Big event planning: what advice do you wish you'd gotten before your wedding?

There are so many people with great event planning skills on Food52, so I hope no one minds my straying from solely a food question for a minute. I'm getting married in a few months and the planning is overwhelming! What do you wish you'd known going into this process? Thoughts about the food or really anything is fair game! (to clarify, I mean advice regarding the event and planning of the event itself, not the marriage part - I'm feeling pretty good about that!)

  • Posted by: LucyS
  • May 30, 2014


Lisa H. June 23, 2014
I agree with all of the comments making sure you have food set aside for the two of you. No matter what you think, you will not eat enough and will be starving later (we ended up at the McDonalds drive thru on the way to the hotel because we had not packed a basket of food!). However, 25 years later I can tell you that the wedding is just one day and to focus your attention on your marriage, which is way more important than the day itself!
Westcoasty June 23, 2014
Speaking as a former makeup artist, you will want to wear waterproof mascara (take along a really good makeup remover for bedtime, as that stuff is tough to take off) as brides tend to cry! Blot gently, don't rub, as waterproof is still smudgeable.

Also, take along a little touch-up set of makeup (powder and lipstick at a minimum, and don't forget brushes if you use them) as you likely will need some minor repairs before your photos. Work out your makeup well before the day, and if you have the budget for a makeup artist on the day, so much the better - but be sure to do a practice run with the person first. If doing your own makeup, or having a friend do it, again, do a trial run. Under no circumstances should you try something new on the day itself, particularly if it involves steady hands (e.g., liquid eyeliner).

Hope this helps. Congratulations, and may you two live happily ever after!
savorthis June 23, 2014
Since cooking is the thing my husband and I share the most, we focused mainly on the menu (he even cooked sauce for the short ribs THAT morning and I sent a spy to make sure he was awake and making it) providing recipes we'd created ourselves. Guests told us it was like eating at our house which gave me great joy. For favors we gave out little laminated recipes with a bag of spices which was just another way of sharing our love of food.

Looking back I know I got tangled in a bit of the wedding crazy- the things that really don't matter- so try to look at the event from the future too. What are things that really won't matter? With that in mind, spending good money/attention on the photographer is a good idea. We also put out disposable cameras and the photos we have from our guests are priceless. The really creative ones snuck off and created a whole pictorial for us which still makes us laugh.

Best of luck!
strawberrygirl June 8, 2014
If you can make a little room in the budget to hire a coordinator for the day to handle things like vendor deliveries, keeping things on schedule and wrangling people, do it. It was definitely among the best money we spent on our wedding. Sure, you can assign tasks to friends and family members, but people get caught up in the party and things fall through the cracks, and the last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day is having to manage people. If you leave it in the hands of a professional you'll be more able to relax and not worry about all the details. Plus, having a neutral outside party can be very handy for reigning in bossy mothers, drunk uncles, and other potentially dicey interpersonal situations without creating lasting grudges. :)

To echo what others have said, figure out early on in the process what you do and don't care about, and don't let other people convince you that you must care about something you don't care about. Everyone has an opinion on what you supposedly have to do, but you don't have to buy into that. You can also ask other people to help with elements that you don't feel strongly about, rather than investing a lot of your time in something you ultimately don't care about that much.
Señora H. June 5, 2014
make sure you choose a menu where the food will be as good if its plated for 100 people or 10, I made sure the soup was served at the table, and didn't go for any chicken/duck in case it dried out... I have been to lots of weddings where a lot of money is spent and food is sub par, go for something braised, raw, fresh. Also make sure you have a "tornamesa" where you bring out food late at night once everyone has had a few drinks. We had a cold winters night, and passed around spicy Pozole and churros with hot chocolate... Everyone loved it
ChefJune June 3, 2014
After years as a wedding planner/caterer, I always advise brides NOT to "do it yourself" on the food for the dinner/reception. Hire a reputable caterer, and make sure you've tasted every dish that you expect them to serve ahead of time, down to the tiniest garnish. If the caterer balks at your request, you've got the wrong one. Find out before you sign a contract.
Bevi June 3, 2014
Make sure you snag all the food you paid for. It comes in handy the next day and the day after, when family members are still hanging around, long after you are on your honeymoon.
Summer O. June 3, 2014
The planning is overwhelming. If you can hire a wedding planner that certainly takes some stress out of it. If not, my husband always says 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.' That's a metaphor in case anyone mistakenly thinks I eat elephants. Take a deep breath and realize it will all get done. Get as many people to help you as you can. People always ask if they can help, don't be afraid to delegate. Anyhow, my best piece of advice (having walked down the aisle 2x now) is to listen to yourself and do what YOU want. So many people offer their opinions of what your wedding should be or who should be invited or what should be served and how it should be served and it's maddening.
Leslie June 3, 2014
Before my wedding, a recently-married friend told me this: the wedding is like a wave -- you either ride the crest or get pushed underneath. On your wedding day, all you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride!
CarlaCooks June 2, 2014
A friend of mine is a caterer and she said that a dessert bar is the worst idea. The extra desserts are almost never eaten; the cake is the main event anyways. She said that if you want to spend a bit more money on something for food, go for an extra appetizer instead of extra dessert. People arrive to the lunch/dinner/whatever pretty hungry, and it helps with people who start drinking straight away (nice to have something on the tummy for the open bar!). Regarding the wedding itself, my best advice is do whatever you want to do. My Mom (bless her little heart) completely took over our wedding planning and I'm still a bit bitter to this day. I wish I had taken a firmer stand and called more of the shots.
Kristen W. June 2, 2014
I will share this: the food at my wedding was a disaster for reasons not worth explaining, and the wedding was still WONDERFUL, mainly because of the atmosphere of love and intimacy we and our guests managed to create. That's not to say that people shouldn't enjoy the food, but as someone said above, it's the people and the significance of the occasion that really count, so lots can go wrong and it can still be a glorious day of celebration between you and your loved ones.
SKK May 31, 2014
Write down a purpose statement for the celebration of your marriage and include in the statement how you as a couple want to feel during your event, as well as what mood you want to create for your guests and how you want them to feel. This will guide you in your choices. Remember it is about people, not the stuff and the colors. Consider that the planning process is part of your celebration and if you are finding it stressful that may spill over to the the day of the wedding.
aargersi May 31, 2014
Keep it simple! People want to visit and dance and enjoy the event - we served food that was tasty and (let's be honest here!) laid down a good base for the drinking and dancing to come. We did buffet style with small plates, that way people didn't load up on every single thing just because they could and then leave half uneaten when they wander off. (clearly we had a buffet) - if they were still hungry they could hit the buffet line twice. Consider vegetarians - there are tons of them in our families - when choosing your menu.

