Wedding Do-Over: If I Could Plan it Again

Brides are planners. They craft color schemes, decode guest lists, crunch numbers, and plot for weeks to pull off the ceremony and party of a lifetime. And almost universally they succeed. Still, no matter how many times a bride crossed her T's and dotted her I's, inevitably, there are details she wishes she'd handled differently: missed photo opportunities, vendor mix-ups, decorating delays.

To help you avoid these snafus, recent brides have shared their big-day regrets. We then asked wedding pros to examine what went wrong so you don't wind up repeating their mistakes.

1. I'd lock in a venue before the other details - like my dress!
"You'd think in the city of New York finding a venue would be easy," says Danielle Fernandez, "But we didn't nail down the space until September and our wedding was in December. Meantime, I'd found my dress in June, and had moved ahead with many other details. I'm just lucky the dress I picked worked for a wedding in a modern space: the Trump SoHo Hotel."

Lock down your venue before you go dress shopping.Lock down your venue before you go dress shopping.

While brides no longer have to adhere to strict dress rules (who says a sequined ball gown won't work for a backyard affair?), finding and securing the right wedding location should be a top priority, says Alison Laesser-Keck, owner of Viva La Diva Events in Detroit. Because the reception dominates most couples' budgets, it's smart to get started pronto. "There's a domino effect to wedding planning decisions," explains Laesser-Keck. "Each choice is tied to the next one - and if one decision is off in some way it can really throw things out of kilter in a major way."

2. I'd hire a videographer
Having endured too many viewings of hours-long wedding videos, Christine Fennessy didn't once consider hiring a videographer to capture her lakeside nuptials. But a year later, she confesses, she'd love to be able to hit play and revisit the day she was married on the shores of Owasco Lake in Auburn, NY. "I never thought I would say that, but I know I would cry every time I watched it."

Christine's not alone in this regard - it was the most repeated "regret" among brides we interviewed. Michelle Engvall, owner of Married + More, A Wedding Planning Boutique in Seattle, says having a videographer "is money well spent, and it doesn't have to break the bank." She suggests looking for a professional who offers a "highlights" video package. "These are typically 5 to 10 minutes long, and tell the story of the day from start to finish in a condensed version." Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $1,500 for a short, edited video with sound.

3. I'd enlist someone to field my calls the entire day.
On the morning of her August wedding in Annville, PA, Lauren Strafford-Shiner woke up excited and relaxed. That soon changed when her phone started to ring. "At first it was family members calling with good wishes," she recalls. "But then some of the vendors started calling with minor questions or updates." Lauren wasn't fazed until her florist phoned to say she was having trouble getting into the church. "That one did get me flustered." Then it was Lauren's turn to pick up the phone - to find out why the limo hadn't arrived to take her to the church. "Someone did finally suggest that I ask one of my bridesmaids to field the calls, but I wish I'd asked someone to do this sooner," she says.

Engvall says she encourages her brides to keep cell phones out of sight the entire day. For brides who haven't opted for a wedding coordinator, she suggests giving a family member or member of the wedding party a list of all the vendors, with phone numbers and e-mail addresses, as well as a timeline for the day. Inform all of your vendors whom you've designated as your point person for the day, she adds.

Don't leave DIY projects until the last minute or you could end up getting in over your head.Don't leave DIY projects until the last minute or you could end up getting in over your head.

4. I'd DIY in advance.
Having worked in the catering business, Sarah Kilpatrick had a firm grasp of what's needed to pull off a smooth reception for 350 guests. She carried this organizational style over to other aspects of her wedding, which took place in Wheeling, WV, working closely with several vendors. Two things she did decide to DIY though, were creating the ceremony programs and crafting ribbon wands. "The final week before our wedding was pretty stress free, thanks to my many check-off lists," says Kilpatrick. "But knowing that I had to get so many wands made and also put together the programs is something I wish I'd gotten out of the way sooner."

DIY-ing favors or other decor elements can help save money, says Laesser-Keck. But adjust your timeline so that everything's ready to go a couple of weeks in advance. "And definitely enlist the help of close friends and family members. Handmade touches are wonderful, but be realistic about what you can pull off," she says. "You want those days leading up to your wedding to be easy."

5. I'd start my honeymoon two days later.
In the interest of saving time, Kilpatrick and her new husband hired a limo to gather them from their reception at 3 a.m. for an early morning flight to Jamaica. "Big mistake," she says. "It felt like we missed an entire day because we were so exhausted."

Besides needing some rest, Engvall says it's worth delaying your travels for a day or two to have some quiet time to unwind and spend more time with parents or other close family members. "Most couples appreciate not having to think about packing for a big vacation while they're also worrying about everything that needs to get done for the wedding."

Newlyweds, what regrets, if any, do you have from your own wedding? Read the full list here!

More from Bridal Guide:

30+ Wedding Gowns with Show-Stopping Backs
Honeymoon Horror Stories You Have to Hear!
101 Amazing Wedding Cakes
Wedding Do-Over: If I Could Plan It Again
How to Throw an Awesome Bachelorette Party

By: Debra Witt