My Favorite Wedding Planning Blogs and Websites

When you're scanning the web for wedding planning advice, be careful - a lot of sites out there have recycled information, or just SO MUCH of it that it's confusing or overwhelming.  And it's super important to make sure experts are quoted in the articles.  When individual brides and grooms are giving advice in articles, remember, they've had experience with one (maybe two) weddings, and while they may have outstanding information to share, it's good to remember that wedding vendors have worked on hundreds to thousands of weddings.

  Here are our fave blogs for pragmatic, entertaining wedding planning advice:

Every Last Detail

This blog is run by an actual wedding planner, Lauren Grove, which I love, because a lot of wedding how-to content is written by editors and writers who, while they definitely do their research, may not have been elbow-deep in the trenches of wedding planning.  A wedding planner has seen so many situations play out, that they have a breadth of knowledge that makes planners like Lauren the top experts to follow.

The Budget-Savvy Bride

Jessica Bishop's website has tons of solid advice and real-world examples of how to save money but still have a great wedding.  Too often, budget advice is without context - but she brings in background information that makes sense. Also, fellow smart and practical brides bring honest feedback to what it's like to plan a budget-friendly wedding.

The Off-Beat Bride

This website is all about weaving a couple's personality into the wedding without breaking the bank.  It's the perfect antidote to the super-glossy, almost unreal glamour weddings you see online. (Not that I don't like seeing those, but it's nice to see something a little more unique.)

Streamline your Wedding Design for Less Stress

It seems these days, that more is more when it comes to wedding design.  Instead of a guest book, have a Polaroid station with glue sticks, scrapbook, markers, and tape.  Instead of a plate, how about 4 stacked atop each other, with a floral treatment?  Why stop at a few votives when you can mix in tall hurricanes and tapered candlesticks as well?

Adding "more" in these situations isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's good to know when to stop.

Don't overstuff your tablescape.

Too much stuff on the table has become a trend - from lots of candles, multiple pieces of glassware, placemats, lots of dishes stacked up.   People can't even rest their forearms at their placesetting if there are too many items!  Consider the size of the table, rent larger tables if necessary, and treat it like putting together an outfit: the rule of thumb is, look at yourself in the mirror and remove one piece of jewelry so you don't overdo it.  Same thing with wedding design - if you've got tons of candles, lots of plates, 3 glasses...remove a glass, trim a few candles, and cut it down a bit. Consolidate - perhaps use table numbers that can fit inside the centerpiece, for example.

This photo by Brady Puryear features a floral centerpiece by Floral Event Production and a die cut wood table number that saves space on the table.

This photo by Brady Puryear features a floral centerpiece by Floral Event Production and a die cut wood table number that saves space on the table.

 

Consider the elements.

If your ceremony space is windy, you want a really stable arch versus centerpieces precariously placed on pedestals.  If your reception space is outside, escort and seating cards will probably blow away; consider a framed seating chart or tuck name cards in a folded napkin.

With a breathless view like this, decor isn't even necessary, and this space tends to be windy as well. Photo by Dave Richards. Venue: Malibu Rocky Oaks

With a breathless view like this, decor isn't even necessary, and this space tends to be windy as well. Photo by Dave Richards. Venue: Malibu Rocky Oaks

 

No more favors!

This blog post from the awesome site the Budget Savvy Bride features some great planners and event pros that say, 'nix favors'!  They're often unpractical, or hard to travel with (I've seen many a mini succulent left behind). Technically there is 100% no need to offer favors at your event, so no need to consider them when planning your wedding design - so don't bother unless it's something you're really passionate about.

 

The Best Recipe for Handling Too Many (Wedding Planning) Cooks in the Kitchen

This frozen expression of plastered-on polite smile is the look I have when a client mentions something that is 98% likely to go horribly wrong, but I DON'T WANT TO PANIC THEM.

This frozen expression of plastered-on polite smile is the look I have when a client mentions something that is 98% likely to go horribly wrong, but I DON'T WANT TO PANIC THEM.

