If you’re recently engaged or got engaged over the holidays – congrats! This post is for those of you who are in the midst wedding planning and are in need of some tips + inspiration! I’m sharing my personal thoughts on 1) What not to forget on your wedding day (that no one tells you!) 2) How to throw a party that your guests will be talking about for years and 3) A number of ways you can add unique touches to make your day extra special!
While this post covers a lot of ideas & tips, it by no means covers them all! My biggest tip is to get a planner, even if it’s just for the day of, so you can enjoy your big day!
PSA: I apologize in advance as this post is on the longer side! I wanted to be sure to include everything I learned throughout the planning process so all my brides out there can benefit!
Getting ready in the morning
What not to forget: Feed your bridal party! If you plan to have your bridesmaids over in the morning for hair and makeup, do your best to to make sure there’s plenty of food for them to eat. As they say, the day is a marathon not a sprint, and you don’t want anyone feeling dizzy at the alter!
Morning brunch ideas: Depending on your budget, you can serve food in a variety of ways! If you’re working to stay within a certain budget, you can have someone grab quiche, bagels & cream cheese, and coffee cake with some fruit. If you have a little more room to play with, you can get it catered + select whatever items you’d like. Below are some of the items we served including fresh fruit, mini sandwiches & acai bowls — and of course some mimosas!
To do a first look or not to…
Whether or not you do a first look with your groom is completely up to you! We chose to do one because we felt it would be good for both of us! But every couple is different, do what feels right for you!
What not to forget: The “first look” I absolutely recommend doing is one with your girls! Let your photographer know you plan on doing one ahead of time so they can plan on capturing it! The photo below is one of my favorites from our big day – it was so fun walking down the stairs for the first time in my dress and seeing all of my bridesmaid’s smiling faces!
At the church or ceremony space…
What not to forget: If you’re getting married in a church, speak to the church coordinator about what is and what isn’t allowed in terms of decorations.
Ceremony decor tip: Kill two birds with one stone! Adding flowers down the aisle and/or on the alter can make a major difference in your pictures, regardless of where your ceremony is being held. You can then have someone transport those same arrangements and use them throughout your reception to get the most use out of them!
Planning your reception!
Tip when selecting your table shapes: Depending on the setup your venue space, you may want to mix up the table types to best fit the space. For our reception, we went with rectangular, square and round tables. This gave us flexibility when doing the seating chart, because we had several different sized tables to place guests at which was nice!
Centerpiece tip: You can also mix up your centerpieces, depending on the table type! For our rectangular tables, we decided to mix high candle sticks with a low runner to create a difference in height, while still allowing guests to converse and see the people across from them. For the square tables, we chose square, white-washed wooden planters filled with flowers, and complimented them with candlesticks. I wish I could go back and sit at each table because they were all unique!
Flower inspo: Flowers can transform any space! My motto on flowers is you can’t have enough of ’em! And they don’t just have to be used in the centerpiece. They can be hung above you, on chairs, you name it! There’s several ways you can arrange flowers to achieve a look you want. If your budget doesn’t allow for lots of flowers, greenery is also a great option!
Menu paper inspo: Customize your menu by adding unique details to it! If you look closely behind the knife & thistle in the photo below, we had a watercolor picture of our venue printed on our menu, along with floral decals that were also in our wedding crest. You can really add whatever touches you’d like to your menu – as they say, the devils in the details!
Unique menu idea: Serving an amuse-bouche is an easy way to delight your guests! I recommend choosing something that’s easy for the kitchen to prepare and not too heavy. We served a truffle white bean & celery salad on a toasted baguette — it was delish!
Cardboard cake tip: Another tip I received from a very close friend in the planning process was to have a cardboard cake (thank you Jenny!). This is especially important if your wedding is outside and the weather is supposed to be warm. It prevents it from melting, which can happen fast. A picture of our cake is below, and the only real layer of it is the second layer from the bottom — you can’t even tell! We had actual pieces of the cake cut & ready to be served in the kitchen for guests.
Grooms cake inspo: It’s also fun to get a grooms cake for your man if budget allows! I got Tommy a cake that looked like a bucket of beers with his favorite sports team’s logo on it. He’s a big dessert guy, so surprising him with his own cake was something special I wanted to do for him!
On your way to the reception…
What not to forget: Celebrate! If your reception is at another location, stock the transportation vehicle with champagne & beer! If it’s at the same location, have a bottle ready to pop! It’s a fun way to keep the energy & momentum going. It also makes for great pictures!
Playlist tip: If you’re traveling to the reception, have a playlist handy or nominate someone with a good playlist to be in charge of music and get the reception started!
When you arrive to the reception…
What not to forget: When you arrive to your reception, try to block the first 10 minutes for you & your MOH to refresh if needed. Head to the bathroom, re-apply your lipstick, have someone help with your hair so you’re ready to roll for pictures! It can be overwhelming when you first arrive, so taking a minute to regroup before diving into all of the fun is always a good idea!
Tip to stay fresh throughout the night: Keep a clutch at your seat with your lipstick and any other essentials with you may need – that way you don’t have to hunt anyone down to get it for you!
