From the perspective of someone who worked for a popular wedding venue for 2 years and sold and planned close to 100 weddings, thanks to CA's outdoor wedding season being all year long but who has never been married herself. If you're married and noticed I missed something, suggest it!
  1. Create a timeline and a budget first.
    Scary and a potential buzzkill but, you have to do it and it's not that bad. Remember that you don't need to pay for everything in full up front! Most engagements last 6 months to a year, which allows time to save between deposits with vendors. Take that into account when determining your budget and you may find it less daunting on paper. Here is an amazing comprehensive checklist and timeline I would send to my clients: All of it is not mandatory, which brings me to...
  2. Prioritize things with your partner.
    Every couple has different priorities! Is it your venue? The details of your ceremony? The party at the reception? The food? Once you figure out what pieces of the day are most important to you both, you get a sense of what is a must, what you are willing to splurge on, and what you can skate by with getting cheap or eliminating completely.
  3. Cutting the guest list sucks but you have to.
    The size of your list ultimately determines where you can have your ceremony and reception. Be honest with yourself, your partner, and your family about who is essential to invite. Cutting people you like will suck, but >$150 a person adds up.
  4. Pick your venue before the other vendors.
    Every venue has different restrictions and most have either required or preferred vendor lists. That ultimately makes planning easier, and if you worked backwards and already have vendors lined up and paid for, the cancellations and extra fees for non-preferred vendors can quickly become an expensive headache.
  5. Book your wedding date about 8-12 months in advance for more date options. Check it for family conflicts and local event overlap before confirming.
    In San Diego, every year I warned couples about Comic Con dates, every year that advice was not heeded, and every year friends and families could not get a hotel anywhere close to the venue without paying thousands of dollars. Don't do this. Check your calendars and get that shit out of the way for your own peace of mind! Holiday weekends are more expensive for travellers. Weekdays are the least expensive...but less people will come which cuts cost all around.
  6. Fuck tradition.
    There are no rules! Think the garter thing is gross? Fuck it. Want to read ee cummings instead of a bible verse? Do that shit! Not into sit down dinners? Get a food truck and bar service for a cocktails only reception with heavy apps (just warn your guests in the invitation). It's your day! I used to go through a template wedding timeline with frazzled couples and cross out things they didn't need so they could see how much control they had to simplify and it worked wonders.
  7. Ask married friends for referrals!
    They probably love talking about this, honestly. If you loved their DJ, get their card. If their officiant was bomb, track them down. No one will fault you for being a copy cat, and even if they do, fuck 'em. You know what you want. And, if you get referred you could get a sweet discount.
  8. Hire a professional day of coordinator.
    Not your maid of honor, not a family member. A professional who can field questions, keep the day on schedule, and put out fires so you don't have to worry about it. Some venues have on-site coordinators they can add to your rental but they do work with a high volume of clients so it may be hard to get more personal attention if that's what you require. Day of coordinators work with you a full month before to create your timeline and are your main contact for vendors. Anywhere from $700-$2000.
  9. Catering will be more expensive than you think.
    It's not just food. It's linens, glassware, stemware, plates, and staff. Buffets are typically less expensive because less staff and plates are needed. But, keep in mind that for big weddings, guests will be waiting for a long time if there isn't more than one line.
  10. Chairs are not that important. Neither are linens.
    I guarantee you and your guests will not give a fuck about Chiavari chairs or fancy linens. They get up sold all the time, and it's so unnecessary. As long as they are clean, just go with whatever basic option your venue or party rental company has.
  11. Your ceremony is all about you. Make it personal and meaningful.
    Whether you're going the traditional route or writing your own vows, this is important! It's the reason for this whole thing! You won't regret adding personal elements to it. Find a great officiant who knows you, or who can get to know you before your wedding to help you create your ideal ceremony. If a good friend or close family member who is good at public speaking can be your officiant, they are a great addition to your wedding that cuts cost while actually making the ceremony better.
  12. You are not paying for your guests' cell phone pictures.
    Brazen friends and family love you so much that they can do rude shit like stand in the aisle with their iPhones because they want their own pictures of your beauty. If you think this will be an issue at all, put up a cute sign somewhere requesting that your guests please stay in their seats during the ceremony and respect your photographer by not getting in their way. Is this tacky? Probably. But not as tacky as people standing up with iPads during your ceremony.
  13. Something will go wrong.
    YES. IT. WILL. Accept this, remain flexible. No matter what happens, at the end of the day, you will be married! And whatever bullshit happens in between that doesn't get in the way of that will end up being a funny story (or at least one you can share when you give advice to other fiancées).
  14. You AND your partner matter more than literally everything else.
    Cheesy, but true. It is common for couples to get caught up in what other people want and overwhelmed with planning. You two are the most important. People who really matter won't care about the details, they just want to see you happy. Pro tip: One of my brides wrote her vows for her husband early and read them whenever she got overwhelmed with planning. They reminded her what was important/why she was going through all the stress in the first place and they helped cheer her up and ground her.