Any bride who has spent even just one afternoon wedding planning knows it takes an enormous amount of organization. With dozens of decisions, both big and small, on your horizon, creating a fine-tuned budget, laying out a well-planned timeline, and paying extreme attention to detail are key. And since this is likely your first time organizing such a large-scale event, it's easier than you'd think to fall prey to the pitfalls of wedding planning.
So where should you begin so that your wedding planning starts on solid footing? "Once your budget is established, you can make smart decisions on hiring the right team of vendors who work best with your personalities and will execute your vision for the day," says Sarah True, owner and creative director of True Event, based in Madison, Connecticut. "By having these discussions early, it will set the tone for the overall planning and result in less stress as you go through the process."
Still, even the most vigilant bride can be steered off course, and you don't want to make the same mistakes other brides have made. As you pore over Pinterest, try on gowns, sniff flowers, choose invitation suites, sample cake selections, scout venues, and book your honeymoon, refer to this list of the 50 major mistakes brides seem to make while planning their wedding, courtesy of expert planners and vendors.
You Don't Put Yourself First
Before tapping into Pinterest, buying magazines, or bookmarking blogs, take time to think about the type of celebration you want. Do you envision a black-tie evening affair or a more casual daytime party? "List your priorities," says Mary Thornton, owner and event planner at Party Party in Fairfield, Connecticut. "What is most important to you? Are you a foodie, or is music your thing?" This kind of pre-planning will make both selecting a venue and setting a budget much easier.
You Don't Consider Your Guests
Your friends and family will likely travel, and at considerable expense, to attend your wedding, so make sure they are comfortable. Provide transportation to and from the ceremony and reception, and stock their hotel rooms with basics like drinks and snacks. If your wedding is a weekend-long destination affair, arrange group activities both the night before the wedding and the morning of, time permitting.
You Buy Your Wedding Dress Before Choosing the Venue
Before booking your bridal-salon appointments, make sure you know the type of wedding you're planning and where. "Yes, you can wear whatever you want," says Ashley Douglass, owner and creative director of Ashley Douglass Events, "but if you purchase a low-key gown and you end up booking the Plaza, you may wish you went bigger and bolder, with the venue in mind."
You Announce Your Engagement Too Soon
Remember to share the big news with your inner circle before updating your status on social media. Tell your family and closest friends first, preferably in person, or by phone or Skype (so they see the ring!) if they're long-distance. Then change your Facebook status. And after the outpouring of congrats, be sure to post a quick thank-you to the well-wishers.
You Rule Out a Wedding Planner Altogether
The most stressful planning period? The week before the big day. That's when handfuls of unforeseen details arise, leaving some brides sorting out spreadsheets instead of connecting with friends and family. Avoid this by hiring a "week of" or even "day of" planner. He or she will handle last-minute vendor meetings and put out fires so you don't have to. If budget is a concern, some planners even offer hourly services.
You Include Your Registry Info on Your Invites
It may sound old-fashioned, but word of mouth is still the best way to loop everyone in on your registry. Make sure that those closest to you (your parents, his parents, the wedding party) have your registry details handy because they will likely receive phone calls and emails from inquiring guests. Another way to easily share registry details is via a wedding website with a distinct URL.
You're Too Strict With Social Media
Chances are your guests will understand if you ask them to avoid taking pictures during your ceremony or posting anything until after it's over. They likely won't be on board with your limiting their sharing the festivities on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook in the days preceding and following your wedding.
There's a Large Time Gap Between the Ceremony & Reception
If your ceremony and reception are at different venues, do your best to minimize the in-between time, which may leave guests with nothing to do. If a large time gap is inevitable, make sure they have the option of being entertained by planning an outing or setting up a hospitality lounge, with drinks and snacks, at the hotel where they will be staying.
You Feel Obligated to Rock an Updo
Never worn an updo a day in your life? You don't have to start on your wedding day. Wear your hair in whatever style makes you feel prettiest. If that means an updo, great. If you'd prefer an intricate fishtail braid you found on Pinterest, go for it. If it's simple waves, let your hair down.
