Happy Friday! Today’s post is a result of sweet texts, emails, and direct messages from friends and readers that are brides planning their weddings! YAY! Being a bride and planning a wedding is such an exciting season of life, but it’s also a lot of work and can be quite stressful at times. I planned every last detail of our wedding and though I wouldn’t change that today, I definitely learned a lot a long the way!
So this post is a round-up of all the questions I’ve received this summer in regards to all things wedding!
When I was asked this question, it was in regards to a bride deciding between ‘Black tie’ and ‘Black tie optional’. However, I’ll try to make my answer a little bit broader since not everyone has that formal of a wedding!
When choosing your dress code, I’d start analyzing your venues and asking yourself questions. Do your venues have dress codes? (many churches and country clubs do have strict dress codes). Is this location appropriate for tuxedos and long gowns? I’d also ask yourself what you most prefer as a person. Are you more of a formal person or laid back? Do you want more control over what your guests arrive in or does it ultimately not matter to you? This will get your wheels turning and ultimate help you decide what overall theme, style, and esthetic you want for your wedding.
For me, I’m a formal kinda gal…. especially when I get dressed up for places and events of honor. However, I certainly have a very casual and laid back style is well. But for me and our wedding, enforcing a dress code was important. In casual California, I’ve been to far too many weddings where guests arrive in something as casual as jeans and it drives me BONKERS. Unless you’re having a very casual wedding and that is made very clear to guests, I believe that no one should ever arrive dressed that casually to such a special occasion.
To avoid this, a dress code certainly helps. However, it’s tricky to enforce. For a formal wedding, you may put either ‘Black tie’ or ‘Black tie optional’ on your invitations. [Note: the difference between the two is that ‘Black tie’ requires men to be in a tuxedo and women to be in full length formal gowns. ‘Black tie optional’ allows men to wear a tux or a dark-colored suit and women can wear formal cocktail dresses or long gowns.] It’s easy to put this distinction on your wedding reception card (not the ceremony invitation) in your suite. However, if you’re not having either of those two weddings, Emily Post states that you really shouldn’t specify dress code unless it’s in the ‘Black tie’ category. Now, this is tough seeing as how you may not want guests to consider it a free for all.
My best advice to stick with etiquette but also gently nudge guests to dress appropriately? Keep your invitations in line with the level of formality you desire for your wedding. If you send out online invitations, very casually worded and fun paper invites, or something along those lines… expect guests to pick up on the fact that this will be a more casual affair. If your invitations have more formal wording, multiple enclosed cards, tissue, formal RSVP cards, etc…. guests really should pick up on the fact that this is a more formal affair where a suit and tie/dress should be worn.
And if you want a little extra peace of mind? Don’t be afraid to chat with your guests before the big day! Share details about your wedding as the topic comes up organically in conversation. Chances are, if they’re attending your wedding… you’re close enough to share details about the big day and perhaps with your sharing it may spark the idea for them ask about their own attire. For example, if I shared that the men in our bridal party were wearing tuxedos and that my bridesmaids were in floor length gowns, it was easy to talk about the idea of tuxedos and gowns for guests. And though I didn’t give away details about my dress, I was able to share that it was formal. I had many girlfriends reach out to me about our wedding dress code (Black tie optional) to check to see if what they were planning on wearing was appropriate. I loved that they did this because it showed that they cared enough to be as respectful as possible and that meant so much to me! The same thing happened with my mom and mother-in-law’s friends. The topic came up in conversation about the wedding and they were able to chat about it so that it was more about the excitement of the event instead of feeling like a forceful and mandatory talk about what to wear or not wear.
And at the end of the day…. you can’t ultimately control what your guests show up in. And that’s just life. The good news?? No one is looking at anyone but YOU and your handsome groom the entire time anyways!
How did you stay on budget?
It doesn’t matter what type of wedding you’re having, the budget is tough. I didn’t have any kind of fancy method in keeping track of costs. I literally just wrote down every purchase and payment and kept a running total that I’d go over with my mom constantly to keep myself in check. So, I can’t give you some amazing system (like a spreadsheet or online system) that worked for me. However, I can give you overall advice!
Keep the flow of communication wide open with whomever is financially contributing and whom you’re planning the wedding with. Whether it’s just you and your fiancé, you and your parents, you and your mom, you and your parents and your fiance’s parents…. constantly talk about every decision, purchase, vendor, written check…. EVERYTHING. It will be hard to talk about at times, there will be disagreements, and you’ll have to compromise. But if you have the level of accountability in place, there won’t be much room for making frivolous or unnecessary purchases.
