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10 MOST COMMON WEDDING-PLANNING MISTAKES COUPLES MAKE
Top event designers (with a combined 121 years working in weddings) reveal the blunders, pitfalls, and missteps many couples make during the planning process. Read about them now—accompanied by photos of real weddings that got it right—so you can avoid them later!
#1 MAKING PLANS BEFORE SETTING BUDGET
Photography: Delbarr Moradi
Picking a dress or wedding venue prior to establishing financial parameters is a lot like shopping without glancing at price tags and then strolling up to check out with your fingers crossed. You risk falling for a gown or location that breaks your heart when you realize that to afford it, you’d have to cut your guest list in half—or cancel the honeymoon. “The three initial hurdles are budget, guest list, and venue, and they should be tackled in that order,” says planner Lynn Easton of Easton Events in South Carolina and Virginia. “Your budget defines your options and drives your decisions.” While drawing one up, “include charges for overtime, gratuities, and car services from the start,” advises New York City planner Marcy Blum. “By doing so, you avoid throwing money at things you weren’t prepared for.”
If yours is an outdoor event, rain on your wedding day isn’t just ironic, it’s a game-changer. Too many people are tempted to just hope it won’t happen, which is the planning equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling, “I can’t hear you, Rain!” Bicoastal planner Lyndsey Hamilton of Lyndsey Hamilton Eventssays, “People don’t want to put the deposits down for tents, umbrellas, and golf carts they might not need—you pay 50 percent and lose it if you don’t use them. But if you don’t book them early on and are marrying during peak wedding season, tents might not be available when the weather starts to look iffy.” Meet with the tent company six to nine months ahead and think of the deposits as an investment in your peace of mind. “We believe that if you have a good Plan B, it won’t rain, but if you haven’t considered ‘what if,’ it will undoubtedly pour,” says contributing editor David Stark of David Stark Design and Production in New York City.
MISTAKE 3: UNDERESTIMATING THE COST
Photography: Elizabeth Messina
Just because the setting may be breezy doesn’t mean the planning is going to be easy. “With alfresco affairs, people think we’re just putting a tent in a field, and it’s going to be beautiful,” says Hamilton. “They don’t realize all the logistics necessary for a tented event to go off without a hitch.” Bear in mind you’ll need to rent bathrooms, kitchen facilities, lighting, fans or heaters, and generators.
MISTAKE 4: PLANNING A TOO-LONG PARTY
Photography: Elisabeth Millay
It’s the event of your lifetime, but it shouldn’t feel like it lasted a lifetime. “It’s tempting to get so excited that you map out a marathon celebration, with pre-vow drinks, a lengthy ceremony, another cocktail hour, a multi-course dinner, three hours of dancing, an after-party, and more,” says planner Calder Clark, owner of Calder Clark in Charleston, South Carolina. “But industry insiders agree that a five-hour reception is the tip-top of what people can enjoy and still exit laughing. The evening should have a natural end.” It should also have a comfortable beginning: Be sure to supply chairs so attendees can sit for the vows (a five-minute ceremony becomes a painful 20-minute wait if you run late).
You want your wedding to feel chic and elegant, not “crowded elevator.” “Being cramped makes meal service and dancing difficult, and it really inhibits the guest experience,” says Hamilton. Ask your venue how many attendees can comfortably fit, then reduce that by 10 percent, she suggests: “You don’t want to get to the max of what your site can accommodate.”
MISTAKE 6: MISTIMING VOWS
Schedule your ceremony to get the best photos. “Figure out when the sun goes down, then chat with your photographer about the ideal start time,” suggests Easton. “There is a ‘golden hour’ just before the sun sets that photographers love to take advantage of.” Think of it as nature’s airbrushing; you just have to make an appointment for it.
MISTAKE 7: NOT SUPPLYING ENOUGH INFO
Photography: Jillian Mitchell
No one likes feeling confused, and your guests won’t know the wedding locale the way you do. Offer suggestions of things to do and information on getting around, “and if you’re having a destination event or weekend-long celebration, hand out itineraries telling everyone where they need to be and when,” says Hamilton. “That way, the buses won’t be late to the vows because no one knew when or where they needed to be picked up.” Speaking of buses, give the drivers their fair share of need-to-know info too. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told a transportation company what the address is, and they still get lost,” adds Hamilton. “Now we print out directions describing exactly the way we want them to go so we can estimate how long it will take to move guests from place to place.”
MISTAKE 8: MICROMANAGING
Photography: Ingalls Photography
Drawing a map for the bus drivers is a great idea. Plotting out bathroom breaks and a second-by-second schedule for your coordinator, waitstaff, and DJ? Not so much. “Folks forget they’re dealing with seasoned professionals who can forecast—down to the nano-second—how the party should go,” says Clark. “Be clear about what you want, but know that offering trust and creative license to your team produces a better end result for all involved.”
MISTAKE 9: SKIPPING VIDEO
Photography: Echard Wheeler Photography
Yes, the movie version of your big day will go months or even years between viewings, and videography is a tempting place to cut costs. However, “Nothing compares to being able to relive your wedding in real time; it goes by in a flash,” says Easton. “Our clients always call us to gush over the details the next day, and it’s hard to hear when their only regret is not having hired a videographer.”
MISTAKE 10: SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF
Your brother may forget to bring the programs you spent last weekend hand-stamping, your mom may insist on leading a conga line at the reception, and your father-in-law may call your boss “honey” when they’re introduced. But who cares? You’re marrying the love of your life! “Too often we see couples get so wrapped up in the details that the focus shifts from the celebration of a marriage to a fixation on the ‘stuff’ of a wedding from cmdress.co.uk,” say Maria Baer and Kelly Seizert, co-owners of Ritzy Bee Events in Washington, D.C. “It’s hard to have fun and be present in this once-in-a-lifetime moment if you’re worried the peonies in the centerpieces are one Pantone shade off.