The Wedding Decisions That Were Totally Worth It

It occurred to me recently that among the multitude of wedding-related decisions, there are some that rise above the rest as being decidedly worthwhile. Sometimes they are the things you think aren’t going to be a big deal, and then they are. And sometimes they are the decisions you fight for, and then they end up being just as important as you thought they were going to be. For me they were smallish things that ended up having a big impact, like deciding to abandon all of my unfinished DIY projects two days before the wedding for the sake of my sanity. Or big things that have had a lasting impression, like fighting to have both my dads walk me down the aisle.

But hindsight is 20/20. And it’s impossible to know now what decisions will matter most for you until all is said and done. That said, I think there’s a lot of power in hearing what was worth it from those of us on the other side. A little third person perspective, if you will. So today I want to open it up to the married folks within the community: what were the wedding decisions you made that ended up being most worthwhile? Alternatively, what did you fight for that just didn’t matter in the end? If we can help one wavering couple make a choice that’s right for them, then I think I can call it a win for the day.

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  • Worth it:
    Photographer — I don’t regret a single penny

    Transportation — we rented a motor coach to take guests to and from the hotel to the wedding (a 25 mile trip). No worries about anyone driving after partaking in the open bar, no frantic phone calls for last minute directions. We had an early shuttle for older folks and people with kids who needed to check out sooner, and a late shuttle for those sticking around for the dance party/bonfire. SO WORTH IT.

    DIY/DIT everything — no, I’m not glossing this over. DIY/DIT is HARD and fraught with all kinds of balancing acts and negotiations and met and unmet expectations. We did a LOT ourselves: bouquets (real flowers from farmers market), centerpieces (paper flowers made from book pages), boutonnières (more book paper flowers), cork boards, place cards, invitations and other paper suites (designed by a friend, printed, cut, assembled by us at home), garlands, bunting and other decorations, ipod playlist/no DJ, cloth napkins, and we also had one friend officiate, and another friend act as Stage Manager/Day Of Coordinator, etc. You know, A LOT. This was hard. And there were tears and fights and many, many glue gun burns. We luckily saved a lot of money this route, but also fully understand that DIY/DIT is not always cheap. All APW disclaimers about this topic apply. But for us it came together and helped me forge meaningful relationships with the family I was joining, and it was all beautiful in the end. I call it worth it.

    Ten minutes alone with my new husband immediately after our ceremony. Do this. DO THIS. If you do nothing else, DO THIS. You and your spouse, alone, for at least ten minutes. I initially invited our photographer to come with us, thinking that she’d capture some intimate and emotional photos. She firmly declined and sent us off entirely alone, and I’m so glad she did. We kissed. We stood close together. We held hands and thumbed each others new rings. We didn’t do a first look, so this time was especially important to us, but I think I would have wanted it even with a first look. Our wedding ceremony was transformative for us, and we needed this time to be in awe.

    Not Really Worth it

    Professional Make Up — while I loved having my hair professionally done, I would skip the professional make up in hindsight. I didn’t love the way it turned out, and felt a bit drag queenish until my sister finally swooped in and removed/retouched a lot of it for me. (Drag queens are FAB, just not the aesthetic I was going for).

    Cute shoes — I am not a shoe person. No one saw them. I ditched them for flip flops (old ones from Old Navy that I’ve had for years! Not even “bridal” flip flops. Do I cringe a little bit when I see them peeking out in one or two photos? Maybe. But I’m over it. Comfort rules!)

    • MTM

      I second the 10 minutes alone after the ceremony. We went to our suite, made a drink and sat in rocking chairs on our porch…best 10 minutes of the whole day.

      • Katie

        Augh. I want to do this SO HARD, but we’re getting married in a public park and…there isn’t really anywhere to go! We can wander off to a different part of the (small, very open) park but it’s not going to be very private, and everyone will be able to see us, which I’m afraid will just make me feel self-conscious. And it seems odd to leave the park for ten minutes (I thought that perhaps we could drive around the block) and them come back for pictures, but maybe that’s our best option. Or maybe I’ll be basking in post-ceremony bliss and won’t notice. Any suggestions? Anyone in a similar situation?

        • MTM

          Are you getting a limo/transportation? Hide behind some tinted windows or take a quick ride with some champagne for a few minutes.

        • Marina

          We got married in a public park and just sat on a park bench away from our guests for ten minutes. It was great. We were semi-secluded but certainly not private. I think what I liked about it was that it felt like this earth-shattering thing had just happened for us, but the world appeared to keep going like normal. We sat there for ten minutes saying “Holy shit, we just got married” over and over again, but there go the joggers and dog walkers and playground kids just like usual. It made us feel extra special I think, if that makes any sense.

        • Jashshea

          We got married in a transportation museum on train tracks in a gentrifying part of town. We ran behind an industrial building until the crowds dispersed. Got some crazy good pictures of graffiti/us. Somehow we didn’t get one of us nipping off the groom’s flask..

      • Julia

        I agree, 10 minutes is important. We dismissed everyone pew by pew, so we had just talked to literally everyone. But then hopped in my mom’s red bug and drove just the 2 of us to the reception. We took a turn around a park near the venue with the car all decked out, so in our small town, that probably took 10 minutes total. So. Worth. It. I don’t know that we needed more since we also stole away a few minutes here and there throughout the evening. Ooh, on a related note, don’t expect to be together during the reception. We were separated nearly immediately once we got there!

      • this is the one thing I really, really, REALLY wish I could have made happen, but couldn’t. So all you people out there who haven’t gotten married yet? Do it.

      • Third the 10 minutes. Best 10 minutes ever!

    • We scheduled in 15 minutes of alone time for ourselves post-ceremony to go for a little walk in the garden out in front of our venue. I was totally adamant that we had to do it but, hilariously, we actually wanted to get back to the party before our alone time was up. We just took a minute or two to cuddle, kiss, and go “Holy shit we just got married!” Then we went back in to hang out with everybody. And this is coming from two introverts; I thought for SURE we would want to get away from everyone for a bit, but we both were ready to get the festivities started. Our wedding was also super low stress, and we both just had a ton of fun the whole day/night so it’s not like we needed a breather, so maybe that was part of it? Not sure. But it really surprised me (though, I’d still say schedule it in just in case).

      • Amelia

        We were the same way! We went off into a little room and giggled at each other for about a minute and then he said “How long are we supposed to be in here?” and I said “I don’t know!” and then we changed our Facebook relationship status, giggled some more, and went out to see our people. We also had an incredibly low-key low-stress day and I wouldn’t change a single second.

    • Caitlin

      Totally agree with the 10 minutes alone. We didn’t plan for it actually it just happened. We like to say we got ditched at our own wedding! It was the best part of the day, no question. After we finished taking pix with the bridal party, we sent them to the reception in our limo witht he plan for the limo to come back for us while we took pix of just us. Well, the photographer finished with us before the limo came back so we sent her to the reception too and waited by ourselves for the car. Boy did we look funny sitting out in front of a totally deserted church. The priest even came out to check on us (He offered to take us for waffles, we told him not to worry and if the limo didn’t come back we’d just hitch. After all who wouldn’t pick up a bride and groom in full formal wear and oh right …carrying a sword) It was my favorite memory and that time to gether was priceless to just breathe and be in the moment. And don’t worry, the limo did come back eventually!

    • 39bride

      I gotta second the “10 minutes” thing, too. We walked straight down the aisle, turned right and hid out in the closed hallway to the church offices. We had a First Look that was awesome, but those post-ceremony feelings were incredible–we could hardly wait to get down the aisle and out of sight. Our photographer tagged along for a minute or two, but several of the photos she got are among my top five favorites of the entire wedding–the most emotional and evocative of the day. We just stood their with our arms around each other, kissing, taking it all in and finding our new equilibrium as a “oneness.”

      It was only about 5 minutes and we would’ve stayed longer, but we felt like we needed to get out and meet our guests.

    • If I could voice a little dissension to the “ten minutes alone”. This was really important to me. I thought it was at least. But as soon as we walked down the aisle, I had to pee. And then I couldn’t focus on him, all I could think about was all the work I had to do as soon as we walked back through the doors. The ten minutes alone, just didn’t suit me or us and was a bust and another thing I was disappointed in. So my advice is simply, if this suits you, then yes! Do it! But forgive yourself if you can’t focus on being excited about being married but instead whether they’ve opened the bar for your guests or are they moving the chairs from the ceremony area.

  • Marie

    Splurging on our wedding rings :) well, splurging considering our initial budget ^^ I know they’re just material things, but to us they are the symbol of our love and we see them everyday, so having them made from my fiancé’s drawing was amazing and special though expensive and we really don’t regret it :) Conversely, we had to compromize on “day of” things such as the dress, the groom’s suit or the flowers, but we don’t regret it for one minute !

    • Parsley

      Oh, I totally agree!

  • Worth It
    A catering company that handled table, glassware & linen rentals
    DIYing the flowers – I wish we’d thought to organize our loved ones more and/or provide booze, but that saved us tons of money.
    Hair & makeup – I am so clueless when it comes to these things, it was worth the cash
    Next day wedding pay your own lunch. We went right as the store opened and got to visit with lots of people after the fact.
    Hotel room after the wedding – not having to go home to our messy apartment made up for us having to figure out how to get our dresses home without a car.

    Not Worth It
    The hotel block – a lot fewer signed up for hotel rooms that we thought, so we took kind of a bath on it.

    • Good to know on the hotel block! For whatever reason, that’s stressing me out. About half of our guest list will be coming from out of town, but I really don’t know how many will want to stay at the place we’ve chosen — or will want to stay closer to D.C. (we’re in the suburbs) to sight-see before/after our wedding.

      I guess a good idea is to aim low, then allow others to make their own accommodations after the “block” has run out? Or just let folks fend for themselves? So undecided. The hotel discount would be nice, but I realized the AAA discount was the same as the bridal party discount at the last wedding I attended . . .

      • Kate

        We were also concerned (also in DC!) that we would book too large a block and get charged for the unused rooms. We ended up sending out invitations with a little card for people to indicate whether they would be interested in a room, then booked the block based on the number who replied they were interested. And yeah, it was a WAY smaller number than I would have expected…seems like most people were fine booking a hotel all on their own.

        • bocadelgato

          That’s a great idea about the hotel rsvp card. Thank you!

        • sharon t-b

          We reserved rooms at the Westin Alexandria. There was a date to cancel by without penalty so we were able to do that and have the best of both worlds. Fewer people reserved rooms than we would have thought (many stayed with friends and family).
          My in laws reserved a suite that had a kitchen and tons of space. That turned into the hang out for the weekend and was so worth it!

      • KE

        Depends on whether or not you’re providing shuttles from the hotel to the ceremony/reception. We wanted our guests in one place to minimize the number of shuttles needed and how long we’d need them.

        Beyond that, hotel blocks were easily one of the most stressful parts of planning and (if not for the shuttles) not, not, not worth it. We were on the hook financially for unused rooms (even if the hotel managed to book them with someone else), and ended up hassling grown folks to book their damn rooms by a month out.

        • Excellent point. We are not providing shuttles, so there’s no logistical need to have everyone together at one hotel from our perspective. We’re also obligated for unused rooms, so I’m antsy about the whole thing.

          Leaning toward just scrapping it . . . though hopefully I could still drop off welcome bags? Or ask my in-laws to distribute them? (I don’t think they’d have any problem with that.)

          DETAILS. So many details . . .

          • Keakealani

            Dropping off a welcome bag and providing info for a few “recommended” (but not necessarily reserved with a block) hotels seems like a good bet to me. Nowadays, there are tons of ways to get lodging between alternative sites like Air BnB or Groupons or what have you. It might be worth touching base with your out of town guests if you think they’d expect a block, but it sounds like more of a nightmare than it’s necessarily worth.

          • Girl, I’m totally skipping welcome bags.

            I would have been gung-ho for them, but then I had the hotel debacle, which was just a hot mess of it’s own… and now I’m just writing it off. It’s just not in the damn cards.

          • Diane

            See if you can find a hotel that will do a no-obligation courtesy block. We got good rates for family and friends and wound up filling 50 rooms at one place and various numbers at a few others. Though D.C. Is expensive so they may not be as helpful…

        • Kara

          Whoa, they should NOT charge you for a hotel block unless you’re holding to the day of. I’d negotiate with a different hotel. Yuck.

    • The hotel block things turned out to be true for us, too! We didn’t have to assume any costs for rooms not booked, but it was still embarrassing for me when there were a LOT of empty rooms.

      • Jashshea

        Ditto – I had a ton of people book at our hotel, but not in our block. But honestly? Not many people in my room block meant I could skip welcome bags which would have been last minute project. Last minute projects were my big no-no’s.

    • Crayfish Kate

      The hotel blocks can be tricky. I used to work in the Reservations dept. of a large beach resort which hosted lots of weddings & conferences. Megan (above) is right about the AAA/bridal party discounts being the same. Yes, reserving a block of rooms gives you a discount – but the key here is how much of a discount. At the resort, I noticed sometimes the ‘regular guest’ rates on the website or the rates we gave out over the phone were less than the discounted rate on the block. Sometimes, booking as a Joe Schmoe and not as a guest on the wedding block can get you a lower rate.
      For example, say Joan calls to make a reservation under the Jones/Smith wedding block. The discounted rate under the block is $150 (reg. rate is $200). Knowing it’s a discounted rate, Joan books her room at $150 under the block.

      Next, Jim calls to make a reservation to attend the same wedding, but he just calls as a regular guest, either not knowing there’s a block, or ignoring the block completely. Now say, for this weekend, the hotel isn’t filling up like it was expected to. The reservations person sees this, knows they need ‘heads in beds’, and gives Jim a rate of $120 for the same room. He books his room.

      This all depends, of course, on how big of a block you reserved, the season, and how booked the place is projected to be at the time of your wedding, but it’s just something to keep in mind.

      I could go on. Feel free to ask me any ‘hotel’ questions, I’ll answer them as best I can.

    • Diana

      We reserved a block of rooms at the local Marriott, and didn’t pay a dime upfront. We just called them up, and they gave us a rate and a special reservation code/link. A lot of people didn’t book the rooms we reserved, but we got a group rate with zero monetary commitment. I think it was a nice gesture for out-of-town folks, and helped consolidate the families during the weekend. My husband and I booked a room there, too, for the night before and the night of the wedding, which made things so much easier! I would definitely recommend reserving the hotel block, but only if it’s free and zero penalties if people book in other ways (time shares, deal websites, etc.) or in other places.

      • Jashshea

        I used a service by to contact local hotels for bids on the room block. Worked out pretty well and saved me the time of contacting every hotel around.

    • Totally second the hotel block! We didn’t end up doing one, because all of our out of towners were either close family or members of the bridal party, and we just gave them a list of nearby hotels that we recommended in various price ranges. Way easier, and let people scout around for places that fit their needs and budgets.

      • I think this is a better way to go. I noticed that I could find a better deal on some of the hotel websites than through the block.

    • Devan

      How did you organize the “pay your own” lunch? This sounds like such a good idea but I wouldn’t want people to think it would be something they would be treated to, but I also wouldn’t want to be rude by flat out saying they would pay themselves. Is there a clean, classy way of doing this?

      • Kaci KG

        We had an insert in our wedding guest bags (and also sent out to guests via email for those who didn’t stay at the hotel) that gave the general timeline of the weekend. Our hotel had a brunch in the lobby, which we were NOT paying for, but we encouraged guests to come to the brunch (i.e. pay for themselves) to see us by saying this:

        “Post Wedding Sunday, 9:00-11:00 am
        There is no formal brunch, but the bride and groom will be in the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn to greet guests and say farewell and thank you for coming! Please stop by if you are able, and THANK YOU for coming to be with us!”

        You could amend that to your situation to say ” … the bride and groom will be having lunch/breakfast at XXX restaurant and will be happy to greet wedding guests and say farewell and thank you for coming if you can stop by!”

        We were able to see most of our wedding guests this way, and there was no confusion over paying for anything except our own food! It was also nice because people were able to swing by and have brunch, too, or they could just come through and not eat, but still see us. It was actually quite a lovely way to end the weekend.

    • I feel like the rate the hotel offered us wasn’t that special :-/ I’m worried doing this was a mistake!

  • Carly

    Photographer- Expensive, and worth every penny. We felt comfortable with them, they were easy to work with, I loved our pictures, and we are now friends with them
    Wedding Album- I know many people skip this, but I’m glad we bought one. It’s beautiful, it’s done, and I do look at it often.
    Honeymoon- Probably the best money we spent. It was amazing.
    Welcome Bags- Sort of random, but I still hear from people to this day how nice and fun the welcome bags were!

    Chivari Chairs- I loved them and thought they made the room look so nice. Nobody else probably noticed.

    Decorations for our church- The church was pretty enough by itself; I wish I didn’t spend time/money making decorations.

    • This is the first time I have seen welcome bags mentioned on this site (I’m sure they’re mentioned elsewhere) and THANK YOU for mentioning them. This is something that I am absolutely going to do for out of town guests. My family did them for my Bat Mitzvah, and whenever I happen to get one at a wedding it just thrills me. Such a nice touch, especially when there is a paper with a list of things to do in the area, places to eat, etc. Thanks for putting it in the “worth-it” category, just re-affirms the decision for me!

      • My future mother-in-law has been asking us about the welcome bags from day one! She attended a wedding where they were provided and just LOVED them. They are such a sweet touch — I’m designing ours now!

        Definitely including paper lists of our favorite local restaurants, tips on sightseeing, important phone numbers (especially for those who don’t know anyone except my fiance and me), etc. Probably little snacks and perhaps a little soda, too.

        • AIH

          I got married in the DC area too. People really enjoyed the bags they could pick up when they checked into the hotel.

          We included important numbers, a schedule, maps, explanations of public transport, water, postcards, and a list of our favorite restaurants, bars,and touristy things.

      • Carly

        We included:
        Local info/map
        Pretzels and microwavable popcorn (the rooms had microwaves)
        Bottles of water
        Candy (we were married in Hershey, my hometown)
        Cookies from my husband’s hometown
        Tiny packs of Advil (bought in bulk at Costco)
        Tiny packs of Tide Wipes (bought in bulk at Costco)

        My MIL took on this project and they turned out great!

    • APW Lurker

      Chivari Chairs! Hubby thinks that it is ridiculous that these are one of the most important things to me but I just love how they look at the venue we chose and yes it meant I had to cut down somewhere else but I am excited about them and hopeful that they will totally be worth it!

      • I just had to Google Chivari Chairs–so that’s what those things are called! I thought they were just standard since I’ve seen them used at so many weddings and events…

        • APW Lurker

          It really seems to depend on the venue, I know that at our location the chairs are included if the ceremony is indoors but if it is outdoors (like ours) you have to shell out the $$$

          • Carly

            We did have to pay extra for them, but the original chairs were so ugly that I decided it was worth it! We still ended up under budget, so I was happy with the decision.

  • Worth it:
    Skipping dinner for an evening wedding with deserts and an open bar. We saved enough money to go to Europe with, and no one cared that they had to eat dinner on their own first.
    Great photographer
    10 minutes of alone time post ceremony

    Not worth it:
    The amount of time and energy I spent stressing about not feeding people dinner. They’re all grown ups – they figured it out!

    • Angela-Benangela

      This, oh my gosh, THIS!! I’ve spent so much time agonizing over the damn catering bill!!! We want a really small, cocktail-ish wedding. It’s being held at a local (but beautiful) bar and the time frame is a little odd. I don’t want to shell out all that cash for a sit-down meal because I’m not sure if everyone will partake. I’d rather do passed and station appitizers. But so many of my older and more “Dear Abby” family members are telling me that I HAVE to have a meal. Since my wedding will likely be 3-7pm, I think appitizers will be fine and people can go have dinner afterwards….because that’s what we plan on doing!!

      All the southern, etiquette enslaved women in my life are driving me bonkers!!!!

      • Flamingo

        I think as in most things you do what works for you, as long as you let folks know so no one is surprised (especially since that time frame is dinner for most people). Maybe say something like cocktail reception to follow?

        • Karen

          We’re also doing a no-dinner wedding with just cocktails and hors d’eouvres, but ours isn’t starting until 7pm. I’ve definitely gotten a few comments, but most people seem content with the idea as long as it is VERY CLEAR not to expect a dinner. We’re actually likely going to put a line on the invitation that says something like, “Please note, a full dinner will not be served.” Our wedding website has lots of restaurant suggestions. Even though the wedding hasn’t happened yet, I feel most glad about this decision because it’s just so very US!

          If I put it on the invite, on the wedding website, and make an effort to tell people when they ask me about wedding planning, then I feel like I’ve done my due diligence in warning people. If they get hungry, they can pop out to one of the many bars/restaurants that are literally steps from our reception venue =)

          • I think as long as people know not to expect dinner it will be fine. I went to a wedding two weeks ago that only served appetizers, but no one had any idea until we got there so they ended up with quite a few drunk guests!! If we’d known in advance we would’ve eaten dinner before the 6 pm ceremony.

      • You do NOT have to serve a meal at your reception. I’ve been to many a wedding where the reception was cake and punch, nothing else. And they were fun receptions!

      • alyssa

        you do NOT have to have a meal! Plenty of people, my parents and grandparents included, had cake, punch, and almonds. I had a dessert bar. An easy way to explain to people on the invitation that there won’t be a meal is something like this:
        Ceremony: 3:00pm
        Cake and punch to follow
        Good Luck! I know those southern women well… :)

      • Mountaindoozy

        In speaking with all the women in my family while wedding planning, a sit down dinner seems to be a more modern invention. We are all southerners and my prim-and-proper grandmother (who is in her 70’s) said she had only been to one sit down dinner wedding until my cousin married in 2004. It seems like it was more common to have a short ceremony followed by a cake and punch reception.

