30 Wedding Planning Mistakes to Avoid
Planning a wedding? You might be making one of these mistakes already. From common things couples forget to faux pas that are 100% avoidable, check out this list before you dive into any more plans for the big day.
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Not Setting a Budget
Before you set a date. Before you book a venue. Before you do anything wedding related, you and your partner have to have the budget talk. It’s not the most exciting part of planning a wedding, but it’s the most important. And it’s a great way to start discussing finances as a married couple. A budget gives you clear expectations for what you can afford and I think one of the biggest mistakes couples make is not making a thorough budget. Sure, big things like the venue, catering and DJ are all known costs, but take into account all the other charges leading up to the big day such as flights, hotels, rental cars and food expenses. And don’t forget to factor tips for vendors into the budget, too.
Making Plans Before You Set a Budget
There are a lot of fun parts to wedding planning, from the free champagne at bridal salons and tailor shops to the cake tastings. Seriously, the cake tastings are amazing. But you can’t do any of the fun stuff until you’ve set a budget. Otherwise, you might over-commit to something you really can’t afford, and that might mean taking money away from the honeymoon. Or worse, going into credit card debt over a wedding. And that is no way to start a marriage.
Setting a Date Before You Pick Your Venue
So you got engaged and you’re super excited and you want to tell the world that you’re getting married so you look at the calendar and pick the first Saturday of your favorite month and presto you’ve got a wedding date! No. Wrong. So many couples jump to setting a date before they even determine a venue. And that’s problematic because popular venues can book out more than a year in advance. Also, venues have strict fire codes and max occupancy policies. So, if you’ve already mailed out your Save the Dates and told the world about your wedding, you might just have to rethink your dream venue. My advice: Go into venue shopping with two dates in mind — a preferred and an alternate. And don’t send your Save the Dates until you’ve put down a deposit for a venue and secured the date.
Not Reading Venue Contracts
At the very least, you and your fiancé should completely read through vendor contracts. But it’s also a good idea to have a savvy friend or lawyer take a look, especially regarding wedding photography and photo rights. Most wedding planners will also review and manage vendor contracts as part of their services. Some venues won’t allow open flames and that means no romantic open candles or cute sparkler exit. Other venues have strict closing times because of city noise ordinances or a steep damages fee.
Assuming 10% of Guests Will RSVP "No"
There’s an old-school wedding planning rule that says 10% of your guests will RSVP "no." That may be true for larger weddings with 300+ guests, but for smaller weddings you’ve likely already culled down the list to close friends and family — the people who really will show up. Sometimes couples get into sticky situations with their venues where a venue has a strict fire code or max capacity for people and a couple will promise that their guest list will fit ... but then everyone RSVPs "yes." This isn’t church on Easter Sunday. You don’t want to have an overflow room for your wedding guests. Set a cap for your guest list and make sure you’re OK with that cap.
Not Making a Rain Plan
So you’ve researched when it’s least likely to rain in Florida and planned the most Pinterest-perfect beach wedding in the sunniest month of the year. That’s great. But I really hope there’s a beach shack nearby if a thunderstorm pops up. Never trust the weather for outdoor weddings. Ever. You should always have an indoor plan and it shouldn’t be an afterthought. It’s something you should plan from day one when you pick your venue. My advice: If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, choose an indoor reception venue. That way, if it does rain, you’ve already booked an indoor venue for the day and won’t have to scramble or spend more money on rentals.
Buying an Outfit Before You Pick the Venue
So you just got engaged and you have a stack of bridal magazines and you’ve watched Say Yes to the Dress for years and you know the exact silhouette you want and you’ve popped into a bridal salon on your lunch break and they have the dress of your dreams and it must be fate so you should buy it, right? Whoa. Stop. If you don’t have a venue picked out, you’re not ready for dress shopping. The venue 100% affects the style of clothes and color palette you choose for the wedding. You don’t want to get stuck with a gorgeous Art Deco beaded gown if you end up getting married on a rustic, bohemian farm.
