Expert Advice: 7 Candid Tips About Wedding Planning

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Planning your wedding is such a memorable experience, but if you have misinformation it can also be a challenging one.

Everyone's planning journey is different as each couple has different expectations and budgets for their weddings. So what worked for your friend or someone in a Facebook group may not be the right fit for you.

While you definitely want to seek the opinions of others, it's also important to be educated about the ins and outs of planning so that you can make informed decisions.

People will provide lots of advice (and lots of opinions), but it's important to take each of these with a grain of salt. Though past couples may try to give you helpful insight into their planning process, remember that they've only planned one wedding, not hundreds.

To help provide true insight into what you need to know about planning a wedding, we're sharing some non-fluffy, candid advice.

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Expert Wedding Planning Advice: 7 Candid Tips About Planning a Wedding

1. Don't Delay the Money Talk

Brace yourself. If you're planning a typical U.S. wedding, you're going to be spending tens of thousands of dollars, so you need to figure out what you can really afford.

Marry Me Tampa Bay is focused on couples who invest in hiring professionals, so any advice and numbers will be related to that demographic.

A typical Tampa Bay wedding costs upwards of $30,000, and this is often a starting price. Whatever budget you begin with, there's a good chance you'll spend 30%-50% over that as you learn more about the options available and what it actually costs to achieve your wedding day look.

“Know your budget. Don’t arbitrarily assign a number to something because it ‘sounds good,” Brooke Palmer Kuhl, owner of RSBP Events+PR advises. “Having a great planner can help you navigate drafting a realistic budget that fits your needs and venue. Sometimes the venue doesn’t have the ‘things' you need or they are included at a cost.”

Planning a wedding is very much like buying a house. There are lots of extra costs you didn't think about or don't even know about (i.e. service fees, tips, delivery charges). Planning a wedding is an emotional purchase, it's not like buying health insurance so expect your feelings and desires to increase your budget.

“People by nature hate talking about money, but having uncomfortable discussions surrounding money and your wedding needs to be the first step. In many cases, parents have thought about what they might contribute to their children's weddings, regardless of the amount, but the conversation can be uncomfortable. Though, those conversations are necessary to begin the process of creating a budget and to start planning,” Tammy Waterman, owner and Master Wedding Planner of Special Moments Event Planning shares.

2. Know Your Guest List and How it Affects Your Budget

About 50% of your budget will go toward the venue, food, and drinks, and the more people you invite, the more your wedding will cost. You'd be surprised how much you can save by crossing five people (and their +1) off your guest list!

“After budgeting, a guest list is a must-do. It's hard to find a wedding venue if you don't know how many people the space has to accommodate and what you can realistically afford. If the package price is $100 per person and you have 200 wedding guests on your list, you're looking at $20,000. Plus check if the tax and service charges are part of the number or added to the final bill,” Tammy explains. “Setting up a spreadsheet helps you make sure you don't duplicate names because mentally, you might have accounted for a lot of friends you and your fiancé have in common, but think about parents' lists too. A spreadsheet is also a great way to add columns to track RSVPs for wedding events, gifts, and thank you notes.”

3. Don't Hire Soley on Price

Everyone has a budget. One person's budget could be $30,000 another's could be $150,000, but everyone has an ideal number to spend.

When you start getting quotes for different services, you'll find that the prices for your wedding photographer, planner, DJ etc. have a large range.

You may ask yourself, how can justify paying double the price for a photographer, but what you're paying for is experience and expertise. Most of the vendors you hire on your wedding day are providing a service, and weddings have a hundred moving parts. You get one take when it comes to your wedding day, so if you hire a bad DJ there is no do-over.

Do not make a hiring decision only on price. Look at what you're getting for your investment.

Do you go to a beauty school to get your haircut by a student? No, you pay four times that amount to go to a salon for the atmosphere, professionalism, and knowledge of your hairstylist. Apply that reasoning when it comes to hiring your wedding vendors.

Anyone can start a wedding business. There's no “license” for a wedding planner, photographer, videographer, DJ, or florist. While there are experienced professionals, you'll also find many people work in the wedding industry as a side job or who are just starting their business. If your budget allows, you want to invest in professional, full-time wedding vendors who have years of experience, which means they're also more expensive.

4. Hire a Wedding Planner

I've interviewed over 1,000 of couples. Their number one piece of advice is to hire a good planner. Ask anyone in the industry or a past couple who loved their planner; they are worth their weight in gold. It doesn't matter how “organized” you are. Planners do so much more than put everything into a spreadsheet, and there's much more to do on the actual day than just setting a timeline.