    • Diana

      We did a cocktail-style wedding where we hired a taco truck to serve little tacos to everyone, and we had a big dessert bar. Everyone loved the food!! I think if you’re going to do a cocktail style wedding, you have to be sure to A) schedule your reception around an “off” meal time (i.e., not at lunch or dinnertime), and B) let people know what to expect! We saved SOOOO much money just having a mix of high, low, long and round cocktail tables that people just mingled around while nibbling delicious food. No seating charts!!!

      • Susan

        Sorry meant to hit “exactly!” But I reported it instead.

        • madcake

          You actually made me laugh out loud, and more than a snort. I’m at a university library.

      • Caroline

        We’re having a cocktail reception type thing and I’m baffled about how to do tables. Did you have 1 seat/spot per person? More? Less?

        • Amy

          I’d figure on seating/tables for roughly 30-40% of your guests.

    • I agree with Morgan on the dessert reception. We had a 8 pm wedding, and the reception began at 9 pm. The invitation said “Dessert soirée to follow” and the late start to the wedding made it clear to everyone not to expect dinner. We also had fruit, baguettes and brie, and nuts, to have some less sweet options around.

  • KC

    For us: morning wedding, meaning an early escape and a LATE AFTERNOON NAP. All the snuggles, a lovely smidgen of restorative sleep after a so-many-people-so-much-going-on wedding and reception, and none of the “wedding night” pressure.

    This was just-exactly-right for us, but wouldn’t necessarily fit anyone else. But it was just-exactly-right for us, and oh, it was glorious.

    • Leslie R.

      We did the same thing, and it was wonderful! Late morning breakfast wedding meant post-wedding nap/adult time, and then we got to spend the evening relaxing with a bottle of wine and some good friends, followed by just us in the hot tub. So amazing!

      • Paige

        Yay! We’re having a late-morning ceremony with a lunch reception, and I’m SO EXCITED to be able to get married, eat and drink, and then go take a nap with my new husband before going out for drinks with our friends (not on our tab – another perk!)

        • Keakealani

          This is exactly what we’re planning too, and I’m crazy stoked as well! I’ll have to check in again when it’s all said and done, but I’m pretty sure our opportunity for a nap and maybe lazing around the pool at my mom’s apartment will totally make up for having to wake up a little earlier to get ready.

  • I’m sure I’ll think of more but for now:

    Getting married in Provincetown, MA, where being gay was a non-event, having a gay wedding was a non-event, and people cheered for us wherever we went. It meant so much to have vendors that weren’t thrown by the two-bride thing (but… who will walk down the aisle first?!!). And while I believe that there are many places in the country that you can get married to a same-sex partner without anyone making a peep, it was very important to me to feel like this was OUR space to get married in (and to reward a town that supports gay culture with our money).

    No veil or anything in my hair. This is its own APW post, but my mother (married twice, once in a skirt suit at a courthouse, once in a sundress in our backyard) was INSISTENT that I wear a veil because “that’s what you do.” Never mind that she never did that. Never mind that she is one of the biggest feminists I know. She was adamant. I have never ever imagined myself getting married in a veil. It just didn’t feel like me. When they put it on me in the bridal store, it just felt weird. I planned on wearing something in my hair, but on the day of, I realized it was going to bug me all evening and I would be self-conscious of it, so I just didn’t. I never regretted it for a minute. When I look back at our pictures, I see exactly what I envisioned on the day of: Me looking like one of the very best versions of myself. Normal but extra-special.

    Doing my own hair and makeup. Despite my hairdresser’s frequent offer that she would be willing to come down and do hair, I pushed her to teach me how to do it myself (and with one of my bridal brigade). It was great that I was in control of my hair; my friend doing my hair was awesome on the day-of, AND I finally learned how to make my curly hair behave perfectly (aka guarantee a great hair day). Same sort of thing with makeup. Thanks to the APW tutorials, I finally feel more empowered about makeup. All of the stuff I bought gets used periodically — rarely all at once, unless it’s a special day — but I’m always using some of it. It was awesome to finally understand how to use certain things (like primer!). In both cases, I’m glad I didn’t outsource the work — I saved money, but more importantly, I got empowered over some things that I’d found intimidating!

    • Also worth it:
      -Fighting to have one set of chair over another in the room — visually, it did make a difference. Literally, all we asked the vendor to do was to take the white ceremony chairs inside and set them at the tables, and they thought we were weird, but they did it and it looked great. I tried to make little decisions like this based on “will I care about this in 10 years?” And the answer to this (at least 6 months later) is still absolutely yes.

      Not worth it:
      -Fighting my mother over wearing her mother’s watch (despite the fact that I never wear watches and thought it would be weird to at our wedding) — eventually I shut up and wore it, and it made her very happy. And I actually got a lot of compliments on it.
      -Shoes. I spent $20 on them, they were fine, but I spent most of the reception barefoot or in my comfy flats. Glad I didn’t spend more on them — barely anyone saw them.
      -Salad at the reception. Cut it out. Saved $1000. Never heard a peep from anyone.

      • Kat

        WOO WHOO to NO SALAD!!

        I was all for the four course dinner until our caterer laid out the final costs and I saw that the difference between salad and no salad was $1000.00 UM NO! I am NOT spending a grand on leafy greens!

    • Kate

      I also love the idea of “rewarding” a state, town, or community for being gay-friendly by spending your wedding budget there. That was a big factor in our decision to get married in DC instead of Virginia.

      • Alyssa

        I totally agree with this, but on the flip side for us it seemed important to have our double bride wedding in Indiana where we are from.
        1. We got to choose our vendors wisely and reward them for being gay-friendly in a place they don’t have to be.
        2. We got to show our family and friends that our wedding was just like any other wedding that weekend in Southern Indiana regardless of state and federal laws.
        3. Hopefully we helped a few more people (wedding guests and observing strangers) toward acceptance by seeing our loving, fun, adorable wedding, a same-sex wedding that they might not have experienced otherwise.

        • Alyssa —

          Totally concur with you on this. We could’ve gone that route, and I think we might have if we had been interested in getting married outside of our home state. But since we wanted to be in Mass, we wanted to be in the very gayest place in Mass.

    • dawn

      I’m actually a bit worried about my hair and wish I weren’t getting married so far from my hairdresser. Maybe she will teach me how to have a guaranteed great hair day with curly hair!

      • Dawn — the magic things I learned for my curly hair (which is plentiful but also very fine)

        -Don’t wash your hair the day before your “scheduled great hair day” — the extra dirt and oil can help hold styling.
        -After you get out of the shower, squeeze the excess water out of your hair with your fingers. For me, the key was NOT to touch it with a towel or put it up in a twistie turban or whatever (which is what I always used to do). The key to perfectly formed curls (for me) was starting with as wet hair as possible.
        -Use a wide-toothed comb and run through and then part your hair.
        -Using your fingers, run some product through your hair. Frankly, I’ve had lots of luck with lots of different products — sometimes I just use conditioner, sometimes I use Deva Curl or Aveda Be Curly, etc. The technique has turned out to be more important than the product.
        -Style. For me, this meant taking small chunks of hair and twisting them. On normal “scheduled great hair days,” I do this myself. On my wedding day, a friend did this for me. She worked all over my scalp until everything had been twisted. If my hair started to get try, she sprayed it with a water bottle.
        -Dry. For me, since my hair typically lacks volume, I blow dried my hair on low, upside-down. If volume isn’t an issue, I think you can do it right side up.
        -Finish, Once the hair was totally dry, I went underneath my hair and fluffed it to give it some extra volume. I also put some medium-hold hair spray underneath and all over to set things.

        Hope that is helpful to you!

  • Robin

    Worth it:


    Spending time and energy to craft a ceremony that was “us,” and writing our vows.

    Day of wedding coordinators. We had everything decoration-wise ready to go, just paid them to show up at the reception venue, decorate, run the show and pack everything up. Worth the $600 bucks or so it cost us altogether and paid for itself in spades.

    A photographer who was low key and organized and whose aesthetic we loved.

    Fancy hot glue gun with low setting. Ours was the wedding brought to you by hot glue and my fingers appreciated the paper temp. setting.

    Spending the night of the wedding, and the next night, at a hotel with a roof top hot tub. The second night was my husband’s idea and it was fantastic to know that the mess at our house wasn’t our problem for a full 48 hours after the wedding.

    Making a point to get back our hand made table numbers, even while encouraging people to take home the herb planter boxes we grew as the centerpieces. Our wedding date hangs on the wall in our kitchen, made from these numbers and I love it.

    Not worth it:

    Worrying about creating a reception play list. I should’ve known better and just planned on letting my dance-happy girlfriends DJ it through Pandora. They did anyway and it was WAY better than what we put together.

    Fancy wedding shoes. They were pretty, but I ended up in flip flops anyway.

    Renting an old typewriter as a guest book – no one saw it indoors in the barn because the party was outside in the yard.

    • Words cannot describe how much a tater tot bar rocks my socks off. (I’m trying to curse less frequently, otherwise I’d maybe have a few words).


      If we ever get time machines, I’m going to use mine to travel back in time and come to your wedding.

      • Robin

        Ditto – I want to go back and have them again. Bonus points for being the bride and getting to skip the line!

    • I am intrigued by this “tater tot bar” idea. It sounds amazing, but what else do you put on them besides ketchup?

      • I am imagining loaded baked potato toppings. Sour cream, chives, bacon bits, cheese, chili…

        • Robin

          Molly, you nailed it. It was a cross between nacho fixings and baked potato toppings. Think ranch and salsa, bacon, cheese, peppers, onions .. etc. YUM. Funny part, it was totally a “custom” request that our venue worked with us to create, but now it is on their catering menu.

          • MTM

            We did a baked potato bar and people LOVED it. We had regular and sweet potatoes, so in addition to the above, there was cinnamon butter, candied pecans, etc.

          • Rebekah

            Trying to reply to MTM here: Honey (and hopefully that’s not an offensive term because I mean in the way I want to totally hug your guts out right now) you have no idea how you have saved me. I’m having to be super budget conscious and I cannot get over how much I love a potato/sweet potato bar. I feel so much lighter!

        • Granola

          We had a mashed potato bar with the same toppings and it was a huge hit.

      • Amy

        Oh, you can do amazing things with tater tots.

        There’s a restaurant near me that does “crabby tots” which is basically a bunch of tater tots smothered in cheesy crab dip. They are ridiculously divine.


      I do regret not having a wedding coordinator. (Our catering manager was supposed to do that for us and no-showed, long story) In hindsight, we leaned on friends and family to do initial set up for and then pack up and move out just about everything – flowers, decor, hanging bunting, etc… I only really press-ganged family and a few close friends into doing it, but in hindsight, I wonder if it was too much.

    • Violet

      Tater tot… BAR??? Oh sweet lord, I need that in my life.

    • TATOR TOT BAR?!?!

      Love love love!!!

    • Kris

      we didn’t have a traditional wedding at all but I just mentioned Tater Tot Bar to my husband and he bust up laughing. He loves his tots, he thinks it is a fabulous idea.

  • Steph

    — choosing to have an indoor ceremony because I realized that as much as I loved the outdoors I didn’t want to spend a year worrying about the weather; and then it rained on our wedding day
    — photography
    — all inclusive honeymoon :)

  • Erin

    Worth it

    – A venue that set up everything but decorations and tore down everything (including decorations) and put it in boxes for us to pick up later. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. We spent my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding night sweeping a cafeteria floor – after two days of set up. It was exhausting and no one enjoyed the day. For my wedding, we had fun decorating, and then did NOTHING ELSE until 3 days later when my dad picked up a box of decorations. As a bonus, the staff there prepared plates for the wedding party so that we could let folks start eating before we arrived without having to wait in line.

    – Skipping the flowers and DIYing the centerpieces. I got married in January – we used tree branches for our centerpieces and borrowed votives from five different sources to go around them. They were less than $3 each and they were gorgeous.

    – Skipping the cake in favor of more plentiful, varied, and delicious Amish-baked pies.

    – Getting my hair done. I didn’t want to stress about it looking great. I just wanted it to look great. The practice session was worth it, too.

    – Not going on a honeymoon right away. I know lots of people disagree with this one, but for us it just wasn’t possible (I had to start teaching the Monday after the wedding). But it had an unexpected benefit – we spent the next morning with family from out of town at a buffet, and had a ton of my friends who live all across the country spend the night with us (yes, in our HOUSE, yes, the NIGHT AFTER OUR WEDDING NIGHT) and drank into the wee hours and played Cards Against Humanity and it is one of the best memories of our wedding for me. There was plenty of time for other stuff later. ;)

    – Borrow borrow borrow. I borrowed candles, I borrowed bows, I borrowed white lights, I borrowed previously-used tulle. I borrowed baskets and table cloths and picture frames. I walked around a friend’s house and picked up decorations that fit our ‘feel’ (like a sign that said ‘We’ve only just begun’ and little laterns). I borrowed an arch for the church and the decorations for the stage. I borrowed my freaking veil. There is not a single thing I borrowed that I regret not owning. If you can’t borrow, craigslist. I got votive candles there, too.

    Not Worth It
    – Pew bows. Why did I bother?

    – Heels. Mine were cheap and I still wish I’d gone with flats. I stripped them off to dance before the end of the night. Be realistic. If you can’t stand in heels for 8 hours on a normal day, you can’t do it on your wedding day either.

    – Wedding Photographer who was a friend of a friend (and semi professional). He was just getting his business up and running. He’d done one other wedding before. The pictures were great. Our engagement pictures were great. But it took us 9 months to get our pictures back, and when we did, I discovered that he’d lost all of our ceremony pictures. If pictures are important, just suck up the extra $500 or $1000 and pay for someone who’s been doing it for awhile.

    • Amanda

      Our honeymoon was a few days after the wedding, so we spent the afternoon/evening of our wedding day playing games with friends and just relaxing. I am so glad we did – it gave us time to really hang out. With a morning wedding (nearly everyone was gone by 1:00) we had a lot of time to spend sort of wedding-detoxing with a small but fun group. Only a few people were left by the night after – but yes, we had them over to our house for movies and pizza, and again, best unintentional wedding-is-over celebration. We did get some teasing from folks our parents ages, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    • We spent three nights in a hotel (3 hotels actually) before going home after our wedding. Our honeymoon trip wasn’t till a month and a half later (we got married mid-semester for me). I love it because we’ve already had two honeymoons. :)

    • Claire

      “If you can’t stand in heels for 8 hours on a normal day, you can’t do it on your wedding day either.”


  • Worth it:
    -Hiring a catering company that set up everything. I cannot imagine having to be responsible for decorating the morning of the wedding.
    -Renting a trolley for the day. It was way over-budget, but I had the best time riding around with our wedding party in it.
    -Our DJ. The dance party was EPIC.
    -Not doing a morning-after brunch. My in-laws really wanted to host a brunch with family members where we’d open our gifts. We stood our ground and it was amazing to slip out of the hotel for breakfast, just the two of us.

    Not Worth It:
    -My dress. I wish I would have spent waaaay less and gone with a white bridesmaid dress OR paid about the same amount and had a dress custom-made for me.

    Worth It in the End, but Didn’t Seem Worth It at the Time:
    -All the fights with my in-laws. We ended up giving in on almost everything for the sake of keeping the peace, but it taught me and my husband SO MUCH about communication and standing up for our baby family.

  • Mackenzie

    Worth it:
    1. Spending 2/3 (at least!) of our budget on our gorgeous venue which included delicious food, beautiful setting including a chapel, cocktail and reception spaces, a friendly officiant-for-hire, discounted shuttle and DJ, and most importantly the nicest day-of-coordinator who made everything run like a dream. Every time we sweated out another line on our budget, we’d remind ourselves that it was a sacrifice for our venue – and thankfully for us it definitely paid off.

    2. Going cheaper on everything else, especially decorations/STDs/invites/programs/hairpieces were DIY. For me (and I totally get how this is very individual), our craft days were some of my favourite wedding prep memories and definitely deepened my friendships with my bridesmaid friends. And though we got the typical “it’s not a wedding without flowers” comments, I think more people noticed and appreciated our non-floral, personalized decorations and appreciated the personal touches.

    3. MARRIAGE PREP COURSE!!! We paid extra to get this from our officiant and it was worth it, mainly because of the conversations it started and the communication exercises

    4. Doing a first look/wedding photos prior to ceremony. One of my favourite parts of the day was our first look – such a personal, private, intense moment, and very special to just share with my guy (and the photographers).

    5. Writing our own vows

    Not Worth It but Secretly Worth It Because of Lessons Learned:
    1. Horrendous anxiety the week before the wedding — Makes me glad to never plan a wedding ever again — actually seems to have prevented the post-wedding depression that some people get!
    2. Stressing over what different crazy family members were going to do/say at the wedding — Only worth it because it lead me to be open about my concerns and how their actions pre-wedding were affecting me, so that I became more honest and assertive through the wedding process. Also helped strengthen some relationships prior to the wedding.
    Neither of the above were worth the sleepless nights and panic attacks and many many tears though. Ugh.

    Actually Not Worth It:
    1. Painstakingly making playlists for cocktail hour and dinner — Luckily I figured this one out beforehand and outsourced to my muscially-inclined bridesmaid. In the end, they’re great playlists that I play in my car all the time, but everyone was gabbing so loud no one heard the vast majority of the songs.
    2. Squeezing my feet into uncomfortable shoes — No one ever saw them, and then I kicked them off for dancing anyway!
    3. Stressing about losing weight for the big day — After months at the gym, I lost 3 lbs total, and the shape of the dress meant it was still mighty tight at the waistline – preventing me from breathing or eating fully during the reception.
    NOTE: Going to the gym IS worth it for the cardio though — I danced like no one was watching all night long in my heavy dress- included the entire Gangham style choreography with my husband – and barely got winded:)
    4. Agonizing over seating charts — I found it was definitely good so allocate seats for everyone, and work a bit to group alike people together, but I spent way too long overthinking who to sit next to who…in the end a lot of the tables just ignored the placecards and sat where they wanted!

    • This is a good point. One of the expenses that was REALLY, REALLY WORTH IT was premarital counseling. We were married by a friend who ran my spiritual group, but went to a counselor for sessions in the months leading up to the wedding. It really helped how we communicate as a couple.

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      Love that the gym ended up being worth it–just for a different reason than you originally envisioned.

    • Rachel

      Couldn’t agree more about the venue – ours was the lion’s share of our budget, and was a package deal that included food, open bar, staff, day-of coordinator (essential), tables/chairs/linens/dishes, and DJ. I was a little skeptical about the DJ (ended up giving him a list of songs to play in whatever order he wanted, but only those songs, which: worth it!) but the venue was perfect and special, and the peace of mind of having so many fewer details to arrange was fantastic.

      Also worth it: all the DIY we did to afford our venue splurge. We DIYed invitations, potted succulent centerpieces (which doubled as favors) and other decorations, and my sister and I baked 12 cakes. It was mostly fun, but the key is… don’t DIY something you just don’t care about! In fact, my most “worth it” decision was to just LET GO of whatever we didn’t care about. Programs? Cutesy seating cards? Didn’t care. Skipped ’em. I highly doubt anyone noticed.

      And finally, the ten-minutes-alone-after-ceremony idea was so very worth it. We actually wrote each other love letters in the few days leading up to the wedding and read them to each other during our ten minute seclusion. It was important to have some space to reflect on what this day meant to us, and what we meant to each other. My husband isn’t the type for super personal wedding vows (although our vows were still lovely) so this was a great way to share those feelings.

  • The big thing for me was keeping the wedding cost down so we could pay for it ourselves. This allowed my husband and I to make decisions together like who to invite or what to eat. It also helped keep the drama down. Also keeping cost down allowed us not to go into debt paying for a celebration.

    Another thing that was huge was sitting down together and making a list of what was important to us before we really started planning the thing. It allowed us to keep focus on where we wanted our money to go and kept us from getting distracted on those little details that seem so so important at the time. Are they on the list? If not we tried not to dedicate much money, stress, or thoughts on those things.

    The final thing was having an after party at the family lake house. We invited friends and family to join us after the reception to hang out lake-side and swim and drink. Folks were invited to crash on a couch or pitch a tent. It gave us more time to see friends and get everyone together. This created some of the best moments of the day. Pre-wedding sunrise swim, an impromptu jam session, my dad and our best man getting drunk on the dock, and morning after breakfast and coffee by the lake. Some of our friends live all over the country and getting everyone together was a blast that needed to last longer than the ceremony and reception.

    • Parsley

      Yes, to the second one, absolutely!

    • Claire

      After party – with you on that one!

      We hired out a hostel for the weekend, which meant we had a whole bunch of time to hang out with everyone – something that was very important to us as we had folks come from far and wide (USA, Israel, New Zealand, & from all over the UK).

  • amc2

    My most important “worth it:” Scheduling all of the final counts, payments, calls, and meetings for two days before the wedding. That way, I spent the day before the wedding with my immediate family, future in-laws, and soon to be husband. We got our nails done, had lunch, and just enjoyed time together without the frenzy of planning and finishing touches.

