Wedding Advice from Couples Who Recently Tied the Knot

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’re someone who’s attended a good handful of weddings yourself, either as a guest or a member of the wedding party. You have a pretty confident, solid understanding of what it might take to plan one yourself, since you’ve seen these things firsthand. And then you get engaged, and suddenly you have questions about wedding planning that you never would have even thought of before. Friend, it’s time for a little wedding advice!

Personally, I think the best wedding advice comes from couples who have recently planned their own weddings. They know what planning a wedding in the modern landscape is like, they’ve encountered the same post-pandemic roadblocks, and they’ve reflected on their experience in a way that can be so helpful for others. 

So, I asked six of my previous couples to help me out with putting together some wedding advice for currently engaged couples, to help you narrow down what’s really important to you along the way, give you some direction for vendors and scheduling and more, and to help you release some of that shoulder tension once you realize: you got this!!

What is Most Important When Selecting a Wedding Venue?

One of the first things you might immediately get stuck on when wedding planning is where the heck to hold it! How do you know when the venue is right for you and your partner? These answers are amazing for helping you manage those expectations. Here’s a secret: no venue will be 100% perfect. Here’s how my six couples chose their locations, and what they thought of them:

A+R

We eloped in Oregon. Our photographer helped us pick somewhere that would give us the vibe we wanted, while also being realistic in regards to hiking in wedding attire. 

D+J

During the shutdown, we had to pivot and instead of planning a big wedding, we planned a small, special and intimate one. But we wanted it somewhere special, and somewhere we could honeymoon immediately after!

R+J 

We got married at Mt. View Orchards in Oregon. Choosing our venue was based on the view that the venue offered, the sweet memories we have made visiting this orchard every fall, and wanting to offer our out-of-town friends and family an opportunity to see how beautiful our new home state is. We also loved the fact that our venue came with a day-of coordinator — that was one of the selling points for us!

K+E

We got married at Mountain View Manor in Enumclaw. Our goal was something close to home and big enough to fit 2-00 people comfortably. We fell in love with the view of the mountain as well as the beautiful grounds. 

T+J

We got married at Gray Bridge Venue in Sultan, WA. Our venue was our first walk-through and we just fell in love. It was a feeling where we sat in the car after and we said, “yeah, that’s the one.” We did other venue walk-throughs afterward, but we found ourselves comparing the other venues to Gray Bridge. 

Z+M

We got married at Irons Mill Farmstead in New Wilmington, PA. The venue was close to the majority of our family, was the perfect mix of upscale and rustic, and had all of the amenities we were looking for!

Wedding Advice

Let’s sum up: overall, a lot of my couples ended up choosing a venue that checked most of the boxes rather than all. And only one of this group was set on a venue that held previous sentimentality for them! Your venue will feel right when you see it, but that doesn’t mean it will be absolutely perfect. 

How Important is Your Wedding Date?

Another question you may get stuck on is whether you have to pick a “perfect” date for your wedding. I asked my six couples if their wedding date held any significance to them when they picked it, and here’s what they said:

A+R

There was no significance to the date. It was picked because we knew we wanted Taylor to be our wedding photographer and it was one of the only days she had available. We planned it three months in advance!

D+J

It was our 7th anniversary on that day!

R+J

The calendar date didn’t hold any significant meaning for us. We picked the date because of the long holiday weekend for family and friends traveling, and the added bonus that it’s the day before J’s birthday, so family was around to celebrate a little longer. 

K+E

Our date didn’t hold any significance at the time. 

T+J

It didn’t hold any significance to us before the wedding. We chose this date because we knew we wanted a less-than 2-year engagement, and this was the only date our venue had. Because the wedding industry had been so crazy due to the pandemic, we knew we had to jump on it before we missed out and we are so glad we did. 

Z+M

There wasn’t much significance. It just happened to be the one weekend every year that M wouldn’t be working!

Wedding Advice

All but one of my couples interviewed planned their date based on convenience, rather than significance. They chose a date that would allow them to plan the rest of their wedding more easily. This is huge! Re-prioritizing during the planning process to account for what’s most important to you is going to save you so much headache!

