Planning a wedding can turn the best day of your life into the most stressful day of your life. Trust me… I’ve been there. Only a few years ago I was a Bride myself… and I planned my entire wedding (start to finish) with my moh, my mama and my trusty wedding binder.
Of course, when you start to plan your OWN wedding it’s like instant overwhelm. There are so many things to do, decisions to make, invites to pick… cakes to test *wink wink* and chances are you’re the one making those decisions.
SO I’m here to help! I’ve asked my friends, family, readers (that’s you!) and all the other new brides out there for advice… what tip would they give a brand new bride planning their very own wedding.
These ladies had so much advice! Tips! Tricks! Honestly… we could be here all day going over these little nuggets of info! We’ve got practical advice on what to buy and emotional advice on how to get everything done yourself.
I’ve rounded it all up into one big post of 50 Tips for Planning Your Own Wedding (from real brides)… enjoy!
Looking for something specific? I’ve tried to organize all of the brides tips into sections!
Section 1: Getting Organized
Section 2: It’s all about the Budget
Section 3: Decorations
Section 4: Paperwork, Licenses, Passports oh my
Section 5: Helpful Advice
Section 1: Getting Organized
1. Grab a Wedding Binder EARLY to Keep Yourself Organized
Get a VERY DETAILED step by step wedding binder. It seems like a lot but I wouldn’t have been able to make it without it. It had literally everything you can imagine in it. I planned my own and it went smoothly!Macy
Y’all when I got married my wedding binder was a LIFE SAVER. I had one and my moh had one so that we could coordinate every. little. thing. We hand made all of our flowers, we bought bridesmaid dresses from burlington instead of a bridal shop, we decorated the church ourselves… it was a total DIY wedding!
I printed out tons of free printables for my wedding binder and the designed a bunch of my own. Which means at the end of the day my wedding binder was pretty much perfect… down to the last page full of wedding details. The best part is that you can download the new and improved version of my exact wedding binder for free here.
2. Priorities, Priorities, Priorities
Pick your priorities and be flexible on everything else!Allison
Weddings are a huge ordeal with family, friends and loved ones… of course, it’s your wedding but what you don’t realize is that they think it’s their wedding. Your mama wants this and your mother-in-law wants that… your new sister thinks the bridesmaid dresses should be purple but your best friend wants pink.
It’s all about the priorities. Decide what you absolutely need and go from there. Is that to be married in a church? To have all of your grandparents attend? To have a fondue fountain?
Whatever it is decide it early on and then don’t budge on those items. The rest is gravy. Trust me you won’t remember the napkins you just had to have 10 years later but you’ll remember the people who celebrated with you.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I was so concerned about having a popcorn maker and it was never even turned on.Jessi
3. Select a Theme
You can go all out with this and pick a huge theme like the Great Gatsby or Game of Thrones (now that would be a wedding! I mean… Game of Thrones Cake Topper? Yes, please!) but the main idea is to choose something to design your wedding around.
It is completely possible to pick an understated theme like “simple” “elegant” along with a few colors.. this will make all of your design decisions that much easier. It either fits with the theme or it doesn’t!
3.5 Select Your Colors
Okay so I struggled with whether this is it’s own category or if it’s simply part of the select a theme category. To be honest it’s both. You don’t HAVE to pick a theme… although it really helps you narrow down your design choices.
Picking your colors is a must do. You need a color to match bridesmaid dresses to, table runners, cake toppers, etc. Go ahead and decide first on your color (or colors! usually there’s 2-3) and then decide how strict you’re going to be with those colors. Does everything have to match exactly (dying your shoes to be the exact shade of the bridesmaids dresses?) or are you okay with varying shades of the same color?
4. Find Inspiration & Create a Vision Board
Once you’ve narrowed down your color and your theme it’s a good idea to create a vision board. This will help you envision what everything’s going to look like… plus you’ll have a great resource to show vendors when you’re explaining what kind of style you’re going for.