Blowing Your Budget on Just the Dress
Too many brides blow their budget on the dress and then don’t have any extra cash for accessories. When you think about your outfit budget, plan on the dress, shoes, jewelry and hair accessories. If you’re wearing a suit, plan on dapper accessories such as cufflinks, oxfords, dress socks (Why are dressy socks so expensive?!), a pocket square, tie or a vest for a three-piece suit. And then there’s that tricky, hidden, not-so-little cost of alterations. Depending on what you need, the cost of alterations could be a third of the cost for a dress or suit so definitely talk with your tailor or bridal salon about changes you want to make and ask them to provide an estimate of alteration costs before you buy.
Trying to Do Everything Yourself
For me, planning my wedding was a very important exercise in delegation. As a Type A, Virgo, I whole-heartedly understand the want and need to oversee every little detail about your wedding. But you need a break. And on the big day, you won’t be able to run around doing every little thing. Include your partner in the planning even if they say they don’t care. It’s important to involve them. And when your friends say they’d be glad to help, believe them. I didn’t want to burden my friends with tasks, but then I realized that their help is like a wedding present. And I promise, once you start delegating tasks, the wedding stress gets better.
Trying to DIY Everything
Here at HGTV, we love to DIY. But just because you can DIY, doesn’t mean you should. If you think you’re going to do your own flowers, then just know the reality is that you’ll be up early the morning of your wedding working when you could be enjoying time getting ready with your wedding party and family. A good rule of thumb is to DIY things that can be done ahead of time, like DIY wedding favors. But leave the last-minute and perishable stuff to the wedding vendors.
Not Setting Family Boundaries
I have no idea why, but unsolicited opinions seem to pop up tenfold while wedding planning, and it’s usually from close family. And that can make it super awkward. I promise it’s better to talk with parents, grandparents, siblings and in-laws ahead of time to nip things in the bud. And remember: It’s your day. If you don’t want to wear the same wedding dress that your mom and grandmother wore, that’s fine. If you don’t want to have a traditional religious ceremony, that’s fine, too. I’m not saying you should totally steamroll your family. But it’s important to stick up for yourself and not try to please others. The final say on all wedding plans should be you and your spouse-to-be.
Getting Attached to Specific Florals
Pinterest can be your enemy when shopping for wedding florals because you can fall in love with flowers that are out of your budget or have a very, very short season. And even if a flower is in season and in your budget, sometimes crops fail or mother nature gets in the way. This summer, ash from a volcano eruption in South America delayed tons of shipments of ranunculus to the states. And remember: If you’re booking months and months out, a florist is only guessing on what will be in your budget. My advice: Don’t get obsessed with one specific flower. Instead, work with your florist to determine a color you like and a shape you like. For example, I was hell-bent on having lamb’s ear everywhere at my wedding. But the type I wanted (Wooly Lamb’s Ear) was insanely expensive so I subbed in fuzzy dusty miller instead.
Going Down the Pinterest Rabbit Hole
Oh, Pinterest. It’s great for initial ideas on wedding themes, but Pinterest makes it super hard to commit to a plan. Everything is so pretty and looks so perfect and it’s easy to second guess your choices. For me, it was the cake. There are so many different styles and amazing examples on Pinterest and I got so caught up in trends. I’m pretty sure the baker wanted to murder me for all the back and forth. So heed my warning: Once you’ve made a decision on something, like the color palette or florals, it’s final answer. Move on and stay away from Pinterest!
Not Giving Your Photographer a Shot List
Even if you hire a photographer who is the best in the business, they can’t read your mind about what you want and what you want captured from your wedding. You need to talk to your photographer before the wedding and go over all the things you want captured. And that goes beyond traditional portraits. Think about the little things that you’d like captured, too, such as a photo of your wedding program or your rings stacked on top of your vow books. And it’s important to talk to your photographer about any body issues or how you like to be photographed. I struggle with body dysmorphia and I let my photographer know that I’m insecure about certain things, especially my arms. Because she knew that going into the shoot, she knew not to take a lot of portraits with me in total profile.