What’s a Realistic Budget for a Wedding?

Ah, the money question. Getting wedding advice on your budget is all relative, but in case you’re stressed about it, here’s what my couples had to say about their budgets!

D+J

We just did a lot of price comparing and went with what we were comfortable with.

R+J

We talked extensively about our budget, as well as how we each were going to contribute to the wedding fund. We set a goal budget that we aimed to stick to, and then a cap budget slightly above the goal budget. This allowed us to have more flexibility for some things we wanted. We decided how much money to spend on vendors based on priorities. We read a ton about average vendor pricing, but kept in mind that pricing actually varies based on quality and other specifics. Once we discussed this, we were better able to adjust our budget and spend money on the things that mattered most, but still stayed within the budget goal. 

K+E

We did not set a strict budget for our wedding day. We decided on how much to spend by looking at numerous vendors, interviewing them, and went with people we thought would be the best fit for our vision without breaking the bank.

T+J

Initially, we did set a strict budget. But then our families wanted to help us out, so it became more flexible. We picked the vendors we knew we wanted more specifically to pay for ourselves. Then, we gave our family vendor options at different prices and had them choose what fit their budget. If things could be done DIY, we did it. If not, they were bought. In the end, we didn’t go over budget too much. 

Z+M

We had a loose budget (set by our parents). We had certain vendors that were non-negotiable despite the price. Beyond that, we tried to stay with the average price for the area and then added some extra money to account for travel for the vendors. 

Wedding Advice

Budgeting for your wedding is super circumstantial! Maybe you aren’t worried about this part at all. Maybe, you’re ready to DIY it up like T+J did for some of their wedding! No matter where you fall, these 5 couples give some great wedding advice across the board for ways to make the money part move. 

And here’s an extra budgeting tip: R+J told me that they made sure to collect vendor quotes based on the maximum possible guest count, and made sure before signing vendor contracts that they could reduce this count as the wedding got closer. This way, they knew that any vendor wouldn’t charge them for any guest head that didn’t need to be covered. This way, they said, they expected to pay more and “got money back” in a sense, rather than being surprised by the amounts later. 

Why is a Wedding Day Timeline Important?

If you’ve reached out to any photographers or wedding planners, or seen things on our social media accounts, you may have come across conversations about the timeline of your wedding day. This is the backbone of your celebration. As your wedding photographer, I always help my couples structure a photo-based timeline for their day. This ensures that we are able to capture all the moments and top priority shots that you want! I checked in with my couples to see how helpful the wedding day timeline is. 

A+R

We loved having the timeline! When you have a bunch of things running through your mind it was great to have a baseline to stick to. 

D+J

So perfect! The fact that we even had downtime before our ceremony to practice our first dance was amazing! And it was relaxing and memorable and so special. 

R+J

The flow of our wedding day was absolutely perfect! We would not have done it any other way. Every minute felt intentional but also natural. Nothing felt forced or rushed, but rather allowed for us to fully take in every moment. The images and video we have from the day are breathtaking, and the moments we got to share with the people we love are just as priceless. 

K+E

Our photo timeline was great. Everything flowed very nicely and the timeline was flexible enough to add last second ideas. We wrote down all of the special moments that we wanted captured and our photographers were able to get them all. 

T+J

The photo-based timeline was so helpful in planning the overall day! It was so great to have advice from someone who knew what needed to happen and when it should happen. It was so easy to just place everything else around it.

Wedding Advice

If you hire a wedding planner or coordinator, make sure that your photographer and coordinator talk thoroughly and often about the timeline. Your photographer will know best regarding when outdoor lighting is optimal for the different parts of your day, whereas the wedding planner has a fantastic handle on organization. You don’t want to wind up with two conflicting timelines from these two expert vendors!

First Look, or Not to First Look?

Whether to have a private first look pre-ceremony or stick to timeless tradition and see each other for the first time at the ceremony is a tricky question for a lot of couples. Here’s what my six interviewees decided to do:

A+R

I changed behind a tree so he wouldn’t see me until it was time to say our vows!

D+J

First look!