Start your research early and save it all in one place (like the pocket of your wedding binder). You can find allllll the inspiration you need with a little searching: try Pinterest, Instagram, Bridal Mags, Blogs and so much more!
5. Pick your Maid of Honor Carefully
It’s your wedding day, of course everything is going to go wrong. My best advice is choose a friend that is organized and willing to advocate for all your needs and wants. I wouldn’t have made it through our planning and wedding day had my friend not been by my side. Wedding planners are great, but you really need someone that has your best interests in mind.Aspen
For most of us the position of Maid of Honor is filled early in life: your sister, your best friend from kindergarten, your college roommate. Chances are this position is filled early on and you already know who it is!
If you’re hoping to get a lot of help from this person sit down with them early on and go over what you’re “expecting from them” and ask them for their opinions. Not all best friends are planners, not all sisters are wedding crazy… if your MOH isn’t going to be your right arm during this process (for whatever reason) that’s ok.
Just make sure to find out who is going to be your right arm (mom? the hubby himself? a Bridesmaid? your dog?) because a wedding is like a tango… you need at least 2. It’s definitely not something you want to tackle 100% solo.
If you don’t have anyone wedding crazy to help with every. single. detail. that’s ok too! Just ask for help from many different people and try to spread the load around…. it takes a village right? Just make sure the village has the time and money before you start handing out marching orders!
6. Set up a User Friendly Wedding Website
Your wedding guests, and even your family members, will have a lot of questions for you. Things like “where are you registered” “do you have a block of hotel rooms set aside?” “where do I RSVP?”
You can’t always teach an old dog new tricks so chances are you’ll have to field some of these yourself BUT setting up a wedding website will definitely help curb most of it. Simply put the website address with your save the date card or your invitations so people know where to look.
Bonus Tip: I’m not affiliated with the knot in anyway but I used their site when I was married and found the websites easy to use and a huge time saver. Plus they’re free and have lots of templates to pick from! So if you’re not sure where to start try using the knot … you’ll love it
Section 2: It’s ALL ABOUT THE BUDGET
7. Set a Budget and STICK TO IT
Don’t try to please everyone. This is your wedding and when it comes down to it, something about it will not be good enough for one person or another but as long as you and your future spouse are happy that is all that matters! My last tip? I would set your budget and STICK TO IT. Don’t allow a little for this and a little for that. It gets out of hand so fast when it seems like just a little.Alexandra
8. Pick Budget Friendly Wedding Invitations
The only people who keep invitations are typically you and your parents – they don’t need to be expensive.Brittany
Seriously y’all… stationary can get expensive! There are so many pieces (rsvp cards, save the dates, direction cards, the invites themselves!) and then you start adding on things like a special calligrapher to hand address your invites.
I love the look of a well laid out wedding invitation (and I’m obsessed with the laser cut wraps that are out there now-a-days). In order to keep your costs down order from a reputable (but cheap!) wedding paper source. I really like Wedding Invites Paper… they have beautiful designs and great prices.
For an extra special touch spend an evening hand-addressing the envelopes yourself. It’s a lot of busy work but a personal touch always goes a long way… grab a bottle of wine and a few girlfriends and the process will go pretty quick!
9. Prioritize the Important Things
If you are on a tight budget (and who isn’t?) spend the cha-Ching on the things that will matter after the big day: photos, obviously your dress, your bouquet, and the cake,Tammy
Unless you have money coming out your ears you may not need that fancy popcorn machine or selfie station. Plan the things that are most important first and then see what’s left in the budget!
Then get creative… if a selfie station is important to you the station can be DIY’d for less than a professional can set one up.
10. Get Quotes for a “Party”
Looks around for different quotes. Avoid telling people things are for a wedding as they automatically up the price.Brittany
I’ve heard this tip a million times but that doesn’t make it any less true! Asking for quotes on an “anniversary” cake or “party” cake will usually result in a smaller price tag than the exact same cake for a “wedding.”
