I’ve had quite the hiatus from blogging…since I’ve last posted I’ve taken my boards, started rotations, and OH YEAH gotten married!

Eric & Emmeline Wedding Margarette Sia Photography-1

(photo by Margarette Sia Photography…can’t wait to see the rest!)

It was quite an adventure juggling board studying with wedding planning, but somehow I got through it. The months of studying for boards (TWO of them) were some of the hardest in my life but I can save those reflections for another time.

Since our engagement, it seems like everyone else decided to get hitched as well, making 2014 the official start of the era of weddings. It’s definitely a sign we’ve hit a new life stage, with new life lessons! Since many of my friends are now planning their own weddings thought I’d make a list of tips that we found helpful, or learned the hard way.

1. YELP IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

When you are newly engaged, the wedding planning world may seem glorious…but also scary. A lot of websites like The Knot or WeddingWire have great resources for venues and vendors, but each company has to pay a fee to be advertised. One of the best ways I found inexpensive and unique venues was actually using Yelp, and simply typing in “wedding venue” or “reception venue” in the location I wanted. Not only do you get pretty good finds, you also get honest reviews and some pictures.

Another good way to find venues and a good combination of ceremony site + reception site is using websites of various wedding photographers. Not only do you get good options, you also get to see how the location will look when photographed professionally with multiple views.

2. FIND RELIABLE VENDORS

Having great vendors can make all the difference in wedding planning. I found that the faster a coordinator or vendor would respond to you, the more trustworthy and amazing they’ll be on your wedding day. Take note of accessibility and responsiveness when deciding between vendors. Also, any venue that has their own coordinator is a HUGE plus! Having your own day-of-coordinator is great, but having coordinators that are familiar with the site and have seen every type of wedding disaster that can happen there, can be life-saving.

3. READ THE FINE PRINT

Sticker shock can be a HUGE stressor when deciding on venues, and I remember Eric and I being overwhelmed at fees. When you receive a quote, keep in mind venues with catering will add in a 20-25% service fee, which will also be taxed on.

4. SPEND $$ ON THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO YOU

On the subject of prices, it’s no secret that weddings are EXPENSSSIVEEEE. With that, choose a few things that are important to you as a couple and splurge on those. For us, FOOD was a huge deal for us so we definitely went all out to ensure that our guests (and us) get a great meal. DANCING was also something we always enjoyed at weddings, so we dished out for a good DJ and venue with a great sound system.

5. HAVE FAMILY PICK A FEW THINGS THEY WANT

Another high-stress topic is parents, family, and the opinions that start flying when wedding talks begin. When multiple cultures are involved, it becomes even more complicated. One thing we should have done sooner was have our parents write out a list and prioritize what customs/traditions or items are most important to them. That way we could have had their input concisely and from the get-go, avoiding surprise arguments from new things coming up. It would also become easier to compromise and work through differences.

6. PICK A GOOD BRIDAL PARTY, AND BE GOOD TO THEM

Being a bridesmaids or groomsman can have a lot of obligations and responsibilities (not to mention…be EXPENSIVE!) So do everything you can to minimize expenses or required events, and they’ll love you for it. On the other hand, it is also beneficial to be wise in picking your bridal party. I’ve heard horror stories of bridesmaids focus too much on their drama with one another, or putting their own needs/desires before the bride. There’s a delicate balance between going all bridezilla, but also not having enough support from the girls who are supposed to keep you from going insane. I was blessed with having girls who were so reliable and enthusiastic (also who kept me in check from being too controlling), but also got along very well with one another 🙂

7. STAY AWAY FROM PINTEREST

Pinterest is AMAZING for providing inspiration and ideas for setting up your ideal wedding, but it can also be dangerous. I confess I got caught up in the comparison game, and every beautiful pin made me feel more stressed instead of inspired. It’s refreshing now to go back on it and admire the work of other vendors/brides without feeling insecure or discontent.

8. NO-WEDDING DATES 

The months of engagement will be consumed with constant wedding talks, so one of the best advice we got was having a few dates where we promise not to bring up the wedding at all. Not only did it keep us from going crazy, it also helped us continue to grow our relationship and learn to work through all the stress we were going through.

9. CONSIDER GUEST EXPERIENCES

When I began going to weddings before mine, I started to take note of how a guest experiences a wedding. Consider the timing of events, driving distances, the weather, and other small details that might make the wedding more enjoyable. I loved the idea of putting toiletry items in the restroom (I tend to have that mother mentality…and stock up my purse with practical items too) and appreciated the brides who had done so for their weddings. I also remembered as a kid how bored I was at weddings, so also made sure to provide some activity books or toys for them.

10. USE TECHNOLOGY

Two words: GOOGLE DRIVE. Not only was it fully accessible through my phone or computer, but I also could easily share information to multiple parties and keep everything organized. Gone are the days of paper wedding planners or giant folders (though they look pretty cool). We also found that using Mailchimp to send out mass email reminders or save-the-date emails generally avoided getting them put in spam boxes, and helped us track who opened the emails. In the MailChimp email, we had a link to a Google Form we created, making it easy to collect responses and addresses. Saving postage in any way we could helped make our budget slightly more reasonable.

11. BE FLEXIBLE

I am not a naturally flexible person, so this was the hardest lesson I had to learn. Even up to the day before the wedding, guests were calling us with last minute changes. I had to decide to just let it go and work it out, or be angry about it few days before the wedding (not good for your sleep or complexion!). Things will always pop up, so have people (hopefully your fiance) be there to calm you down, or learn to delegate so you don’t have to worry about every little thing.

12. SCHEDULE EXTRA TIME ON D-DAY

It is predictable that things run late, so be sure to schedule good buffers of time in the schedule between events/photos/etc. We ended up being so efficient the morning of during tea ceremony, we actually had over an hour to relax, which gave us time to chill with our bridal party and soak in what was actually happening.

13. HAVE FUN!

Despite having barely any sleep, Eric and I decided to have as much fun as possible the day of. I was glad we drove together by ourselves between each location, giving us time to spend with each other and laugh things off. Deciding to enjoy the day was the best decision we made, because all our fatigue and previous stress melted away. It also makes for great pictures! We were so happy we scheduled in 1.5 hours of dancing, and ended up dancing the ENTIRE night with our friends and family (I think we ended up being the last few on the dance floor too..)

Well it was a long list, but the tips were worth learning! For those planning their weddings, remember to focus on the person you’re marrying, while honoring your family and friends in the process as well 🙂

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