Your wedding is your special day. It is one of the only days of your life that you can make exactly what you want it to be. If you plan it right, you can have the wedding you’ve always dreamed of, and you’ll remember your wedding day as one of the best days of your life. If you don’t, however, your wedding could become something else entirely.
What should you do at your wedding to make it as special as it can be? What should you completely avoid? I went to the experts to find out.
Do: Hire professionals
One of the best ways to make sure your wedding goes smoothly is to hire professionals, like a wedding planner and an officiant, who will help you make the most of your wedding. Hiring a wedding planner was the best thing my husband and I did for our wedding.
Jessica Jordan, luxury wedding planner, told me, “Hire a wedding planner. The amount of money you will save with a wedding planner’s negotiations will pay for the planner and save you and all of your family and friends a headache or panic attack.” She added that it’s important to hire a planner ahead of time, rather than having them jump in on the day of your wedding. “Don’t hire a day-of coordinator instead of a month-of or partial planner,” she told me. “A day-of coordinator steps into the wedding day without knowing what’s going on and almost makes it more confusing.”
Daniela Villa Ramos, New York City wedding officiant, stressed the importance of hiring an officiant. “Your wedding officiant will be the one who sets the tone for the rest of your big day, so make sure to book a registered officiant who you vibe with. Book someone who gets you and wants to celebrate your story, your way!”
Do: Enjoy the moment
After the months of planning, you will be shocked at how quickly your wedding day will pass by. Make sure you take the time to stop and appreciate it, because it will be over before you know it. I look back at my wedding day and am very appreciative that I took the time to be fully present and enjoy the day.
Ramos told me, “Your wedding day is going to feel like a blur. That’s what happens when you’re having fun, and your wedding day is no different! So take a mental picture every chance you get! Try to intentionally remember how you felt in that moment so that you can relive those memories year after year. Yes, your photographer will be there to capture your day, but it’s so much better when you can put a memory to a picture.”
Yari Perez, wedding planner, agreed. She told me in our interview, “Carve time into your schedule to make sure you truly enjoy each of the significant moments. Pause when the doors open before you walk down the aisle, and spend some time alone with your significant other during the first look.”
Do: Personalize your wedding ceremony
Your party may be exciting, but your wedding ceremony is the main reason all of your friends and family are there, so make it your own. You can have a truly unique, special ceremony, if you take the time to plan it beforehand.
Ramos shared with me, “No one wants to sit through a boring, template-based ceremony that doesn’t capture an ounce of who you are, so make sure your ceremony is personalized! Whoever officiates your wedding should take the time to get to know you in order to infuse your personalities and overall flavor into your ceremony.”
You don’t have to leave it all to your officiant, either. Talk to your partner about what matters to both of you so that you can incorporate your own traditions and rituals into your wedding ceremony.
Do: Be intentional with your wedding vows
My husband and I wrote our own vows, and they made our ceremony truly special. They also gave us a chance to set the tone for our marriage and future. For six months after our wedding, my husband read his vows to me on every monthly anniversary — that’s how much they meant to him!
Ramos suggested you write your vows with your partner. She told me, “At their core, your wedding vows are your promises to each other for your married future together, so before you start writing your own, talk about it. What are the core promises you want to make to each other? Maybe it’s to admit when you’re wrong, to communicate openly and honestly, to make halfway decent coffee every morning, or to love them even when you don’t like them very much. Whatever it is, sometimes it’s easier to write your vows once you start talking about them together.”
Do: Remember those who have passed
One of the hardest parts of your wedding can be thinking about the people who didn’t get to be there. My husband’s father passed away many years before our wedding, and it was emotional for him to get married without his father there. We walked down the aisle to one of his dad’s favorite songs and had a chair with a white rose on it in the front row to represent his presence at the wedding. Both of these choices helped him feel that his father was present at the wedding.
Ramos said, “This might seem like a total downer, but finding a way to honor the people you deeply love who have passed away gives you the opportunity to remember them during this happy time in your life. It’s a heartfelt way to have them with you, in spirit and memory.”
She gave me some great suggestions for remembering loved ones who have passed. “Your officiant can take a moment of silence during the ceremony; you can place a memento of theirs in your bouquet, boutonniere, jewelry, or accessories; or you can have a memory table dedicated to them. Whichever way you choose to remember those who’ve passed, it will be meaningful for you and all those who loved them.”
Do: Decide on your priorities ahead of time
There are so many pieces to your wedding puzzle. Deciding on your priorities will ensure that you have the day you want, and it will help you let go of the things that aren’t as important.
Meghan Ely, wedding PR consultant, told me, “Pay for things yourself if you really want them. More couples are financing the majority of their wedding, but we are still seeing situations where others, such as parents, chip in. If there are particular things you’d like for the big day that may be less than popular with others, commit to paying for them.” Don’t let others’ preferences dictate what you have at your wedding, and know what you want ahead of time so that you can budget for it.
Ely continued, “I always told my couples to commit to three must haves for the wedding day and then, just let the other things slide. I’ve seen couples go mad over the smallest of issues simply because they are far too stressed about everything being perfect. If you focus on only a few things, the pressure starts to disappear.”