Of course, this tip only works with certain vendors… big fancy wedding dress? They know you’re not buying it for Sunday brunch with the girls!
11. Make Your Guest List Small
Only invite people you see in your life in 10 years.Megan
Keep it intimate: family you love, friends who lift your spirits and the people who truly matter. Make your guest list (and your hubby’s guest list, and your mama’s guest list, and his mama’s guest list…) and then sit down and see who you truly want to be there.
The best part? Not only will you have a day of love and family but this is another great way to cut down on those beautiful wedding invitations! The fewer people on your list… the fewer invites you need to buy, fewer plates of food, fewer party favors… the list goes on!
It’s true though… you want to share your big day with the people who truly matter to you. NOT your sister’s hairdresser or the guy who cleans out the gutters at your Mama’s summer house. (Not sure who has a summer house but you get the idea!).
12. Follow a Timeline
Take your time to plan. Don’t rush into marriage it’ll stress you out more if you try to make it a quick engagement.Jessi
There is nothing worse then trying to jump through hoops for a quick engagement. Give yourself at least a year and then make sure you’re planning as you go… don’t leave everything to the last minute!
This is when having a great timeline comes in handy. It will tell you how many months before the wedding you need to buy your dress so that alterations can be done or when to send save the dates so that all your friends and family can rsvp.
Section 3: Decorations FOR YOUR WEDDING
13. Fake Flowers are OK!
Fake flowers are OK! You can make your own bouquets for next to NOTHING and keep them forever! For the price of one real flower bouquet, I decorated my entire wedding in fake flowers and it came out AMAZING!Carina
This is a hard one for me to swallow because I absolutely love real flowers! They are expensive though so if you’re diying your own wedding looking to save a little money on the flowers is a-ok.
Search places like Hobby Lobby, Michaels and craft stores for flowers that look realistic and then use a coupon! We made all of our centerpieces and church decor with faux flowers and they turned out amazing.
Not ready to jump into making your own faux bouquet? There are beautiful hand-made faux bouquets on Etsy that are reasonably priced and ready to go. The bouquet above? Absolutely stunning and only $45 which is kind of amazing for a bridal bouquet that you get to keep forever!
14. Use Real Flowers Sparingly
If you just can’t get on board with the faux flowers but still want to save money try using real flowers only in the places with the highest impact.
I loved our faux centerpieces and church decor but we did spring for real flowers for the bouquets and boutonnieres. It turned out absolutely beautiful and our guests didn’t care one bit that there were faux flowers on the tables!
Bonus tip: With a few empty vases at the head tables you have the bridesmaids place their bouquets at their seats… volia instant centerpiece for the head table! The bouquets will be beautiful and you won’t have to pay for extra flowers for the head table.
Hint: Look at the flowers above… the flowers on the left side are the real ones from my wedding day. The flowers on the right are a faux bouquet my Mama had made to resemble the real flowers for this anniversary photo shoot we did. They look pretty dang similar.
15. Decorations can do Double Duty
Have a friend willing to transport all the floral decorations from the church to the reception, so you don’t spend unnecessary funds on decorations that land in the trash.Tammy
Remember how we were just chatting about using the bridesmaids (and the bride’s!) bouquets for centerpieces at the head table? You can use decorations from the church at the reception!
Make sure someone (or several someones) knows what decorations need to be picked up from the church and where they need to go at the reception. For example, we had small birdcages with flowers in them at the end of the pews… a sweet friend of mine brought them to the reception for us so that we could use them for decor on the cake table and the gift table. Volia!
16. Cakes Don’t Have to be Expensive!
I swear that wedding cake is the highlight of the evening for most of the guest… at least in my family it’s the biggest highlight! The problem is that wedding cakes can be super expensive.
I recommend gathering a bunch of inspiration on what you want your cake to look like and then having a conversation with the baker. Certain types of frosting are more expensive, certain techniques are more time intensive (and therefore expensive) but a wonderful baker will have suggestions on how to get the feel you want without breaking the bank.
