The Ultimate Bride's Survival Guide
Updated: Apr 27
It’s happening! The day you have been waiting for your entire life is finally here. The love of your life has finally popped the question. You are bursting with love, excitement and the prospect of a wonderful future together. Let us guess, the first thought that went through your mind was walking down the aisle in a stunning wedding dress into the arms of your flaming beau. Keep that mental picture somewhere safe, you’ll need it for inspiration later. We’ll take a guess and say the first person you shared the wonderful news with was your mom, and her input is very much appreciated because it comes from a loving place. However, before you get overwhelmed with her ideas, keep in mind that your perfect wedding day will be yours and your partner’s only.
You have probably seen a few of your relatives and best friends turn into bridezillas within a few weeks into the process of wedding planning. There is so much to consider that sometimes things don’t go as planned, no matter how hard you try to control them. Planning the wedding of your dreams can be challenging, but there is a science to achieving perfection. The key is to have a trusted checklist of all the elements that constitute a wedding, like the one below which we have gathered for you. Of course, not all of these components are necessary, it all depends on your budget and personality, but it will hopefully give you an idea of which pieces fit the puzzle that will be the best day of your life.
There is nothing wrong with asking for a little help, especially if it comes from an expert. Planning your own wedding can seem like an easy task at first glance, but making sure everything comes together, within budget and according to your specifications, especially on the big day, can be too much to handle. A professional wedding planner can help take care of the logistics leading up to and on your wedding day, adhere to your budget and look after the contracts, flip the venue from ceremony to reception, and even get you vendor discounts! They also have the added benefit of knowing what to do in a crisis and take some weight off your back when it comes to making sure everything goes according to plan. You might have to give up a bit of control, but once you see the finished product, you will realize it was worth the investment.
AVERAGE WEDDING COST
If you come from a traditional American family, with strong values that date back for centuries, you’ll know that it is customary for the bride’s family to cover up the costs of the entire wedding. If you and your partner have decided to break tradition and pay for the whole wedding from your own pocket, know that there is nothing wrong with asking your relatives if there is any part of your wedding they’d be willing to contribute with. When it comes to creating a budget for your big day, here’s a few things you might want to consider.
According to recent findings, the average cost for a wedding is a little under $34,000. Some experts suggest the usual breakdown of an average wedding cost is as follows:
- 55%: ceremony & reception. Including venue, catering, and rentals.
This is where you can get resourceful. There are some gorgeous venues that can hold both the ceremony and the reception, so you can book them all day long and get some assistance to flip the venue when the time comes. In addition, they might also have packaged deals that include the catering and rentals. If that does not play along with your vision for the best day of your life, and you already have a catering company in mind, or you don’t particularly like the furniture options they’ve offered, you might want to consider adding these services into your calculations.
- 10%: attire. Bride and Groom
Here comes our favorite part: your perfect wedding dress. Remember it doesn’t have to be brand new. There are wonderful vintage stores and consignment shops where you can find the dress of your dreams if you so desire. Included in this category are also the groom’s tux, shoes, and accessories, as well as your own fabulous shoes, accessories and bridal beauty.
- 10%: Photography & Videography
You can ask your friends and family to take amazing photos and share them on Instagram, but from what we’ve heard and seen in our years in the biz, there’s nothing like having a professional wedding photographer document every special moment from getting ready, to the first look, and everything during and after “I do”. If you find a videographer to capture not only the images, but also the action, you’ll have some amazing and expertly curated memories to look back on at every anniversary.
- 8%: Flowers
Florals are essential, and we’re not just referring to the wedding décor. Your wedding bouquet and those of your beautiful bridesmaids are an essential part of your budget. You can go as big or as understated as you wish in this department. There are even some trendy green options for our eco-friendly brides.
- 8%: Entertainment
The decision to hire a DJ, live band, string quartet or all of the above is entirely up to you. This is just a little guidance to show you just how much money is appropriate to spend in this category. If you and your partner would like to add fireworks and acrobats, they are also part of the entertainment portion of the evening.
