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How A Bride Can Plan Her Own Wedding

First thing’s first: planning a wedding can feel pretty overwhelming at first (trust me, I do it for a living). While recruiting a professionals to help out can be pretty ideal, maybe you’re working under a tight budget, or maybe you simply love going the DIY route. It may be a lot of work, but it is possible to plan your own dream wedding!

It just takes a bit of organization to keep everything on track when you’re faced with endless decisions, lists, deadlines and, you know, your own life to deal with. The trick is taking things one step at a time and recruiting friends and family (including that future spouse of yours!) to help. And give yourself plenty of time to plan. You’ll make things so much harder on yourself if you try to plan and oversee every detail and try to do it all at the last minute. A longer timeline is your friend here—aim for around a year if possible. Now, where do you begin?

Once you’ve spent some time spreading the news of your engagement and actually enjoying that special time, the budget will need to be the very first thing you finalize to get the wedding planning train going. And that can involve some uncomfortable conversations if you have any family members who are planning to chip in for the big day. So don’t delay! Have those conversations early and determine the amount everyone is comfortable spending, and then build in a 10% “splurge cushion” for any unexpected costs or urges you’ll inevitably succumb to. Be prepared for a reality check when it comes to budgeting for this big day. Many couples don’t realize the costs involved and may find that their dream wedding is a bit out of reach. In that case, be prepared to prioritize. You really can have your ideal wedding on almost any budget if you iron out what exactly is important to you and focus on those few things.

With the budget in place, it’s time to start getting inspired and delving into the nitty gritty details! Have some fun with this part; now’s the time to indulge in all those bridal magazines (ahem, BRIDES!) and blogs to get a sense of the style of wedding you want. Think about weddings you recently attended. What did you like? What would you do differently? Real life experience is always the best form of inspiration. Don’t forget to involve your fiancé in this step as well! Your wedding should represent both of you as a couple.

Organization is key when planning your own wedding. You’ll have so many balls up in the air at once, you’ll need a way to keep track of everything. You can use spreadsheets or one of the many wedding planning management apps or programs out there. Just find what works best for you and stick with it. Just remember that even with the most meticulous planning and organization system, there is bound to be some chaos from time to time. Try your best to plan ahead and don’t be too hard on yourself.

The most important thing to keep in mind: Try to have some fun! This is your wedding after all! Don’t get too hung up on those tiny details and focus on what’s truly important: a happy marriage with the person of your dreams.

Now that you’re armed and ready to begin the planning process, here are some of my top tips for planning an unforgettable wedding.

Select a Theme

Whether it’s a few colors or an actual theme (like the Roaring Twenties or Festival Chic, for example), choose something to design your wedding around. It will be much easier to make design decisions and will make things look cohesive.

Create Your Guest List

This can be a pretty harrowing process and one that will depend largely on your venue and budget. Sit down with your fiancé and family and create a wish list of guests. Chances are you’ll need to make some cuts. You should also decide whether you’re inviting children and who will be allotted a plus-one.

Get A Second Opinion

Be sure to investigate prices from vendors before you sign on the dotted line. If there’s a vendor and a package price that you like, always look for a second opinion. Ask around and see what over vendors are charging before agreeing on a price.

Read Every Contract

This is important! Be sure to read through every detail of your contracts with vendors. Make sure all the details are correct, and read through important things like payment and cancellation policies before signing. Don’t forget to double check that the date and event times are correct.

Take Time Between the Wedding and the Honeymoon

Planning a wedding and a honeymoon at the same time can be expensive, but also very time consuming. Consider taking time off between your wedding and your honeymoon so that you can save up and reset the button on your planning priorities. It helps to just focus on one thing at a time.

Recruit Help

Remember that you’re not in this alone! Your bridal party, family members and especially your fiancé are here to help. Be sure to delegate some tasks to take some of the load off of you.

DIY Strategically

DIY can be cost-effective and can add some nice personal touches to your big day. Just don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with more work than you know what to do with. Feel free to go the DIY route with things that can be done well in advance, like favors, table numbers, etc. For things like flowers or food that need to be done close to the wedding date, professional help is best.

Figure out Your Social Media Strategy

Whether you want to broadcast your wedding to the world or have an unplugged wedding, strategy is key. Hashtags, signage and photo booths are a great way to get guests posting on social. If you’re more private, include signage about an unplugged ceremony or have the officiant make a quick announcement before proceedings begin.

Add A Personal Touch

With all of the wedding traditions that people tell you that you should have at your wedding, be sure to plan in some personal traditions too. If your family has any wedding traditions that they’ve done in the past, or if there is something you want to start for future generations, don’t be afraid to give your wedding a personal touch.

Don’t Get Too Bogged Down by Tradition

Your wedding should be all about you as a couple. If certain traditions make you uncomfortable or just aren’t your style, create your own traditions.

Focus on the Big Picture

Don’t get too hung up on the small details. Your guests won’t notice if your table runners are the wrong shade of blue or if the appetizers came out 15 minutes late. The second you walk down the aisle let go of all the small stuff. Hey, you’re getting married!

Don’t Forget to Make it Legal

In the midst of all the crazy planning and small details, don’t forget to actually plan time to get your marriage license! Start researching and gathering the necessary documents early on, but keep in mind that marriage licenses are typically only valid for a couple months – so plan accordingly.

Finalize Set Up Details

Check with your venue to find out when vendors can arrive for set up. The earlier, the better but some venues may have other events going on the same day. Get this information early and review with your vendors.

Consider a Day-Of Coordinator

Even when a full-service wedding planner isn’t in the cards, hiring a professional to oversee the day-of details can be a game changer. This person can keep track of vendors, keep everything on schedule and do all the tasks you won’t have time to do while you’re getting ready and having the time of your life.

Create a Schedule of Events

Create a schedule for the run-of-show at your wedding. Include things like when vendors will arrive, when the ceremony will be, when the first dance will happen, when the cake will be cut, etc. Be sure to give a copy to your MC, photographer, maid of honor and anyone else that should be in the know.

Take Some Time Off

For the sake of your own sanity, make sure you schedule some time for you and your fiancé to be together and do anything but wedding plan. Trust me, you’ll need the break! Consider taking the week before the wedding off work, both to make sure last minute details are completed, and just to chill.

Say Thanks

Gratitude goes a long way. You should always arrange for small gifts for your wedding party and anyone else who played a big role in your planning process. Don’t forget mom and dad!

Have Fun!

What will guests notice most? A stressed out bride and groom! Be sure to have fun on your wedding day and truly enjoy the moment.

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