How To Experience Your Wedding To The Fullest

Your days are full of creative blocks, confusion over how to start, where to invest and what truly matters and ultimately, a wedding planning to-do list that feels more like a hamster wheel. You worry that you’re just going through the motions and hodge podging everything together, but you’re running out of mental, physical an emotional fuel. And you wonder if all this stress is worth it for a wedding day that everyone tells you goes by in a flash. I see you, and I get it. But what if you could have a wedding planning experience without draining your energy and putting stress on your shoulders. From vendor strategies to timelines, all the way to budgeting and communication, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. What if I told you there were 5 specific steps you could follow to ensure you not only revel in each moment during the wedding day from start to finish, but that you also maintain a clear focus on the reason for it all – a lifelong commitment to the person of your dreams. Are you ready to get back to the heart of your wedding and lay a foundation that supports you, while nourishing a relationship that’s better than ever? You’re about to learn how to make the most of your wedding day and planning experience so you can be present, connect emotionally and enjoy your wedding as a guest in a way you’ll remember forever. 

Photo by Jordan Maunder

1. Outsource wherever you can

Let me ask you this: Do you ever start researching a topic related to planning your a little less familiar with (like tenting schematics, event lighting, or custom build production), and after doing a little digging, you suddenly realize it’s been 6.5 hours, you haven’t made any progress and to top it all off, you ended up on an article titled “10 Common Mistakes Couples Make With Private Estate Weddings” that was completely unrelated to the task at hand! Yeah. I’ve been there too. Planning a wedding is never as simple as it first seems, but be sure to give yourself grace if this is you, feeling like you’re at the end of your rope and totally overwhelmed. Professionals spend decades perfecting this craft! And that’s why one of the best things you can do for yourself is to invest in a team of seasoned wedding vendors that you can trust completely to serve you. Not only will they advocate for you throughout the process, they will use their years of know-how to turn your seemingly impossible vision into a logistical, and budget-conscious reality. A solid vendor team will ultimately save you, both financially considering how they can creatively stretch budgets + direct you towards the investments that matter AND time-wise because they’re saving you hours upon hours of time during this important season of your life. Think about it! A high end wedding planner spends about 400-600+ hours on a single wedding, and they have systems and team members and general knowledge in place to speed the process! How many more hours would it take you if this is your very first introduction to planning a wedding event?

It’s also worth mentioning that you can delegate certain tasks to family and friends during the planning process too. Take this advice with a grain of salt though, and know we’re not recommending you leave it to them to complete the setup on the day, cut the cake or transfer florals from the ceremony to the reception during Cocktail Hour. When you allow your loved ones to enjoy the wedding as guests too, you leave room for those special moments together throughout the day. And trust us, they’ll thank you for it! What you certainly can do is ask them for help in those pre-wedding tasks that you could use some extra manpower for – collecting guest addresses, assembling invitations, curating welcome gifts + delivering them to the hotels where guests are staying… you get the gist! When you outsource, delegate and simply let go of the one-man-show mentality for wedding planning, you eliminate the stress, worry, anxiety and general negativity that’s sure to bubble up over time, threatening your ability to enjoy the wedding day itself. So go forth, ask for help and find yourself fully present during engagement season, anticipating the day with nothing but light-hearted giddiness! 

Photo by Brian D Smith Photography with planning + design by Willow & Oak // See the full gallery and vendor team here

2. Practice open communication 

Does it ever feel like pulling teeth to get your partner engaged in wedding decisions? I’ll bet that makes you pretty frustrated. “Why can’t they be as invested as me?!”, you might say to yourself. If you’re struggling with this, know you’re not alone. The best advice we can give is to have open communication with your S.O. about how you’re feeling from the get-go. Sweeping it under the rug or thinking that it’s just a problem you have will only cause that resentment to build over time. And I’m pretty sue that’s not how you want to spend your engagement season. Chances are, your partner might seem less interested because they just want to make you happy and will say yes to whatever you love. 

One of the ways we approach planning + design is understanding who our clients are from the very beginning, both as individuals and as a couple. That way, it never feels like one person’s celebration, as opposed to an authentic reflection of their personalities, styles, family heritages and unique love story. Express to your partner that you want the day to honor them individually too, and ask them to brainstorm a few details that would be important to them. Things they can have an emotional connection to. And that way, they can play a more active role in the planning process and be more present during those key conversations + decisions along the way. When you have open communication together, you foster your relationship so that you can enjoy this unique season of life, and ultimately focus in on that which the wedding is all about anyways. 

Photo by Julie Livingston Photography with planning + design by Willow & Oak Events // see more images from this wedding and the full vendor team here

3. Strategize your timelines

Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint! I mean that from both a planning perspective AND a wedding day timeline perspective. If you find yourself struggling to stay afloat with the endless to-do’s piling up every single day, you probably have a sense of hopelessness that everything will get done. Trust me. I’m about as Type A as it gets, so I understand the feeling of anxiety that results from checklists running 100 miles long. But I also understand the desire to write everything down as I think of it and plow through tasks for that feeling of achievement that comes with crossing things off. It’s an unwinnable battle, am I right? One of the things that changed my life and helped me breathe easier, sleep better and generally enjoy life more was learning how to compartmentalize and prioritize. And I know it can be a game changer for you too. 