Do: Create a wedding day hashtag
One of the best ways to keep all of your photos together and to include others who couldn’t be there is to make a wedding hashtag. Guests can tag their Instagram photos with your hashtag so that they’re all in one place. Even if you have a wedding photographer, your guests will capture things your photographer won’t see.
Ely told me, “It’s a fun way to capture candid moments and allows others who couldn’t make it to share in the big day. Stuck on what to do? WeddingWire has a fun generator to help you out.”
Don’t get wasted
Many brides and grooms make the mistake of drinking too much at their weddings. They want to celebrate, but they end up forgetting much of their weddings later because they get so drunk. Ramos told me, “Since your wedding day is going to be a blur without the help of cocktails, it’s best to limit your alcohol consumption to one or none. I know that sounds like a downer to those who like to unwind with a beer in hand, but you’ll look and feel more vibrant if you stick to water.”
Ely agreed. She added, “Don’t drink before the ‘I Do’s.’ It’s common to think just a glass of wine or a shot will calm your nerves, but it may do more harm than good. This, combined with the likelihood of eating less on the big day, and it’s a recipe for trouble.”
She told me a story to highlight the point. “I once had a bride that I left alone with family for about five minutes prior to the ceremony and she decided to take three shots just prior to going down the aisle. She ended up swaying down the aisle and laughing during the ceremony.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Are you a Bridezilla? Stressing out over every detail of your wedding isn’t just a downer for your close friends and family — it will take the fun out of your special day, as well.
Ramos said, “If you’re going for perfect, you won’t fully enjoy your wedding day! Things go wrong sometimes and it’s completely out of your control, so breathe and let it roll off your shoulders. This way you can actually enjoy the day you spent so much time planning!” She continued, “Life isn’t perfect, so you might as well accept that and gracefully smile your way through it until you’re having a great time!”
Don’t have your parents’ wedding
If your parents are paying for your wedding, it can start to feel like it’s their day more than yours. Even if they’re not footing the bill, they will have ideas about how they want your wedding to go. Make sure that you keep it your own even if you have overly involved parents.
Ramos told me, “We know it can be hard to say no to your parents, who I’m sure are well-intentioned, but don’t let yourself get bulldozed into having a wedding that doesn’t resonate with you.”
She suggested being proactive and communicating with everyone involved. She told me, “Make sure to have a real conversation with your future-forever-partner to set clear and honest boundaries on things you won’t budge on and things you can deal with. Then you can have a straightforward and completely chill conversation with your parents and soon-to-be in-laws about the things that matter to you and the things that they can have input on. Let them know you understand that their opinions are coming from a good place, but that you want to happily plan the wedding of your dreams — not theirs.”
Don’t follow traditions that mean absolutely nothing to you.
On the same note, you may feel pressured to do things at your wedding that don’t resonate with you, because they’re what “most” people do. Make sure that you plan your wedding based on what is meaningful to you, and leave out the traditions you don’t like.
Ramos told me, “There’s no reason to add a tradition to your wedding day if it doesn’t mean anything to you! If there are traditions that don’t speak to you, simply don’t include them. If you want to walk down the aisle with your partner, do it! If you want to elope in a park and then have a reception at a speakeasy, do it! If you want to nix the bouquet/garter toss, that means more dancing, so do that and have a blast!”
Don’t invite people who make you unhappy
If you’re debating about whether or not to invite a guest who makes you unhappy, just don’t do it. Your feelings on your big day matter more than anything else, so put yourself first when planning your guest list.
Ramos told me in our interview, “Who cares about the social politics of it all? At the end of the day, if you’re dreading speaking to that drunk uncle or getting into an argument with your ex-best friend, then get rid of that stress altogether by not inviting them. Only invite the people who truly care about you and who are happy to be a part of the next chapter in your lives together.”
Don’t make your bridesmaids wear exactly the same thing
One of the best decisions I made at my wedding was to give my bridesmaids a color scheme and then let them pick out their own dresses. They all looked gorgeous, and I was happy that they could feel comfortable and beautiful at my wedding. After all, I wanted to honor them, not torture them.
Ely told me, “It’s rare that bridesmaids all have the same body type or even feel comfortable in the same type of clothes. With today’s wealth of options, you can absolutely stick to one color palette for a consistent look while still allowing your wedding party the opportunity to wear something they are going to be comfortable in.” Your bridesmaids will be happier in comfortable dresses, and their smiles will be all the more genuine in your photos.
Don’t make rules and then start wavering on them
If you have certain rules for your wedding, make sure you stick to them for every guest. If you are inconsistent, people will get frustrated, and the last thing you need at your wedding is family drama.
Ely told me, “Don’t enforce a rule such as no kids and then start wavering on it for some of the guests. You either stick to it or you don’t. Otherwise, things start to get messy. Instead, if you do have a particular request, make sure you’re ready to answer why and stay firm with the decision.”
Remember what your wedding day is about
It’s so easy to get caught up in the smaller details of your wedding, like the colors, the flowers, or your dress. But don’t forget the reason you are getting married in the first place — because you’ve found a partner you love enough to commit to for life.
Perez said it best, “Remember what the day is about… marrying your best friend. Everything else is just nice to have. Sure, things will go wrong, but at the end of the day, all that matters is that you are married.”