Updated: Jan 26
Hi friends! Skay here. I wanted to hop on and write a little blog post about some things I wish I knew before I had my wedding. Let's face it, planning a wedding can be SO overwhelming! I hope this post can help prepare you as you begin to plan one of the best days of your life.
The first thing couples always consider before making any huge decisions is their budget. I put myself on a tight budget because I didn't want my parents to have to spend a lot of money right around Christmas. (My wedding was in December 2019!) This was kind of tough situation because I know my parents would have gone way out of their means to give me my dream wedding but I would have felt so guilty. They love spoiling us kiddos! To remedy this, I made a list of all the things I wanted and I prioritized my "must-haves." I found this to be SO helpful at every step of my wedding planning journey. I knew I wanted to spend money on a good photographer (Unfortunately Rachel wasn't available because she was my bridesmaid! HA!), our florist, and on my long-sleeved wedding dress.
One way I was able to cut costs was by having my wedding ceremony begin at 2 pm so I didn't have to have a meal at the reception. (We had charcuterie and it was amazing!) I also was fortunate enough to have my mother-in-law make our wedding cake. This saved us about $500. Because I am a wedding photographer, I feel like all my past jobs have made me more aware of the expenses of weddings. Also, my very first job was as a cake decorator so that is where I learned that the average wedding cake cost around $500. This price for this part of a wedding is something that people are always surprised by! One thing I was surprised by was how pricey wedding dresses and veils are. My mom told me she wanted my dress budget to be $800, at some stores we found that the most affordable dresses were $5,000. I ended up paying $1,500 for my dress off the rack, and then about $60 on alterations. I also had my veil made by the alteration professional for $50 which helped me to save a lot. The veil I wanted at the dress shop was $500. God blessed me in many areas and I was super lucky to be able to stay close to budget with my final total! If you learn all the little tricks and have friends and family help out where they can, you'll likely end up okay with your budget in the end!
Going back to having my parents help pay for the wedding, I know that everyone's parents/in-laws are different. I also know that there is almost always some sort of tension between family members when it comes to this. One thing that helped me in my wedding planning journey was making an excel sheet with all the wedding expenses and the average so that I could tell my parents where exactly I was willing to cut costs to fit their specific budget. Laying everything out for them really helped them understand it all and allowed us to talk plainly. If your parents are having a hard time understanding why your wedding is so expensive, it's important to tell them that most things were not as expensive when they had their wedding as they are now. This will allow them to get some fresh perspective! Finally, at the end of the day if you don't have the funds for everything that you really want, all that matters is that you will be married to your soulmate!
One of my biggest regrets about my wedding day is not stopping to look around and take all in. People told me many times that it goes by super fast, but honestly from my past experience as a wedding photographer I thought 6 hours of photography coverage would be perfect (and maybe it would have been if I had less than 100 people). I got almost all the photos I wanted but it was at the expense of being able to enjoy my reception. It was way too short and I really didn't get to spend enough quality time with my friends and family. I felt like the free time I had during the reception was spent greeting all the guests and the next thing I knew I was being pulled away for couples photos and then it was time to leave. I think if I could go back and do it again I would either do a fake send-ff, or hire my photographer for at least 8 hours.
I planned my wedding in 6 months. I was super prepared by the end of that time and honestly, I would not have wanted to wait any longer to marry the man of my dreams! I knew exactly what I wanted and I had a wedding planner that helped me as well. Additionally, my photography experience assisted me because we do a timeline meeting with each of our Papillon Visuals couples. Because I have seen how other people designed the timeline for their day, it was easier to know what I wanted for my own wedding. When you have a photographer that is gifted at creating timelines, that will be a huge help to you as well. Luckily, the Papillon Visuals teams is awesome at that!
One thing I didn't know was how long it took for you to get your wedding dress in once you order it. If you are a bride, one of the first things you need to do is plan a day in advance to your wedding date. This is so that you can visit all the shops you would like to go to, get your dress ordered, and back in time for your wedding day. Unless you are getting your dress off the rack, they have to place an order with the vendor and then have the dress made. On average this takes 16-20 weeks. I would urge you to visit dress stores within the first two weeks after you get engaged.
