Warning, this is probably the longest blog I have ever posted. I hope it is useful to you in your planning. :) There aren't a lot of pictures in this post, but there are lots of links to help with cheap travel, photo booth rental, purchasing inexpensive decorations/centerpieces and more.
Becca and I have photographed enough weddings to feel confident in sharing some wisdom we have learned along the way. Here are some tips we feel are important to DO and what NOT to do once you say YES to your fabulous fiancé after his proposal.
DO - Share the excitement of your engagement on Facebook or any other social media of your choice. It's exciting and your friend's will love sharing in the excitement with you!
DON'T - Share the news of your engagement on Facebook or Social media BEFORE sharing with your closest family members (ahem, parents, grandparents and anyone else you feel is in your inner most circle). It's not worth the risk of hurting feelings for those who might be offended if they only find out via Facebook and/or after Joe Bob who knew you from History class your last semester in High School, but found you and added you as a friend even though he barely knows you and somehow he has ties back to your grandparents and now he has spilled the beans…. Don't let Joe Bob spoil the news for you! You and your family will be much happier if you tell them in person. Plus, their reactions can be priceless. You can't appreciate that through Facebook.
DO - Decide on several dates you are interested in saying your "I Do's" on and start calling venue's as soon as possible to check on availability and requirements to reserve the church/venue.
DON'T - Decide on several dates you're interested in and then SIT ON THEM until the last minute. Venues book up fast!! Sometimes several years in advance (especially if you choose a wedding day during the popular months of June or September).
DO - Look for wedding photographers that have a photography style/personality you like and start sending out e-mails or making calls to them to see if they are available.
DON'T - Look for wedding photographers and then procrastinate contacting them. If you find a photographer with a style and personality you like, the thing to remember is, each photographer is an individual with their own levels of experience, knowledge, gear, charisma, style, etc. Photography is definitely not a commodity where one shoe fits all sizes. Since the photographer is just one person, they can only be at one wedding at a time. If your date is already booked, you're out of luck… Then it's back to the drawing board and you have to search all over for another photographer that has a style/personality you like and can work with. One of our past brides actually told me, "Finding a photographer you like, is almost more important than finding the groom"… Haha! Something like that. I might disagree a little as I do hope you find a good spouse, but the fact remains, not all photographers are created equal. The rates they charge are usually in line with their level of experience. More experienced photographers will almost always be more expensive, but they will usually deliver a higher end product and usually have more knowledge in how to make you look your best. Those photographers usually will have additional camera equipment on hand as back ups to ensure they won't have any problems photographing your wedding. Often times, the less expensive photographers are working with one camera and minimal gear. If something should happen to their camera, the couple getting married would be at a serious risk of not getting the photos they expected on their wedding day. I know this topic is very self serving since I'm a photographer, but it really is one of the main things to book right away as I said, because once they're booked with someone else, that's it. You can usually get flowers, cake, food, etc. at a later date since the product is prepared before the wedding and it just needs to be delivered/served. Photographers create their product the day of the wedding and it is the one thing you will pull out and look at to remember your day over and over again as the years go by (Besides wearing your wedding ring every day and occasionally pulling out your wedding dress to look at it). Pretty much everything else is consumed the day of. I have been booked as far out as two years before the wedding. It's never too early to contact your photographer!!
DO - Find a DJ that has adequate experience and knowledge of working a wedding.
DON'T - Go with the cheapest DJ you can find. I'm sorry… I know things add up quick, but the DJ is probably one of THE most important parts of your reception. (If you're going with a live band, then disregard the DJ, but contact your band asap)… The DJ is the guy that keeps the party going. He usually dictates the flow of the entire evening. A good DJ will have excellent music choices or be able to cater to your requests throughout the night. He knows what songs get people dancing and how to keep them dancing. We've seen many DJ's play songs that clear the floor and then watched as they failed to make any changes to what they were doing. We've seen DJ's teach line dances to guests, get kids involved, make the couple money during specific dances, etc. Not all DJ's are created equal either. They can kill the party or keep it going. Remember, the DJ you choose is going to have a live mic and be talking to your closest friends and family throughout the night. They are the ones who give you awesome entrances into the venue and let your guests know what's next throughout the night. No room for shy or awkward DJ's. A lot of DJ services can accommodate more than one event at the same time, so it's not as cut and dry as with the photographer being booked and unavailable, but at the same time, their gear is not cheap either and I wouldn't recommend assuming they can handle more than 2 or 3 bookings tops for your date. Some might not be able to handle more than 1 either. Call them asap if you find one you like!
DO - Start shopping around for caterers, florists, limos/party buses, your wedding dress, tuxes, someone to make your wedding cake, invitations, party favors, photo booths (click the link) or any other essential things you would like to have at your wedding. Obviously, many of these things are optional, but they all are great options for making your day as memorable as can be. Pinterest is a great place to search for ideas if you have no idea where to start. Also, along with this "DO" - Do eat LOTS of cake samples (even if you know who you're going to have make your cake)… Why? Because cake is delicious! When else will you have an excuse to eat lots of cake? And who knows, maybe you'll get surprised and find someone you weren't expecting and change your mind at the last minute.
