Do, Don't & Wish I Did: Wedding Planning Tips From HGTV Staff

Borrow our best ideas, learn from our worst mistakes and vow to make the most of your own once-in-a-lifetime day.

September 17, 2019
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Photo By: Leah Bullard Photography

Photo By: Leah Bullard Photography

Photo By: Leah Bullard Photography

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Photo By: Juicebeats Photography

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Photo By: Lauren Helms

Photo By: Lauren Helms

Do: Be Clear About the Photos You Want

"Talk with your photographer ahead of time about all the people you’d like pictures with. On the big day, you will be so overwhelmed that you might forget someone, so it's important to have a list prepared ahead of time to make sure you get photos with everyone who is important to you." - Lauren Fansler, Editor. Photo by Leah Bullard Photography

SEE MORE: 24 Can't-Miss Wedding Day Photo Ops

Don't: Try to Do It All Yourself

"You will have plenty of other things to be doing, so hiring a day-of wedding coordinator is a good investment. There are so many little details to handle the day of, and hiring someone whose job it is to manage those details will be well worth the money." - Lauren Fansler, Editor. Photo by Leah Bullard Photography

SEE MORE: 3 Things to DIY + 3 Things to Leave to the Pros on Your Wedding Day

Wish I Did: Packed a Pair of Flats

"I wish I had brought a pair of flats to wear on the dance floor! By the end of the night, my feet were aching." - Lauren Fansler, Editor. Photo by Leah Bullard Photography

Do: Set a Timeline for Key Planning Milestones

"It will help keep everything tracking forward in an orderly fashion. For our wedding, we found it useful to create RFPs [documents outlining vision, wants and needs] for venue solicitation, floral needs, DJ services and the cake. We also created Pinterest boards of styles we liked for everything from engagement photography poses and grooms’ attire, to cake and flower inspiration!" - Cory Chapman, Marketing Director. Photo by Juicebeats Photography

SEE MORE: Wedding Planning 101: How to Work With Vendors + Stay Organized

Don't: Reveal Everything Ahead of Time

"An element of surprise can add a truly special quality to the day while ensuring your guests walk away with an experience they won’t soon forget! For our wedding, we told everybody it would be a 'simple brunch event' with the vow exchange happening in the restaurant we had taken over. What they didn’t know was that post-nuptials, brunch and toasts from loved ones, we would launch into a surprise drag show, complete with Brooke Lynn Hytes of RuPaul's Drag Race! To say people had the best time is an understatement." - Cory Chapman, Marketing Director. Photo by Juicebeats Photography

Wish I Did: Hired a Videographer

"We ultimately went with an intimate venue and hosted about 60 people. While it was perfect for us in so many ways, our space limitations meant that we opted not to do a videographer. Now that the day has come and gone, I would give anything to relive it particularly because we delivered our own vows, and I can imagine no greater music than the sound of the man I love more than anything speaking his vows to me." - Cory Chapman, Marketing Director. Photo by Juicebeats Photography

Do: Invest in a Travel Agent & Babysitter

"[There are] two things I highly suggest doing that made our day perfect. Number one, work with a travel agent. If you have lots of guests coming in from out of town, it's best to have a travel agent as the main point of contact for travel and accommodations. This takes one more thing off your plate, and when issues arise, the travel agent knows how to handle everything. Ours took care of all the details with the hotels for our blocks, arranged our honeymoon and made sure our wedding party and guests were where they needed to be and on time. This made the wedding and honeymoon carefree! Number two, if your family insists that kids come to the wedding, make sure to put some of your budget towards a babysitter. We had one booked all night, but even just [having one for] the ceremony makes a big difference. That way the event is kid-free and everyone is happy." - Karen Webb, Associate Producer. Photo by Danielle Evans Photography

SEE MORE: A Look Inside an HGTV Producer's Rustic-Glam Wedding

Don't: Forget to Make a Plan for Tear-Down

"We spent all our time planning the wedding that we didn’t think about what it would take to wrap it up. Be sure to arrange some of your family and friends to help clear out the venue at the end of the night and help transport everything back home the next day. That way the two of you aren’t stuck doing it on your own." - Karen Webb, Associate Producer. Photo by Danielle Evans Photography

SEE MORE: A Look Inside an HGTV Producer's Rustic-Glam Wedding

Wish I Did: Relaxed Before the Honeymoon

"I wish I had taken a couple of days between the wedding and the honeymoon. The day after the wedding we were so busy driving home, transporting wedding supplies and gifts back to our house and packing for the honeymoon that we didn’t get a moment to recover. I remember just being so exhausted from the event the next day, and it would have been nice to have two days after the wedding to catch our breath and go into the honeymoon feeling relaxed." - Karen Webb, Associate Producer. Photo by Danielle Evans Photography

