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20 Secrets to Planning Your Perfect Wedding

By: Jennifer Lazarus

Enter Slideshow
  • 1. What

    1. What's the Rush?

    Sure, you're excited when you get engaged, but don't act impulsively, says Cathy Johnson of Cathy Johnson Weddings, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. "So many brides rush out and start putting down deposits without thinking through the logistics of what goes into planning a memorable day," she says. "I advise the bride and groom to let it all sink in and wait for a few weeks after they get engaged. Then start."

    Related: The Biggest Mistakes Newly-Engaged Couples Make

    Photo Credit: Noble Photography

  • 2. Get the Big Picture

    2. Get the Big Picture

    "You need to envision the kind of wedding you want — outdoors, cocktail reception, beach — and then work inward from there," says Kathi R. Evans, event coordinator for All the Best Weddings and Celebrations, based in Toms River, New Jersey. When you know it's a beach wedding, for example, you can choose your colors, and the rest of the details — décor, flowers and food — will start to fall into place.

    Related: Find Your Wedding Style

  • 3. Create a ‘Wants

    3. Create a ‘Wants' and a ‘Needs' List

    "Try to separate your ‘wants' from your ‘needs,' " says Samantha Goldberg, owner of Gold Events Planning, in Bridgewater, New Jersey. "The ‘needs' list consists of the items you have to have to make your special day work, such as a good photographer and an affordable venue, while the ‘wants' are the items you get after the ‘needs' are acquired (such as ornate centerpieces or customized favors)."

    Related: How to Ask for (and Get) the Wedding You Want

  • 4. Know Your Budget Really, Really Well

    4. Know Your Budget Really, Really Well

    "Do not spend a dime or book a single service until the two of you have thoroughly worked out your budget," says Jean Picard of Jean Picard Wedding Consulting, based in Santa Barbara, California. "This is where a couple can go wrong early in the game and never recover. They fall in love with a venue and book it right away, then find they have to skimp on everything else, including necessities."

    Related: 101 Ways to Save Thousands on Your Wedding

    Photo Credit: Michael Essig

  • 5. Don

    5. Don't Cut the Wrong Corners

    Sure, Uncle Harry would love to take your wedding photos, but will you be happy with them? Probably not, says Barbara Thleiji of Belle Occasions, in San Francisco. "Always hire professional, licensed vendors," she advises. "You will save yourself a lot of stress by hiring well-qualified people, whose work you can count on."

    Photo Credit: Daniele Del Castillo

  • 6. Be True to Yourself

    6. Be True to Yourself

    "I tell brides that when they are offered suggestions that they aren't too keen on, they should politely say, ‘That's an interesting idea,' and then go ahead with what they really want to do," says Cindy Clearwater of SunCelebrations, in St. Croix, U.S.V.I.

    Photo Credit: Browne Photography

  • 7. Don

    7. Don't Overthink

    "Once you make a decision, don't go back and rethink it over and over again," says Sasha Souza, a California-based event planner. "I think that leads to bridal craziness. I understand that it may be hard to make a decision, but once it's made, check it off the list and quickly move on to the next thing."

  • 8. Don

    8. Don't Be a Superwoman

    "Brides often get this idea that they can do everything," says Terrica R. Skaggs, a wedding and event designer based in Jekyll Island, Georgia. "They'll say, ‘it's cheaper' or ‘it's more fun if I do it myself.' But it takes over 240 hours to plan a wedding, so get plenty of help from family, friends or a wedding planner."

  • 9. Don

    9. Don't Multitask

    "One thing that always works out really well for my clients is a ‘one task at a time' planning schedule," says Kelly McWilliams of WeddingsbySocialites.com, based in Cape Coral, Florida. "Give yourself twelve to fifteen months to plan, and tackle one item on your checklist at a time. Some things will take one hour, others will take three weeks or a month, but having just one goal at a time allows you to focus on the task at hand and not get overwhelmed."

    Photo Credit: iStock.com/RossHelen

  • 10. Make it Legal

    10. Make it Legal

    "One of the most important pieces of advice we give to all of our couples, especially when they're intending to marry in a foreign country, is to make the legal paperwork the first priority," says Stephanie Skiba de Garcia, destination wedding planner and owner of Cozumel Wedding Planner, in Cozumel, Mexico. "The best suggestion we can offer is to get all of those requirements handled and out of the way in the beginning," she says. "They're tedious but necessary. But after that, you can focus on the fun parts of the engagement process."

