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Wedding Planning Tips | Jeffrey House Photography

13 wedding planning tips to create an amazing wedding experience for you and your guests!  A MUST read guide!

wedding planning tips

 

13 Wedding Planning Tips For An Amazing Wedding

 

You're engaged!

It won't be long before your thoughts turn to planning your wedding.  It's such a happy and exciting time, but it can also be stressful.  Where do you begin?  What should you do first?  

There's a reason why there are professional wedding planners.  Weddings have a lot of moving parts that require strategizing and implementation.  But, don't worry too much.  We have 13 wedding planning tips that are going to take the guess work out of it and help you plan an amazing wedding!  

13 Tips for planning an amazing wedding!

1.  Organization

Planning a wedding is a big undertaking and organization is vital to your overall success.  You can either purchase or create an organization system, but do yourself a favor and don't skimp out on this step.  

If you'd like to purchase a pre-designed wedding planning system, I would recommend checking out Amazon.  They offer a lot of functional and affordable wedding planner options.  If you want to save a little money, purchase some file folders and dedicate a folder to each area of your planning.  You can even use the folder cover to make important notes.  

2.  Prioritize What's Important

This is a step many couples forget to take into consideration, but it's vital to your overall wedding planning.  Understanding what's important to you will provide you with focus and direction.  

Do you want a wedding venue with great food?  Do you want amazing wedding photos?  You and your partner should sit down together and discuss what's most important to each of you.  This will be extremely valuable in guiding you through your planning.  

3.  Develop A Budget

If you're like most couples, this is the first time you've planned a wedding.  You likely have no idea how much it costs for flowers, a DJ or a wedding photography.  In fact, most couples underestimate their wedding costs by 43%!  

Many couples develop a budget based on what they think it should costs.  I've even seen couples create a budget based on what their friends paid for their wedding two years ago.  Obviously, neither of these approaches are very accurate.  

So, how do you figure out how much weddings really cost?  You're in luck because I have a great website to help you figure it out!  

CostOfWedding.com

Simply enter your zip code and answer a couple basic questions, and voila!  In the matter of a few seconds this site will give you the actual cost of wedding details in your area.  

Click on each detail to ensure you account for all the costs.  Take wedding photography for example, they give you the price for photography, a CD with the digital files, an engagement session, etc.  You need to add up all the applicable products/services to get the most accurate cost.  

Why is having this cost information so valuable in developing a budget?

Let's take a closer look.

When it comes to financing a wedding, you have several options:

a.  Money you and partner currently have saved that can be allocated to wedding expenses

b.  Most final wedding payments aren't due until a couple of weeks before the wedding, so you need to determine how much money you and your partner can save until then

c.  Money each set of parents are able to contribute

d.  A small personal loan

Having a solid assessment of your wedding costs is extremely important.  Let's assume you sketch out your wedding and believe it's going to cost $20,000.  What happens six months from now when you realize you too underestimated your costs by 43%, and your wedding is really going to cost $28,600?  This could potentially be a huge issue.  

4.  Create A Guest List

Another challenging, but crucial component of wedding planning - creating a guest list!  

Before starting your guest list, bear in mind the majority of couples regret not having a smaller wedding.  The average wedding has 125 guests and each guest costs approximately $200-$250.  So, let's say you can reduce your guest list to 115 people.  How does that change the landscape of your wedding budget?  

It will save you a minimum of $2,000-$2,500 on your wedding budget!  10 less people will also mean you need less tables, less table settings (centerpieces), less favors, etc.  When all is said and done, this number is probably closer to $2,300 - $2,800!  

Great, now that we understand how much of financial impact our guests can have, how do you actually begin creating your guest list?

Begin by separating your guest list into 2 categories:

1.  Must Invite

2.  Possible Invite

Your "must invite" list will likely include immediate family (parents & siblings) and close extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.).  Your "possible invites" will generally include distant extended family, friends, co-workers, etc.

Most couples will need to consult with their parents on the guest list and this is where things can get a little sticky.  Parents usually have their own motivation for the guest list and this can cause everyone to butt heads a little.  Parents often want to invite relatives or old friends that you haven't seen in years and your left wondering why in the world you would want to invite them.

Obviously, depending on who's paying for your wedding can make this an issue or a non-issue.  But, it also comes down to your personal feelings as well.  Your parents might be footing the bill for the entire wedding and aren't concerned with inviting 200 people.  However, you may have your heart set on a smaller, more intimate wedding of 125 guests.  

This all goes back to step #2 and prioritizing what's important to you!  If you don't care just go with it, but if envision something different, share your vision.  

