How to SURVIVE Wedding Planning
Why, hello there! Congratulations on the upcoming celebration!!
I'd like to welcome you to one of many blogs from me to help you with the big day, and how to prep for it!
You're probably thinking, "Okay, great- hi... Who are you?"
WONDERFUL question. My name is Erika Stewart, and I am the owner and lead photographer of It Clicks Photo. I grew up fascinated with weddings- from watching hours and hours of "Say Yes to the Dress" to searching online from the age of 12-on for the most beautiful wedding gowns. When I graduated college in 2013 from Grand Valley State University with my photography degree, I moved back to the east side of Michigan and needed some sort of job while trying to build my own business. When searching, I came across many desk jobs, restaurant gigs, retail... so on so forth, and one that really made my heart flutter- The Wedding Shoppe of Berkley, MI (TWS). I was determined to be a stylist. I sent in my resume, did their instructions of leaving a voicemail introducing yourself (I re-recorded it 3 times), and actually went in to personally introduce myself without being asked- seriously. I was determined. I got a call back after being annoying, and as soon as I was welcomed to the team, I knew it was where I needed to be. Leaving college, I wasn't entirely sure what kind of photography I wanted to do, but after starting at TWS, I realized weddings made my heart sing.
So that's where it all began. Then in 2017; with 5 years of styling, and 7 seasons of shooting weddings, I had my own wedding to plan with only an 8 month time frame.
Piece of cake, right? Most of you are reading this and thinking- you're insane. Wedding Planning is hard.
Well, when we started, Trevor and I dove right in. After only a few weeks of being engaged, we had pretty much everything done- just needed to finish little details of decorating, and wedding favors. (PHEW!)
I have received compliments like "Where were you when I was planning my wedding?" and "I am having a rough time, I need help."
HENCE!! This blog. Can you say #protip?? This is a condensed version of what I have learned about weddings over the years, what I see works, what doesn't, and what to keep in mind whenever it comes to making decisions. Without further ado, let's go!!
Tip #1: Picking a Date
When you return from floating on cloud 9, take a peep at a calendar, and see what date makes the most sense to you for your wedding day, and stick to it. This is going to help you out MAJORLY for booking your photographer, your DJ, and your venue and should be your ABSOLUTE first step. (If you keep it simple, then it will be) For example, Trevor and I's anniversary is June 30th, and it fell perfectly on a Saturday in 2018. We wanted to keep this date, and it helped to naturally eliminate decisions- there are a TON to make afterall.
There's been a few weddings I've shot where they planned everything in 3 months. THREE!! Getting the date set was their first step, and they have sworn by it.
If a specific day doesn't matter too much to you, but a month does instead, or even a season, then look for the perfect venue (help found in tip #2) and ask what dates they have available in your specific month, or season. From there, pick your date, and move on to the vendors. Again, it will naturally eliminate some vendors- and that's okay!
Tip #2: Real Talk
Sit down with your love dove, and talk about these things.
1- What does your dream wedding look like? Is it outdoors, indoors, or both? Do you want your wedding to incorporate your pet? How many people-roughly do you think will be there? Is there a location that works best for both sides of the family? From there, you will be able to look at venues that accommodate your needs. There's going to be quite a few. First- check and see if they have your date open (if you're into the specific day kind-of-thing). Next- set up a tour.
2- What part of this wedding means the most to you? To your fiance? For myself, it was obviously the photographer. For Trevor, it was the DJ. We still searched together on both aspects of the wedding, but when it came to the final decision, the photographer was up to me, and the DJ was up to him. Divide and conquer, friends. Divide and conquer.
Tip #3: Budget
Have an idea of a budget. I CANNOT stress this one enough. You're going into this new chapter of your life, and you do not want to be bogged down with a lot of debt. It can be a rough budget, but have some sort of an idea. Make sure you're looking for things within your range, and try to avoid things that outreach it drastically, even if it is "just to see" because odds are- you will find something you love and it's really expense and now you're heart broken because you can't have it. Rough stuff.
Second part to this might sound a little counter intuitive, but hear me out! Let's take a dress budget for example. Let's say your parents are being super generous and helping you with paying for the dress. They set a budget of $1,400 - really amazing of them- and you found the PERFECT dress- in EVERY sense of the word- it makes you happy and excited, it fits your personality, it makes sense at your venue, it is overall breathtaking and the price is $1,600.00. It is OK to go over what you thought you were going to spend ONLY by a little bit. $200 can reasonably be re-worked into the budget. You only need to pitch in your $200, and your dream dress is ALL yours! Woohoo! Time to celebrate!!
An example of bad "going over budget"- if you had the same scenario ($1,400 from mom and pops, or just $1,400 carved out of your own budget), and you were trying on a dresses that are $2,500+... first off, I'm going to stop you right there and say shame on that bridal salon! You should not be trying on dresses that much over, ESPECIALLY if you expressed your price range! Let's just get to the fourth point while I'm here...
Tip #4: The Dress
THE DRESS: New wedding dresses on average are $1,500.00. This does not include the cost of alterations. They are a separate cost, and much like other entrepreneurs, each seamstress has their own prices.