With your planning group, decide what are your non-negotiable musts for the day and focus your budget towards those first and foremost. For example, we concentrated a large chunk of our budget to photography, florals, and our reception venue. Therefore, I was most cost efficient in other areas because they ultimately didn’t matter quite as much to me. But perhaps you’ve been dreaming of a designer wedding dress and it’s the most important thing to you! Then get the dress and be prepared to cut back on your food (or whatever else you’re not as passionate about).
Tough love advice: unless you’re a Kardashian, you will not get everything you want for your wedding. There will always be something more that you desire and your budget just won’t allow it. I’m preaching to my past here, but try not to focus on the little details as much. There are certain things that were pricy for our wedding that I just thought I ‘HAD’ to have and yet I don’t even think once person noticed them. And I know everyone tells you this, but the day goes by SO quickly that honestly…. you may not even notice the little things as well! So stick to the ‘musts’, be tight on the budget for the less important things. And keep talking openly through it all!!!
Invitations: How did you choose style, how many cards, wording, etc?
I always knew exactly what I wanted with my wedding invitation suite. I was pickier than picky when it came to design, but making it come to life was a lot more challenging than I imagined. If you’re as into paper goods as I am, I’m guessing you know exactly what you want in terms of style, too. But wording and what to include is another story!
I’d highly suggest choosing a very reputable source for where you purchase your invitations. I went to a local stationery store and picked my design out of huge book. The woman who took down our order wrote down everything with a pencil and paper (in cursive, of course) and we talked through every word and capitalization for hours. Old school, I know. We also had a calligrapher do our envelopes, and she was extremely traditional and had been doing traditional calligraphy before it was a ‘thing’, so she proofread our proofs as well.
These women were wording experts! For example, they clarified things like using the phrase/spelling ‘request the honour of your presence’ on the invitation is solely reserved for a place of worship (which I loved) and that you only capitalize ‘Black’ in ‘Black tie optional’…. things like that! There are so many hidden things to look for when wording invitations, so I highly suggest doing your research before and seeing if you can work with women who are experts in the field. They will help you navigate what to do and not do!
Guest List: How to narrow it down?
I have a very tough love approach to the guest list, and even more so after our wedding. So here’s my honest truth. If ANY invite starts being second guessed or feels like a stretch….. CUT. Cut, cut, cut! I know it sounds harsh but it’s such a sacred day. I know it’s a day that you envision having everyone you love there for, but the reality is that you may have guests at your wedding that you don’t talk to at your one year anniversary. I’d really challenge you to be selective in your guest list and being confident in that! Keep it sacred! We had 175 guests and we barely made it through the tables. I felt stressed that I couldn’t see everyone….. it all became a blur. So keep the guest list to the TRUE MVPS and be okay if not everyone (even wonderful and loving people in your life) aren’t on it. A good rule of thumb I’ve heard is to ask these questions, “have I kept up with this person in the past 6 months? Would I (or my parents, if they’re their guests) call them to catch up or invite them to dinner on a whim?” If not, cut!
What to wear for engagement photos?
My first thought is to say ‘stick with what you’re most comfortable in’. But also…. keep in mind that if you’re into a cohesive look, you may want to coordinate wearing something that goes with your wedding! We used our engagement photos for our guest book and table, so I wanted us to be in blue and white (shocking, I know). Overall, I’d stick to something classic and shy away from trendy. But do stick to something comfortable! Your photographer will make you do all sorts of seemingly awkward poses at the time. You may be sitting on the ground, on a bench, on the grass… and you want to be comfortable getting up and down and all around! We changed in the middle of ours so we had half in casual attire and half in cocktail attire…. so it’s also nice to give yourself that variety!
Guest Book Ideas?
I mulled over the guest book more times than I could count! At one point, I didn’t even think I wanted one! But finally, I came up with the idea of using our engagement photos as a book that guests could flip through and sign. I love that this is sentimental and a good use of our engagement photos. I designed ours through Artifact Uprising. Their quality is stunning. Just make sure to TEST PENS BEFOREHAND. I thought I had purchased the right ones, and they ended up smearing. At the time, they didn’t offer a wedding guest book specific option so I’m wondering if they’ve since figured out the paper and pen situation. Either way, I still love the book and plan on getting an album made by them with our wedding photos. Yes, I still need to do that.
Woof. A topic so big it could be a blog post in itself! I’m going to bullet point this one bc otherwise I’ll never finish:
- Register for as much as you possibly can! I mean, everything. Go crazy with that gun! You’ll be amazed at how quickly it gets purchased after showers!