If you're ultimately looking to keep your guest list to a certain number, it will require you to set a few ground rules.  Let's take a look at some of the common situations you are likely to face:

Distant Friends & Relatives

Many couples have implemented a simple policy - If I haven't seen or spoken with someone in the past 6 months, they don't get invited.  It's a simple, but logical approach to controlling the size of your guest list.

You're Not Obligated To Invite Friends

 Ahhh, this can be a tough one!  Many couples find themselves inviting friends, but they don't really care whether they are there or not.  I've seen situations in the past where brides didn't want to invite their childhood best friend because everything between them seem to be a competition - who is getting married first or who is having the nicer wedding.  They invite them out of obligation and later they deeply regretted it.  

If there are friends you don't want to invite for one reason or another simply tell them how much your appreciate their support, but your budget will only allow for certain number of guests, and family has to be the priority.  

Another common situation is feeling obligated to invite someone because they invited you - It's what I like to call the "reciprocal" invite.  Last year, your friend got married and you attended the wedding.  Now you're getting married, but don't want to invite them.  There is no wedding etiquette that states you have to invite them.  Again, show your appreciation for their support, but them know you can't go over budget with the guest list.  

No Children

A wedding is an adult event and many couples prefer to not have children attend their wedding.  They don't want to have to worry about a crying baby or a temper-tantrum in the middle of their ceremony or a crying child at the reception because their tired and don't want to eat their dinner.  

No matter what side of the fence you're on when it comes to inviting children, you're likely put someone off.  Some guests believe children should not be invited to a wedding and others can't imagine how you could possibly exclude their little angels.  

Whatever your preference, at some point you will need to determine an age limit.  For example, anyone 18 and older can attend the wedding.  

Plus One

This can be another delicate subject.  Who is and isn't allowed to bring a "plus one?"  If you set the age limit at 18, it's very likely you're going to to get a lot of requests to bring a boyfriend or girlfriend, but this can quickly add to your guest list.  

Many couples require couples to be married or living together in order to bring a guest.  While your niece or nephew might be upset they can't bring their significant other, they will get over it.  

Co-Workers

Co-workers can be another sticking point for many couples - do I or don't I invite co-workers?  And if you do invite co-workers, can you invite just certain people or do you need to invite everyone?  What about your boss?  Should they be invited too?  

Ask yourself a couple simple questions before making this decision.  Do you engage in casual activities with your co-workers outside of the office?  Do these activities include everyone or just some people?  Is your boss present at this activities?  

It's perfectly fine to just invite certain co-workers, especially if you engage in casual activities outside of the work place.  If everyone is on the same playing field, proper etiquette would be to invite everyone.  

5.  Choose A Wedding Date

Believe it or not, a wedding date can have significant influence over your wedding and one of the most notable is cost.

If you choose a June wedding date, you should anticipate higher costs.  For in-season weddings, a lot of wedding venues will require minimum guest counts (i.e. 150 guests) or a minimum financial investment (i.e. $20,000).  

But, if we are talking about off-season weddings, you may find you can include a lot of "extras" for a minimal cost.  

Another issue that can arise with your choice of a wedding date, is availability.  You may have your heart set on a certain wedding venue or DJ, but you will need to book them as soon as possible for an in-season wedding.  We have personally seen an increase in off-season weddings.  Even though it's not as critical to book early, I still recommend booking as soon as possible.  

6.  Choose A Wedding Venue

The next detail to consider is choosing your wedding venue.  Your wedding venue is the most expensive part of planning a wedding.  It generally accounts for 45%-50% of your budget.  It also sets the tone and feel of your overall wedding.  

As we just discussed, wedding venues can have very specific booking requirements for in-season weddings.  Before setting your heart on a specific venue, make sure you're able to satisfy their booking policies.  

[DISCOVER:  OUR FULL WEDDING VENUE GUIDE]

7.  Hire Your Wedding Professionals & Don't Be Frugal

Every year around February or March, I wait anxiously for sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire to release the results of their annual wedding surveys.  I'm always excited to learn what couples liked and disliked about their weddings.  Every year, there is a common theme and over 80% of couples share the same regrets:

  • Scrimping on their wedding photography or hiring an amateur
  • Not hiring a videographer
  • Not hiring a professional DJ

But, why do we continue to see couples year after year regret these same issues?  Earlier, we discussed how couples underestimate their wedding costs and often form cost projections based on what they think it should cost.  The first place many couples look to cut costs is their wedding photography and DJ.  

I've seen couples spend $5,000 on their flowers, but they wouldn't pay more than $1,000 for their photographer.  