Not Asking for an Unplugged Ceremony
You’d think it would be common courtesy, but if you don’t deliberately tell guests — and I mean with multiple signs — they won’t know social media is off-limits during your wedding. And then you’ll end up tagged in a Facebook album of blurry photos from your very small and intimate ceremony by your Aunt Linda. And Aunt Linda doesn’t understand privacy settings so now the whole world can see them. Think that’s rude? Check out 20 more insanely rude things people will do at your wedding. If you want a social-media-free, unplugged ceremony, have your ushers, wedding coordinator and officiant remind guests when they arrive and enter the venue.
Skipping a Hair and Makeup Trial
When you book a makeup artist or hairstylist for the big day, it’s a good idea to go ahead and book the additional hair and makeup trial. Yes, it’s an additional expense, but it’s worth it because you iron out what works and what doesn’t. Maybe you thought an updo on Pinterest was cute but after seeing it on yourself you realize that you’ve never worn an updo in your life and it just looks wrong. Maybe you wanted a bold lip and a dramatic eye but you realize it just doesn’t look like you. Before you go for your trial, send pictures of your wedding outfit and accessories to your stylist so they have an idea of what would pair well.
Not Prepping Tip Envelopes
That last week before a wedding is full of one-off tasks that really add up, but make sure you make time to prep tip envelopes for all of your vendors, such as the venue staff. If you don’t have a wedding coordinator, ask a close friend to distribute the envelopes during the reception for you.
Not Feeding Your Vendors
So, you’ve got your RSVPs which means you know how much food to order for your reception. Well, almost. Too many couples forget to include food for their vendors. Or worse, they just assume vendors will eat what’s left. (And that’s usually just cheese cubes from cocktail hour.) It’s incredibly rude not to feed your vendors especially since they can’t exactly leave the venue to go get food.
Registering Without Thinking It Over
Before you get barcode-scanner happy, take a step back as a couple and ask yourselves “What do we really need?” It’s not the 1950s and chances are you probably already have all the kitchen essentials and housewares that would go on a traditional registry. But that doesn’t mean you can just ask for cash. People still like to know they’re contributing to something. Think about experiential gifts like a honeymoon fund. My wife and I listed different activities and upgrades for our honeymoon, from snorkeling to a Jeep rental to room service credits, so that guests still felt like they were giving us something special. You could also create a fund for a down payment on a new home or renovation on your current home. Check out our roundup of alternative registries below for more ideas.
Not Scheduling Time to Greet Guests
If you’re not doing a receiving line, you should schedule time during the reception to say hello and thank people for coming. One of the most common times for this is after dinner and before toasts or dancing. It’s easy during this sweet spot because you can visit tables one by one ensuring that you don’t forget anyone. This method also prevents any Chatty Kathys from taking up too much time and ensures you can make the rounds to each table. It’s also good to loop your wedding coordinator in so they can help move you along to the next table and make the rounds.
Getting Caught Up With Tradition
I got a lot of (unsolicited) opinions about my decision to walk myself down the aisle. So many people fretted over this and expressed their concern that someone wasn’t giving me away. And at first, I was upset about it, too. But then I took a step back and asked myself, “Where does this tradition come from? And is it important to me?” You don’t have to do what has always been done. And don’t let anyone pressure you into performing a tradition just because everyone else does it. Feel empowered now? Good. Check out our list of 20 wedding traditions you can totally nix below.
Not Making a Packing Plan
If you’re leaving for your honeymoon directly after the wedding, you probably don’t want to take a bulky dress or suit with you. Have someone collect the things from the wedding that you don’t need for the honeymoon so that you don’t have to scramble the next morning. Typically, the maid of honor or the best man handles this but you could ask any close friend or family member.
