How to Plan a Goof-Proof Wedding

The pros reveal common planning mistakes — and how to avoid them.


bride and groom wedding ceremony
Photo Credit: Pat Furey Photography

Outdoors After Dark

If your warm-weather soirée will stretch into the night, you need to prepare for in- sects as well as a drop in temperature. Ask your venue to light citronella candles around the perimeter or lounge area. For one outdoor wedding, we had cute little buckets set up with day-into-evening essentials: sunscreen, bug spray, flip flops, hand-held paper fans, cold wet cloths and pashminas. —Andrea Freeman, founder & principal designer, Andrea Freeman Events

Inadequate Technical Support

There’s nothing worse than sitting through a ceremony you can’t hear — so be sure to book a sound system. Being able to hear the ceremony means your guests will actually be able to be in the moment right along with you. A wireless system ensures there will be no unsightly mic stands in your photos. —Michelle Cousins, owner & lead designer, Michelle Leo Events


It’s one thing to be detail-oriented, just don’t fall into overthinking every bit of minutiae. Obsessing over the types of mushrooms in the canapés or the precise order of the DJ’s playlist is a waste of time and good energy. —Marcy Blum, president, Marcy Blum Associates

Planning by Committee

Couples can lose themselves trying to please others, especially their parents. While it’s important to plan an event that makes everyone happy, it is your wedding and should reflect your style, personality and relationship. —Jove Meyer, owner + creative director, Jove Meyer Events

Pre-Ceremony Prep

Food may be the last thing on your mind, but if you start getting ready hours before your ceremony and pre-wedding photos, and then don’t grab a bite until cocktail hour, that can be bad news. You want to have a little something in your system before the party starts so that your first cocktail doesn’t go straight to your head or worse. —Andrea Freeman

Putting the Dress Before the Venue

We always advise booking the wedding venue before dress shopping. Why? Because your dress should complement the environment. A ballgown with a huge train isn’t appropriate for those rustic barn or mountainside weddings (not only will it not look right, snags are inevitable and large trains get filthy in seconds). —Michelle Cousins

Budget Blunders

Don't do a single thing for your wedding until you’ve set a budget. All too often I see heartbroken couples who booked a venue that eats up 75% of their budget and then we have to tell them the photographer of their dreams is out of reach. Don't just choose an arbitrary number: Do your cost research rst so you can arrive at a budget that will work. Google is your friend here! —Kate Turner, founder, Kate + Co. Events

Steer clear of dumping too much money into decor and not paying attention to the “experiential” elements such as enough service staff (especially bartenders), interesting music for the ceremony and cocktail hour, and decent wine. —Marcy Blum

Venue Selection

Always book your venue before selecting your wedding date. While having a time frame in mind is great, we suggest finding the wedding site first and then selecting the wedding date based on the venue’s availability. Otherwise you run the risk of setting the date only to find the venue you had your heart set on isn’t available.—Michelle Cousins

Booking a venue before you make your final guest list is a huge mistake that’s easy to make. If you book a space that is too small, you put yourself in a challenging situation, as you will have to lower your guest count or possibly book another venue and lose the deposit of the one you booked prematurely. —Jove Meyer

Grass Isn't Always Your Friend

The best way to ensure you can dance the night away under a tent is to place a hard-surface floor over the grass. A simple solution like plywood is perfect: You will never notice it under all those dancing feet, but I guarantee you and your guests will be happy to feel it. —Bryan Rafanelli, founder + chief creative officer, Rafanelli Events

Estimating RSVPs

Many couples still believe that 20 percent of their guest list will RSVP regrets, but this is an outdated planning rule. Only invite the amount of people your venue and budget allow. Here in wine country, where 90% of our celebrations are destination weddings, almost everyone RSVPs with pleasure. So assume everyone on your list will say yes — and plan accordingly. —Brittany Westerman, owner & creative director, Reed & James Events

No Rain Plan

Weather is always a variable no matter what time of year we are celebrating with our brides. If you are thinking about an outdoor wedding under a shining sun or a starry night, be prepared for every other outcome. Speaking from experience, even if no rain has ever fallen on that day in that location in history, having a solid poor-weather plan almost guarantees you won’t need it. And that’s what makes the happiest day of all! —Bryan Rafanelli