Planning a wedding can be stressful for everyone involved. Sure, plenty of books, pamphlets, and guides are available that claim to be helpful, but sometimes they are just not realistic.
It takes a wedding professional who has worked with hundreds or even thousands of couples to identify the common pitfalls that can occur on your wedding day. These mistakes can lead to stressful situations, awkward moments, and hurt feelings.
Here are ten insider secrets that only someone who creates wedding magic for a living can share. Following them will ensure your wedding day is full of love, happiness, and good cheer.
A Wedding Planner’s Top 10 Secrets for a Perfect Wedding Day
1. Check local calendars for conventions, parades and other events that may interfere with traffic and hotel arrangements before setting an official date for your wedding
Nothing is worse than planning your wedding and finding out that your loved ones cannot get hotel rooms because everything is booked up due to a local event or college graduation. Even worse, you might discover that your guests’ hotel rooms are sandwiched between attendees of the National Association of Accordion Players.
Rather than subject your guests to several sleepless nights filled with polka music, investigate local events on your wedding day well in advance. Call local hotels to see if availability is limited due to an event or conference. If so, choose another weekend for your festivities.
You should also check local tourism calendars for charity walks, marathons, parades, or other big events affecting traffic and hotel room availability. This way, you will not be caught unaware.
It won’t be much fun if you’re forced to have your guests bunk with you because there is quite literally no room at the inn or when you have guests arriving late for your ceremony due to traffic snarls and road rerouting.
2. Use your creativity (and favorite music) to turn saving money for the wedding into an enjoyable game instead of a chore
If you are paying for your wedding yourselves, then you know how important it is to save money. The best way to do this, besides setting a budget and sticking to it, is to make a game out of saving.
Here’s one creative idea:
Set up a jar and label it “Wedding Fund.” Make a list of your favorite artists and narrow it down to the three or four that you hear the most. Set monetary amounts for each of them.
Now every time you hear a Lady Gaga song, you must put $2 into the jar. If Nickleback is played, then $5 goes into the jar.
If you’re not a music lover, you can play the same game with television commercials instead.
Give yourselves a time period for the game to run. Six months is a reasonable length of time. See how much money you can save this way before time runs out. You might be surprised!
Turning money-saving into a game gives you more incentive to stash cash for your big day. If you want to take it a step further, set up two jars and compete against each other to see who can save the most.
3. Choose an imperfect, mismatched Alice in Wonderland-esque theme for your wedding
Too often, couples focus on trying to make everything at the wedding “perfect.” Instead, you can deliberately include eclectic choices, resulting in a unique, memorable, and less stressful marriage.
Here’s how it works:
Take the story of Alice and Wonderland and loosely adapt it to your wedding reception. Have everything be just a little “off.” This means that nothing should be perfect.
Your reception hall can be decorated with mismatched tables, china, flowers, and silverware. Scatter several mini desserts on the table around a traditional wedding cake.
Automatically, considerable weight is lifted off your shoulders. You no longer have to worry about throwing the “perfect” wedding. When the guests arrive, they are greeted by whimsy and comfort.
If Alice in Wonderland isn’t your thing, there are any number of similar themes you might choose. Host a shabby chic or down-home country wedding (throw in a few rough-hewn wooden tables for this one) or a relaxed theme.
The theme you choose doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you won’t have to stress over selecting the perfect china to eat.
4. Book your honeymoon travel in your maiden name rather than your married name
I know you’re anxious to show off your brand-new Mrs. However, this might mean you end up with no honeymoon at all! Getting a new passport and social security card in your married name can take several weeks. Reserve everything in your maiden name when arranging flights and international travel plans for your honeymoon.
Another thing to keep in mind is your name change itself. In some states, a waiting period is required between applying for and receiving your marriage license. This can delay the date on which you can be legally married. This can vary depending on where you live, so look up local statutes and get your license well in advance.
5. Keep track of your guests by numbering your guest list and coordinating your RSVP response cards with those numbers
When it comes to invitations and reply cards, you can keep better track of them by numbering the reply cards to correspond with your guest list.
For example, if Great Aunt Elsie and Uncle Gene are the fifth people on your list, write a small number five discreetly on the back of their reply card or in the corner by the stamp.
This tip is helpful if you receive an RSVP that lacks a name, meal choice, or the number of guests attending. (Believe me, this will happen to you.) It’s also quite useful for those guests with illegible handwriting.
This way, you won’t need to call every one of your guests to retrieve the missing information. You can save time and aggravation by going straight to the number on your list.
As a bonus, you can reward the guests who responded the fastest. One couple, who both happened to be accountants, gave the centerpiece at each table to the person who was the first to RSVP.
