Wedding season is HERE! I was privileged enough to shoot the lovely Ashley & Patrick this past Saturday at the beautiful Spring Lake setting in Rockmart, GA. It was beautiful and while shooting, I found myself reminiscing about my wedding day. It was amazing and perfect. Not that things didn't go wrong. I remember that the "dripless" candles I ordered on Amazon weren't so dripless after all. In fact, they were down right drippy. I remember turning to light the unity candle only to see that the 30 other candles had formed what looked like 30 miniature volcanoes all over the church's solid oak display table that was probably quite expensive. Luckily, my bridesmaids, armed with credit cards, went to work getting the wax off while I took family photos. I have very good friends. I remember having a minor anxiety attack and forcing my mom to go get Matt because I just needed to see him-even though I was emphatic about him not seeing me until the big reveal at the church. My wedding was still perfect to me. Possibly because of all those minor mishap moments. I wouldn't change a thing about my wedding day, but I would give myself some advice. Here are my top 10 best pieces of advice for new brides.
1.) It is you and your fiance's day. Not your mom's. Not your grandmother's. Not your mother-in-law's. YOURS. I meet so many brides who seem like really laid-back individuals in real life who are literally on the brink of an anxiety attack over planning their wedding. The lists, the money, the vendors, the details...*insert brain explosion here*. It doesn't have to be that way. If you already know what you want, you can simply begin planning by thinking about the "big categories" and filling in the blanks. AKA-Pick a venue, caterer, photographer, etc. But if you have no idea, it can be a little overwhelming. My advice is to build your wedding from the inside out. Regardless of what all the bridal magazines say, only two things must happen on your wedding day. First, you and your fiance will be present and second, someone will have to marry you. That's it. The rest is up to you. So from there where do you picture this happening? What do you picture wearing? Who do you want to be there? If something's not important to you, don't pay for it! Don't care about professional pictures? Don't hire a photographer. Don't care about flowers? Don't pay for a florist. There are plenty of "must have" lists, but ultimately you are the only one who decides what a must have is for you.
3.) Have a wedding you can afford. It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement and extravagance of planning a wedding. The bridal shows, pinterest, magazines. There are so many great ideas and unique options out there. That just means you need to set your budget early and stick to it. If parents are helping, find out exactly what they're paying for or how much they're contributing. If they are offering to "pay for the photographer", make sure you find out how much they think that's going to be. Some of these conversations will be awkward-but the communication on the front end will keep things from getting hurtful and personal on the back end. Once you have your budget, stick to it.
4.) Have a change of shoes on your wedding day. More than likely the rockin heels you bought aren't the most comfortable things in the world. And if your photographer's anything like me-I like to traipse around and find interesting photo spots. Having some sparkly Toms, flip flops, moccasins or flats will absolutely be essential at some point during your wedding day. That, or you can always show off that pedicure and rock the bare feet!
5.) Think ahead of time about who you want to dance with at the reception. I know by now you've heard "It'll go by so fast..." Well, it's true. Your wedding day will fly by and my sister-in-law gave me this piece of advice, which was really practical and helpful. Plan who you want to dance with at your reception. Now, obviously there are some "planned" moments like the father/daughter dance, etc. But is there a special mentor, uncle, grandfather, brother, etc. that you want to dance with? Knowing this ahead of time makes sure that it happens, otherwise you'll be laying on the beach during your honeymoon when you realize that you never even talked to said individual at the reception.
6.) Write up a timeline. Making a timeline ensures that the important things will happen. Include anything that means something to you. It can be super detailed, or a rough outline. Having a timeline and emailing it to the family, bridal party and vendors will keep everyone on the same page.
7.) Assign a day of coordinator. Even if you don't have a wedding planner, assign your most organized/bossy friend the job of day of coordinator. If people get lost, they call her. If a vendor has a question, they call her. She distributes the final checks on the day of the wedding. She makes sure your luggage gets to your hotel room. Your job at your wedding is to relax and enjoy the amazing day, and that's really hard to do if you are the one everyone is going to with questions and problems. If you don't have a friend who can do this, find someone and hire them. A good friend of mine offered to be my day of coordinator as my wedding gift. At the time I remember thinking that I really didn't need one-wrong. That was one of the best gifts she could've ever given me!
8.) Go on dates with your fiance. It's easy for everything about your relationship to revolve around the wedding while you're planning it. Suddenly, what's supposed to be a romantic dinner date ends up becoming an argument over which chicken dish to put on the menu. Be sure to schedule dates where there's no wedding talk allowed. It's just you and your man having fun and enjoying being in love. 9.) Don't freak out over "the lists". One of the first things I did after I got engaged was get on The Knot. Then I downloaded the "to do list" and realized Matt was a year too late with his proposal according to them. As helpful as these tools are, they are simply guidelines. Do not worry. No one is going to kill a kitten because your save the dates went out after the list said they should. Using these tools is great. Living and dying by these tools means you probably won't make it to your actual wedding day.
10.) Be present. Planning your wedding comes with a million amazing experiences and moments. Shopping for your dress. Cake tasting. Showers and bachelorette parties. It's easy with some of the more stressful experiences to let the frustration get the best of you. I remember shopping for wedding dresses with my mom and she thought that I was making a huge mistake by not getting the dress that had "the most GORGEOUS train". Unfortunately, it also had the most HIDEOUS front. It sounds funny now, but I remember being genuinely annoyed that she wouldn't let it go. I should've laughed it off. Or told her I would walk down the aisle backwards or something. In the moments you can control it, let the little things go. This is a time for a lot of celebrating with people you love. Enjoy every minute of it.