- 2%: Stationery
Invitations, save-the-dates, menu printout, table signage, they should all account for a small portion of your wedding expenditures, no matter how fabulous your theme is, the wedding invitation is only a hint of what’s to come.
- 2%: Others
Wedding rings, officiants, favors and gifts.
- 5%: For a rainy day
Because if we’ve learned something in life it’s to expect the unexpected. Better set some money aside as a contingency.
Before you even start planning your whole wedding, a million images come to mind. You remember what your best friend’s tropical themed wedding looked like, the DJ who played Avicii at your cousin’s reception, your coworker’s vintage décor and rentals, and your future sister in law’s modern centerpieces. These components are amazing in their own way, and they all have their own benefits, but they don’t really blend well together. Stop obsessing over cute wedding décor ideas you found on Pinterest and bridal magazines, and think about a theme in particular you like the most. Remember your perfect wedding day is a celebration of your relationship, not anybody else’s. Forget about their expectations, let’s focus on yours.
Of course, you can have a rustic/Brazilian wedding, or a vintage/luxe wedding. The choice is yours, just don’t go overboard with the mixing & matching, stick to one base theme and add touches of another one, the trick is to find the perfect balance. The following is a list of the most popular wedding themes in recent years.
For those couples who are really into certain books, series and movies, so much so that they’ve become a crucial part of your relationship, know that you’re never too old for a Harry Potter themed wedding, or a Lord of The Rings themed wedding. The possibilities are endless!
A big element that comes into play when choosing your wedding theme is the season. This will determine the style of wedding dress you’ll be wearing, the material, your hair and makeup, as well as the venue and wedding decorations available for your reception.
Each season has its own pros and cons.
Spring weddings have the benefit of offering perfect weather. It’s right in that sweet spot between cold winters and hot summers, where all the flowers are starting to bloom and there’s an air of new things to come. The main downside of spring weddings is, unfortunately, the possibility of rain.
Color palette: pastels are your allies. Think blue, lavender, pink, coral, turquoise.
Wedding dress pairing: Kaden 19112
Summer Weddings are the perfect excuse for a destination wedding. Your guests will be more than happy to be given a solid reason to hop on a plane and book a couple of days off from work to joint you in the celebration of your marriage. One the other hand, having a wedding during the summer is the most popular time of the year, which means there might be a waiting list for your dream venue. Another con? Summer weddings can be too hot to handle for some.
Color palette: tropical inspiration: peach, yellow, aqua, fuschia, green
Wedding dress pairing: Dagny 19258
Fall Weddings have the perfect combination of a wide range of color to inspire your palette, as well as the perfect weather. So much so that they have dethroned summer as the best season for couples to tie the knot. However, there are some events that take place between the months of September, October and November that might make it complicated for some of your guests to attend. Schools are back in session, unpredictable weather and Thanksgiving could create some strain in everyone’s schedule, which is something to consider before sending out your save-the-dates.
Color palette: look outside your window! Red, orange, mustard, blush, deep green.
Wedding dress pairing: Raven 19106
Winter Weddings are a great way to ensure your whole family will be in attendance and adding some snowy landscapes into the mix makes for some romantic photoshoots. However, be aware that your guest will have other commitments scheduled during those months, so you’ll have to give them at least a year to plan their holidays around it.
Color palette: forest green, burgundy, gold accents, grey, navy blue
Wedding dress pairing: Ophelia 120120
Once you have selected the theme that will adorn your nuptials, it’s time to find out where it will take place.
Depending on the wedding venue, the season, and your personal preference as a couple, the first decision will be whether to hold your ceremony and reception in the same venue. If you’re having a traditional religious ceremony, you might want to hold it in a place of worship. Then comes the decision of either asking your guests to move to a different location or offering them the transportation to the venue where your reception is taking place. If you’re contemplating holding both events in the same venue, the next question will be indoors or outdoors.
There are pros and cons to indoors and outdoors weddings. Having a beautiful garden wedding during the spring sounds wonderful, but you can’t really control the weather. On the other hand, if your summer wedding takes place in a ballroom, you’ll have to think of ways to keep your guests refreshed throughout the festivities.
