You've flipped through the magazines, you've set up wedding boards on Pinterest -- and you've maybe even watched a wedding reality show or two (it's OK; we all do it). Four months after my big day, I'm here to give you the rundown on the things that no one will tell you about getting your big day together.
You can't do it all
It's OK to ask for help. In fact, it's necessary for your sanity. My crafty crew helped with everything from making chocolate-covered pretzels and hand-painting table numbers to constructing paper flowers and tracking down 6-inch white, unscented pillar candles. Actually, now that I think about it, I was kind of the lazy one of the bunch.
Even with the help of your family and friends, a little professional help goes a long way. If a wedding planner isn't in your budget, consider a venue with an in-house event coordinator.
Prepare yourself for some tricky conversations
The no-kids-invited talk: There is nothing wrong with having an adults-only wedding (we did!). Seriously, don't feel like you have to apologize or explain yourself. Your best bet is to let your invitations do the talking. DON'T: Write a tacky "no kids allowed" note on your beautiful invitations. DO: Be specific! Write out the names of those invited — like this: Beyonce and Shawn Carter. Not like this: The Carter Family.
The money talk: Are Mom and Dad helping foot the bill? Discussions about money are always tricky — yes, even with your parents. If your parents already brought up the idea of pitching in, you still need to pin down how much they plan to contribute. Start this conversation with a big ol' thank you — or, like five thank yous. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us with the wedding. Is there a certain expense you had in mind?" If the money talk hasn't come up at all yet, this conversation is unavoidably more awkward. Embrace the awkwardness: "We're starting to plan our budget. I know this is super-awkward, but would you be comfortable pitching in?"
The vendor talk: When planning your wedding, it's crucial to surround yourself with a solid team. Nail down your venue first (sites can book up several months in advance). Your venue can recommend other vendors they've worked with. We found our officiant, DJ and florist through our venue. After getting a few recommendations, dive into some online research, read reviews and set up meetings. Save the in-person meetings for the few vendors you're truly interested in.
As we sat in a coffee shop, waiting to meet our photographer for the first time, I felt like I was on a blind date — which was actually kind of fitting, since I met my fiance on a blind date. At vendor meetings, come prepared with a list of questions, and take notes. Don't make a final decision until you've had time to go home and talk things over.
Watch out for hidden expenses
You know about the biggies: the venue, the dress, the suit, the photographer, the DJ, the caterer, the cake, the florist. But, when putting together your budget, you'll also want to keep in mind: alterations; undergarments and accessories; tips for vendors; gifts for your bridesmaids, groomsmen and parents; and postage (if you want super-cute stamps for your super-cute invites, be prepared to possibly pay more and order online.)
The work isn't over after the wedding
The honeymoon: Start planning your getaway early because as the wedding day gets closer, you're not going to have the time — or energy — to research hotels and compare flight prices. Keep hotel and flight information, confirmation numbers and passports together in a safe place. And, please don't put pressure on yourself to plan the trip of a lifetime. This trip is about relaxing, and enjoying the giddy oh-my-gawd-we're-freaking-married phase. Save the elaborate Europe trip for your anniversary.
Thank-you cards: I have no idea when you're supposed to send out thank-you cards [Editor's note: we didn't either. Check out our Q&A with an etiquette expert.]. What I can tell you is do not attempt to tackle them all at once. I spent a couple hours on weekends, working on small batches. I kept my thank yous short-and-sweet and conversational. Oh, and if anyone figures out a non-awkward, polite way to thank guests for monetary gifts, let me know.
Changing your last name: If you're changing your last name, your first stops should be the Social Security Administration and the Motor Vehicle Administration. Then, work your way down the list: bank accounts, employers, insurance companies and so on. The list seems never-ending, but take your time. You don't have to get it all done in one weekend.
It's OK to break The Rules
Seriously, who came up with The Rules anyway? My bridesmaids picked out their own dresses, and the guys rocked different ties. For our recessional, a string trio played a pop-punk ballad (Don't judge. It was totally "our song" back in the day). My point is: When planning a wedding, there aren't really any rules. Just do you.
It's about to get real
Wedding planning is intense. Not to rain on your love parade, but this huge milestone may open up some old wounds. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but planning a wedding can trigger this very reflective state of mind. You may suddenly have the urge to re-examine every strained relationship, or call a long-lost relative. Just. Stop. A wedding isn't a Band-Aid or a cure-all. It's an insanely happy day; surround yourself with people who are insanely happy for you.
You'll smile more than you've ever smiled in your life
You'll probably cry, too — happy tears, stress tears, just-because tears. Most of all, you'll be overwhelmed and humbled by the love of your family and friends.