What not to forget: You and your groom should absolutely do a sneak peek of your reception space when you arrive! Seeing it all come together is a dream – and being able to walk around and soak it all in without getting pulled aside is the best! Let the photographer know you plan on doing this so they can capture the reveal!
What not to forget: If you’re able to attend your own cocktail hour, try to make your rounds and say hi to as many guests as you can during this time! This will allow you more time to enjoy the rest of your night on the dance floor with your groom.
Cocktail lounge tip: When planning your cocktail hour, try to offer guests a few places to sit & gather by scattering tables and lounge areas throughout the space. It’s always appreciated, especially by ladies in heels!
Signature cocktail inspo: Another fun thing to offer is a signature cocktail! You can have these passed around at cocktail hour and available at the bar. Having one that’s simple or pre-made so all the bartenders have to do is pour it over ice is helpful to keep lines moving. Tommy and I are big Moscow Mule fans (we love to make them at home during the summertime!) so we chose to serve our favorite Moscow Mule combination called the “G&T mule”!
Additional tip to eliminate bar lines: If you know a good amount of your guests drink beer, offer a help yourself beer bar. Let them know they can grab a beer by adding a sign next to it.
Seafood tower inspo: Serving passed hor d’oeuvres at cocktail hour is always a plus because it allows guests to mingle & enjoy food at the same time! Another thing you can do is add a station or two with food where they can serve themselves. T and I love seafood, so we decided to offer an ice tower filled with shrimp, crab and oysters for guests to enjoy!
Escort cards inspo: If you’re doing assigned seating (I highly recommend it to avoid any awkward situations!), get you creative with your escort card display. There was a breezeway that our guests had to walk through to get from cocktail hour to the reception space, so we decided that was the perfect place to display the escort cards. We added planters with arching branches, greenery and flowers covered in twinkly white lights to make it feel magical — and the entryway was flanked with the arrangements from the alter!
To hang the actual escort cards, we used old, vintage iron metal gates that were placed in the entryway in-between the planters so people could easily find their table & seat!
On the dance floor…
Bride & Groom entrance idea: Set the tone for your party! During your entrance, invite all of the guests to come out on the dance floor to kick things off with a bang!
What not to forget: Plan to sneak away with your groom to take a few pictures during sunset. Coordinate this with your photographer so they come get you when it’s time (hopefully it’s during a down period when people are eating or dancing!). Although it’s hard to leave the party, you won’t regret it. It’s also nice to have a moment just for you two!
Tip to make sure the dance floor is packed: If you plan on having a DJ or a band, be sure to sync with them a few weeks in advance of your big day so they know of what types of songs you’d like them to play. You can give them a “must play list” and a “do not play list” so that they play the songs you absolutely love, and don’t play the songs you dislike!
What not to forget: If your wedding heels aren’t the most comfortable, don’t forget to pack a pair of cute & comfy shoes you can change into later on in the night! Barefoot is always an option 🙂 but let’s be real, there may be a broken glass or two on the dance floor so better safe than sorry!
Continue the celebrations!
Host an after party: If you and your significant other don’t want the party to stop, plan for it to continue! Your after party can be at your venue or a nearby bar. It’s a great way to cap off the night, and as the bride & groom you can relax a bit more and enjoy spending additional time with friends!
After party dress tip: No matter how hard you try to keep your wedding dress clean, unfortunately by the end of the night the bottom of it will be black! If you do plan to continue the celebrations, I recommend changing into a party dress you can move around in more easily! It’s also fun to change up your look! 😉
Late night food inspo: Serve food that represents you as a couple. Do you both love pizza, or cheese fries? Whatever it may be, offer some late night snacks that are unique to you! We offered Chicago style deep-dish pizza and Cincinnati chili – two of our hometown faves. We also served green beer! We met in March of 2012 celebrating “Green Beer Day,” a pre-St. Patricks Day event in Chicago, where all the bars serve green beer — so we wanted to bring it back to where it began!
The last thing I’ll say is above all, it’s important to have fun! Don’t sweat the small stuff that goes wrong (there will be and is always something!), soak up every minute of the day, take advantage of the when you can sit down & relax at dinner (don’t forget to eat your food!), take the photos (you’ll cherish them forever!) and have the best time with your groom!
Closing with a line that Style Me Pretty put oh so well: “A wedding is a party, not a performance. If at the end of the day you are married to the one you love, then everything went perfectly.”
Love you T. Xx, G
Do you have a favorite tip that you received or learned when you were wedding planning? If so, share in the comments below!
Shout out to the crew of vendors who made our dreams come true on our big day!
Wedding Planner: Grace Creative Services || Ceremony Venue: St. William Catholic Church || Reception Venue: Calusa Pines Golf Club || Wedding Dress: Oscar De La Renta || Wedding Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Bride’s Jewelry: David Yurman || Hair & Makeup: Duality Artistry || Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Free People || Groom’s Attire: Trunk Club || Flower Girls & Ring Bearer: Isabel Garreton || Floral Design: Isn’t She Lovely Florals || Paper Products: Luster Designs || Catering: Lurcat || Entertainment: Melodic Expressions, The Hit Factory Band, DJ Dayve || Rentals: Ooh Events || Videography: Highway 61 Films || Photography: Still55