There are truly amazing things you can do with frosting to re-create more dramatic cakes!
Section 4: Tips for the BIG DAY!
17. Use a Vow Booklet
In the heat of the big day a lot of things get lost in the fray. I wrote my vows on a piece of paper which my maid-of-honor accidentally left in the preparation space! Which means my vows were completely off the top of my head.
These little vow booklets are small so they can be easily carried for the ceremony and they’re personalized so you can get your name and your honey’s name placed on the cover!
They look a little classier to take down the aisle and to read from at the alter… plus you’ll have a lovely memento of your vows after the big day. Mainly I like that they look official so they won’t be forgotten like my little piece of printer paper!
18. Wear Comfortable Shoes!
I didn’t want to wear high heels on my big day. I wore sparkly Kate Spade Keds and they were awesome… wear what you’re comfortable in since you’ll be on your feet most of the day.Jessica
Heels are absolutely beautiful if you’re use to walking in them! If heels are your jam I say go for it but if you’ve never worn a pair of heels in your life your wedding day is probably not the day to start!
I actually have a pair of the Kate Spade glitter keds that Jessica was talking about and they’re super comfy! Plus they’re super cute! I wear mine all the time and have heard from brides that they love being able to wear their wedding shoes more than once or twice for special occasions!
Of course, if you’re use to heels and are comfortable wearing them then by all means go for it! Just remember that you’ll likely be on your feet for hours at a time. Another suggestion would be to wear heels for the ceremony and switch into comfy flats for the reception.
19. Don’t Forget to Eat!
It’s YOUR wedding, take care of yourself. EAT BEFORE YOUR WEDDING. I was sick my whole wedding because I didn’t take care of myself while getting ready.Jessi
I agree 100% with this! The entire day can be super busy: you’re getting ready in the morning and then you don’t want to get food on your dress, you’re taking pictures, people are coming up to you dinner…
The list goes on and on and on!
The hubs and I didn’t get a single appetizer or cocktail during cocktail hour… because that’s typically when the family and bridal party are taking pictures! So make sure you eat before the ceremony and try to eat dinner at the reception. Our venue was really good about this and didn’t let anyone come talk with us at the head table until we had all eaten… so if you’re concerned chat with your venue or even your bridesmaids so that everyone knows: food first, socializing in a minute!
20. Pack an Emergency Kit
I would have a few extra things handy in several places around your venue and getting ready room. Things like scissors, lighters and safety pins—even if you don’t think you will have any need for them at some point someone will.Macy
You never know what’s going to happen so I always suggest keeping an emergency kit close on hand! A small bag with things like extra lip stick, stain stick, a little snack if someones blood sugar’s low! The whole nine yards.
21. DIY Strategically
Be reasonable about things you can do yourself and things you can’t. If it’s cheaper to buy then DIY then don’t spend an entire afternoon on it.Brittany
DIY can be budget-friendly and allow you to get EXACTLY what you want. Just don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with more work than you know what to do with. Sometimes having a really pretty invitation instead of a 100% invitation of your dreams is worth the hours and hours of work it would take to hand cut, glue and fold 300 invites together.
A good rule of thumb is to DIY things that can be done months in advance: favors, table numbers, seating charts, faux flowers, programs etc. For things like real flowers or food that need to be done close to the wedding date it’s better not spend the day before (or the day of! yikes) stressing over DIY projects. Those last minute preparations are best left to the pros.
22. Have an Unplugged Ceremony
There is nothing worse than getting your gorgeous professional photos back, taking a look and instead of seeing your friends and family watching you walk down the aisle you see a sea of phones.
These little “unplugged ceremony” signs are perfect because they let everyone know to turn off their phones and let the photographer do their job… in the nicest way possible.
