After planning a wedding (and planning one during a pandemic), here's what my husband and I learned:
Online honeymoon fund. We were registered at Amazon and Williams-Sonoma but we also had a honeymoon fund registry that we set up on Zola as a cash fund. A cash fund means that people can contribute towards items that aren't necessarily products that you can purchase on that website (like Amazon or Williams-Sonoma). Cash funds can be used for people to contribute towards houses, a new car, a date night, etc. and you can list as many different items that you want. You can even designate bigger-ticket items as group gifts, which enables guests to help you get to your goals without having to purchase a large item by themselves. For our cash fund, we decided to do some research on the activities that our hotel offered and feature the activities we were most interested in as items on our honeymoon registry. For those that didn't quite understand the point of a honeymoon fund, we had a disclaimer explaining that this was a way that guests could contribute to our first memories together as a married couple. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that most guests opted to contribute to the honeymoon fund as their gift to us. It was easier for them to contribute money than pick out a gift, pay for it, and ship it. We ended up getting to do everything that we wanted to and had some of the coolest experiences to tell people about when we came back. I think our guests loved the sentimental aspect of being able to help us make our first married memories.
Honeymoon right away. We left for our honeymoon two days after the wedding, which left for little time in between to pack and prepare. We were worried that we rushed into the honeymoon, but leaving right away was 100% the right decision for us. After all of the stress of planning, it was amazing to just be able to leave and let our stress melt away. We actually lost weight on our honeymoon! And I truly believe it was because we didn't have to stress about ANYTHING anymore while we were away. And it was nice to soak up that time together while the memories of the wedding were still very fresh.
Afterparty. My husband and I were soooo tired after our wedding, but we decided to rally and meet some of our guests at a bar after the wedding. We were so tired that night and the next day, but being able to soak up those extra moments with all of the people that mean so much to us made our wedding day that much more special. We didn't want the night to end.
Wedding Party Bonding. We didn't plan any wedding party game nights or retreats or anything like that, but we did have activities leading up to the wedding that the wedding party could choose to partake in. Since most people were traveling from out of town, we hosted a beach bonfire 2 nights before the wedding as a warm beach welcome into San Diego. And after the rehearsal dinner the next night, we also let the wedding party know that we would be hanging out on the pool deck of our hotel and going to the jacuzzi. All activities were optional and pop-in style- we really just wanted to spend time with our wedding party and provide some fun activities for them to do since they came from out of town to watch us get married. Our wedding party showed up to both events and they ended up being a really great chance for everyone to get to know each other a little bit before walking down the aisle together. Those nights were some of our favorite memories from the weekend. We found that by the end of the weekend, all of the wedding party had swapped numbers and people had already scheduled future hang outs with others in the wedding party they had never met before. Everyone got along so well!
Don't focus too much on having things for guests to do. My husband and I were very focused on the overall guest experience, which I don't think is a bad thing at all. But we did take it to the extreme when it came to having things for our guests to do. For instance, we had a lounge area, welcome drink escort cards, photobooth/picture guestbook, sandals/light up sticks for dancing, a take-home dessert bar, and we also had little cards for people to fill our with date night idea cards and wedding advice. As you can imagine, no one filled out any of the wedding advice and date night idea cards so we ended up wasting money on those. We realized that there was a lot going on in our wedding in such a short amount of time that our guests didn't have much time to make their way around the reception space and do it all. Just with a DJ and photobooth, people will have plenty to do. Try not to go overboard on coming up with too many other activities.
Don't fuss with the signature cocktails. Unlike the staples beer and wine, it is a lot harder to calculate how much alcohol and mixers to get for signature cocktails, because it is harder to predict how many guests will order them. We ended up having way too much of our signature cocktail stuff left over and the money that we spent on it could have been better spent somewhere else. Unless you know for sure that a lot of your guests will actually order/enjoy your drinks, I would say it isn't worth the hassle. Another way of doing signature cocktails but not overpaying would be buying limited supplies and doing first come first serve.
Don't ask for song requests. Another way that my husband and I wanted to incorporate the guests into our wedding was by adding a song request line to our rsvp cards. Almost all guests who rsvped ended up requesting songs-sometimes multiple. When we started compiling the song requests, we realized that 1) we didn't even have enough reception time to play all of the songs that were requested, and 2) the genre/mood of the songs were all over the place. We were getting all sorts of requests, from Journey and Michael Jackson, to Cotton-eyed Joe, to George Strait. When we sent over the song request list to our DJ, we had realized that in providing a complete song request list, we were preventing the DJ from doing the job that we hired him to do. We took a lot of care into hiring a DJ that we thought would fit well personality-wise, be able to read the room to choose songs, and who would have no problem getting the party going. Why not take a step back and allow the DJ to do exactly that? We hired an expert for a reason. This is one of the areas that we realized we may have unnecessarily micromanaged.
Don't sweat the small stuff-put your focus more on the big picture. Like the song request list mentioned above, we realized we were micromanaging aspects of our wedding that we didn't necessarily have to. We didn't have the foresight at the time to know that these things were not going to be as important to focus on. Once the wedding day actually came, we truly had no idea how it would turn out. But we both made a conscious decision to focus on the larger picture over smaller details that didn't really matter at the end of the day. We were just happy that we were able to have the celebration that we wanted. This gave us such a positive on the whole entire day, as there were definitely small details that were overlooked or didn't quite fall into place but in the end it didn't matter so much to us. Had we taken the time to stress over all of those little things, our outlook on the day might have been more negative and we would not have been able to relax and enjoy out day.
A week-of coordinator is a good idea. We decided not to hire a week-of coordinator for our wedding because 1) our caterer was very hands-on with all of the planning and was setting up pretty much the entire wedding, and 2) by the time we got around to hire one, we had already been exhausted from research on the new developments in the pandemic and had exhausted all of our resources on last minute accommodations because of the pandemic. Looking back, we fully realize that planning the wedding and coordinating the whole day was a lot for us to handle. Luckily, I am a wedding planner and my husband works in government affairs so we were able to stay very organized and on top of the latest government and county guidelines issued for weddings. Without our occupational knowledge and skills, we would have probably been lost. And we both could have used someone to encourage us along the way, because there were many times that we struggled to see it all come together. Having a week-of coordinator is definitely something we would have done had we had the resources at the time. And now, going through the week of the wedding as a bride, I have a lot better of an understanding of what my couples go through so I am better able to support them in the ways that they need.
Here's to hoping you don't make the same mistakes we did! I truly hope that you get some takeaways from this post. If you have your own wedding lesson learned, feel free to comment it below!
Until Next Time,