    Other Worth Its:
    – Sitting at dinner with my parents, my husband’s parents and each of our grandparents. Honoring those who have modeled marriage for us.
    – Having a water station (We had an outdoor wedding in August, so having a table separate from the bar with ice water was fantastic.)
    – Grocery store potted plants as centerpieces
    – No church decorations
    – Doing my own make up, but getting my nails done
    – Making my own wedding cupcakes
    – Writing out a day of schedule
    – Sunday afternoon BBQ that ended at 7 (leaving time to be with my husband alone at sunset). I know some people love the dance party until the sun comes up kinda wedding, but I really appreciated having the night alone with my now husband.

    NOT Worth It:
    Getting my hair done
    My bouquet. I carried it down the aisle and then I didn’t use it again. yes, it added color to the photos, but that could be accomplished another way.

    • Copper

      I’ve always just thought of bouquets as the thing that keeps people from doing stupid things with their hands.

      • Granola

        Actually, oddly enough, my bouquet was my favorite thing, which was surprising given how little I worried about it beforehand. I obsessed over the table centerpieces, and the on the day of really didn’t care about them at all. But I had to carry that bouquet around for several hours, and damn if I didn’t get happy every time I looked at it.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    GOOD decisions that were hard at the time:

    *Fighting with my now-husband about the reception venue – grew our relationship, learned communication skills for the rest of planning
    *Basically everything we spent money on, from our super-cheap photographer and caterer, to our fairly expensive florist and reception venue, including:

    BAD decisions that were hard at the time:

    *For lack of better terminology, avoiding nagging; The last 4 weeks were unnecessarily stressful because of unnecessary procrastination by others
    *I’m not sure we would have hired one, but I wish we’d at least discussed a day-of coordinator
    *Waiting so long to order a custom dress
    *Name-change stuff
    *Spending so many hours talking about centerpieces (totally one of those situations where neither person caring made it super-hard to come to a decision)

    Our biggest “hindsight is 20/20” issues were unknowable until the day of the wedding: I wish we’d invited more people (We invited 220; 80 showed up; we budgeted for 100). And I wish people hadn’t left so early (before 7pm). But these were things outside our control.

    • Caroline

      Can I ask how long before your wedding did you order your dress? Was it through a local seamstress? When do you wish you had ordered it?

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I think I ordered in May for a November wedding. I wish I’d ordered in March or so, just to have it done with and not have to worry about it.

        I went to a local storefront that had sample gowns and bridesmaids dresses and tuxedo rentals and photography all together in one store, but my dress was based off a 1930s dress I saw on ebay that was too far off my size to purchase and alter. The store sent my specifications to their contacts in China, where my dress was made, then shipped oversea to the storefront, where I picked it up after 1 round of alterations included in the regular price.

    • Rebecca

      This is a big fear of mine. We are locked into paying for 100 guests, and I am really worried that we will have lots of people skip out. I know I shouldn’t care, but all I can think about is that $ per head that would go to waste.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        I’ve heard a lot of people stress about meeting their minimum guarantee. The way I think about it, you’re paying a flat fee of $XX for the venue you want, on the day and time you want, with the food you want, and whatever else your venue includes. For $XX, you get all that and some number of guests included — 100 in your case. You only have to pay more if you go over that number of people.

        If you don’t meet your minimum, some places will throw in extras. It’s always worth asking.

  • kmclevel

    Worth it-
    -Buying a $99 dress that fit off the rack minus hemming. I have no plans to sell, save, re-purpose my dress, it wasn’t worth the money to me!
    -Using our college alumni rate to rent their chapel- so cheap!
    – DIY invitations. I couldn’t find anything I loved for what I could afford so I printed, assembled, and embossed my heart out at home. Got major compliments and most people thought we purchased them.
    – Two week Mediterranean cruise for honeymoon with limited internet access. If I did it over I would schedule another day or two after the wedding before we set out though.I didn’t pack any heels to wear to dinner because we finished packing in post wedding hangover/tiredness.
    – Using brand new perfume for the wedding. I thought this would be so silly, but my bridesmaid gifted my Coach poppy blossom and it still does remind me of the wedding every time I wear it!
    – Left the reception with to-go boxes of leftover food. We inhaled them at the hotel and still were hungry at 2 am!
    – Everything we planned/purchased without asking anyone first. Our rings, honeymoon, photographer, menu, attire and shoes, ceremony. People tend to agree if you tell them it’s already decided/purchased.

    Not worth it–
    – Hand painting directional signs with really cute “Goin to the chapel” type sayings. It rained buckets and they weren’t put out after hours of work on them.
    – Bridal party limo. Used a groupon so I didn’t pay too much, but the venues were so close together it wasn’t necessary and I could have had my tight dress pass out moments with fewer witnesses…
    – Letting my mom have a few projects to fill her time. She made programs and gift bags and they both were just ok– no one would have cared they were missing but it was important to her, so they were a wash really.

    • Mandy

      Taking food from the reception to the hotel in to go boxes is a GREAT idea and one I haven’t seen yet – thanks for that in advance ;)

  • Dori

    Worth it:
    – Spending time/effort to find an officiant we really connected with
    – Getting “supplementary” desserts (little petit fours in addition to cake and chocolate-covered strawberries) my mom insisted on this, it seemed excessive, but people loved it and the cost wasn’t prohibitive, and it made her happy
    – Splurging on an awesome photographer
    – Finding an all-inclusive venue and deciding to go with an indoor ceremony. The space wasn’t what I originally envisioned, but it was gorgeous in the end, and super convenient
    – Skipping the post-wedding brunch. I was pretty set on having one, and even had the mad idea that we could host it ourselves, and now I’m SO glad we didn’t add another element to the wedding weekend. Instead we had lunch at a restaurant with close family – no need to plan, stage manage, or get up early.
    – Local mini-moon two days after the wedding (weekend getaway to process the whole thing), with a real honeymoon about a month later. This gave us something to look forward to.

    Not worth it
    – Stressing over hotel blocks – like many others said, only a small number used the rooms and could’ve probably negotiated the same rate on their own
    – $80 Shoes – my MIL insisted that I needed new shoes, but they didn’t show and they weren’t super comfy (though I got Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts and that helped)
    – Photo montage (we had a slideshow for the rehearsal dinner, and wanted to share photos with people we couldn’t invite, but it took forever and I’m not sure how much people looked at it)

    I would also say it wasn’t worth obsessing over things like the ketubah (we looked at tons of websites/samples), program/invites/placecards (we tried out a zillion different cardstocks/layouts), but that is just how we roll.

    • That mini-moon idea sounds SO intelligent/creative/practical. Definitely tucking that idea away.

    • Karly Bradbury

      We did the same with the mini-moon & honeymoon. For us it had a lot to do with work schedules, but it worked out fabulously! We spent 2 days at the Oregon Coast right after seeing everyone off in July and then spent a week in San Diego in October. SO glad we got away right after, but really glad the big trip (packing, unpacking, etc) wasn’t until later!

    • Rebecca

      We are planning on something similar since I am in grad school and can only go on a trip over a break between semesters. We are planning to spend two nights away right after the wedding, though. I’m glad to hear that yours worked out well!

      • That’s exactly what we did, and for the exact same reasons. We loved it!

  • charmcityvixen

    Worth it:
    saying EFF IT and eloping in Central Park
    having an amazing photographer (Katie Jane, an APW sponsor!)
    not spending money on an elaborate wedding no one wanted and instead paying for a down payment on a house and 2 weeks in Italy/Paris for our honeymoon
    having a makeup/hair stylist who helped me feel drop dead gorgeous on my wedding day

    Not worth it:
    getting a fabulous dress… wasn’t super expensive as far as dresses go ($700ish without alterations), but it was a headache I didn’t really need or want
    stressing about our post-elopement picnic playlist (no one could hear it at our picnic)
    stressing about my passport coming in on time
    stressing in general — wedding zen is awesome, even when you elope!

    • Yes to the eloping being so worth it!

      Also worth it, trying to plan a wedding (twice!) even though I wanted to elope right from the get-go. Eloping was magical only because in the end my husband wanted to elope as much as I did.

  • js

    Worth it:
    -Destination wedding that kept our wedding small and intimate.
    -Having our daughter as our only bridal party.
    -The video of our wedding.
    -Having the wedding on the beach.

    Not Worth it:
    -Stressing over family and feeling hurt when some friends and family couldn’t make it.
    -Stressing over family drama and expecting them to behave differently than they usually do.
    -Worrying about people comparing our wedding to others and finding us lacking.
    -Not seeing each other the day of the wedding.

    • Abilene

      I definitely agree with the first three of your four “not worth its!”

    • Di

      Ho I’m planning a destination wedding right now and my biggest stress is number two on your “not worth it” list. It’s reaffirming to be reminded that I shouldn’t stress. I just keep trying to remind myself that there is nothing I can do about how other people feel and act.

    • Di

      Oh, I’m planning a destination wedding right now and my biggest stress is number two on your “not worth it” list. It’s reaffirming to be reminded that I shouldn’t stress. I just keep trying to remind myself that there is nothing I can do about how other people feel and act.

      • Michaela

        Ooooh, still debating with my fiance about whether to see each other before the ceremony. He wants to wait until I walk down the aisle, but I”m nervous we won’t have enough time for all of our combined photos after the ceremony. Our wedding is New Year’s Eve, so the reception is rather long, but we’d be missing most of the cocktail hour to finish pictures at the church of both of us together.

  • MTM

    Worth It
    – Finding a venue that had a day-of-coordinator, catering/bar, and provided both an indoor and outdoor option so we could make the call the morning of the wedding
    – Taking time after the ceremony just the two of us
    – Buying out a local brewery with attached farm house the evening before the wedding to host our close friends. We were able to actually get some quality hang out time with folks (Saturday night, the wedding was Sunday early afternoon).
    – Not having a wedding party: no drama and we got the bonding the night before at the brewery
    – Finding a caricature artist to give the non-dancing folk an activity — more people ended up around the artist watching the drawings than on the dance floor
    – Having a Sunday afternoon ceremony. We got a discount up front and spent very little on alcohol.

    Not Worth It/Things I Wish Went Differently
    – DJ: This was a battle I lost to my mom. Since our ceremony was on a Sunday afternoon, I didn’t think many people would be dancing and wanted to just use an iPod. After the first few dances, everyone was sitting at the tables catching up, or around the caricature artist and she
    – Dress: I let my parents talk me into a more expensive/fancy dress (they paid for it). I was uncomfortable the whole day.
    – Having to go back to work the next day. Ugh.

    – There was a wedding the Saturday night before our Sunday afternoon wedding — they left behind a TON of gorgeous decorations that we used
    – Friends were super appreciative of the party, but many didn’t stay in the farmhouse and opted to get hotel rooms; we thought that the free to them on-site housing after a night of drinking would be packed.

  • Parsley

    So, one of the things I love about the APW community is that we can express different opinions without necessarily saying that others are wrong. So, in that spirit, while many of you found paying for photography worth it (which is great!), we definitely found not paying for photography to be worth it. It was the decision we had the most push-back about from family and friends, but we got gorgeous pictures from our guests. We accomplished this by asking a few people to be attentive to capturing various aspects of the day, and then inviting everyone who came to download their pictures to my laptop during the reception. We left the wedding with over 600 pictures, we uploaded them to Shutterfly, and for somewhere around $150, we have books of prints for ourselves, our parents, our siblings, and our grandparents. Totally worth it!

    Also worth it:
    – Every second we spent crafting a meaningful ceremony
    – Beginning with a list of our top priorities
    – Asking a friend to be our day-of coordinator – she asked her wife for help, and they made the day work!
    – Hunting until we found a caterer willing to follow our vision on our budget
    – Making my dress with my mother

    Not worth it:
    – Buying my wife’s dress over a year in advance – by the time of the wedding, it didn’t fit, and there was a mad last minute scramble

    Would have been worth it, if we’d thought of it!:
    – Designating a coordinator for the rehearsal dinner as well as the wedding. That ended up being me, and I was so, so, so tired and overwhelmed.

    • Claire

      We did the same thing – skipped on photography and instead asked guests to share their photos with us on my laptop before the left – we had a weekend celebration so there was time.

    • Bekky W

      I cannot tell you how much your comment made me feel like a refreshing breeze washed over me! Oh, Parsley, whew! I hate the idea of a “wedding photographer” but I feel the pressure from all my friends who are already married to find one. Hearing your story about how it will all turn out fine makes me feel so much less stressed. Bless you, dear!

  • Kara

    Worth it:

    (1) Inviting everyone we wanted to invite. Yes, it was a destination wedding for most of the guests, so we had a response rate around 50% and we designed things so that we could cut out things if our #s go too high.

    (2) Taking a honeymoon right away (we left the next afternoon).

    • Kara

      Not worth it: Not insisting my parents rent an extra car (or just renting one myself). Somehow, no one remembered that I was relying on them to get me to the church for the rehearsal.Oops. Minor freakout ensued.

  • VIDEOGRAPHER – totally a last minute decision that I had been pondering from day one. We worked with Stereo Waltz Films (out of CA, but they worked with our VA Wedding!) and it’s one of the most amazing 15 minutes of videography that I have ever witnessed. We also have all of the raw footing, including the full wedding ceremony, toasts, etc. I will certainly treasure it forever.

    QUALITY (and totally awesome) PHOTOGRAPHY – this was a must for us from day one. I’m so beyond pleased with the photographs we have from our engagement session and wedding day. I will never, ever regret spending the time to find our photographer or spending the money to have her artfully capture our day.

    The day is over in the blink of an eye – the memories slowly fade. The captured moments will last a lifetime (and hopefully for lifetimes to come!).

    • Angie

      A video is the one thing I regret not doing! I wish I had a video of the ceremony & toasts. My sister-in-law’s toast was hilarious and will never be duplicated. Even if I chose never to watch it, it would mean so much to me to have it.

  • Worth It
    Destination – Sticking out all the questions/comments/concerns about having the wedding almost 2 hours away from the bulk of those attending, in the mountains, and in a place that isn’t strictly a “wedding” venue. It was the best decision we made, in my opinion.

    Photographer – I know plenty of friends that are semi-professionals that would have done it on the cheap, but I wanted someone professional, and I wanted a solid contract. Photos were too important, and this kept me from stressing about them.

    Writing our own ceremony/vows – I know this made a big difference for my husband, who has no real affinity to any of the traditional ceremonies we read through. This made it more meaningful for the both of us.

    Welcome party instead of rehearsal dinner – I’m so glad we did this, even if we over bought on food. It was much more casual and allowed everyone to be together without a schedule or a time limit.

    Wedding Day Coordinator – I don’t know what I would have done without one. Seriously.

    10 Minutes of alone time after the ceremony – DO IT. So worth it, even if you have to go hide in a car or something similar.

    Sort of Worth It
    DIY/DIT – I really loved some things. Doing my own invitations as a designer, totally worth it. Same with programs and our little flags we used. Other things, like the table runners and the books for each table, were more hassle for less reward, but I did still enjoy having them.

    Flowers – I tried to fight to do all the flowers (and make the bouquets) for a long time before agreeing to let a family friend do bouquets and order the centerpiece flowers for us. It definitely turned out to be worth the extra cost – she gifted us another whole bucket of daisies that came in “unusable” (they looked fine to us!). I stressed too much about trying to make myself do everything in this category though. I’m happy I didn’t.

    Not Worth It
    S’mores favors – we made individual bags for people, and wasted a ton because people left before the fire got started/it got dark. I should have stuck with my gut and just brought the supplies to bring out once it got dark. Would have saved a bit of money and a lot of time.

    I’m sure there are other not worth it items but I’m drawing a blank right now. Maybe more later.

  • Jen


    – our photographer for sure. a bit on the pricey side? yeah. but totally worth every penny – beautiful pictures and these girls were tons of fun to have around!! (maybe it helped that I already knew one of them?)

    – firepit (read: mini portable one that we picked up at some hardware store, not expensive, and did the job!) with s’mores and beer/wine as a planned and casual post-wedding party hang out. Our venue wasn’t aloud to have music on after 10pm, so if we wanted to continue the party we needed to figure something out!! (some of the parents and aunts/uncles who don’t usually drink even went back to one of the rooms to split a bottle of wine and then came out to the firepit afterwards!!)

    – going up a couple of days early with my girls. The wedding was about a 2hr drive from where we live, and we decided to drive up and have my bachelorette then (totally low-key, just the way I like it: a visit to a vineyard and then a lovely dinner at an amazing restaurant). So it was just the bridal party, and we had a lovely evening Friday, then I had all day Saturday to prep (picking up and DITing flowers / signage / caramel in jars / making earrings / etc) and hang out with my ladies! (it should also be noted that my lovely husband and I didn’t see each other for the better part of a week before the wedding, so hanging out with him was out of the question!)

    – our amazing fingerprint rings by Brent & Jess

    – the “family tree” that we had; literally a couple of trees that we hung pictures of some of our relatives on their wedding days on. It took a while to get them all together, and get copies printed, and then I had to go super early before hair/makeup to hang them (the sun was just coming up!), but I hear that people loved them, and it was a really nice way to include past generations (those who could be there and those who couldn’t, like my dad who died when i was young)

    I honestly can’t think of anything that wasn’t worth it…maybe something will come to me later!!

  • Worth it:

    Outdoor standing ceremony in the middle of a field. We brought a couple chairs out for grandparents, and everyone else stood around. Very unorganized, completely organic and perfect. Also ended up serving cocktails and mingling with guests before the wedding. It was perfectly chaotic and so much fun. Simply put, choosing not to be too organized and letting the day flow naturally, not matter if we got different advice beforehand.

    Didn’t really matter:

    Planning out who would walk me down the “aisle” (meaning, over by that tree). In the end, my whole family did and that was one of the most special parts of the day. I had wanted just my dad, and looking back I’m so glad it happened differently.

  • Carolyn

    Worth it: making basically all of the planning decisions together with my husband. Even though it meant not getting exactly my way (because surprise! It wasn’t just MY day) it was totally worth it for us both to have ownership of the aesthetics and feel of the day.

    Also worth it: gel manicure. Rocked it straight through two weeks of backpacking on our honeymoon.

    Not worth it: being stubborn about the budget, just for the sake of being stubborn.

  • Worth It –

    – A professional photographer instead of a friend. I loved not worrying about them wanting to drink or dance, and not straining our relationship over money or timeliness or professionalism.
    – Over-buying alcohol (when you bring in your own for cheap). We definitely did not want to worry about this and loved having some leftovers, didn’t mind the extra cost because we didn’t want people to feel like they had to stop dancing/playing if/when the well ran dry!
    – Saying “pass” to a million things, like real flowers, decorating the ceremony venue, having favors, assigned seating, programmed parts of the reception like assigned dances, etc.
    – Not dealing with paper save the dates or RSVPs. Our families and friends spread the word for save the dates (which was fun) and our invitations just asked people to call or email us with their RSVP. Then I delegated to my sister the task of stalking people who missed the deadline (people were able to give her a straight answer without being overly gushy/apologetic because they weren’t talking directly to the couple). We just kept a master Excel spreadsheet and I found it easy.
    – Having time the next day to see people who stuck around (we went swimming in a lake) without planning anything specific or stressful.
    – Delegating as much as possible, people were SO thrilled to help!

    Not Worth It –

    – Skipping the attention to how I would look. I never do fancy hair and I only ever wear eyeliner. We had both pledged to look like ourselves at our wedding, so I just got ready haphazardly right before the ceremony and I do wish I had paid a little bit of attention to how it would look all together. (like putting my hairpiece in before the day of and taking a few photos from different angles to see how it came across)
    – Spending money on rings! We went cheap and we love them. Sturdy (titanium) but not expensive. Very us and no panic attacks when we go camping.

  • dragonzflame

    Totally Worth It:
    Spending HOURS making lists of all the group photos we wanted. We then numbered them and sent everyone the numbers of the photos they were in. I teased husband for being anal at the time but we had sooooo many to get through that being organised was the best thing ever.

    Doing cake right after the ceremony. We had a beach wedding and, while it was a bit of a PITA to haul the cake and drinks to the beach, it went down really well. It meant that people got a bit of a snack mid-afternoon and didn’t end up going to the reception and drinking bubbles on an empty stomach!

    Making my own dress. Lots of stress, and if I’d had my time over I wouldn’t have been working on my own birdcage veil and fascinator the night before we left for the wedding, but I’m very glad I did it.

    Springing for all the bridal party to stay in the same place. The night before the wedding, we all hung out together drinking wine and it was wonderful and low-key. And despite people not having seen each other for years, or never even having met before, it was like we’d all been friends for years.

    Not worth it:
    Stressing about not getting the ceremony videoed. My mum really wanted me to for overseas family members, but we didn’t want to pay for a videographer, and it was so low on our priority list we ran out of time to organise someone with a camera that does video. The one time I cried in the planning was explaining to my mum that it wouldn’t be videoed, and she told me it didn’t matter and to stop being silly. In the event, FIL got most of the ceremony on his iPhone, which was good enough.

    That was about it. We were very clear on what we thought would be worth it and what wouldn’t, and there’s literally nothing about the day we’d have done differently.