A perk to hiring a planner is their industry connections. Wedding vendors rely on client referrals from planners, so if you hire a well-respected one, your other vendors will want to stay on that planner's good side and may provide an upgrade or discount for that planner.

Planners can also guide you on which wedding vendors to hire and which ones to stay away from as your vendor team will make or break your wedding day. Before you start hiring any vendor (even your venue), you should at least consult with a handful of planners to learn their true value.

5. The Truth About Reviews

Have you ever booked a hotel or restaurant based on a review site and gotten there only to be disappointed?

The same can happen when choosing your wedding vendors based on reviews.

Reviews are a great starting point, but they're not always accurate for a few reasons. The person giving the review may not have the same expectations that you do. They may not be that experienced when it comes to photography whereas you have the best Instagram boyfriend out there. It's easy to have differing opinions on what a “good photographer” is. The couple who reviewed a planner you're considering could be laid back and go with the flow, while you're a meticulous person who is on top of every detail and expects a higher level of service.

Also, couples typically leave reviews after their wedding day while they're on their wedding “high,” so they're just happy in general. I notice that couples who are disappointed with a vendor's level service will not leave a review at all, because they don't want to bring down their 5-star rating or hurt their feelings.

If a wedding vendor only has a couple of reviews, I wouldn't recommend hiring them. Let someone else's wedding day be the one that they gain experience from, and leave yours to the professionals.

6. Invest in Photography and Videography

When it is all said and done all you have after the wedding day is your memories and the photos. This is one of the most iconic days of your lives, and the day often goes by in a blur so you'll want to relive it through photography and videography.

Tampa Bay is filled with amazing photographers, but it's not uncommon for us to see mediocre wedding photography. I can't tell you how many times I look at a wedding gallery and cringe because of the photographer's style, editing, and framing. A great photographer can take a modest wedding and make it look amazing. A mediocre wedding photographer can take an amazing wedding and make it underwhelming.

The typical wedding photography budget starts around $3,000. You will find lots of photographers much less expensive, but don't shortchange your wedding day just to save $1,000. (Yes, $1,000 is a lot of money, but in the scheme of things, it's only 3% if your wedding budget is $30,000. Invite five fewer people and that will pay for that wedding photographer you really want.)

When it comes to wedding videography, so many couples ask if it's worth it, and 100% wedding videography is worth the investment.

But don't make the mistake of waiting to see if there is money left in your budget toward the end to hire a videographer. While there are hundreds of photographers, there are only a handful of videographers and an even shorter list of ones who I'd actually recommend, so they book up very quickly!

7. Be Realistic

Remember how I said planning a wedding is like buying a house?

What if I said I wanted to get a house in South Tampa (one of the most desirable neighborhoods) that's three bedrooms, fully remodeled and has a pool for $250,000? You'd tell me I'm crazy because houses like that cost three times that price.

It's the same thing when it comes to weddings. You can't always get what you want within your budget. You can pay more to get it or lower your expectations and keep your original budget, but you have to understand what's feasible (a wedding planner can help guide you on this).

I know your wedding day is your “dream day,” but when it comes to planning one, you have to live in reality. I'll sometimes see couples post ridiculous questions such as, “I'm inviting 200 people, but don't want to spend more than $5,000 for my venue and food.” If you do the math, that's less than $25/per person. You can barely go to a casual restaurant and pay that amount, let alone having a private event with your own catering staff and private venue rental.

This goes back to my first point. Weddings can be expensive. You're hosting a private event for a large amount of people. On average, expect to spend at least $150/per person, which is why I keep saying cut your guest list. $150 x 10 people (5 guests and their +1) is $1,500 in savings! Plus, deleting 10 people from your list equals an entire table of decor that you can cut, which means one less centerpiece, one less linen rental, a smaller cake etc. It all adds up!

We're Here to Help! (And We're Free!)

So this wasn't your typical “warm and fuzzy” wedding planning article, but it's real, honest advice that will hopefully help you set realistic expectations for planning a wedding. That great news is you're not alone! We're here to help. While we're not wedding planners ourselves, we can recommend a shortlist of “Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Pros,” who are personally reference-checked and highly respected by the wedding community. Plus, we've also toured multiple venues and can give suggestions as to which ones are the right fit for your aesthetic and price range.

Reach out to us via email: [email protected] or DM on Instagram: to ask your wedding planning questions or for our opinion on the wedding vendors you're considering hiring.

Our services are 100% free because we want you to make educated decisions when it comes to hiring your wedding vendors!

Marry Me Tampa Bay Preferred Wedding Pros

Preferred Marry Me Tampa Bay Wedding Pros are highly respected by our local wedding community and have been personally vetted by our editor.