Category: Planning & Etiquette
A new year has begun, and engagement season is underway – and many twosomes are busy living, loving and planning the details of their special day. Which is why we are so pleased to present this list of 45 wedding dos and don’ts created for brides by once-upon-a-time brides. This collection of tips comes from seven women who have been there, done that and can offer sage “happily ever after day” advice to couples caught up in the magic and mayhem of wedding planning.
Tips 1-8: Advice from Amanda, married to Ken since November 2000
1. Do feel free to shift the date.
I’m glad I did not take my parents advice to keep my wedding date when my mom had a heart attack and quintuple bypass weeks before our wedding. Shifting the date back a couple months was definitely the right move.
2. Do get massages the morning of your wedding.
I’m glad we got massages the morning of the wedding. So relaxing.
3. Do let your spouse know if you’re running late!
My advice is if you’re someone who runs late (me!), let your soon-to-be-spouse know there’s a good chance you’ll be late for the wedding. What’s 20 minutes extra to wait for a LIFETIME OF HAPPINESS?!?!
4. Do take the day in stride.
I’m happy that Ken and I had a pact that no matter what snafus happened on our wedding day, we’d take it in stride. Thankfully we had few – the two minor things were that the limo was the wrong color and we had low-key wedding crashers.
5. Do pay for the wedding album.
I wish I’d paid for the actual wedding album development instead of getting all the pictures from the photographer because 15 years later I have no album.
6. Don’t be a slave to tradition.
I knew I could do without, so I didn’t have the following: the commemorative knife, the book to sign, the dollar dance, a garter flinging and a second bouquet for tossing.
7. Don’t deny yourself that tiara.
I wish I’d had a tiara. There are very few tiara opportunities in life, and this was a miss.
8. Don’t sit with the wedding party
I’m glad we sat at the family table instead of the wedding party table. When else do you get to talk to family at a wedding? And as a plus one at weddings where Ken was in the wedding party, I hated sitting with random people.
Tips 9-16: Advice from Heidi, married to Raul since June 2015
9. Do choose a wedding hashtag in advance.
We neglected to do this until the day of, and when we tried to search for pictures on our honeymoon, we couldn’t find any pictures of our wedding day. You see lots of people taking pictures, but you never get to see the candid pictures from your friends and family. Having the hashtag on your invitation, website, on the tables, etc., might help.
10. Do make a list of pictures you want the photographer to take.
One big regret is that I didn’t get any pictures with my parents beyond the big family photos. While I know it isn’t uncommon to end up missing a few shots given the fact the day goes so quickly, it’s a said thing. To avoid this, I recommend couples make a list of must-have photos in advance (even obvious ones) to help out the photography team, who – like the couple – have so much going on during the wedding and may not know who’s who.
11. Do get as many pictures done early in the day or another time.
It may seem like common sense, but you won’t have much time between the ceremony and reception – and your feet will hurt and you’ll be thinking about everyone who’s waiting for you. So take as many photos as you can earlier in the day when you have more time (say, bridal portraits in advance of the big day). That way, you will be more relaxed and your makeup and hair will be freshly done.
12. Do provide beverages before and after the wedding.
Caterers work by the hour or on a per-person basis, seldom on an all-inclusive basis. I didn’t think much about this, and as a bride, I found myself parched the whole night given I was running around in a big dress and dancing and talking. Meanwhile, I couldn’t find water for the life of me.
13. Don’t delay on decorative details.
Get as much as you can get done before your family and friends come into town, even if they say they want to help. There will still be so much to do the week of the wedding. I really wish I had been able to enjoy time with my family instead of doing projects that could have been done weeks ahead of time – all because my family wanted to feel helpful. Simply accept offers from friends for help in the weeks leading up to the big day.
14. Don’t forget to discuss the plan of attack for the speeches. If you and your husband are doing a speech, be clear about who’s saying what and when. I didn’t think I was giving a speech until I was put on the spot and then couldn’t think of anything to say. My mind was simply running in too many different directions to say something as thoughtful and meaningful as I would have liked.
15. Don’t go cheap on the bustle to your dress.
I made it through our first dance and the bustle broke! I had to hold the dress the whole night!