How many family members involved in wedding planning is...too many?  Listen, I've worked with 5 different family members and it's been fine; I've also had to deal with just 1 maid of honor who almost ruined everything. It's all HOW you do it, not WHO does it.   For example, I am happy to work with parents, but I don't sign contracts with them - just the couple.  That draws a line, as if to say, "You may be paying for it, but it's the bride and groom's wedding!"

Here are a few wedding planning - slash - family therapy (???) tips for success.

If there's already drama, don't Collaborate.

If you already have a history with family that want to be involved - and it's not GOOD history - back away.  Get a second job, elope, do whatever you can to pay for the wedding yourself and keep them from hosting.  When a family member hosts, they can sometimes unfairly leverage that to control the event to the -inth degree. There was one wedding in particular that I planned, where the parents of one of the couple hosted, and whenever I spoke with them it was as if the bride and groom weren't even involved.  The mom dictated the wedding colors, I had to remind them to invite the bride and groom to a table mockup - it was bizarre.  On top of that, I had multiple people deciding on different things in several different emails - not an orderly 'decide by committee' way.  If a family member wants to get involved and is hosting, make sure they know it's not THEIR wedding!

Sisters lovingly drape a tallit over their siblings during this wedding at Calamigos Malibu. Flowers by McCann Florist.  Photo by True Photography.

Sisters lovingly drape a tallit over their siblings during this wedding at Calamigos Malibu. Flowers by McCann Florist.  Photo by True Photography.

 

Divide and conquer.

"Sis, you work on the ceremony music and flowers.  Mom, negotiate the venue and oversee rentals.  We'll choose the officiant and DJ.  Communicate directly with the planner or vendor and don't loop in all of us on every single email." That's called delegating - and it works!  Back-channel chats about taste and style among all parties works for decision making, then the person in charge of that one element emails the vendor or planner directly with the final call. Done!

Tell your peeps:  It's not a contest.

It makes me groan when I meet a friend or relative who tries to out-plan the planner. They're not a wedding planner, but they've done some parties and are really creative, and they go on Pinterest all the time, and now they try to take over at a walk-through or design meeting with a bride and groom. A good wedding planner has no ego and loves input, but not when it's bossy and it's a non-pro trying to throw their weight around. I had one maid of honor take over at a flower mock up and try to tell me and the florist she could "get that mercury vase at Michaels." We were like, "Yes, and we can get it and a dozen others like them at wholesale cost through our suppliers."  I don't know why some people get threatened by wedding professionals - it's really weird, but it's like trying to take over negotiations on a house purchase from a Realtor. Why go through all the trouble? Let the pros do their job!

How Much Does the Average Wedding Cost...Really?

Originally published on No Worries Event Planning.com

It's nearly everyone's first question when they start planning a wedding: How much is this bad boy going to cost me?  The idea of sinking many thousands of dollars in one evening is soul-sucking, and I totally understand this.   I tried to charge as little as possible when I first started and quickly realized there was a bottom line I had to meet, fee-wise or I essentially couldn't run a business. Like, as in, keep the lights on, pay my taxes, feed my family.

And that's what all other vendors and venues find too when they research initial pricing structures.  Their insurance, taxes, labor (that's a big one), cost of raw materials, etc - it all gets passed to you, the consumer.  Meantime, a good middle class income means low buying power these days, due to all sorts of shifts in our economy, so you can work hard, save your money, and still barely be able to afford a wedding.  But, don't get too depressed- let's work through some hard facts about budget, so you can be an informed consumer, and take control over the process.

Black crows on manzanita trees were DIY centerpieces that fit a Halloween wedding perfectly, were made in advance, and saved the clients money. Photo by Jenna Rose Photography, Jennajanellerose.com

Black crows on manzanita trees were DIY centerpieces that fit a Halloween wedding perfectly, were made in advance, and saved the clients money. Photo by Jenna Rose Photography, Jennajanellerose.com

 

Statistics: Read between the lines

The average wedding according to many statistics is about $26k - 30k.  But, in major metropolitan areas, you're looking at $35-45k to start, and towards $70-80k in cities such as New York City.  Guest count, type of food service, venue, and all sorts of other elements affect your total costs.  My advice is, ignore the statistics - the only way you'll know how much your wedding costs is to start researching.