  • Abilene

    – Professional Photography – I will never look as good as I did that day, and I’m glad I had someone who knew what she was doing to document it. I will treasure these photos forever.
    – Sticking to my guns/advocating for myself – I’m really glad I was such a “pain in the ass” and stuck to my guns about the things I really wanted. If I had given in, I would have always wondered, “What if…?” For example, I had both my parents walk me down the aisle because I had a strained relationship with my dad growing up. My parents thought it was “weird” for both of them to walk me down the aisle, but they did it anyway and it meant so much more to me AND made me much more comfortable.
    – DIY bouquets and boutonnieres (compliments of my husband) – We saved so much money on flowers, and our arrangements were so unique! He made boutonnieres out of feathers to match our bird theme, and the bouquets (made from Trader Joe’s flowers purchased the day before) were astonishing. No one could believe he made them himself.
    – Having a winter, Sunday morning wedding – Lots of people said it was dumb. “What if there’s a blizzard?!” Well, there wasn’t, and you can have bad weather in any season. Having a morning wedding was amazing, and having it on a Sunday lent a relaxed, almost old-fashioned vibe to it.

    – Stressing about not being able to afford an open bar – This was such a waste of time and energy. No one seemed to care whatsoever. In fact, they expected to pay for their own drinks!
    – Hiring a “discount DJ” – We hired my sister-in-law’s friend. He wasn’t awful… but he really wasn’t great, either. He played a different version of our first dance song that we had never heard, causing us to panic. In the end, not a big deal, but I do regret it a little.
    – Comparing our wedding to EVERYONE ELSE’S – Definitely not worth it. It was our wedding, not anyone else’s. I wish I had learned that early on. I spent a lot of time being competitive, and for what?

  • Jess

    Not married yet, but my friends and I have been discussing this lately:
    Say there’s a spectrum between “traditional WIC” wedding and “non traditional.” On pretty much every decision, I fall somewhere in the middle, leaning non traditional. With each decision, both my fiance and I have been torn between what we think we want, and worrying that it’s not wedding-y enough and that it wouldn’t feel real if we did what we wanted or we’d regret it later.
    For example, would we be tragically disappointed if we didn’t do an epic proposal. We ended up going non traditional agreeing to be engaged while sitting in a bar heavily buzzed. Did it matter? Nope. We were worried that going super funky or weird on my engagement ring wouldn’t feel engagement-y enough. So we ended up going more traditional that I would have liked, and I don’t love the ring, but does it matter? Nope. We have our wedding band already too. That one *is* non traditional. Doesn’t make a set with the engagement ring, will have to take the engagement off or switch it to the other hand. Does it matter? Nope! We’re in talks to book a grilled cheese truck for the wedding. Not very wedding like, but the more I think about delicious delicious grilled cheese, the more I think, “Does it matter? Nope!” Even though I know this is my pattern, I’m currently torn between a funky yet wedding-y dress that I love, and a shorter, super fashionably cocktail style one that’s white, but not very wedding-y. Whatever I decided, I’m sure I’ll look back and say “Did it matter? Nope!”
    Basically, my point is, as someone who never thought she would get married, let alone plan a wedding, the “things you should do or you’ll regret it for forever” list gets a little intimidating sometimes. And if you know yourself, you can save yourself a lot of heartache and stress.

    • Granola

      This mantra helped me when I was worried about being “too traditional”:

      You are getting married. It’s a wedding.

      So basically, even if you go crazy non-traditional, it will still recognizably be a wedding. But also, if you’re worried that you’re not being “unique enough,” well, weddings are in fact a thing that have been done for generations, which is part of their charm and power. Trying to break the mold just for the sake of doing so while you make a commitment echoed by millions of people before and after you may just give you a headache.

      • Jess

        Yeah, mostly I worry I’m being too reactionary when I decide I don’t like something that’s fairly traditional. Except…if I wasn’t getting married, I *still* wouldn’t like it. It’s just funny how much weight these things feel like they have and how I’m suddenly second guessing the things I know I like or don’t like. .

  • Sara C.

    Worth it –

    Basically, any money spent being a gracious host. That meant providing dinner + drinks for our completely out-of-town guest list, as well as welcome bags. This even included choosing a more convenient location – I refused to look at locations greater than a half hour from a major airport. It also meant (since few people would have cars as 90% of our guest list flew in) that I chose a central location where the hotel was very close to the church (walking/short taxi/etc). I wanted my friends & family there, and it was important to not make it cost-prohibitive.

    Professional hair & make-up – because I do not have the skill to accomplish the look I wanted.

    Photography – though I will say we had a very reasonable photographer ($1750) every penny of that was worth it.

    Not worth it — ? by the final day, I had already cut everything deemed “not worth it.” Really, really, really happy that I did not pay for chiavari chairs or plated service (buffet instead). No one cared, chairs are not noticed in the pictures (even by me), and those two decisions saved a ton of money.

    Also – I could have spent less on the dress. It wasn’t crazy expensive ($1300), but I could have probably been equally happy with one that was $800-1000 and pocketed the difference. C’est la vie.

    Regret? I really wish we had a videographer. My husband surprised me by singing his vows. I would pay $$$ to have that video now, but cut it out of the budget then.

    • Yes to this too! The money spent on providing an amazing meal for our family and friends was absolutely worth it. It felt so good to not only have them their for our wedding day, but to also be thanking them for their continuing support. Which meant providing good booze, amazing food, and a fun, magical location (keeping them in mind and not just what we wanted).

    • One More Sara

      Buffets *can* be cheaper than plated dinners, but this is absolutely not ALWAYS the case. At our venue, the bottom-tier plated dinner cost exactly the same as the buffet. A plated dinner was a must-have for my fiance, so this was a big plus-point for our venue.

      • CC

        So true, at our venue, buffet actually costs more because “they have to make more food”!

  • Mags

    Worth It:
    Writing our own vows. I literally wrote mine the morning of the wedding because I had been so busy before that, but I really appreciated that our wedding was just the two of us, talking to each other, telling each other our plans for the future and favorite parts of one another.

    Having friends be our officiants. I stressed over this a lot because I worried it wouldn’t be fully legal (it is) and I didn’t know how to do it and it required me doing a lot of paperwork and then the person who became ordained almost had to miss our wedding because of a family emergency. But everyone loved our ceremony, said it was so personal, and like half the people were crying. It was the best.

    Making homemade cakes for every table (20 cakes). This was a ton of work and I spent a lot of my time & energy before the wedding working on it. And in hindsight all of the cakes wouldn’t have needed to be elaborate, gourmet flavors/designs. But I love to bake and our love of food is a huge part of our relationship. I would have hated a store-bought cake and the different cake on every table was such a huge hit. Even though there was a ton of cake leftover, lots of people talked about how fun being able to sample different cakes was.

    Working hard to have the wedding at the location we wanted. We got married in my parents’ front yard and it was so special. It was also a ton of work. I live a thousand miles away so my parents pretty much had to do all the work (they started a year in advance, taking extra good care of the grass, planting extra flower beds, growing the flowers for our decorations, my dad built the chuppah, etc) but even they say this was worth it. It was so beautiful and so meaningful to have it at my childhood home. And friends who came from out of town and my husband’s family who live even further away than we do loved exploring my hometown and spending the time at my parents’ house. Plus, since it was a home wedding we could do everything the way we wanted. There were parts I worried would seem really backwoods/backwards (I grew up in a tiny middle-of-nowhere town that is very different from the east coast cities most of my friends/husband’s family are used to), but no one minded the fact that we had outhouses (we also let people use bathrooms in the house) and our dance floor was the driveway.

    Our photographer. We spent a lot of time looking and found one we loved who was a little out of our price range. So happy we got him anyways.

    Not worth it.:
    Fighting with my mom over the guest list. I wanted a somewhat small wedding (it ended up being ~150 people coming, ~250 invited) and my mother thought we should invite the whole town (practically). At the beginning I was really adamant that the wedding should be small and I only wanted to invite people we felt close to. However, we technically had no space limitations (since we were having it at my parents’ house) and in the end I didn’t notice if my mother’s friends who I’m not close with were at the wedding (I just didn’t spend a lot of time with them). Plus we sent out a lot of last minute invites to distant relatives because after invites were sent out I would hear something like “Janet just told Great-Aunt Betty about your wedding and apparently Betty is so excited to come — except you didn’t want to send her an invitation.” It would have been better to just have the distant relatives on the invite list from the beginning.

    Professional make-up. I hated the way I looked in it on my wedding day and in some photos. I just don’t look like me.

    Things I didn’t splurge on and would have been worth it:
    A second dress for the reception. Our wedding was outdoors and hot. I was dancing like mad and filled with adrenaline. After the photographer left I just couldn’t handle being in my wedding dress any longer (plus it was slightly mermaid style and not the easiest to dance in) so I changed into a dress I had in my suitcase. It was fine, but since it was my wedding and I could have gotten a second, slightly more bridal dress for not a lot of money (compared to the rest of the wedding) it might have been worth it. Also more-bridey flip-flops. We had two receptions and for both I changed into my old black reef sandals. When I pulled them out the first time my sister-in-law had the most disgusted look on her face. Other guests might have thought it was horrible too.

    Nicer gifts for our parents. Our parents did so much for the wedding (and paid for it) and we couldn’t come up with any way to thank them. We planned on making photobooks (and bought a groupon for this) but still haven’t put them together. Whenever I think about this I feel awful. They’re getting a grandchild soon which I think they will be happy about but if anyone has suggestions for ways we can show our appreciation on our first anniversary, that would be great.

    • First of all, your wedding sounds AMAZING from top to bottom – I would totally love to see it shared as a Wedding Grad/Wordless Wedding/How We Did It post!

      For your parents, assuming you won’t have time to put together the photobooks, what about choosing just one beautiful shot (maybe of your parents with the two of you?) and having it printed on canvas and/or gorgeously framed at a large size, to be delivered along with a letter expressing your heartfelt thanks and recalling all the things you loved about the day?

      • Mags

        Liz, That’s an awesome idea for a gift for our parents. I’m definitely going to look into getting that done. Thanks!

  • AMS

    Having my sister do my hair and makeup, and my brother be our DJ with a laptop, iPod and Youtube! I was a little stressed if it would work out, and it was great!
    Photographer – So worth it. We barely noticed her during the ceremony and reception, and our photos are amazing! PS if anyone is looking for an awesome photographer in the Canadian Rockies, check out Snickerdoodle Photography.
    Cupcakes – people just kept eating them all night so we had next to no leftovers.
    First look photographs – I’ll never forget the look on his face! That alone was worth having to defend seeing each other before the ceremony over and over and over!

    Our caterer – The food was good, but they left a lot more of the setup to us than we anticipated, and the staff very rudely kicked our friends and family out of the venue at precisely 2am so they could clean up. Keep in mind that the venue and caterer were separate, and we had the venue rented for the entire weekend. In retrospect, we should have done more research but were blindsided by being double booked six months out and wanted to make sure our guests were fed!
    Gift registry – I think a grand total of three people bought gifts from the registry. It was a waste of time and junk email!

    • Abilene

      I agree with you on the gift registry. I always ask for people’s registries, so I was surprised at how few of our guests used ours. I was bummed, because I honestly would have preferred to get the kitchen items over cash.

  • Marina

    Worth the effort we put into it:
    The pre-wedding events. We had a sit-down “rehearsal” dinner, a casual buffet dinner, a casual picnic, a co-ed “bachelorette” karaoke party, a girls-only DIY spa “shower”, and a morning at a blueberry U pick farm, all in the week before the wedding. It was definitely stressful trying to coordinate all the different parts and pieces but those are some of my best memories from the wedding week. Everyone arrived at the wedding knowing each other, so there was less awkward small talk and more gettin’ down to the partying. Ok, we probably went a little over the top–nobody needs that many pre-wedding events. But picking the blueberries was totally, totally worth it.

    Not worth the effort:
    Stressing over people who invited themselves at the last minute. It didn’t hurt me any to have my grandma’s best friend’s daughter there, even if I hadn’t seen her in ten years.

    • Caroline

      A pre-wedding u-pick sounds like a blast… I wonder if we could work that in…

  • MrsCockerell

    While we were fortunate to have a generous wedding budget, my parents raised me to be a practical, cost-conscious bride. Even if it had been up to my husband and me to pay for our wedding, I would have kept most of the wedding the same (though I would have kept the wedding much, much smaller); I did my best to be anything but frivolous with my parents’ money.

    – A photographer whose story-telling abilities resonate with me. He’s technically not even a wedding photographer, but I just love his eye. Interestingly, two trusted advisers recommended we hire a videographer, and in the name of practicality, I declined. They said I’d watch the video all the time, and knowing myself, I knew I wouldn’t. What I DIDN’T realize is how much of the wedding you miss being tucked away here and there. If I regret anything, it is that I didn’t hire a videographer (or at the least ask a friend to take video on their iPhone); I missed hearing the songs I painstakingly selected for the string quartet for the prelude as well as the entire cocktail hour, etc…. the sting of this is wearing off, but if you’re considering hiring a videographer or have a generous friend who will do this for you, DO IT!

    – Finding a beautiful sample dress, and buying it right off the rack. You wear your dress for so little time… if you feel pretty, you will look pretty; you don’t need to spend thousands on a dress you’ll wear for just a few hours.

    – It took months of convincing my husband, but I am so glad we did a First Look. I don’t know that either of us would have made it through the ceremony had we not seen each other beforehand; we were both so emotional, and seeing each other calmed us both down and centered us for the day.

    – A wedding planner and stylist: I hired one of my very talented friends to do all of our wedding collateral (save the dates, thank you notes, invites) and styling, and she recommended a planner to do all the coordinating. I’m not crafty, and I don’t have time to call and negotiate and in general herd cats; I do that at work all day. While there was still plenty to do, having two professionals handle these details— both large and small— meant that I didn’t ever really get lost in the phenomenon of “oh-my-god-I-can’t-sleep-until-I-finish-these-tiny-details-that-no-one-will-notice.” Instead, I was able to focus on my fiance and the life we are building together, and we were able to tackle the remaining to-do’s together.

    – Fighting, tooth and nail, to keep the wedding list as tight as possible. I married into a large family, and my mom seemed to want to invite everyone she knew, but I resisted random add-ons — sometimes regrettably ungraciously. In the end, we invited 240, and almost 200 came,which was max capacity for both venues, ceremony and reception, This was a bit of a nail biter up until the week of the wedding, but my wedding planner had everything under control and had plans A, B, C, etc ready to go. Even still, I didn’t even get to say hi to everyone, but I got to spend time with the people who were important to me.

    – All-inclusive honeymoon, and leaving MONDAY after the wedding, leaving us a day to sleep in, pack, and handle last-minute details. Also, we stayed at home our wedding night. I highly recommend that if you’re honeymooning right away. Saved us a few hundred dollars, and we could wake up at home at our leisure.

    – I wish I had been nicer to my mom throughout the wedding process (being a b*tch: not worth it). Albeit there were some other factors impacting my mood (read: work), it was a relief to take off of work the week of the wedding and spend some time with her and be very nice (being nice: worth it).

    I read something the week of the wedding, and it really left an impression on me: it’s a wedding, not a production. If, at the end of the day, you end up married to the one you love, it’s a success.

    So, keep that in mind. Perfection is unattainable, but you can certainly kick back and have a lot of fun. And that’s exactly what we did.

    • Totally second the “stay at home on your wedding night” thing. So glad that we didn’t have to get up and check out of a fancy hotel by 11:00 a.m. the next day. And we waited a week and a half before we went on our honeymoon, which was awesome because it gave us a chance to recover a little from the wedding exhaustion so we didn’t just sleep through the first three days of our honeymoon (which I’ve had several friends tell me they did).

      • Teresa

        Me too, it was so awesome! We spent the whole morning after cuddling our cat and staring at our rings and giggling. Then we had plenty of time to finish packing and relax. I can’t recommend this enough!

  • Brittany

    Great decisions:

    Saying “enough!” to the stress, setting a date two weeks out and throwing together a simple, small (30 people) wedding last minute because we just wanted to be married already and done with the hell that engagement was for us.

    Not investing time and money into things that weren’t important to us, even if other people thought we had to have them. For example, we used (cute) paper plates, cups, tablecloths etc even though we were told over and over that it was too tacky and cheap for a wedding. Looking back, I thought it looked great and I don’t think anyone was harmed by having to eat off a paper plate for one evening.

    Board games. My family thought having board games at a wedding was ridiculous, but everyone had a blast and the pictures of everyone laughing and playing are some of my favorite from the whole night.

    Creating a ceremony that was comfortable for us, even if it was non-traditional. I am extremely shy and struggle with anxiety issues, and I was terrified of being on display during such an intimate moment. So we chose to read our vows privately and do simple, repeat after me style vows during the public ceremony. We also didn’t kiss at the end, and I avoided walking down an aisle by already being there when the guests arrived. It was different, sure, but it worked out perfectly for our situation.

    Prioritizing delicious food. Enough said.

    Not so great decisions:

    Settling on a dress that I felt just okay in due to time and budget. I was self conscious all night long as a result, ended up changing out of my dress just after dinner was served, and I don’t like the way I look in any of the pictures. Looking back I realize that the extra money would have been worth it to wear something that made me feel fabulous.

    Letting other people’s criticisms take away my excitement. I wish I had enjoyed the time a bit more instead of focusing on things that I couldn’t control. Its funny, a year later (today!) they can now see where I was coming from and will admit that they were wrong about most of the things they were so sure back then were terrible decisions.


    Writing our own ceremony from scratch. We got to completely customize the ceremony from beginning to end, make our own “traditions,” and make sure there was nothing in the ceremony that didn’t ring true to us.

    Having my father officiate. My mother kept freaking out about the idea of someone who was not a “real” officiant do our wedding. I almost gave in just to stop her from sending me constant emails about all the things that could go wrong, but I am SO GLAD that I stood my ground. It was so cool to have my father do the ceremony, he had a great time and took his role very seriously, and we won’t look back at our wedding photos and struggle to remember the name of the person who married us. :-)

    Costume dance party, in honor of Halloween. I didn’t want to do a full-on costume party for our wedding, but since we got married Halloween weekend I wanted to acknowledge the holiday in a fun way. So we got a bunch of cheap costume accessories (masks, hats, glow necklaces, etc.) and set them out on a table by the dance floor. My mother wasn’t a fan when I first suggested it, and a lot of people gave me weird looks when I mentioned it beforehand, but on the actual night everybody thought it was the coolest thing ever and had a total blast with them. Also, our reception pictures are really fun!

    Photo of EVERYONE who came. It was logistically difficult, and involved awkwardly making everyone stand and smoosh together on one side of our venue directly following the ceremony while our photographer lay on her stomach on the balcony. It felt a little (hilariously) awkward at the time but, damn, I love that picture.


    The night before the wedding I had a nervous breakdown trying to finish our programs. They weren’t even that complicated… I was just printing them on nice paper and cutting said paper in half… but our printer kept messing up and printing them out weird so the words were cut off. I worked myself up into an exhausted rage finishing them, and at the wedding almost none of our guests even took programs. Ah well…

  • lmba

    Worth it:

    – Having to come to terms with the fact that our venue couldn’t be confirmed until 1.5 months before the wedding! In exchange for being flexible and not over-planning, we got a beautiful and cheap outdoor venue with everything we needed.

    – Sending email invites instead of paper. Faster and cheaper.

    – Skipping the flowers. We love flowers, but we didn’t need them at our wedding. It was awesome to not have to worry about them.

    – Renting the dishes and flatware for our self-catered reception. NO DISHES TO WASH. Enough said.

    – Having a dance with a great sound system even though many of our guests weren’t dancers. I had a blast with a small number of friends. Everyone else watched.

    – Doing photos before the ceremony. Not the ‘fairytale’ order of events, but it helped me feel really relaxed and ready for the wedding.

    – Leaving for our honeymoon in Indonesia 2 days after the wedding. We were tired, yes, but the newlywed buzz was firmly in place keeping us agreeable during the 36-hour trip!

    – All the time we spent crafting our ceremony. So, so worth it.

    Not worth it:

    – Having a long-time (but ultimately low-quality) friend in the wedding party. Lesson learned: Only ask people to participate that are truly vital or whom you trust implicitly. Everyone will be better off.

    – Worrying so much about being the center of attention, getting nervous, not having the right feelings and moments during the day… I felt totally different than I thought I would and was not nervous at all.

    – Centerpieces. Didn’t really need them that much in the end, and they made the tables kindof crowded.

    – Not having someone fully in charge of food. Lots of people helped, but it would have been worth hiring someone if necessary to coordinate everything, since a number of things got missed and too much stress was placed on some members of the bridal party.

  • sfw

    Worth It
    – a one-stop-shop ceremony and reception venue that included catering and all the rental stuff. Once we had done a tasting and their food was actually good, we locked it down. This rescued us from a number of burden-of-choice moments and freed me from trying to decide on THE perfect space to represent us as a couple.

    – the photographer. When I began researching wedding photographers I was appalled at the prices and was not convinced that the service could possibly be worth it. But we persevered in finding the right (APW) photographer for us and our budget, she was wonderful to work with and the photos are magical (not just for us but for our family members who have few nice photos with each other).

    – the DIY/DIT decor. I went a little crazy with all the little details and we definitely didn’t need the decor to have a wonderful wedding, but I am very fortunate to have a mom and sister living less than an hour away from me. We each set aside most of the Sundays in the months leading up to the wedding to work on my DIT projects and, looking back, those hours spent together (not all of them fun) are a gift as precious as the wedding day itself.

    – efforts to make his family feel involved (even when those efforts were rebuffed). At first I wasn’t super crazy about the 90-year-old veil they wanted me to wear and I was pretty hurt when his aunt and uncle turned down our request to do a reading in the ceremony, but his grandmother’s tears when she saw me in the veil were amazing and I am glad I can feel like I did my best by them.

    – writing our own vows. It seemed impossibly daunting at first, but it was important work for each of us to do. And as we laughed and cried through reading them to each other, it was a powerful moment of laying ourselves bare to each other and to our community.

