If you're in the midst of planning your wedding, trust us when we say: We understand how overwhelming it can be. Of course, every bride and groom wants to avoid wedding planning mistakes—and one of the best ways to do so is planning in advance and doing as much research as possible so that you're armed with all the right knowledge as you dive into ironing out all those details. That's why we turned to industry experts for their advice about how to smoothly navigate the nuanced world of wedding planning, and how to avoid common wedding planning mistakes and unwanted stress.
Ahead, learn about the top five wedding planning mistakes that you should do your best to avoid—along with experts' valuable insight and tips.
Meet the Expert
- Alicia Mae is the CEO of ILÈ Events.
- Denise Lillie O’Neal is the owner and the lead event stylist of Denise Lillie Engagements.
Not Setting a Budget
It may seem obvious, but this is a big one: Setting a budget is a crucial planning step (and one of the very first things you need to do) in the wedding planning process. For Alicia Mae of ILÈ Events, the most important element of creating a budget is "understanding the level of service you expect from the services you want for your wedding, and having a planner who can estimate the overall fees." Once you have those things nailed down, you can begin sourcing vendors, planning decorations, and thinking about music, food, etc. "I always suggest that couples prioritize spending the most on what is most important to them and then working down from there, adds Denise Lillie O’Neal of Denise Lillie Engagements.
Remember that your wedding budget will impact every single element of the big day, from the guest count to the venue, from the food and drinks to the decorations. If you don't set a budget, you'll have no way to track spending or understand what you can afford.
Not Booking Early Enough
Professional wedding planners stress that booking a venue and vendors as early as possible is the key to ensuring the wedding plans run smoothly. Not booking early means that you may run into issues securing your vendors on your chosen wedding date. "If you have a particular style and location you want for your wedding, we recommend securing your venue as soon as possible as your options would be limited; 12 to 18 months prior to your desired date would be a great time period," explains Mae.
O'Neal agrees with this: Book that venue as soon as possible. "Typically I like to try to help [couples] solidify their venue within one-to-two months of hiring me," she says. "If you have a year to plan, that's fantastic, but six months can also get it done if you're goal-oriented and motivated to move forward." Of course, this timeline will vary greatly based on when your wedding is, and if it occurs during a peak wedding season for your chosen region. (For example, in many regions, peak wedding season is late spring through early fall, but in Florida or the Caribbean, it's wintertime.) If your wedding is off-peak, six to eight months ahead of the wedding day may suffice. But those hosting a wedding during a peak season will want to err on the side of booking a venue and vendors a year or more in advance of the wedding date, as Mae advises. Once your venue is booked, you should begin booking major vendors like a planner, florists, photographers, cake designers, and musicians.
Wondering whether to book a planner or a venue first? It's really about what is most important to you. If you have a venue that you definitely know you want, no questions asked, book the venue ASAP, then book your planner to help organize all the other details. On the other hand, if you're uncertain about the venue, but know you want a specific planner, book your planner first and then let them help you negotiate with a venue and vendors.
Not Having a Backup Plan
Across the board, wedding planners advise that anybody planning a wedding should have a backup plan. From unforeseen weather circumstances to last-minute vendor cancellations, you just never know what could happen, and couples should be prepared. "It's a great idea to price out what the plan is going to cost," says O'Neal, explaining that couples should think about what it would cost to use a tent for a wedding reception if it rained, for example. Additionally, she advises that couples consider purchasing wedding liability and cancellation insurance, and read all the fine print for venue and vendor contracts to understand what happens if you have to move the wedding date or location (this is a great time to have your planner around).
Not Taking Time to Enjoy the Moment
It's certainly easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of planning and hosting a wedding, but planners agree that one of the biggest mistakes couples can make—before and during the wedding—is forgetting to just enjoy the moment. After all, it's all about your love! "With all of your planning leading up to the wedding day, make sure to take date nights with your significant other where you do not speak about the wedding at all," advises Mae. "On the wedding day, give your phone to your planner so you are able to enjoy and be in the moment," she says."
Not Hiring a Professional
While many people know from the beginning of their wedding planning journey that they want to hire a professional planner, some couples may feel skeptical. But not enlisting the help of a wedding industry expert could mean that you're not getting the best prices, access to hard-to-book vendors and venues, and expert tips from those who know the industry better than anyone. "In the world of weddings, there are many options to choose from when creating your wedding team and the décor of your wedding," says Mae. "Enlisting the help of a professional planner will filter those options based on your wedding vibe, financial plan, and processes of the vendors that match your planning style."
Aside from a planner helping with all the minute details, O'Neal notes that wedding planners also just take an immense amount of stress off of the couples. "Wedding planners can help you to live in the moment on your wedding day rather than having to worry about last-minute details and directing vendors," she explains. "It's important to protect your emotional well-being, as well as your financial investment by having an expert to run point on all the details."