5 Tips for a Stress-Free Wedding

When I meet someone new in a non-work setting and tell them I am a wedding planner, I am usually greeted with a few stories of wedding nightmares. I am amazed to find, that over my fourteen years of doing this as a career, this one part of my life never seems to change. Sometimes it’s wedding day nightmares: during the ceremony a killer storm popped up and ripped over the bay bringing lightning and hail, or the cake that was made by a friend and collapsed during the first dance (both true stories, by the way!).  Other times, it’s about the planning experience in itself: They hired a friend to help out who didn’t do anything, and the things she did do, she did wrong (she forgot to ask the rental house if they could host a reception there — they couldn’t — and they were out a $1500 deposit and needed to find a new reception spot). Or, they didn’t hire anyone and they bickered with their mother, mother in law, sister, maid of honor (insert role here) and are no longer speaking to them or their relationship has never been the same.  

I hate to hear wedding nightmares, because I and my staff get to be a part of so many successful weddings! I truly wish everyone could have an amazing wedding planning experience that leaves them with fond memories for years to come. That is why I decided to offer 5 simple tips for a stress-free wedding planning experience!

Tip #1: Hire a Professional, Experienced Wedding Planner

“A good wedding planner is worth his/ her weight in gold” – say EVERYONE

What I didn’t mention in my story above, is that there are always a few folks who meet me that RAVE about the positive experience they’ve had with their wedding planner. “She took care of everything so we didn’t worry about a thing” or, “A hurricane was set to hit the day of my wedding. My planner called all the vendors and made all the appropriate adjustments including making sure the band didn’t back out! We were so thankful for her”. How do you know you have a great planner?

  • They’ve taken some formal training – this shows they are committed to the industry and learning
  • They have great client testimonials – from more than just one or two of the same weddings
  • They have a diverse portfolio — they can do everything well, not just one niche
  • Vendors refer them – they have seen their work and think enough of it to send their clients to them!
  • Their pricing is fair. If it seems too good to be true — it probably is. An inexpensive planner sometimes can be over committed — which translates into a less time for you and your needs. This can be extremely frustrating, and I actually gain a lot of clients that have gotten fed up with the “great deal” of a planner they’ve secured.  Also, on the other side of the equation, A planner out of your budget range will leave you feeling jilted that you can’t get all the vendors and bells and whistles you want. A good planner will be upfront and steer you towards a package that is in your budget (hourly, day of, partial or full service) because they too want it to be a win win!

Remember when investing in a planner, they will not only help you stay in budget, but save you tons of time and energy. Well worth the investment at any level of service.

Tip #2: Hire other great wedding professionals and listen to what they have to say

It’s important you are working with the best vendor you can afford, and also you can reach a bit for a vendor you adore so long as you are willing to cut back elsewhere. Don’t overreach — that doesn’t leave anyone happy! How do you find a great vendor?

  • Get referrals from friends, other vendors, and online
  • Check references — not just online, but ask for some people to call
  • See samples of their work and find out what the cost of that service was
  • Pay a fair price — if you are wheeling and dealing with a vendor, sometimes you might not get the best service or the service that originally brought you to them. I’m not saying it’s impossible to bargain, but let the vendor lead and work with your budget. If it’s not a match — it’s better to find someone that is a match and will be happy with the amount you’re willing to spend.

Tip #3:  Set a Budget & Decor Guideline

I hear lots of complaints about overspending, or not spending enough. Just like any major project in life, I think it is important for you to decide BEFORE you start shopping how much you want to spend. When buying a house or car, you would never ask a realtor to show you around or step into a showroom without knowing how much you want to spend. With wedding planning, I ask you take it one step further and not only decide how much you want to spend, but break it down into vendor categories. I am happy to share with Hannah’s readers an exclusive look at Wedding Savvy’s suggested Vendor breakdown by clicking here. This is a general guideline and will need some tweaking as you start meeting vendors, but it is a great place to start!  

In addition to creating a budget outline, I think it is equally important to create a decor outline.  This can easily be done by creating a Pinterest Page you can share with your vendors! Please keep in mind that almost EVERY client has many or some ideas on the page that vendors are going to tell you- -are out of your budget range. However a good vendor can make suggestions as to how to fit your ideas into a realistic budget.

Tip #4:  Be a decision maker

Pink napkins or Fuchsia? Gold Chivaris or Black? You can drive yourself crazy by obsessing over small and large decisions alike. That is why I suggest creating the budget and decor documents to serve as a guiding force in your decisions. I always tell clients to trust their instincts, listen to great vendor advice, then set it and forget it. It’ s no fun obsessing over small details. If it is a very bad idea, people will tell you. If lots of people (vendors) are telling you a bad idea…. then start listening!

Tip #5:  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Remember it’s about you and your Fiance committing to one another for a lifetime. This helps you to not sweat the small stuff. Mom insisting you have a chocolate layer of cake? Just do it. Your groom has to have the bartenders wear Philadelphia eagles bowties? (true story) Why not?  Your Maid of Honor doesn’t feel comfortable giving a toast? Let her off the hook. The happiest Brides and Grooms I work with let the small stuff roll off their backs and remember, in the end, they are getting married!  That is the real purpose of the gathering.


Raquel Shutt

Raquel Shutt is the owner of Wedding Savvy Inc., a premier full-service wedding planning company located in Annapolis. For more than 10 years, Wedding Savvy has been featured in many regional publications such as The Knot Magazine, The Washingtonian, and The Capital, as well as featured on We TV’s “platinum Weddings.”

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