The Top Wedding Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them

Wedding pros share their best advice.

bride and groom kissing
Photo Credit: Bruce Plotkin Photography

Mistake #1: Going Over Budget

Decide on your wedding budget before you plan or purchase anything, and stick to it! The biggest mistake I see brides make is when they jump right into the details, the plans and the purchasing before even pausing to think about the overall picture. You don’t want to start your marriage in debt, and a beautiful wedding can be planned for any amount of money, no matter how great or small. If you go over budget on one element, make sure to cut back somewhere else to make up for it. —David Tutera, star of David Tutera’s CELEBrations

The worst thing couples can do when picking their venue is not to discuss their budget. They head off on fun weekends to visit venues, fall in love with a place and book it. After that, they talk about the budget and start to really skimp on the other vendors. To avoid this, I suggest that couples discuss the budget before even looking at venues in person or talking to a salesperson. There are countless resources and online worksheets couples can use to figure out how to divide up their wedding money. The budget conversation is not usually very fun, but always necessary. Having the conversation at the beginning of planning will save a tremendous amount of stress down the line. —Lindsey Nickel, wedding planner and owner, Lovely Day Event

Mistake #2: The Wedding Date

Pick a day that will work best for your family, your budget, and the location of the wedding. Don’t try to get married in Chicago over marathon weekend or have a destination wedding during hurricane season. If your fiancé is an accountant, don’t get married in tax season! —Tracy Hartman, wedding planner, Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park

Mistake #3: Venue Selection

You can’t design something that flies in the face of the venue’s inherent decor. For instance, you can’t force all gold if there are many large silver chandeliers. You should always check to see what kinds of tabletop and décor pieces are already in-house, and see what you may want to bring in. Design with the venue in mind. Have your flower sample at the venue, bring samples of the rentals you have selected, etc. See it all together before you sign on the dotted line. —Ashley Douglass, owner and creative director, Ashley Douglass Events

A common mistake we see with couples and their wedding venue selection is picking a space that’s too big or too small for their anticipated guest count. Speak candidly with the site manager about an ideal headcount. —Virginia Edelson, principal/owner, Bluebird Productions

Venue selection is perhaps the most critical path in the early planning stages, short of finding your soul mate. Sometimes people choose a location that does not fit their aesthetic. Transforming a modern museum into a lush Southern garden-scape, or morphing a farmhouse into a sleek, contemporary space, are just two examples of “putting the big pot in the little pot,” so to speak. —Calder Clark, wedding planner, owner & creative director, Calder Clark

Mistake #4: No Plan B for Outdoor Weddings

Fail to plan, plan to fail. If you think it will rain, it won’t; if you think it won’t rain, it will. Instead of relying on the Nostradamus-like predictions of the local weatherman, always have a plan B — such as a tent or nearby indoor space — and like your plan B. —Calder Clark

Mistake #5: Not Reading Contracts

Hidden costs can be an unwelcome surprise. Review your contract thoroughly, with a magnifying glass, and be aware of any fine print or potential additional costs for overtime, breakdown charges and any fees for lost or damaged items. Make sure to get everything in writing when you are finalizing your vendor contracts. —David Tutera

Mistake #6: The Guest List

Some couples over-invite and make budget sacrifices to accommodate more people. You’d be surprised how many guests that are invited to weddings are practically strangers to the couples. Chances are some or all of these people you don’t know very well will be surprised when they open their invitation. Save your budget for what you really want and need. —Ashley Douglass

The biggest mistake when it comes to creating a guest list: giving blind plus-ones. There is no reason to give blanket plus-ones to single guests if they already know other people at the wedding. —Virginia Edelson

Mistake #7: Mistimed Correspondence

Clients sometimes make the error of sending out their save-the-dates or invitations between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when everyone is receiving the most mail ever for the year. Even if December 20 is the perfect date to send your invite, it’s better to send it much earlier — like the week before Thanksgiving — so it’s not lost. It’s common for mail to get lost by the USPS during December!—Ashley Douglas

Mistake #8: DIY Overload

DIY is a great idea, but make sure you test it in advance. Don’t begin a project for your wedding a couple of weeks in advance only to realize it’s not going to work. You’ll be left trying to find a resolution with time running out. —Alexandrea Hurt, wedding planner, Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park

Mistake #9: Relying on Friends

Couples often allow friends to take part in their wedding day, either by being crafty or perhaps as musicians for their ceremony — with disappointing results. A wedding is not a dress rehearsal. It’s a bad idea to have loved ones bear the responsibility of something so important. Have a well-executed counter response when friends offer to help, something along the lines of, “We have had an outpouring of support from people who would like to help. While we greatly appreciate your offer, we have decided as a couple not to go this route. We are looking forward to having you with us that day as a guest, celebrating.” This being said, if you have a friend or family member who is a legitimate vendor in the industry, that is a different story. —David Tutera

Mistake #10: Photography

All too often, couples fall in love with the photos on a photographer’s Instagram feed or in their website portfolio. Sadly, some couples are disappointed when they receive their own wedding photos. That’s because Instagram and websites are marketing tools where photographers can carefully pick photos that work best on these platforms. To ensure that couples will love, love, love their photos, I always suggest that they ask the photographer to send them a gallery link to a recent wedding. This will give the clients a more accurate picture of what they can expect.

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