16. Don’t book the honeymoon for an early flight. Luckily we didn’t, but I know too many couples who missed their flights the following day. Leave later so you can enjoy a morning of sleeping in with your new husband!
Tips 17-24: Advice from Sara, married to Aaron since May 2011 (You can read her love story here.)
17. Do hire a wedding coordinator!
We did so much of the planning and execution ourselves, it would have been wonderful to have another person keeping everything on schedule the day of.
18. Do get an off-the-rack reception dress!
My wedding gown was so heavy and hot there was no way I could have danced in it all night. I loved my reception dress almost as much!
19. Do be choosy when it comes to your guest list.
We paid for a lot of the wedding ourselves, and we had final say over who we invited. As a result, we were able to spend the day with those from our past and present who meant the most to us.
20. Do think twice about your wedding budget.
Be sure to think ahead – and save money for a great honeymoon and for the future. Life happens faster than you realize, and soon time and money will be more precious than ever.
21. Don’t feel obligated to hire a DJ.
We didn’t want a cheesy DJ. Instead, we made custom playlists on my iPod and made backup CDs to play during the dinner and reception. We loved every song!
22. Don’t let wedding planning consume you.
I literally spent every free second working on a DIY décor or stationery project. I’m so happy with the results, but I look back and feel like I should have enlisted more friends and family to help so I could have had a little time to enjoy being engaged.
23. Don’t go too crazy with the flowers.
I bought flowers in bulk and spent way too much on them. I wish I had gone with just a couple different flowers and fewer stems. I don’t think anyone but me remembers them anyway.
24. Don’t wait till the last minute to ask for help.
We had my husband’s siblings and their spouses in the wedding party. I expected them to be super helpful and all hands on deck, but they weren’t all that helpful or even there for us on the day of our wedding because they all had small kids they needed to tend to. My family and friends were there to help when I was panicking last-minute, but I wish I had enlisted their help earlier on with setup.
Tips 25-28: Advice from Dana, married to Keith since October 2004
25. Do make sure your wedding reflects who you are, where you are and what matters most to you.
We went all out on food. We had a signature drink that reflected the place where we had our wedding – Arizona, and we served prickly pear margaritas. As we were announced husband and wife at the reception, people were shaking maracas (I’m half Mexican). We also went a nontraditional route for our wedding dance with a mambo. It was really fun for us and shocked the hell out of our guests.
26. Do select a venue that’s stunning in and of itself.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but it makes a lot of sense now: When the place you choose to have your wedding is beautiful, you don’t need to do much to enhance it. Our venue made for a beautiful backdrop, which meant our centerpieces could be very simple and we didn’t need to add flowers anywhere.
27. Do ponder the packages your photographer offers.
Our photographer charged us megabucks per photo. I would have looked at another pricing model if I were to do it again.
28. Don’t skip the videographer.
We didn’t pay for a videographer, which was a huge miss.
Tips 29-32: Advice from Lauren, married to Shawn since October 2013
29. Do shell out for a good photographer.
I wish I would have spent more on our photographer. Yes, you read that right! My friend is a very talented photographer who was just beginning to build her wedding portfolio and therefore didn’t charge us that much. As a result, we don’t have the breadth or uniqueness that you see from established professionals, and there’s a certain polish to the images that isn’t there.
30. Do serve a late night snack.
I’m glad that we had a late night snack. It was served around 9:30ish, and we offered mini tacos, meatloaf sliders and a few other goodies to sate guests’ drunken munchies.
31. Do take time to think about your playlists for the reception.
Brides should definitely have “do not play” and “YES, ABSOLUTELY PLAY!” lists.
32. Don’t forget to consider how contracts and timing affect your budget.
Simply be aware that you need to pay vendors when you sign the contract and right before the wedding. I was caught off guard when we needed to deposit hefty chunks of change early on to reserve the service (like, a year-out early). Since we were paying for most of the wedding ourselves, coming up with some of those deposits was a little stressful.
Tips 33-40: Advice from Laura, married to Bradley since September 2014 (You can read her love story here.)
33. Do have a wedding coordinator.
It’s a MUST. I wouldn’t recommend asking or paying a guest of the wedding to do this. Get someone professional that you trust to handle your wedding. I would recommend that person to also have an assistant.
