This past year, I shared my wedding-planning journey with millions of readers on BridalGuide.com. Here are 20 lessons and tips I've learned along the way.
After a year of blogging about her wedding to millions of readers on BridalGuide.com, Nikki Stroud reflects on …
1. Think beyond the altar.
The wedding is more than just a party; it's about your decision to share your life fully with another person. We're talking forever, brides. Make sure you and your hubby-to-be discuss your future plans (where you'll live, how you'll raise your kids) in addition to seating charts and honeymoon destinations.
2. Make it personal.
The last thing I wanted was a ceremony and reception that could have worked for any couple. I'd suggest adding as many small, personal touches as possible so your wedding is uniquely yours. Some ideas I love: asking for song requests, creative table numbers, and serving unexpected treats, like cookies and milk.
3. Break the "golden rule" of wedding gown shopping.
There was no way I was only trying on just four or five wedding gowns! After several stores (and trying on around 40 or so dresses), I found The One. If I didn't keep at it, I definitely would have regretted buying one of the previous gowns I hadn't been blown away by!
4. Love your dress the most.
I've decided that although my gown is perfect for me, I still love other dresses and as brides, we certainly have that right! But still, I'd suggest avoiding "Say Yes to the Dress" and looking at gown gallery after you've made a purchase to avoid second-guessing your decision.
5. The guest count will likely be your biggest annoyance (and greatest accomplishment).
Make sure you and your fiancé are on the same page about how large you want your wedding to be. Originally, my fiancé Corey and I debated having a small destination wedding, but we ultimately decided on a hometown wedding with around 150 guests.
Sure it's your day, but try to make your loved ones happy, too. It can be tough to relinquish some of that control, but we've found that compromising (on our cocktail hour, dinner menu, and bridal party accessories, just to name a few) has helped us reduce stress and enjoy the process even more.
7. Don't commit to too much DIY.
Yes, you're smart, creative and crafty, but you only have so much time. Limit DIY projects to those that are the most cost-effective or meaningful. My mom and I had originally decided to take on all of the bouquets and bouts, but after a valiant (yet disastrous) attempt, we learned some things are better left to the pros.
8. Don't forget to give thanks to those who help you.
Wedding planning can be a long and arduous process. If you're lucky, you have help! Be sure to thank those who help you, especially parents or bridal party members.
9. Fake it 'til you make it.
It's going to take some research to figure out everything you'll need to do in order to plan a great wedding. Start sending out inquiries to vendors right away, but make sure you find out how their prices compare to the norm. Also, read reviews for every vendor you book.
10. Think about what vendors you really need.
I didn't realize I wanted a videographer until a few months out from the big day. I had an epiphany that the wedding would be the only time I would get to see (and hear) Corey recite his vows, and I wanted to have a recording of that special moment. As a result, the cost had to be added into the budget at the last minute, which made for a stressful time that could have been avoided.
11. Music is everything.
Do you want guests sitting around during the time they're supposed to be dancing? Didn't think so. Get a DJ who knows how to read and work a crowd.
12. If you want to lose a little weight, don't try some trendy fad diet.
Stick to eating healthier and limiting portion sizes. The asparagus, lemon and goat cheese pasta I wrote about is a must-try.
13. After all of the stress, you'll want a sweet treat to look forward to.
I thought it was silly to spend hundreds of dollars on a cake before I started the process of finding a baker. Now, the cake is something I'm most excited for! Try all kinds of flavors, explore different designs and chose a cake you're the most sweet on.
14. Learn from your fellow brides.
I will never look at a wedding the same way again now that I've planned one. Take advantage of friends' weddings by paying attention to details and deciding what you like and don't like.
15. Looking at photos is the most fun "research" assignment you'll ever have.
Are you following Bridal Guide on Pinterest and Lover.ly? If not, then you should be! That's where I found some of my best ideas yet.
16. Engagement photos are a must-have.
Corey and I didn't initially plan on doing this, but now I'm so glad we did. We've created a photo book using those snapshots that guests will sign on our big day.
17. Record fun details in a journal for your future children to look at someday.
I print out every post I write and save it in one big binder so that I can relive this journey in the future. Consider starting your own diary where you record fun little details about the process, like the name of your wedding-day perfume. Mine is Versace Bright Crystal: It's been sitting, unopened, in my bedroom for almost eight months now and I can't wait to finally use it.
18. Don't be afraid to assign tasks to your groom.
Too often, I hear about grooms who do nothing to plan for their wedding… that certainly wouldn't be my preference. If you want your groom's opinion (which you probably should) have him help!
19. Make the honeymoon phase last forever.
It's all too easy for the romance to fizzle out during some parts of the planning process, especially when you're making tough decisions like cutting the guest list and balancing the budget. For any engaged couple struggling to keep the romance alive, I'd definitely recommend going back to your venue or church and walking down the aisle together (it's a great feeling). Make time for fun activities where you ban planning talk, such as sports games, wine tasting and movies.
20. Enjoy every single second!
Thank you so much to those who have kept up with my planning process-I can't wait to share photos from my big day with you all.
Leave a comment telling us what you'd add to my list!
-Nikki StroudMore from Bridal Guide:
7 Bride Behaviors That Drive Everyone Crazy
50 New Must-Have Wedding Photos
10 Things No One Tells You About Gown Shopping
20 Sexy Wedding-Night Secrets
10 Things You Must Do Before Having Kids