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What I Wish I’d Known Before Planning a Wedding

I’ve given you my 10 Tips for Planning a Wedding, with my advice on making your wedding day run smoothly and efficiently (and fun-ly?).

But there are things I discovered while planning that I didn’t expect, and wish I would have known beforehand. As you know, my friend Steph is currently planning a wedding with the greatest officiant ever (me!) and she and her fiancé asked Greg and me what we wish we’d known before planning a wedding. And the things we came up with are so important, and would have made our lives so much easier had we known, that I figured I’d share them with you, too.

What I wish I'd known before planning a wedding - Wanderlust in the City

1. Your family and friends will surprise you.

Oh my goodness, nothing brings out the extremes in people’s personalities like an upcoming wedding! It’s not all bad, don’t worry, many people in your life will show incredible selflessness, supporting you and celebrating you and doing whatever they can to help and make your life easier. Many people will show up for you with a smile, not just on your wedding day but in the months leading up to the big event, being the wonderful friends and family that you know and love.

And others… won’t. Some people who you expect will be there for you will let you down in big and small ways. Some family and friends won’t attend, for reasons you may or may not understand. And many people will offer what is intended as helpful advice but, when combined with the multitude of unsolicited input you receive on how to do things better/differently/not at all, can feel overwhelming and not reflective of you as a couple.

And sometimes people may be a mix of the two categories, at exactly the same time!

My Aunt Mary said something wise to me once when I was venting to her (definitely not about her – she’s always been wonderfully supportive!). She said as much as weddings are a celebration, they’re also a loss. And your family and friends may feel that even though they’re gaining a son/daughter/brother/sister/friend, etc., they’re also losing their priority in your life. The door is closing on a chapter of your lives together, and even though an exciting chapter is starting, a door is still closing. Understanding that some people may be operating, even subconsciously, from that loss and pain, helped me recognize that some behavior was reflective of that sense of loss, and a desire to control an unknown situation and future, than actual negative feelings towards our wedding colors or the dish we selected for our entree.

There are so many people who do wonderful things for you in the time leading up to your wedding. My mom graciously hosted two showers for me, one in New York City and one in Chicago. Ann and Jess planned a surprise NYC Bachelorette Party for me, and other friends and family traveled all the way to The West Indies to celebrate with me. I received countless supportive texts and phone calls throughout the wedding-planning process, and the day of Greg and I were surrounded by so many people who traveled all the way to Vermont to celebrate us. And the list goes on and on. Whenever someone lets you down, or you feel frustrated, try to focus on the people who are showing up for you. I guarantee there will be many more wonderful, supportive family and friends, than not.

What I wish I'd known before planning a wedding - Wanderlust in the City

2. You may not love your wedding dress. You may not even like it.

Ok, no one says this out loud, and it wasn’t until I went though this myself that I started to hear similar stories from other brides. But you should know: it’s ok not to love your dress.

Your wedding dress is often viewed as THE MOST IMPORTANT DRESS YOU WILL EVER WEAR, and with that comes a lot of pressure. It has to be elegant and beautiful, timeless so your photos never look too dated, but also contemporary, all wrapped up into a gown that’s completely “you” and reflective of your personality. The dress needs to be absolutely everything, and more, so that in 50 years time you can proudly look back and say: this was my DRESS!

Except, it really doesn’t have to be any of that. My friend Amber found a few dresses she liked, picked her favorite one, and was happy enough with it. And she’s still happily married and has a great life. My friend Elizabeth picked out a dress she loved, ordered it, and when it arrived tried it on again and hated it. And after a few fittings she felt ok about it, and when everything came together on the day of, with her hair and makeup and flowers and general excitement, she was happy enough, but wouldn’t say that she loved it. Chelsea, another friend, loved her dress the first few fittings, hated it the last few, went into her wedding having come to a point of “acceptance” with the dress, and then, on the day of, ended up feeling like a princess in it.

