You’ll be surprised by what didn’t make the list!
As someone who firmly believes in learning from your mistakes and doing better next time, I am, six years later, still frustrated that planning a wedding, theoretically, has no “next time.” This of course, is a frustration that the wedding industry loves to threaten us with: “It’s the only chance to wear the gowns of your dreams!” “If you don’t have a three-tiered cake, you’ll regret it forever!” All of that is ridiculous of course (although it’s admittedly sometimes very loud ridiculousness), because, to paraphrase my favorite Mansfield Park quote, “There are as many forms of weddings as there are moments in time.”
What I have learned from the APW book, which, sadly, wasn’t around when I was getting married, is that wedding planning is all just a matter of priorities: One person’s time and money well-spent is another’s wasted.
Whether you hire professional help, or put your friends to work as day-of coordinator, having someone in charge who’s not you was highly recommended (some real life stories below):
“It really depends on how many moving parts you have, what you need done, and how many people you have to do it. We sprung for a DOC about two weeks before the wedding, and it’s some of the best money we spent. He was the one who set up the church decorations, met with the florist deliveries at the church, picked up the cake and transported it and the decorations to the restaurant between the ceremony and reception, set up our minimal reception decor, ended up MCing our toasts, and drove us back to the hotel after the reception after we realized we were never going to get a taxi on the street.
Reasonably, yes, a lot of those tasks could have been accomplished by friends and family, but most of our people were from out of town without cars, in the bridal party, already performing other duties, etc. If we had asked, I am sure our families and friends would have been willing to provide the extra support, but we wanted to give them the chance to enjoy the wedding without worrying about doing anything more than they already were for us.”
“I did not have a day-of coordinator, because we had a three-day weekend wedding on a mountain, and it didn’t make sense to have someone schlep there for such a long time. Instead we had friends help out for different duties at different points in the days. I had an elaborate spreadsheet to make sure no one spent an inordinate time helping, and individualized schedules for the helpers. It definitely involved a ton of work preparing, but everything went very smoothly.
For each set of tasks, I had a Czar/mini-DOC so I could still enjoy my day. Responses from the helpers were mixed, from most people LOVING being involved and felt like it brought them closer to the other guests, to some others feeling like it was an imposition (which could easily have been prevented if we had known they didn’t want to do it. Making it clear that they could opt out would be something I would have done better).
I think if finances aren’t an issue, hire a DOC. If you’re struggling with your budget, think of people among your friend and acquaintance group who are amazing project managers (especially if they’ve gotten married recently!) and outsource that ish. And if it’s not anywhere within financially possible, I can tell you that as long as you designate a clear go-to person for the wedding that is NOT you or your partner, if you plan and communicate things clearly enough, your wedding will still be fun and wonderful.”
A weather backup plan = sanity = worth it:
“The most stressful part of my wedding day was that there was an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms all day, and we didn’t have a foolproof backup plan. I tried to be zen about it but it was absolutely on the back of my mind. It ended up working out, but I still feel guilty for the mental energy I gave to that on such an important day of my life. It might just be worth it!!”
“Most money spent: Catering and associated rentals (linens, silverware, plates, glasses, etc.), and venue for ceremony and reception.
Least money spent: Photography by a friend.
Totally worth it: DIYing all paper goods with my mom (and yes they were very much cheaper than ordering them); DIYing our bar, which emphasized craft beer: hiring a florist, hiring a DJ who played wedding classics instead of listening to our unconventional list.
Totally not worth it: Having a wedding party. The most drama and stress was getting everyone on the same page. If I had to do it again, I would definitely just ask for help doing what I needed doing instead of wrangling so many people’s expectations.”
“Not having a wedding party was one of the best decisions we made (for us). I was occasionally bummed about not having built-in helpers, but it really simplified things for us. Also made it easier to forego the pre-wedding parties we had no interest in.
WORTH IT: Photog, and GIFT BAGS!
Not so glamorous, but super worth it: shuttles and party buses.
“Worth splurging on: Shuttle transportation between the hotel and wedding ceremony/reception. Since our wedding was about an hour outside of Boston, the majority of our guests stayed at the hotel we blocked out for the wedding. We hired two school buses to shuttle the guests there and back. It was more than we had budgeted for, but we didn’t want our guests to worry about drinking and driving, getting lost, etc. I was actually surprised at how many people commented on the convenience of the buses afterward.”
“Another thing that was surprisingly expensive was the party bus for the wedding party. It was about $700 (with a tip for the driver) for four hours. Yikes. At the same time though, there was no way I was going to be worrying about driving and parking and shuttling my whole bridal party around on my wedding day. We went to a couple different places for pictures in between the ceremony and reception, and it would have been hell to coordinate the driving and parking for the whole bridal party. The bus was expensive but worth it because it made our experience of the day much less stressful and so much more fun. So the point is it sucked to spend that much money, but I wouldn’t have changed it.”
“What was totally worth it? Gift bags. I put together state-themed gift bags for our guests, most of whom came from out of town. The photography, too. I knew long ago images were worth paying for to me, and the best part of that was actually that the moment I met Raven in person she felt like a friend I’d had for ages. We still talk regularly. Finding a venue that allowed us to use my family pastor and choose our own caterer were worth it for us, and buying cheese wheels instead of cake were personal choices I will trumpet forever.