    Not Worth It
    – my dress. Even though I bought it secondhand and paid less than half the original price, it still cost more than I think I should have spent. In hindsight, I should have gone with a bridesmaid or just a non-wedding dress and dedicated that money to the after-party.

    – the time and energy I spent worrying about who would come or not, who would RSVP and no-show, etc. On our wedding day, some important people were not there and still we were surrounded by more love and support than I ever imagined possible.

    – demanding my fiance have opinions about aspects of wedding planning that he simply didn’t care about. What I was really looking for in those moments was to not feel alone in it all, but there were much better ways of asking for connection than hounding him about centerpieces.

    • Totally agree on the inclusive venue! It looks so expensive at the outset, but the truth is that doing all those things piecemeal will cost similar and take so much more time and agony.
      We had a ceremony/reception site with food, cake, rentals, linens, DJ, and wedding coordinator included. They even had an officiant available, although for that we did use our own.
      Saved me hours of planning.

  • Worth it:
    DIY Flowers: Buying flowers wholesale and doing it ourselves. It cost a 1/10th of the price we were quoted by a traditional florist. We were careful to make choices based on what was available during that month. We made the final order once we knew what they had, that looked good, and how much it cost. The arrangements were not complicated, but we got loads of compliments on the flowers (before people knew that we had done it all).

    Good food: We didn’t do anythign super fancy, but we picked a caterer that knew what they were doing. We initially worked with a different company that was larger and was trying to impress with fancy sounding dishes. “Braised short ribs with root vegetables” really just tasted and looked like beef stew (it was good, but not really what we were looking for). Don’t pay attention to fancy ingredients or names and pick food that you like!

    Photography: 2 photographers, even if one is just a friend with a nice camera. You’ll have more angles, and a better chance of having some where you aren’t’ making a weird face (or was that just me)…

    Group Picture! We got everyone wrangled in between cocktails and dinner and had the photographer go up on a balcony to take a big group shot. I love having one picture with all our guest in it!

    Not Worth it: Going by “the book” (unless it’s Meg’s book!). We had a budget that I was obsessed with maintaining, so we worked on lots of outside the box options. Lots of DIY/DIT and some successful use of craigslist and ikea. We skipped the big company DJ for a smaller, less snazzy operation, bought all our own drinks (Safeway has really good deals on wine!) and made a tax deductible donation to a charity instead of stressing about finding a perfect, cute but not useless favor to give out. For us we made choices about what was important and what we could skip. Some things we skipped were not easy decisions (only beer and wine/champagne) and not having lots of bridesmaids/ groomsmen, but we loved our wedding and wouldn’t have changed a thing.

  • Heather L

    Worth it-

    An all-inclusive venue. It was great to just pick out our menu, drop off the decorations and not have to worry about the food or setup after that. Even the cake was supplied through a contract with the local bakery.

    Beer and wine instead of a full bar.

    NOT giving into the pressure to have my dad walk me down the aisle

    Doing my own flowers with one of my bridesmaids. They made me happy at a fraction of the cost of the florist.

    Getting my hair done, but doing my own makeup.

    Not worth it-
    Getting a cheaper photographer because that was all we could afford. The proofs were not that great, they have been shitty at contacting us and the photographer wasn’t really that professional and was really intrusive.

    I also kind of wish I had gotten a red dress, but I had trouble finding one and finally settled on a white and gold prom dress.

  • Zeph

    Continually insisting that this was “our” day, not “my” day. We got married legally a year before our public wedding ceremony and it took a while for him to understand why the public ceremony was important to me. I consistently corrected him and insisted (sometimes to the point of ridiculousness) that no, this was an us thing, not a me thing. About halfway through the planning process, he finally got it and joined in more. After our wedding, the most frequent comment we got from our guests was how perfectly the day reflected us as a couple. He later thanked me for my insistence and said the day was much more special for him because there were little things throughout that had been his idea or carried a memory of choosing together.

    Throwing out the “rules” about a wedding day – we did a first look shoot with our photographer and then hung out with our bridal party for the last ten minutes before the ceremony. We all had a glass of wine and a quiet moment with our dearest friends to soak in what was about to happen. Those ten minutes are some of my favorite memories of the day and wouldn’t have happened if we let ourselves be talked out of it. (Yes, several aunts had serious objections to this plan)

    Logical and REALISTIC DIY projects – I had a lot of ideas about things I wanted to do myself and a lot of very talented people offered their services for different things. We were very careful about the things that we chose to do and the things we accepted from others. Our criteria for choosing which projects to do: 1) When we look back on our wedding, will this detail even matter? 2) If it will matter, will having done it ourselves make it better or would it be just as special if done by a pro? 3) If yes to 1 and 2, how does the time/energy/cost of DIYing this compare to just hiring someone for this? There were a lot of really creative, really beautiful projects that we didn’t take on because they couldn’t pass these criteria. The projects that we did take on were even better because we could devote more time and energy to them then we would have been able to if we were trying to pull off 1000 crafts at once.

    Wedding shoes with heels – Yes, they felt glamorous and beautiful and I adored them, but by the time we finished with pictures all I could think about was taking them off. I ended up wearing a pair of white flip flops for the rest of the night. Our reception didn’t wind down until almost 3am and there is absolutely no way that I would have made it that far in my beautiful heels. I think there is only one picture where you can actually see my beautiful shoes anyway.

    Stressing out who would be there or not – I spent huge amounts of energy being worried about who would be there or not. Lots of crying and anger and pain. In the end, our wedding was amazing and I loved every minute of it. The people who were there were wonderful (even the ones who invited themselves) and the people who weren’t there showed their love and support in other ways. In the few cases of people that hurt us deeply by not attended…that hurt lead to some beautiful heart to heart conversations later and the realization that….if they didn’t want to be at our ceremony, then our ceremony was better for not having them there anyway.

  • Liz

    Worth it surprises:
    – professional hair and makeup. Yes, I could do my own, but having them scheduled meant that I couldn’t skimp on time for myself in between dealing with last-minute details the morning of the wedding. Normally I am very good at taking the time I need to myself, so I couldn’t believe how the morning flew by.

    – the open bar. Our guests felt at home, and (possibly because of the demographics) the cost was no where near the venue estimates for consumption. Serving wine with dinner was far and away the most expensive part of the drink budget.

    Worth it, but no surprise:
    – paying for the venue that would be most convenient and easiest for our (90%) OOT guests and the flow of the day. It wasn’t the prettiest, or the cheapest, but our guests were so clearly comfortable and well-taken-care of.

    Glad we passed on:
    – a bridal party. Having two of our siblings as witnesses and the rest do readings made the day feel so intimate, and the ONLY thing I missed was the chance to pick out matching dresses for my gorgeous friends.

  • Karly Bradbury


    ~ The $16 I paid for the APW book. Thank you APW/Meg for being the voice of sanity when I couldn’t get my mom on the phone. Seriously, everyone I know thanks you for that.

    ~ Writing our own vows. Everyone laughed and cried and we framed them. SO AWESOME.

    ~ The 30min of DIY tissue paper poms I did for aisle decoration. I loved it walking down the aisle, I still love it in pictures, and the kiddos played with them for the ENTIRE RECEPTION.

    ~ Caterer/Receptional Hall with suppies and terrific staff. My mom did enough, she didn’t need to arrange and clean up too.

    ~ Time alone with my new husband after ceremony/before reception. There were pictures in there too… but enough time of just us to count. Who knew you actually hard see each other until you crash in your hotel room. Which leads me to….

    ~ Hotel Room. THANKS MOM! She really knew what she was doing with that one. Plus it left space for friends to crash at our house (and take care of our doggy – thank you!).

    ~ NOT doing any other DIY. I could have. Oh trust me, I wanted to. I have experience with flowers, invitations, arrangements, etc. And my loved ones have experience with me being a stressed-out wreck. Honestly, I didn’t *LOVE* my flowers. And my mom, bless her heart did home-printed invitations (and programs, which people appreciated) and they were pretty but not the fancy ones. But guess what? I didn’t have to worry about it, and people got to the church, and we got married.

    ~ Custom Etsy tulle dress for my 5 year old stepdaughter. I could have gotten her a $30 dress. But, this custom dress was so awesome and she felt like THE prettiest girl in the room. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Plus, it can be easily turned into a skirt as she grows, so it was a win-win.

    ~ Asking vendors to be creative. Or telling them our budget. Or telling them what they offered was too expensive and asking for a lower-cost alternative. We got the cake we wanted, just smaller. We got AMAZING friends to do our photography and give us beautiful memories that didn’t cost us $1000 or more. We got free GINORMOUS chocolate chip cookies with the catering (which went over better than the cake, btw). I got a Maggie Sottero for $300 and alterations for $50. And PLEASE hear me on this – and I trust that since you’re at APW, you will, I WAS NOT A BRIDEZILLA about it. I was nice. Maybe a little frazzled, but I have worked in the wedding industry and nothing makes you hate a person more than when they treat you like “the help”. I was upfront, I was nice, I asked questions, & I declined politely when it didn’t work for us.


    ~ Reception seating arrangement. I seriously labored over this – because my husband and I have a very eclectic group of friends and loved ones. I stressed about someone really liberal sitting next to someone extremely conservative or sexual orientation coming into play or kids and what language, etc. It didn’t matter. No one sat where I told them to anyway. Maybe I still need to let that go a little…

    ~ Expensive entertainment. We didn’t have a terribly costly DJ – and I’m glad. He announced us, he played our first-dance song, and then he went to town. I talked, I danced, I noticed he played Bieber when the nieces asked him to a few too many times. But everyone had fun! I didn’t have to have a playlist and people talked and danced! We didn’t need to have some elaborate setup for ensuring the having of a good time.

    ~ Accessories. Lord help me I LOVE the details. Shoes, clutch, jewelry, veil, etc. Get someone who doesn’t care so much about that stuff to take the Bridal magazines away from you and talk some darn sense. That stuff can get expensive! Just keep it all within reason. Otherwise you’re going to be crying when you put it in a box to never wear again. Or, re-purpose it!

    ~ Trying to make our wedding anything but what it was going to be. This is somewhat on the lines of comparing our’s to anyone else’s. But it also has to do with the early stages of planning and wanting that dream wedding in your head and realizing that it would cost $500,000 but you only have a $5,000 budget. That was hard. That made me hate the word “wedding”. And it made me cringe a little when seeing other people’s weddings that were fancier even after we were married. Don’t let ANYONE convince you that your value or your spouse’s value, or the importance of your ceremony/vows/marriage/life has ANYTHING to do with how much you spend on your wedding! It’s a lie. I think it’s a greedy, awful, no-good lie. There are wonderful people who want to help you get what you’d like and won’t make you feel bad if a down payment on a house (or just not going into debt) is more important to you than an ice sculpture.

  • Amanda

    Planned and Worth it:
    – Writing the ceremony ourselves and having a friend lead the ceremony for us. This was absolutely the most important part for me, and it helped to know that nothing would be a surprise to me.
    – Prioritizing. It helped to have a master list of what had to happen, what would be nice, and what could be dropped if needed.
    – Working with people I trusted. For us, that meant hiring a professional photographer, asking a friend to do the flowers, having a family member handle the food, etc. In all cases, these were people I could hand a few ideas (like our colors and allergies), then I got to walk away and still wound up with outcomes I loved.
    – Signs, maps, and other markers to help people know where to turn. In fact, we should have spent a little more time on these – we still had people miss the house (even people who were just there the day before).
    – Buying a second dress. When the first one didn’t work and the cost for fixing it was growing higher by the moment, I just threw it in the closet and started over. I hadn’t budgeted for it, but I figured I could sell the spare (or both) and I didn’t have the energy left to stress over a dress I was only going to wear for a few hours.

    Unplanned and Worth it:
    – Two of our friends showed up two days before with gardening gloves in hand and asked what they could do to help us get the backyard ready. Yes, we needed them, but the fact that they just showed up really ready to help… that was the moment the wedding went from something stressful hanging over my head to something I knew we could accomplish – and something I was looking forward to after all! It’s now my goal to be those friends whenever possible.
    – A relative paid for a (nice) rental toilet for us. I don’t even know if anyone used it, but not having to worry about people walking through the (not clean because hello, I have enough on my plate this week) house? Totally worth it.

    Not Worth it:
    – Hours spent on playlists. No one even hooked up the iPod. And it turned out fine.
    – Stressing over people being late. Yes, I still wish I’d given them a schedule in writing, but ultimately, it wasn’t a big deal.
    – Fancy DIY invite. I loved it, but I’m not sure anyone else cared.
    – Website. No one visited it.
    – Gift registry.

  • Laura

    Worth It:

    – Celebrating our wedding in the (large, expensive, difficult to get to for many of my family members) city we currently lived in, rather than our childhood hometowns or another destination. Yes, it meant that a large contingent of my family was unable to make it, but we were also able to have a meaningful ceremony at our church with a priest we knew well (he gave a terrific, personal homily — totally worth the stressful decision)

    – Having a morning wedding followed by a reception at a local wine bar; no worrying about table linens, centerpieces, decorations, catering, etc. Plus lots of wine and delicious food!

    – Booking our honeymoon flights for early in the a.m. the day after our wedding. No participation in a
    morning-after brunch, other family activities, etc. We resisted pressure from my parents and in-laws to attend the post-wedding festivities and didn’t regret it for one second.

    – Budget fights with our parents. This, strangely, included us putting our foot down that we did *not* want them to pay for the whole wedding (my in-laws were of the opinion that we shouldn’t pay for anything). I’ve never protested so vehemently to prevent someone from giving me thousands of dollars. It was our wedding, which meant we wanted to invest a chunk of our own money into it. Yep, we could have used that money toward our new car, a fabulous vacation, rent payments, etc., but I’m happy we did it our way. Lower budget, smaller guest list, and a perfect (for us) wedding.

    – Wrangling the technology necessary to Skype my grandma, two aunts, and several cousins for the ceremony. My grandma and aunt were unable to make it because of brutal cancer treatments. Everyone put on their party clothes, went to my grandma’s hospice center, and ate cake. Talking to them for a few minutes post-ceremony made my day.

    – Setting major boundaries with both sets of parents during the planning process. It has majorly helped us advocate for our baby family in our marriage.

    Things We (Or Others) Worried We Might Regret but Didn’t:

    – Not having an engagement shoot, save the dates, a veil, fancy shoes, a limo, champagne toast, rented tuxes, a large wedding party, coordinating bridesmaids dresses, professional flowers, centerpieces, a color theme, professional makeup, a DJ, favors, welcome bags, and seating charts. Our rule was, “If we didn’t care about this before the wedding, we’re not going to care about it for the wedding.” I’ve never in my life thrown a party with a specific color theme, and I wasn’t about to start stressing about it for our wedding. Obviously, things I listed in my “worth it” section may mean absolutely nothing to you. Thinking carefully about our goals and values helped immensely in identifying the few “must-have” items we included in our day.

    Not Worth It:

    I’ve sat here for 10 minutes now, and I can’t think of anything that I would have changed if we did it over again (super unhelpful, I know). Deciding to move all of my now-husbands stuff into my apartment two days before the wedding may have been….misguided…..but I think it was worth it in the end.

  • Remy

    Booking a B&B room for the nights before and after the wedding. It was a surprise from me to my sweetie, and it was So. Nice. not to have to get ready in our tiny cramped apartment and deal with the cats jumping on everything and finding all the stuff we needed amidst the leftover mess. We didn’t spend much time at all at the place, except for sleeping, but it was CLEAN and QUIET and SAFE and just awesome for killing stress.

    Second shooter. This didn’t cost us anything extra, and I wouldn’t have thought of it, but the photographer insisted, and having a second was incredibly valuable. One photog was in with me getting ready; the other was with my sweetie. One shot me coming up the aisle, and the other caught the look on my sweetie’s face as she waited for me. One did most of the family photos, while the other captured details on the reception tables. In the same amount of time. Great!

    Last-minute addition to the crew: the kitchen manager. This was a self-catered event, which made more sense for the small size and small budget, and the kitchen was actually on a different floor as the ceremony/reception site. Setup took that much longer. Having someone unobtrusive, unflappable, and supremely capable to load and reload serving trays at the buffet, make sure the water stayed hot, and do all the little details including most of the dishes — someone who didn’t feel like she was missing out by not watching the ceremony — was MORE than worth it. (We tipped her big.)

    Getting ready playlist. I didn’t even remember to turn it on until we were nearly done, and probably wouldn’t’ve heard it above the chatter and clatter of a dozen people in the same apartment anyway.

    Our DOC. Now, that’s not to say that wedding coordination isn’t worth it — I believe it is!! But the one we booked, who was both affordable and seemed quite nice and together before the event, wasn’t very effective. We mostly ended up not needing someone to do the things we’d hired her for (I handed out a detailed schedule and we all more or less stuck to it), and the couple of things that came up that we REALLY NEEDED a DOC to handle (technical failure with the iPod; lining up wedding party in the right place while I was still upstairs; handing out programs — the things that made me almost cry in frustration at the time) didn’t get done, or were fixed by someone else. Maybe I didn’t explain clearly. Maybe she wasn’t the right personality. Or maybe I just can’t deal with handing the reins to someone else… but I did here, and things went wrong. I just don’t know what I could have done differently, because anyone I already knew and would have trusted to stage-manage needed to be in attendance and otherwise occupied.

    • Remy

      Oh, also worth it: We got our cake from Whole Foods and it was inexpensive and easy to book, we didn’t have oodles of leftovers, and we got SO MANY compliments about it. :)

  • Worth it:

    Splurging on our photographer. It was worth every penny. I was in love with his work and our personalities clicked (very important)! I still love his work and love looking at our wedding photographs two yeas later.

    Getting mine and my bridal party’s hair and makeup done professionally. Not only does it seem to calm everyone down but as someone who rarely puts on make up but wanted to feel pretty on her wedding day, this was an indulgence I don’t regret. I didn’t want to have to worry about doing it myself or having a friend do it and stress her out.

    Letting my bridal party wear what they wanted. They asked for a color, which we gave them but, told them to wear anything in that color. Everyone looked much happier, relaxed, AND didn’t break their bank to please us.

    Having a day of coordinator. Best money spent besides the photographer. I didn’t have to worry about anything on our wedding day and neither should you.

    Not worth it:

    super DIY heavy, labor intensive escort card display. I spent hours and plenty of money on our escort card display. It even involved lugging in vintage furniture I bought just for it. What was I thinking??? While it was a huge hit with everyone I don’t think it was needed in the long run. I was so hell bent on everything representing us I think I got a little carried away.

    Two pairs of shoes (read two pairs of high heels). I couldn’t decide between these two pairs of shoes becaue I loved them both but I ended up only wearing one paid most of the night and when I switched my feet hurt so much that I ended up going barefoot. If you are going from high heels to flip flops or sneakers you are a lot smarter than I am.

    Not getting to spend any time alone with my newly minted husband after our wedding. I think we got a total of three minutes alone and the commenters above who stress how important it is are right. I wish we had taken some time for just us. We could have used it.

  • Teresa

    Worth it:
    – a venue that took care of almost everything, had great food, a beautiful view and a plan b in case of rain.

    -our custom cake topper, it was a bit of a last minute splurge, but it made me so happy and it made our traditional venue look a bit more “us.”

    -having a friend be our officiant and another friend be the day of coordinator. I trusted them both to do a beautiful job and I didn’t worry about anything at all that morning.

    -paying extra to have a second shooter with our photographer. I didn’t realize how glad I was to have splurged until I saw my sister in law’s pictures and realized how many moments seemed missing.

    -hair and makeup. I felt fancy, but still like me.

    Not worth it:
    -arguing with my mom about the guest list–I didn’t notice extra people that day.

    -stressing about being the center of attention. Everyone was so happy and relaxed that day, myself included, that I was just so glad to be married and with the people I loved. I had tunnel vision during the ceremony and saw no one but my husband. He was all that mattered at that moment.

    -cutting out 200 paper fan programs. They looked cute, but what a pain in the ass.

    One small regret: not trying on a blush pink dress. I think I would have maybe loved one, just a little bit!


    Having an early wedding–ceremony started at 11am, followed by a lunch reception, and we were having the most amazing “I can’t believe all the stress is finally gone!!!” nap by 3pm.

    Having a small wedding. We had 25 guests (which was still more than we wanted, but the best compromise outside of eloping), and it was worth the drama of “but if you don’t invite second cousin XYZ you haven’t seen or spoken to in 10 years what will the family think?!” to get a wedding that wasn’t overwhelming.

    Letting go of the things that I didn’t care about but other people did. My mother cares about having pretty centerpieces and favors? Then she can do them with our approval, because if left up to me nothing would have happened.

    Paying for the wedding ourselves, to completely remove the financial/emotional manipulation aspect (my parent’s got bullied into a giant wedding because they couldn’t afford to do anything more than a civil ceremony at the court house, and because their parents were paying they got the wedding my grandparents wanted and not the wedding they wanted).


    Not being decisive enough in the first stages of planning. In the end we mostly got what we were comfortable with while making family and friends happy, but it would have been so much easier to stop worrying and actually say what we were thinking. We knew exactly what kind of wedding we wanted before we even got engaged, but because it wasn’t the traditional wedding our family expected we avoided telling them the details for way too long. All those “yeah, sure, I’ll think about it…..” conversations when you know you already booked/bought something else wasted everyone’s time.