You Skimp on Bridal Party Gifts
It's important to thank your attendants with a tangible gift to show your appreciation. Sit down with your fiancé and consider what you've been asking financially of your wedding party. Many spend upwards of $1,000 on flights, attire, and hotels. You're certainly not required to match what they've spent, but the amount should convey a sincere gratitude for how much time, effort, and money they have put into your wedding. As a rule of thumb, something between $75 and $150 should suffice.
You Don't Feed Your Vendors
The last thing you want on your wedding day is a low-energy DJ or an exhausted photographer. So plan on feeding any hired hands who will be working during the reception. This includes your wedding planner, photographer, videographer, and DJ or band, plus their assistants (but not your florist or the ceremony musicians). Work their meals into your budget and consider it part of their fee. (Many vendors stipulate in the contract that the couple is to provide a meal.)
You Elope Without Thinking It Through
Thinking of running away to Europe to tie the knot? Don't forget to swing by your local city hall first. "Make sure you check off everything on the legal to-do list," says Lindsey Nickel, founder of Events, Etc. "Remember, you still need an officiant and a witness to be legally married in the U.S. And many countries have different residency requirements in order to be married there officially, so don't forget to get your marriage certificate at home before you jet off."
Then You Downplay Your Elopement
Just because you're eloping doesn't mean that the day isn't special; it's still your wedding, and there is reason to be excited and celebrate. "Don't forget to indulge in the bridal aspects of your day," says Nickel. "Get a special dress and a bouquet and perhaps even set up a table, complete with your dream centerpiece and a bottle of champagne, for dinner for two." When you return home, announce your elopement to family and close friends.
You Send Thank-You Notes Late
Let's set the record straight: You do not have a year to mail your thank-you cards. Instead, for gifts received for the engagement party or shower, send a thank-you within two to three weeks of the festivities; for gifts sent before the wedding date, send a card as soon as possible but definitely before the wedding; for gifts given on the wedding day itself, mail a thank-you note within three months; and for gifts received after your wedding, send one within two to three weeks.
You Don't Say Hello to Everyone
These days, most couples forgo the formal post-ceremony receiving line. Instead, make it a point to circulate among the reception tables after dinner. If you've got a large guest list, schedule the table greetings into the day-of timeline and make an effort to find something sincere and personal to say to each guest. Another idea is to hand-deliver your wedding favors as you make your table rounds, since it's the perfect way to catch everyone. Just make sure to keep moving; don't get held up at one table for too long.
You Mistreat Single Friends
Sure, weddings are a great place to meet people, but don't throw all your single friends haphazardly at one table. Instead, seat people based on their shared interests, not marital status. Go through your guest list and draw parallels. Connect guests with similar hobbies, jobs, or interests, and try to make everyone feel comfortable by offering a mix of familiar and new faces at each table.
You Put Your Bridal Bling in Harm's Way
"Remove your ring when cleaning or touching harsh chemicals," says L.A.-based jeweler Susan Foster of Susan Foster Jewelry. "Bleach and other cleaning agents can dull the finish of a ring and actually harm porous colored gemstones like emeralds."
You Set Predictable Tables
Chances are, you and your guests have attended countless weddings with uniform round tables topped by a single floral arrangement. Add some personality by changing it up. "The room looks more interesting when each table is different," says San Francisco–based Studio Choo's Alethea Harampolis. Try experimenting with table shape, alternating round, square, and rectangular tables. Then mix larger vases with small groupings of greenery or bud vases with a single bloom.
You Forget the Power of Paper
We've conceded many great things to the digital realm, but physical invitations and thoughtful handwritten thank-you notes will never go out of style. Enjoy the process of designing them with a talented stationer or editing them yourself with premade styles. But either way, make them special!
You Limit Yourself When It Comes to Dresses
When trying on gowns, remember that not every style dress flatters every figure. Piecemeal gowns, for example, or those in which "the bodice is one style and then the hip or skirt is a completely different fabric or texture...don't transition smoothly and can visually cut the body in unflattering ways," explains Kleinfeld Bridal's fashion director, Terry Hall. Likewise, thin fabrics such as silk charmeuse or chiffon skim the body and tend to magnify every little detail.
You Don't Think Beyond "Per Head"
Couples often build their budget around a per-head price, forgetting the extras—flowers, band, photographer—that aren't included in most venues' packages. These extras can often double the price per head, sending couples way over budget. Instead, think in terms of a fixed total and divvy each element by a percentage of that amount.
