Planning a wedding can be stressful. There’s the initial excitement and then reality sets in. Weddings don’t just happen: they’re planned! So many things to do and people to consider…do we have to invite that distant relative who we last saw 10 years ago?
We married in May 2019, after a 6-month engagement and a total of 6 years together. Here, we’ll talk about the ways we made our wedding (and the planning) our own, focused on what we wanted and maintained our peace of mind.
There are many things to consider for the special day, but we can narrow it down to just a few: venue, guest list, cake and food, photography, and the couple’s attire. So much stress for such a small list, right?
Decisions, decisions, decisions…
In addition to you and your spouse are you going to allow parents, mother-in-laws, or friends to help make choices? We’ve all heard the saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” and this is one life event where you want to reduce the chances of that happening.
This may seem selfish since you’ll want everyone in on the big day, right? Not necessarily. Your wedding should be celebrated by everyone around you, but not planned by them.
Ironically, when there are too many decision-makers we’re left with more decisions.
You’ll want to work on your own timeline and ultimately have the day turn out the way you envisioned it.
Important to note: If you have financial support from family or friends, set boundaries upfront. And if you must, task them with decisions that will not impact the day if results aren’t quite what you wanted.
It’s your wedding and a memory you’ll cherish for the rest of your life. Putting it this way, it’s not such a big deal if the maid-of-honor doesn’t have a say, is it?
Picking a venue
We opted for a place that’s close to our hearts, one that we’re always excited about: Clearwater Beach, Florida. It’s a beautiful destination that we’ve visited each year since 2015 so it holds lots of sentimental value.
It’s likely that you’ll be tempted to pick a place based on where most of your guests live. Although it’s the “noble” thing to do, try your best not to compromise and go with something that’s reasonable and more importantly, special to you.
Narrowing down that pesky guest list
Looking back, the guest list was potentially one of the more stressful parts of planning. It was only stressful because we didn’t know how to say “no.”
Learning to say “no” is a great skill to have in general, but especially comes in handy during the creation of the guest list.
It’s helpful to keep in mind that it, and the cost of your wedding, are pretty much correlated. As the guest count increases, so does the total cost and vice versa.
If cost isn’t enough to help pare things down, think of the people who you absolutely, without a doubt, want to be there.
These guests are the people that you’ll want to take pictures with, talk with before and after the ceremony and get on the dance floor with. It’s hard to do that with more than 100 people in a couple of hours.
Quite frankly, a large guest list can cause the day to be more about entertaining a large group of people versus the wedding itself.
We opted to invite around 75 people and had 50 in attendance. We also decided to have a child-free wedding.
I know…you’re supposed to want everyone there. But we already knew the tone we were going for: relaxing, fun and memorable. Many of our guests would likely show up a day or two early to treat it as a vacation of their own.
Parents (and other guests) may even appreciate your decision, allowing them to unwind a little. So don’t fret about this too much!
When it comes to the guest list, it’s all about quality not quantity. Have fun and celebrate with those you love and care about, that’s all that matters!
The wedding party
As a couple, we decided to not have one–viewing it as more work for everyone than anything else.
Without these additional roles to account for, guests were able to wear what they wanted–their only commit to us being celebrate and have a good time. As it should be.
Food, drink and the cake
All 3 are important, but shouldn’t be the cause of stress. Once you’ve made a decision, let it be just that.
Want to make a change to the drink package? Sure, but don’t allow it to become an obsession. It’s hard to go wrong when you’ve made a decision based on what you believe is best.
For us it was simple: the priority was that guests were fed, had their choice of drink, and had a good time. We decided on an open bar and small bites for cocktail hour; open bar and buffet for the reception.
The buffet offered plenty of options and an open bar was the only option in our eyes, everyone having traveled from either Indiana or Texas to Florida for us.
Since we had a smaller guest list, we were able to upgrade all food and drink to the best options available. This is something we wouldn’t have been able to do with more guests.