It was the perfect way to reward their prompt guests and showcase the couple’s slightly obsessive-compulsive personalities. In fact, if you set up this contest when you send out your invitations, you will receive your responses much faster.
6. Assign someone the important task of wrangling out of town guests on your wedding weekend
It’s your wedding day. You have better things to worry about besides figuring out how to get your lost Uncle Bernie to the ceremony on time. Yet, if you don’t plan, everyone will call you with numerous questions and problems.
Solve this by designating a contact person. Make sure this person isn’t a wedding party member because they have enough to do on your wedding day. Besides, the last thing you need is for your pictures to be delayed because your Best Man is too busy giving directions to your second cousin twice removed!
Instead, designate one person, a parent or responsible family member, as the contact person who will help guests on your wedding day. Put that person’s cell phone number on your wedding invitations.
Ideally, this person should know your local area backward and forwards or just be really good with their smartphone GPS and map apps. They can be your point man for all questions, giving you one less thing to worry about.
7. Honor the special women in your life by inviting them to create an impromptu bouquet for your ceremony
If you have close friends or relatives who are not at the bridal party, this is a meaningful way to include them in your ceremony.
Ask 10-12 women (close friends, mentors, sisters, aunts, or grandmothers) to bring a flower or two of their choice to your wedding ceremony. Once they arrive, designate a close friend to gather all of the flowers and bind them with florist wire and ribbon.
Pick up your newly completed bouquet just before you walk down the aisle. You can then have your minister or officiant explain the significance behind the mismatched bouquet, or you can explain it later at your reception.
Not only does this add meaning to your wedding bouquet, but it also pays homage to the women who have touched your life significantly and saves you the hundreds of dollars you would have spent buying a bouquet from a florist.
8. Make a list of all of the contact information for each member of your wedding team and distribute several copies to friends and family in case you need to get a hold of one of them on your wedding day.
While you may put an exact start time on your invitations, don’t expect everyone to take it seriously. Someone is always late.
It would be best if you planned for this by making the time on your invitations at least 15 minutes before you plan to begin. This is the only way to ensure that you start on time.
Do the same thing with the other events on your wedding day timeline. Pad the time you think it will take to get your hair done, put on your dress, and complete your makeup, especially when doing all this with your bridesmaids.
Tell everyone involved when to arrive dressed and ready for photos or when to arrive at the salon with all of the necessary accouterments. Add some extra time to allow for someone to run late, which will inevitably happen.
If you start photos at 5:00 pm, tell them to arrive at the church at 4:40. And whatever you do, don’t tell anyone this is not the “real” start time. If you don’t think 20 minutes is enough leeway, add another ten and ask them to arrive a half-hour before.
Otherwise, you may waste time and money because you must adjust your ceremony and reception to someone else’s schedule.
10. Instead of spending time at each table thanking guests at your reception, prioritize your “thank you’s” to allow more time to relax and enjoy your wedding.
The tradition of visiting tables at the reception to thank each guest is ancient. Wedding etiquette handbooks and family members may insist that you do this properly and successfully.
While, in theory, this seems like a good idea, and it’s certainly a nice thing to do, actually doing it can single-handedly ruin your reception.
Look at it this way: let’s say you invite 250 people to your wedding, and your venue sets up 25 tables, each with 10 chairs to accommodate everyone comfortably. If you walk around to each table, allowing only two minutes per table to greet everyone (which breaks down to an implausible 12 seconds per person), it will take 50 minutes to welcome your guests. When you allow for the reality of much longer conversations, that time can easily double.
That’s almost two hours of your precious reception time spent on obligation instead of enjoying yourself. Add to this the time necessary for formal events such as the cake cutting, special dances, and bouquet toss, and your reception is over in a flash, and you haven’t even hit the dance floor.
The truth is that you don’t have to visit tables at all. But if you choose to greet your guests individually, here are some tips to keep this task from dominating your special day.
Use assigned seating and keep track of the tables where your older guests and family will be seated. These people are most likely to throw a fit if you don’t spend individual time with them.
Since the day will be a whirlwind of activity, write down where your relatives and older guests will be seated beforehand.
Make sure you eat dinner as soon as it is served, and then immediately head straight for those tables to make those basic greetings.
As far as your friends are concerned, you can greet them on the dance floor, at the bar or the after-party. Otherwise, you will visit tables until the very end of the reception and miss out on all the fun that comes with it.
Planning a wedding isn’t easy; it takes time, effort, and patience. With these ten insider secrets under your belt, your planning will be off to a great start.
Congratulations, and good luck with your wedding plans! Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions and to find out if I’m a good match for your wedding day.