An additional thing I wish I had done was to have an open bar, but unfortunately some of our family members would have been offended. As far as our venue, I honestly wanted a space with a mountain view, but we wanted to have all of our friends and family come so it ended up being better to choose a more local place. I did love my venue and I am so glad we choose to do it locally because it was so much easier and less stressful. Unfortunately, we couldn't have alcohol even if we wanted to because our family is super conservative but I wish my venue wedding coordinator knew I was telling people it was BYOB. Some of our friends got in trouble for bringing drinks to our reception because I failed to communicate that to my coordinator. HA! Long story short, it's your day! Do what you want and party it up!
Unfortunately I didn't get all the family photos I wanted. I sent my photographer a list but she didn't reference it (Papillon Visuals is quite good at this!). I think I should have helped my photographer by having someone gather people from my family for the photos. I also think she would have followed my expectations more if I had been clearer about them! Be sure to do this with you photographer so that they know exactly what you are expecting. Having those family photos is the main thing I wish I would have had on my day along with having one more hour with the photographer.
I ate in the morning while I was getting ready but that was the last time I saw food. We had so many guest coming up to talk to us that I had no time to eat during the reception. There was also a big line for the food and we both never got through it. We did have a picnic basket packed at the end by our coordinator which was nice. However, I wish someone would have made me a small plate from our large charcuterie board for me to walk around with. There was no specific "eating" time because all we had was dessert and charcuterie. If your reception is short, be sure to request this from your coordinator.
At least one thing is going to go wrong day-of. I have seen it as a photographer many times and of course it happened to Malachi and I too! My little brother, who was a groomsmen, showed up with the wrong colored tie and no one corrected it before groomsmen pictures. My biggest advice to you as you plan your day is to let the little things go. Remember that your wedding day is a special time between you and your partner that you have likely been dreaming of for a long time. Don't let one little thing ruin your day. Odds are you will not even remember that small issue years down the road!
If you know me I am somewhat of an introvert. Malachi and I had over 300 guests at our wedding ranging from distant relatives to very close friends. I wish I would have had more time dancing with my small group of close friends, but I didn't really feel like dancing in front of my grandparents because of their more limited ideals. Do with this info what you will, but you may feel similarly and it's important to consider family dynamics while making your guest and deciding what type of wedding you will be having.
Malachi and I both wrote our own vows to each other and we read them to each other during our first look and exchanged rings. It was an amazing moment and super special. I was thankful we chose to do it that way because it was intimate and I was not nervous at all. I highly recommend choosing to do a first-look moment with your partner on your wedding day! As a photographer, I have seen couples time and again lose their nervousness as soon as they finally see each other. Trust me, it is far better to have that first moment together without 200 of your friends and family looking on. You can follow tradition, but what really matters is real world experiences and what is actually practical for your comfort and the comfort of your fiance. Our day went by extremely fast but the first look moment was the way to go because it was the only time that I wasn't being rushed.
As far as our registry, we registered at Target, Pottery Barn, and Amazon. The Target registry was my favorite because they just make it so simple and fun. We were living in an apartment at the time so we truly got everything we needed for that lifestyle. Now that we own a home, I wish that we had asked for more yard work stuff. Be sure to think ahead when making your registry!
Before we married, I had been dating Malachi for around 5 years and I just already knew exactly what I wanted for my wedding (Also, the perks of being a wedding photographer!). I am super type A about planning, so as I mentioned before, I had an excel sheet made. I also had very organized Pinterest boards and a very detailed plan of action for the day. It would have probably annoyed me if anyone else had helped me plan. I think I would have felt like they were pushing their ideas on me when I really wanted something different. When it comes to the ins and outs of planning, follow your heart and enlist help when you need and say no when you need to. It's your day! If you are not a "planner" like me, that's okay! Don't be afraid to have people help.
In conclusion, everyone always has their "perfect way" of doing things, but at the end of the day it is YOUR wedding. Choose what you love and don't feel bad about it!