Planning the Best Wedding Ever: Tips, Advice, and Guidance from Wedding Professionals

Oh my gosh. You just got engaged! This is probably one of the most exciting times in your life so far. You’re gushing. Telling your friends, family, passing strangers, the guy at 7-11, your dog groomer, and pretty much anyone/anything with ears and a heartbeat. It’s huge news! You SHOULD be beaming!

So…what now? Holy cow….you and your partner-in-crime have the pleasure of picking a date, planning a wedding, and living happily ever after. Maybe it’s overwhelming or maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to tackle. Either way, it can be a super awesome experience or a downright terrible nightmare. There’s a lot that goes into every aspect of an enjoyable, memorable wedding day and all it takes is a little bit of education, support, and magic to make yours into something special.

Chris and Meagan Malpass after their wedding ceremony
Chris and Meagan Malpass after their wedding ceremony

Two years ago this month I dragged my wife (girlfriend at the time) down to Myrtle Beach for a little vacation. I had big plans and a ring to go with it. I mustered up the courage, took her down to the beach at sunset, and with all of about 7.5 words and a few tears and giggle-snorts she became my fiancée. Within a few weeks we had picked a wedding day, started scouting vendors and locations, and started to realize how big of a deal it all can be.

After spending a few years in the wedding business I have decided to share some of my own experiences both planning our wedding and serving others at theirs. I have also asked several other trusted wedding professionals to share a little bit about what bits of magic they’ve seen over the years as well. This is by no means the end-all-be-all wedding tip list. These are just some things that myself and some of my fellow professionals have come up with over the years.

Know Your Priorities

Seriously, this is the biggest thing to think about and discuss with your partner. What do you really want to get out of your wedding celebration? Is it a time to hang out with all of your friends and family or is it your opportunity to stage an epic editorial photoshoot? Is the food what you want to focus on or do you want to make the celebration into a party and dance the night away? What aspects of your wedding must be ‘amazing’ and which are you content with just being ‘good’? Is there anything that you are willing to cut out completely to make room for something else?

For my own wedding I knew that the photography was important but it was also a time for my wife and I to spend time with friends and family that we don’t see very often. It also helped that we had awesome catering and the perfect DJ. Our priorities allowed us to focus our energy on making the day special in the way that meant the most to us. The priority for us was  US. We did all of the planning and decorating with just ourselves and a few family members the day of the wedding. We simply knew from the beginning that within our budget and taste we had certain limitations and needed to keep things simple for us to get the most from it. We approached it knowing that we wanted awesome images, plenty of colorful decorations, and a scale of celebration that we could tackle financially without being stressed about it.

If you and your partner can’t agree on what the priorities for your wedding should be, then you’re going to have a contentious affair. Set your budget early and use it to help guide your priorities. You’ll be set up for a lot of disappointment if your splurge on things that you later on decide really don’t matter much.

Manage Your Expectations

wpid629-Shabby_Chic_Mother_Daughter_tea_party-28.jpgSo you’ve got your priorities set and your budget to go with it. Now you should probably decide on what results are reasonable to expect within that structure. If you’ve got a $10k budget, you’re inviting 200 people and hoping to serve them each prime rib in a fancy venue, then I would probably tell you that you’ve become temporarily insane. If the food is a priority then you should pare your guest list down so that you can actually manage to accomplish that goal. If you cut corners and get a lower level vendor for something that is important to you, you’re going to regret it. If something is a priority then do not cut corners and go cheap.

There are a lot of high-quality wedding vendors out there (Ahem!). Some are more expensive than others but they generally are able to charge what they do based on experience, quality, and consistent results. If you can land a cake baker for $100 then I would highly suggest you do a tasting and ask them for info so you can contact some of their past clients. Same goes with other vendors from DJs to photographers. Do your research, know what to expect, and decide where each player fits in your budget. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

If you end up hiring your 3rd cousin who is a line cook at the Olive Garden to cater your wedding…you might just need to take a step back. While your cousin might be awesome, you’re still taking a huge gamble. It’s up to you and your partner to determine if its worth it.

Get Rid of the Stress: Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

“Stress can change a smile.”
-Shay Rybin, Pinch of Charm Weddings

Get a wedding planner. Seriously. Most people don’t go house hunting without a real estate agent so why would you plan the biggest day of your life without someone who is an expert in their field? An experienced wedding planner will not only be able to offer you advice and guidance throughout the whole process, but they also know the best vendors and can give recommendations that are suitable for your budget and priorities. You need someone on your team that is not a family member, bridesmaid, etc and can be an objective superhero to take your vision and make it a reality.

In a lot of cases where a professional wedding planner doesn’t fit into your scheme, it always helps to have someone that you can designate to be in control during the wedding day. You need someone you trust to take your plans and manage it like they were building the Hoover Dam. You need an advocate to keep things on track and make sure the cake has arrived, the dress is steamed, the rings are in place and the flowers are fresh and as ordered.

Shay Rybin of Pinch of Charm Weddings says “Stress can change a smile.” The bride and groom need to be free of stress so they can enjoy each other’s company and to soak in the celebration. I have seen stressed out brides in tears because they don’t have anyone managing the details on their behalf and simply can’t do it all themselves. Small unexpected changes and errors become huge dilemmas to a bride doing it all on her own. Delegate areas of responsibility to people you trust to be proficient and then let them do what you asked them to do. It is important to keep in mind that things evolve during your wedding day and it is imperative to be flexible with last minute changes. No one wants to let you down but some things are just unavoidable. You can still have an amazing wedding even if they have to substitute the russet potatoes for the baby reds. Roll with the punches and appreciate what is happening around you. Mike Dragon of Dragon Studio reiterates: “Be like water on the duck. Just let it roll off of you.”

This is a Celebration, Not a Marathon

If you have every moment of your wedding day jam packed with stuff then you are probably going to run out of gas about half way through. Keep in mind that this is usually a full day event and starts off with little sleep. You’re up bright and early filled with anxiety and anticipation. Don’t lose steam after the ceremony. Build in some time to sit, have a glass of water/beer/wine/whiskey/rum, hang out with your friends and family, and take some amazing photos.

This is a day to celebrate your new life with your partner. Make sure you focus on that. I promise you that if you lose focus of the celebration of your love then you are going to exit your reception without being fulfilled.

The Golden Rule of Weddings

Have fun. You’re all decked out and you have your love by your side. Let loose and dive into love with all you’ve got. Celebrate where you’ve been and where you’re headed. Take your day and embrace it for everything it is. If you do that, then you really will have the best wedding ever. I promise.

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