  • WORTH IT: Gratefully and fully accepting my parents’ generous offer to pay for our wedding. I had no idea my mom had been setting aside money since I was a baby for my wedding. It was a total suprise. My grandparents paid for my parents’ wedding, and I fully intend to “pay it forward” to my children if I can. Yes, the money could have put a down payment on a house. But as the recipient of this gift, that wasn’t offered to me.

    We used the money to create a wedding day that was entirely us, surrounded by the people we love, and paid for great vendors who did an awesome job. My mom managed to get excited about every one of my wedding projects and insisted on paying for the more expensive dress that looked amazing on me. (I’m a big girl, this wasn’t easy.) My mom and I have had our fair share of issues over the years, but wedding struggles weren’t one of them. I accepted the money with a spirit of gratitude and appreciation, knowing it was a privilege, and I’m so glad I did.

    Doing lots of DIY projects that my guests seemed to love. I gathered all the guests’ wedding photos for picture frame favors. If the guest wasn’t married, they got a photo of themselves with their boyfriend, or their child, or their pet. (I’m a photographer; I shoot all the time and had the majority of these photos already.) Seeing everyone find their own wedding photo or exclaiming over photos of themselves holding my husband as a baby made me really happy.

    I DIYed invitations, favors, guest bags, place cards, comfort items (pashminas for cld guests, flip flops for people whose shoes hurt).

    Writing the whole ceremony ourselves, with elements from our cultures, meaningful songs, and special blessings.

    Seeing my husband before the ceremony. It was so centering and ideal for us.

    Hiring a DJ. I was going to do an iPod. There was a problem with the sound system, and the DJ had it sorted before I knew it.

    Going out of my way to include my husband’s brother in the entire wedding, even though he is deceased. We had a special mention of him in the program, tiny photos incorporated in my in-laws’ corsage/boutinerres, had a special “rosemary is for remembrance” moment in the ceremony and incorporated a butterfly motif (but a modern, badass butterfly, not a cheesy craft store butterfly) since he lives on in the gift of organ donation and the symbol for the NY Organ Donor’s Network is a butterfly. It wasn’t macabre; it was upbeat and joyful. Nearly two dozen people on the groom’s side came up to me to tell me how much they appreciated feeling like hubby’s brother was there with us in spirit.

    Airconditioning the outdoor tent for our August wedding; lots of people in my family have medical disorders that make temperature regulation difficult. Worth every penny.

    NOT WORTH IT: including a co-worker as a bridesmaid because it was really, really important to her. I should have just had her do a reading. She felt awkward around the other women in my team, and it was just… not a good fit of personalities.

  • elizabeth

    I made a book for our invitation. It’s 44 pages long and has stories, pictures, flow-charts, quizzes–it’s pretty ridiculous, but I loved making it (I have the software on my work computer) and people LOVED getting it. I was anxious when I first mentioned this idea to the spouse-to-be and other family, but luckily everyone was supportive. I’m so glad I went with my gut reaction and made it.

    The poetry slam at the wedding: I felt really stupid asking people to do this, and I was terrified that no one would have a poem. BUT PEOPLE DID! AND THE POEMS WERE AWESOME. Some of my favorite memories are of people reciting the poems. It totally made the day.

    Music: live band for a ceilidh (husband is Scottish) pre-dinner, then iPod for dance party post. It was perfect. Plus, no DJs to offer idiotic banter.

    NOT hiring a photographer: I hate how I look in the photos, and I knew I would, so we asked two close family friends who are good photographers to help us out; both did, and the pictures of others are great. But as I knew I would, I HATE HATE HATE the pictures of myself. Not having to pay for those is way worth it.

    Rock N Rye Faygo Toast (instead of champagne): I’m from the Detroit area, and neither of us likes champagne. So we did a toast with what we wanted to drink! Again, people liked it (especially the visitors from overseas!).

    The Food: the biggest expense (75% of overall budget, but parents paid for it after insisting). While I still think self-catering would’ve been fine, everyone loved the food and raved about it still to this day. We also had leftovers for the day after (especially cupcakes), and the spouse just immediately said “food!” when I asked him. So there you go.

    Shoes: I went barefoot at the reception
    Alcohol: we still have boxes and boxes (and boxes) of wine leftover. Should’ve bought less. Oh well–we’re set for a good while.
    Hair: Got it professionally done. Hated it. Meh. (I always hate my hair, so I suspected it would happen regardless).

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      I want to hear more about wedding poetry slam! That sounds way better than traditional toasts. How did you ask people to do it? Who participated? Can I make my friends do this at my birthday party?

      • elizabeth

        In the aforementioned invitation book, I had a page begging people to write poems for the wedding. I can sorta get away with it since I teach high school English and coach our poetry slam team, but I still felt really awkward about it. But hey! People responded. My cousin (another English teacher) wrote this poem that still, to this day, catches my breathe; three of my mom’s good friends wrote poems; and a number of people wrote silly haikus. The husband of a woman who worked with my mom–whom I had never met before–even got up! It was wonderfully hilarious.

        AND YES! You can totally do it for birthday parties. One of the best birthday parties I ever attended was for a friend who, in the email invites, said that she was hosting a Moth-like story hour centering around firsts and lasts–and therefore, rather than presents, she was begging/asking/pleading guests come with stories ready to share. It was really fun and I highly recommend doing this (plus, the story-telling happened after food and drinking so people were comfortable–and those who weren’t interested could be in a different room. It was very low key which totally helped).

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          *squee* So happy that so many people responded to you. Especially the husband of a woman who works with your mom. I’m filing this away under things I want to do.

    • Moni

      Love your Rock and Rye toast! My fiance is from Kalamazoo/Lansing and we met in Lansing, but our wedding will be in my Caribbean home country. We’re trying to think of more ways to incorporate Michigan into the wedding, ideally without expensive shipping costs. Do you have any other Michigan suggestions/resources?

  • Every decision that had to do with bucking tradition were the toughest- but most worthwhile. We got a lot of flack about our nacho cheese fountain and serving booze during the ceremony- but people still compliment those pieces years later…more importantly though my choices NOT to do traditions for traditions sake. One of the best was opting to do a “family dance” instead of the mother-son/ father-daughter in order to avoid the awkwardness, and jamming with my whole family to Jackson 5 is one of my favorite memories of the day!

    • Moe

      We are opting to do a family dance too!!! He didn’t feel comfortable dancing with his mom and my dad is no longer with us. It sounds like a fun alternative that still includes the family.

      • KateM

        I am going to write my comment still but we did a family dance after the other dances and it was the best thing ever. Pictures of both our siblings dancing, my sister with my dad, me with my new father-in-law, that dance has the best pictures of the night for me. We danced to Avett Brothers Murder in the City. The last line of the song is “Always remember, there was nothing worth sharing, Like the love that let us share our name”. I still tear up a year later when I hear that song thinking about that moment.

    • Hannah Smith

      I LOVE this idea. I’m curious what song you picked.

      • We danced to “ABC” by the Jackson 5…you can’t beat some upbeat oldies! It really made everyone feel special and I was able to incorporate the “non-traditional” family like step-parents!

  • Katie

    Worth it:
    Two photographers. Ours were a married team and I fast learned how great it is to have two. And they were all about the photo booth, which I didn’t know a lot about & thought was a bit odd. “You’ll spend time off to the side? not taking pictures of the reception action?” So short-sighted. Two years later I’m still visiting friends’ houses and seeing prints from the photobooth that they paid for directly from the photographer’s website. I almost see it as a perk we provided for our guests – access to a professional photographer for great photos. Now, we did find up and coming photographers via Craigslist, about $1300 for the whole package, which felt like a lot to us but I know isn’t crazy extravagant.

    Bowls of chocolate-covered espresso beans at each table. Because I needed constant access to chocolate!

    Writing our own ceremony. (Thanks APW!!) Our wedding happened when everyone in our families seemed to be getting married and I cannot tell you how many compliments we got about how meaningful our ceremony was since they could tell what we put into it. And now we have a pretty binder with the entire ceremony laid out, should we ever want to reenact it.

    Worth it (but my MOH did all the prep work…) I didn’t want a guest book or one of those picture frames that people sign since, well, I’ve seen poorly signed frames that are half-empty, feature a crazy cousin’s huge signature, etc. So in place of that she cut out little intricate leaves from paper (we had a nature theme) and encouraged guests to sign them and hang ’em from a branch. It took me time to figure out what to do with them afterwards, but inspiration struck and it’s my favorite wedding keepsake. In a custom frame we’ve got a wedding photo with a view from the end of the aisle of our first kiss with everybody watching, each of our handwritten vows, and all the guests’ signatures on the leaves are arranged around them. Best part was that I mailed the leaves to grandparents who couldn’t make it, so they signed it and add to the love. So, I think it’s totally worth having some sort of plan for how to capture the togetherness and love of the day, because after the fact you really cherish it.

    Not Worth it:
    Favors at each place setting. I love what we offered but they were forgotten by many. Should have modified to do what I’ve seen since – an exit table with favors. You can under-order (no chance everybody takes one!) and the location is a better reminder. By the end of the night, you can encourage folks to take extras and they don’t have to feel like crazies working the room to find spares on tables ;-).

  • Worth it: Not spending money on fancy chairs. In our pictures, I never see the chairs. I don’t care now almost 3 years out, and I didn’t care then. Also worth it: doing a lunchtime wedding — nobody was crazy drunk, and nobody complained about a lack of crazy-amounts of boozing. People danced. Also also worth it: photography. We have casual wedding photos of my husband’s grandmothers who have both passed and they are priceless.

    Sort of worth it: I bought my dress un-tested online from Unique Vintage for cheaps. It fit. I liked it. I was like, boom, done. I kind of wish in my heart of hearts I’d…I dunno, been *in love* with it. But at the same time…I looked cute. It looked good, no lie. It worked. And I was adamant that I not do the whole “dress trying on” thing in store because at the time, I was like NO NO SO NOT ME NO DO NOT WANT. I dunno. In the end I might have chosen the dress I chose anyway! I’ll never know. (But god I wish I’d gone for Wai Ching. siiiigh.)

    Not worth it: refusing to pay our officiant extra to come to our rehearsal. She ended up mispronouncing my name and left out “in sickness and in health” in our vows (funny, since we’re going through tough health stuff now, and joke ‘well technically…’ — in our hearts since we wrote those into our vows, it still counts, but it was irritating nonetheless). If they want to make you pay for them to practice, pay it.

    • Susan

      Good point about prioritizing the rehearsal. As an occasional officiant, I actually offer a (very modest) discount on my overall fees if a couple agrees to have a rehearsal. This provides extra incentive for having a practice run, and also demonstrates how seriously I take my responsibilities and understand the gravitas of the moment for the couple and their loved ones. It gives me such peace of mind to have a rehearsal and get a sense of timing and how things will flow, be able to visualize the overarching aesthetic for the ceremony, ensure I’m pronouncing everything right, and get to know the important people (and their quirks!) prior to the actual event. So worth the extra time and effort!

  • Anne


    + Marrying my husband.
    + Getting married in a beautiful, outdoor location.
    + Writing our own vows.
    + Having a morning-wedding to save money.
    + Not buying flowers.
    + Making a lot of spreadsheets beforehand.
    + Not decorating the venue, since it was already attractive.
    + Having the ceremony and reception at the same location.
    + Not having a bridal party.
    + Creating a photo book with the wedding photographs.
    + Taking a meditation class before getting married.
    + Having an experienced officiant marry us.

    – Spending the cash to have a fancy wedding cake. We should have just gotten a couple of cakes from Whole Foods and saved a couple of hundred dollars.
    – Guest book.

    • I’m intrigued about the meditation class – is this something you did in the lead up so you could be more centred on the day of?

      • Anne

        Yup — I took an eight-week meditation class in the months leading up to our wedding. The class was based on John Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness based stress reduction work.

        I’d really recommend it. I woke up very early on the morning of our wedding, and instead of tossing and turning, I did a walking meditation through our neighborhood! I also think it helped me feel centered during the ceremony :)

  • Worth it:
    Spending most of our budget on a big beach house so our families and bridal party could stay there Wednesday-Monday. We had the wedding where we lived, making it a destination for almost everyone and this way we got to spend so much unscheduled unplanned time with everyone. Also, it was our rehearsal dinner venue (with food from an Indian restaurant in town served on the plates that were in the kitchen already) and reception venue. And we had a super laid-back post-wedding brunch with reheated reception leftovers.

    Hiring our photographer, Amanda Summerlin, based as much on our personalities clicking as on her amazing work. She put us at ease on the wedding day and got incredible photos.

    Having a first look. We only wish we’d done it earlier so we wouldn’t have had to spend so much time hiding from each other. We hadn’t really had a minute alone together in several days and I realized as I was walking out to the beach for our first look that, even though we’d been in the same house, I missed him!

    I had planned to do my own make up, but decided a couple of weeks before the wedding to get it done and I’m so glad I did. Also that I did a trial run first so I wouldn’t be worried about clownface on the wedding day.

    We impulse-chose really funny save the date cards that sort of set the tone for our laid-back wedding. We also did a funny reply card in our invitations that people loved.

    Having a friend officiate really made it more special for us, though my mother was none too pleased about the lack of clergy. I did have a friend read a prayer and though that was mostly to mollify my mom, I was really glad that this friend ended up included in our ceremony.

    I fought to have a bridal party and that was worth it to me. My husband didn’t want to have to choose between his friends, but it was important to me to have this group of women who have stood by me through so much over the years standing up with me at our wedding.

    Not wearing a veil. I wondered whether I’d regret the decision later and then it turned out to be incredibly windy for our beach wedding. I wore a pretty hair comb borrowed from a friend, which was plenty special for me.

    Pretty sparkle flats! I spent $100 on J Crew flats, which felt outrageous to me, but I was comfortable in them all day and they did show when I walked and danced. And now I have fun sparkly shoes for going out.

    $5 Target earrings. They look nice in the pictures and went with my mom’s pearls. One has since fallen apart, which is fine because they cost $5.

    My husband really wanted to have a band. I was leaning more toward iPod and then worried when our crowd ended up being under 50 people that it would look silly. It turned out to be great though and they really got everyone out on the floor. The last hour of our reception when everyone was dancing is pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had.

    We put together our own little 5k the morning of the wedding, from the hotel to the beach house and back. We’re both runners, as are a lot of our friends. I’m not sure anyone was thrilled about getting up for a 7:00 race, but it turned out to be a really fun way to spend time with some of our friends and family.

    Not worth it:
    Choosing to save money by not hiring a day of coordinator. If I could change one thing, this would be it.

    Making our invitations and programs was totally worthwhile. Making mad libs for the tables and coloring books for the kids probably wasn’t really. Had I been working full-time the months before the wedding, these definitely wouldn’t have happened and nobody would have cared. I probably put a lot more time and effort into the photo slideshow for the rehearsal dinner than it was worth in the end.

    I didn’t have a bachelorette party proper, but did organize a girls’ night out with my bridesmaids two nights before the wedding. I thought by making it bridesmaids only, I’d eliminate upset feelings from non-bridesmaids not invited, but it didn’t. And it wasn’t even that great of a time.

    Limiting the guest list. I panicked while addressing save the dates that we were inviting so many more people than I’d planned and what if everyone came and we didn’t have space. So my husband crossed some people off his list. With our wedding being a destination for everyone and around the holidays, we ended up with less than a third of our invitees showing up. I should have let him invite as many people as he wanted.

  • Worth it:
    -Sticking to our guns about not really inviting anyone to our wedding. We had immediate family + photographers + officiant on the beach and it was really perfect for us.

    -Post-ceremony, we had dinner with some friends at a restaurant. easy, peasy, and pretty inexpensive because it wasn’t a catered affair or a fancy restaurant

    -Having a reception later in the year, on the other coast, to celebrate with our families and friends.

    -Going on a honeymoon

    -Having excellent (reasonably priced) photographers at both events (wedding + reception)

    -Wedding dress shopping online. Seriously, avoiding (scary) bridal boutiques made my year. Lots of “normal” stores have wedding dresses online, so I could just order ones I liked in regular sizes and return any I didn’t like/didn’t fit to a store location close to me. So easy. **BONUS TIP**: before you order, do a search for discounts. I searched “Ann Taylor online discount” plus the month and the year and got a checkout code that saved me 25%. That’s big money, people.

    -Wearing flip flips (they were my something blue)

    -Good food and an open bar

    -Getting flowers for my bouquet at the farmers market. I held them together with a rubber band and a ribbon from my husband’s wedding present to me. I think I spent $8.

    -Skipping the things the world at large seems to think you Have To Have: save the dates, people, a wedding party, a swanky venue, flower girls, veils, videographer, DJ (we made cds to play at the reception), dance floor, wedding cake, first dance, weird garter tradition, etc. etc. etc. The list here goes on. For you? Put whatever you don’t really care about on this list and move on with your life :)

    Wish list:
    -getting those 10 minutes post-ceremony just for us. There was no way to make that happen, but it’s the one think I wish we could have figured out. Public beaches are not meant for privacy

    -I wish I had been able to sit down for two seconds and eat something at the reception. But it was super fun to see so many people and feel all the love & support

  • Caitlin

    DAY OF COORDINATOR!!! Can’t speak highly enough of what a huge difference this made for me, my mom, all family and friends. Won’t lie, it wasn’t super cheap but we had a large wedding with a lot of moving parts and my hostess tendencies meant that either I was going to be stressed and worried or I was going to have to pay someone to do it for me. Timing, take down, vendor questions, even making ure the DIY-ed favors were handed out, you name it she handled it. Amazing and 100% worth it

  • T. L. Kate

    Stressing about the number of guests: We waited to invite some people because we were afraid of getting more people than we thought we could fit in our venue. We would have fit them, and more would have been slightly merrier.

    Inviting coworkers: They are the which-of-these-things-does-not-belong of my wedding memories.

    Dress: My friends talked me out of buying a $60 polyester department-store summer dress. I resented that a little. But it was nice to feel that I’d dressed up for our guests, and it was fun to go swimming in the ocean on our honeymoon in the most expensive dress I’d ever bought. It’s hanging in our closet (turns out it was okay with saltwater), and I like to run into it now and then.

    The venue: We spent more on our venue than we wanted to. On the way to spending more than we wanted to, we spent months scouring the Northeast for venues within the budget we’d set. We also didn’t know what we wanted. Country inn? Seaside restaurant? Suburban museum? I’m glad we kept looking till something felt right, and till we appreciated that it was worth the price. It was a contemporary gallery in a carriage house in Midtown Manhattan. It felt comfortable and low-stress, but special, personal, urban. And the people who ran it were great.

    Makeup: Having been kicked out of the bathroom by my shaky-handed eye-liner-clutching sister on her wedding day, I knew that doing my own makeup wouldn’t go well. Another benefit of getting married in Midtown–I found a nearby Sephora and booked a “special occasion” makeover, for the cost of some makeup, which I needed anyway. I liked looking a little drag-queeny. It was sort of a performance anyway. And my grandma thought I looked like a movie star.

    Music: For the same price as a DJ, got a bossa nova trio that relaxed me and that we didn’t feel silly dancing to. Found through Manhattan School of Music (

    Florists: My artistic and cost-conscious parents. They live far away, and it was a way for them to be involved and very helpful, and to leave a beautiful emotional signature everywhere that lingers in the photos. Also it was an investment in their long-term flower arranging skills, which we’ve benefitted from since.

    The whole damn thing: I had a bit of excitement but mostly dread about having a wedding. I don’t like having my emotions be the center of attention of everyone I care about, and it was clearly about tradition, not some deep need (like being with my partner is). I have no talent or affection for event planning, and I have a perfectionist streak that can be painful. But my guy, my parents, our friends–and APW–helped me get through it and to feel good about it after. Now that babies are on the horizon, having been vulnerable and visible and supported through the wedding stuff helps me know that baby stuff can be okay too. Messy and scary, but worth it.

  • Alyssa

    Worth it: Farmer’s Market flowers. We arranged pick-up ahead of time and got bunches arranged in borrowed mason jars for $5/each, bouquets that just needed ribbon for wrapping for $6 each. You jut can’t beat fresh local flowers for beauty, and they’re cheap.

    Renting a house to stay at for a couple of nights before the wedding with our friends. Had a rocking kegger/BBQ the night before, and bonus: everyone showed up to our morning ceremony on time, since they caravaned over from the house.

    Custom invites, and great photographer…both totally worth it.

    The not worth it: fighting over limiting the guest list. We still get guilt trips. Not worth it.

  • Worth It:
    Getting married in a venue that did *everything* – ceremony space, reception space, catering – they even had all inclusive deals for the photographer and baker. I was really ambivalent about it at first, because I wanted to get married barefoot in a field somewhere (Actually, I really wanted to elope to Yosemite. But I’m an only child, and it was very important to my parents that we get married in their home town). Anyway, instead of trying to re-create the wedding I thought I wanted, I’m really glad we made the decision to go with a venue that made it easy.
    THE BAND. OMG, I am so glad we fought for (and got) the band. I was so afraid it wouldn’t matter, but it totally did and I am so so so glad that we did it.
    Letter Pressed and hand addressed (by me) invitations. I loved that every single guest got something beautifully designed by my husband and hand-addressed by me. I will treasure the extras forever, even though everyone said they were “over the top”
    Not Worth It:
    The limo after the wedding (we easily could have driven ourselves)
    The open bar – beer and wine only would have been FINE, there was no need for us to pay for top shelf liquor. Nobody cared, but it seemed SO important.
    Having a rehearsal dinner for all of our out of town guests. It was nice, but not necessary.