It was important to me to have a designer dress, and I went everywhere (and I mean everywhere – you can read all of my NYC dress shopping tips here). I narrowed it down to three potential options at Monique Lhuillier, and chose my favorite. And a year later, when I tried it on again, I didn’t really like it. I immediately questioned whether I should have gotten one of my other favorites, and whether I had made a mistake. Even after a few fittings, I still didn’t like it, but didn’t want to admit it to anyone, especially because it cost so. much. money.

What changed the game for me was going with my gut, and altering the dress exactly the way I wanted it with my friend Lauren attending the appointment for moral support (another person who really showed up for me!). With Monique Lhuillier’s permission, I cut off the train (a scary leap of faith since you can’t go back after that!) and added off-the-shoulder sleeves. And when all was said and done… I LOVED my dress! And I couldn’t have been happier with it.

All this to say, don’t put everything into the dress (including money)! And if you do go through stages of grief with your dress, just know that it’s normal, and your feelings about your dress may change in the time leading up to your wedding.

What I wish I'd known before planning a wedding - Wanderlust in the City

3. Guests won’t RSVP.

Guests will assume you know they’re coming, guests will assume you know they’re not coming, guests will assume all sorts of things… but what they won’t assume is that their RSVPs are necessary.

By our RSVP deadline, we were missing more RSVPs than we’d expected. So know going in that you’re going to be hunting a lot of people down for their RSVPs, after the deadline has passed. Schedule a little extra wiggle room into your RSVP deadline to give you time to reach out to everyone.

And, this should go without saying, but on behalf of future brides and grooms I’ll say it anyway. If you’re a guest: RSVP! Yes, even if you’re confident the couple already “knows” that you’re coming, send in those RSVP cards. You’re clearly a wonderful person, which is why they want you at their wedding, and RSVPing on time is another way you can demonstrate your thoughtfulness. And, if you really want to make the couple’s lives easier, RSVP as soon as you know your plans rather than waiting for the deadline.

What I wish I'd known before planning a wedding - Wanderlust in the City

4. Schedule your hair and makeup trial early.

I got married at Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Killington, Vermont. As you can tell from the name, the location has a spa on the property that offers beauty services, including hair and makeup for brides and the bridal party. I figured I was set, I reserved the stylists two years out, and I didn’t think about it again until it was time for my hair and makeup trial four months before my wedding.

I had envisioned natural-looking makeup and a sleek updo, so I wasn’t that worried about whether or not the stylists would be able to accomplish the look. I brought pictures, I described what I wanted, and then I sat down in the chair and relaxed.

And then I stopped relaxing.

After several hours of trying to get my hair and makeup the way I wanted it, the end result was nowhere near what I had pictured. And although the stylists told me not to worry because it would look better “on the day of,” I had absolutely no confidence this would be the case.

I rushed home and immediately began searching theknot.com for hair and makeup vendors. Much to my dismay, everyone in the area was already booked. I then began texting my other wedding vendors, asking for recommendations, and again everyone they suggested was also booked. I kept broadening my search, including nearby Albany, Boston, and even New York City.

In the end, I found a hair and makeup team that I loved – Traveler Beauty Company, and I brought them in from Boston to style my bridesmaids and me on the morning of my wedding. It did all work out in the end, but it was an incredibly stressful couple of weeks spent worrying I wouldn’t find stylists who would make me feel like myself, but even more beautiful, on my wedding day.

All this to say, if I had scheduled my hair and makeup trial early, I would have discovered the original stylists weren’t a good fit two years before my wedding, and then would have had ample time to find replacements. With something as important as hair and makeup, you don’t want to be scrambling at the last second!

What I wish I'd known before planning a wedding - Wanderlust in the City

What do you think, brides? Have I missed any important tips that I need to tell Steph? If so, let me know in the comments!

~A

For all of my wedding-related posts, click here.

All photographs in this post were taken by our wedding photographer, Amy Bennett.

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