Today I’m taking a different approach to this whole Kelly-Plans-a-Wedding series. Instead of zeroing in on one of my vendors or large wedding categories, I’m going to spew out some advice and lessons I’ve learned through my experience of being a bride. Turns out even wedding planners don’t know everything about being a bride. (Who knew?)

So, with that in mind, here are some nuggets for you!

  1. It’s hard to find one singular dress that looks flattering on all 6 of your dramatically-different-body-typed bridesmaids. This may be completely unsurprising to you, but it was actually quite jolting when I had my 6 buy dresses that ended up not being “The One” for all of them. (In fact, only one bridesmaid looked good in it!) Learning that lesson meant choosing different dresses for different girls (all within the same color scheme and fabric material, however). So, not to say there aren’t dresses out there that fit the mold for everybody — I’m just saying they’re a lot harder to find than you might anticipate going into things.
  2. It’s really hard to not hurt people’s feelings when you plan a wedding. You really can’t please everyone — learn that upfront and take it to heart before you delve deeply into this thing. There will be friends who are hurt because they’re not in your bridal party. There will be friends who are hurt because you couldn’t invite them to the wedding. There will be family members who want more of a say in your planning than you’re comfortable allowing them. This is YOUR and YOUR FIANCE’S wedding. You two call the shots. You two matter. Keep that in mind.
  3. I can’t stress enough how much PRIORITIES matter in wedding planning. In pretty much every area of life, you set up a value system and make decisions that go along with it. Same goes for planning your wedding. Sit down with your fiance when you get engaged and envision your future wedding. Think about what matters to both of you: ¬†Is it the video you’ll have at the end of the day to relive every moment? Dancing all night long to the live band you adore? Having a stunning wedding dress your daughter will someday want to wear? Hosting the most fabulous dinner party of your life? Inviting only the 50 closest friends and family members who have seen your relationship from start to finish, and therefore having a relationship with every single person who attends your wedding? Regardless of whether your budget is massive or petite, you still have to make choices. Better to establish a value system that will allow you two to truly accomplish your goals and start your marriage in a way that is pleasing to both parties than to just willy-nilly choose things and regret them later.
  4. Time is of the essence. The sad truth of life is that vendors get booked up. You definitely should NOT make decisions PURELY based on getting things done fast (unless your wedding’s in a week, and in that case — good luck!), but really think, ponder, and pray on at least the BIG decisions before you make them. Just do it in a timely manner. Know that there is a price tag that comes with waiting until the last minute. For me, the earrings I wanted for my bridesmaids got sold out before I could buy them. Several of the photographers I really wanted to use for our wedding were booked up on the dates we looked at. A lot of things had to be moved around because my mom’s strict work schedule wasn’t very accommodating. Realize the gravity of the event you’re planning, the incredible number of moving parts associated with it, and take that into consideration.
  5. BE FLEXIBLE. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to bend, to change, to move, and to alter your plans. Remember the only thing (person) you’re truly marrying on your wedding day is your HUSBAND. There are always vow renewals! ;)
  6. If you can’t trust someone, don’t work with them on your wedding. This is not the appropriate time to take the benefit of the doubt and leave things up to chance. Unless you’re seriously in a bind and photography’s not a major priority for you, don’t get your budding new photographer off Craigslist. One of your vendors isn’t honest when you’re in the preliminary plan-making process? Don’t be surprised if they lie to you about something they’ll deliver on the day-of. VALUES!!!!! Make sure your vendors share your basic life VALUES!!!!

And some short-but-sweet words of wisdom (you’ll thank me later):

  1. Wear sunscreen. Those horrible strap lines look dreadfully tacky above your strapless wedding gown. And it hurts so bad.
  2. DO NOT GET YOUR TEETH LASER WHITENED THE DAY BEFORE YOUR WEDDING. Or the day before that. If you’re going to subject yourself to TORTURE (which it IS), do it WEEKS beforehand so your teeth’s nerve endings can recuperate in time. FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, I literally thought I was going to have to overdose on Advil or would pass out at the wheel — regardless I was going to DIE — the pain was so intense.
  3. Be appreciative. Family members, bridesmaids, vendors, shop owners, etc will inevitably do nice things for you throughout your wedding planning. Even if it’s just lending a listening ear while you debate over the Shangri La champagne linens and the ivory satin linens, they deserve to be treated nicely and told the occasional “thank you.” You catch more flies with honey, after all.
  4. Maybe don’t try a Brazilian wax for the first time the day before the wedding. You can, of course, but it might not be the best life experience…

Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice I can give you from personal experience is the following:

There are a million ways Drew and I could get married, and I’d honestly be happy with all of them. So much of our engagement I stressed over having to make so many final decisions (“This is my ONLY chance at getting THE perfect wedding dress!”) about the WAY we’d get married. I seriously debated for weeks (sometimes months) over decisions I’d already made, obsessing that every choice was THE BEST POSSIBLE OPTION EVER. However, the only ACTUALLY most-important, weigh-every-option decision was… picking the right groom.

Fortunately that’s the ONE decision I have never, ever had to question. :)

So, when you’re freaking out over a classic cake-and-punch plantation wedding versus a Charleston elopement versus an outdoor sunrise affair versus a glamorous evening ballroom gala… realize all of them are beautiful and lovely and wonderful events and really you can’t go wrong any way you choose. Ashley from ABG asked me the other day if I could go back and change anything if I would, and despite all the debating and stressing and trying to last-minute change EVERYTHING (Hillary can vouch), I couldn’t think of a single thing I really wished I’d altered. So sure, if next year Drew wanted to marry me all over again, this time at sunset on a beach (wearing Monique’s Candy, of course) in November (toasting with Veuve Cliquot), you bet I wouldn’t say no. {Although I might say, “Umm, honey, shouldn’t we be saving our money for a house or something?”} But really… the wedding doesn’t matter. Not in the grand scheme of things.

{Laken and her new husband, Matt! Photo by Alyssa Joy Photography}

My best friend got married on Sunday and had the most gorgeous, stunning, perfect lovely wedding imaginable. Her dress was perfect, her hair and makeup flawless, the weather amazing. Her flowers were beautiful, the lights twinkling, and the venue grand. But it wasn’t about the wedding. It’s not about the wedding. Weddings are fun! Weddings are lovely! Weddings are so so so nice and I wouldn’t wish them away or think they’re any less important or significant…. but the MARRIAGE. Oh, the marriage!!! My best friend married someone who makes her so happy, someone who is her perfect counterpart, someone who makes her laugh every day of her life. And she loves him so! That’s what I kept fixating on all day. As her maid of honor, I wanted nothing more than to make sure every second of her day was flawless and perfect and everything she dreamed of — and I knew the linens weren’t make-it-or-break-it. It just so happened that all of the little details that make up the event did go delightfully as planned, but even if they hadn’t… it was perfect because she promised her life to another person and I got to be there to witness it. It just puts so much into perspective.

SO! Plan the party. Make it lovely. Do what you want, toss what you don’t. Realize there’s a lot that goes into every detail and appreciate it for what it’s worth, but give it up at the end of the day. When you’re getting married, focus on the marriage. That’s what you’ll really keep afterwards. ‘Til death do you part. AMEN!