As you approach wedding planning, give yourself a handful of tasks each month or each week (whatever feels better for you) that you know you can achieve. Consider which tasks are most important for that month or that stage of your planning process. If you’re just recently engaged, it makes much more sense to focus on locking in your dream wedding planner, photographer and venue for now than figuring out which transportation company to go with for your vintage car wedding sendoff. I know at the very beginning, you’re so eager hit the ground running, so it can be a challenge to put some of these exciting tasks on the back burner. But I promise you that if you take some time to strategize from the get-go, you will lay a stronger foundation that will make all the difference as you build and build and build down the road. Not to mention, you’ll have a strong team in place early on to help guide your steps and make sure you’re focusing on the right decisions at the right time. 

It’s also worth touching on day of timelines, as this too will help you experience your wedding day to its fullest! Be sure to allow lots and lots of buffer room so you don’t feel rushed throughout the day. Communicate with your vendors on what your priorities are, and they’ll advise you on how much time they need to achieve your vision (particularly hair and makeup, photography and of course, planning!). A good planner will make sure the wedding never feels like a whirlwind you’re being pushed through without a second to breathe. That’s one of the reasons we schedule a window of time for the couple to spend, just the two of them, after they say “I Do” to take in the significance of everything that just happened, before joining party time and getting swept up into all the action during dinner and on the dance floor from there. If you can plan for some time during Cocktail Hour to share a few bites + champagne, this might just be one of your most treasured memories of the day. And that way, you won’t look back on your wedding day, unable to remember the conversations or moments you shared together during the celebration. 

Photo by Julie Livingston Photography with planning + design by Willow & Oak Events // see more images from this wedding and the full vendor team here

4. Approach your wedding designs from a storytelling perspective 

Once upon a time, I was addicted to wedding inspiration – jaw-dropping installations, luxury textiles, creative escort card displays. And while you’ll catch me cheering wedding “friendors” on constantly via social media, I rarely use actual wedding or styled shoot images as a source of inspiration for wedding design anymore. I found myself falling into comparison traps and rabbit holes that would get me nowhere, and I have a feeling you’re finding yourself in the same rut. One glance at Pinterest these days, and you’re inundated with 1000 images to consume. No wonder every wedding looks the same! I know your dream wedding isn’t a replica of someone else’s. I know you desire a design and experience that highlights your own style and your own story. So one of the best things you can do for yourself to clear out the noise and find more confidence in your design decisions is to look within for your wedding inspiration. 

Not to get all Ghandi on you, but only you know what your heart of hearts wants. Wedding design doesn’t have to mean showing pictures of tablescapes or invitation suites to your planner and saying “this is what I want.” Challenge yourself to collect inspiration from art, fashion, books, movies, music, poetry, nature, interior design… the list goes on! Consider the traditions in your family, the shared passions you have with your S.O., the colors that make you tick or the significant places in your relationship you want to reflect through scents. These are the prompts we share with our own couples to understand the root of who they are, again, as individuals and as a couple. When you release your focus on what’s been done and meditate on how you can tell your own unique story, you win the ultimate gift of a wedding day that immerses your guests fully into your love story and connects you to each moment + detail with gleeful intention. 

Photo by The Happy Bloom with planning + design by Willow and Oak Events and florals by Floressence Flowers

5. Get Organized

If you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel to nowhere, let me ask you this: where are you organizing all things wedding? Are you trudging through 70 different emails whenever you need to reference a past wedding decision? Did you accidentally delete a record of your catering contract, and now you have no clue what you committed to? Will guest addresses + RSVPs + menu selections be the absolute death of you? Say it with me now, “Breathe in, breathe out.” It’s not too late to get on track with tools and systems that will help you streamline everything related to the wedding day. 

There are a few major wedding-related categories you’ll want help managing, such as: 

  • Budget – Use an online tool that helps you manage your expected expenses, actual expenses, upcoming payments and invoice records. 
  • File Storing – Research systems that will help you keep all your important contracts + documents for vendors, insurance, travel, etc. in one place (I.e. Google Drive) 
  • Floorplans – Lots of digital resources exist today to help you either draw out floorpans + custom layouts or utilize templates; this will be key for communicating with your venue + rental company, especially if seats will be assigned for the reception 
  • To-Do Tracker – There are lots of options out there that help you manage your to-do list, assign tasks and record progress so you don’t get lost in the shuffle. Trello is one that’s often used for businesses, but it can be an amazing tool for wedding planning as well! 
  • Wedding Website – A must-have for their ability to communicate important details with your guests so they aren’t texting you on the wedding morning, but also for their RSVP management and registry capabilities depending on the platform you choose. 

Photo by Kylee Yee Photography with planning + design by Willow & Oak Events // see more images from this wedding and the full vendor team here

That’s a wrap! My go-to steps for enjoying your wedding to its fullest so that you can say goodbye to FOMO, stress and anxiety and look forward to an experience you and your loved ones will never forget. You now have the tools to streamline your process and flourish in your engagement season. So let’s get to it!

If Charleston happens to be on your wedding radar, or even as a destination for your bachelorette weekend, bridal shower or honeymoon, we wanted to provide you with a complimentary Charleston destination guide for you to peruse next. Click here to grab your freebie and start discovering all the best things to do, places to stay, spots to eat and beyond from a local’s point of view.

’Til we meet again! 



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