Add it up: Tally total wedding cost first

Start researching venues, DJs, florists, etc., and collect pricing and quotes.  Don't do one at a time, i.e. research and price out venues, book the venue; and THEN price out caterers - you need a holistic, macro view of how all the costs add up before booking any single vendor or venue for the event.  Otherwise you'll book one element, and realize it takes up more of your budget than you thought, and severely crunches the rest of your budget.  Or perhaps trigger other costs that you didn't anticipate (like a venue that requires a generator at great additional expense, for example).

A beachside venue, just like a house on the ocean, will potentially cost more than an inland space.  Photo of Terranea Resort by Alma De Lumiere,

A beachside venue, just like a house on the ocean, will potentially cost more than an inland space.  Photo of Terranea Resort by Alma De Lumiere,

Consider unique alternatives

Food trucks, BBQ take out (nicely served and presented), cupcakes (instead of cakes) - these are all ways to save money on food by going an unconventional route.  Venue-wise, find a venue that's fresh on the market that may be willing to rent to you for an introductory fee. It's important to make sure the venue has proper rules and regulations and insurance, and to know of any specific additional expenses that come with out-of-the-box venues.

Hire the right pros

A caterer that specializes in small luncheons won't be ideal for your 200 person wedding.  A novice florist may not be able to construct that custom arch you saw on Instagram.  A planner who lists as her major experience waiting tables in college and planning her sister's wedding won't know off the top of her head how much a family style meal will cost.  Whether you invest a small hourly consulting package for a coordinator to assist in a venue search or order a drop off type service from a high end caterer, there are ways to hire top-of-their-class vendors without breaking your bank.

 

Organizational Skillz: How to keep track of wedding planning details

Planning weddings is a little bit like a game of wack-a-mole: you tackle one big detail - like your venue - and suddenly a bunch of other details that need to be resolved, rear their heads.  The venue now needs you to get vendor certificates of insurance, and deliver a timeline and diagram; you need to hire a florist; your tall bridesmaid can't fit in the dress that everyone else likes and is on sale for just one more week; etc etc. And don't get me started about all those wedding checklists out there on the world wide web - there are so many, and some of them are exhaustive (and exhausting). Having a system to stay organized is the best way to keep productive and sane.

Get a Binder and use GoogleDocs.

Binders are the best - you can print out and store contracts, timelines, and all other paperwork in divided sections.  Also, start storing your guest list on googledocs so you can update it at anywhere at any time.

My beloved Trapper Keeper.  Allows me to take files from the office to the home, and keep my ongoing paper to do list safe and sound.

My beloved Trapper Keeper.  Allows me to take files from the office to the home, and keep my ongoing paper to do list safe and sound.

 

Find a good checklist.

There are a few good checklists out there - Aisleplanner.com is a web-based professional-grade one worth investing in, and serves the same role as googledocs, but like, on steroids. 

But, there are a few online wedding planning checklists out there that are over the top. I think they are written by folks who are into providing content as much as they are in providing an efficient framework.  My checklist is just one page - the broad strokes - and keeps it fairly simple.  Then my clients don't get buried in minutae. This one by Real Simple is very clear, non-overwhelming, and timed fairly well.

Delegate.

Send your fiance to research cake and invitations; your mom to order and assemble the favors.  Delegate a few small things so you can focus on the bigger elements; you'll be grateful for the help!

Make sure Wedding Design doesn't destroy you

I started noticing that clients from time to time would become nearly catatonic with indecision about their wedding design. They'd freak out about making the best choice, whether it was using a white flower or an ivory flower - that kind of thing. The first time it happened, I wanted to shake the bride or groom and go "it's just a flower!! It will be okay!"  And I provide florals and design for clients, so it wasn't me blowing off the design, it was me knowing when to stop, when to settle on something that would look beautiful and on-theme.  And I can tell some clients were almost up at night about it!  Here are a few brutally honest tips for making sure design doesn't destroy you.

