Light years ago, in 2011, I married this guy in Fort Collins who his kind of like my soul mate (well on most days). We had a whirlwind romance you could say — we met, got engaged and were married within 10 months of meeting one another. Here we are several years later with two little girls, two dogs and a busy, busy life. Our engagement only lasted two months. It was one of the scenarios where we just knew, and there was no reason to wait. But man were we thrown into a crazy wedding planning situation where we had to make decisions quickly.
I look back with a lot of regret at how we planned things. Some things I loved, but some things were just totally not what I wanted. My Dad gave us $10,000 to spend on the wedding — so definitely not a sky high wedding budget, but we were still very thankful and made it work. We are pretty big savers so we didn’t think of venturing much outside of that. I was also barely 25 and didn’t know what the heck I was doing. It was right when Pinterest was starting to become popular and rustic, mason jar weddings were becoming the thing to do. I felt clueless and overwhelmed with the decisions while trying to manage family member and friend expectations. I wish I could have a re-do in so many ways now that I know myself better.
Because I am a Colorado wedding photographer, I totally have wedding envy at times — which to some extent also gets me excited because I want to do a vow renewal at 10 years. I am dreaming of the day when I can re-plan my wedding and have it be exactly what I want.
So if I could re-plan my wedding, I would:
1. CUT DOWN THE GUEST LIST
We had about 150 people at our wedding. I wish we would have cut that in half at least, and done something a little more intimate. There are so many people that we invited to our wedding that we really don’t talk to that much anymore. Life starts to change after you get married and even more so after kids. Of course I don’t regret inviting the people that were a big part of our lives at the time, but the obligation to invite super old family friends or friends that we were not super close to anymore definitely added to the list. On top of that, you are so busy on your wedding day and feel ultra-bad if you can’t talk to everybody who made it that day, especially if they made such a huge effort to travel and be there. I felt like there was so much pressure at the wedding to talk to everyone and go from event to event, that I didn’t really chill out until after the reception was 75% over.
2. NOT DO TYPICAL RECEPTION EVENTS
Okay, okay. I think some of them are pretty awesome, and fun too. The speeches, the dances….But I really didn’t feel like I got to enjoy the night because one thing after the other kept coming. I barely ate or drank anything the whole evening. It was stressful — I wish I would have cut down on the typical events or just minimized my obligation to them. It may have been easier if my guest list hadn’t been so big.
3. SPEND MORE TIME TAKING COUPLE PHOTOS
Along with not knowing anything about weddings or how to plan them, I didn’t really know what I wanted in terms of photography. We just kind of did what we thought we were supposed to do. That meant creating a family list with 20 bazillion family formal photo combinations. I haven’t even looked at most of them since the wedding day. Not only did we spend way too much time on family photos which was annoying for our family members, we rushed through our couple photos because of this. If I could re-plan this part, I would have scheduled a good hour after the ceremony dedicated to taking couple photos, and then dramatically cut down our family list by keeping it focused on the important combinations (1 group photo, grandparents, and immediate family members — instead of individuals with every aunt/uncle/cousin and more). You just have to prioritize what’s really important to you — but the nice thing about doing your pictures and not feeling rushed is that it might really be the only time during the day that you are alone with your spouse, and isn’t that worth something?
4. HIRE A COORDINATOR
Because we were planning on such a tight budget, many of our family members and friends had big responsibilities leading up to the wedding day and on the day itself. From setting up the dance floor, picking up the food, being the DJ and more — we really recruited a lot of our loved ones. Looking back it’s kind of funny; we really wore everyone out. They must have really loved us. This increased the stress level for everyone, and our close family and friends definitely rose to the occasion of being so helpful, but it was also a lot of work for them to take on, whereas we should have probably just hired a little more help. The coordination aspect was a nightmare too — and because it wasn’t extremely organized in terms of using specified vendors for things, the little details that were important to me were not really implemented how I would have liked. For this reason, I would totally suggest hiring at least a Day-Of Coordinator to take some of that pressure off of yourself, and people involved in the wedding. Even communicating where everyone needed to be was hard
5. BE MORE CREATIVE WITH FLOWERS
I felt the general obligation to get all of my bridesmaids bouquets and then do a white bouquet for myself. I really wasn’t in love with the flowers I got that day. They were totally not me, just what I thought I was supposed to get. Once again, just being young and not having a ton of experience with weddings, I felt like I needed to go in more a formal direction (more about this later). My flowers were boring — I love color but didn’t have any color in my bouquet, and they just felt a little dull to me. If I was still on that same budget, I would have done a super colorful, wild looking bouquet for myself with a ton of color, and then opted not to do bouquets for my bridesmaids. Instead I would have put more money into their gifts, or done something fun like a flower necklace or a flower crown. But ultimately, I would have prioritized my bouquet.
6. NOT MAKE MY HUSBAND WEAR A TUX IN JULY
We also laugh about this one. I forced my husband to wear a tux, because once again, I thought that was what we were supposed to do. I also made my Dad, Father-In-Law and the groomsmen wear tuxes — It was probably 95 degrees on our wedding day so I imagine that wasn’t too enjoyable for them. None of the suits fit very well either; they were the ones you rent from Men’s Wearhouse where you could pick out the coordinating vests, ties and bowties. I should have just let my husband wear something he felt more comfortable in - instead we both look back at our photos and I admit that I was wrong and should have let him wear something else.