After some deliberation and no tasting (we didn’t do any visits prior to the week of), we went with a baker that worked with the venue many times before, had stellar reviews, beautiful pictures and simple options.
Flowers cost how much?!
Think back to any wedding you’ve seen in a movie or on TV.
There are flowers everywhere: the bridal bouquet, arrangements on the ends of pews, a reception hall full of centerpieces and petals perfectly placed on and around the cake.
If this part leaves you baffled and reconsidering the spend on the other items, you’re not alone. Mentioned in a post on TheKnot.com, engaged couples in 2019 spent an average of $2,000 on flowers alone.
To save money here, we made our own centerpieces using faux flowers purchased online. While some might call this tacky, I beg to differ. Our guests didn’t enjoy the wedding any less because we didn’t have real flowers on the table.
We did have real flowers for the bouquet, boutonniere and on the arch at the ceremony.
If your venue mainly consists of nature like ours, you may decide to forego the flowers and dedicate that money to something else like photography.
Capture the moments that matter
As with the cake, the venue provided a list of photographers for us to check out.
We spent a few weeks considering videography until we finally landed on “no,” realizing that it would be more for others than ourselves if we purchased it.
It’s not necessary to have formal engagement photos–most will agree that it does not make or break the actual day or even the memories to cherish in the future.
However, it could take away money that could go towards the overall budget. We printed our “Save the Dates” via the local pharmacy photo center and used online printing for formal invites and name cards. That was it–no announcements or other stationery that’s “supposed” to complement weddings.
When it came to the day of and taking photos, we were very clear with our photographers that we didn’t want it to consume our day.
We took the first look and all family/friends pics before the ceremony to enjoy the cocktail hour and reception as much as possible.
Outside of that, we stepped away for about 45 minutes during the reception to take sunset photos. And they’re some of our favorite shots from the day!
As a side and final note on pictures, it’s okay to not want guests taking pictures during the ceremony. There’s so much money spent on the professionals to capture your special day, it’s only right that you’d want the images to come out beautiful, natural and device-free.
We understand, we did it. We asked our guests to avoid taking pictures during the ceremony for that very reason.
As an added bonus everyone focused on sharing the special moment with us.
Yes to the dress
Of all things to consider, this has to be a top priority for most. Dresses can be the best thing to plan for or the worst, depending on whether or not the dress has been found.
Even after finding it, there’s a tendency to think “what if there’s something better?” Objectively speaking, there probably is. But why spend time stressed, sifting through 1000s of dresses when you’ve found exactly what you want?
All of this is to say: trust your gut and don’t allow outside opinions cloud your judgment.
It’s good to have a balance, but if you’re not careful you could be stuck with a dress that everyone just had to agree on. Again, this is a situation where others can admire with you, but don’t have to choose for you.
We decided on a suit roughly 3 months prior to the date, had every intention to pick it up a few weeks later, but eventually changed our minds to another suit altogether.
The new one required minor alterations, looked good on and felt better for us. Like some of the other things, we changed our mind and committed to the new choice. We were so much happier with this suit and it turned out to be a hit!
We also got our money’s worth by wearing it to at least two other weddings. It’s a nice suit to have as a groom, but also practical enough to wear as a guest.
Tossing out traditions
There were a few things that I intentionally glazed over. We didn’t have or participate in any of the following: engagement party and photoshoot, bridal shower, bachelor and bachelorette parties, rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
These were all part of a tradition that wasn’t special to us or didn’t make sense based on other choices i.e. rehearsal with no wedding party.
We’re okay with it, saved money and none of this impacted the wedding in the end.
Remember: This is one day; really just a few hours for you to celebrate with the people you love (our ceremony lasted just 20 minutes). Try your best to make sure planning doesn’t become a point of contention and stress during your engagement.
Go at your own pace, choose the things you like and most importantly, enjoy your wedding day!