With holidays like Christmas and Valentine's Day behind us, a few of you might find yourself newly engaged - congratulations! It's such a special time, but can also be a bit overwhelming.
I took nearly a full year to plan Chris and I's wedding, and I can honestly say it was a great experience. Whether you're planning in a few months or a year or two, today I'm sharing seven tips to keep your stress levels low! These are all things I've found myself telling other brides-to-be (and noticed other newlyweds sharing the same advice). Let's dive in...
01. Pick a few major details that are most important to you. As time passes, it's easy for your budget to get a little out of control, and it's also easy to lose sight of what you really want. Decide with your fiancee on the front end three things that you really want to make sure you do or have, and stick to that. Everything else will fall into place :) For example, our first priority was photography, followed by venue, and then having a taco bar! We knew the photography would be what we get to keep forever, the venue had special meaning to us, and we definitely wanted our guests to have something easy to eat that would set the casual tone of our wedding.
02. Pick out your dress first. You may have a certain style in mind, and then you go to try it on in store and it's not what you had hoped - or something entirely different catches your eye. The look of your dress can have a strong impact on the overall look and feel of your wedding, so it's good to pick out before getting into all the little details! Also, it makes you feel like the moment is real. It can certainly give you the confidence boost you need to make other decisions ;) It may also take a few fittings before your dress is properly tailored, so you want to have ample time to make sure it's right. (This tip - like them all - isn't necessarily true for everyone, but for most people I've seen this helps so much!) And side note... your dream dress may not be an actual wedding dress, and it may not come from a physical store. Again, this is certainly not true for everyone, but if you search online for "white dress" instead of "wedding dress"... you're going to come across some much smaller price tags! I've seen a few ideal candidates on sites like Shopbop. Your ideal wedding dress might be what a store considers a bridesmaids dress. I've seen many brides who were perusing the sale rack at Nordstrom and came across an evening gown that was perfect. I personally took a gamble and ordered two dresses online - and one of them was "the one"! (Thanks J. Crew, for free shipping and free returns!) There's plenty of out-of-the-box options that might help cut your cost!
03. Consider hiring a wedding planner. Or a family member or friend who is extremely organized! It really is so nice to let someone else handle "who goes where" and "when do I do this" on the day of. Our wedding was a destination wedding, and although we've visited Seaside countless times, it was worth it to have someone who lived there, who knows the in's and out's of the venue. (If you're considering getting married in Seaside, check out Heather Archdeacon-Williams! She's so kind and lovely, and a great leader for your wedding day. I trusted her wholeheartedly.) Also... write out a narrative of your wedding day AND the day before. This will help you not to miss the little details, like making sure you get breakfast, and figuring out how you and the groom will get from the ceremony to the reception.
04. Be smart about your DIY. I had so many details I wanted to incorporate... and I'm honestly glad that I only stuck to a handful of them (escort cards, advice boards, welcome tote bags, and paper goods). It gave me the opportunity to make those things great, and still be able to tackle all the tiny details that come with a wedding. And keep in mind that DIY may not be the most cost-effective option! Do the math, and make sure that what you're making is worth it - it's possible there's already something out there that's similar and cheaper.
05. Sign up for and check your e-mail subscriptions and coupon services. My mom and I both get emails from Kate Spade, and when we got coupons for a major discount, we promptly took them to the store and purchased my shoes and earrings! I wasn't sure about spending that much on my dream accessories, but the ability to use two great coupons made my decision for me. We got an amazing deal. I know Anthropologie regularly sends out discounts (including one for your birthday!) - and be sure to check their "Freshly Cut" list in their sale section. It may not be BHLDN, but Anthro has plenty of options for great accessories and undergarments for your day. You can also score a great deal on gifts for your maids, groomsmen, or family members this way. I loved giving Chris a sturdy duffle bag from J. Crew on our wedding day - and I was able to get a great discount by keeping up with my emails!
05. Be honest when searching for vendors. There may be a few people you've spotted in the wedding world that you'd love to work with, but are nervous about their price. They are certainly talented individuals, with amazing skills (and all kinds of costly equipment and workshops they attend). Go ahead and email them. It doesn't hurt to ask if they can do anything to accommodate your budget. Maybe they have a la carte options that aren't mentioned on their site, or maybe they know of an affordable solution for your dessert table. They might recommend an intern they've had that's now out on their own. Just be upfront about what you're looking for, and it's highly possible they can point you in the right direction!
06. Then... trust your vendors. I wanted a hand in everything. For the longest time, I wanted to set up our whole reception site myself. While I still think this is a great idea that's very cost-effective, we had already hired a florist who would also handle all of the decor. I had to tell myself over and over that I didn't need to see the set-up and that it would turn out great - and that was completely true. When Chris and I walked into the reception, I saw that our sweet florist, Sally, had added a lounge area next to the dance floor - something I probably would've said was too much for us, but it turned out so beautiful! And in the end, it was where all of our guests gathered to rest their tired feet and watch the festivities. Those love seats were filled all night.
07. Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy every moment of your engagement. At the end of this process, you're going to be married to your best friend. It won't matter if the tablecloths were perfectly ironed, or if the cake had a topper or not. Remember to take the time to just enjoy being together (being engaged is such a sweet season!) and to communicate with respect and humility. Chris and I's favorite experience during the planning process were our counseling sessions with our officiant, Greg. We were able to get to know each other on a deeper level, and having a guided, outside perspective was very helpful. We would end up continuing our discussions the whole drive home, and it created such a strong foundation for us as we entered into this chapter of our lives. It was a great reminder that no matter what would happen on our wedding day, I was going to be married to a wonderful man with the Lord as our guide. Nothing can really out-shine that :)
All images via Lauren Kinsey Photography