15 Lessons That I Learned From Planning My Own Wedding

The one question that I get most often when clients find out that I'm married is "What would you do differently?" After getting married, I was able to see weddings from a whole different perspective, the brides perspective. This was a cool bonus to getting married because having that experience now allows me to relate better to my clients on their wedding day and to put myself in their shoes. So, to answer your question, here are some of things that I learned from planning my own wedding.

1. Don't let anyone else influence your decisions.- If you're already engaged and in the process of wedding planning, you've probably already found out that EVERYONE has an opinion about your wedding and how it should be. Whether mom wants to keep it super traditional, your friends want it super modern, even your neighbor who isn't invited will probably have an opinion about how your wedding should be. Stay true to you! If you want a taco bar at your wedding, have a taco bar! If you want to ride in on a pony, then you ride in on that freaking pony, girl! When Jeremy and I were planning our wedding, we definitely had a lot of different opinions thrown at us. Overall, I think we stayed pretty true to us and what we envisioned for our day and I'm so happy about that!

2. Have a wedding planning binder or folder.- It's great to have a wedding planning binder that you keep all of your contracts and important information from vendors in. I went out and got a wedding binder from Barnes and Noble right away after I got engaged, they have all different ones to choose from there in the "Wedding" section. You'll likely be meeting with many different vendors and it's important to stay organized and keep all of the documents, contracts, receipts they give you just in case you need to look back at them.

3. Be strategic about your guest list.- When you're figuring out your guest list, you'll probably want to invite everyone you've ever met because the more the merrier, right? Take it from a former bride, sometimes less is more. Of course you don't want anyone to feel left out, and deciding who is on your guest list is one of the hardest tasks you'll have when planning your wedding. Jeremy and I come from very large families (his mom is 1 of 11 and my mom is 1 of 7 children) so that added up to a big chunk of our guest list right off the bat. We invited grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins but had to cut if off at our first cousins and we made the decision of no kids, unless they were in the wedding party. Once family is figured out, you'll need to figure out your guest list of friends. This part can get even trickier. Do I invite my friend from high school who I haven't seen in 10 years? A good rule of thumb is, if you haven't seen them or had a phone conversation with them within the last 12-18 months, don't feel obligated to invite them. Although I don't regret inviting anyone that we did to our wedding, I did feel quite overwhelmed with the large number of guests that we had (around 175) and I don't even think I got to talk to everyone (still regret that to this day). Our rehearsal dinner was much smaller, only about 50 people, and if I could do it over I would probably keep things very small and intimate like that, because it was a lot less hectic!

4. Do a hair & makeup trial- I would highly recommend doing a hair and makeup trial with your hairstylist and makeup artist before your wedding day. This will allow you and your stylist to figure out exactly what you like and how you want to look on your big day. When I did my makeup trail, there were a few things that I had my amazing makeup artist tweak on the day of. My makeup came out PERFECT on the day of, I've never felt so beautiful in my life, all thanks to doing a makeup trial! Same goes for hair, when I did my hair trial, I actually did an up-do, I had thought that's what I wanted for my wedding day! But thanks to doing a trial, I decided I didn't like an up-do on myself and I wanted to have my hair down for my wedding day!

5. Do a first look.- I could go on and on forever about the benefits of a first look. I'm so SO glad Jeremy and I did one on our wedding day. It was one of my favorite moments of the entire day. I love the photo our photographers captured of his reaction and I'm so thankful that we did one, because it was one of the very few, if not the ONLY moment that we got alone together on our wedding day. I also did a first look with my dad and a spontaneous first look with my bridesmaids and my grandma! I love having everyone's reaction captured! I also can't imagine having to do all of our photos during the cocktail hour. I was so thankful that we were able to enjoy our entire cocktail hour with our guests, and even that time flew by way too fast! Your wedding day really will fly by faster than you can imagine, I didn't believe people when they kept telling me that. But wow, what a whirlwind it was... I blinked and it was over. I'm SO glad we did a first look to have that extra time with our guests. If you want more reasons on why you should do a first look, I wrote a whole article about it here: https://www.rebeccasheets.com/single-post/2018/01/30/7-Reasons-Why-You-SHOULD-do-a-First-Look

6. Bring a wedding day survival kit.- My mom made one of these for me for my wedding day, and boy was I glad I had it! It was a travel hanging toiletry bag with 4 zippered pockets, filled with everything you could ever need. Some things in my wedding day survival kit were: bobby pins, gum, mints, band aids, mini sewing kit, snacks, tissues, deodorant, toothpaste, tampons, tylenol, tide to go pen, wrinkle releasing spray, lint roller, chapstick, first aid cream. That's just a few of the things that she put in there. You NEVER know what you or one of your bridesmaids might need on your wedding day, it's always better to be prepared!

7. Wear comfy shoes.- This is something that I learned to do from all of the weddings that I photographed, and all of the brides that I watched limping around in pain on their wedding day. Yes those sparkly high heels might be beautiful, but is it really worth being uncomfortable all day long. If you have your heart set on a certain pair of shoes that might be uncomfortable to walk in all day, make sure you bring a back up comfy pair that you can change into. Don't forget that you will likely be on your feet and walking around ALL DAY LONG, so your shoes better be in it for the long haul. I wore a beaded flat pair of sandals and I did not regret it one bit... I was SO comfortable the whole day and didn't have to worry about breaking my ankle or tripping in high heels.