You Don't Do Your Floral Research
Read up on flower costs, temperament, and fragrance before you select your arrangements. The peonies you love may be cost-prohibitive if you are getting married when they are not in season, and lilacs, gardenias, lilies of the valley, and hydrangeas may wilt in the hot summer sun. Don't put perfumey flowers like lilies on the table since they can overpower the food. If you must have them, carry them in your bouquet.
You Overdose on Hair Product
It's tempting to load up on lotions, serums, and sprays, but greasy hair isn't exactly an ideal look under your veil. Limit smoothing and antifrizz products to a few drops, and go easy on your roots. (Since they're right near your scalp, that's where hair is naturally greasiest.) On the night before your wedding, skip the intensive hair masks and instead shampoo your hair and condition only the ends. Your hair be will much easier to style on your wedding day.
You Think You're a Professional Cake Baker
While asking your mom to make your favorite dishes or baking 50 pies yourself the week of the wedding might seem like a way to personalize the day and save money, the menu is really best left to a caterer. A professional will know how to properly estimate the amount of food to buy and how to prepare a meal on a large scale, when to serve different courses, and how to accommodate guests with dietary needs or restrictions. Plus, when things go wrong (like running out of ice), you won't be left assigning your uncle to dash to the nearest store.
You Go Trendy With Your Lipstick
Skip the trendy red-carpet looks, says Jody Formica, resident makeup artist with Laura Mercier, and opt for you, but better. "Nude lip color is all the rage, especially when paired with a smoky eye, but nude can make your lips completely disappear, especially in the group photos," she says. "Consider a neutral color that has a fresh kiss of berry, peach, or rose, enough to distinguish your lips from the rest of your complexion."
You Don't Carve Out Enough Time for Hair & Makeup
"The time spent getting ready should be as relaxed and fun as possible, but once you find yourself behind schedule, the pressure can build to catch up," says Bruce Plotkin, a New York– and Connecticut-based wedding photographer. Work on a day-of plan with your hair and makeup pros, then pad the time your wedding party has with each to ensure you're properly photographed before you embark for the ceremony.
You Overschedule Your Photographer
While a detailed list of the day's schedule and the who's who for family portraits is essential, if you micromanage your photographer, you miss out on unplanned shots that are essential to a great album, says Plotkin. Instead, once you've provided the photographer with these basics, give him leeway to capture the best shots without having to check on a list throughout the day or night.
You Overcomplicate Your Invites
Brides often stuff their invitations with hotel contacts and maps for their out-of-town guests. Save the paper and the hassle by sending a group email to out-of-towners, which can include information on hotels, restaurants, directions, points of interest, and more. Guests can print the information if they choose or simply pull it up on their smartphones when they arrive in town.
You Get DIY-Happy
Tempted to cut your budget by playing florist and photographer? Think again. Tackling your own flowers means you'll be buying and arranging your stems the morning of your wedding, then delivering them to your venue when you should be relaxing with family. And while your cousin may have thousands of Instagram followers, she's unlikely to capture the lighting, get an assortment of candids, or anticipate the day's flow the way a professional photographer would.
You Can't Let the Little Things Go
Many brides can count on at least one hand the details that did not go according to plan. The key is to let them happen and enjoy the day. "Once the venue is determined, the vendors have been selected, and the guest list is finalized, it is important to remember that ultimately you are a host to a massive celebration," says Sarah True, owner and creative director of Madison, Connecticut, based True Event. "If you can ask yourselves, 'Did our guests have a great time?' and the answer is yes, then chances are you had a great wedding."
You Forget to Eat
Too many brides forget to feed themselves and the bridal party on the wedding day. It's important to pre-arrange more than just nibbles for your entire crew—especially if you aren't primping in your own home. You'll want enough sustenance so you're not feeling lightheaded or faint during the ceremony.
You Don't Match Your Bouquet to Your Dress
Heavy, awkward bouquets are impossible to clutch gracefully and end up covering more of the dress than many brides would like. Bring a photo of your dress to your floral appointments so your florist can see what you will be wearing and match the shape and size of your bouquet correctly.
