoes that I bought him for a wedding two years ago. The flowers on the tables were all fake and the guests didn’t even know.
Our wedding day really felt like us, and it was a celebration with everyone who helped shape us into exactly what the other one needed in a spouse.