November 28, 2011

Wedding Planning: Tips from Newlyweds

One year ago today, I was walking around in the freezing cold of Chicago with only glove on. “Why?” you ask…

Well, because one year ago today I went from being a girlfriend to a fiancée when Brad got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. I was so in shock and so excited that I refused to put a glove on my left hand for the rest of the day.

Reflecting on the past year, it has definitely been one of the most chaotic seasons of my life to date–chocked FULL of changes. But one of the best years of my life as well.

In less than one year we:

  • Got engaged (11/28/10!)
  • Shared our 1st Christmas together in the same city (my first Christmas away from my family, ever)
  • I moved home with my parents to save money for the wedding
  • Combined our finances (If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is or have never heard of the Financial Peace classes, check it out immediately…debt eliminating/budgeting guru).
  • Planned a wedding in 6 months
  • Got married (6/18/2011!)
  • Went on a Honeymoon in Mexico

I could keep adding things to the list, but the point is…a lot has happened this year!
Having recently planned a wedding, I thought I’d share my advice for anyone currently planning (or thinking about planning) a wedding soon.


Focus on your priorities, the rest will fall into place.

We didn’t have a large wedding budget by ANY means, nor did we want to spend a bazillion dollars on our wedding. Something we learned quickly: prioritizing things early in the planning stages is crucial unless you want to go into debt–this was not an option in our minds….see mention of Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace” above ;)

After a few nights of talking through what was truly important to each of us, things just started to fall into place. Being wedding photographers, I’m sure you can guess what the number one priority on our list was…that’s right, photography. We felt like we could have spent as much of our budget as we wanted on my dress, our cake, food, or a venue…but at the end of the day, the photos are all we have left to remember it by (hence, priority number one for us).

Our second priority was that we wanted everything about the wedding to reflect who we are as a couple. Our story, our style, our love, our families. After those two priorities were determined, things truly fell into place. We had the wedding of our dreams, it shared so much about our love for each other and who we are, AND we have awesome documentation of it all. We couldn’t ask for more.

Go on a honeymoon (ASAP after the wedding).

I am so thankful we went on a honeymoon right after our wedding. After all the hustle & bustle of planning everything, entertaining folks, and the excitement of the wedding day itself, it was a great gift to spend time away from everything and just be MARRIED for a few days. No distractions, no big decisions, just US.
I know the economy isn’t the greatest these days, but if there is any possible way for you to set aside some of the wedding budget (OR there are even websites out there where you can register for a honeymoon!) do it. Even if you can’t afford something lavish, rent a cabin a few towns away…turn off the cell phones, the computers, the TV and soak in this time together! I can promise you won’t regret going on a honeymoon…you’ll only regret NOT going on one.

Hire a day-of wedding coordinator.

When Brad & I were in the thick of wedding planning and found out our venue required a “Day-Of Coordinator” we were pretty distraught.

Our initial reaction was, “We didn’t set aside money for this in the budget. I don’t understand why we need a day-of coordinator.” I didn’t understand why I couldn’t put a relative or friend in charge of something like this, but halfway through the reception it all became crystal clear.

The day/night of your wedding, you don’t want to be worried about the little details, nor do you want family & friends to be distracted by them. You want everyone to enjoy their time together–celebrating.

When we were having trouble with a couple of our other vendors, Pam (our coordinator) was on top of things in NO time. Very calm & collected, she assured us that she would take care of everything. Brad & I literally said to each other, “I don’t know what we would have done tonight if it wasn’t for Pam.”

If you don’t have a wedding coordinator, Pam Everett (from Perfectly Planned by Pam) comes highly recommended by us. She’s one of the sweetest and most hard-working coordinators we’ve come across in the business.

Entertain the idea of doing a “reveal” before the wedding.

When we got engaged I was dead set on not seeing Brad before the wedding. I spent 24 years thinking “the day I get married I’m not going to see my future husband until I walk down the aisle.” I was so intrigued by the mystery of waiting to see each other until the moment I stepped onto the aisle. Mainly because one of the things Brad & I have ALWAYS loved the most about a wedding ceremony is watching the groom’s face the second he sees his bride for the first time. There is something so real and undeniably beautiful about that split second. I was scared of taking away from that moment with Brad by doing a “reveal” before the wedding.

Looking back, I cannot express to you how thankful I am we decided to do a reveal. Not only did seeing each other before NOT take away from the moment I walked down the aisle, it actually made it more powerful. The day went by so quickly and doing a reveal gave us such a unique and precious moment alone that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. We believe there is something intimate, beautiful, and personal about a reveal. Something unlike any other moment we experienced the entire day.

Take time to SLOW DOWN and soak it all in.

Aside from seeing each other before the wedding, this was honestly one of the best pieces of advise we got before our wedding. A friend told us that at his wedding, he and his wife made it a point to take a step back (away from the crowd…I know it’s difficult) for about 5-10 minutes every hour of the reception. A few minutes to soak it all in, to tell your spouse you love them, to breath, and to be reminded that every single person is there to celebrate your love and commitment to each other. Make a pact to try it..promise it’s worth it.



(and most importantly) it’s about more than just the wedding day… IT’S ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE. Planning a wedding is an awesome season of life, but can also feel like a HUGE weight on your shoulders. There are going to be a ton of expectations you and your future spouse have for your wedding day (PLUS everyone and their brother’s expectations too). The most important thing to remember is what is at the center of this celebration.

Beyond the flowers, the programs, and the bridesmaid dresses, there are two people madly in love with each other and promising to lay their own desires and cares down to serve the other in love. Don’t neglect your relationship! Make an extra effort to communicate effectively and talk through things when conflict arises. Be willing to humble yourself & apologize when necessary. Listen well. Have a date night once a week where you DON’T talk about wedding details. Go through premarital counseling–this was hugely beneficially for talking through struggles of wedding planning, personality differences, family systems, etc in a healthy manner.



I feel like there are a million things I could share about my wedding planning experience, but I’ll hop down from my little soapbox now and ask you…

  • What is the best piece of advice someone has given you while planning your wedding?
  • What do you wish someone would have told you while you were planning your wedding?
  • If you could go back, what is one thing you would re-do about your wedding day?
  • What do you remember the most about your wedding day?
  • What has been the most difficult part of the wedding planning process so far?
  • What is something you thought mattered while planning your wedding, and later realized it wasn’t as important?
  • Did you go on a honeymoon? If so, where? Would you recommend it to someone else?
  • Did you see each other before the wedding?

Help brides who are currently planning their wedding by answering one (or a few) of the questions above!

Happy Monday!
Love, Jen