DON'T - Like the other Don'ts, don't wait till the last minute on these things. Also, don't assume since many of these things are more of a commodity item, that cheaper is always better. I have seen $15-$20,000 floral arrangements at weddings. There is definitely a difference between that and a cheap arrangement! I've also seen a cake that was 10 tiers high, had around 3,000 handmade flowers on it and it barely fit through the door! The cake was a beast! It took the cake decorator a year to hand make all of those flowers!! Not cheap, but gorgeous! So, depending on how elaborate you want things to be, put your calls in as soon as possible with these things! Also, don't assume you have to break the bank on everything. Back to the Pinterest mention - There are TONS of ideas that you can do yourself! You can save lots of money on decorations and centerpieces, etc. by purchasing them second hand. If you haven't heard of the Facebook group, Sioux City Wedding Swap, (click the link; you may have to request to be added to the group) you're in for a treat. Lots of couples go there after their big day and sell many of their items that they don't intend to save or have no further use for. Usually centerpieces, decorations and sometimes wedding gowns. It's worth a peek. You never know what you will find there. And if you're not in the Sioux City area, I would recommend doing a search for Wedding Swap groups for your town. You might find some cool stuff out there!
DO - Plan a honeymoon. Most couples do this anyway, but some we've met don't. It's true that it's more money after you have already spent a large amount just to pull off this perfect day, but it's also something you deserve after all of this planning and preparation. It gives you and your new spouse a chance to reset and recharge before you begin living your day to day lives. That doesn't mean you have to drop $10K or more to take some crazy adventure trip in Australia or somewhere exotic… You might just take a couple days going out of town somewhere close together. If you're in Sioux City, Iowa, that might mean staying in Omaha, Nebraska for a couple days and visiting the zoo and having a nice dinner or two together. Just allow yourself a chance to get away for a little while. It makes a bigger difference than you might realize and let's you start your marriage off by making good memories together. It's so good building the foundation of your marriage on happy moments shared together. That's way better than buying a new big screen TV that will go out some day. In my opinion of course. Also, you don't have to break the bank on your honeymoon either. My wife and I love to travel, but we hate paying for expensive airfare or high priced hotels. Depending on how adventurous you are, you have many options. First of all, if you want to find the easiest way to earn free flights, there are lots of credit card companies that will give you HUGE sign up bonuses for spending certain amounts of dollars in a specified period of time. E.g. Spend $1,000 in 3 months and get 30,000 miles. This is easy to do through a number of different ways, but even if you just put your household expenses on the card for a few months, most people could easily hit this number. Then, those 30,000 miles are yours to book flights, hotels, cars, etc. with. Most airlines allow you to book a round trip ticket in the US for about 25,000 miles. Becca and I booked flights to the Dominican Republic one time this way and saved over $900 per ticket!! For more info on this, check out our good friend David Morrison's website TravelandCredit.com. He is currently a missionary in South America, but he has lots of great information on credit cards you can get and which ones have the best offers, etc. Just remember, if you go that route, don't get yourself in credit card trouble. Only work the system if you can afford to pay off those balances each month. You don't really benefit from free flights, if it costs you hundreds (or thousands in interest). Speaking of the Dominican Republic - There are tons of great offers to stay on All-Inclusive resorts down there for next to nothing! The trip I was referring to that Becca and I took, we spent $19 per day per person. So, for $38 per night, we stayed at a tropical beach resort that gave us unlimited food and drinks during our stay!!! (www.cheapcaribbean.com) And we only paid $100 each for our plane tickets (for the tax) after we used our miles earned from credit card programs!! You can travel BIG on a dime if you know how to work the system. There are a ton of other sites out there too if you don't want to just look at our friend's site. If you're really wanting to travel cheap (these methods aren't recommended for your honeymoon), you can use frequent flyer miles to book your flights and then you can either stay at a hostel (usually involves staying in a dorm style room with anywhere from 4-10 other beds shared with other travelers and usually only in larger cities, but they're always quite cheap - www.hostels.com), or for an even cheaper option, you can sometimes stay with people for free via hospitality type of sites like www.couchsurfing.org which involves you contacting the people in advance through the site, letting them know when you'd like to stay and then if they approve you staying, you sleep on whatever arrangement they provide for you. Sometimes it's your own room, sometimes it's literally the couch, sometimes it's the floor with couch cushions put down for you. It's a mixed bag, but I PROMISE you, it is memorable. :) We've had some great experiences couch surfing and even made some great friends from it. Not every experience is pleasant though either. Use caution when staying with others or letting them stay with you.
DON'T - Freak out. :) Enjoy the process. Weddings are a LOT of work and the day will be a blur. You will probably have a hard time remembering everything as the day just happens so fast… That's why you hire people like me. I will help you remember your day. Just enjoy every moment of the process. The anticipation is half the fun of it all. It's like waiting for a baby to be born. Once the baby is born, you have to take care of it… That means sometimes there will be stinky diapers to change. But before the baby is born, everyone is excited and wants to take care of you (Momma), etc. After the baby is born, the real work begins. Long term, it's way more fun raising the baby than it is growing one. Your marriage will be like that too. Lots of stinky diapers along the way, but lots of lasting memories as well.
Have fun planning! If Becca and I can be of any assistance to you along the process, please don't hesitate to ask. We love to help and offer any advice we can. Now… where to start? Google is a wonderful thing! Start with: "Sioux City Photographers"…. Now, click on the one that says "Shane Monahan Photography". :) Ha! I hope this was useful to anyone reading this. Thanks again for visiting my site! Please comment below to add your experiences or questions regarding planning for your wedding! My list is certainly not all inclusive and I hope I didn't offend anybody with my post. All of the wedding vendors I know, pour their hearts into this wonderful industry we work in. I don't want to belittle any of them for what they do, but I also wanted to give you the bride a bit of a roadmap of where to start. Blessings to you.