- Register for a wide variety of price points.
- Steer clear of ‘sets’. It seems like the better option from a personal purchasing standpoint, but the more options you put on your registry, the more your guests can pick and choose and not feel locked into one set of things.
- Choose timeless everyday dishes and silverware complete your set of 12.
- Get a variety of pots and pans, but don’t think you NEED a ton. Depending on your storage, you’ll likely only use a few of them on an everyday basis.
- Keep your credit and see what you really need after a few months into marriage! It’s amazing how much your perspective of needs vs. wants changes after you’ve been married and living together for a while!
- Stick to what you’re comfortable with, especially with kitchen product. For example, if you learned to cook on non-stick, stay with that. Don’t get ALL of the fancy stainless steel just because someone told you that’s better and then scorch it because it’s an entirely different way of cooking than on non-stick. Don’t get sold on something you won’t ultimately use! Be practical and stick to your gut!
DJ vs. Live Band?
Totally personal preference. We had a DJ and that’s what I wanted, but I ended up being disappointed in his lack of execution throughout the night. I will say, it’s so hard to choose either, seeing as their both live performers of sorts. So unless you’ve seen them in person, it’s tough to know how they’ll actually be at your wedding! Ask your photographer or other reputable vendors if they have recommendations from being in the business. Or don’t hesitate to reach out to other couples who had DJ’s or bands that you enjoyed! It’s such a big part of the reception, so do your research and be selective! Don’t worry about being original on this. The good ones are few and far between, so if someone genuinely recommends them or you saw someone else had them and it was a success, forget about the notion of ‘copying’… BOOK ‘EM.
How to choose a hair and makeup artist?
Research, research, research and BE. EXTREMELY. PICKY. Don’t let any makeup artist talk you into something that you’re not comfortable with, because sadly… most will. Come with your own makeup that you normally use and talk them through/show them how you usually wear it. Have them stop in stages as they’re doing it so you don’t look in the mirror at the end horrified. Do a trial!!! And don’t just rely on iPhone photos to see how it photographed. Try to get someone with a nice camera to take pictures of you after your trial so you can see how it looks on a high quality lens! Bring tons of pictures of inspiration for you hair, yet don’t be set on something so exact. Your hair could be very different from some girl you saw on Pinterest, so take your inspo with a grain of salt because a good hairdresser will share what she can do to as closely resemble the photo you share as possible.
Also, be prepared to budget $$$ for hair and makeup. It’s so expensive, especially if it’s on location. It just is what it is. But hopefully after a ton of research you can be confident in the price you’re paying for beauty on your big day! Don’t get taken advantage of and ‘wing it’ in this category! If you’re not comfortable with something… SPEAK UP! This is YOUR wedding and you want to feel gorgeous!
Bridal Shower Etiquite: Can you invite someone to a shower that isn’t coming to the wedding?
No. And I know that’s sometimes hard and feels circumstantial! But see my answer to wedding guest list and I think it will help you make these decisions with a clearer mindset!
Bridal Portraits: to do them or not?
If the budget allows… DO THEM!!!!!!!!! This isn’t a California thing and I hate that I didn’t do them. I so envy my Southern girlfriends and their bridal portraits! It’s the perfect way to be captured on film when you’re not as stressed and anxious and the photos have a different feel than they do on your actual wedding day. It’s also an amazing way to test your hair and makeup trial and make sure you absolutely love the way it looks. Plus, you get to wear your dress more than once! I honestly can’t recommend them enough!!!
Bachelorette Party ideas that aren’t strippers and Vegas?
Best question I’ve ever received by the title alone! LOL.
I’m an old soul and a cheap date. So you can imagine that Vegas and strippers and booze are not a part of my ways to have a good time. For my bachelorette, we went to Palm Springs and rented a house with just those in my bridal party. It was small, low-key, relaxing, and so needed during a stressful season of life.
If your budget allows for a weekend away, I say get an Airbnb and enjoy a relaxing girls trip in a climate of your choosing! A beach house, mountain cabin, poolside situation… whatever way works for you to be able to take a deep breath and enjoy some time away with your girlfriends.
If your budget doesn’t allow… please don’t stress about it! Gosh, I can’t stress this enough. REAL TALK: I was the first of my girlfriends to get married. I planned a bachelorette weekend away because I saw every other bride before me do that. Then I was a bridesmaid in my bridesmaids’ weddings. So I’ve now been on both sides. Bachelorette weekends away are so much fun… but also stressful and financially straining. As are weddings as a whole, which we all know. So if you or your ‘maids can’t swing a trip, do not beat yourself up about it!
