clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How to plan a wedding without losing your mind

Because your big day should still feel like you.

A drawing of a bride and groom standing beside a building. Getty Images/CSA Images RF
Terri Pous has been writing about weddings for more than 10 years. Her work has appeared in Brides, BuzzFeed, Apartment Therapy, the New York Times, Vox, and Time magazine, among others.

Planning a wedding is like doing a group project, becoming a travel agent, and mastering logistics all at once. It’s an unbelievably exciting thing to plan your future together and coordinate an event that unites all your favorite friends and family. A time with lots of champagne and presents and well wishes.

But with both of you facing this feat of project management at the same time? Even if you’re a type-A spreadsheet freak like me, a task like narrowing down the guest list to fit your budget and venue size will make you want to cry, pull out your hair, beg to be hugged, and fiendishly paw around in your cabinet for chocolate. (I’m certainly not speaking from experience here. Nope, not me.)

While I can’t negotiate a discount on a florist for you, I can offer some tips that will help you both navigate the experience with as much of a sense of poise and rationality as possible. I wrote a book on the exact topic, which includes a timeline to stick to and advice that’s served me well in my own wedding-planning process and will hopefully help you, too.

The following excerpt is adapted from How to Plan a Wedding.

You don’t have to pick just one lane when it comes to invitations

You can print invitations from an online retailer on paper you bought from Staples, and then have the envelopes hand-calligraphed. You can make your own from kits. You can get just the invitations from a traditional store and then use your own envelopes and print some address labels (or ask a friend with really good handwriting to do it and slip ’em a couple bucks for their hard work). You can send electronic invitations to everyone, and also print a handful to mail to guests who are more likely to appreciate or need them. Mix and match to your heart’s content!

Skip the videographer if you don’t have the budget for it and do the DIY route

Videographers are a great addition if you can afford them, but if not, ask guests to record moments like toasts and dances on their phones and splice it all together afterward. You can also do a livestream for guests who can’t make it in person and then keep the full footage. It won’t be edited with a pretty song in the background, but you’ll still get to relive it all and see some reactions and moments you might’ve missed.

Put a QR code for your wedding website on your save-the-dates and/or wedding invitation inserts

Wedding websites are easy places to store and share information like your venue, hotel block information, registry, and more. Set it up before you send out your save-the-dates, and then include the URL (and password, if you have one) or the QR code on your save-the-date so people can start planning (and buying presents for you) ASAP.

And collect your RSVPs online

You could send out paper RSVPs and attempt to keep track of which ones have come in and which ones may have gotten lost in the mail. But you probably don’t want that extra stress. So set up a digital RSVP form on your wedding website platform of choice (like Zola, Minted, The Knot, or Joy), and include information in your invitations telling guests to RSVP there. It’ll all get funneled into a handy spreadsheet, and you can capture things like meal choices and dietary restrictions with it, too.

Make your wedding entertainment your favors

Favors are a really fun, albeit totally optional, way to express your appreciation to your guests for being there. At the same time, things like photo booths are a fun way for guests to entertain themselves when they need a break from dancing or small talk during the reception. So combine the two and make your entertainment your favors! Plenty of photo booth companies can print the strips with your names and your wedding date so that your guests can look back at them on their fridge and smile at the memory of celebrating you.

Just do fake flowers to fill out the real ones

“How do flowers cost that much?” is one of the most common phrases uttered while wedding planning. And yes, they can indeed be pricey! When you consider that florists need to procure flowers at their peak bloom (sometimes needing to import them if they’re out of season), keep them looking fresh, create artistic showpieces like bouquets, and live up to the high standards of the couples who hire them, the sticker shock tends to fade. But it doesn’t mean that you can now grow money on trees. Instead, consider doing a combo of fake and fresh flowers. Use fresh flowers where people will see them up close and personal, like in centerpieces. Then mix in faux blooms in places like altars, ceiling installations, and boutonnieres, to offset the cost.

Dress codes can provide guidance, but above all, do you (and expect guests to do the same)

You don’t need to share your whole inspiration story, but you can guide your guests toward what might feel right for the type of event you’re hosting so that no one shows up in a floor-length gown to your backyard-barbecue vows. Do you have to dictate a dress code? Absolutely not. Will people violate your dress code even if you do dictate one? Probably. But a guest wearing white won’t invalidate your vows, nor will someone showing up in track pants and flip-flops.

What’s the deal with honeymoon, house, and pet funds versus a traditional registry?

The deal is that they’re great. If you know where you want to honeymoon, request that guests contribute to the overall trip costs or to an experience you might want, like horseback riding on the beach in the Bahamas or a meal at that Italian restaurant you saw on Chef’s Table. Not into honeymoons? You can also request that guests contribute to a new home fund or a pet fund (an increasingly popular option since 2020), or donate to a favorite charity. Asking for cash is certainly allowed, but some people may balk; regardless, these options are a clearer way of letting people know what the money is for. And if you really, truly do not want gifts or money, make sure that’s clear — but know people might give you things anyway.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

How to Plan a Wedding is available now.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.