The dresses take anywhere from 6 months to 8 months to arrive, and you should set aside 3 months for alterations. If you do not have that much time, no worries! Most stores have gowns that are able to go home with you that very same day.
I suggest calling The Wedding Shoppe (248-541-1988) for an appointment either way. The stylists at TWS actually listen to you, what you would like to see, pulling the perfect suggestions, and keeping you in your price range. I love those girls <3 <3
Tip #5: Booking
When you find something you love, be it a pair of shoes, the photographer, a flower arrangement, the DJ, the centerpieces- STOP RIGHT THERE. Get it! Book it! Check it off your list!
Like I mentioned back up there ^^^ Keep it simple, and it will be easy. If you find the right venue, dress, so forth and it is below, at, or super close to your budget, get it. Because if you don't, someone else might, which leaves you S.O.L. I'd hate for someone else to make the decision for you by booking what you loved before you could get back to it- believe me. It happens. And it's heart wrenching.
Overshopping is a thing. As much as it seems like a "good idea" to look at every option, it will only leave you confused. I have seen it SO many times at TWS where girls over-shop and cannot remember what they even like. It will steal your happy away from you. We like happy. Let's keep it.
Also, on that note, go with your "favorite" as often as you physically can. Think of it this way; decision making is like dating. You'll realize when you find the right person, you want be with them forever! (Afterall, you are engaged right now, right?! )You wouldn't tell your fiance during their proposal "You're perfect, you balance me out, and I love you a lot, but I'm going to keep looking to see if anyone that is like you is out there."
Really, it doesn't have to be difficult. :)
Tip #6: You do YOU!
I stole this tip from my Maid of Honor, Casey (shout out to you girl!! Love you!).
Don't worry about hurting other people's feelings with your actions/decisions. This is YOUR wedding day. Keep that in mind- you shouldn't be too concerned about what others think- only focus on what you think, and what your fiance thinks, too. They're not going to be the ones looking through your photos for years to come and showing friends and family- YOU are. You're making this day about you two and what you both love the most. After all, that is what the wedding is about, right??
If you're like me, you like to keep everyone honky dory- even if it means shooting yourself down. THIS IS NOT THE TIME NOR THE PLACE FOR THAT NONSENSE! (I know, it's tough. But keeping this tip in mind is going to save you a giant headache and/or buyer's remorse.)
Tip #7: Add Personality!
Your wedding day should be pumped with so much personality that even a stranger could come in and describe you in a few words. Pinterest is a wonderful tool for viewing ideas and "how-to"s. Just make sure you keep your "you"niqueness in the wedding. It will save you time, too- instead of looking at beautiful ideas for hours on end, you can think "How can I incorporate ______." For example, I love bicycles (so much, in fact, I have one tattooed on my leg). So! We have decided to have a tandem bike as our cake topper.
Go off the beaten path! If it makes you happy, that's all that should matter. As much as you may think a certain decoration is soooo you, but maybe not wedding material- it DOES work, and will amaze your guests. There's NO such thing as "not wedding enough." You literally have free reins. You can make your wedding be ANYTHING you want it to be! Isn't that awesome?!
The best weddings I have shot, the bride and groom had incorporated their hobbies, and items they love. As a photographer, it helped me get to know the couple even better, which makes for even MORE natural photos. Recently, I shot a wedding where it was completely Halloween, Tim Burton, Harry Potter, and Disney themed- and it was INCREDIBLE. I heard so many compliments from their guests saying "This is the perfect Brandon and Ema wedding!!" It truly was, and it helped me bring props to use to make the photos spook-tacular, like a carved pumpkin with an orange smoke bomb, and floating lanterns with drawn on eyes (so it looks like a ghost!). It really made their wedding stick out in the best way possible. Can't beat a unique wedding!
Personally I think it is the most important one.
At the end of the day, you're marrying your best friend. Little things will go wrong- I guarantee it. I am a strong believer that one thing has to go wrong each and every day. Once that "thing" gets out of the way though, you better be ready to have the best day ever afterwards!!
This "rule" is no different than with your wedding day- but here's the best part- You're still marrying the love of your life, you still have your supporting team (bride tribe or groom dudes, if you will), and the people closest to you are joining you in the largest party you have EVER thrown. How cool is that??
Don't sweat the small stuff like stressing about if it will rain, the cake arriving late, or the glass of wine you *may* have spilled during the reception. Life goes on- just roll with the punches! Having professionals alongside you should be reassuring-- We have seen some stuff, and we are ready for what the unexpected will bring. For real. Sara (my assistant) and I have a small emergency back-up fanny pack ready at all times for anything that can happen. Luckily no one will notice the small stuff- and you shouldn't either.
And that concludes it!
I hope this will help you!! I am not a master in planning, but I am an expert in weddings (if you need a wedding planner, I've got a pretty awesome lady named Janelle who can help you with that). I've seen some crazy things happen, and have heard horror stories, which helped create these tips. Again, congratulations on the engagement!! Now go out there and get planning! You will survive!
**An amazing free app for getting a check list is through WeddingWire. The list includes when things should be done by, and all the little details you'll need. **
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<3 Erika Stewart @ It Clicks Photo