Avoid These 7 Wedding Planning Pitfalls
Photo: Steve Lee Photography
The road to your wedding day will be paved with plenty of touching and beautiful moments…along with a few “speed bumps.” Avert the most common of these getting-hitched glitches with practical tips from Houston’s most experienced wedding planning professionals.
1. The unavailable venue or vendor.
Having your heart set on your dream venue…only to find that your hoped-for wedding date, and every date within months of it, is totally booked, can be heartbreaking. Avoid this potentially devastating disappointment by securing your wedding site early—way early. “Book your venue eight to 12 months before your selected wedding date,” advises planner Shaun Gray of Gray & Associates.
And as soon as you do, he adds, snag a superb photographer. “Your photographer is just one person, so it is impossible for him or her to be in two places at once. When you find a photographer you love, don’t sit on that photographer’s proposal for too long; book them the moment you find them—because good photographers get booked all day every day.”
2. The out-of-control inspiration board.
“It’s quite normal for couples to have a myriad of ideas and inspiration shortly after an engagement,” says Tai Quarles of Aisle Runners Wedding Consulting Services. But that myriad of ideas can easily balloon out of control, causing serious “where to start?” anxiety.
The simplest way to avoid becoming overwhelmed by an overabundance of inspiration is to hire an experienced wedding planner. “Our job as consultants is to take all of those ideas and present them back to our clients in a more manageable, simplified and compartmentalized fashion,” Quarles explains. “We talk to our clients first, collaborate visually, then match these ideas with local, real-world resources, and present them to our clients as viable options.”
Wedding planner Aliah Calbert of Calberts Weddings & Events adds that in the beginning of the process, “I tell my brides to set all of their ideas to the side, and remember this day is about you and your spouse-to-be. I ask them to take a deep breath and tell me, ‘When you were a little girl, how did you imagine your wedding day to be?’ And we start from there.”
3. The overbearing (though well-meaning) mom.
Next to you and your beloved, it’s likely that nobody is looking forward to your wedding with more excitement or anticipation than your mother. But that doesn’t mean she should be in total control of your very special occasion. When it comes to including Mom in the planning, Amanda Hough of Cocomar Ladies notes, “Communication is key.” She advises having a conversation right up front, especially if you are “in a situation with an overbearing MOB or MOG—or any overly involved friend of family member, for that matter.”
Planner Lauren Ehly of Lauren Ehly Events adds: “Include her in follow-up meetings when you will be finalizing wedding details, versus initial meetings when you are in the beginning stages of planning. This way she is involved and can help with some decisions, but the overall vision is pretty much set.”
It is also advisable to give Mom a special task that is all her own, to fully welcome her unique input and heartfelt contribution. Quarles likes assigning mothers the task of “curating” a pre-ceremony photo gallery, where “guests can familiarize themselves with both sets of family members, and reminisce over days past,” while Hough suggests having the groom’s mother plan a delightful dessert table, and the bride’s mother assist in jewelry shopping.
4. The exploding guest list.
One of the most common areas of planning strife is the guest list. This can be especially true when the couple’s family is paying for the wedding either in part or in full. If that is your particular situation, your family “should be able to add to the guest list to some degree,” Gray says. “But if you’re self-financing your wedding, then politely tell your family that you only want people close to you celebrating with you. If they’d like to invite more people, show them a breakdown of what each individual guest costs.”
Planner Kat Creech of Kat Creech Events agrees: “Weddings are a very labor-intensive business, and understanding the cost of food and beverage fees, service fees, gratuities and even sales tax, can be eye-opening when it comes to the guest count. I have often found that the large guest list quickly gets pulled back when the couple and the family understand what it costs to put a guest in a seat.”
Hough, meanwhile, advocates for egalitarianism. “I think the easiest way to go about this is to give the bride’s side and the groom’s side each a number.” For example, each side gets 50 guests (including those tapped for invitation by that side’s parents), “and once you have hit that number, then that’s it.”
5. The weather “whoops!”
“Living in Houston, you have to understand the weather is very fickle, so being naïve and thinking that it won’t rain on your wedding day is absolutely no excuse,” cautions planner Claudia De Velasco of A Day To Remember. “While your vision may be a beautiful garden setting, you have to prepare for the option of moving the wedding indoors,” she urges.
To avoid a wedding that is remembered for all the wrong reasons—sweltering heat, torrential rain, bone-chilling cold—“Ensure that your venue has a ‘Plan B’ option in the event of problem weather,” she advises. “If there is no Plan B option for the space, then look elsewhere…seriously.”
6. The blown budget.
No matter how substantial, your wedding budget is still likely to have some kind of limit. And however much you or your family plans to spend, you will want to make sure you are getting the most for your money. To avoid frivolous or unnecessary expenditures, Quarles says she and her staff always focus on “producing a return on our clients’ projected investment, as opposed to managing unexpected overages.” To avoid budget surprises, she advises, “Never underestimate or deflate the ‘numbers’ when planning. For example, if invitations for 250 guests have been mailed, this should be the minimum number that is used in subsequent planning. Never attempt to calculate how many people you think will actually show up.”
De Velasco adds that she recommends allocating anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent of the budget to unexpected or last-minute expenses. “Remember to always ask questions about hidden costs and service charges, and, of course, factor in taxes when budgeting,” she suggests. “Many couples forget these little details and end up strapped for funds in the end.”
7. The missed photo opp.
There is nothing—repeat, nothing—more disappointing than sorting through your wedding photos for the very first time, only to discover that you’re missing a pic of the gorgeous place settings you painstakingly planned, or a close-up of your great-grandmother’s rosary wrapped around your bouquet. If you’re lucky, you only get to do this day once. Which means you have only one chance to record it photographically for all time. How do you make sure your wedding photos are done right?
“The most important thing is to hire the best photographer that your budget will allow,” notes Jo Ann Schwartz Woodward of planning firm Schwartz & Woodward. Along with hiring a supremely talented pro, “Put time into putting together your photo list,” she adds. “Your photographer does not know who your friends from kindergarten are. Have a family ‘point person’ to identify important guests, and make sure your planner has your must-have photo list to assist in ensuring that those photos get taken.”
And lastly, Minister Lynn Turner of Weddings Performed reminds wedding couples to “be on time and start early with your photographer for pre-ceremony and family photos. This will save precious light for the photographer and give you more time to enjoy your wedding.”