You Put Your Ring Through Needless Wear & Tear
"A diamond is one of the world's hardest natural materials," explains Adelaide Polk-Bauman, a diamond expert with Forevermark, "but that doesn't mean a cut and polished diamond cannot chip. Sometimes the table of a cut diamond can be susceptible to wear and tear. Be sure not to knock it against other hard materials."
You Don't Account for Hidden Costs
From last-minute seamstress charges to cash tips for deliveries, most brides rack up hundreds in extra fees the week before the wedding. While it's logical that some surprise charges will crop up, spend some time creating a spreadsheet of anticipated week-of fees so you have the correct funds at your disposal.
You Invite Non-Wedding Guests to Your Pre-Wedding Parties
The bridal shower is intended to be a celebration with the bride's nearest and dearest, so every shower guest must already be on the wedding guest list. The only exception is a workplace bridal shower, in which a large number of coworkers pitch in and contribute to an office celebration. (If an office shower involves only a few coworkers, thoughtful couples may choose to include these colleagues in the wedding guest list.)
You Forget to Set Parental Boundaries
Most brides experience some conflict with her parents or future in-laws during the planning process. It's not an easy conversation to have, but the earlier you discuss what's bothering you, the better. Make time to talk to your mom or MIL in person, and open by thanking her for the nice things she has done for you. Follow with a frank explanation why her decisions or actions are causing problems. Take a firm tone—not an angry one. (Vent to a friend beforehand to let it out.)
You Don't Consider Your Venue While Planning Your Decor
It is important to consider your reception space when designing table schemes, lounge areas, and floral arrangements. If you have a large window with a fabulous view, make that a central part of your decor. Don't go crazy spending money on other things when the venue is already gorgeous.
You Don't Schedule Maintenance Appointments With Your Jeweler
"It is very important to schedule maintenance appointments with your jeweler at least once a year to make sure the prongs are tight, the diamond isn't loose, and there are no hairline cracks in the shank," says Foster. "All-around maintenance is vital."
You Only Have a Cash Bar
The bar bill amounts to one of the reception's biggest expenses, so it's understandable that not every couple can afford hours and hours of open-bar boozing. But there are many ways to save big without having to resort to a cash bar, including serving two signature cocktails, wine, and beer, or asking your venue for a corkage option; this will allow you to keep unopened bottles, which you can return, if allowed in your state.
You Overdo the Spray Tan
If you opt to spray tan, practice a couple times the month before your wedding. This will allow you to find the right formula, adjust it, and gauge how long your tan will last. Also make sure your makeup artist is aware to ensure your foundation is consistent with the spray-tanned rest of you; you may even need to play with body bronzer to give you a seamless glow from head to toe.
You Ignore Your Brows
Some brides focus exclusively on their eye makeup, forgetting their face-framing brows. If you don't regularly have yours shaped, find an aesthetician at least three months before your wedding so you can take several test runs with enough time for regrowth. Then schedule an appointment a week before your walk down the aisle to allow for post-waxing or threading redness to subside.
You Allow a Free-for-All With Toasts
Some guests often misinterpret a toast to be a speech, and they talk forever, cutting into a couple's well-laid schedule. The best way to make sure you don't lose valuable dance and party time is to preplan the toasts with your wedding planner or emcee. That will ensure the microphone is somewhat controlled and not just anybody can get up and babble. This is also an important way to avoid "roasts" by inebriated guests who should know better.
You Ignore Your Folks
Chances are, your parents are contributing some funds. That means they will want a say in the planning. Make a list of the no-compromise details you and your fiancé are unwilling to forgo on your wedding day. If parents are paying, that doesn't give them the right to veto these decisions. But if money comes with the condition that Mom and Dad have final say, be prepared to lose those funds if your vision doesn't fit theirs. Be proactive and prevent bruised egos by including your moms in your planning from the get-go. Invite them to dress fittings, ask for their opinions on cake design, and take advantage of their talents—like having them design a monogram or advise on the menu.
You Forget About the Volume of the Music
While you're rocking out to Rihanna, your guests may be struggling to speak to one another. "Make selections that appeal to everyone, and conduct a sound check before the guests arrive in the room," says Greg Jenkins, founder of Bravo Productions. "If those who opt not to dance can't carry on a conversation, then the music is too loud."