In case you haven’t heard, my husband (man that never gets old!) and I got married a little over four months ago!! Now that the wedding planning dust has settled and we’re getting back to normal life as married couple, I thought I’d reflect on my own experience planning a wedding as a wedding professional! So today I’m sharing my top FIVE wedding planning tips as a newlywed & wedding photographer!
So my experience of planning a wedding was made that much more fun and exciting because I’m a wedding photographer, and I got to hire some of my favorite vendors!! But it was also super hard to narrow down from all the people I wanted to work with because budgets are real and hard- ask my parents!! I had a clear vision but really had no idea how to make a reality. I realized that my perspective of weddings was very one-sided and that I honestly had no concept of all of the work that went into a wedding! Now part of that was because I chose to make it a little bit harder on myself (that wasn’t the goal obviously!) because I chose a caterer who I was so obsessed with, but she wasn’t full service. Which meant that we had to get our own china, flatware, linens, cups, bartenders, etc. So I ended up working with a ton of vendors for lots of different things, so there were a lot of people to juggle! So that leads me to tip number 1!
1. Hire a wedding planner!
You’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again for the souther mommas who think they can do it all. HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER! They don’t have to be J-Lo level planning like in the movie, but at the very minimum you need a day-of coordinator! Most planners offer a variety of services from full and partial planning to month-of and day-of coordination. Most brides don’t actually know that there are different levels of help you can get! I chose to hire a Karoline of Sweet Karoline Events because I had worked with her before and loved her kind spirit and leadership! We met early on because I knew I wanted to hire her, and so she was helping me from the beginning with determining how to make my vision a reality. I chose month-of coordination because I loved the idea of having her in charge of all vendor communications and schedules when the stress of the wedding was at it’s highest. David’s mom from Honduras was going to be staying with us the weeks before the wedding, and I knew that I wanted to be free to get to know her and enjoy our time together. Karoline kept me on track, helped me manage all the various vendors, and encouraged me when I felt like I was behind or missing something. She was a God send!! And when the day arrived, homegirl had everything on lock down! She managed everything while six months pregnant and helped us have the most amazing day.
Alright mommas, listen up. This is for you! I know you think you can do it all, and I’m sure you can! If this was anyone else’s wedding day but your baby’s, then I’d say go for it. But do you really want to be running around setting things up and managing vendors on your daughter or son’s wedding day? No! You need to be with them on their day and have enough time to shower! If you try and plan this yourself, you’ll be crazy and everyone will be on edge because the mother-of-the-bride has lost her shit and ain’t nobody getting it back! Honestly, I’ve been through enough stressful dinner party preparations to know that my mom needed someone else to coordinate this day and boy was I glad that we did! She was still busy and little crazy, but such are wedding days! Know when you can and cannot take the reigns, but know that where you’re needed the most on the wedding day is right beside your little girl.
2. Get things done early!
This was one that surprised me but I’m so glad that I did! Y’all, homegirl was READY to be engaged. Like questioning every move and date night out kinda ready. But I refused to wedding plan until we were engaged. So when the big day came and I finally said YES!, I hit the ground running!! Two days later, I’m in my office, wedding planning things everywhere, in tears. We made it through, it’s fine. But within the first three months of being engaged, we had picked and booked a date, venue, photographer, HMUA, caterer, florist and planner. Mostly because my anxiety about planning a wedding in under a year was through the ROOF, but also because (for the most part) I knew who I wanted! So by Christmas time, everyone was asking how wedding planning was going. I could confidently say that we had gotten a lot done and I was cruising! That made the small stuff like rentals and things easier to manage because I wasn’t juggling everything all at once. It also meant that when my choice for bridesmaid dresses completely WENT OUT OF BUSINESS six months before our wedding, we had plenty of time to pivot to another company who was amazing to work with! Azazie, y’all. Can’t go wrong.
