This time last year we were in the final stretch of wedding planning and wow was that last month before the wedding intense. There was so much that needed to be done! I had joked shortly after Doug and I got engaged that wedding planning was the land of 1,001 decision but stopped making that joke when it became apparent that we would far surpass 1,001 decisions. It can be daunting, but I kept in mind a few things that helped manage the process.
- Rule things out. Knowing what you don't want is just as important as knowing what you do want, whether that's regarding your venue, level of formality, flowers, dresses, hair and make up, paper goods, you name it. The process of elimination can help distill your priorities and vision.
- Be direct. Being specific with vendors about both what you do and (per the above) don't want helps both you and the vendor. Use concrete descriptions! Multiple vendors commented on my willingness to articulate what I wanted, which our wedding planner had encouraged me to do. I got the impression that brides are sometimes vague (perhaps to avoid offending anyone) and as a result vendors have no idea what the bride wants. One florist I spoke to (not the florist we worked with) mentioned a bride who kept saying she wanted the flowers to be "yummy" and the florist was internally like what does that even mean?!? She made her best guess and the bride seemed thrilled with the outcome, but I think they both got lucky.
- Do you research upfront. How can you clearly communicate to your venue, florist, caterer, hair and makeup team, etc. what you want? Gather a handful of inspiration images before you meet with them. I spent what seemed like a month's worth of lunch breaks looking at wedding flowers before meeting with potential florists. By the time I spoke with the talented florist who did our wedding, I could tell her what I wanted and not change my mind about it later. Similarly, I knew that I wanted to wear my hair down and pulled off my face, which is a departure from a typical wedding updo. I made sure that the hairstylists I spoke with were comfortable with that, and that likewise I felt comfortable that they could manage my mane of thick hair!
- Make specific notes in Pinterest. This gem came from Emilie Duncan, our wedding planner, and it was spot on and a testament to her experience. I'm very visual and love Pinterest for both daily life and wedding planning, and I even had different boards by category (flowers, dresses, photo shot lists, bridal beauty, the list goes on...). Emilie advised me to write exactly what spoke to me about a certain image. To use flowers as an example again, was it the size of the bouquet? Or the color and/or texture of the flowers themselves? A little detail in the midst of a big reception spread? When I sat down with the florist, I was able to show her a picture and say "I love the flowers used but I want the bouquets to be smaller and I don't want a trailing ribbon." As a result, I absolutely adored our flowers.
- Consult a professional. I was drawn vendors who are personable and friendly while still very professional. I really appreciated working with people who had experience in the industry and knew what worked well (and didn't) for their area of expertise.
- Consult your network. How do you find these magical professionals who make your wedding happen? Reach out to anyone you know who's gotten married at your venue and/or in the town where you're having your wedding. I reached out to classmates from high school and friends of friends, and they could not have been nicer or more helpful. Personal recommendations really helped me build a short list of vendors to work with, and once I had a few vendors lined up I asked them for their recommendations too.
- Pick vendors whose work you like. I did this almost subconsciously after stalking online portfolios and it made the communication process easier. I love Red Gallery Photography's work and adore Rose Bredl's arrangements. They're professionals (see #5) and can accommodate a range of styles so even if something in their portfolio wasn't exactly what I would pick, I appreciated their eye. One friend of mine changed florists because she wanted something that was totally foreign to her original florist and they couldn't bridge a communication gap. I wonder if better communication upfront could have prevented that scenario.
- Outsource! We are so glad we hired a wedding planner. I was decisive and we already had a full-service venue and multiple vendors lined up, so we hired Emilie for wedding coordination rather than full service planning. She was a fantastic resource throughout the planning process for best practices and advice, as you can probably tell from this list! Emilie also helped us set the timeline for the day of the wedding and coordinated all the vendors. Having Emilie conducting the orchestra, so to speak, took pressure off Doug, me, and our families which really allowed us to be present and experience our wedding day.
- Know that you don't have to plan everything at once. We found the first month and the last month of our engagement to be the most planning intensive. My friend Alexandra (who also recommended my fabulous makeup artist) gave me good advice early on to prioritize booking first any vendors that only do one wedding a day. For us, that included our venue, photographers, wedding planner, and my makeup artist, whereas florists and cake bakers can do multiple weddings because they don't have to be onsite all day.
- Take breaks from wedding planning. I anticipated that at times it would feel like all I talked about was wedding logistics, and that I would need to carve time away from it. I went to Pilates mat classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights, which was "me time" that I found essential to deal with stress. Doug and I also ordered in pizza and watched a movie (sans any wedding-related discussions) one Friday night per month. We enjoyed that low-key tradition so much that we've kept it up since getting married.
This post originally started as an email to a friend who requested planning advice. Do you have any other wedding-related questions, or advice / lessons learned of your own? If so I'd love to hear!
photos: Red Gallery Photography