Great food. A killer band. A venue with jaw-dropping scenery. Every couple has a unique set of priorities for their wedding day. But as the planning journey unfolds, it’s easy for those priorities to get lost in the mess of smaller details required to bring your big day together.
However, those must-haves will keep you on course to achieve #BestWeddingEver status — so it’s best to set expectations from the start. Clear priorities will help you stick to a realistic budget, source the right vendors, and ease the pressure of decision-making since you’ll know exactly what matters most.
“Set your priorities before you sign any contracts or make big purchases,” urges Julianne Smith of The Garter Girl. “It’s hard to walk back from an early overspend once the train has left the station. So you can never go wrong with starting with your priorities.”
Ready to start setting some big-time priorities for your big-time celebration? Here are a few tips for setting wedding day priorities, along with a few must-haves to keep at the top of your list.
Pick your Big 3
You and your partner might have a laundry list of so-called “priorities,” but you know what they say: When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. So instead of breaking down every little detail, focus on the must-have elements that will make your wedding a success.
“To start the planning, sit down with your significant other and list the three things you each want most for your wedding,” Michael Vernon of Conch Concierge Weddings suggests. “Then show that list to each other. Where you have a match, make that a priority. And the ones that don’t match can lead to collaboration and compromise.”
While you will likely need to compromise on one or two areas, consider it an introduction to married life and embrace the challenge of negotiation and problem-solving.
“Remember- marriage is all about teamwork, so realize that you may not get everything you want as you start to plan your special day,” notes Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events.
Whether it’s music, food, ambiance, photography, or décor, identifying your Big 3 will help you, your planner, and your vendor team do what it takes to execute your wedding vision seamlessly.
Don’t “should” on yourself
Attending friends’ weddings and scrolling through Pinterest is enough to cause information overload. Don’t you need that gorgeous (but expensive!) custom-designed monogram fixture? And what about those cool aerialists that would have your guests in awe? Yet, falling victim to the “shoulds” of wedding planning will leave you overwhelmed and over budget.
“As you are planning your wedding, it is important to remember that the day should reflect who you and your partner are as a couple,” reminds Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning. “Don’t feel pressured into having certain elements or traditions because of societal norms; instead, focus on what matters most to the two of you and ensure that it is included in your special day.”
Your wedding doesn’t need to be—nor should it be!—a carbon copy of anyone else’s or a showroom of the latest trends. Instead, stick to what feels authentic and aligns with your goals, and you can’t go wrong.
Keep key decision-makers in the loop
More often than not, engaged couples aren’t the only ones influencing their final wedding decisions. Parents, friends, and other family members may expect to have a say in the process, so be sure to leave space to hear their opinions and discuss important choices.
Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events recommends “hav[ing] a conversation to understand your parent’s priorities and expectations and what they care about.”
“During this conversation, you’ll also want to share what you care about and your priorities,” Chang continues. “You’ll know when to include them and what they’re likely going to want (and they, in turn, will better understand your decisions), which means there’ll be less conflict because the discussion has already taken place and been taken into account.”
Bringing others into the conversation is especially critical if you expect financial support from loved ones. They may have specific ideas for using their contributions, so ensure everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
“Understand the conditions of any financial help,” agrees George Wainwright of Coastal DJ & Video. “And the best way to understand is to ask. For example, can the money be used for any aspect of the wedding, or should it be earmarked for something specific? That knowledge will help determine whether accepting this help works with your wedding vision.”
Of course, it’s still your wedding day. So don’t be afraid to have some pre-planning talks with your partner to iron out the details before opening the floor to friends and family.
“Before inviting friends or family members into the conversation, it’s best if the couple has an idea of their priorities and knows what they are ok with handing off to another decision-maker,” affirms Mary Angelini of Key Moment Films. “Coming together as a couple to make a priority list without outside influence will have a lasting positive impact on the rest of the planning. Approaching a family member or other outside decision maker as a united front as a couple can help make sure your priorities stay intact.”
As with setting priorities with your partner, expect some compromise when discussing plans with key decision-makers. While it can get uncomfortable at times, rest assured that your loved ones only want what’s best for you, your wedding, and your guests!
Secure the essentials
You can’t have a wedding without a few essentials: you, your guests, some food, and a place to celebrate together. So, naturally, “selecting a venue and caterer are the first planning tasks,” confirms Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club & Events.
But you’ll need to get a few things in order before booking your wedding venue and caterer.
“Before going on the hunt, get a general guest count together to help you determine if a space fits your needs,” Mitsaelides adds. “That number also provides a base for catering estimates.”
With these two vital elements booked, you’ll also secure your wedding date, allowing you to begin researching other vendors to complete your day-of team.
Prioritize lifelong memories
Weddings take months to plan and cost thousands to execute — yet most married couples will agree that the day goes by in a flash. Before you know it, you’re a newlywed with the days of wedding planning behind you. Don’t let all of that effort go in vain!
“Planning a wedding is amazing, but if you don’t have any documentation of it, you will forget most of the moments you might have wanted to remember,” explains Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings. “Consider heavily what this looks like for you as a couple and how you want to remember this day. Any way you get it documented, invest in that.”
A top-notch wedding photographer or videographer can capture the many memorable moments of the day, big and small, so you and your partner can always relive the celebration. Plus, you’ll undoubtedly want some beautiful photos to hang in your home, so this is one area to avoid cutting corners!
Don’t forget your pets
As the average age of marriage continues to increase, more and more couples are entering marriage with already-shared commitments — including a pet or two (or more!). So naturally, many want their fur baby to be a part of their big day! But if you’re simply expecting to show up with your dog at the wedding, you may end up disappointed by a lack of preparation.
For couples who want to celebrate with their four-legged friend, Veronica Silghigian of Pawfect for You, Inc suggests making them a priority at every step of the planning process — not just on the wedding day itself.
“Ask ALL your vendors if they are pet friendly and what their pet policies are,” Silghigian encourages. “Consider booking a pet-friendly hotel if your pet will be part of the wedding day celebrations. Too often, we see couples think about this as an afterthought, so when it comes time to put together a timeline for their fur babies, they are often restricted on where the pet can go when it’s time for them to leave the venue.”
If your pets are a priority in your everyday life, they have every right to share in the celebration — but only if you plan your wedding to accommodate their special needs!
There are many moving pieces to a successful wedding, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as you watch your to-do list grow longer by the day. But by keeping your priorities in the forefront, you and your partner can ignore unnecessary stressors and stick to the details that will make your wedding day not just perfect but authentic.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.