Another factor that will help you make a better decision when it comes to your venue, is getting an estimate of how many guests you’ll be expecting. You might’ve fallen in love with a cute little art gallery with enough room for 60 guests, but if your entire wedding guest list adds up to 150, you might want to reconsider.
Deciding on a wedding venue is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a couple with regards to your wedding planning. You have to consider not only your wants and needs, but those of your forever partner. It’s all about finding common ground so you can both be happy with your decision.
Come up with a list of at least 4 venues where you would like to hold your wedding. It’s good to have a favorite, but you have to keep your options open. You might be lucky and find that the venue of your dreams, the one that appeared in your mind the moment you said yes, is available for the date you’ve selected. However, if that’s not the case, it’s better to have some options open. In the end, no matter where your wedding takes place, it will be more special and wonderful than your wildest dreams.
WEDDING INVITATIONS AND SAVE-THE-DATES
Wedding stationery is where your creativity and your personality as a couple, start to come through. Designing your wedding invitations and save-the-dates gives your guests a glimpse into what to expect from your wedding day. From the theme, the color scheme, their expected attire and, most importantly, the time and place, your save-the-dates and invitations will provide your guests just the essential information regarding your wedding.
Save the dates are not required, are they are not as formal as the actual wedding invitations, but they will provide your guests with enough time to add the time and date of your wedding into their busy schedules. They are typically sent between 4 to 6 months before the wedding takes place. If you haven’t decided on a theme just yet, there’s no need to worry. Your save-the-dates and invitations don’t necessarily have to match, as long as the information regarding the date and time of your nuptials is the same, as well as both of your names, you’re golden. Another important fact is that you should have your guest list ready in order to send your save-the-dates.
Your wedding invitations, on the other hand, contain more detailed information regarding your upcoming wedding. These are typically ordered between 3 to 4 months ahead of your wedding, for accuracy purposes, and sent out 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding day. It’s in your invitations that people can really see what the theme of your wedding is as well as your personality as a couple.
Things to include in your invitations:
- Reply card for the RSVP, with a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope.
- information about the ceremony and reception venues, such as times and locations
- Directions to the venues. in some cases, even a map comes in handy, especially for destination weddings.
- Accommodation and transport information.
- Menu information. In case your guests have any dietary restrictions.
- Dress code. Depending on how formal the reception will be, your invitations can call for cocktail attire if it’s a beach wedding or all the through to Black Tie and White Tie if you’re celebrating your nuptials in a vintage ballroom.
It’s time to get the party started! An engagement party is usually the first of many pre-wedding celebrations. Before going your separate ways and celebrating with your bridesmaids and your fiancé with his groomsmen, some couples like to have a party with all their close friends and family in attendance to celebrate that they are, indeed, engaged. The engagement party is traditionally hosted by the bride’s family, but your best friends and even you as a couple can plan it on your own. If you’re thinking of hiring a wedding planner, they might even include it as a packaged deal. Following is a list of basic things you need to consider for your engagement party:
1. Who’s hosting?
2. When should it happen? Soon after getting engaged.
3. Guest list. Everyone you’re inviting to the engagement party should be invited to the wedding, but not the other way around. This is more of an intimate celebration.
4. Invitations. Since there’s a short period of time between getting engaged and throwing an engagement party, you don’t have to be too formal, paper invitations and e-vites are just fine.
5. Gifts. While it is not mandatory to give a recently engaged couple gifts, you can include registry information on your wedding website or via word-of-mouth.
Whichever way your engagement party comes to be, make sure you enjoy every minute of it. It’s the first step in a series of events and months of planning that will lead to the best day of your life.
The Bridal Shower usually takes place closer to the wedding date, between two months and up to two weeks prior to the wedding. Since this particular event is of a more formal nature, you might even consider sending bridal shower invitations to the women in your guest list. The purpose of this particular festivity is to shower you, the beautiful bride-to-be, with gifts! This one is usually hosted by the bridesmaids, your mom or your future mother in law. Your guest list should include your mothers, grandmothers, bridesmaids, sisters, aunts, female cousins, all of whom have been officially invited to the wedding. The theme can be the same one you’ll be using on your wedding, or something completely different and close to your heart.
Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties
These parties are usually celebrated separately and hosted by the groomsmen and bridesmaids respectively. The male wedding guests will attend the Bachelor party while the women attend yours. These parties can be as informal, naughty and fun as you want them to be, with crazy themes, games, cocktails and finger food. All bets are off! If the idea of going your separate ways to celebrate doesn’t sound too appealing to you lovebirds, you can always do a joint Bachelor/Bachelorette party.
The rehearsal dinner usually occurs the day before your wedding, once your closest friends and family who will play an important role in your nuptials have finished rehearsing their contributions to the ceremony. It’s a fun and relaxed great way to give them a taste of what’s coming the following day and give them a warm welcome to the official kickstart of your wedding weekend!
Of course, we all know by now that the most important person in the wedding, the one whose eyes are all going to be focusing on, is you, the beautiful bride. Choosing your perfect wedding dress is the first step of the process. But there are other elements that will make your gown match the rest of you, from head to toe. Not only are the accessories important, but have you thought about your hair and makeup? These two will depend on what style wedding dress you’ll be wearing, the season in which your wedding is taking place, but most of all, your personal style. It’s all about enhancing your beauty!
When it comes to bridal makeup, nothing is set in stone. You can let the seasonal trends inspire your look with burgundy lips for a fall wedding or natural makeup if you’re getting ready at the beach. You can let your makeup artist have full creative control and turn you into a supermodel. You might even consider forgoing the professionals and doing your own makeup yourself, just like the Duchess of Cambridge did when she wed Prince William years ago, and we all know she looked amazing. Just remember the end goal of all the magazines, Instagram inspiration, Pinterest tips and trends, is to make you feel confident and look absolutely stunning when you’re walking down the aisle.
As a bride, wearing your hair up in an elegant chignon is a matter of personal style and wedding theme. Perhaps you want to wear your hair up for practical reasons, i.e. dancing the night away with your soon to be husband, but if your wedding is taking place in the summer in a beautiful garden, you might want a messy updo with lots of texture, or let your hair blow with the wind in flowy waves. The perfect bridal hair for you is a combination of your fabulous personal style, your wedding dress, your theme, and a dash of trends.
GROOM’S WEDDING ATTIRE
As previously mentioned at the beginning of this guide, the theme, time and place of your wedding set the tone for pretty much everything including what the groom, groomsmen, and male attendees will be wearing. The groom can usually start planning his outfit 2-3 months prior to the wedding. He’ll have four traditional options to select from, although if neither of this represent his style, he can always mix it up.
- Morning dress
- three-piece suit
YOUR WEDDING DAY
Wedding ceremonies tend to be traditional and can either be religious or non-religious, depending on your preference. Your religion will usually set the standard the ceremony should stick to, and the officiant will have to follow suit. However, if you and your partner choose a non-religious wedding ceremony, there are certain elements that are common to all wedding ceremonies and can give it a sense of formality.
- Processional. Wedding party, bride and groom make your way into the ceremony.
- Meaningful literature and/or religious readings.
- Vows exchange.
- Wedding bands.
- Witnesses sign the marriage certificate.
- Officiant’s sanction of the marriage.
- First kiss as a married couple.
- Recessional. You happy newlyweds make your way out of the venue to cheers and celebration from your guests in the form of confetti, bubbles, rose petals, or anything else you can imagine. You are then followed by the wedding party and your parents out of the venue.
You might also add some other meaningful wedding rituals if you so wish, to make it as personal and unique for the two of you as possible.
The actual -or hypothetical- wedding bells are ringing, and the crowd goes wild! It’s time for everyone to make their way to the reception.
Whether you wedding is going to be held at a hall that offers the option of flipping from ceremony to reception, or you and your guests have to change locations for the second part of the festivities, the wedding reception is usually a two-stage process.