  • Worth it:

    Everything really. The whole mental time wedding planning i thought often ” i will never say this was all worth it” “it” being the astronomical cost of having even a “practical” wedding in a major metro area. But it WAS. The morning fter my husband and i were like “omg totally worth it!” But specifically:

    Spending the extra dough on the full service catering. It was essentially our whole budget. But if it comes with someone who is defacto coordinator, handles vendors and puts your decorations, gifts, etc in the right persons car at the end of the night. Totally worth it.

    Also worth it. Making sure to really connect with officiant. A meaningful ceremony means everything else doesn’t matter. All anyone will talk about at our wedding is how moved they were. They do not talk about flowers or cute details. They really don’t. Like two percent of your friends notice that stuff so seriously don’t get lost in color schemes and cutesie table scapes.

    Not worth it:

    Fancy shoes. You take them off eventually and no one can see em depending on your dress.

    Day of details, paper programs, decorations, favors, flower arrangements . . . I had minimal flowers zero favors and zero programs. No one noticed. If they did they didn’t say anything to me about it. Your wedding is not a photo shoot to capture twee details, it is a big giant awesome emotional event and no amount of tea lights, chalkboard arrows or vintage handkerchiefs will effect the bigness of what you feel that day.

    The most important thing is to make decisions that align with who you are as a couple. We love good food and booze and spend money on quality groceries regualry. (hence catering really mattered) we do not redecorate our living pillows with the seasons so the details that would drive me crazy and cost lots of extra dough- those got cut.

    Sticks with your instincts and let your partner participate. Sometimes it’s harder to actively make all the decisions together. But der, kind of the point :)

  • 39bride

    Best money I didn’t spend: Day-of Wedding Coordinator

    A very “together” friend helped us out for no charge and she was as good as a pro. Just amazing. I didn’t think we needed it for our small (65 people) church wedding, but my mother talked me into it and she was pure gold.

    We didn’t have an adult bridal party, so having her to check up on me, be the go-to person for questions/organization, make sure all the Little Ones lined up and everyone else did their jobs (most helpers/vendors were actually guests/family) etc., was valuable beyond words. It probably helped that I was very organized in documenting what “would be happening and where” ahead of time, etc., but it wouldn’t be possible to pay what she was worth, no matter the price.

    Find yourself an amazing friend, or budget for a Day-Of Coordinator if you’ve got a wedding with anything over 30 guests. Seriously.

  • Lisa

    •Hiring a wedding planner from week 1. Aside from all the stress and sanity saving magic she worked, she nearly paid for herself in re-negotiating our contract with the venue after they dropped their rates in the new year and again a week before the wedding when they called to tell me that they were reroofing and would likely have the entire front of the venue fenced off potentially with heavy duty construction materials. I’m just one bride with very little clout, but she is a well known planner and she said jump and they said how high!
    •Hiring a photographer that not only did great work but that I felt comfortable with. Your photographer is there to capture some of the most intimate moments you may have and I am damn glad that I didn’t mind being nearly naked and crying in front other before putting my dress on (this I didn’t actually realize until afterwards and couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I was uncomfortable)
    •Researching venues and vendors online extensively before setting up meetings/tours. We were able to nail down our venue, photographer, and planner all in one afternoon. We also adopted a mantra “is it in our budget? Yes. Ok. Do we like it/them on first instinct? Yes? Ok. Book it!” Neither of us had the time or energy to make long winded multi-visit decisions. And we couldn’t have been happier!
    •having my MIL (blessedly we have a WONDERFUL relationship) come to town (and stay at a bed and breakfast five minutes away!) the week before the wedding. She was invaluable in getting last minute errands done, making dinner, and being a calm helpful presence through and through.
    •finding a pair of wedge flip flops that were the same height as my heels (see below), ridiculously comfortable, and I wore them for 90% of the day
    •having a first look. We both lost our sh*t and so glad that we didn’t have that intensely private and emotional moment in front of 120 people.
    •firing our pastor 36 hours before the wedding (he didn’t send a draft of his ceremony for us and then didn’t show up at the rehearsal) and asked my ordained sister if she would officiate. It was the best most emotional decision we made!

    NOT WORTH IT (in retrospect):
    •Caring so much about the menu. We barely had a chance to taste it and I remember so many other details from the day!
    •Although they are beautiful, spending too much $$ on my shoes. They look great in pictures but I wore them for maybe an hour total.
    •DIYing invitations from a box. The included “template” wasn’t a template at all and required HOURS upon HOURS of haphazard learn as I go graphic design. Not to mention the painstaking assembly. For the time and headache I would have rather spent more money and had them printed.

    But all in all, everything was worth it in the end as I married the most amazing man in the world!

  • Sarah Stephen

    A. If something is very meaningful to you, stick to your guns…respectfully of course. We chose to elope and it was such a beautiful and meaningful event for us. Even though our family thought it was unusual, most of them understood that eloping was very important and special to us.

    B. Get a good photographer!

    C. Spend your money on a great honeymoon

  • Alexis

    The highest impact decision we made (besides, you know, deciding to celebrate our marriage with a wedding :) that was so worth it was to hire a really good caterer. We had to deviate from our desired budget a bit to hire them, but we knew their food was excellent after tasting it and that they had a great reputation. This left us with one less thing to worry about while planning and then during the wedding, their service was above and beyond and the food was awesome, which seriously contributed to the happiness of all involved.

    The other decision that ended up being totally worth it, but I definitely worried about going in, was deciding to self-DJ. As a former college radio DJ, I actually enjoyed building totally custom playlists (like 5 hours worth of music total… not a project for everyone, I know) because then I loved every single song at our wedding! We used Spotify Premium, which allowed for a lot of variety AND volume at minimum cost (and no internet required to access your playlists!), and borrowed sound equipment and it worked out so well.

  • I overly stressed about EVERYTHING. From which brand of liquid eyeliner to buy, to what dress my dog would wear (seriously), to how we could set up outdoor video games.

    And everything that I stressed about nonstop for 6 months was a waste. We ended up scrapping the big wedding idea and had an elope(ish)ment.

    Therefore everything from the first 6 months of planning WERE NOT worth it (and that we gave up on):
    -the money
    -save the dates
    -engagement photos
    -bridesmaids/groomsmen costumes
    -wedding activities/games
    -rental stuff

    In the end, the few things I stressed about that WERE worth it:
    -where to do a quicky wedding
    -which restaurant to eat at after
    -what bar to go to afterwards
    -the hotel
    -what flavor donuts to get (ALL THE FLAVORS)
    -the dress
    -his tux
    -the rings
    -where to honeymoon
    -the photographer!

  • of all things, this question has clarified how i adored our wedding. because in trying ot think of details, all i could think was: it was all worth it.

    to be more specific, though:
    worth it:
    our caterer, and i am forever indebted to my mother for telling me to stop stressing out, and just *pay somebody* already.

    not worth it:
    stress. the only thing that really wasn’t worth it was freaking out about things.
    most of this, in our case, was panic about how our families would deal/react/act/show up/not show up ’cause of the gay. in the end, it’s not that everyone was there, but it was damn perfect, and not worth all the worry. also, none of the other stuff we spent time worrying about was important either (and sometimes even a miser like me can say that it is worth paying to make worries go away – i’m still skeptical that our cheap photographer was worth it, but it was – if not for the pictures, for the peace of mind it gave my wife to have that checked off).

  • Totally Worth It: Renting those dang pretty white chairs.

    Both our ceremony and reception came with those foldable metal chairs, and I initially told myself that I was fine with them, “Nobody will notice the chairs” blablabla… but in the end, all I could think about was that it was ME who would be looking at pictures for years to come, and I really didn’t want to look at those ugly chairs.

    So against all rational bridal-decision-making, we spent $240 to rent 75 chairs for our reception….. and every time I look at photographs of our reception, I smile at the site of those lovely white chairs all lined up in a row, and I think it was 100% worth it :D

    Like everyone has said — it’s funny how it’s the little things that sometimes end up mattering!!

    Totally Not Worth It: Over-buying on beer and wine, and having literally an entire keg (that nobody wanted!) to deal with the next day! haha Funny how those things go….

    • kmclevel

      Second the keg situation! We bought two smaller kegs and used those stupid alcohol calculators that don’t work. Both kegs were VERY full at the end of the night. I wish we would have designated someone’s house to host an after party instead of the groomsmen sneaking them into the hotel and constantly getting in trouble with security. After continued drinking in the hotel though, the kegs were STILL very full, and my dad had to return them that we since we didn’t designate anyone to drink more or return them for us!

      • This actually worked out GREAT for us – buying a couple kegs was way cheaper and more environmentally friendly than bottles (we asked people to reuse cups for refills of the same drink). There was some left at the end of the night, but we just moved them into the cabins for the after party; I didn’t feel about about what little remained when they were returned.

        I throw tons of parties and have gotten pretty good at estimating how many drinks/person/hour, though, and having just beer and wine helped with the calculations, too.

    • Lisa

      I had to laugh when I read your comment because I did the same thing with the chairs, except mine venue came with black plastic chairs. The week before the wedding, I called the venue coordinator and told him I needed the nice chairs for the dinner, but I was fine using the others for our outdoor ceremony. Evidently he had been waiting for that phone call. I thought I was wasting money, but at least five people commented to me about how much nicer the chairs were at dinner than the ceremony!

  • La

    Worth it:

    Staying together the night before (we got to see one another’s nerves), having breakfast together with one of our best friends at the local farmer’s market, meeting up after we’d got ready to get our photos done beforehand, greeting everyone at the church as they arrived, walking in together and writing our own vows (and telling them to each other for the first time during the ceremony). I loved being together the whole day, it was true to ourselves (especially because we know what we’re like at parties: we divided and conquered at night and only came together for speeches, dinner and certain dances) and I felt like the day went at a normal pace (not as fast as everyone says).

    Oh, and crossfade and an epic sound system (which we got for free). Our dance floor didn’t stop.

    Not worth it:

    I was calm all the way through planning, but in the last (final getting things done) days I snapped at my mum, my fiance and my brother. I still regret it!

  • Worth it: moving our wedding to North Carolina (where we currently live) after telling everyone and putting on our save-the-dates that it would be on Long Island (where all my family and a bunch of our friends live). While basically having a destination wedding meant our guest list was cut in half by people who couldn’t/wouldn’t travel, being able to do all the planning and work from home (especially while we’re both in grad school) and taking advantage of the cheaper price tag on everything in NC (especially while we’re in grad school) meant the wedding planning was actually enjoyable, rather than a logistical nightmare.

    Also worth it: we rented a charter bus to take everyone from the hotel to the venue, which was 30 miles away. So worth it, even though it cost about $750 and was an hour late picking up the last of us because it crashed into a ditch on the way. (Luckily it was empty at the time, having just dropped off the grandparents and pregnant people, so I did not complain.)

  • Worth it:

    Sitting with non-wedding party friends during dinner. We picked our “stray friends” (those who weren’t coming with a group of mutual friends) and sat with them. Our wedding party sat with their families and friends. We got to spend a lot of time with our wedding party over the course of the weekend, it was nice to sit with friends we wouldn’t otherwise see that much. They felt really honored to be sitting with us and it made it less awkward to be sitting with strangers.

    The first look. It was nice to be able to spend a bit of time alone before the craziness started.

    Paying extra for a venue that did both set up and clean up. So nice to not worry about it.

    Doing cupcakes and pasteries from a pastry shop and not telling it was for a wedding. Saved so much money! People say this is dishonest, but I just said party. If I was going into a bakery for a family reunion, I wouldn’t feel dishonest for not specifically mentioning it was a family reunion.

    I’m having a hard time thinking of any not worth its. I do sometimes daydream that instead of getting engaged in Ireland we just went ahead and eloped. That would have been pretty awesome too. But I did have fun through the whole wedding process and you can’t go back and second guess your decisions.

  • Worth it:
    – inviting our parents and siblings and having a ceremony with eight (and a toddler) guests instead of doing a totally unattended quick and free formality.
    – insisting (and I mean, “either accept the sitter or don’t show up at all-insisting”) on a babysitter for the one toddler for the wedding dinner. It caused strife and conflict, but for once the toddler’s parents were actually mentally _present_. Seriously, a Michelin Star-awarded restaurant at 8 PM is no place for a three year old, no matter how sweet and well-behaved.
    – saying ‘no’ a lot.

    Not worth it:
    Nothing, really :) I think we did very well in paring the wedding down to the things that were _really_ important to us.

  • My take on the matter is dual-faceted, since I’m now two months (!) into my second marriage and the experiences for each were as different as night and day. My first wedding was a personalized but semi-traditional affair for about 100 people and the second was a real and true elopement (literally the two of us fleeing six time zones away to get hitched on a beach without telling anyone we were doing so). So I’m going to respond using the context of both weddings.

    Worth it: (Traditional-esque wedding) Having an on-site coordinator at the reception venue. I was able to manage the goings on up to and including the ceremony, but it was a MASSIVE load off the old shoulders to have someone else take over during the reception.

    – Photographer, having professional hair/makeup come to my parents’ house the day of to take care of the bridesmaids and I, spending considerable time laying out a realistic timeline of the day and coordinating with all the vendors. Building a wedding website! With the exception of a few older relatives, almost all our guests used and appreciated the simple website I put together. It cut down on the number of paper products we had to use later as well.

    (Eloping) Hiring a planner to take care of all the logistics. Once we decided we would be running off to Hawaii, the single best decision we made was to go with a professional planner. Trying to research and plan from the opposite coast would have been maddening.

    – Writing our own vows, crafting our own wedding bands, making sure we had a videographer on hand, and having professional hair/makeup done.

    Not Worth it: (Traditional-esque wedding) Flowers. Granted, I’m not a big flower person to begin with, but the arrangements didn’t last terribly long and ended up causing more stress than they were worth.

    – Welcome bags for out of town guests, fancy invitations, making a custom aisle runner (which promptly tore in half about 5 minutes before the processional)

    (Eloping) I went with a non-flower alternative for a bouquet (paper roses, you can check out a tutorial on my blog if you’re so inclined). Even though it was fun to make, it ended up being forgotten at the hotel and went unused.

  • Cathi


    –Pre-marital counseling. This didn’t cost us anything, but oh man. It was my favorite part of the whole process. I kind of miss it.

    –Going to a bar after the reception (the stressing out about that decision, I mean, and the worrying that no one would come with us). Being among strangers in fancy wedding clothes was amazing and completely negated any worry I had about it.

    Relatedly–doing every shot offered to me at said bar. Hungover? Yes. Cheers-ing with friends and then hugging and yelling “I LOVE YOU” at each other? Also yes.

    –An all-inclusive (ish) venue. Slightly more pricey than we wanted but not having to worry about food, booze, cutting people off from booze, plates/tables/etc…, service, centerpieces, cake cutting, presentation, and ESPECIALLY cleaning up? Aaaaah mazing.

    –Getting a limo for the 7 minute ride between ceremony and reception. A small moment of luxury we weren’t used to. Some private time to just sit and smile like goons at each other.


    –My lovely, but $750 dress. I felt pretty, but not “nearly a grand” pretty.

    –Letting my sister throw a wedding shower. It was fun enough, I guess, but kind of boring and she spent way more money than I would have liked on baking goodies and cheap decorations, and stressed out about it so much.

    –Contrary to everyone else: PHOTOGRAPHY. We aaaagonized about this, finally hired a really talented guy for more money than we wanted (and less money than his usual rates–thanks Shane!). Didn’t mind the photos during the wedding, looooved them when we got them two weeks later. Loved looking at them for the month after. Now, 7 months later? Eh. I guess I’m glad we have a couple nice, professional pictures of us, but there’s only maybe 5 I REALLY like, and I sort of wish we saved that $1000 for when my car needed major repairs last month.

  • Robyn

    Worth it: having only a Best Man and a Man of Honor for a wedding party. One of our first decisions (made even before we got engaged) and totally right for us.

    1) When MIL whined about having Groom’s sisters in the wedding, we pointed out that my brothers were not in the wedding either. Best friend from high school lived too far away, so she didn’t have to feel bad about being in the wedding party but not being able to help out. Too many fraternity brothers to pick just one or two. By excluding everybody, nobody’s feelings got hurt. (Or if they were, they kept their thoughts to themselves like good friends do.)

    2) It was clear who was in charge of requests and last-minute necessities, because there was only one key person on each side. No delegation needed and nothing lost in the shuffle.

    3) It helped set the tone that this was a low-key, slightly untraditional wedding. No bridesmaids dresses because there were no bridesmaids!

    4) Group photos went quickly!

  • alyssa

    It’s been so fun to read all of these! I love how different everyone’s answers are.


    No dinner, just desserts. We had a New Year’s Eve wedding and we really followed the rule: Guests first, food budget later. We ended up having SO many friends from college fly up and party with us in my tiny hometown. They partied alongside my elementary school teachers and childhood pastor, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Many of them went out to fancy NYE dinners before our wedding, and we had a crazy dessert bar which satisfied everyone. Our cake is still getting compliments a year later!

    Receiving Line: I got to meet all of my husband’s relatives right after we got married instead of during the reception, and we said hello to literally everyone at our wedding. It was wonderful to get all that love at once, and then focus on the dancing during the reception.

    Make our Own Playlist: My sister, my husband, my bridesmaids, and I spent the week before the wedding making the perfect playlist on Spotify. We had so much fun working on it while we decorated the venue that week (at a friend’s barn), and now we have a wedding playlist we can listen to whenever we want!

    Second Dress: This was the most frivolous purchase, but it was 40% off at Banana Republic, and entirely pink, rectangular sequins. I love to dance, and it was New Years! As soon as I changed into the dress after the first dance, the party got started and I could really move! Plus, it was AMAZING to surprise my new husband with a hot dress at the reception. He had no idea and his eyes completely bugged out of his head. I guess I expected to feel more “beautiful” than HOT on my wedding day, but I definitely got both and damn if that isn’t awesome!

    Doing my own makeup: I was so much more relaxed making my face the way I like it, and the way I actually look, with my best friends in my childhood home. Wouldn’t have it any other way!

    Massage: We got a massage on our honeymoon and it was so worth it. Since so much of our reception was DIY/DIT, there were some aching muscles. Plus we danced pretty much all night. The massage was such a treat and we felt so pampered!

    Finance Class: The least fun and most important Worth It moment for us! It was the marriage counseling we didn’t know we were getting into. :) We learned so much about our spending and saving habits, had to set up several budgets together, and learned how to show our values through our spending. Having those budget arguments and fights BEFORE we got married was an amazing way for us to be “ahead of the curb.” I mean, we still talk money and we still get tense, but now we have a common language to speak. It’s amazing.


    Planning so many activities during the honeymoon! I wish we had had blocks of time to just SLEEP. Not even joking!

    Freaking out about last minute details de-railing. Those last minute details? Totally didn’t matter on the day of! I had a meltdown for no reason. Though, surprisingly, most of my family was relieved I melted down because I hadn’t yet. I think they were concerned it was going to happen on the day of the wedding!

    No videographer. I had my cousin film the wedding, and when I asked for a shot of my husband’s face when he sees me come down the aisle, he took that to mean he should zoom in on his face for the entire procession of the mothers, the bridesmaids, etc. It’s kind of hilarious that we have 10 minutes of poor G in a semi-stressed state, but I should have left it to the professionals. Ha!

    • Samantha

      How did you find your fiance class that sounds awesome. Was it part of your counseling or something you decided to do separately?

      • Samantha


  • KateM

    I think APW really helped in the planning process because as I decided to cut things, I was validated by these boards and I am grateful for that.
    Worth It:
    Being organized. I had my spreadsheets, our wedding website was updated and on everything. I was not asked a single question by a guest about accommodations or logistics of the day. We had area attractions, hotels and B&B’s on there. Also the week of the wedding was pretty stress free because there wasn’t a ton to do and it was mostly delegated.
    Our DIY stop motion video save the date. We emailed them to everyone and put it on our website. Everyone LOVED it! And totally free.
    DIY all the wedding flowers. I ordered the flowers from Costco and Sam’s Club and picked up a few fillers from Trader Joes. They delivered them to my parents house. For about $350 and 3 hrs of work with my sisters, we had flowers for 30 tables, ever other pew in the church, 4 bouquets, 8 boutonnieres and had left overs. I loved my flowers, I loved hat I chose fragrant flowers on purpose and still think about how fragrant they were during the ceremony and walking up the aisle.
    Family dance. Best pictures ever. Period.
    BBQ catering. I managed to get the cost down to $12 a head. They also gave us the left overs, and didn’t need the final count until 72 hrs before the ceremony. We live in DC and got married about an hour away to cut costs and it was worth it.
    BBQ at my parents the following day. We had a large wedding and I really got to visit with more people the next day. It was great. Plus this normally happens anyway, so being prepared totally made it worth it. We had over bought beer intentionally to be able to have some left for the bbq and it worked out perfectly.
    Taking off most of the week before the wedding. I spent the week hanging out with my sisters and relaxing. Even when we were doing wedding stuff, it was so nice to just have down time with them, and it was a mini-vacation before the wedding.
    Not Worth IT
    Worrying about having the wedding Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. People may have complained initially about having to take off the day, but who doesn’t want a 4 day weekend? Of our 300+ invites, one person didn’t come because it was a Friday, and it was his own fault because he assumed it was Saturday, didn’t read the save the date, or the website, or the invitation.
    Trying to cut a guest list. After 5 minutes I gave up, we decided on our budget, who we wanted there, and then made everything else fit around that.
    Dress. I didn’t spend a ton, but I would have gone with a $300 or $400 dress instead.