    Related: Marriage License 101: What You Need to Know

    Photo Credit: Visionyard Photography

  • 11. Personalize

    11. Personalize

    "Special touches are always memorable," says Julie Pryor, owner of Pryor Events, based in West Los Angeles. The amount of money you spend is really less important than the thought and care that go into your choice of details. Flowers from a neighbor's garden, heirloom family pictures on display, family recipes used for the menu — all of these things will make your wedding stand out.

    Related: 101 Ways to Personalize Your Wedding

    Photo Credit: Kim Fox Photography

  • 12. Look for Hidden Treasures

    12. Look for Hidden Treasures

    Related to making it personal, don't forget the local dollar store, advises Lindsay Wendt-Sheikh, president of Trips Down the Aisle — Weddings on the Go! "You never know what you may happen to find there," she says. "Something simple and inexpensive may make a surprisingly eye-catching touch or inspire a theme."

    Photo Credit: Paige Budde

  • 13. Watch Your Due Dates

    13. Watch Your Due Dates

    "Carefully watch cut-off and final-payment due dates, and schedule RSVP returns for at least two weeks prior to those dates," says Geri Simpson, wedding consultant and owner of G. Simpson and Associates, LLC, based in Opelousas, Louisiana. "That way you will have an accurate head count and can adjust those numbers before a payment is due."

    Related: Wedding Countdown Calendar

  • 14. Take Steps to Be Comfortable

    14. Take Steps to Be Comfortable

    "Break in your wedding shoes! I know this may sound trivial, but it's the most overlooked piece of advice that I give to brides, moms and attendants," says Elise Enloe, a bridal consultant in Oviedo, Florida. "Why do women think they can be on their feet for six to eight hours in a pair of shoes they've never worn and not end up with painful blisters? It not only makes you uncomfortable, but it detracts from any formal affair when everyone is barefoot as soon as the first dances are over."

  • 15. Orchestrate

    15. Orchestrate

    Seven to 10 days before the wedding, call your vendors to confirm details. Give everyone a timeline of the day. The biggest mistake is leaving any of this to chance, warns Emilie Duncan, a professional wedding consultant in Columbus, Ohio.

  • 16. Hire Help for the Big Day

    16. Hire Help for the Big Day

    Even if you choose not to hire a wedding planner to handle the bulk of the wedding, then at least hire someone for the "day of," advises Melody Enella, event coordinator for True Love Events & Custom Bridal, in Northern California. "Even if you're a planner at heart and you've got things well under control," she says, "the best stress reliever is to have someone professional there, taking care of the things that can and do come up."

    Photo Credit: Renee Hollingshead Photography / Event Coordination and Design: Howerton + Wooten Events

  • 17. Take a Break

    17. Take a Break

    "If things get too tough, give yourself some time out," says Duncan. "Walk away for a day, a week or even just go out with your groom-to-be for an evening. Trust me, your wedding planning will be there when you go back to it, and your relationship will be better off in the long run if you take care not to overload yourself or him."

    Related: 20 Cheap Date Ideas

    Photo Credit: iStock

  • 18. Let the Honeymoon Wait (at Least for a Couple of Days)

    18. Let the Honeymoon Wait (at Least for a Couple of Days)

    "We always suggest to our brides that, if at all possible, they should not leave for the honeymoon immediately," says Michele Landers of Bridal Potpourri, in Lexington, Kentucky. "This serves a couple of purposes. One is that they can spend more time with close relatives and friends who have traveled to attend the wedding. The other reason is that it is good for the bride and groom to relax a little bit, decompress and savor the moment."

  • 19. Manage Your Emotions

    19. Manage Your Emotions

    "There should be a side-effects warning when you take on the role of organizing the biggest event of your life," says Sarah Lusardi, a wedding planner and owner of NY Engagements, LLC, in Westchester, New York. "It's easy to get sucked into the ‘bridezilla' zone, where you start sweating bullets over the smallest things that normally you wouldn't think twice about. Keep a check on your character, and think about the consequences of burning bridges, carrying grudges and thinking ill thoughts when things are not going as smoothly as you want them to."

  • 20. Have a Blast!

    20. Have a Blast!

    Far too many brides wish they'd spent less time worrying and more time having fun. "My advice is to be in the moment," says Isha Foss, wedding consultant and owner of Isha Foss Events, in Chesapeake, Virginia. "The day goes by so quickly, and you really want to be there, emotionally. So try not to check every detail — like whether the napkins are the exact shade that you wanted and folded just the way you requested. Instead, take in the whole reception, and enjoy the people who are there to celebrate your day with you. Remember: Guests are only as comfortable and as happy as their hosts."

    Related: How to Have the Most Fun Wedding Ever

    Photo Credit: Rodeo & Co.

20 Secrets to Planning Your Perfect Wedding

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