1. Cocktail Hour
Gives guests enough time to arrive to the venue and make sure the whole place is fully set up before everyone gets seated. It also sets the stage for your spectacular entrance as a Married Couple. The decorations, signage, drinks (including your signature cocktail) and appetizers are in theme with your entire wedding. Your wedding planner should make sure there’s enough room, and seats, for everyone and that the amount of food and beverage is enough to slightly ease their appetite. Too much food during cocktail hour will either leave your guests too full to enjoy the carefully selected menu of your reception, or a lot of it will end up going to waste.
Once the doors to the venue have officially been opened, the two of you will finally make your grand entrance as a married couple! You’ll be able to feel the love from all your guests as you walk in hand in hand to the beat of your favorite love song playing on the speakers, and experience the collective ooh’s and ah’s of your wedding guests as they all get to witness how stunning you look in your wedding dress.
3. Wedding menu
Dinner is served! Your beautiful table decorations will finally be put to good use. The wedding menu is crucial to any and all types of weddings. It will set your wedding apart from the hypothetical competition. Whether you’re serving a four-course fine dining experience, a seafood buffet, a vegan affair, or a family style dinner, you must remember to enjoy yourselves! In this day and age, it’s really hard to be able to please everyone. You’re not a restaurant, you’re inviting your nearest and dearest to join you in the happiest day of your life. One traditional element that has unfortunately been dismissed by some modern couples is the wedding cake. There are some creative wedding cake ideas out there if you’re not into a 6-tier cake with frosting and piping.
4. The toasts
It is customary for the Best Man and the Maid of Honor to make their toasts to the happy couple, followed by your respective parents, and your own if the two of you feel like it. There won’t be a dry eye in the house, so a great tip is to ask your makeup artist for waterproof mascara.
If having a live band clashes with your wedding theme, perhaps you might like to hire a DJ for the duration of the event. Find one that specializes in weddings and has great reviews, not just online, but the kind of DJ that you danced to at your best friends’ nuptials, or that was highly recommended by someone you trust.
Another component of your wedding entertainment includes the add ons. If you’ve ever been to a Mexican wedding, you’ll know that, besides the Mariachi, it is the funny hats, balloons, colorful boas and glow sticks that make the party extremely fun! Also, if you want to include a firework show and a couple of professional tango dancers to add to your entertainment, don’t be afraid to add them to your budget. Put on a show for yourself and your guests!
Photography & Videography
We all know your friends and family are going to be taking amazing photos and video clips during your wedding, with their talented skills at using filters on Instagram and Tik Tok. However, if there’s enough room in your budget for a professional to photograph the perfect moments from getting ready, to your first look before walking down the aisle, to every little detail of your ceremony and reception, we say go for it! From what we’ve seen in our years in industry, hiring an expert is definitely worth it. Same goes for the videographer, there are crucial moments that only someone that’s standing right beside you at the altar, next to the beautiful floral arch, will be able to capture. Once again, online reviews are great, but if you’re using a wedding planner, she might be able to secure you a great deal with one of her vendors. Use her connections!
While your wedding registry is a way for your guests to congratulate you and the new journey you’re about to embark upon as a married couple, one way to thank your wonderful guests for celebrating the best day of your life with you both is by providing them with a little something to remember you by. It can be as simple as a bag with a pair of slippers with your initials and wedding date engraved on them, or a scented candle, or a small pouch of flower seeds for them plant in your honor. There are so many unique options for wedding favors that can be easily personalized. Pick the one that best suits your personality as a couple and wraps up the evening nicely for your guests. Some couples even opt for making donations on behalf of their guests to a charity of their choice.
Your wedding day will not only be the best day of your life, but it is the beginning of a wonderful lifetime together filled with love, laughter, incredible memories that your friends and family will be honored to be a part of. There are so many things to look after, whether you have a trusted wedding planner by your side or not, that it’s easy to get carried away with the planning and lose focus of the bigger picture. Try to enjoy every step of the way, not just the early stages when you’re shopping for your perfect wedding dress, but also the careful selection of the flowers for your centerpieces, or who’s going to sit where. All the pieces will fall into place and make the wedding of your dreams a reality. Enjoy the process and congratulations on your engagement! Did you like our guide? click here to read The Ultimate Guide To Choosing Your Perfect Wedding Dress and if you are ready to buy your perfect wedding dress use our store locator tool.