When I shared what I had dubbed my “10 Commandments of Wedding Planning” to my Instagram stories, I had no idea what the response might be. Within minutes my DMs were flooded with fellow wedding vendors in agreement, brides-and-grooms-to-be thanking me for pointing out a common planning mistake they were about to commit, and newlyweds sharing their own anecdotes that supported my points. I was blown away.
I’ve always joked that the Chancey Charm team (which includes over 30 planners nationwide) could easily fill a novel with all of our stories of wedding mishaps and planning heartaches. From push starting a vintage car for the send-off, to hospital visits courtesy of a guest’s sparkler gone awry, to the wonderful saga that is planning amidst a pandemic, after 10 years of planning and designing, our team has seen our fair share of unique challenges.
Yet, there are some common planning pitfalls that we still see couples perpetrating again-and-again when figuring out how to start wedding planning, often leaving them stressed and confused. The great news is that most of these are committed simply because they didn’t know what they didn’t know. So let’s change that! Grab your boo, and let’s chat about the 10 Hard and Fast Wedding Rules to Live By.
When I get asked by couples, family, and friends how to start wedding planning my answer is always “by making a realistic budget.” You may not know the exact market value of certain design elements you’ve been pinning – that’s where a wedding planner can come in handy, by the way – but you should be sure you can afford the venue of your dreams before putting down a deposit.
When I’m working with a client, we start with their financial comfort zone, guest count, and average percentage ranges to build a realistic starting budget. The percentage range we use to determine how much they have to allocate to their venue is 15-20%. To put that into practice, if you have set aside $50,000 to spend on your wedding overall, your venue allocation should be no more than $10,000.
Planners receive so many inquiries from couples who are, what we call, “venue poor.” They’ve blown their total wedding budget on a venue that doesn’t match their financial comfort zone. Now they’ve spent well over the recommended 20% max on a venue alone and we, as planners, take on the undesirable role as dream crusher to explain that there are two options: spend more money than planned or drastically alter the vision.
I’m sure Paige can back me up that all the photographers reading this just said, “AMEN!”
In all seriousness, you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t talk to your photographer before you set your ceremony start time. Based on the time of year, you might need to adjust your ideal start time to ensure there is enough light for photographs before, during, and after the ceremony.
This is especially true for couples who want to honor the tradition of not seeing each other until they walk down the aisle. All of your portraits together will have to be taken after the ceremony meaning you will need more sunlight post-“I Do” to get all the dreamy portraits that drew you to your photographer in the first place.
When researching how to start wedding planning, couples are often concerned with making sure they incorporate traditions. As a planner, I get questions all the time about what couples “have” to do and how they “must” structure their day. However, forcing traditions you don’t care about into your wedding day is a surefire way to take the fun out of the process. If a tradition is important to you, by all means include it! But if you are feeling forced to conform to a wedding “norm,” I encourage you to talk to your planner about alternatives that fit you and fiancé more naturally.
The structure of your day should be as personal as the design details. By creating an entire experience that is centered on your love story and your values, you and your guests will have a more authentic and enjoyable wedding day experience.
It is so easy when you start wedding planning to get caught up in the dolla, dolla bills. I even made creating a realistic budget the first hard & fast rule in this list! But it’s important to understand that a price tag does not denote value or quality.
Wedding Planning is a delicate balance of priorities, personalities, and realities.
What I’m getting at is, go beyond the bottom line when comparing options for your wedding day team. If food is your number one priority, look over sample menus, read reviews, and even pay for a tasting with your top two to three choices before choosing to sign on the bottom line. Don’t make decisions on important elements based on two sheets of paper with a number on them.
When I first shared this list on my Instagram stories, multiple couples slid into my DMs to share their own horror stories about this very mistake. While it might seem straightforward, you’d be surprised at the number of people who make the mathematical error.
They usually have read a tip online that shares the percentage of guests who typically RSVP “no” and then add that percentage onto their venue’s maximum capacity. But what are you going to do if you receive a higher than average ‘yes’ RSVP percentage? Uninvite them? Break up seating between multiple rooms, if even possible? This is playing with fire.