Section 4: Paperwork, Licenses, Passports OH MY
23. Don’t Forget Your Marriage License
In the midst of all the crazy planning and small details, don’t forget to actually plan time to get your marriage license! Going to the courthouse is not exactly known for it’s quickness… standing in line tends to take a while and receiving paperwork in the mail takes even longer!
Start researching and gathering the necessary documents early on, but keep in mind that marriage licenses are typically only valid for a couple months – so plan accordingly.
24. Passports and Drivers License
If you’re taking your new partner’s last name then hitting up the DMV for a new drivers license is probably high on your list of “need to’s”. Of course, this is a long process and if you’re going out of the country for your honeymoon it’s something to consider.
If you book your honeymoon under your married name you might need to register for your driver’s license and passports with your new last name in advance of the wedding. Some states require the marriage license in order to do this so check with the guidelines in your state to get the scoop.
If you’re having trouble getting your new documents in time for take-off bringing along a copy of your brand new marriage license can sometimes do the trick (so make sure to talk with the person performing your ceremony ahead of time so that they’ll have one ready for you on your wedding day to pack in your carry on)
Of course, with all of this paperwork to do and documents to take with you many brides choose to book the honeymoon and plane tickets under their maiden name and make the last name change when you come home. It’s way easier and gives you something to look forward to after everything is said and done.
25. Settle the Final Balance BEFORE the big day!
This one seems fairly straight forward but with the stress and whirlwind that a wedding tends to bring you would be surprised how many couples get to the wedding day and realize they forgot to make that last payment to the church.
There’s nothing worse than sitting in the bridal room having your friends help you put your dress on only to be sought out by someone looking for money.
26. Don’t Forget to Tip your Vendors!
Speaking of vendors social etiquette says that we tip our vendors just like we would tip our waiter when we’re out for a nice dinner. Of course, the percentage changes depending on the vendor (do they own the company or are they employees? is gratuity included in the bill?) not to mention some vendors don’t need a tip at all!
I actually included a helpful tip cheat sheet in my wedding planner bundle so you know exactly who to give a tip too… and how much! The cute little corresponding tip envelopes makes it easy to get ready. Just fill each little envelope with the appropriate tip and you’ll be ready to hand these tips out on the big day. Or have your bridesmaids hand them out… depending on how busy everything gets!
Section 5: Helpful Advice
Here are a few more tips from my Bride’s and Bride-to-Be’s… enjoy!
It’s not about the wedding (one day), but the marriage (eternity). It’s a good reminder when some of the details don’t work out on wedding day!!!!Larissa
Buy flowers in season if you buy them at all! If they’re real flowers I read something cute about giving them to an elderly home after the wedding.Brittany
Make sure you LOVE your dress! Don’t feel pressured to get one because your family or friends love it. And if you don’t like your dress, find one that you do, because it’s worth it.Cathy
Assign some of your more outgoing friends or bridesmaids to get out on the dance floor. I’m so glad I told my best friend to make sure everyone danced – it made the whole night so much fun, and I didn’t have to worry about being the annoying one asking people to get out and dance.Kelsey
Do a first look with your dad (or whoever is important to you!). It was awesome seeing his first reaction, and I’m glad we have that moment on film.Barbara
Digital planners are great (google doc is life) but planning a wedding is such a huge thing. I like to have a physical copy that I can use to take notes and such and keep it all together! My wedding binder has EVERYTHING in it.Alexandra
Your wedding should be all about you as a couple. If certain traditions make you uncomfortable or just aren’t your style, create your own traditions.Sasha
You’d be surprised how many guests won’t write their names on the RSVP’s. My fiancé and I were shocked when over half of our RSVP’s didn’t have names. Take a minute to write numbers on the back of your cards and keep a master list so if they come back nameless you can match the number on the back to the guests name on your master list.Anne
