As I’m sure you’ve noticed, planning a wedding is complicated. You have a gazillion decisions to make, and every one of them feels like if you choose wrong your wedding will be a disaster (it won’t). I’ve been an integral part of hundreds of weddings and a humble guest at dozens more. So whether you’re getting married in Columbus or LICHRALLY any other city, I think you’ll be able to find something useful among these tips.

1. Do what you want

This might seem obvious. “It’s my wedding of course I’ma do what I want.” But the VAST majority of my clients experienced varying forms of external pressure-and varying intensities of that pressure-during their planning process. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar:

  • One of the moms wants to invite her long-time friend you’ve never met
  • You don’t really want kids at the wedding, but you feel obligated to include them
  • Religion is important to some members of your family, but a place-of-worship-wedding isn’t for you
  • Your spending goal doesn’t support plus-ones across the board, surf and turf dinners, or top-shelf potables
  • You’re “supposed to” blast your wedding all over social media, but your intimate vibe doesn’t fit with that
  • You can save a shit-load of money doing email invitations, but it feels tacky

It’s an incomplete list, sure. But I’ll bet you’ve felt the press from at least one of them or something similar.

First and foremost, I want to validate those feelings. It’s very normal to feel pressure to please people, especially those who are bankrolling the wedding. ESPECIALLY from yourself; sometimes that little voice feels very big indeed.

It’s also very normal to rationalize giving in, whether it’s by minimizing the obligation (“it’s not that big of deal”), justifying the obligation (“they’ve gifted us so much money”), or gaslighting yourself into believing it’s not an obligation at all (“maybe I’m being ridiculous”).

And you might honestly conclude that it’s more important to take the path of least resistance than make a stand. That’s a perfectly acceptable option; it’s probably the best option a lot of the time.

But I just wanted to remind you that you’re not merely allowed but entitled to have boundaries around planning your wedding (and everything else of course). If you decide you aren’t currently accepting advice or suggestions, this article from the GOAT Martha Stewart will give you some advice (lol, sorry) for handling it like a no-thank-you-pro.

2. Breathe

Literally and figuratively. There’s a reason that breathwork is one of the oldest and most effective methods of self-centering and near-instantaneous stress reduction. Take a deep, evidence-based dive if you’re so inclined.

Breathing is also great for staying not unconscious.

In a looser sense, try to be present. Be deliberate during the whole process—even in the throes of planning—about appreciating the journey. Try to view your todo list not as chores to check off but as a ton of opportunities to learn more about yourselves, your values, and your tastes. Listen to your instincts.

At the wedding, step out for a little while, just you and sweetie. Find a balcony or quiet spot, and take it all in.

So often couples tell me they’re grateful to have photos because the wedding was a total blur. That’s understandable, but I also think it’s—at least to a certain extent—avoidable.

You’ll have your photos, yes, and they’ll be cherished heirlooms. But don’t underestimate the value of rich and vivid memories to accompany them.

3. Plan the timeline with your photographer first, then the venue

Maybe I’m biased, but that doesn’t make me wrong. Most experienced planners and venue coordinators will tell you the same thing: ask your photographer to help with the timeline.

Why? Because you deserve to have stunning sunset photos, of course! It’s not always possible, especially in winter when the damn sun sets at 5pm. And it’s just kind of gray a lot in Ohio. But on a clear day, you should be doing portraits right when the sun is saying bye bye for the night.

This fantastic Washington State based photographer has an excellent article about about why, along with why photos in the middle of the day are challenging.

And I promise you, if you say to your photographer “we’d love awesome light, so can you help us with the timeline,” they’ll stare at you, mouth agape, before telling you “HELL YES.”

4. Hire vendors you like, and rely on them

If you haven’t settled on a guest list yet, you’ve probably at least started compiling one, if only in your head. Think about who those people are and what they mean to you. I’ll bet most of them are your best friends in the world, your close family, or their partners and/or kids.

Now think about the other people who will be at your wedding: the venue staff and caterers. Your DJ or musicians. Your photographer and videographer. The officiant.

And all the others who might not be at the wedding but who you’ll be working with somewhere along the way: florists, bakers, dressmakers and suitmakers. Hair and makeup artists.

You can, if you’d like, have an impersonal, transactional relationship with them. But everyone else involved in your wedding is special to you, so why not invite your vendors into the fold. Ask them questions. Ask how they can make your life better and how you can help them do their jobs to the best of their ability. I promise you, every single one of these people can bring something exciting and unique to your experience. They want to make their little part of your day as special as possible.

5. Serve a late-night snack

This is one of the most overlooked opportunities to crank your wedding reception to 11, and it’s not vibe-dependent. Every crowd starts getting munchies a couple hours after dinner, especially if alcohol is involved.

  • Chill dinner-party atmosphere with quiet chatting? ✅
  • Rager foam party with acrobatics and sword swallowers? ✅
  • Anything in between? ✅

Supplying your guests with some low-pressure finger-food is more than just a simple appeal to their base nature as apex predators. It’s also a great way to introduce an element of pacing into the reception timeline: kinda like an optional intermission that will score bonus nostalgia points with the Ate-McDonalds-At-1am-in-College crowd (an oddly specific niche 🤔).

Don’t feel like you need to go high-class with this; one of the all-time best late-night wedding snacks I’ve had was Taco Bell. If you want to hear about my hilariously bad advice to the couple regarding their Taco Bell order, just text me TACO STORY PLS.

Here are some other snack ideas I’ve encountered that you’re welcome to steal and claim as your own. They also shouldn’t be more than a couple bucks a head.

  • Chicken and waffles
  • Tater tots or fries
  • Pizzaaaaa
  • Chips and guac/salsa
  • Sliders

Even better, maybe you and your little sweetie have a special meal or snack. Like “aww it’s our song” except it’s “aww it’s our Dirty Franks with relish and mustard.” When my wife and I first started dating, we got milkshakes once a week for nearly a year. We didn’t do that at our wedding, because I just thought of that awesome idea just now. But dammit we should have.

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