I spoke with a potential client recently who shared, in detail, her dream all white wedding. She was passionate and painted a gorgeous picture that I could tell she believed in. Then suddenly, she shifted, “But I’ve been seeing all these gorgeous colorful weddings on Pinterest lately so now I’m really confused.” *Heart drop*
Pinterest is a great tool for saving ideas, but once design plans are set changes can cause confusion, stress, and ultimately impact your bottom line. Through personal experience both as a planner and as a bride, I urge you to get off Pinterest once you have established a design plan and clear direction. We actually save our client inspiration boards off Pinterest to help our couples stay confident in and excited for their wedding plans.
I feel like a broken record whenever I speak on this topic to couples as they start wedding planning. As a past venue coordinator, I can assure you that this is not just sales fluff I’m putting out there to help “unnecessary” wedding coordinators make money.
It boils down to this, your venue coordinator and wedding coordinator are symbiotic but different.
Let me ask you to imagine a worst case scenario: a fire has broken out at your wedding. Your venue coordinator is hired by and beholden to the venue and therefore is focused on the venue and minimizing physical damage. Your wedding coordinator is hired by and beholden to you and therefore is focused on what the next steps are for you and your guests. Both important roles, but different.
Do. Not. Pity. Invite. Especially to join your wedding party.
You may imagine that you’re avoiding stress or sidestepping an awkward experience with them in the future, but you’re likely only making it worse for “future you.”
I had a bride who pity invited a fringe member of her friend group to be a bridesmaid. The bride was hesitant, but didn’t want to make her nights out with friends uncomfortable by leaving her out. As the big day approached, she realized that not only was this bridesmaid not a good fit, it had become a toxic situation for herself, the wedding party, and her friend group as a whole. Ultimately, she decided she needed to un-invite the bridesmaid from the wedding party to ensure that her big day wasn’t tainted by the situation. The entire experience was far more awkward and uncomfortable than it ever would have been had she simply never invited the woman out of pity in the first place.
Let’s not forget that our vendors are, indeed, human. This rule covers a multitude of sins, however, I’ll focus on the one that I get questions about most often: vendor meals.
Your wedding day team may be expansive, but I’m specifically focusing on those who will be on-site for six or more hours and often over at least one, if not two, meal times. This typically includes your photographers, cinematographers, entertainment, coordination or planning team, and can sometimes include venue staff or security.
It is not only humane but often contractual that you provide them with a hot meal. Unless stated in the contract, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same meal the guests are receiving. However, remember this when discussing vendor meals with your caterer: these are the people who are already working their butts off to make your day as perfect as possible. While we always go the extra mile for our couples, I am far more likely to be willing to do something outside of our scope for the person who treats me as a planning partner rather than a personal assistant.
Especially as an Enneagram 1, perfectionist planner, it’s hard to admit it, but I’m not perfect. And in my imperfection, I ordered these rules backwards, but, nevertheless, this is most certainly the most important rule.
Thou shalt not take wedding planning too seriously.
I know how much you want this wedding day to be perfect. Yet, I urge you to remember, your wedding day is not your marriage.
I repeat it again because this is the most important thing I could say to you as a wedding planner who loves and cares very deeply about all those tiny details you’re stressing over right now: Your wedding is not your marriage.
If you forget all the other rules – although, please don’t – I hope you can hold onto those final six words as you continue to plan your dream wedding day. There is going to be a lot of information thrown at you. Checklist. Articles. Questionnaires. Well meaning advice from complete & total nosy strangers. But what this day boils down to is the confirmation and celebration of your commitment to one another. This should be the focus in everything you plan.
Skylar is the Houston Team Director for Chancey Charm Weddings. With over 85 weddings under her belt, as well as 7+ years on the Chancey Charm team, Skylar love supporting couples who feel overwhelmed by the amount of inspiration, details and logistics involved in planning their wedding. She helps all of her clients feel more at ease and excited about their wedding day by streamlining the planning process, helping them to refine their design vision, and guiding them each step of the way. Not only does Skylar create beautiful weddings for her couples, but she intentionally curates the natural flow of each event space she designs to encourage connection, conversation, and celebration. When Skylar is not dreaming up elegant events for her clients, you can find her playing sous chef to her husband, Matt, or snuggling her Goldendoodle, Reis–short for Reisling.