R+J

We did a first look and private vows together. As a couple we are more private when it comes to intimate moments like this, so having time where it was just the two of us was absolutely everything we could have wanted. 

K+E

We did a first look. Honestly it saved us so much time because we were able to get all the wedding party photos out of the way. It also did not take away from how special the ceremony was. We both still cried. 

T+J

We did a first look before the ceremony. 

Z+M

We waited!

Wedding Advice

The “advice” on this one is more of an “it’s up to you” encouragement. Don’t fold to anyone’s pressure to do one thing or another! Maybe tradition is important; maybe you’re like R+J and want more private time. The best thing to say here is that you should make it all about you!

Will Your Wedding Dreams Come True?

It’s that time to talk about managing expectations. I mentioned earlier when talking about finding your wedding venue that nothing will ever be 100% perfect. The same goes for the whole day! You can plan every inch and something may still come up the morning of. Here’s how my six interviewed couples felt:

A+R

Our only expectation was that we both were marrying our best friend, and that’s exactly what happened!

D+J

It was a magical day! We were mentally prepared that weddings are never perfect and there’s always last-minute things to do, but going in with that mentality made it more relaxed. And, we had so much help with everything so the day was just so extremely special!

R+J

Naturally, we had expectations for our day, but the way everything fell together and happened on the actual day was beyond anything we could’ve ever imagined! The funny thing is that we both had such different visions for what we wanted our day to look like. R envisioned a larger celebration while J envisioned something more intimate. At the end of the day we were able to create a vision that was purely us and not just one person. We figured, as long as we got married at the end of the day, that was all that mattered to us!

K+E

We just wanted the wedding day to be drama free! For the most part, it was. For as big as our wedding ended up, we were surprised at how smoothly it went!

T+J

Our only expectation was that we wanted our guests to have a great time. From what we hear, they did!

Z+M

We didn’t have a ton of expectations (if any, some negative ones actually!). We’re glad that we took the day to focus on each other, and not everyone else. 

Wedding Advice

Your wedding day is the beginning, not the culmination. It’s a high point, but the rest of your lives together should be higher! Too much pressure for the day to be impeccable will most certainly let you down. 

Wedding Day Regrets

Will you have regrets about some of the things that happen at your wedding? Maybe you will! But, after reading these couple’s experiences, hopefully you’ll find that they aren’t nearly as big a deal as you’re worried they might be. 

A+R

This is so small, but I wish I’d have picked a better hairstyle! I love how my hair looked, but it’s covering my face in most of our pictures. I was adamant about standing “on my good side” and it kind of bit me in the tush. 

D+J

It was just such a beautiful and special day, we wouldn’t change anything. Except maybe having the bus stop for a bathroom break on the way to the ceremony, since we found out there wasn’t one at our venue when there was supposed to be!

R+J

We haven’t really thought about how we would change things, because we genuinely believe our day was as perfect as it could be! We went in knowing that nothing can be 100% perfect. We're sure there’s always more that we could have done for the day, but those things would be additional rather than changes. Everything that happened was exactly how it was always meant to be, and we couldn’t have loved it more!

K+E

We would change our food truck vendor! Unfortunately, the one we went with showed up an hour late, and forgot some stuff. 

T+J

The only thing we would change, if we could change it, would be the weather! LOL. It was so hot! But other than that, we would not change anything at all. 

Z+M

We might have changed our wedding colors, but that’s it!

Wedding Advice

See? Most regrets are a drop in the bucket compared to the overall experience you have. And, because I encourage all my couples to make the day all about you (yes, be selfish!), you’re even less likely to have regrets. 

Is Wedding Planning Easier than You Think?

Until you’re in the thick of it, knowing what to expect from the entire wedding planning process is nearly impossible. While no one can really give you solid wedding advice about whether or not it's easy (since it depends entirely on your specific wedding ideas), here’s what my couples experienced that may either give you some peace of mind, or more accurately prepare you for the road ahead. 

A+R

It was a lot easier once we decided to elope!! Due to the pandemic and we think the location (Portland, OR), it was hard to find restaurants taking indoor reservations. We found the same issue when we planned our weekend on the coast. 