    • alyssa

      I so agree about taking the week off before the wedding! I got married on New Years, so it was relatively simple to take the days off of work between Christmas and New Years. It was such a stress-saver to be free from work during that time!

  • Christy

    Worth it:
    * Two ajoining hotel rooms for me and my husband. We stayed in one, but we each had separate space to get dressed/hang out/finish last minute things with our friends and it wasn’t as crowded. We had a ton of wedding stuff with us and our honeymoon luggage to boot, so it would have been chaotic to have just one room. Totally worth it.
    * Ditching the dress that wasn’t working for me and going with one that made me comfortable.
    * Asking the planner at my venue to replicate the look of a table that she had priced out with less expensive linens and dishes. Saved at least $1000 and the tables were beautiful and more than made up for the increment cost of the…
    * …chiavari chairs. I agonized about the extra cost, but given the savings on other things, I was at peace with it and I loved the way they looked.
    * No wedding party and an extremely simple ceremony: Meant no drama, no rehearsal, no expensive rehearsal dinner, no extra dresses for people to buy, no programs needed because it was extremely predictable and simple. We had it outside at our wedding venue and it flowed into the cocktail party and dinner very easily. We only supplied chairs for people who were uncomfortable standing for a few minutes. That worked fine even though I worried a little about not having chairs and an aisle.
    * Having a cocktail party with heavy appetizers for everyone who got in on time the night before. It was inexpensive and easy to set up at a bar near the hotel, and most people had had enough to eat for supper, although others opted to go out after. It was great to be able to catch up and mingle with everyone and meet the people on my husband’s side that I hadn’t met. They did a little roast for him, which was fun and unexpected. Everyone told us they really enjoyed it, some said it was the funnest part of the weekend because people were so excited to see each other as they were arriving.
    * Being very clear about “no gifts” and not having a registry. If I had to do over again, I might have asked friends and family members who insisted to scan and send old pictures to give them something to give me that I actually wanted, because a lot of them sent money which was sweet of them, but I hope my “no gifts” request didn’t come off as veiled request for cash.
    * Letting my mom and the florist deal with the flowers. I wanted them to be pretty and creamy and beyond that I really did not care. Glad I let that one go.
    * Not bothering with themes or a palette. I agonized over that to begin with and realized that I knew what I liked and I would know it when I saw it.
    * Picking a venue that was historic and beautifully decorated with an indoor and outdoor options. I didn’t have to worry about weather (everything could be moved inside if necessary) and people could and did hang out in all different spaces. We saved a lot on flowers and styling because the place was pretty to begin with. I was grateful that we happened to be able to afford it because my husband was an alum.
    * The brunch afterward. I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. We planned it as a “drop in any time between x and x” and I thought people would breeze in for half an hour and leave, but a lot of people stayed the entire three hours, and I had a chance to really catch up with those who made it. I would say around 1/2 of our guests came.
    * Leaving for our honeymoon right from the brunch. It was a pain on the front end because I had to be all packed up prior to the brunch (and I had to have everything with me because I got married out of town), but it was so exciting and I really felt like we were leaving all our cares and stress and mess behind us.
    * Inviting my father from whom I’m estranged along with the hoochie he was cheating on my mother with before their divorce. I didn’t want to and my mom talked me into it. Hoochie didn’t come, my father behaved strangely but it didn’t bother me because there were so many people there, and everyone who knew the story (or who only knew my father’s version — which was minus the existence of said hoochie) thought I was the better person. Even if his “better half” had come it would have been fine, but I’m still glad she didn’t for my mother’s sake.
    * Having a band that suited the venue, crowd, and vibe we wanted — a jazz/standards band. The agency I used tried to talk me out of it and into a more traditional dance band. Nobody got tired of talking, which is easier to do when someone is crooning a standard in the next room than if there’s a dance party, and more people than I would have thought danced.
    * Not having a real wedding cake. We ended up with a variety of cakes from our caterer’s usual options and they put them in a beautiful stand. People got to try multiple kinds or just one kind, they actually tasted good, and nobody missed the giant cake. It cost a fraction of a “real” wedding cake.
    * Having someone do my hair. My hair can be very hit or miss and this was one thing I just did not want to worry about. My hair stylist had a heart attack and did my make-up when she found out that I didn’t have someone scheduled to come — absolutely insisted — and did a beautiful job with very bad raw materials. I rarely use make-up and was planning to use a little brow pencil and some mascara and maybe a tinted lip gloss. In retrospect I should just have used her partner for the make-up. She really made me look like my very best version of myself.
    * Assigning tables. It would have been utter chaos if everyone was angling for a seat, but I did not assign specific seats and I’m thankful for that, too because we had guest list changes at the last minute and I would have been hyperventilating into a paper bag the morning of if we’d had to have reworked an entire seating chart rather than moving a couple people to different tables.

    Not worth it:
    * It was technically worth it because it very meaningful to my husband, but absent that reason — planning an out of town wedding. I found it HUGELY stressful not to be able to get to town easily to do tastings, see flowers, venues, talk sense into vendors who were flaking out on me, getting a hair trial done, etc. It would have been so much easier if I’d done it no more than 3 hours away by car, but preferably no further than a half an hour away. Vendors have a much easier time blowing you off over the phone than if you are standing there in front of them.
    * Skimping on the transportation. We deliberately chose a walkable area and hotel near the venue, but I stressed out about people with mobility issues, people in nice clothes and heels if there was bad weather and the like since there was no parking at my venue, and I wish I had just paid for a trolley or bus to/from the hotel instead of cobbling together transport for people who needed it, including me.
    * A very long engagement. Things stretch out to fill the time you have to do them, a lot of things have to be done at the last minute anyway, so there’s very little advantage to 18 months or 2 years of time to plan (except getting the venue of your choice). Also, my mom was diagnosed with metastatic terminal cancer less than 2 months after my wedding, and I would never have forgiven myself for the excessively long engagement if the timing had been different and she’d died in the interim. Life is short and you can’t count on everyone you care about to be here indefinitely.

  • Angie

    The day-of-coordinator. Even my MIL says so. When our custom ETSY silhouette cake topper was missing, she found it. When my mom’s corsage fell apart, she hot glued it together. When my sister stepped on my veil, she glued/pinned together the tear. After the wedding, she packed up everything and delivered it to us the next day. She also returned the tuxes. Best decision ever!

    Private time together with my husband after the ceremony. I would’ve had a meltdown if we hadn’t had these moments to sit down (!!!!), have a snack and drink, and just marvel that we were married.

    Spending the night together before the wedding. I planned to stay at my parents but made the last minute decision to stay at our house with my fiance instead. Waking up together was so calming and it gave me my time to get my things together before the day really started.

    Staying in a hotel the night of the wedding. Not going home to a messy house and saving an extra 20 minutes of driving that night & back the next morning for brunch was awesome.

    Buying a second dress. I didn’t love the first dress so I bought a dress I loved and I am so happy I did!

    Flowers – particularly my bouquet. I held it to walk down the aisle and then it sat in a vase on our table during the reception. We didn’t spend much and it wasn’t a priority so it isn’t a regret, but looking back, it was kind of pointless. I wouldn’t skip the corsages for family though. I liked that.

    Making programs. They weren’t complicated but it was one task that weighed me down the week of the wedding. Thanks to my husband and siblings we got it knocked out, but it wasn’t worth the stress just before the wedding. I am glad to have the keepsake showing everyone that was involved in the ceremony & it gave us a place to share our belief in marriage equality.

    Guestbook of our engagement photos. Seemed great at the time. Now, eh whatever.

    Making take home bags for cookies in lieu of favors. Fun but not worth the brain damage.

  • Meaghan

    Worth it:

    *Venue – Some family members were bothered that we weren’t getting married in a church. Neither of us cared and pushed forward with our ceremony and reception in a hotel ballroom. They took care of all set up and tear down, we didn’t need transportation and no wait time between ceremony and reception. We had a minister that is a long time family friend and it was the right decision for us.

    *Photographer and Videographer – We definitely wanted a photographer, I didn’t think we needed a videographer. Finally my parents convinced us it would be worth it and it absolutely was. The pictures are amazing but the edited video makes me cry 2 and a half years later.

    *Night before – DH and I didn’t spend it together even though I wanted to. After the rehearsal dinner, we both spent time separately with our families of origin. DH and his brothers had a movie marathon in the hotel with some of their favorites. While I spent the evening outside with my family having a drink, smoking cigars and talking until too late. Neither of us would trade those memories for anything.

    *Day-of coordinator – This was the absolute best decision we made. There were some things that didn’t go according to plan and instead of running around trying to do 100 things at once, our kick-ass coordinator handled it. I’m one who worries so it was amazing being able to hand things over to her. I got to enjoy getting ready with my mom, grandma and bridesmaids while DH was able to relax and watch football until the last minute.

    Not worth:

    *Shoes – I bought super cute, too expensive, uncomfortable shoes that went perfect with my dress. I ended up wearing $10 Old Navy flats all night.

    *Seating chart & programs – The programs were finished at the 11th hour and I gave up on the seating chart. We had a couple tables saved for immediate family and I was done.

  • Worth it – Eloping. Watching friends plan weddings now makes me feel super confident that we made the right call.

    Having a photographer for our elopement. Since nobody else was there, the photos were a great way to make friends and family feel like they could witness a bit of the day, and I’m really happy we have them to look back on.

  • KW

    Worth it:

    Eloping, or at least having a small, private, unannounced wedding (there was no proposal, no official engagement, no engagement ring). We have huge families whom we love as well as lots of friends, but a traditional wedding would have been more than we could deal with.

    Having a friend/former boss perform the ceremony rather than hiring someone from the area that we didn’t know. I knew his style, knew that it fit us, and he gave us a lot of freedom on how to craft the ceremony. Almost too much, we had a difficult time deciding what ultimately would go in. :-)

    Having one of my sisters (with her family) and one of his brothers present. Originally we weren’t going to have any family but my sister is a decent amateur photographer and we decided we wanted pictures to share with those who weren’t there. We paid to fly his brother out to represent that side of the family, it was the only way he could have come. We asked them each to say a few words of welcome to the family (my sister to my husband, his brother to me) and they rocked it.

    Having it next to a waterfall at the state park, then having a picnic with the others and going hiking. It honored how we came to be a couple and was just so us.

    Wearing a blue sundress instead of white. I look so much better in color. :-) My sis made a bouquet and a headband for me, down to making the flowers for it from satin fabric.

    Totally agree about the 10 minutes alone. For us, it was after the picnic, before the hike when we went to change clothes. We paused and just reveled in what we had done.

    Not Worth It:

    Worrying about what people would think. Outside of our officiant, my sister and her husband and his brother and his wife, nobody knew we were doing this. I worried most that my mom would be hurt. In the end she took it in stride, and she did get to know first other than those who were there. Pretty much everyone who mattered laughed through their surprise and gave heartfelt congratulations.

    Mostly Worth It:

    I love our rings, which are the only WIC part of our wedding (got them at a large and conventional, though locally owned, jewelry store). I discovered APW just after we ordered them, and learned there were many more options we could have done and spent less while still having cool rings. Ah well.

  • Worth It: transportation from hotel so guests could party as much as they wanted (we wanted a big, fun party), late-night pizza delivery (since no one would be driving themselves to stop for drunk food), finding a place that let us bring in our own beer & wine (saved thousands over venue-provided, and that made the decision for us about liquor too or not), doing our own reception flowers (i didn’t care too much about them, and we saved several hundred dollars), DIYing the rest of the decor, but saying screw it to a few projects that lingered the last few days

    Things people told me I would regret but I don’t: doing my own hair and makeup, staying with husband the night before and up until getting ready

    Not worth it: the DJ – I really just wanted to use an iPod and speaker system because I had such specific lists of must-play and do-not-play, but was talked into it by others. And our DJ did not do a super great job (wrong first dance song, changing in the middle of a great song when EVERYONE was on the dance floor). So if you are thinking about doing the DIY music route, DO IT!

  • Emily

    Worth It:

    My dress, which was a little pricey, but not at all beyond our means. I bought it at Kleinfeld’s with my mom on our first and only dress shopping trip. We both love the show Say Yes to the Dress, and it has been something that we have shared together for many years, before my husband was even in the picture. So when I found myself living in NYC during our engagement, it was obvious that we had to go to Kleinfeld’s. And since I had an awesome sales associate who was incredibly respectful of our tiny budget, I was able to say yes to my dress after less than an hour. I felt so beautiful on my wedding day and never wanted to take the dress off!

    Choosing an awesome photographer who I loved. I knew her on a friend level before ever working with her, and had done two shoots (including our engagement shoot) with her before the wedding. Having her there was more like having a guest with a camera. Our portraits were so much fun, and she got awesome shots at the reception. I never had to worry for even one second about the pictures. Because of her style and approach to photography, we have pictures that really represent us and our friends as we are.

    Letting my bridesmaids choose their own dresses. I told my four maids to choose a purple, knee-length dress, and made a Pinterest board of dresses that I thought might look nice on them in all different price ranges. The result was so perfect and beautiful. All my maids look so lovely and so much like themselves. One of my maids loved her dress so much she wore it BEFORE the wedding! When I look at my wedding photos I get such a great feeling seeing my friends looking like themselves. Plus, the variety of shades made the photos look way more awesome than a bunch of chicks in the same dress (which I find weird–who wants to wear the same dress?!).

    Having a live band. I asked a friend from college to play with her band at the reception and it was rocking. The idea of a DJ never felt right to me and I would have probably cried if the YMCA or the Hustle were played. The vibe of a band was just right, and it allowed for people who felt like it to dance the night away, or for people to feel comfortable kicking back and chatting.

    Giving up on some DIY projects and just paying for it. Examples include the DIY photo booth I had been planning for months. Then, one day about a month from the wedding, I got a coupon in my email from a local photobooth company who was running a last-minute special on summer bookings. I contacted them immediately. It was totally worth it just to have someone else figure it out, set it up, so I could forget about it.

    On the other hand, having some DIY projects incorporated really made the day special. My bridesmaids, Mom, and I made a lot of stuff, including the favors (my mom’s famous homemade chocolate chip cookies), the cake (after a lot of begging, my mom agreed to make me a tiny, two-tier vegan wedding cake that was so lovely and yummy), and the flowers (we bought them all from local grocery stores the morning before and then my maids and I assembled them over wine before the rehearsal dinner. They turned out perfect and for less than $300 I got to have tons of big, fluffy peonies).

    Planning the day-of meticulously… and then passing that sh*t off to someone else. I gave my “wedding stage manager” a packet that an actual stage manager friend of mine told me looked like a prompt book. It included schedules, contact sheets, “prop” lists, and a clean-up plan. I gave it to my appointed wedding stage manager at the rehearsal dinner and then immediately gave everything up to fate. The next day moved so smoothly (of course, we went off schedule plenty, but that is par for the course), because I chose a WSM who rocked and was cool as a cucumber in the face of pressure, and planned everything into the ground beforehand.

    Not Worth It:

    Marriage Counseling. I know I may be shunned by the APW community for this one, but hear me out. Marriage counseling was a useless experience for us, not because marriage counseling is useless, but because we got set up with a crappy counselor. We were living in NYC but getting married in my hometown in Michigan and my pastor thought it would be good if we met with a counselor in NYC so that we could establish more of a connection with the church in our current home. Great, except the counselor he set us up with charged over $600 for four 45-minute sessions. My pastor ended up using church funds to help us pay for most of the costs, but the sessions were not super useful for us. Since we only had a total of 3.5 hours with the man, he hardly had enough time to get to know us, so the counseling we were given was incredibly generalized.

    Fighting my husband on his wardrobe. It’s his wedding too, and I kept telling myself that over and over, and he certainly didn’t pick out my dress. Yet I went with him to shop for his wedding suit and when he fell in love with a tie that I thought was hideously ugly, I couldn’t hold back my emotions. We ended up leaving the store without the tie he loved. I felt terrible and went back to the store the next day and bought it for him. But I still fought him about the tie, including a little breakdown I had in Men’s Warehouse when we tried to find ties for the groomsmen. In the end, I sucked it up and my husband looked so handsome that day, weird tie and all. And most importantly, he was happy.

    • Lisa

      First, darn the report instead of reply. Sorry! I wanted to second your not worth it marriage counseling. We went to the pastor at the church i belonged to were both optimistic going in to it. After two sessions, we realized he had a pretty narrow focus area, was rather critical of some of our decisions for our wedding (like using a friend to perform the ceremony, our wedding was out of state) and drew everything back to giving to the church. It was such a poor experience that we didn’t seek out another option for counseling, but we did find a new church.

  • E

    We were on the fence, but totally worth it:
    Hiring transportation for out-of-town guests. My parents thought that it was an expensive and unnecessary cost, but I’m really glad we did it. We hired a school bus and driver for seven hours for about $600 – picked up guests at hotel, took them to church, then reception, then dropped us off at after-party (and the hotel for the older folks). It was really nice for our friends to be able to drink as much as they wanted without worrying about driving, especially since many of them didn’t know how to get around the city. We have been to other weddings – big-budget weddings – where guests were expected to drive and then people were stressed about drinking too much. It was a relatively small cost to keep the night moving smoothly.

    Not worth it:
    Decorations. As Meg says, I remember how the wedding felt, not how it looked. I spent some time making the table seating chart, a photo easel, centerpieces, etc. but I hardly even noticed them on the day. It looked nice, sure, but I definitely didn’t need to spend more time on those projects.

  • E

    Also not worth it: spending a lot of time submitting a playlist to the DJ.
    My husband and I went through it carefully, negotiating two Beyonce songs and not three, etc. But it didn’t end up mattering. We told the DJ to play songs that would get people on their feet, and he did. He does this for a living and knew what would work, and it went really well. No way “Party in the USA” would have met my husband’s approval, but it was the biggest hit of the night. Submit your first dance and/or parent dances, and maybe a low key album that would work for the dinner hour, and let them know what songs you HATE, but otherwise I’d let the DJ do their thing.

  • Worth it:
    – Photography- After the ceremony, I questioned whether or not we should have paid as much as we did for our photography ($4,000), but then I got the pics and realized why they’re priced the way they are. Worth every single penny. :)
    – Choosing people over prestige- We chose not to get the fancy venue that I LOVED, because it would limit both the people we could invite and greatly increase the price of the wedding. Instead, we chose a simple reception hall and, in the words of Tim Gunn, made it work. It turned out beautifully and I am so glad I didn’t force the issue on the reception hall. It really didn’t matter (at least to me).
    – DIY- A few weeks before the wedding, a bunch of friends and family met over at my house to work on the DIY things. They ended up being one of my treasured memories- just the quality girl time I had was really a great memory I treasure.
    – The food: we chose a local restaurant to cater our wedding rather than traditional caterers. It was about a third of the price, and the portions were awesome. People raved about our food, and the entertainer in me needed to feed my people. :)
    – The cake topper- we got a custom made cake topper (a panda bear and polar bear bride and groom) from an etsy store ( It was just the right amount of whimsy in an otherwise elegant affair. Plus, Maria was one of the nicest vendors I’ve ever worked with!

  • Karyn

    Worth it:
    – the fancier-than-I-ever-planned dress I let my mom buy me just four months before the wedding date
    – NOT reprinting the programs because of a couple minor spelling/grammatical errors
    – coming home to our apartment after the reception instead of going immediately to a hotel or the airport – we spent two days opening presents, eating leftover cake and going out to dinner on wedding-present gift cards & cash before heading off to Hawaii for 10 days
    – rewriting my vows the day before the wedding
    – choosing carnations instead of more expensive flowers – our florist was amazing and she got us four shades of “Purple Moon” carnations which were BEAUTIFUL in both my bouquet and when they were arranged in an ombre pattern on the tables at the reception
    – having the wedding at a restaurant we liked
    – having a rehearsal ceremony the night before instead of disregarding the importance of it
    – renting a limo, surprisingly enough
    – spending what felt like a million hours planning the music that nobody really paid attention to because it meant a lot to us to plan it out together
    – playing Cards Against Humanity with our wedding guests instead of having a wild dance party – we tried to have a dance party, but there was just me and a couple other people on the dance floor; my husband decided it was time to break out CAH and we had SO. MUCH. FUN.
    – hiring a month-of wedding coordinator
    – choosing easy-going bridesmaids
    – choosing to LET GO of all the anxiety and fear the night before and day of the wedding – we just let things happen and it was GREAT!

    Not worth it:
    – doubting that my now-husband would be able to write his own vows (he did and they were amazing and he even quoted Carl Sagan)
    – fighting with my mom about SHOES of all things (after the glitter-encrusted Kate Spade’s I bought were deemed “too expensive for one day,” I purchased two pairs of Cole Haan’s (a low patent blue wedge heel with a peep-toe and a high salmon wedge heel) and chose the blue? “They’re not SPECIAL enough.” That fight was not worth it at all. The blue shoes were perfect and comfortable and I wore them all day and they were awesome. Eventually, she apologized.)
    – hiring a recommended friend to do the alterations to my dress – yes, it was cheaper and she did a great job, but she was old and when her husband went into the hospital suddenly, we were worried we’d have to get the dress back from her in an incomplete state and find a new tailor to finish the work.

  • SJ

    I know I’m late to this discussion, but just a quick note in favour of the cute shoes! You can’t really see my (classic peep toe patent leather pump) Jimmy Choos under my gown, but I see them as an investment. I’m already planning on wearing them to two other weddings this summer. Quality shoes last years and they’ll be imbibed with good memories.

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