Biggest Wedding Planning Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
When planning your wedding, mistakes will happen — best to set aside any perfectionist tendencies now. This is a complex event with lots of moving pieces to track, even if your wedding is small or you hired a wedding planner.
However, you can learn from others who walked down the aisle before you. When you know where problems commonly crop up, you can steer clear of them — and manage the inevitable (hopefully smaller) issues gracefully. Read on to learn the most common wedding planning mistakes, and helpful tips to avoid these snafus.
Explore 8 of the biggest wedding planning mistakes couples make:
1. Planning before you set your wedding budget.
Shopping for a dress or searching for a wedding venue before you establish a budget is a recipe for disappointment. Before you know it, you’ll have your heart set on things beyond your spending cap.
Avoid the problem: Sit down shortly after saying “yes” and create a wedding budget together. Set a spending limit for big-ticket wedding elements, such as the dress and the venue, and remember to include the little details such as gratuities and additional fees. When you launch your planning with the numbers in mind, you’ll make wiser choices, such as deciding on a DIY wedding and visiting in-budget bridal boutiques. On Wedding Spot, you can select search parameters, such as budget, location, and style, so you are only exploring venues you can afford.
2. Not researching wedding venues thoroughly.
In all the excitement, many couples don’t think through how venues fit into their wedding plans. For example, your silver and pale pink color scheme may clash with the decor of the historic estate venue you want to book. Or, you want to hire a specific caterer, but the venue features an in-house catering team. Perhaps the venue feels cramped with 150 guests and you’re planning a wedding for 300.
Avoid the problem: Before picking a wedding venue, know the type of wedding you want (style and size) and your preferred venue style (rustic, elegant, beach). Choose your color scheme before going on venue visits so you can imagine it alongside the existing decor. (Of course, it’s always possible you’ll fall in love with the venue and change your colors to match.) Communicate with the manager to get an ideal headcount for the venue. Finally, research online review sites, such as Yelp and Google Reviews to avoid unpleasant surprises. If multiple reviewers complain about similar issues, the venue may not be the best choice.
3. Letting your wedding party choose you.
Family and friends may put pressure on couples about their wedding party. Your father wants your cousin (the one you haven’t seen in years) among the groomsmen. Or a dear friend assumes she’s a bridesmaid when you’re only having a maid of honor. As a result, soon-to-be-weds can find themselves with wedding parties they didn’t select. This can lead to resentment that shouldn’t get mixed up with your big day.
Avoid the problem: As soon as you become engaged, prepare for questions about the wedding date and the wedding party. Let friends and family know you are discussing your choices together and aren’t sure of any details yet. If anyone pushes the subject, gently (but firmly) let them know you are making the decision thoughtfully and don’t require outside input.
4. Including registry information on your invites.
Miss Manners and Emily Post would not approve. This is one of the most common wedding mistakes — and it’s not hard to see why. The invite goes to every guest, so it seems like a logical opportunity to share your registry. However, it’s considered a major faux pas of traditional wedding etiquette.
Avoid the problem: There are three primary ways to share your wedding registry information: word of mouth, bridal shower invitations, and your wedding website. Let immediate family and the bridal party know the details, so they can offer the information when asked. You can list your wedding website URL on your save-the-date cards and in a separate ‘For more information’ card in your invitations.
5. Not having an unplugged ceremony.
Just as you get ready to say your vows, the theme from the movie ‘Shaft’ rings out across your venue. This may make a funny story one day, but it’s not so funny in the moment. Ringtones and text alerts throughout the wedding can take away some of the magic. Also, you may want some ceremony photos without guests holding their cell phones high to record or snap pics.
Avoid the problem: Make sure that all guests know this is an unplugged ceremony. Include a note on your wedding website, and then remind guests with a wood plank, canvas, or chalkboard sign painted with the words ‘unplugged ceremony.’
6. Using friends and family over professional vendors.
Don’t accept every offer of help from friends and family. Sure it can help save money, but your pal who took one photography class may not get those perfect shots on your wedding day. And your BFF who builds awesome playlists isn’t a DJ who knows how to get people on the dance floor.
