I've spent a lot of time reflecting on our engagement and wedding day--and I'm taking the greatest lessons we've learned, the best pieces of advice--and compiling it all here.
Here are my greatest practical advice for your wedding, preparing yourself for marriage, and staying sane during the process!
1. Don't make it about "your day," make it about "your marriage."
Don’t just think about the wedding day--think about how you want to start your marriage. Don’t become a bridezilla, and lose sight of what really matters: MARRYING THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE!
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Being engaged is such a special season and it’s also so short! (For us, it was only 6 months—so extra short haha!) Don’t waste this time stressing and obsessing about the “perfect wedding”. Instead, pour your energy into building a strong foundation for your marriage. Spend quality time with your fiancé. Do a couples devotional and learn about marriage together. Spend time discussing the type of marriage you want to have, praying with one another, and growing stronger as a couple. Define what the goal and mission is in your marriage together. Seek counsel, wisdom, and advice from couple who you two admire. This approach will not only help you to find more joy in this season, but it will prepare your heart for marriage, and help you and your fiancé to build an even stronger foundation before tying the knot!
2. Do a first look.
The hardest and most stressful part of planning for us was figuring out the day of schedule. There's so many moving pieces, and a very specific timeline that has to come together to make sure everyone is ready by a certain time, everyone is fed, and vendors are arriving at the right time, pictures can get done, and that everything flows smoothly.
We were hesitant about doing a first look because we had always imagined that moment of seeing each other for the first time as I was walking down the aisle. But doing a first look ended up being one of our best decisions.
A first look is so intimate--it's a time where it's just the two of you. It helps to get rid of any wedding-day jitters because you get to be with the person who makes you feel most at ease. It helps the day-of-schedule to flow better because all of your pictures can be done before the ceremony. And don't worry--he'll still cry when you walk down the isle. ;-)
If you do a first look, make sure you have a time where it’s just you and your husband prior to the ceremony. This was one of our best decisions as far as planning the day goes.
3. Ask for help.
And delegate! It’s impossible to do it all yourself. And you’ll lose your mind if you try. If people offer to help, take them up on it! Make a list of allll of the tasks that need to be done--and ask for help. Ask your MOH, ask your friends, as your family. Trust me, people are willing and want to help you. You're not a burden. Planning a wedding is stressful--make it less so by being willing to ask for help!
4. Binders are life.
Print out all of your contacts, vendor phone number, etc. and put it in a binder. Delegate someone to be the “wedding day coordinator” and entrust them with your binder. That way if anything goes wrong or anyone has questions, they won’t go to you on your wedding day!
5. Create special moments with your girls on the day of.
For us, we all stayed in an Airbnb the night before the wedding and it was one of the most fun nights of my life. No one could sleep because we were all so jittery and buzzing with excitement! The memories formed from doing that little extra special thing are some of my favorites.
6. Don’t over think it.
No one is going to notice what material your bridesmaids dress are made of, what color your linens are, or any of the small details. Heck, YOU aren't even going to notice! I spent HOURS designing table arrangements and didn't see them once on our wedding day. I say that to say: the little things aren't going to matter--so don't waste too much time sweating the small stuff.
7. Do something sentimental for your husband on the day of.
From the day I became a believer, I stated praying for my future husband. And I was steadfast in waiting for him. So when I felt lonely, or a longing in my heart to have met that person...or curious about what they were doing...or just thinking about married life one day...I wrote letters. I wrote a collection of letters to my future husband. I told no one about these collection of letters until on our wedding day when I had my bridesmaids hand Zack a box that was engraved with: “You are the one I have prayed for.” It was such a sweet moment of him realizing just how long I’d waited for and prayed for him. And then it made him feel like he got to experience all of those little moments in my life with me.
8. Have your fiancé help you plan.
I never understood why planning the wedding always seemed to fall on the bride. My husband took over as being our full scale wedding coordinator many times. Find out, amongst the two of you, what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then divvy up responsibilities accordingly. For example, Zack is the logistics guy in our relationship—contacts, payments, scheduling. He’s the guy. I on the other hand am a free spirit who gets crushed under the weight of those tasks (LOL). But what I am really good at is CREATING. So I was in charge of finding the right decor on a budget, vision casting, and the little personal touches to show the people who were a part of our big day how much we care about them! Y’all are a team. This is a great thing to practice headed into marriage.
9. Eat on your wedding day!!
Everyone told me this and I full intended to follow this piece of advice, but you truly do get so busy and pulled each and every direction. Ask your caterer to pull you and your husband aside prior to the reception to feed you!
10. Don’t do things just for the sake of doing them.
There are sooo many traditions and things that people say you “have” to do. Why? Just because they’ve always been done. For us, we didn’t do a garter or bouquet toss because 1. I, personally, think it’s weird to have my husband under my dress in a crowded room—just me?! (Save it for after haha). And 2. a bouquet toss—it gives me the vibes of making a bunch of women feel bad about being single and fight over who gets to not be single next? Nah. Not for me. Now, these can both be done tastefully and with good intentions, don’t get me wrong! But for us, we’d rather spend more time getting down with our friends on the dance floor than doing traditions just for the sake of doing them. Don’t be afraid to make those kind of cuts! It’s your wedding day, after all! It should be what you two want!
11. Write your own vows.
This was something I’ll cherish forever. Don’t be afraid or nervous of speaking in front of people. It really is just going to feel like you two are the only people in the world in that moment.
12. It’s not worth going into debt over
The last thing you want going into marriage is financial stress. I totally get wanting to have a perfect fairy tale wedding--but please, please, please don't go into debt doing it. It's just not worth it. Your wedding is ONE DAY and going into debt over it can create stress for months and even years afterwards.
Discuss your finances with your fiancé. This is great practice for going into marriage and merging your finances. Decide how much is realistic to set aside each month, and then from there decide what your final budget will be. And work within that budget. Trust me, it's possible. Fake florals, rented decor, and rented tuxes are just a few ways we cut costs!
13. If you're going to ball out on something--make it the photographer and videographer.
The dress isn't going to be what you cherish forever, looking back at these memories are. If there's one area you want to allocate the most budget towards, make it these two things. We watch our wedding video all the time and it is such a gift to be able to look back and watch ourselves experience the joy of that day.
Photos are something you are going to cherish forever--if you're on the fence, I'd say splurge a little on this area--because they're what you're going to have forever. They're what your grandkids are going to look at, and what you're going to want to fill the walls of your home with. You'll never regret having good wedding pictures.
14. Let pictures be over after the ceremony.
I was SO happy we did this!! It gave us more time to be intentional about getting to spend time with each of our guests, and spend the rest of the night on the dance floor, not posing for pictures! We did all of our groomsmen, bridesmaid, and bridal portraits in the morning. Then, after our first look we took pictures as a couple, then with both parties combined. The only thing we did after the ceremony was a few family pictures. Then it was time to party!!
15. Work in time and ways to say, "Thank you."
Take time to personally thank each person in your bridal party for being there for you, not just on this day, but for being a part of who shaped you into the person who was ready for marriage! I wrote a personal letter to each of my bridesmaids telling them how much they mean to me, and how grateful I am. Do the same for your family and take the time to be with them while you give these letters and gifts to them--it's the most precious moment.