A few weeks ago, I started a mini-series on the blog highlighting my top three tips for the Best Wedding Ever. Part One was the 2 Week Rule: Make a timeline for your planning that ends 2 WEEKS before your wedding. And stick to it. Definitely read that one first! Today I give you Part Two: Focus on how you want your wedding to feel, not how you want it to look.
As with Part One of this series, there are a few subcategories to this rule:
1. Don't impulse buy your wedding venue. Wedding planning should start at "30,000 feet" and should always start with the season and the venue. Which season? Indoor or Outdoor? Formal or casual? How big will it be? Before you even start looking at venues, a consensus should be met between the couple and whoever is paying for the wedding on these basic elements. Then you can hone in on where you want to start looking. Once the search for a venue (and with it, the date) begins, you have a baseline to judge your choices. Does this ballroom fit the style and feel we agreed on? We wanted a rustic, romantic wedding with 80 people... OK, no? Let's move on. There are SO many venues out there to choose from, it can be overwhelming when you start looking. It is also really, really easy to swoon over a gorgeous wedding venue when you walk in, and even talk yourself into the extra cash it will take to pay for it because the wow factor is blinding you. Next thing you know your rustic romantic wedding for 80 has turned into a 200-guest black tie affair, just because you fell in love with the look of a venue. The way to avoid impulse buying when you're venue shopping is to always come back to those basics of what you agreed you wanted for the feel. Does this fit US?
2. Think about how you want your guests to experience your event. Yes, your wedding is all about you. But it's really not. If you wanted to just get married, you could go elope somewhere and skip all this rigmarole. You chose to have a wedding because you wanted to throw a party, and a party is ALL about the guests. If your guests are having a fantastic time, your party will be fantastic. This is the part where it helps to have been to a few (hundred) weddings as a guest, which won't happen if you're the first to get married (that's when you hire someone like me!). If you're lucky enough to have attended even a couple of weddings, you probably have a memory of some really great and really not so great moments as a guest, so start with those.
When it comes to guests' experience, I'm a firm believer that the general timeline and layout make all the difference in the world. This is an area that tends to get overlooked, so hear me out. As your timeline for your wedding day is starting to take shape, stop and mentally walk through your day as a guest for a moment. Is there awkward downtime between the ceremony and reception? What will your guests do during this time? (And don't say "that's not my problem", because it most certainly is). How far are your guests travelling? Where will they park? When will they get to say hello to you? How long will they be seated for dinner? Who will they be seated with and why? Every decision you make for the structure of your event should be viewed through the eyes of your guests, based on how you want them to feel. The nicest and most memorable weddings I've attended had one thing in common -- a great flow to the event, and a feeling that I was looked after. More often than not, your guests have gone to some lengths, financially and otherwise, to be at your wedding. When your guests feel like their comfort and happiness has been taken into consideration, they are much better partiers!
3. Let your agreed upon "feel" guide your decision making. There are SO many decisions to be made when you're planning an event like a wedding, and it's easy to head down a rabbit hole with decorations and formalities that takes you far, far away from your original inspiration. The easiest way to make sure every detail fits together and creates the vibe you're going for is to come back to that original conversation you had at 30,000 feet. We said we wanted a rustic, romantic, small wedding. Does the drapery and uplighting really go with that? Should we even do a bouquet toss? There is no formula for the perfect wedding, and there's no rule book for what you "have" to include. I find a lot of weddings end up feeling cookie-cutter (or worse, an over-done mess) when the bride and groom just go ahead and include all the American wedding traditions even when they don't fit the feel they were going for, or they don't fit the couple. You may fall in love with a table setting in a magazine with crystal glassware, a giant floral centerpiece and tons of candles, all in your color scheme. But if you wanted a more laid-back feel for your event, this table isn't right for you. It's beautiful, just not for your wedding.
4. It's a wedding, not a photo shoot. Photos are important, don't get me wrong. They help you remember and relive your wedding day for the rest of your life. But if you're planning a wedding, think for a second about how many decisions you've made (timing, decorations, formalities) because of photo opportunities. I have been a bridesmaid and a wedding planner for so many weddings that just feel like a day-long photo shoot. It's miserable, and the whole day ends up having a slight air of falseness to it... Like all of this is just for show, for the cameras. Do yourself a favor and find a journalistic-style photographer who excels at candids and story-telling. You'll get amazing photos without feeling like you're posing all day. And the photos will tell the true story of your wedding, not a contrived story that your photographer posed for you. You want to be there, in the moment, all day long. You want to feel real emotion and let the day happen as it will without breaking up the flow of events just to take pictures at every corner. Trust me on this one--find a photographer that will work in this way, and you will not regret it.
When you're the guest of honor at your own wedding, it doesn't really matter how the room looks, plain and simple. You'll be on cloud nine, and if your main focus of your planning was on the feel of the event, you will be immersed in the setting, and feel as wonderful as you dreamed you would. You will not regret spending extra time thinking through logistics and making careful, personal choices for your wedding day. These are the things that really make a wedding feel special, even if they aren't as much fun to plan as centerpieces and dresses.