Avoid the problem: Hire professionals for the areas of your wedding that matter the most to you. Elements best left to the professionals include catering, videography, photography, and music. If you have crafty family and friends who want to help, consider giving them responsibility for smaller tasks, such as designing favors or accessories for the wedding party.
7. Expanding the guest list.
Some couples overdo the guest list by including distant relatives or including a plus-one option on every invitation. Perhaps you assume most of them will RSVP “no” and are surprised when your guest list balloons well beyond budget.
Avoid the problem: You should be ready to accommodate everyone you invite and their plus-ones if you’ve given that option. Establish a guest limit based on your budget and then build your guest list, starting with your nearest and dearest and expanding from there until you reach your cap.
8. Not having a backup plan for outdoor weddings.
Getting married in the summer doesn’t ensure sunny skies — and it doesn’t take much rain to dampen your wedding dress. Blustery fall days can include gusts that upend reception tents. And winter weddings are lovely, unless the temperature drops far below freezing.
Avoid the problem: If you’re planning an outdoor wedding, you need a backup for inclement weather. Make sure your venue offers sturdy tents should it downpour during the ceremony, and an indoor space that can accommodate your wedding in the event of extreme weather.
Discover 8 wedding planning mistakes that can impact your guests:
Yes, this is your big day, but consider the comfort and enjoyment of your guests throughout the wedding planning process too. Avoid these common mistakes that could frustrate your guests.
1. Enforcing a strict social media policy.
You don’t want guests live streaming the ceremony or posting pics of the first dance in real-time. That’s understandable. But they should be able to share your beautiful day with their followers the next morning.
Avoid the problem: Let guests know that once the sun comes up the next day, they’re free to share away.
2. Not accommodating food allergies or dietary restrictions.
You may well have guests who can’t eat certain foods — by choice or necessity. Some of your guests may go hungry if you don’t offer options for people with allergies, gluten intolerance, guests who are vegan or vegetarian, and those with religion-based dietary restrictions.
Avoid the problem: Talk to your caterer about including options for guests with dietary restrictions and allergies, such as almond milk options for coffee and nut-free desserts. It’s also helpful to ask invitees if they have dietary restrictions on your RSVPs so you can accommodate them in advance.
3. Not planning for the time between the ceremony and reception.
Some weddings have a long stretch between the ceremony and reception because of venue availability. Or, you may purposefully add an hour between the two events for wedding party photos. Either way, it can be frustrating for guests to fill this time.
Avoid the problem: If you can’t avoid the gap, avoid ‘hangry’ guests by planning a cocktail hour at the venue before the reception. Or, set up a hospitality lounge back at the hotel with drinks and snacks. You can also give adventurous guests a list of fun things to do during the gap, such as a museum tour that you set up in advance.
4. Not assigning seats at the reception.
Few things are as uncomfortable as asking, “Is this seat taken?” and then having to sit with people you’ve never met. But perhaps winning the awkward contest is showing up and struggling to find an open seat at all.
Avoid the problem: Skip the high school lunchroom discomfort and create a seating chart. Place people who enjoy each other’s company, or at least know each other, at the same table. Take care to ensure everyone has an assigned seat.
5. Not preparing your thank-you notes.
After your honeymoon, you’ll resume your busy lives and thank-you notes can fall off the radar. This is insulting to guests who took time out of their schedules to attend, may have traveled a great distance, and likely brought you gifts to start your life together.
Avoid the problem: Make thank-you prep part of your wedding planning. You can put address labels and stamps on the envelopes before the big day, so all you have to do is write the notes when you get back from your honeymoon. Prioritize sending notes to guests whose gifts came before the wedding, but everyone should receive a thank-you note within three months. If you’re typically forgetful, put a ‘thank-you’ note evening on the calendar. You and your beloved can order pizza, enjoy some wine, and get those notes out the door.
6. Not feeding your wedding crew.
Photographers, band members, and your wedding planner work hard to get your day off the ground without a hitch. The last thing you want is for them to work on an empty stomach.
Avoid the problem: Plan to serve them a meal during the event. Work their meals into your budget, notify the venue, and schedule a break when they can enjoy some nourishment.
7. Offering a cash bar.
Your guests should not pay for their drinks while celebrating your special day with you.
