It's that time of year again...everyone who gets engaged at Christmas or Valentine's Day (congratulations if that's you!!) dives full speed into wedding planning. After all, wedding magazines tell you there's a very strict timeline for when you need to book all of your vendors, choose your wedding colors, shop for a dress, finalize your guest list, and so many other tasks that your head starts to spin. But what if you could take a step back and find out what's really important from couples who've already been there?
We asked real couples the following: if you could do your wedding all over again, what would you do differently? If I'm being honest, the answers did not surprise us. :) We go to A LOT of weddings, and after a while it's easy to distill the day down to what's most important. Tom and I had an amazing wedding, but there are still a few things I'd change: I wish I had gotten a different seamstress for my dress, I wish we would have made a list of family portraits ahead of time so I didn't forget anyone, and I wish bridesmaid dresses in the same color with different styles had been a thing 12 years ago! But overall, these minor details pale in comparison to all the memories we've made since that day.
At the end of the day, YOU ARE MARRIED. No matter what you choose for decor, food, first dance song, or colors, at the end of the day you and your beloved are officially married. Weddings are ridiculously fun, but they're just the beginning of your amazing love story. So what did our couples say they would change? Here are the top five answers we heard.
1. Slow Down and Enjoy It
One of the most common comments we got was to take time throughout the day to just enjoy the moment. It's easy to get caught up in the schedule, but be sure to take time for things like talking to each other, hugging grandma, dancing your feet off, eating way too much dessert, and watching the sunset (unless it's raining, then by all means go run in the rain!). Don't stress when things don't go exactly to plan. Try to shrug it off and realize that even if your guest shuttle never shows up, walking back to your hotel on a gorgeous summer evening may turn out to be a favorite memory.
2. Consider What Size Wedding you Prefer
Many couples who had a small wedding didn't regret it, and other couples who had large weddings wished they had gone a bit smaller. Still others had a huge wedding and loved every minute of it. Ultimately it's your wedding day and you should be surrounded with people that make you happy. If you want a smaller day but you're feeling pressure to invite your mother's cousin's children's niece, take the time to talk it out and make your case as to why they don't need to be there. And never feel guilty for making additions or cuts to your invite list. Whether you're an introvert who wants a small wedding with immediate family or an extrovert who wants a huge wedding with your entire elementary school class, surround yourself with the people you love most and you won't regret it.
3. Decide on a Budget and Prioritize Accordingly
This dovetails nicely with number 2 above. Some couples struggled with where to spend their budget: do we invite all the people in town and have a simple meal, do we keep the guest list small and spend more money on decor/venue, or do we take the middle road and invite almost everyone but have smaller centerpieces? Some couples felt afterwards that they maybe could have spent a little less, but they loved everything about their day and didn't know what they could have done without! Others felt that they went into debt spending money on the wrong things. Every wedding and couple are different, and only you can decide how to allocate your budget. If you're debating between dance lessons or hiring a wedding coordinator, think like Marie Kondo and decide which one will spark more joy.
4. Don't Let Pressure or Guilt Guide Decisions
Many couples felt pressured (often by family or friends) to make decisions that didn't feel right at the time, which they now regret. Others felt pressured by peers or social media to have a "picture perfect" wedding that ended up feeling impersonal. If you want an intimate wedding ceremony on a mountaintop, don't be afraid to speak up. If you want to have nerdy centerpieces featuring LEGO scenes instead of traditional flowers, go for it! If you want to stay sober and remember the entire day, it's okay to refuse the shots your groomsmen keep buying. Everyone attending your wedding wants you to be happy. So don't be afraid to let your personalities shine and be yourselves.
5. Hire a Professional Photographer for the Entire Day
You knew this one was coming. ;) We're biased of course, but we heard over and over how important photography is to a wedding day. Some couples hired a friend of a friend and didn't get the images they truly wanted. Others only hired a photographer for the ceremony, and wished they had been there for the reception as well. Not a single person regretted hiring an amazing photographer. Photography (and videography! Shout out to our videographer friends!) is what you have left to remember the day after the party is over. Photography is what you put on your walls to look at every single day and remind yourselves of the love you felt and still feel 20 years later. Photography is paging through your wedding album with your kids, laughing at your ridiculous hairstyle and marveling at how they look just like their great-grandpa who passed away. Marriage is making an active decision to choose your spouse every single day; photography helps keep that lifetime of amazing memories fresh in your mind.