Most brides start planning a wedding having never done it or thought about it in detail before. After all, there's not a lot of need for knowing the difference between escort cards and place cards outside of the wedding world! But what about the wedding pros? With their years of experience planning, designing, documenting, and paying attention to the details of countless other brides' weddings, these engaged ladies must have it all figured out, right? Well, it turns out even wedding professionals learn a thing or two along the way, so we got in touch with a few of our favorites to find out what they've picked up on the path to "I do."
Scale it Down
"Don't try to cram everything into just a few hours," says Michelle Fernie, founder of Michelle Elaine Weddings. "The day goes by so fast, so focus on what is most important instead of trying to include a performance, five outfit changes, and toasts from all 15 bridesmaids." Try not to get too caught up in Pinterest and wedding blogs, or get bogged down in trying to get your wedding published. Instead, focus on making it what you really want it to be.
Trust Your Vendors
"Do your research and pick someone who fits your style and budget, then trust that they'll have your best interest in mind and will execute your vision," says Kayle Walker, owner of Petal & Bean Floral & Event Planning. "And be completely honest with them. Admit when something isn't your expertise, and trust their opinion because they're an expert!" Adds Erika Wilson of Stacie Shea Events, "No matter how hard you try, something will not go according to plan. Let your vendors take care of it: They've probably seen these hiccups before!"
Give Good Directions
"Always make sure your transportation knows exactly where they're going!" says Bethany Michaela of the Sojourner Society. "I can't tell you how many horror stories I have of people showing up late to their own wedding, or guests arriving an hour after they were supposed to." So don't rely on GPS, and make sure to triple-check those directions!
Have Fun Dress-Shopping
Some brides, for whatever the reason, totally dread the wedding dress shopping experience — but don't. "As a plus-size gal, I was so nervous, but you've got to get a dress, so I made an appointment with my mom and my closest friends. I was worried nothing would fit, but to my surprise, even if the dresses didn't fit my shape exactly, I was able to try on different shapes and styles and still felt beautiful!" says Walker. "Find a salon that's welcoming, and pick an entourage that will be helpful and supportive."
Set and Prioritize Your Budget
"I know everyone says this, but if you don't set a budget from the beginning, things can get out of hand quickly," says Walker. "Make a list of the things you want, then prioritize them to figure out where the majority of the money will go." She also advises setting realistic expectations and doing lots of research. Jennifer Cruz, founder of Jennifer Cruz Beauty Group, seconds prioritizing all the details with help from your fiancé. "I'm not the floral type of girly girl, and would rather have lots of candles. Our family thinks it's crazy, but we'd rather spend the extra money on great wine and live music!" Michaela continues, "If someone else is helping to pay for your wedding, find out if there are strings attached to how it's spent — make sure everyone's expectations are clear from the get-go."
Make Strategic Choices
When you're figuring out your budget, be creative with ways to save that will allow you to spend more later. "I ended up choosing a lower-end venue, which meant we had more in the budget to spend on food, music, and décor. It also gave us a blank canvas that we could turn into the venue of our dreams," says Walker. "I've seen too many couples pick venues that are $20,000 after food and beverage, leaving them with nothing left to spend on decorations. Sure, your guests will see the nice venue, but they'll also see where you had to skimp in order to pay for it." Along the same lines, Walker advises cutting out favors as a way to keep some money in your pocket. "People never take them home, and your feelings end up hurt when you have a pile of favors left over. Save the money for something else or, if you really want to have a favor, consider sending a favor-like item as the save the date or as part of the welcome bag."
Be True to You
If you're bold and colorful, don't tone it down for your wedding day! Says Walker, "I have a yellow diamond engagement ring and am including layers of burgundy tulle in my custom wedding gown. People tried to talk me out of it, but I'd rather have a ring in my favorite color and a dress that matches the fall's deep, moody colors than something more traditional." She advises asking yourself whether you'll regret the decision in 10 years (and answering honestly!), and if you're 100% confident in doing something different, go for it!
Do a Trial-Run
"Always have a hair and makeup trial before your wedding day," says Cruz. "Everyone has a different idea of what natural makeup and a simple updo means, from a dark brown smokey eye and a burgundy lip to barely a step above lip balm, so this is your chance to get comfortable with what you want and make sure your artists are on the same page." It also helps to get to know your hair and makeup artists before your wedding day — you'll be spending the whole morning with them, after all!
Hire a Wedding Planner
This is the number one way to make your wedding planning process less stressful, and even people who do this for a living think having someone else in charge is the way to go. "No matter how involved you were in the planning process, pass the torch to someone else on your wedding day," says Wilson. "Remembering the day will be tough enough without trying to execute the whole thing, too. You hired your vendors for a reason, so let them take the lead."
"In my opinion, you should be classy and elegant on your wedding day," says Fernie. "Don't yell at your parents or vendors, and don't snap at people if they don't listen to you. At risk of sounding like an old lady, I've seen stunning brides turn red in the face screaming at vendors (or guests!) and it just isn't becoming." And it isn't just on your wedding day: Make sure you're kind, appreciative, and understanding with all of your friends and vendors throughout the entire process, even when you hit a bump in the road. Instead of letting it get to you, Fernie says to relax, smile, and let the little snafus go. Which brings us to our last point...
Remember What the Day is About
"It's a celebration of your love and union," says Cruz. "It's easy to get caught up in the music, the flowers, and the little details, but none of that is as important as the person you'll be saying 'I do' to." Adds Wilson, "Relax and take in the experience of being a bride. Focus on marrying your best friend and celebrating with your family and friends. Don't worry about anything, grab a drink, and go have fun!" Fernie concludes, "When I see a bride getting flustered, I tell her to close her eyes, think of her groom, and focus on the relationship and love that they share — it's the best way to calm down!"