Unpopular opinions from a seasoned wedding planner
You haven’t planned a wedding before. Chances are you probably haven’t planned any big parties before where there were a lot of emotions, opinions, and investments of large chucks of money. For many couples the expense of a wedding is the first time they have ever spent a large sum of money together so its a daunting task.
I wanted to put together some insight into things that I see a lot of talk about. My opinion on a lot of these topics may not be popular but I have literally seen it all. I have tried a lot of different approaches and boy have I seen some things. My goal isn’t to offend you but to help you in the planning process with some honesty infused insight to a successful wedding day!
You can spend time together on the day before the wedding
I know it’s tradition to spend the night apart the night before and to not see each until the ceremony but I think this is a tradition that can certainly fade out. If you want to wake up in the same bed, do it. If you want to spend some time together do it. If you want to have a first look, do it (in fact I strongly recommend a first look). Seeing each other before the ceremony will not make it less special and it will not ruin your day. I have a lot of couples, especially same sex couples that choose to spend time with each other on the wedding day and then when they are getting ready/putting on the final touches wait until the big reveal to see each other again. It is no less meaningful or special, in fact, honestly I think it makes it a little more special.
Hiring a great photographer is more important than booking the most beautiful venue
I know this is hugely controversial but I am a big believer that a great photographer can capture your day and make it look gorgeous regardless of the venue.
Yes, I love some really incredible and beautiful venues that happen to come with a hefty price tag. But you know what I don’t love, when a couple spends a huge portion of their budget on the venue and then skips things like a professional photographer or florist or worse hires a food truck to feed 200 people. Priorities peeps, priorities.
A good photographer can work with the surroundings and get creative and capture things so they look beautiful, even if there are a few “less desirable” aspects to the venue.
Your ceremony is the most important part of the day
I know there is a lot more planning and money that goes into the reception and party but really the ceremony is the foundation for the rest. Without the ceremony it is not a wedding, it is just a production. So keep the importance of the ceremony in mind throughout the process. Keep it short but also keeping the flow and significance of the ceremony is paramount to a good ceremony. Have a coordinator that can cue all the portions because otherwise there is so much can go wrong… but that is a whole other blog post.
Hire a professional officiant
I love the idea of someone that is hugely important in your life being the person to marry you, but I can’t even begin to count the number of things I have seen go wrong when it comes to wedding ceremonies. I have see non-professional officiants forget their notes for the ceremony, break down and cry to the point you couldn’t understand them, forget to do massively important part of the ceremony (like ring exchanges and vows) and even forget or pronounce a name wrong because the pressure of speaking about an emotional topic on a momentous occasion for loved ones is HUGE.
Trust me your ceremony will be no less amazing and no less personalized just because you hire someone to perform the ceremony. In Fact, it will be much better. Professional officiants do this all the time, they know what works and what doesn’t, they know how to make a personalized and beautiful ceremony that flows and touches your guests. And most importantly they know how to juggle all the aspects so you have gorgeous photos of you and your love’s first kiss without them in the background. (Praise hands)
Don’t invite people out of obligation
This can be so hard but it has to be said. Maybe that couple invited you to their wedding but you have since drifted apart, just because some coworkers are invited doesn’t mean they all should be. I know the pressure is real to invite people, but ultimately you want to be surrounded by your closest family and friends, not acquaintances.
Not to mention that guests lists are the number one way to cut costs. Cut your guests list = cut expenses.
Wedding favors are a waste of money
Even the most thoughtful and nice favors typically end up in a junk drawer or in the trash. Most of the time, left on the table at the end of the night which my team and I pack up and return to you. Do you need 50 beer koozies back? Probably not.
Gift giving is a love language, and one that I personally speak and appreciate, but most of the time favors border on junk more than they do gifts. If you are really set on a favor I highly suggest something edible, such as a personalized cookie, or something they can enjoy the day after, like a morning muffin for the next day when they wake up. Or skip the favors all together and go for a welcome gift that they can enjoy over the course of the weekend.
Cash bars are tacky
Again, you hire me for my honesty so here it is. Do not invite your guests to your wedding and then ask guests to buy themselves drinks.
Even if you don’t drink or you have family members that don’t drink, alcohol tab is expensive but seriously, so many people spend a lot of money to attend your wedding, don’t ask them to also buy their own drinks.
There are so many options now that allow you to control the cost of the bar without having to have a cash bar. You can opt for beer and wine only, wine only, signature cocktails only, etc. Additionally if you are at a venue that controls the alcohol talk to them in advance about either a package or a bar cap so you can control the costs without having a cash bar.
I honestly would prefer to see a dry wedding over a cash bar. Because I have seen people get really mad about a cash bar. I also have had couples that choose a cash bar to deter people from getting too drunk but guess what, a person that intends to get drunk is going to do it regardless of whether they pay for it or you pay for it.
You HAVE to send Thank you cards
This is something that really irks me. Etiquette is something that is seriously important and seems to be a dying tradition, but etiquette is not tradition. It is a way of showing people you are an empathetic person and appreciate those in your life.
If you receive a gift or if people go out of their way to attend your wedding please send them a thank you card. I don’t know why this is becoming uncommon but show your gratitude to people that love you and support you.
You do not have to have a guest book
I don’t honestly know why guest books became a thing, especially the ones where people just sign their names. Why would you want a list of names to treasure forever. Maybe that’s the cynic in me.
If you want the guest book instead opt for something that you can enjoy going through at a later date. I personally love the guest books that are photo albums of your engagement photos or photos throughout your relationship that have prompts on each page for guests to pick and choose from. For example one page will say “Share advice for us on a lasting relationship” or “your wishes for us” or “date night ideas” – so much more fun to read and treasure than names on a sign or book.
Don’t bore your guests
There are a couple moments in the reception that can leave guests bored and drowning their boredom in yet another cocktail, for example – toasts and dances.
Make toasts short and sweet and keep to a minimum. Really there should be no more than 3 (maybe 4 if they are short) people speaking at the wedding reception. If you have more than that consider inviting people to speak at the rehearsal dinner or farewell brunch. Five minutes of a bad toast can feel like a cringeworthy eternity. Make sure that the person giving the toast knows what they plan on saying. And if your Maid of honor or best man isn’t comfortable making a toast – don’t make them. Check out my blog post on tips for toasts.
Dances are lovely but there is no reason for people to sit through a full song while you sway back and forth. Cut your dances to 1.5-2 minutes. I also highly recommend choreographing a dance, it is actually a great fun thing to do while you are in the planning process that can feel like a great date night instead of another wedding planning task.
While you are planning your wedding I hope that these can help you navigate all the ups and downs of wedding planning. I know some of these “unpopular opinions” are a little hard to swallow but that is my job. As a wedding planner I have planned and seen it all, I have learned first hand what works and what doesn’t work for a wedding day.