You may be feeling pretty overwhelmed with wedding planning right now, with advice pouring in from every aunt and cousin you have. But here’s what we at the Wedding Journal wish we’d known before organising our own weddings!
Everywhere you look, there are rules about weddings – who you have to invite, what you have to buy, gifts you have to give. If I had a penny for everyone who said some version of ‘You absolutely mustn’t forget to do this’, I could probably have paid for the wedding all in one go!
But when the honeymoon’s over and you’re looking back on your big day from a position of newlywed bliss (we hope!), it can all look very different, and things that loomed large in the run-up to the wedding may now seem quite trivial!
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So we asked our friends and families what they wish they’d known before they organised their weddings – who knows, this might help you to relax and go with the flow a little when you realise how unimportant some things end up being!
- Shoes are not that important
I had the loveliest shoes – in a delicate Mary Jane style with double straps – but before anyone even saw them, the photographer had taken us out onto the damp grass for pictures and the heels sank deep into the mud, leaving a mucky watermark that was never to be removed. Another bride I spoke to says no-one ever sees your shoes and they can end up lasting about five minutes: “My gorgeous shoes got stuck in decking after 10 steps and it was bare feet from that moment onwards!”
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- You’ll look amazing
We all spent months fretting about our weight and our skincare in the run-up to the big day and do you know what? We all looked brilliant. I planned out a punishing gym schedule in a bid to fit into a size 12 dress, but luckily the very experienced dress shop owner advised me to go for a 14, and she was absolutely right – I soon pulled my hamstring in a spin class and the gym schedule had to go out the window. But thanks to my gorgeous dress and perfect make-up and hair, I felt wonderful. So don’t sweat it if you’re struggling with less than perfect skin or weight before the wedding – you will feel magnificent when you walk down the aisle.
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- You need to double check the DJ has the right song for your first dance
One bride revealed her DJ was calling her during the wedding ceremony itself to ask what the back-ups were because he didn’t have their first song : “Download from iTunes, buddy!” And we erroneously thought our wedding band would be playing our first song and had sent a couple of versions of the Led Zeppelin song ‘Thank You’ to be helpful – it ended up with the DJ playing the rather ropey Tori Amos cover instead of a gorgeously jazzy Lizz Wright version. There were raised eyebrows in every direction, but we ended up laughing about it!
- Deal with the big issues first
Prioritise your venue, caterer, dress, photographer and flowers – these are major big-ticket items that may have to be booked a long way in advance. Get these crossed off your list early on and then look again at your budget to see what you can afford for the smaller things.
- Half the favours will end up lying around the tables at the end of the night
They may seem like little inexpensive items, but multiply them up by 120 or 250 and the cost soon stacks up. So make sure your favours are something your guests will really love and appreciate. Ours were heart-shaped chocolates in filmy net with tiny paper flowers – which you’d expect to be popular – and they were still left. So think hard about favours before you spend all that money.
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- You’ve got to eat first thing in the morning
Do NOT skip breakfast, even if you have to get up earlier. Bring snacks with you that are non-messy and can be tucked away in a small bag – even better, get your bridesmaids to bring something. What people forget about weddings is how long the hours are during which everybody sits around not eating before you actually get to sit down to dinner. And your guests will probably have time to order a sneaky plate of sandwiches at some point, but you won’t. The last thing you need is a blood sugar crash or a migraine.
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- You’ll spend a lot of time with your wedding suppliers
You’re going to be talking a lot to your hairdresser, your make-up artist, your photographer and your videographer, so make sure you trust and like them. You want to be spending time with people you get on with on your big day, not someone who sets your teeth on edge. Former bride Julie says: “Choose only positive people and make sure you’ll want to be around them on the day – mine slightly ruined the vibe at times.”
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- You’ll need a Plan B for every aspect of the day
Make sure you have put together some kind of contingency plan and make sure your bridal party is well aware of it. One groom had to come up with a quick plan change when the photography venue fell through: “We wanted photos in Botanic Gardens in Belfast and it was a five-minute walk from the venue. However, it wasn’t available and we had to hurriedly book transport to an alternative location, Lady Dixon Park.”
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- Honestly? No-one will remember the decor
Guests may admire your flowers or chairs or table settings, but they won’t remember them. So make sure you do what makes you happy if you’re spending so much money. Pick what you love, rather than what you think fits in with a particular style, or you think others will like.
- You’ll never get your time back
Wedding planning is extremely time-consuming, but this is your life and your time is valuable. You wouldn’t spend money frivolously so don’t spend your time frivolously either – you’re not trying to win any awards. If you find yourself getting too bogged down in tiny details, then rein it in. There are loads of free online resources online that can help you with the wedding planning, including our free wedding planner, so don’t reinvent the wheel!
- Expect the unexpected
It doesn’t matter how perfectly you organise everything – there will always be something that doesn’t go perfectly to plan, be it the wrong colour of ribbons on the cake, the song for the first dance or the weather on the day. So don’t sweat the small stuff! My bridal shop forgot to put on the fastener on my dress that should have kept my train up off the ground and I had to improvise with nappy safety pins. Then we arrived to find the venue had put up a welcome board that named another couple instead of us! But those are the things that you leave to your wedding party members to deal with – you’ll be up to your eyes being photographed and talking to guests. You might not even notice some of the things that go wrong. It’s the little hitches that you’ll laugh and reminisce about in years to come, especially when the people you love are no longer around. Wouldn’t life be boring if everything was perfect?
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