Wedding Planning 101: 11 Lessons Learned

We were in the midst of Christmas shopping and preparing for the Holidays when our daughter got engaged.  I had helped plan my son’s wedding three years prior as well as helped several friends plan their kid’s weddings, but when the whole gig is your responsibility it’s an entirely different game. In the whirlwind of her engagement and full-on wedding planning, there were a few tidbits of wisdom I wish I had known from the get-go. So, for all you parents that have a daughter’s wedding on the horizon – this one is for you.

Let Them Own the Budget


I really wish we would have thought about this one before we started anything else. Have both the parents of the bride and groom determine how much they can spend on the wedding and then deposit it in their kid’s bank account. Let the couple know that you are there to offer them the mental and physical support they need to pull off the wedding, but this is all you’re financially able to contribute. When they are the ones writing the check there is more thought and consideration for each cost. Letting the couple own the budget helps keep the bride and groom from seeing the budget as bottomless.

There’s an App for That

I found several apps that had timelines, places to store vendor contact information, and checklists that kept me thinking about the small details and when they should be completed. I tried Wedding Happy-Wedding Planner and Wedding Planner by The Knot. Each had different features I thought were useful. They are both free with an in-app purchase if you want the expanded version.

Figure Out Your Theme

Explore ideas on social media, bridal magazines, and library books. Let your bride discover the style and feel she wants and take her lead to help support her vision. It’s easy to know what you would like to see, but remember it is her day. Don’t view an “I don’t care” comment as the nod to take over planning. Neither of you wants to wake up a week before the wedding and realize the plan is not what she had in mind.

Talk, Share, and Compare

Don’t feel like you’ve got to figure it all out on your own. Some of the best advice and information I got was by comparing notes with friends and acquaintances: even the lady in the checkout line at Home Depot had a great lead for me. Ask around when it comes to vendors, venues, and contacts. Someone will always know something, and word of mouth is typically the best recommendation.

Don’t Feel Shy About Asking

I usually feel a little uncomfortable asking for a discount when it isn’t advertised – like I’m being cheap or a pest. But I found, more often than not, when I asked a vendor if they could do it for less, or provide a discount that their competitor was offering, they were usually happy to accommodate. Everyone knows that weddings are expensive and most want to help alleviate the burden in some way.

Online Finds

I found some of my favorite online finds when I was in the “talk, share, and compare” stages of planning. We discovered that it was more inexpensive to buy tablecloths versus using a rental company. If you are pulling off a “do it yourself” type of wedding these websites are invaluable.

TableCloths Factory

Watch for their discounts, they change daily. They have a full line of wedding decorations as well as the best price on tablecloths.

The Table Cloth Factory

This website has a greater variety of sizes and colors of tablecloths, napkins, and chair covers at almost as good of a price.

Retail Me Not

This website goes beyond the wedding.  It is a database of discounts for online shopping.  Enter the website address of the website you are shopping at in the search window. They provide different promotion and discount codes for checkout.


If you don’t have a Rakuten account this is a great time to start one. They offer online rebates for most websites. Once a quarter they will cut you a check for just buying online. This link will earn me a few dollars as well as put $20 in your account after your first purchase – just for signing up. It can be used in addition to any promotion codes you might enter at checkout.

Become Friends with Your Future In-laws

You will be connected to this family for a long time. Best to make friends with the people who you will be sharing major holidays and future grandchildren with. As the mother of the groom I was grateful to be included in some of the planning, and as the mother of the bride, I was appreciative for future in-laws that wanted to be involved. You both have an interest in how it all comes together, so work together and avoid all of that awkward, stepping-on-toes kind of worries.

Remember the Purpose


One of my favorite chick-flicks is “The Wedding Planner.” It’s a nice, feel-squishy-inside kind of movie – but the possibilities for extravagance and spending money on a wedding can be astronomical. It is easy to get caught up in the details and forget the purpose. A small wedding doesn’t mean you love your child any less; it means that you are purposeful and know what really matters.

Delegate to Alleviate

Not all stress can be alleviated, but sharing the burden does a lot to help. I had 23 tablecloths to press the day before the wedding and several friends stepped up and took them off my hands. I can’t even explain how much that meant. So when someone asks what they can do to help, take them seriously and give them something.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Plan on Something Going Wrong

Even the best plan can have unexpected hiccups. Take a deep breath and don’t let the unexpected throw you off balance. Keep moving and take care of what you do have control over. I had a friend share this advice just days before the wedding. She was right. We had late spring snow the morning of the wedding – I took a deep breath and put on my wool coat as we walked out the door.

Encourage Eloping

Just kidding…Sort of. Once you’ve recovered from your wedding coma it’s easy to say “let’s not do that again.” I’m not advocating for the happy couple to take off to Las Vegas, but having a small ceremony with just close family and friends without the big party afterward would be fairly inexpensive. While I loved being able to let my daughter and new son-in-law shine on their special day, I also see the wisdom in letting the couple choose to pocket the money for the future. It’s only a thought, but one I wholeheartedly support if either of my younger two opts to take the road less traveled.

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