SEE MORE: A Look Inside an HGTV Producer's Rustic-Glam Wedding

Do: Hire a Wedding Coordinator & Incorporate Family Heirlooms

"If you can, find a venue that has some sort of a baked-in coordinator. We were married at Half Mile Farm, a charming country inn located in the North Carolina mountains. Since it was a destination wedding, we had a wonderful coordinator help us with vendors and day-of events. There was no added cost, as we rented out the inn for the weekend. Also, incorporate a few family memories. We incorporated a lot of antiques and things from family to give the day a special touch: cut glass and jars from my grandfather’s hardware store, pictures of our parents and grandparents on their wedding day in antique frames, and my dress was made from my mother and grandmother’s wedding dress with 60-year-old Chantilly lace." - Virginia Moon, Managing Editor. Photo by Heather Anne Thomas

SEE MORE: Something Old, Something New: 45 Ways to Give Your Wedding Timeless Style

Don't: Stress Over the Small Stuff

"If you’ve got a venue, booze, food and someone to marry you and your partner, then you’re doing great! - Virginia Moon, Managing Editor. Photo by Heather Anne Thomas

Wish I Did: Soaked It All in

"I wish I had listened to everyone when they said the weekend will fly. It really did. We were so lucky to have so many wonderful people make the trip to celebrate us." - Virginia Moon, Managing Editor. Photo by Heather Anne Thomas

Do: Be Selective About Your Vendors

"And then trust them to do their job well! Because my husband and I had a longer engagement, we used that extra time to find vendors we loved (like our wedding coordinator, Spoke Events and our florist, Loden Floral Design), who produced quality work and who we just 'clicked' with on a personal level. In turn, we felt comfortable communicating our ideas and confident in their ability to turn those ideas around, so we never had to stress about what something would look like later on." - Katie Friedman, Contributing Writer. Photo by Jessica Lynn Perry

Don't: Go Over Budget

"There were definitely vendors that I wanted to work with, but whose price points didn't match our budget. So, instead of spending an extra $1,000 here or another $1,000 there, we did more research and found vendors that we loved who could pull off a similar (or even better) look for less. Everyone tells you that you should get everything you want on your wedding day, but I don't regret prioritizing my must-haves and then finding affordable alternatives for the rest." - Katie Friedman, Contributing Writer. Photo by Jessica Lynn Perry

Wish I Did: Remembered to Eat Something

"I'd heard those 'horror stories' about brides who didn't eat during their own weddings, and truly never thought I'd be one. How could I not eat the food I helped pick out?! But ultimately, I was so nervous before the ceremony and then so excited to see everyone during the reception that all I managed were two quick bites during dinner. By the end of the night, I was starving. It's a good thing the caterers sent us home with leftovers!" - Katie Friedman, Contributing Writer. Photo by Jessica Lynn Perry

SEE MORE: 58 Simple (and Delicious!) Wedding Cakes and Desserts You Can Make Yourself

Do: Consider Alternative Registries

"Honeymoon funds and universal registries give you and guests lots of options. My husband and I were fortunate enough to own everything we needed for our first home together, so we set up a honeymoon registry where guests could gift us experiences, like a wine tasting or train tickets. It made for a really special trip." - Molly Miller, Assistant Editor

MORE IDEAS: Alternative Wedding Registry Options for the Modern Couple

Don't: Spend a Lot on Stationery

"Invitations, save the dates, menus, programs, place settings – any paper item. Guests will toss these almost immediately, or worse, won’t even notice/use them. Sure, bespoke stationery looks gorgeous, but is it really worth spending $700+ dollars on pieces of cardstock that end up in the trash? Put that money towards something guests will remember, like exceptional food and drink." - Molly Miller, Assistant Editor

Wish I Did: Used My Own Photobooth

"I DIY’d the whole thing and didn’t even get one picture in it. So, please, brides, enjoy every aspect of the beautiful, welcoming atmosphere you spent so many months creating!" - Molly Miller, Assistant Editor

SEE MORE: Amazon Has Everything You Need for a DIY Wedding Photo Booth

Do: Skip Traditions You Don't Care for

"And fill that time with the ones you do like. I was adamant that we wouldn’t do a bouquet or garter toss. I had attended several weddings where I was one of the few single guests. One of those came after a particularly bad breakup, so I hid in the bathroom during the bouquet toss. I didn’t want to put anyone else through that! It just meant more time for us to break it down on the dance floor." - Beth Rucker, Managing Editor for Photography. Photo by Jessica Lowry Vizzutti

MORE IDEAS: 20 Traditions to Forget on Your Wedding Day

Don't: Get Caught Up in Small Details

"Or problems on the day of your wedding. The day moves so fast that it will turn into a blur. In retrospect, the little stuff will seem so insignificant, if you remember it at all. Save your energy for the joyful moments, big and small, and for the loved ones who surround you. That’s the stuff that sticks over the years." - Beth Rucker, Managing Editor for Photography. Photo by Jessica Lowry Vizzutti

Wish I Did: Scheduled Time to Greet Guests

"We passed on doing a receiving line, so we should have spent some dedicated time during the dancing making our rounds, but we love dancing and the DJ was so good that it was hard to walk away from the dance floor. We missed out on talking with a few of our guests, which I regret, as it’s a rare occasion to have so many of your friends and family in one place." - Beth Rucker, Managing Editor for Photography. Photo by Jessica Lowry Vizzutti