What was totally not worth it? Some of the details. I bought silk hops boutonnières for the men, I got handkerchiefs for the women, a new tie for my dad, a fancy garter I forgot to put on, and some gussied up Christmas lights to hang at the venue. Although I’m glad we had them, I don’t think the experience would have been worse without them. What really wasn’t worth it, emotionally, was stressing about representing “us” in every decision. It’s super true that the best is the enemy of the good, and I bless Meg for speaking truth into the fact that your wedding can’t be and isn’t timeless. Bless you ladies too for guiding me toward wedding zen. Doing it from a distance could have been harder, but I let it be easier to let go of things.
NOT WORTH IT: Monogrammed cake boxes.”
Photography: to go pro or not to go pro, that is the question…
“Not hiring a professional photographer was the greatest money saver, AND totally worth it. We did a lot of non-traditional things, which most people seemed okay with… until I told them we weren’t having professional photography. People lost it there. I was warned over and over that we’d regret it, but it wasn’t something that was super important to us. If it had been in the budget, or had been highly important to us, we probably would have hired someone and gotten totally gorgeous photos. Instead, we got a big group of family and friends (who had varying skill and all had moderately good cameras) together and divvied up the day.
Did we get gorgeous, artistic prints? Some, but mostly just good ol’ fashioned pictures of the day. But what we did get was an uncle stealthily rounding up old college friends during cocktail hour, two of my best friends from totally different parts of my life getting to know each other as they planned shooting our ceremony, my new mother-in-law gritting her teeth and telling my new father-in-law to “get on with it, we’re going to miss all the whiskey” during his meticulous shoot of our families, and my mom’s hilarious partner jumping up on (kind of rickety) chairs to get photos of us during the hora.
At first we thought it would be too much to ask of people, but in the end we found that “your wedding is not an imposition” to be true a million times over and people were so honored to help us with such an important task. Recently I started a new job with one of those friends that photographed our ceremony, and I brought a bunch of pictures to put on my desk. As I set them all up she ventured into my office and picked up the photo of me and my husband right before the ceremony, and with a huge grin she exclaimed, “I took this photo!” I would most definitely do it again.”
• The cost, obviously!
• She was a friend, so we were extra comfortable around her.
• She was there for the whole weekend and got shots of the rehearsal dinner, drinking with friends the night before, etc.
• It was just a really cool thing to share with someone we love. She photographed our wedding, and we’ll always have that connection.
• She was (understandably) a little nervous/unsure, and there was a lot of back and forth on things like whether we should rent a certain lens so that she could take pictures from the balcony of the church during the ceremony. (We did, and I’m really glad that we have shots during the ceremony.)
• Because we de-emphasized photography in general and didn’t have a professional working for us, we don’t have a single picture of—for example—me and my parents.
• Some of the low-light pictures aren’t great. They’re kind of grainy and orange. Since she basically did it for free, I felt weird asking her if she could fix them.
• I felt a little guilty, since she was a friend, that she had to work during our whole wedding. She volunteered to do it, but I’m not sure she knew exactly how much work it would be.”
Don’t sweat the details:
“Unlike a lot of people, I thought getting a photographer was totally worth it. Also worth it was having caterers. It felt like such an over-the-top expense at the time, but everything was served, cleaned, and coordinated (and it did help that there was a lovely waiter who seemed to ask me if I wanted another drink every thirty minutes while I was busy “working the crowd!”).
Having no centerpieces made no difference at all; I’m so glad we saved money there! Instead we had bowls of marshmallows that people could roast in the fire. I kind of regret spending so much on food. It was amazing, but no one remembers the food. Having online RSVPs also saved us heaps.
I think the other bit that people don’t talk so much about is time saving. I am not a DIY person, and in the end, not a single person noticed that there were very few ‘details.’ People barely remember the ones that were there. I just wish I hadn’t spent so much time stressing about things like marshmallow bowls, blankets, and shoes. None of that stuff actually mattered in the end.”
“We spent the most money (half of our budget) on venue. We chose a restaurant, so that amount of money covered cocktail hour, dinner, wine at dinner, dessert and coffee (although we also had a wedding cake given as a gift), decor, day-of coordinating, and it meant we had no rentals or clean up or other logistics to take care of. It was… awesome. Highly recommend a restaurant wedding if planning a million things isn’t your forte, and if you’re kind of a minimalist who doesn’t mind a lack of decoration. (The restaurant itself is beautiful, so that was enough. If we had wanted to decorate, that was allowed.)
We spent nothing on decorations. We spent next to nothing on table numbers, escort cards, and invitations (made those very simply, by hand). We spent about $25 on music because we did the iPod deejay dance party thing (my cousin loaning us his professional speakers was amazing!). The $25 was for songs we didn’t already own but thought would make good dance party additions.
Worth it was answering any questions I didn’t feel like answering with, “We haven’t decided yet.” Also totally worth it was my bouquet. Because we didn’t really have a lot of “details,” it really counted for a lot, in my book. It turned out just how I wanted it to, and my partner loved it too when he saw it, which kind of surprised me. He still mentions it every now and then (two years later).
What was totally not worth it was stressing: about hiring a new-ish photographer, about not having a deejay, about not having favors, and about not having a “real” back-up plan for taking photos if it rained. Everything turned out fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.”
Extracts taken from