Planning a wedding can feel like a balancing act, and the big day itself is comprised of many moving pieces. While you can designate most of it to your planner, bridesmaids, and family members, you likely want to stay attuned to every detail so you can feel reassured that it will go off without a hitch.
The question becomes: Which priorities should you hold close, and which can you put on someone else’s plate?
We talked to wedding professionals from around the country about what couples should prioritize for their wedding day. Here’s what they had to say.
Take care of yourself first
Weddings can feel like a whirlwind and, in that, it can be easy to forget basic self-care. “So many couples forget to eat throughout the day, and when they do, they are grabbing crappy snack foods,” says Kevin Dennis, owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services. “I stress it to all my couples that they need to build in time to have a solid meal before the ceremony because they won’t have time after that!” Likewise, be sure you are drinking water throughout the day and limit your alcohol intake – you won’t want to forget a moment, and you definitely don’t want to deal with a hangover the next day.
Jot it all down
Things tend to become more stressful when there are many thoughts floating around our heads, so pen and paper can help to put everything in place. “Make a physical list of everything you need to plan,” encourages Keith Phillips of Classic Photographers. “Sometimes, looking at it in print will help you recognize what is most important. You can then put the list in order of importance and discuss between the two of you.” Treat yourself to a special notebook just for wedding planning, and keep it with you during vendor meetings, brainstorming sessions, and walkthroughs.
Focus on your big vendors
A wedding can go on without favors or professional stationery, but there are a few things that are necessary to form the foundation of the event. “The top three priorities a couple should consider is the venue, the food, and the entertainment,” explains Michael Coombs, owner and DJ at Michael Coombs Entertainment. “If any of these items are sub-par, that’s what your guests will remember. You can have a beautiful cake and gorgeous décor, but if the vibe and food isn’t right, it can have a negative effect on your guest experience.”
In addition, photography would be another priority. “Your pictures will be the visual memories of your day that you can look back on forever,” reminds Phillips.
Determine what’s most important to you
Every wedding is unique, just as every couple has their own preferences and tendencies. “Priorities are different for everyone, but it’s important to spell it out and be on the same page as your partner at the very beginning of wedding planning,” says Brittny Drye, owner of Love Inc. “If you’re foodies, you may want to prioritize catering, which can have an effect on venue selection as some venues only work with specific caterers. If the photographer is important, you’ll want to set a chunk of your budget aside for that. Going into the planning process knowing what is important is crucial.”
Shannon Tarrant, owner of Wedding Venue Map, shares a similar thought: “Do not prioritize anything that is not specific to you as a couple. Just because it is a cool idea on Pinterest, your guests will not remember something generic. Focus on things that will make your guests say ‘that’s so them!’”
Adjust your budget accordingly
When you know what’s most important to you as a couple, you can think about your budget in a strategic way. Oleta Collins, owner of Flourishing Art, says, “As a couple, make a spread with the most important items for both people. After speaking with wedding professionals, put a realistic budget to each line item. Adjust and readjust, and realize that you might need to give up some items to keep some things or services. Remember it is your day, your money, and the beginning of your life together — starting it off on the right financial foot is a huge step to happiness.”
On the same note, Joan Wyndrum of Blooms by the Box details the strategic importance of your budget: “There are so many unexpected costs involved when planning a wedding. There will be far fewer surprises and OMG moments if you are upfront about your budget not only with vendors but with yourself.”
Don’t forget the big reason
Celebrating a wedding is a beautiful event, but it’s only the kickoff to a greater thing: marriage. Amber Anderson, a business coach with Refine for Wedding Planners, shares, “The point of a wedding is marriage, but I often see the party take precedent and that’s when stress occurs. Those that stay marriage-focused actually seem to have the least stress. They understand that it’s not if, but when a hiccup will occur – but at the end of the day, they’ll still be getting married.” At the end of the day, parties are great — but don’t lose sight of the big picture.
It’s easy to get caught up in the world of picture-perfect weddings on Instagram and want your celebration to measure up to those Pinterest pictures, but that should not be the point. “Your wedding day needs to be about more than just how it will be portrayed,” reminds Kristen Gosselin, owner of KG Events and Design. “Don’t aim for perfection, aim for authenticity.”
There you have it — when it comes down to it, your wedding priorities are unique to the relationship you’ve built with your partner and your individual personalities. Have a frank discussion about what is most important for each of you, then go from there as you find the vendors who can provide you with your wedding day vision.
Photography provided by Jenny DeMarco Photography, Ken Kienow Photography, and Kay Kroshus Photography.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.