8. Make a pack list.- I was so glad that I did this... when you're packing up for your wedding, make sure you write down every single thing that you pack to bring. Write down everything that you're bring to the bridal suite and if you're bringing a lot of your own decorations to your venue like I did, then write down every single decoration that you're bringing. I had to pack everything up from the bridal suite at our venue the night of the wedding and I was able to easily go down my list that I wrote to make sure I didn't forget anything and I did the same thing the next morning when we went to pick up all of our decorations from the venue. If I didn't have my pack list with me, I definitely would have forgotten a bunch of important stuff at my venue!

9. Have a backup location for photos.- If you're planning on having all of your photos taken outside, have a backup location in mind and ready beforehand in case the weather turns out to be crappy, because you never know! Be sure to discuss this with your photographer before hand. The same goes if you're planning your ceremony outdoors... always have a backup location ready in case of bad weather. For this very reason, Jeremy and I decided to get married at the indoor ceremony option at our venue. They were calling for like 50 degrees and snow for our wedding day in September, (I thought it as going to be freezing, I brought my grandma's vintage fur coat for me to wear just in case LOL), but it ended up being BEAUTIFUL out! You never do know what the weather will be like, but it's always smart to have a backup location no matter what!

10. Sleep in your own bed the night before.- I know for some of you traveling from out of town to get married, this might not be an option. But if it is an option for you, I highly recommend sleeping in your own bed the night before. I decided to stay the night in a hotel in Vernon, because it was closer to our venue than our house was, but I didn't sleep at ALL the night before my wedding. A large part of it was probably due to nerves and excitement, but I think it was also because I wasn't used to sleeping there! Hotel rooms are usually stuffy, dry, noisy, and my room was so COLD. I remember I actually called the front desk at like 11:30 at night and asked them to bring me 3 extra blankets.

11. Don't forget to EAT.- Seriously, make sure you make time to eat a good lunch! I didn't get this chance because getting ready in the morning was so hectic and went by so fast. We had sub sandwiches in the bridal suite, but every time I went to take a bite of mine, I ended up getting pulled away from it for one reason or another. By the time cocktail hour rolled around I was SO hungry (to the point where I was getting hangry), and I was shoving hor dourves in my mouth while my guests were trying to come up and say hi to me.

12. Do a receiving line.- Now, hear me out... I never in a million years thought I would want to do a receiving line. I mean we were getting married at the same place that our reception was at and we were going to have all of the time at cocktail hour, so why would we need to do one? The thought didn't even really cross my mind. But if there's ONE thing I wish we did differently, it would have been this. Like I mentioned above, we had over 175 guests and I don't even think I got to speak to everyone. I spent the whole cocktail hour and reception trying to say Hi to everyone but still missed some people (my biggest regret). If we had done a receiving line right after our ceremony, we would have been able to say hi to everyone right away. Then we could have spent the rest of the evening more leisurely having conversations with whoever happened to come up to us. I honestly just felt like a chicken with my head cut off trying to run around and say hi to everyone and still feel so guilty to this day for not getting to talk to everyone! A receiving line would have taken the pressure off and solved this dilemma!

13. Skip the wedding favors.- Seriously. They're a waste of money and more than half of them usually get left behind by guests at the end of the night anyway. What Jeremy and I decided to do in lieu of favors was make donations to different organizations in honor or memory of loved ones who could not be their at our wedding day. We put two of there cards on every table. It's a great way to pay tribute and to put your money towards a good cause, rather than a piece of junk that will get thrown away!

14. Stay Present in the moment.- Everyone will tell you this, and like I said, I didn't believe it either. But the day goes by so fast, like SO fast. Stay present in the moment and soak it all in. Someone gave Jeremy and I the advice to take a moment during the reception where the two of us just go off to a corner and take in everything that's happening. We took their advice and I'm so glad we had just this minute together to take it all in. Our photographers even caught us doing it!

15. Don't sweat the small stuff.- If I could only give you one piece of advice, it would be this! Don't sweat the small stuff... should I repeat it? You've spent many many hours making every little detail of your wedding perfect, I know, I get it. But not everything will be perfect and not everything will go as planned. I can be a perfectionist and control freak sometimes but I feel like that was magnified by 1000x on my wedding day. I definitely spent too much time and energy obsessing over every little detail that went wrong on my wedding day (like a few decorations being in the wrong place or the fact that my bustle broke about 5 minutes into dancing!). If I could do it all over, I would not worry about any mistakes that were made or things that didn't go as planned. The most important thing was that I got to marry my best friend with all of my loved one there to witness and share in the joy...nothing else really matters!

(Don't be mad over things not going 100% as planned... Like my ring bearer Colton. LOL)

(Some things won't go exactly as planned, like how I sat in front of the Mr. and Jeremy sat in front of the Mrs. sign! Lol only something a control freak like me would notice!)

(Or the fact that my bustle broke 5 minutes into dancing, waded my train up and tied it with a couple of hair ties LOL)

So that's my perspective on thing that I would do differently or would recommend doing to those of you getting married. Hope this helps and if you have any questions for me, please don't hesitate to reach out!

Xoxo,

Rebecca

Huge thank you to my dream team of wedding vendors:

Photography: Tom Studios Wedding Photography

Venue: The Cannery

Cake & Cupcakes: The Bakehouse at Dibbles Inn

Florist: Lace Leaf Co.

Makeup: Ann Erny

Hair: Lizzy Esposito, Espo & Co Salon

DJ: Joe Puleo

Dress: Allure Bridals

Bridesmaid Dresses: David's Bridal

Shoes: David's Bridal

Hand Painted Signs: The Adirondack Ink

COPYRIGHT © REBECCA SHEETS PHOTOGRAPHY 2020 / UTICA, NY / PHONE: (315) 864-3115 / EMAIL: photos@rebeccasheets.com

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