Forgetting the Actual Marriage License
You’d be surprised how many couples forget to apply for their marriage license while planning a wedding. Sure, dressing up and having a party is nice but the actual, legally binding document that proves you’re married should be a top priority. And make sure you’ve done your research on your state as different states have different windows of time for applying and different windows of time for a marriage application being valid. Don’t forget to budget for this, too: States that are more popular for destination weddings, such as Florida, have higher marriage license fees.
Not Having a Cleanup Plan
Chances are you’ve put a lot of thought into the reception — from the music to the late-night snacks to your grand, getaway exit. But once you’re gone, the sparklers are extinguished and your guests leave, there’s a whole lot to clean up. Do you have a plan? Some venues have very strict clean-up policies. My own venue was adamant that decor and debris must be collected and removed from the site by midnight. Obviously, hauling trash bags around is not what you want to do on your wedding night so make a clear plan with your wedding coordinator or ask your wedding party for help. And don’t put it all on one person. Delegate tasks. Maybe your aunt takes all the florals home to donate them to a local nursing home. Your best friend and her date have a truck so they take the furniture rentals home. I think it’s also best to let people in your clean-up crew know that their help is their wedding gift and that you’re not expecting anything from your registry. I had a friend take my bouquet and mail it to an artist on Etsy to have it pressed as art. The peace of mind of knowing that everything is taken care of is the best gift of all.
Not Having a Gift Plan
You’re not supposed to bring gifts (even cards!) to a wedding, but so many guests don’t know traditional wedding etiquette. So, you should designate someone to collect your gifts and cards at the end of the night. And if you’re rusty on wedding etiquette, check out our roundup of common mistakes guests make at weddings below.
Ordering Flowers Without Considering Your Outfit
Yes, those giant cascading bouquets on Pinterest look incredible, but they’ll also cover up most of your outfit in your wedding portraits. It’s really important to send photos of your wedding outfit and accessories to your florist when ordering bouquets and boutonnieres so they know how to design your florals. It also lets your florist know how dressy or casual your wedding is. Wrapping boutonnieres in burlap is cute for a rustic, barn wedding but not good for a black-tie affair.
Telling Everyone All the Wedding Details
Planning a wedding is exciting and it’s tempting to tell everyone about the brass brand you’ve booked or the surprise food truck that will serve donuts at the end of the night. But don’t. Sure, everyone will press you for details at your shower or bachelor/bachelorette party, but try not to spill all the beans and keep some surprises for guests. That goes for your wedding outfit, too. Keep it under wraps until you walk out on the big day for a bigger impact.
Trying to Please Others
Something that surprised me with planning my own wedding is how often people will interject their own opinion of your wedding choices. I got married on a Saturday in September and several people complained that they were missing an important football game. So rude. Just remember this: It’s your day, not theirs. It’s your party, not theirs. When you make wedding decisions, the only people who need to be in agreement is you and the person you’re marrying. So if you love coral and want every single floral in your venue to be coral even though your soon-to-be mother-in-law hates coral and has told you she doesn’t think your wedding should be coral, you rock on and slay with coral.
Going on a Crazy Crash Diet
The first thing many people asked me after I told them I was engaged was if I was going to go on a diet. I was shocked, but, unfortunately, losing weight has become synonymous with wedding planning. And I’ll admit, wedding dress shopping puts a magnifying glass up to all those insecurities you have about your body. I already struggle with body positivity, so wedding outfit shopping wasn’t exactly fun for me. During my engagement, I lost sight of the very important truth that my partner loves me for what I am currently. Remember: You shouldn’t have to drastically change yourself for someone or for a picture-perfect wedding.
Sweating the Small Stuff
Here’s the thing about wedding planning: You can’t plan for perfect. Because there is no perfect wedding. Something will go wrong. Maybe all the zippers in your bridesmaids’ dresses break and you have to sew them up on the fly with floral wire. (True story. This happened to my neighbor at her wedding.) Or maybe the DJ mispronounces your name when you walk out with your spouse for the first time. (Yep, that totally happened to me.) You can be mad and fret over things that you can’t change or you can just roll with it. If you and your person got married, it was a perfect wedding.