7. THINK MORE ABOUT OUR VENUE
We had our ceremony inside the church I grew up in and our reception was outside of town on my parent’s property about 30 minutes away. In retrospect, we both wish we would have had the wedding in one spot — We did enjoy having stuff at my parent’s house because they have a nice piece of land, but wish would have had the ceremony there instead to eliminate travel time, and it would have been prettier. We also had our photos done in an urban location, and neither one of us are really urban people. We would have been much more at home in the mountains somewhere, like in Breckenridge, CO, where we were both living when we met. We did love having stuff at my parent’s house, but outside of that I would have totally preferred to rent a mountain house, book a venue where guests could stay on site or just taken our closest friends and family members to a beach in Costa Rica.
8. HAVE A BIGGER (OR SMALLER WEDDING PARTY)
We had 5 bridesmaids and groomsmen each. Our wedding party wasn’t small, but I wish I would asked all of the friends I wanted to ask to be in the wedding, verses feeling like I had to have the same amount of people as my husband. I am a way more social person than he is — and really felt bummed that I had to choose that number just to stay in sync with his number. I know this can go the other way around and that asking someone to be in your wedding party is a big commitment and what not in terms of time and money, but putting that aside, I wish I would have just done what I wanted. So if you want zero bridesmaids or 25 bridesmaids, more power to you.
9. SPEND AT LEAST 15-20% OF OUR BUDGET ON PHOTOGRAPHY
Of course I am going to recommend this being a wedding photographer :), but seriously, your wedding photos are going to be the only thing that truly last. Research recommends 10% of your budget should go towards photography, but I find that rather low knowing what many in my industry charge and what is necessary to make in order to actually run a sustainable business. I would say a new photographer would cost about 10% of your budget, whereas an established one will be charging closer to the 15-20% mark. Photos are the ONLY THING that will last after your wedding day — flowers die, dresses are only worn once, alcohol magically disappears, food is eaten (and half the time you barely have any of it), and your guests leave your favors on the table.
We didn’t pay much for our photos at all — like it’s so embarrassing I am not going to even tell you the amount — and the girl actually did an amazing job for what we paid. But, in hindsight, I really wish we would have had more things captured, more education about what makes for good photos/bad photos on a wedding day, and overall just a more experienced person to help guide us in the decisions. I didn’t grow up in a family that got many professional photos taken, so it was so out of my element. I am also the oldest child so there were no weddings before mine.
I only have a handful of photos I really like from my wedding day, and even those have some big imperfections (not totally in focus, editing is a not ideal, my husband has a silly face, etc.). This is not her fault at all though; this is my fault because I wasn’t educated on what I wanted or what I should have been spending. At 20% of a $10k budget we should have spent at least $2,000, and to get someone awesome this would have worked fine if we did less hourly coverage. I would have preferred to pay more for less time and have AMAZING photos, instead of pay less for more time and not great photos. If we would have had a $29,000 budget, which is roughly what the national average is, then we should have spent about $4,350-$5,800 on photography.
10. FIND A BETTER DRESS
Back to the formal thing, I don’t why I grew up thinking I had to be in a princess dress. I did actually like my dress at the time, but I don’t know if I really put enough thought into it. I’ll admit, I never spent time planning my wedding before I was engaged because I just didn’t want to go there mentally, but I totally wish I had a little bit more so I wasn’t walking around in the dark on so many things. If I could have chosen a different dress, I think I would have chosen something that wasn’t quite as big (and hot!) in July, and wouldn’t have focused so much on staying with the trends. I should have just found something that I felt like was me — verses something that seemed popular at the time. I think I would have opted with something more form fitting and simple, yet elegant. I didn’t even try on a dress that wasn’t big and princess like because my mind was set on that being the wedding dress I wanted. But hey, being a child of the 90s, princess dresses were all the rage (I mean, Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid — Dang you Disney for putting these things in my mind. If only my inner-bohemian would have talked some sense into me.
11. DO PROFESSIONAL HAIR & MAKEUP
I am so not good at doing hair and makeup. It just never really clicked with me. I just don't have the patience or finesse. I am more of an outdoorsy person as is, so I really feel out of my element doing my hair and makeup. Because I was younger getting married, I really didn't even know there were makeup artists out there that you could book for your wedding. Once again, a lack of education on my part, but I really just didn't realize my options and think through what was important to me. So I did it myself. One of my bridesmaids helped with my hair -- it turned out okay but not really what I wanted.
Because I didn't hire a hair and makeup artist, my hair and makeup didn't really withstand the day. I probably looked like a drowned rat at the end of the wedding; it was a hot day in July. To add to that, it just wasn't what I wanted either. I dreamed for so long of my wedding day, and I didn't even feel like I got to look how I wanted to or had imagined. If I could re-do it, I would absolutely make this a priority.
Of course I LOVED my wedding day because it was mine. But I am so excited to re-do some things someday. I know there is a ton of pressure with Pinterest and Style Me Pretty weddings, but seriously, do what you want. Be with your family. Spend your money on the timeless things. Tell yourself to chill. And have an amazing day!