7 things I’ve learned about wedding planning

It’s hard to believe that Troy and I are getting married in just 10 days. As the planning comes to a close, I wanted to take time to reflect on what I’ve learned about planning for a wedding:

1. The planning doesn’t really end until the day of the wedding. A lot of people have recently asked me, “So, are you all done planning?” Far from it. I still have a lot of little things to do — trying ribbons on wedding programs, printing place cards, wrapping bridesmaids gifts, etc. These things will get done, though. And if they don’t, the wedding will still go on.

2. Wedding magazines are fun to read, but they can be overwhelming. They’re filled with lists of do’s and don’ts, and they make it seem like you “have” to do a lot of things and follow a lot of traditions. As it turns out, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to! Your wedding is your day, and it’s an opportunity to create your own new traditions. If you don’t want to have favors, don’t. Consider making a donation to a special organization or cause in the guests’ name instead. If you don’t want to have a traditional wedding cake, then serve cupcakes, or cookies, or tiramisu. The more you personalize your wedding, the less caught up you get in thinking that certain aspects of a wedding are “mandatory.” The book (and related blog) “A Practical Wedding” is a great read for brides who want to take a practical approach to wedding planning.

Counting down the days to Oct. 19!
Counting down the days to Oct. 19!

3. Figure out what matters to you most and then splurge on that and save on the rest. The cost of a wedding can climb quickly if you’re not smart about choosing your vendors. Rather than spend a lot of money on “the best” vendors for everything, figure out what you are willing to spend more money on. Maybe you want to splurge on a more expensive photographer because good wedding photos are especially important to you. Maybe you want a killer dress, so you decide to spend a little extra on one. On the flip side, maybe flowers aren’t as important to you, so you decide to buy them at the farmers’ market instead of hiring a florist. Or maybe you could care less about seat covers and pretty linens, so you choose to forgo them. Prioritize!

4. Delegate the planning. Most married guys I know were not very involved in planning their wedding. Since I’m not one to conform to gender roles, I asked Troy to help out. I gave him a couple of tasks, such as booking a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests and booking our limo service. I also asked for his advice along the way. I wanted him to feel included, but more importantly, I wanted the planning to be a shared experience. Troy may not have had an opinion on whether I should have rust-colored asiatic lilies or peach hypericum berries in my bouquet (!) but he did care about our first dance song and helped me choose one. Sometimes it helps to think about what your fiance is most interested in. Is he really into music? Ask him to book the DJ and help pick out songs. Is he a foodie? Ask for his help finding a caterer. It also helps to have a fiance who’s calm. Troy has kept me from freaking out too much during the final planning stages.

5. If you can afford it, hire a day-of wedding planner. Troy and I hired one, and it’s one of the better decisions we’ve made in the planning process. Even though she’s a “day-of” planner, she has helped a lot along the way — by giving me her opinion when I’ve asked for it, sharing advice and suggesting vendors. The day of the wedding, she will be at the reception hall to make sure all the vendors arrive on time and are where they’re supposed to be. (We had to hire vendors for catering, liquor, linens and more, so there’s a lot to keep track of!) She’ll also clean up the reception hall after we leave and will bring the floral arrangements, gifts, etc. back to our house the night of the wedding so we don’t have to worry about it. It has given me peace of mind to know that someone will be at the reception hall to make sure everything comes together; it’s one less thing I have to worry about the day of the wedding!

6. Go for a trial hair and makeup appointment. I didn’t want to look like an overly bronzed clown on the Big Day, so I scheduled trial appointments a few weeks before the wedding to test out different styles. It was reassuring to meet with my hairdresser and makeup artist ahead of time to explain what I wanted. The hair stylist learned that she’ll need more time to do my hair the day of the wedding, so I adjusted my day-of appointment accordingly. And when the makeup artist started to get too adventurous, I asked her to tone it down a bit. Now when I get my hair and makeup done the day of the wedding, I’ll know exactly what I want and so will the stylists.

7. Take time to think about what a special time this is in your life. It’s easy to get caught up in planning, especially at the beginning and right before the wedding. Remember that no wedding is perfect. Sometimes the imperfections make it more memorable. What’s important is that you and your fiance are making a lifelong commitment to be with each other. Think about the significance of that event and remember that this is one of the most special days of your life. Embrace it.


Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

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