Survival Guide: 10 Tips From a Wedding Planner Turned Bride

It’s not every day that we get the full, inside scoop on the real-life wedding celebration—wonderful moments, warts, and all—of a local wedding planner. So, when Courtney Gabelbauer, owner of Fabulously Chic Weddings, shared her elegant affair—as well as some priceless advice for brides and guests—with us, we were all ears. 

Bridal Bible: 10 Tips From a Wedding Planner Turned Bride | Weddings Illustrated

Photo of Courtney Gabelbauer and her bridesmaids by Trenholm Photo

Last week, we took you inside her gorgeous wedding at Grandezza Country Club, and yesterday we shared her advice for being a gracious guest. In our third and final installment with Courtney, we’re sharing 10 big takeaways from her wedding that she hopes will help current brides-to-be plan stress-free and enjoy their own weddings to the fullest. Here, 10 life-saving tips from a real-life wedding planner turned bride.

1. Accept that, when it comes to friends and family, no one cares about your wedding as much as you do.

2. Nine times out of 10, the groom is not excited to help, and probably will procrastinate doing the tasks he is given. First thing’s first. “Your groom’s excitement to marry you has no correlation to his interest in being involved with planning the wedding,” says Courtney. “Let’s be real: The wedding is for the bride. He knows it, you know it. I skipped the drama and didn’t ask for my now-husband’s help. Some might disagree with me, but it was for the best in my situation. I always tell my brides this, and I was glad I listened to my own advice. We didn’t have any wedding-related disagreements or arguments of any kind.”

3. You aren’t a robot if you don’t cry when you go dress shopping. Dress shopping is so fun, but it’s a lot to think about at the same time,” Courtney cautions. “I didn’t have that tearful moment of knowing it was the dress, and that’s okay! Not everyone does. I still love my dress more than words can convey. I haven’t taken it in to get cleaned and preserved yet because I’m not willing to part with it for that long, or really accept that I’ll never wear it again. So yeah, obviously, it was the right dress for me—dry eyes and all.”

4. Don’t choose your wedding party based on obligatory feelings. It’s not worth it. I listened to my own advice on this, and I’m certain I saved myself from a lot of stress and disappointment,” Courtney recalls. “You know who you want—and really don’t want—up there on your big day. Choose accordingly. You just need someone to tell you that it’s okay to not choose that girl. I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. It’s your day!”

5. On the big day, you can’t control everything. You want your wedding to be perfect; I want your wedding to be perfect…but stuff happens,” Courtney says. “I tell my brides, ‘You can only enjoy your day as much as you allow yourself to.’ It can still be a perfect day.” In one instance on her own wedding day, Courtney had to remind herself that not everything was within the realm of her control. “There was something on the front of my wedding dress that appeared to be blue pen. I almost lost my mind when I saw it,” she recalls. “I was steaming my dress, and I was so upset for a good 30 minutes, then completely let it go and my day was still perfect.”

6. Ask for help when you need it. Like a true wedding planner, “I like doing everything myself. That’s how you know it’s done right, right?” says Courtney. “Well, I guess, but that’s also how you lose your mind. Ask for help sometimes, or be sure to manage your time for what you need to do. My mom took the week of my wedding off and kept me sane. I didn’t think I needed her help, because I love to do things myself. But I’m so glad she was available.” 

7. Don’t cave when it comes to guests asking about bringing other guests, or adding an extra person or two on their RSVP card (including kids). There’s a way to politely address this,” Courtney says. “Something along the lines of: ‘I’m so sorry, I wasn’t planning for _______ and ________ to attend. Unfortunately, we had to go the no-kids route due to space and budgetary constraints.’ I, unfortunately, lost a few guests because of this, but I was totally fine with that. Again, it’s your day!”

8. Document your rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. “I think I got three pictures…from my  iPhone,” says Courtney. “In hindsight, I should have hired my photographer or, at least, asked my mom or maid of honor to bring a real camera. I suggest to my clients all the time that they hire photographers for these events. This was a real ‘duh’ moment for me.”

9. Considering your guest count, I suggest having fewer programs printed (guests can share) and ordering a lot more chocolate favors. As described to us in her tips for being a gracious wedding guest, some guests at her wedding were a little overzealous when it came to taking the chocolate favors the couple put out for their guests. Order more than you think you’ll need so you don’t miss out on your own sweet treats. “Also, put two aside before you even give them to your planner/coordinator to put out,” Courtney suggests. 

10. Don’t get your dress altered to be ridiculously tight, even if the tailor insists because she thinks it makes your waist look “sooo tiny.” “I was uncomfortable during dinner, and it was just plain silly, in hindsight,” Courtney says. “I changed into a second dress an hour before the festivities were over because my rib cage was about to give. It wasn’t a planned second dress. Luckily, I had a cute one on hand!

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