Avoid the problem: If a four-hour open bar is outside of your budget, offer beer, wine, and a signature cocktail instead — a much more affordable option. You can also provide an open bar during the cocktail hour and switch to beer and wine exclusively during dinner. Speak with your planner or the venue manager about cost-saving options.
8. Neglecting some of your guests.
Your aunt flew in from California to celebrate your day; the entire reception flew by and you never spoke with her.
Avoid the problem: Schedule time in your reception to walk around and greet guests. Head to tables during dessert, skip a dance to socialize, or greet them at the end of the evening. People understand you want to hit the dance floor and won’t have time for a heart-to-heart, but do your best to allow a few minutes for everyone.
5 frequent wedding planning fights (and how to avoid them):
No one wants to argue with their soon-to-be about anything, let alone icing flavors. But wedding planning is stressful, and stress causes relationship woes. You may become super sensitive to small things, and overwhelmed by the to-do list. Watch out for these problem areas.
1. Financial shortfalls.
Even if you already sat down and created a wedding budget, unexpected money issues can crop up. This is one of the top wedding planning arguments for couples.
Avoid the problem: Sit down and revisit your budget every few months during the wedding planning process. Are you on target for saving for the wedding? Are there areas where you can cut back? Are there compromises you can make? We know that the dress is important to you, but the honeymoon is important to him. Take each other’s issues to heart; this is the first of many times you’ll have to compromise in your married life.
2. Imbalanced planning duties.
You’re planning every last detail, while your partner is catching up on their favorite TV series. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the endless to-do list, while your fiance takes the process in stride. This is when serious arguments can happen,, leading to frustration and resentment.
Avoid the problem: Take a few minutes to write down precisely what is important to each of you. Is choosing your dream menu and cake your priority, while your fiance is interested in decor? Agree to divide and conquer: Choose options in your respective areas of interest before making final decisions together.
It’s also helpful to recognize the differences in your interest level and schedule. If you can’t wait for the big day, but could care less about the favors, reassure your partner that this doesn’t reflect a lack of interest in them. If your workday runs long, prioritize wedding planning lunch dates on the weekends.
3. Challenging in-laws.
Chances are you’ll face challenges from both of your families in the run-up to your wedding. Studies show that many couples have in-law issues. You may have problems with a mother-in-law to be who’s trying to take on (or take over) too many personal details. Or, your father-in-law keeps pushing for a religious ceremony, when you’ve chosen a friend to officiate.
Avoid the problem: There’s no time like the present to cope with this as a couple — chances are it won’t go away after the wedding. It’s essential that you respect and understand each other, as well as your unique family dynamics.
Talk it over, or discuss the issue with a couples therapist, and develop a united front as conflicts arise. You may find areas where you can compromise with your in-laws, and others that are non-negotiable. Set a time to speak with your parents or your partner’s parents as a team. Come from a place of love, and explain your position gently, but firmly.
4. The guest list.
You think it’s rude to exclude your second cousins twice removed; your partner barely wants to invite first cousins. You want to invite your bestie from grade school; your fiance wants to winnow the guest list further.
Avoid the problem: Start by revisiting your original agreement about wedding size. If you’ve exceeded that number, trim the list while both of you watch for possible concessions. Finally, remember the feelings of your soon-to-be spouse are more important than the feelings of your long-lost relatives. It’s about inviting people who are special to you both and respecting the one who feels uncomfortable having near-strangers attend the big day.
5. Bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Your fiance wants to go out all night with his brothers and college buddies for one last hoorah. You want to fly to a destination weekend in Vegas with the girls. Unless you’re both on the same page, this can be a prickly topic.
Avoid the problem: Talk openly about what each of you wants for your last celebration as a “single” person. Share your concerns and fears, and set respectful boundaries. If it’s a trust issue that’s causing conflict, pre-marital therapy can help. The more you communicate, the more you’ll understand each other and make considerate choices — while also honoring your special day.
Recognize — and overcome — these wedding planning mistakes!
It’s helpful to talk about the inevitability of wedding planning mistakes. Commit to keeping your senses of humor throughout the process, and taking problems in stride. You’ll be off to a great start facing life’s challenges as a team!
NEXT UP: 57 clever wedding planning tips, tricks, and hacks every couple needs to know.