And yes - make sure you eat! And have fun!
ChezHenry May 30, 2014
Dont do it! :)
TobiT May 30, 2014
Make sure that every element of your event is a reflection of you and your spouse - YOUR tastes and interests (and budget), NOT what's trendy or what someone else says you have to do. From dress to food to drink to flowers, photog, venue, invites, music, vows, cake, etc etc. That way, even though the day will probably be a blur for you, your loved ones will remember it as "you" and more important you will feel yourself all day.
PLUS - bring an extra set of comfortable shoes you can slip on for dancing or relaxing.
sexyLAMBCHOPx May 30, 2014
I would look into false eyelashes for better photos. I had the staff box up 2 meals and cake slices for my husband & I because I knew we wouldn't each much to bring to our inn. Photos - make sure you have a list of pictures with friends/family members that you want. Instead of floral center pieces I had table cakes that looked like flowers with different flavors and colors on each table - saved big bucks on that one.

Voted the Best Reply!

Sam1148 May 30, 2014
My standard wedding gift is a large wicker picnic basket. Filled with some items: A small cutting board, cork screw and wine, glasses (which are in most baskets),'s the deal; some tupperware, sheets of foil, and little jars of jellies and jams, WHY?

Because each and every time I gave that type of gift the couple wrote back; all saying almost the exact same thing.

When they got married they where "ON STAGE" to busy and nervous to enjoy the food of their own reception. Too much being the 'host" of the party of the reception.

The basket and having someone to pack up left overs gave them a meal for late night at the hotel when they could finally kick off their shoes and relax and finally decompress and enjoy glass of wine and some food without an audience.
SKK May 31, 2014
Hey Sam, if I marry again I am inviting you to the wedding!
sara D. June 23, 2014
Fantastic gift, how thoughtful. I ate leftovers the night after the wedding... finally.
Westcoasty June 23, 2014
Sam is absolutely right. I could barely eat at my (afternoon) wedding, but after all the guests were gone, in the evening my husband and I sneaked back to the home of the friends who very kindly hosted our wedding, and we all ate leftovers, wearing comfortable clothing instead of formal wear. In my case, as I was emigrating the next day, it also made for a better goodbye to my closest friends.
Samlawali May 30, 2014
Segway from food for a minute as I am also planning my own wedding for August. The one thing that I was told and realize is so true is that someone is bound to get their feelings hurt. Dont let it ruin your day! You are celebrating you and your beau - enjoy it!
Regine May 30, 2014
If you are on a budget, a sit down dinner is (strangely enough or at least to me) cheaper than a buffet. Also if you want to have open bar but u have a budget, only do it during cocktail hour, and limit diner to wine and soda. If you don't want kids and u don't want to pay for them (sometimes it is half or 2/3 or cost per person), make sure invitation says adults only.
Regine May 30, 2014
Make sure you sit and eat your food at the wedding reception. At the very least you want to know how food is so that when people tell you now good ( or bad but hopefully not) it is, you will know.
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