Don't get me wrong, flowers are important and they add to the overall feel of your wedding.  But, unfortunately, you will put a lot of energy into choosing the perfect blooms and most of your guests won't even notice them.  And when the day is over and the dust has settled, your left with one of the very few details you will have forever - your wedding photographs!

[DISCOVER:  WHAT WEDDING GUESTS REALLY CARE ABOUT]

This is why so many couples regret scrimping on their wedding photography, but sadly they don't realize the value of their photos until it's too late.

What about your DJ?  They are there for the day and they aren't going to give you anything that lasts forever, right?  This is true, but if you're like most couples, you want your guests to have an amazing experience.  This is where your DJ is vital to the overall success of your wedding.  

A great DJ does a lot more than play music.  They are experts at reading people and how they react to the music they are playing.  If a DJ notices people aren't dancing, they are going to make subtle adjustments to ensure people are up on the floor having a great time!  

And there's one more huge detail to consider when it comes to a DJ - They have a live mic!  You definitely want a professional handling the mic to ensure it stays professional and appropriate!

For some reason, many couples don't hire a videographer.  A lot of couples will hire them at the end if they find they have enough money remaining in the budget.  Many people feels they have a photographer and to hire a videographer would be duplicating their efforts.  

This couldn't be further from the truth.  Obviously, a wedding video is very different than wedding photos.  A video has motion and sound, and it documents your day from a completely different perspective.  Hire a videographer - your wedding photos and video will compliment one another perfectly!

Hire Professionals, Forget "Cheap Professionals," Friends & Family Members

Many couples, in an effort to save a little money, look to "cheap professionals," friends or family members to photograph their wedding or play DJ for the day.

As a professional wedding photographer, I can tell you that photographing a wedding is extremely demanding.  Watching a professional work can make it appear easy, but I assure you, it's anything but easy.  Photographing a wedding requires very specific equipment to deal with all the varying situations - especially low-light.  

Wedding photography also requires a photographer with a wide array of skills.  We need to be extremely skilled in portraiture, product photography (detail photos of the rings, shoes, dress, cake, etc.), creative lighting, fast action (dancing), varying lighting conditions, varying weather conditions, etc.  

We must be amazing problem-solvers to deal with all these varying situations and capture the moments as they unfold.  We get one chance and one chance only to get it right.  If we miss the moment, the moment is gone.  There aren't any retakes or re-do's.  

Your wedding day is one of the most significant events in your life that is often filled with once-in-a-lifetime memories.  Let a professional capture, document, and protect your memories so you have them forever!

8.  Hire A Wedding Planner

I know what you're thinking, I can't afford to hire a wedding planner!  

But, I'm here to tell you that you can.  Wedding planners generally have a lot of connections within the industry and can often save you money from their steady stream of referrals.  In many cases, the money a wedding planner saves you pays for their services.  

They are also great with finding you more affordable options.  For example, you find these gorgeous centerpieces in a bridal magazine, but discover they cost $10,000 each!  While you may not be able to afford that exact centerpiece, a wedding planner can help find something similar, but at a fraction of the cost.  

They don't just save you money, but they also save you time, energy, and frustration.  

9.  Personalization = Expensive

One of the questions we hear most often is "why are weddings so expensive?"

The simple answer is luxury.  A wedding is a luxury item.  You don't have to have a wedding.  You can have a very inexpensive ceremony that validates your marriage for less than $200.  

Over the past several years, the cost of weddings has been steadily increasing and there's a big reason behind this:

Personalization!

There are so many great resources available to us online and a lot of ways we can find inspiration.  Pinterest is a perfect example of this, but it also creates a lot of unrealistic expectations too.  

Much of what we find on Pinterest isn't real.  This is especially true when it comes to weddings.  Many couples look to Pinterest for posing ideas, but don't consider these images were made using models, elaborate lighting set-ups, and the perfect location.  Some of these images take between 30-60 minutes to create.  Unfortunately, wedding photography in the real world does not afford this luxury.  We have to be quick, innovative, and create a lifetime of memories in a matter of minutes.  

Pinterest also provides you with a lot of gorgeous ways to personalize your wedding, but these impassioned ideas usually require a significant financial investment.  Many wedding professionals, including myself, believe Pinterest is great when used for inspiration, but we also believe it's leading many couples down the wrong path.  

It's causing couples to personalize every last detail and personalization is one of the fastest ways to run up wedding costs.

If you want to add some personalization to your wedding, select a few details that are really important to you and personalize them.  You will still have an amazing wedding and your guest will have a great experience!