Do: Invest in a Quality Photographer and DJ

"I have two top tips. One, spend the most money on the photographer. [Their work] will be the majority of what you reference back to for years to come. If you go cheap and the photos stink, there's no going back! Two, hire a great DJ or band. [They] really make or break the feel of your event. It’s also so helpful to have someone announcing what comes next — cocktail hour, introducing the new bride and groom, the father-daughter dance, toasts, etc." - Cassidy Garcia, Photographer & Stylist. Photo by Jennie Andrews Photography

Don't: Delay Your Honeymoon

"Don't skimp on the honeymoon and say you'll take a better one later. We didn't have the money at the time, so we opted to wait and take ours later — five years later! If I could go back, I would put that bad boy on a credit card and live it up. You only live once, and I wish I had made the honeymoon something to cherish." - Cassidy Garcia, Photographer & Stylist. Photo by Jennie Andrews Photography

Wish I Did: Hired a Videographer & Wedding Planner

"Again, the budget was tight at the time. We had the most amazing family that jumped in and helped, all hands on deck. But looking back 10 years later, I wish I could hear my husband reading his vows to me. I wish I had his thoughts or our laughter in the moments. I just think it would be so special to relive that day again with video. I also wish that I'd had a stylist or planner who could have created budget-friendly options to cut other costs and make room for more of what I cherished. This would have allowed my family to sit back during that day and enjoy it instead of running around trying to get everything done. " - Cassidy Garcia, Photographer & Stylist. Photo by Jennie Andrews Photography

Do: Let Your Friends & Family Help

"We took our friends up on their offers to do everything from arrange flowers to brew beer for the reception to take photos. Having those personal touches added to the experience and helped us stick to a budget." - Kelly Smith Trimble, Editorial Director

Don't: Go Into Debt for a Wedding

"Starting your life together off with a bunch of debt just for a Pinterest-perfect party seems completely backward to me. Believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way. We stuck to a very small budget and had an absolutely wonderful day." - Kelly Smith Trimble, Editorial Director

Wish I Did: It All Over Again

"I can’t think of anything I’d change. We did what we wanted, we stuck to our budget, people had fun, and we got married. What more could you ask for?" - Kelly Smith Trimble, Editorial Director

Do: Be Candid & Direct

"You don’t have to be a bridezilla (or groomzilla!), but you should be very specific about what you do and don’t want on your wedding day. I’m not usually a confrontational person, but when the event coordinator took it upon herself to decorate our ceremony site with corn stalks and mums, I knew I needed to put my foot down. A polite, 'Thank you, but that’s not my vision,' worked like a charm." - Ellie Sanders, Assistant Editor. Photo by Erin McCall Photography

Don't: Forget to Enjoy Your Food

"This was the #1 piece of advice we got during the planning process, and I’m glad we paid attention. We served our absolute favorite BBQ and I would have been devastated had I missed out. You’re paying for it, so you should enjoy it!" - Ellie Sanders, Assistant Editor. Photo by Erin McCall Photography

Wish I Did: Rented a Dance Floor

"We got married outside and there was a nice flat area we designated for dancing, but without a specified space, guests weren’t really sure what to do. All in the name of saving money, I impacted one of my favorite wedding reception activities." - Ellie Sanders, Assistant Editor. Photo by Erin McCall Photography

Do: Invest in a Wedding Planner

"I would definitely recommend hiring a wedding planner and outsourcing the big stuff (like chairs, tables and draperies) to rental companies. The last thing you want to spend time doing on your wedding day is arranging furniture, ironing linens and unpacking trucks. You only have so much time — use it for the important stuff." - Chelsea Faulkner, Assistant Editor. Photo by Amber Lowe Photo

Don't: Skimp on Cocktail Hour

"Definitely don’t skimp on cocktail hour. Your guests are there for you, but they aren’t there to wait on you. Give them drinks, food and good music to enjoy while you take pictures and gear up for an evening of fun." - Chelsea Faulkner, Assistant Editor. Photo by Amber Lowe Photo

Wish I Did: Written My Own Vows

"I wish I had written my own vows and been stricter about no children being present during the ceremony. I was so focused on making the reception and venue perfect, that I skimped on the most important part — the wedding ceremony itself." - Chelsea Faulkner, Assistant Editor. Photo by Amber Lowe Photo

Do: Think Thrifty

"I knew that I wanted a haute couture gown and I went shopping for all price points, but only loved the most expensive dresses that I could never afford. So, I bought a pristine designer gown that had been worn once! It was in perfect condition, and I didn’t even pay half of what the boutiques were selling it for at full price." - Caitlin Dunn, Marketing Manager

MORE IDEAS: 30 Ways to Thrift Your Dream Wedding

Don't: Feel Obligated

"This is no one’s wedding but your own! Don’t set expectations just because they feel necessary to fall in line with tradition." - Caitlin Dunn, Marketing Manager

SEE MORE: 20 Traditions to Forget on Your Wedding Day

Wish I Did: Hired a Videographer

"I don’t have a single video from my entire wedding day. I didn’t have the budget for a videographer, but gosh, even an iPhone video would be nice to look back on and remember the day." - Caitlin Dunn, Marketing Manager