Do a night out with mani pedis and a fun dinner! Go pick out your day-of jewelry together and get drinks afterwards. Spend the day by your parents pool and have lunch catered. Don’t ignore the celebration, but don’t put pressure on yourself to have a trip away. You can also use this as an overall budget tactic! Want all your bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup professionally done but can’t afford to pay for it? Have an open and honest discussion with them about that and say that because you’re forgoing a weekend away, you’d love for them to celebrate and treat you by paying for their beauty costs.
Similar to my budget advice: keep the communication flowing with your bridesmaids and maid/matron of honor! I literally communicated every little detail via long wordy emails and though it was certainly excessive, I spelled out everything so there weren’t any surprises for them in terms of plans and finances! Keep this rule of thumb for the bachelorette, and have whomever is planning it to do the same so that everyone is on the same page!
Overall, what’s one thing you wish you did differently?
Hire a ‘day of coordinator’. I was overly involved with planning my wedding to every last detail and I took pride in that. However, I took too much pride in that. So much so that I didn’t trust anyone but myself to see my overall vision. So I had a hard time asking for help when I needed it and I also just somehow magically believed that the coordinator at the church and the coordinator at the country club would be in my head and do everything I would do since I spelled out every little detail for them to execute. No pressure, right?
My logic was as ridiculous as it sounds and I so wish I had just humbled myself to say, “I may not need a wedding planner… but I need someone to get in my head and execute everything the day of.” That way, I could have told all those little knit picky details to one person and her only job would have been to do those things! Your venue coordinators have enough on their plates and won’t be able to be in 2 places at once. So I suggest hiring that person to be the one darting around and in communication with you ONLY if need be.
How do I balance not worrying about the little things but also still holding on to the idea of this day that I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl?
Everyone will tell you that ‘something will go wrong’ on the day of your wedding and you just have to end up going with it. I was prepared for that, or so I thought.
I was prepared for the little things to go differently than planned. I was even prepared for something big to go wrong. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how darn emotional I was going to be and how overwhelmed I would be with how many people I was interacting with that day. I’m actually an introvert disguised as an extrovert. Meaning, I need to be alone to work and recharge. And even though I’d very much consider myself a social person, being around people doesn’t recharge me. It drains me. But I really thought that my social side would be in full throttle mode on the day of my wedding and that I’d have endless energy to handle whatever came my way! Well, I didn’t. My emotions often got the best of me and I struggled with perfection when things didn’t go as planned. I got overwhelmed by being the center of attention when I thought I would love it. I could go on, but you get the picture.
I honestly can’t give specific advice for y’all as brides on your specific wedding days, because everyone is going to have different experiences and emotions! But here’s the advice that I wish someone would have really, given me:
Yes, there will be hiccups along the ride of your wedding day. And you’ll have to “let them go”. And your little girl dreams will literally be coming true all at once in one day. A day that you’ve anticipated your entire life…. but it won’t be perfect. But here’s the thing, your marriage won’t be perfect. You’ll have fights from your honeymoon until the very end. You’ll have life come at you in all different stages and you’ll feel disappointment in not only those seasons but in your marriage as well. The things that don’t go as planned on your wedding day will set you up well for marriage! Because no marriage will ever be perfect. You’re not perfect and your husband certainly isn’t either! So when the bumps come, it’s okay to be sad about them. Take a minute. Ugly cry it out. But then put those falsies back on, girl. You HAVE to keep going. You have to work hard in order to not let your emotions get the best of you – on your wedding day and in your life long marriage! When things don’t go as planned, you can’t bail. Because then you’d ultimately bail on your marriage. And though we’ll all always feel that selfish temptation from the devil himself, don’t let it win. Continually pray this, “Lord, give me the strength and the patience to trust in you in this moment, even when things aren’t going how I think they should go.”
I can’t tell you how often I pray this prayer myself. Trust, it’s daily. And a prayer that I could have certainly prayed more on the day of our wedding.
Alright, is there a publisher that’s putting this into print right now because I’m pretty sure I just wrote a novel?! 😉
I truly hope my feedback helps and is practical for y’all and your upcoming weddings! If you ever have ANY more questions, never hesitate to email me! I recently told one bride that I will personally proof read her invitation suite if she wanted me to. Haha! So, no task is untouchable!
Enjoy this special and sweet time in life, dear brides! I am cheering you on in your upcoming day… but I’m REALLY jumping up and down hootin’ and hollerin’ for you in your ultimate marathon of your soon-to-be marriage!
You got this!!!
PS. If you want to see more of our wedding photos, all the posts are here.