Trust your gut. If somethings feel off, don’t go with someone. I remember we had booked a tasting with a catering company that I had worked with before, and it was a DISASTER. I couldn’t get into the building, someone doing a tasting had to open the door for me, no one greeted me for 20 minutes, we couldn’t pick our food, it was cold and boring event food, and we left hungry and pissed off. Oh and I had seen one of their managers clean a spoon with her THUMB at a wedding, nope! Fast forward to meeting the caterer that we had hired, Chef Tara with Catering by Tara, she got to know us as a couple and together we created a custom menu that was representative of both of us and our two cultures, Southern and Honduran. Then she came to our house and did the tasting in our home! Not only was the food fantastic then and on the wedding day, but she remembered details about us and always had an incredibly positive attitude during our whole experience. That is the difference. Hire vendors that go above and beyond to serve you, not just to book you. As a wedding professional, I value the relationship that I create with my clients because if you know and like me, then you trust me. Trust is HUGE when it comes to your vendors because you cannot control every aspect of the day. You simply cannot. So if you know that Tara’s got this dinner on lock and she and her staff are going to make sure that everyone is well fed and taken care of, then I can keep on enjoying my day! Our florist, Emily of Julep Floral, is another great example because from that first meeting with Karoline I told her my vision and that I’m not a DIY bride. I’m not crafty, I wanna be, but I’m just not. I needed someone who did more than just the flowers but could do decor and set up and make it all happen. After our first meeting, she showed me a whole damn power point presentation of the style of the wedding, bouquet and centerpiece design options, alter decor ideas, the works! She even does a watercolor palette for each wedding. WHAT?! She’s a queen. There’s a full vendor list at the end of this as well, because I know you don’t want me to go through each vendor and why we chose them. If you have a specific question about a certain vendor on our list, feel free to email me!
Okay so this is actually something that I’ve been telling my brides for years, but I had my chance to live it during my wedding planning process. Sit down with your fiancé and determine what your priorities are as a couple and individually. For example, I knew that I wanted an amazing photographer (duh) and a nice location. David wanted good food and good music. So that’s where focused a lot of our energy. He didn’t care about meeting with the florist or seeing the linens, but you better believe he was at the tastings and meeting with the DJ! I didn’t care about a huge cake, so we got an 8 in simple cake from our favorite bakery, Suarez Bakery, and got tons of desserts. I also didn’t spend a lot of time and money on the signs. I got one beautifully painted sign from my friend Kristina with My Little Design Company , and then did free printables and cheap signs from hobby lobby! A huge way in which we saved was through our alcohol purchasing. Thankfully, our venue allowed us to bring in our own alcohol which saved us a lot! My parents got a Sam’s card and we bought beer in bulk! Then, here’s the secret that I bet no one at our wedding even knew about, we bought boxed wine from Trader Joes. That’s right, we served Two Buck Chuck at our wedding! It was the highest rated boxed wine out of all of them, and the bartenders put the wine in glass carafes anyway! It’s free wine, you drink it and don’t think twice about it! Done!
Alright this is a little cliche, but it’s true! Wedding planning is glamorized into champagne all the time and everyone laughing and cheersing, and maybe that happens twice during the whole experience! When in reality, it’s constantly making numbers and making decisions and answering emails and reminding people to RSVP and and and and…you get the gist. It can feel like it’s taking over your life. Go to dinner with family or fiancé and do not talk about the wedding! Set boundaries for yourself in self-preservation because there will come a point where you resent it all. Don’t give up and run to the court house, unless that’s the kind of wedding you’ve dreamed of! Because all of that planning and stress and craziness comes to screeching halt when you’re sitting at your sweetheart table with your husband by your side, looking at everyone laughing and mingling at a beautiful reception just like you imagined. It is worth it, you just have to get through it. And once you’re smack dap in the middle of the day with everything happening around you, take a moment to stop, breathe, and enjoy. It will fly by and you won’t remember everything, but slow down and take it all in. And most importantly, hold your now-husband and savor in the joy of finally FINALLY being married. What a gift.
Whew!! Man that was a lot! But if you made it this far, thanks for hanging out! I hope my experience and tips will help you in your own wedding planning journey! I will be posting more wedding planning tips here soon, so keep an eye out!
One more thing before I forget!! Give yourself grace. You don’t do this for a living and you’ve never done this before. You may come over budget like I did, and instead of making me feel like a failure, my parents greeted me with grace and understanding. For that I am so grateful.
Thank you again to all the amazing vendors who worked tirelessly to make our wedding a success!
Venue: Boxwood Estate
Planner: Sweet Karoline Events
Dress Boutique: New York Bride & Groom
Hair & Makeup: Mirror Bomb Studio
Cake: Suarez Bakery
Flowers: Julep Floral
DJ: 815 Events
Catering: Catering by Tara
Bartenders: Bartender’s Plus
Rentals: Evermore Event Co.
Linens: Party Reflections
Signs & Stationary: My Little Design Company
Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie
Photographer: Fabiola Isabel Photography