Happily Ever After: Eight Wedding Planning Tips from a Real Bride-to-Be

Here at Weddings Illustrated, we’re lucky to have a wealth of resources right at our fingertips, from planning pros and top-notch florists to brilliant cake makers and boutiques brimming with designer gowns. And while all of those come in handy when we’re researching, writing, and compiling posts for our site, sometimes, real life provides the best learning experience. And when it comes to real-life wedding planning, we hit the jackpot.

Bride Advice

How? Well, we’ve been celebrating alongside our deputy editor, Jennifer Pfaff, since last March, when she got engaged to her fiancé, John Smith (check out their gorgeous engagement shoot if you need a refresh). With their wedding now just more than a month away, we asked Jenn to take a break from putting the final touches on their big day to share some of her own experiences from the planning process. We’re pretty sure you’ll find what she has to say priceless. Keep reading to find out eight things you never knew about wedding planning, straight from our very own bride-to-be.


“When my fiancé, John, and I got engaged in March 2015, I figured I knew a bit more about planning a wedding than the average bride-to-be. After all, I’ve been an editor here at Weddings Illustrated for the past five years, which means I’ve been writing articles, scouring Pinterest, and interviewing brides and industry experts about the good, bad, and ugly of weddings.

Eight Truths About Wedding Planning Advice from a Real-Life Bride-to-Be | Weddings Illsutrated, Photo by Jennifer Pfaff

All that experience did help, of course, but I’ve also been learning a lot more than I expected, like planning tricks that actually work and surprising situations and emotions I didn’t fully understand until I experienced them for myself. That inner Bridezilla? Yup, turns out she’s real.

From tried-and-tested tips to moments every future bride can relate to, here are eight wedding-planning truths I’ve discovered firsthand.

1. Pinterest is great, but so is Instagram.

Eight Truths About Wedding Planning No One Ever Told You: Find Inspiration on Instagram | Weddings Illsutrated, Photo by Jennifer Pfaff

Every bride-to-be knows the power of Pinterest for creating inspiration boards, filing away ideas, and curating her vision. But don’t rule out other social media networks, particularly Instagram. Follow the accounts of industry pros, such as top wedding planners, florists, cake bakers, and dress designers—then, every time you pull up the app, you’ll be flooded with visual wedding inspiration and ideas you just can’t avoid. Also consider following potential vendors, as this is a great way to view their most recent work. Some of my favorite accounts are Daytona Beach-based The Pastry Studio, national event planner Jeannie Savage, and Mindy Weiss, who helped bring to life Sofia Vergara’s big day at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

2. Start using your hashtag now.

Eight Truths About Wedding Planning No One Ever Told You: Start Using Your Hashtag Now | Weddings Illsutrated, Photo by Jennifer Pfaff


John and I have been documenting snippets of our planning process on social media with our hashtag (#PfinallyASmith), and more than a year later it’s already fun to look back and see how our vision has progressed (and, scarily, how quickly time is flying). Our friends are also getting in on the action, using our hashtag at wedding events such as my bridal shower. By the time our big day is here—and long after—we’ll be able to reflect on a collection of memories from this special experience that began a year before we said #IDo.

3. Jot down your song requests over time.
If I asked you to think of a reception entrance song right now, you’d probably want a day or two to think it over and do some research. Like most other aspects of your wedding, your song list should be built over time. Here’s our strategy: John and I have continued listening to our favorite Pandora stations as usual, and whenever we hear a song we think would be great for the dance floor we note it in a list we’ve compiled of must-play songs. Similarly (and just as important), we have a growing list of “do not play” tunes. Both have evolved over time as new artists and songs hit the airwaves.

4. Save money by signing up for emails.

Eight Truths About Wedding Planning No One Ever Told You: Save Money by Signing Up for Emails | Weddings Illsutrated, Photo by Jennifer Pfaff

It was right after I clicked “Buy” to purchase my wedding shoes from Badgley Mischka’s website that I received an offer for 10 percent off my next purchase as a new email subscriber. Well, I thought, that would have been really helpful exactly one minute earlier. Lesson learned: Now, before I order anything for the wedding from an online retailer, I subscribe to the company’s eblasts in case there’s a little token of appreciation offered in return. Free shipping, a 10-percent discount—these small savings add up.

5. You will suffer from dress regret. And lots of others.

Eight Truths About Wedding Planning No One Ever Told You: You Will Experience Dress Regret, and That's Okay | Weddings Illsutrated, Photo by Jennifer Pfaff

I say this with honesty and comfort, because it’s going to happen. Here’s the thing: There will always be another dress to consider. There will always be another invitation suite. Another pair of shoes, another bridesmaid dress, another centerpiece. Get it? The options are endless, and your final pick still probably won’t be perfect, but it’ll be pretty darn close. At the end of the day, just make a decision—and then stop looking. Unfollow all those dress designers on Instagram, and don’t keep researching calligraphy fonts. Make the best choice possible, accept it, and move on.

6. Everything is a disagreement on some level.

Eight Truths About Wedding Planning No One Ever Told You: Everything's a Disagreement on Some Level | Weddings Illsutrated, Photo by Jennifer Pfaff

When I showed John a picture of my favorite wedding cake design, his facial expression suggested, to put it mildly, that he had a slightly different opinion. Like, polar opposite. You and your fiancé aren’t going to agree on everything, and the more people involved (like parents), the harder it is to make everyone happy. Not everything will turn into a shouting match, but it’s totally normal to have a lot of disagreements. There are at least three solutions to smooth things over: 1. Compromise. Find a way to blend your tastes (like incorporating different designs in a cake), or forget both and select something entirely different. 2. Pick your battles. Some details are more important than others; figure out which ones you can let someone else lead and which ones you have a stronger opinion on. 3. If things get heated, table the discussion so you can sleep on it and revisit later with a clear mind and cooler head. Above all, respect opinions and remember what’s really important here: your upcoming marriage to your future spouse. Those personalized cocktail napkins you’re fighting over? Not so much.

7. For the honeymoon, consider using a travel agent.
After we got engaged, John declared me to be the CEO of the wedding—so I appointed him CEO of the honeymoon. We envisioned 10 days in Italy, and I didn’t want to touch that project; the thought of figuring out hotel stays, transportation, and excursions in three cities seemed overwhelming. As it turns out, John had the easier end of the bargain: He contacted a travel agent, told her our vacation dates and budget, and within 24 hours we received a personalized itinerary for our trip to Venice, Florence, and Rome, itemized down to our seats on the plane. Talk about a time saver and a huge stress reliever. We tweaked the agenda here and there, and in the end we’ve organized a perfectly curated trip. Easiest planning ever.

8. Develop a mantra to remain gracious.

Eight Truths About Wedding Planning No One Ever Told You: Develop a Mantra to Remain Gracious | Weddings Illsutrated, Photo by Jennifer Pfaff

People will share with you their unsolicited wedding advice. Your mother will subtly hint that she’s not crazy about your choice for a flower-girl dress by emailing you links to other styles. Someone will give you a questionable compliment, like, “Your ring is so cute!” (Cute?) Not everyone will follow Emily Post’s wisdom, but understand that most people do mean well. The best thing to do in nearly every situation is to simply say, “Thank you! I will consider that.” Hold onto your vision, and don’t let anyone’s opinion or judgment sway you from creating the wedding you want. I follow this mantra: “What would Kate Middleton do?” Answer: Smile politely, express your gratitude, and rock your wedding—and your fascinator!—like the confident princess you are.”

All photos courtesy of Jennifer Pfaff, except where noted. Wedding date photo by Earthmuse Photography

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