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Research Your Venue Options
Be sure to investigate prices, packages, and any restrictions (including minimum budget spend) from several different potential wedding and reception venues before you sign on the dotted line. Even if there's a venue and a package price that you really like, still, keep looking at additional opinions. Ask around and see what other venues are charging before agreeing on a price.
Only Book Vendors You’re Comfortable With
Wedding vendors are the nuts and bolts to ensuring your day is ultra memorable and everything runs smoothly, so make sure they're a team of people that you really vibe well with. They should have a good sense of your vision and you should be able to trust them to execute it well. Make sure they appreciate your business; you should never feel bad about reaching out with any along-the-way questions!
Read Every Contract—Closely
This is SO important! Before the two of you sign on any dotted lines, be sure to closely review every detail of any contracts you arrange with any of your wedding vendors. Make sure all of the details are correct—including date, location, event time, deposits, and other fees—and read through important clauses, such as payment and cancellation policies, before signing anything.
Recruit More Hands On Deck
Don't forget: You’re not in this alone! Your bridal party, other close friends and family members (and definitely your soon-to-be spouse) are all ready to help in ways that suit their strengths. But you have to ask—and sometimes, delegate. And don't feel bad about it! Oftentimes, your loved ones and besties want to participate, but just aren't sure of the best way to be the most helpful to the two of you.
Make a Wedding Website
Your wedding guests, and even your family members, will have a lot of questions for you. Avoid getting endless emails, text messages, and voicemails from your guests by putting up a simple wedding website where they can check out the details of your wedding—including having a day-of itinerary that lets them know where they need to be and when they need to be there.
DIY wedding décor elements can be cost-effective and can add some incredible personal touches to your wedding day. But word to the wise: Just don’t go overboard, or you’ll end up with more work than you know what to do with. Plenty of DIY projects can be done well in advance, including favors, table numbers, etc. For things like wedding day florals or food, professional help is best.
Take Some Time Off—Together
For the sake of your own sanity, make sure you schedule some time for the two of you to just be together and do anything but wedding plan, whether it's a relaxing weekend at home or a mini-getaway out of town. Trust me, you’ll need the break! If you can, taking the week off from work before your actual wedding date helps to ensure that all last-minute details are completed and makes the days leading up to the wedding that much less stressful.
Decide Which Traditions Matter to You
Your wedding should be all about the two of you as a couple. If certain traditions make you uncomfortable, or feel outdated, or simply aren’t your style, then just don't include them on your wedding day. Traditions are lovely, but only when they're meaningful to you.
Add Some Personal Touches
Whether it's familial or cultural wedding traditions that have a special meaning, or if there's a tradition that the two of you want to start for future generations, don't be afraid to incorporate some heartfelt, personal touches into your wedding day festivities—prior to the wedding, during the ceremony, or at the reception. Remember, this is your day!
Create a Social Media Strategy
Whether you want your guests to share moments of your wedding day with the world or prefer to have an unplugged wedding, strategy is key. Hashtags, signage, and photo booths are a great way to get guests posting on social. On the other hand, if you don't want your guests snapping shots or taking videos during the ceremony, have the officiant make a quick announcement before proceedings begin.
Finalize Setup Details
As your wedding date approaches, check in with your venue to find out when exactly your vendors can arrive for setup. The earlier the better, but in some cases, venues may have other events going on the same day. Be sure to pass along the information to your vendors so everyone's on the same page.
Don’t Forget to Make It Legal
In the midst of all the crazy planning and endless small details, don’t forget to actually plan time to get your marriage license! Start researching and gathering the necessary documents early on, but keep in mind that marriage licenses are typically only valid for a couple of months—and destination weddings often have their own stipulations—so plan accordingly.
Postpone Honeymoon Planning
Planning your wedding and your dream honeymoon at the exact same time can be not only expensive but also very time consuming. Especially if the two of you are doing everything yourselves, it may be a good idea to postpone honeymoon planning just a bit. Many couples take some time off between the wedding and the honeymoon so that they can save up and reset the button on their planning priorities; sometimes, it helps to just focus on one thing at a time.
Consider a Day-Of Coordinator
Even when a full-service wedding planner isn’t in the cards, hiring a professional to oversee the day-of details can be a game changer. They'll keep track of vendors for you, keep an eye on the schedule, and help with any last-minute details and on-site tasks you simply won’t have time for while you’re getting ready with the bridal party, telling stories, taking photos, and generally having the time of your life.
Create a Comprehensive Schedule of Events
Creating a comprehensive wedding day schedule ensures everyone is on the same page about timing and location(s) and helps to make sure the day's events run smoothly. Include things like hair and makeup appointments; when vendors will arrive; timing for transportation to/arrival at the ceremony location; timing for the couple's arrival to the reception; speeches and the first dance; when the cake will be cut, etc. Print out (or email) copies to your MC, photographer, maid of honor, key family members, all vendors, and anyone else that should be in the know.
Gratitude goes a long way. Be sure to arrange for small gifts for your wedding party and anyone else who played a big role in your wedding planning journey—including friends who pitched in to help with all of your wedding DIY projects and, of course, parents or other family members who have been there for you and supported you along the way.
Focus on the Big Picture
Your wedding day is here! Now's not the time to get hung up on the small details. Honestly, your guests won’t notice if your table runners are ever-so-slightly the wrong shade of blue or if the appetizers come out 15 minutes late. The second you walk down the aisle, just let go of all the small stuff. Be present in the moment and feel the love—you’re getting married!
Just Have Fun!
What will guests most definitely notice? A stressed-out couple who's overwhelmed with last-minute details. By the time your wedding day rolls around, try to relax and enjoy all of the special moments with your loved ones. Ask any married couple—it will zoom by!