34. Do create a timeline of events.
Take time to create a schedule for flow and share it with your vendors, including the DJ, who plays an important role in the transitions and flow of the reception. Be detailed, and make sure your coordinator knows how to work with everyone to move things along throughout the course of the event.
35. Do make your own centerpieces.
Go to a wholesale flower shop and place your order a few weeks before the big day. Then, with the help of family and friends, make your DIY centerpieces the day before the wedding. Put them in the fridge and then have a trusted family member set them out on the tables. This saved us SO much money.
36. Do make sure there’s a photographer dedicated to each member of the couple.
I missed photos of my dad seeing me for the first time and our intimate time together. I wished we got it on film to capture the special memory.
37. Do have a wedding videographer.
They got the images and things our photographers did not.
38. Don’t feel obligated to include wee ones.
I want to start by saying that I love kids and adore all of our friends’ children. That being said, we wanted a more formal, adults-only celebration. So we didn’t allow children except our nieces and nephews at our wedding or reception. I have been to too many weddings with screaming, out of control kids, which took away from the night (for their parents as well as other guests). Also, a few months before our wedding, we attended a wedding where complete chaos ensued as the ring bearer and flower girl attempted to make it down aisle. We decided not to take that chance.
39. Don’t stress at whatever will come up (and it will) around your wedding. Everything will be fine. All that matters is that you’re marrying the man of your dreams at the end of the long walk to him!
40. Don’t miss out on the food at your reception.
Make sure you try your food! We ate (even though we weren’t hungry), but it’s important to sit down and have a meal with your bridal party (or alone if you prefer). We had a great caterer and set aside our hors d’oeuvre with our meal, so we could still try and eat all of what we had ordered.
Tips 41-45: Advice from Erin, married to Aaron (yes, that’s his name) since September 2009
41. Do look at dresses on clearance.
I was so open-minded in this regard. I tried on the most expensive dresses in all the stores, mistakenly thinking those would make me feel and look my best. Nope. On a lark, I looked in the clearance section of the beach weddings collection (even though I was getting married in a super traditional Catholic church). It was there that I found the perfect dress for $400. And I felt amazing. Oh, and then I also had more money to spend on a super fancy veil!!
42. Do hire a damn good photographer.
Be willing to invest in this more than almost any other element of your event and then leverage those photos to the hilt. I’ve only been married six years, and most of my memories of that day are already fuzzy at best. But because I made three big scrapbooks within months of the big day, so many of the things I would have otherwise forgotten live on and can later be shared with my daughter, Frankie.
43. Do a dry run of your makeup and hair.
It was nice to have a chance to tweak a few things, eliminate surprises… and have an extra day of feeling like a princess!
44. Do plan ahead and be detailed if your pet is part of your wedding.
Being the animal lover I am, I incorporated my first baby, Callie the pooch, into as much of the wedding as I could. But it was hard! All the people who usually took care of her in my stead were busy with wedding jobs. Making plans for where she would need to be during the day and to meet her needs was the most difficult part of planning the event! So anyone who has pets and perhaps wants to include them in the ceremony should plan well in advance. It’s a long day for those furry kids, and your regular sitters are likely going to be pretty tied up themselves!
45. Don’t let other people’s wedding dreams define or dictate your own.
The more I thought about dos and don’ts for brides to be, the more it dawned on me that I honestly would ask for a big DO OVER on my whole wedding. I got tripped up in the childhood fantasy of wanting all my friends in pretty dresses around me, and I couldn’t narrow the playing field of bridesmaids to any less than eight. Plus flower girls. Yet I also wanted to get married at my small family cottage. However, when my now-husband pointed out we would have more people in our bridal party than room for actual wedding guests, I realized I couldn’t make both dreams work. So I chose…the giant bridal party! SO dumb! We had 20 people in the bridal party, and then it was kind of like, “Well, if we are having that huge of a bridal party, pretty much anyone on the planet should be able to come.”
My wedding got to be so huge (400-plus people) that my only memories of that night are trying like hell to greet everyone, feeling like I failed at even that, not spending more than 10 minutes with my new husband or closest friends and family and sobbing from exhaustion once we got to our hotel room.
So my best piece of advice is to plan a wedding that is true to who you and your partner are – not who you used to be, not what your mom wants, not what your grandma wants, etc.