Guys, wedding planning is tough. I’ve planned large events before and thought I’d have a good grasp on it, but things are a lot tougher when family, emotions, and your own money is involved. If you’re a control freak like me and choose to plan your entire wedding yourself, here is a LONG post with some tips and tricks for you to keep in mind. Hopefully it will help you save (whatever’s left of) your sanity!

Enter Contests
There are thousands of wedding contests going on, ranging in prizes from some cute invitations to tons of money. Enter them all! I entered the “I Do with Mirassou” contest from a Facebook ad, and ended up winning $10,000 for our wedding! I also won a couple of smaller gifts by going to wedding events and entering contests on wedding blogs.

Go Ahead, Invite Them

We decided we’d invite some random celebrities and companies to our wedding, thinking we might get a letter back from them or something. However, Timmy, the monkey mascot from ThinkGeek, actually came to the wedding (with his date Tux), and the zombies from PopCap Games sent us a very nice wedding gift of a bunch of swag. And yes, we did get some letters as well, including one from the Obamas and one from Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately, GLaDOS (of Portal fame) never responded.

Do Your Research
If you’re planning your wedding on your own, make sure you’re prepared. Take a look at other weddings, read vendor reviews, and look up etiquette and traditions (so you know what you want to keep and what you want to toss). Make sure you’re examining the pros and cons for all of your options. For instance: want an outdoor wedding? Keep in mind you’re going to need to organize rentals for chairs, tables, porta potties, and a tent if it’s supposed to rain!
Some of my favorite wedding blogs/sites are as follows:
100 Layer Cake
A Practical Wedding
Offbeat Bride
Style Me Pretty

Make Compromises
You and your family/fiance/vendors/budget will not always agree what’s best. And you’ve got to be willing to compromise. Figure out what the one or two top things are for you and your wedding, and be willing to budge on the rest. I’ve never been a big flower person, so I was ok cutting that budget and going really basic if it meant we’d have more money for excellent food. This is an important day in your life, but it really is JUST one day.

Look Outside The Wedding Industry

Want to get married in a venue that normally doesn’t do weddings? Call them up anyway! It may end up being cheaper and more unique than readily-available venues. Same goes for bakeries, catering companies, and dress stores. My bridesmaids’ dresses came from Nordstrom. They were better quality and less expensive than your typical “bridesmaid” dress.

Shop Online
Oriental Trading Company and Amazon were some of our best friends during the wedding planning process. We found the last bits of decor and other necessities there for way cheaper than anywhere else. I also got my flowers online in bulk for cheaper than my local florists could get wholesale!

Plan for the Marriage, Not Just the Wedding
After the wedding’s over, you’re going to be MARRIED. Make sure you actually want to be stuck with this person for the rest of your life! A Practical Wedding posted an amazing list of questions you should go over with your fiance. We did, and I honestly felt our love, respect, and trust for each other grow afterwards.

Make It Personal

Weddings can all start to look and feel the same after awhile (watch Wedding Crashers if you don’t believe me!). Make sure you have some personal touches to your wedding. Incorporate something meaningful into your vows, have the DJ play some special songs, or put an inside joke on your wedding cake.

Do Something Else With Your Life
Wedding planning can be absolutely soul-sucking. It can also start to leech into every aspect of your life. (I bet you noticed me blogging and tweeting more about weddings while I was planning mine…) Make sure you have a hobby that has nothing to do with your wedding. This will be something you can do to escape when the stress gets to be too much, and it will be something you can come back to once you’re married, and you no longer need to worry about things like budgets, cake tasting, and bridesmaid dresses.

Use Your Love of Spreadsheets
Organization is extremely important, and the more anal you are, the better. Use spreadsheets for budgets, to-do lists, and itineraries. Google has some good ones to get you started, but I ultimately created my own for my itinerary. I gave it way more detail than it needed, and then emailed it to our wedding party, families, and vendors (and handed out paper copies during the dress rehearsal and on the day of the wedding). Because of the itinerary, everyone knew where they needed to be when, and I didn’t have to worry about keeping track of people the day of. Take a look at my itinerary here. You’re welcome to make a copy and use it as a template for yours, or just laugh at how ridiculously long it is.

Get Pictures/Video!

Everybody says it, and it’s true. The day’s going to go by in a flash, and you’re not going to be able to remember most of it. You’re also not going to get to be everywhere at every time. Pictures and video are a great way to be able to remember every aspect of your wedding, and gives you the chance to relive it as many times as you want. And believe me, for the time, stress, and money that day will cost you, you’re going to want to look back on it.

…After all that, I might as well post my wedding videos, right?

Tara & Alexander – The Wedding from David Zimmermann on Vimeo.

Tara & Alexander – The Reception from David Zimmermann on Vimeo.

Any questions, stories, or additional tips? Leave them in the comments! Let’s turn this post into an amazing wedding planning resource!