D+J

Because everything was up in the air with the pandemic, it was hard to plan some things but it worked out in the end. We were unprepared by there being no restroom at our venue!! But, there were a lot of fun things when it came to planning, like choosing our wedding song! We also loved having Emerald Engagements help us as our wedding planner!

R+J

The whole experience brought a lot of growth for us, both individually and as a couple. The process taught us a lot about how we communicate, how we handle stress, and how we can support each other in those moments of high pressure. We like to think that we came out of the wedding planning process a more unified couple, and far more eager to begin the next chapter of our lives. We laugh about it now, but when we first got engaged we thought that the process would be the easiest thing for us. Sometimes it was, and sometimes it wasn’t! The big picture things like booking our main vendors, figuring out the wedding party, were the easiest. The small details the closer we got to the day were hard. There is not enough time in the world that would have allowed us to feel 100% prepared for every little thing, so instead we decided to accept what we were and were not able to do, and just have fun being in the moment with each other and with our friends and family.

K+E

It was a lot harder than we thought it would be. We eventually caved and got a wedding planner (Planner Boss by Nelliena — they were exceptional!). It was honestly the best decision we made throughout the whole process. They took a lot of stress away from us and our family. Especially the day of — dealing with all the vendors and timeline, etc. We did not realize all the little details that go into planning. The wedding favors, table decor, renting plates, aisle decor, etc. It was a lot!

T+J

When looking back on wedding planning, it was easier than we thought. Would we do it again? Absolutely not. LOL. Even though we were super organized, had everything laid out to a T, nothing would have ever prepared us for the stress and nervousness that came along with it, especially in the final month leading up to the wedding. The nerves started hitting and we were second guessing things — is this enough food? Enough drinks? Will this playlist get people dancing? Will people have fun? All the what-ifs came to light. But, even if all these questions are a pressing matter the month before, a strong support system goes such a long way in calming you down. We also recommend a day-of coordinator; we hired MeLisa and Victoria from Jubilee Weddings and Events. 

Z+M

It was definitely harder than we thought. Trying to balance opinions as well as planning from across the country was hard (we moved unexpectedly three months before our wedding). It was rough. We had wonderful day-of coordinators, Knighted Affairs, and one of our friends helped with all the organizational pieces. 

Wedding Advice

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Figure out you and your partner’s style. Are you both planners and doers? Is organization your weak spot? Do you want to prioritize hiring a planner? Overall, a lot of couples find relief in hiring a planner or coordinator, and none of them regret doing so. 

The Top Advice for Engaged Couples Planning Their Wedding

As if you didn’t have enough advice from my six rockstar couples already, I asked them what they believed the most important piece of advice for engaged couples planning a wedding is. Here’s their last tidbits of wisdom:

A+R

Only share details of your day if you’re open to feedback and disagreements from the people you tell. People can’t really help themselves when it comes to voicing their opinions sometimes, and it can be hard to deal with.

D+J

Enjoy the planning process together! Make it fun, and remember this day is about you two! So make it memorable.

R+J

Don’t lose sight of each other in the planning process. You will feel stressed and frustrated, but it doesn’t mean your relationship is a failure. Make sure that when you’re in these moments, you pause what you can, and reconnect with the love you have for each other. That is the reason you’re getting married! Don’t let the wedding process overshadow that. Be intentional about being connected with one another. 

K+E

Wedding planning is stressful, so take the time to enjoy every second of that wedding day! It’s about the love you two share, and no one else. 

T+J

As the day goes on, things will happen that aren’t in your timeline. That is totally okay! We would also say to make sure you look up and take in your reception. We took a moment to look up from eating and saw all our loved ones in one space — that feeling was unmatched.

Z+M

Take the time to breathe through the process. It goes by fast, but there’s so much love around you!

And there you have it! Tons and tons of golden wedding advice from couples who were recently in the same position you are. You are going to rock this process. For more advice from me, check out more of my blogs here. 
When you’re ready to start hiring your vendors, I’m just a form submission away for wedding and elopement photography.

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