 

This couple created cute take-home centerpieces that could be made ahead and looked really modern and sleek.  No stress, no mess, super easy and guests were charmed. Photo by  Hanna Arista.

This couple created cute take-home centerpieces that could be made ahead and looked really modern and sleek.  No stress, no mess, super easy and guests were charmed. Photo by Hanna Arista.

1.  You are not going to win a medal for having the best wedding design ever. 

No one from Brides magazine is going to come out and judge it. if you want to be published, and you do want to use it as an occasion to show off your aesthetics, then tell your planner and/or florist and they'll guide you to a distinctive design that may have a shot at it.  (That said, the first priority i would think is having a thoughtful, spiritual and/or meaningful union with your true love surrounded by friends and family, but hey! To each his/her own.)  Reason why I say that is often time brides and grooms get excited about decor that has already been around the circuit for awhile and event vendors can actually guide your design to be a little more cutting edge, modern, i.e. not look like the dozens of other weddings that website/blog editors are getting every day.  So trust them. They know best.

2.  The less you debate about design, the more likely you are to make a focused decision. 

If you completely doubt yourself or are so nervous about picking the right look that you start to panic and go back and forth endlessly about the 'right' design, you're not going to make good decisions.

3.  So, decide what you like in general - not in weddings, but in your life. 

What's your apartment like?  What recurring theme do you see in your home/garden themed Pinterest boards? A certain color theme?  White and glass decor?  As sappy as this sounds, the right guidance lies within you - not in looking at OTHER'S wedding design.  So go with your gut. 

I love seeing reflections of couples' personalities!  The signage is reminiscent of the bride and groom's sense of humor, and escort cards made of wood slices and calligraphy by friends of the bride and groom guide guests to their seats. Photo by  True Photography.

I love seeing reflections of couples' personalities!  The signage is reminiscent of the bride and groom's sense of humor, and escort cards made of wood slices and calligraphy by friends of the bride and groom guide guests to their seats. Photo by True Photography.

4. And again...you are not going to win a medal for best wedding design. 

After it's all over the flowers get tossed (eventually), the favors are left rolling around on the floor or discarded, and someone else is in the same space perhaps 24 hours later getting married. And what do you want to remember? You impressed your friends with a killer design,? Or the look of your fiance's face when you walked down the aisle? Priorities, kids...priorities.

 

Pro Tips for Peace of Mind: Keep your Cool when things hit the fan

Photo by Shani Barel

Photo by Shani Barel

I have to say, when I started the business, I had no idea what I was getting into.  Time after time, vendors and clients mention how "calm" I am.  But there have been many moments, the first year or two of the business, where I felt overtaken by anger or frustration (let's remember event planning is considered one of the top 10 most stressful jobs).  So I've worked hard to separate my emotions from the job at hand. You can use these tips to stay calm when a family member provokes you, a vendor is driving you crazy, or you're just overall cranky from the stress of planning.

1.  Think, "is this really the worst thing to happen to me right now?" Remember how much of a 'first world problem' it is to be planning your wedding.

2. Isolate the actual problem. Is your dad totally taking over the decisions?  Or is it that you're tired from work and all he did was suggest a silly song for your father/daughter dance?  Focus on the exact problem, and treat just that issue.

3.  When handling an issue, stay calm and promise yourself you can vent later.  If you need to discuss a sensitive matter with someone, and you act belligerent while talking, it'll raise their hackles.  If you stay calm, they will start to back down.  Firmly, even with a smile, insist you need things done a certain way and you're sorry that it doesn't suit them, but you hear them and understand, and respect, their opinion.  After, call your best friend and vent, have a glass of wine. go for a jog.  Do what you can to stay as absolutely calm as you can and you will be grateful you did.