Every woman who has walked down the aisle has them: things they wished they could change about their big day. Whether its a small thing, (like serving dinner family-style as opposed to plated), or a big thing – like eloping – it’s always helpful to get honest feedback from someone who has been there before. Here’s a list of coulda, woulda, shouldas to help prepare you on what to do and what to avoid!

Young bride in wedding dress in the outdoors in a field of blossoming Lavender in the summer.1. I wish I had bought a once-worn designer dress.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved—and still love—my wedding dress, and the entire experience was something my mom and I will cherish forever. Although my mom knew instantly that the designer dress I tried on was “the one,” I went back and forth contemplating it all day before triumphantly returning to the bridal salon to make it official. At the time, I didn’t bat an eyelash at the five figure price tag, letting my mother, (who is a a school teacher, not an heiress), hand over her credit card to the sales associate. Bless her, she never once complained about the cost. However, three years later, I can’t help but feel guilty that she took on the immense expense of something so frivolous, albeit beautiful. If I had to do it over again, I’d still go shopping and pick the same gown, but instead of buying it at retail price, I would purchase it through a luxury consignment site like Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses or Impeccably Wed. We could’ve shaved nearly 60% of the cost of my “had to have it” couture gown and nobody would’ve known it had been worn before me. Now, my first piece of advice to you, if you’re dress shopping, is to try on their your designer dress at the salon – and then find it online for less!

2. I should have only hired vendors I felt 100% confident in… and fired the bad ones.

I got married in my hometown, which was amazing! However, when I was planning the wedding, I hired a handful of vendors that I didn’t feel completely confident in, largely due to the fact that I was planning it from elsewhere and because at the time, there weren’t a ton of options available for the positions I needed to fill, but instead of cutting ties when I could, I kept everyone on board. Even worse, I knew from the beginning that they weren’t going to be a good fit and hired them anyway. Fortunately everything came together beautifully in the end. If I could go back in time, I would’ve avoided lots of stress, tears, and headaches by only hiring people that I knew fit with my expectations. So, my tip to you: only book vendors that you love, even if it means spending a little more money. Look at it this way, you already saved yourself some dough by purchasing that once-worn gown!

3. I would have spent less time on social media and more time planning personal details.

This one took me a while to realize, because I truly love the details we included in our wedding day: the drink flags emblazoned with our new last name, playing an instrumental version of “Sweet Child of Mine” as we walked down the aisle, and an ombré pink display of my favourite treats for the late night party, but then I went to a wedding that changed everything for me: the couple performed a magic trick-infused first dance, (he is a professional magician), used a saber sword to cut their cupcake, (and he used to host Cupcake Wars), and the night before, they played a video reenactment of how they met. I was blown away by how each detail felt just like them, and nothing like a trending idea on social media. It was clear that both the bride and groom had put an enormous amount of thought into everything included in their big day, and more importantly, had fun planning surprises that they were excited to share with their loved ones. It made me realize that even though a detail or idea may be popular on a blog, it’s much more special if it means something to the two of you.

4. I should have repeated a “calming mantra” when things got stressful.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it’s true: something will go wrong on your big day. People tried to tell me this, but I wouldn’t listen, and thus I was thrown completely into panic mode when my florist called the day before my ceremony to say that all of the peonies we had flown in from Alaska had died in transportation. For me, the stress of these situations and others boiled over during the reception and I ended up having a private meltdown with my groom in the bathroom. Although we laugh about it now, I think it could have been avoided had I set up a stress-reducing system for myself before the big day even started. That’s why I recommend writing down a relaxing phrase or mantra and packing it in your purse ahead of time, that way when you feel your stress level rising, you can pull it out and centre yourself with those words. It doesn’t have to be complex or deep, just something as simple as “breathe” or “be thankful” will work. Then when something unexpected happens, you will be able to handle it in a poised and perfectly calm manner.

5. I should have eaten, drank, danced, and had more fun.

It’s probably no surprise, but I was, shall we say, a tad uptight for my “I dos.” Truthfully I’m not in real life. Since as I wanted to ensure that everything was perfect the day of, it meant that I didn’t fully relax and enjoy much of what we’d planned. For example, instead of attending our cocktail hour and celebrating with a glass of bubbly, my groom and I took additional photos on top of the two-hour session we’d done before the ceremony. Rather than eat dinner and take a moment to soak it all in, we went table to table and greeted all of our guests, and I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast! I actually didn’t realize that I’d missed out on so much until the next day’s brunch. As I listened to our guests describe how beautiful the sunset was during our outdoor reception, I was so sad that I missed out on such an incredible moment. So my last piece of advice is to let everything go and have absolute fun at your wedding. Whether that means busting a move on the dance floor or catching up with friends you haven’t seen in years, grab your significant other and do whatever makes you smile.

 

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