The Biggest Mistake That New Brides Make

One of the biggest wedding-planning challenges can be cohesiveness — presenting a consistent vision for your event from start to finish. As a wedding planner, I see brides (especially those who are newly engaged) struggle with this all the time. They've picked their venue, theme and dress...but none of the three really match.

Throughout the process of falling in love with gowns, flowers, linens, and all things wedding pretty, you might find it difficult to maintain focus and your wedding can take on a life of its own. So, how do you prevent this from happening? The good news is that by outlining key factors early on, it's totally doable to execute your big day without getting completely lost in the process.

I've put together some easy tips to help couples stay on track throughout the months leading up to their wedding. By no means do you have to follow these to a T. My hope is that you will find a way to personalize these steps and bring your vision to life in the most magical way possible!

1. Book your venue before anything else.

This is the one key piece of advice that I've shared with all of my clients throughout the years that hasn't changed. In your venue selection, you'll narrow down the search by finding out what you're stylistically drawn to and what reflects you as a couple. Your entire wedding vision will become more defined throughout this process.

For example, let's say that you originally imagined a completely black and white look, but you decide to book a ballroom and it has brownish carpeting. You may want to tweak your palette to incorporate creams, browns, metallics and black, instead.

2. Edit your inspiration board.

Whether you have an old-school binder stuffed with magazine spreads or a Pinterest board that you started on the day you said "yes!", now is the time to edit. Looking at your photo inspiration, you may see four completely different weddings going on. That isn't necessarily a bad thing in the early stages of planning but when you're ready to start tackling your to-do list, it's time to refocus your vision.

Narrow down images that evoke an emotion or represent an idea you'd like to incorporate. There should be a specific reason why you're keeping each photo, whether it's because you really want to have a cigar bar and that was the only image you could find or you love the wording in that thank-you card for your bridesmaids.

3. Use keywords to describe your dream wedding.

Romantic? Casual? Black tie? Beachy? Rustic? Modern? Think about the words you'll use during your conversations with vendors to describe your vision. Also, imagine how you'd want your guests to describe the event after the fact to their friends.

Although this may seem trivial, identifying keywords will be more helpful than you can imagine later on, when you're torn between two different products or services. (Go with whichever one best embodies your overall concept!)

4. Create a color story.

Next, pull up photos of your venue and decide which colors work best to help tell your wedding story. If you love purple but you realize it doesn't mesh with your location, that doesn't meet you can't include it. You may just want to consider bringing it in through small details, rather than making it an overwhelmingly purple-themed wedding.

Also, you don't have to limit yourself to two or three hues, as long as they're all from the same color family. For example, blushes, peaches, creams, whites, purples, wine colors, reds and copper all work together to create a great "color story." Once you've created what you believe to be your color story, add it to your inspiration board to ensure that everything is coming together accordingly.

5. You shouldnt pick the first vendor, gown, or other item that you find.

I should have trusted my gut and pulled the trigger more quickly with some of our wedding decisions. We visited about 10 different venues only to end up going with the first one…ditto with our photographer, videographer, DJ and so forth. After a while, it became a running joke between Jason and I. We would look at each other knowingly after a “first” appointment of any kind and ask each other, “Is this the one we should choose?”

6. You should have a one-year engagement.

Whoever decided that 365 days is the perfect amount of time to transition from “fiancée” to “wife?” We had a long engagement for practical reasons (namely, so Jason could finish his doctorate in physical therapy). We’ve had an amazing experience planning the wedding, but after three years, the candy coating part (cakes! flowers! gowns!) did wear off. If we had wed more quickly, we wouldn't have had to play the waiting game.

7. You need to spend [insert $ amount here] on a wedding.

Funding a wedding can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you should start your married life in major debt because you didn’t want to disappoint anyone, including yourselves. Have an honest conversation with your fiancé about how much you can realistically spend, taking your current finances into consideration.

What worked for us: We used a budget spreadsheet to map out estimated costs for everything and adjusted the amounts after we finalized contracts. The first time around, we definitely forgot to include a few things, including postage for our invitations. Add a five percent cushion to the total amount in case you do end up spending more in certain areas, like we did with our centerpieces.

8. While were on the subject of budget, hiring your loved ones is the same as hiring pro vendors.

I have several talented friends and family members who could DIY with the best of them (see the bridal shower my mom threw for me here). However, I can’t imagine asking my family and friends to “work” the entire wedding. Everyone knows at least one story of a bride whose Dad/friend/cousin was arranging centerpieces or manning an iPod playlist and missed a key part of the action.

There’s nothing wrong with getting crowd-sourced wedding photos and the like, but make no mistake about it — you won’t get the same results as you would from someone who does this for their livelihood.

9. You need to have a white gown, something blue/old/new/borrowed, a bouquet toss, Dad walk you down the aisle or [insert other tradition here]. Otherwise, its not really a wedding wedding.

The garter toss has always creeped me out, so that's one tradition we'll be skipping. Also, we've seen some adorable guest books, but nothing really stands out as “Jason and Stef,” so why include something that doesn’t mean anything to us? Decide with your groom what you should omit, and come up with your own unique traditions, too! We’re still working on that last part…

10. You will never look more beautiful than you will on that day.

Between the dress, jewels, makeup, hair, and smile that says, “We finally did it," there's no denying that brides are incredibly beautiful. There’s a lot of pressure to look a certain way, even if no one will admit it out loud. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look your best — just don't let other people's scrutiny and comments mess with your psyche. P.S. I know wives who look just as amazing now (if not more) 15 years after getting married!

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