 Images by Jeffrey House Photography (www.JeffreyHousePhotography.com)

10.  Create A Great Wedding Timeline

A wedding timeline can make or break your wedding.  It essentially outlines when and where something is going to happen. If your timeline is off, it can send your day into a tizzy!  

The key to a successful timeline is allocating enough time for each part of the day.  Most couples underestimate the amount of time they will need for the "getting ready" part of the day.  It's essential to set aside an appropriate amount of time plus give yourself a little buffer.  If make-up or hair doesn't go to plan, you can relax knowing you've planned for unexpected issues. 

To ensure your days runs as smoothly as possible, be sure to check out our wedding day timeline blueprint!

11.  Have An Unplugged Wedding Ceremony

Just in case you're unfamiliar with the term "unplugged" wedding ceremony, let's share what it is.  It's a wedding ceremony that does not allow guests to take photos or video.  

Let me explain.

The actual wedding ceremony is the most important moment of the day.  We understand how exciting it is to capture an amazing photo, but guests are unintentionally ruining your wedding photos.  Generally speaking, a lot of images will be taken from behind the guests because it captures and documents the overall feel of your ceremony.  When your photos are filled with arms holding cell phones, it really degrades your images, if not ruins them altogether.  

Often times, guests lean or stand up in the aisle and completely block us from capturing your professional images.  Many photographers have missed capturing the traditional first kiss because a guest jumped in front of the camera at the last second.  

In our experience, a great way to implement this policy is to have your wedding officiant make a brief announcement just prior to the start of the ceremony.  They can simply explain to your guests that there is a "no photo or video" policy during the ceremony and they should relax, and experience it first-hand.  

There might be a few grumbles, but I've never seen an award-winning photograph from a guest using a smart phone.  

12.  Avoid A Large Wedding Party

A common regret among married couples, was having a wedding party that was too large.  A large wedding party creates more expenses, more planning, and more drama.  

Unfortunately, these issues are usually seen on the bride's side.  No one can agree on the bridesmaids dresses - they don't like the style or the color or the fit.  There's always a couple of people in the party complaining behind the bride's back.  It can quickly become a stressful situation.  

Before asking anyone to be part of your wedding party, there's a couple of details to consider.

What Are Your Expectations

Many people like the thought of being part of a wedding party, but they don't always want to be part of the actual experience.  Make sure you can clearly define the expectations you're going to have for those who agree to be in your wedding party.  As you ask your friends or family members, clearly outline your expectations and give them a couple of days to think about it.  Let them know you understand it's a big responsibility and if they don't want to make the commitment, there will be no hard feelings.  

There Is No Such Thing As Obligation

Choosing a wedding party is a lot like creating a guest list.  You are not required to ask anyone out of obligation, whether it be a friend or family member.  

Sometimes, parents will pressure you to ask a cousin or someone you don't really spend a lot of time with, but there isn't any etiquette that requires you to ask them.  

The same holds true for your friends.  Last year you were in your friends wedding party and now you're worried they will expect to be in yours.  But, you're trying to keep your party small and can't ask them.  Again, there is no etiquette that applies here.  Let them know you would love to have them in your party, but you can't have more than whatever number you decide.  

What's The Right Size Wedding Party

There's no specific number that makes your wedding party right or wrong.  As a general rule, if you're having 150 guests or less, try to keep it to three bridesmaids and three groomsmen.  And don't fret if they aren't exactly even.  People will tell you all the time the numbers have to even for your pictures.  Don't worry about that, it's okay if it's not even, your pictures will still look beautiful!  

If you're guest list exceeds 150 guests, you can consider adding one or two more people the wedding party.  

13.  Don't Fear The Inevitable

Many couples spend the majority of their wedding day worrying that something will go wrong.  It's only natural because after all, you likely spent the better part of the past 12-16 months planning every detail of your wedding.  

But, here's the deal.  Weddings have a lot of moving parts and it's very rare the day goes off without a few hiccups.  In most cases, no one will ever know and it can be fixed.  Make a deal with yourself before the big day.  Allow a few issues to arise and accept it's going to happen.  This will allow you to get more enjoyment from the day and it won't be so traumatic when something goes awry.  

It's an experience - enjoy it

Okay, so there you have it.  13 tips to help you plan an amazing wedding.  Sure, it can be stressful at times, but remember, planning your wedding is all part of the experience.  Embrace it, enjoy it, and create some beautiful memories along the way.  

And don't forget to take some photos too.  They will be a nice addition to your engagement and wedding photos, and they will really compliment your entire story!