We had our minor mishaps but we just went with the flow & the night was perfect! All of my guests keep telling me how beautiful it was & how much fun they had! So my advice to you brides…. pick your battles & enjoy all of the love surrounding you!!! Before we walked down the aisle my dad said to me… this is all because of you, your love, your personality. All of these people are here because they love you… and that’s all that mattered after thatAlexis
Start taking vitamins now. I got sick the week of our wedding and it was terrible.Bekah
Make sure you LOVE your vendors. Invest in your photographer, and your DJ (or at least a badass playlist). My wedding would’ve been so boring without a great DJ, and my photos are worth every penny I spent on them. Make sure you find a photographer that will truly captures the joy of your day!Aimee
Honestly my maid of honor really did it for me. I didn’t have any other bridesmaids, and so having hair/makeup done just felt like a girls’ day with my bff. We had mimosas. I truly believe that having the morning/afternoon to get ready with my best friend set my mood for the rest of the day.Chelsea
Costco bulk flowers!!!! We got four 6 foot gorgeous green garlands and over 300 stems of greenery/baby’s breath for $320! Added ribbons to the bridal party and my bouquets and it really made them pop!Lizzie
Don’t stress. The day will go by so quickly, and something is bound to go wrong. We didn’t get half the people that RSVP’d to show up. I cried a little during the reception at how few people turned up, and my best friend had to talk me down from a full-on meltdown. Looking back, WHO CARES!! The people who MATTER were there, I’m married to my best friend, life is good, and we had a blast!Angela
If you are gonna do anything with your hair ( cut,dye, etc. make sure you do it at LEAST a week before the wedding!Kenzie
If you are on the fence, do a first look! This was BY FAR the best part of the day. It also helped me so much with my nerves (and my hubby’s!) and it made it so much more fun to all be together before the ceremony instead of me hiding out somewhere not being seen (we took wedding party photos before the ceremony to save time after). Our first look was super emotional and the sweetest moment of the day. If you are unsure about it, I highly recommend doing one! Our ceremony was still 100000% as special.Naomi
If you can’t afford a videographer or just don’t want to pay for one, set up an ipad on a tripod and record your ceremony so you have it! So glad we did.Ashley
If you can schedule 10-15 minutes ALONE with your new hubby, that really helped! We were escorted to our suite after photos/before dinner (during cocktail time) where they brought us up some hors d’oevres and allowed us a bit to just breathe. That memory is still so vivid in my mind after 7 years.Krista
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate! Ask your venue if you can partially set up the night before so you can see if you like what you had visioned… this helped me a ton. And then my friend who’s helping coordinate was also there so she could see what I wanted! Good Luck!Morgan
A few words of advice to future brides: don’t stress or sweat the small stuff. It’s all going to come together beautifully. I wish I would have believed that more leading up to the wedding so that I wouldn’t have stressed myself out so much! Also, enjoy your husband and take a few moments away from the crowd to soak it all in. It goes by so incredibly fast. I can’t believe it’s over! Take in EVERY single moment!Madeline
Don’t be afraid to shop around for vendors and ask about their customized packages. For example, my photographers minimal photo package was $3600 but we didn’t want some of the things such as an engagement shoot and album. We were able to workout what fit in our price range and get the things that mattered to us (second shooter, earlier start time, etc). I did this with my dj as well. And my big savings was having Wegmans do my flowers!Carol
A friend of mine told me to pick 3 songs with my groom. When those 3 songs played we would come back to each other no matter what we were doing.Kerline
A piece of advice when choosing your bridal party… choose people you love and adore!!! If you don’t want someone in your bridal party, then don’t choose them! It’s your wedding and you do what you want!Shelby
You’re going to have a beautiful day. The people who are most important in your life right now will be there. Whoever doesn’t show up doesn’t need to be there.Kelley
I hope that helps y’all! Honestly my head is swimming from all of the advice. If you have anything to add make sure to leave a comment down below! I’d love to hear from you!
Get Your FREE Wedding Binder
Trying to plan your perfect wedding?
Here's 42 FREE printables to help you get organized!