10 Most Common Wedding Planning Mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable while planning a wedding, so try not to sweat it. But here's a heads-up on 10 of the most common wedding planning mistakes so you can avoid them from the get-go.
wedding rings sitting on an invitation
Photo by sara hasstedt photography

1. Doing Anything Before the Guest List

You're so excited to be engaged and plan the most amazing wedding. You can't wait to get the ball rolling with save-the-dates, booking your venue, choosing your flowers and tasting cake flavors. But hold on—one of the most important factors that goes into wedding planning is your guest list. It's what determines most of the other elements of your wedding, from the catering bill to the ceremony seating arrangement.

The solution: It's not the most fun part of planning, but you shouldn't make any decisions before you have your wedding guest list pretty firmly in place. Why? You don't want to put down a nonrefundable deposit on a cozy restaurant room that fits 75 when your mother-in-law's additions bump your list up over 200. Once you've discussed numbers with your fiancé and families, then you can move forward. That said, this means you and your fiancé can almost immediately start thinking about what you want the atmosphere of your wedding to be: an intimate affair, with close friends and family-only, or the bash of the season with 300-plus people (or somewhere in the middle)? Later, when you're in the guest-list trenches, this bit of planning will help back up your gut instinct about whether to say yes (or no) to guest-list additions.

2. Reading Bridal Magazines Aloud to Your Fiancé

We know times have changed and that grooms want to see their wedding as an event that reflects their style too. But we warn you: There's only so much anyone can take when confronted with an infinite array of invitation choices and bridal fashion terms.

In order to keep incessant wedding talk and potentially irritated moods at bay, designate a night to sit down and talk about every different aspect of the wedding, and try to get a concrete idea of your partner's interest in the various details. If flowers just isn't their thing, resolve to leave them out of that decision. No need to drag anyone into something they couldn't care less about. But also listen for things they are interested in—and voila! You've found yourself a wiling helper, at least in one area.

Also, moving forward, to assign one night a week to be your wedding-free time. Catch up on work, friends, family—anything. You'll both be so happy to know the person you fell in love with is still there, and definitely appreciate the breather.

3. Freaking Out Because Someone Else Has Your Gown

Since wedding day personalization is so important to couples these days, it's easy to lose it if another couple chooses the same favors or flowers or food. Before you decide to arm-wrestle for it, consider a healthier way to deal.

Instead of worrying about someone else's wedding looking the same as yours, think about how to make the similar detail different. If a friend chooses the same gown as you, add accents to personalize yours: Accessorize with a brooch, add a sash, embellish the train with some embroidery (you get the idea). Has someone else swiped your fun favor idea? Find a way to package yours to set them apart.

4. Realizing Grape Isn't Your Color (With Two Months to Go)

When you started planning your wedding, you thought you knew just what you wanted, but after scouring inspiration boards and wedding magazines for a few months, you've completely changed your mind. It's not the best realization, but don't worry—your wedding style could still be salvageable.

You should feel free to rethink, redo, and revamp any element of your wedding that you want. This doesn't have to mean yet another huge investment or reneging on a bunch of contracts—you'll be surprised how easy it is to make simple additions or subtractions and change your whole style. Already ordered those pastel bridesmaid dresses? Think about adding a bold sash or accessorizing with chandelier earrings to liven them up a bit. Unsure about the color scheme you chose? Pay an extra visit to your florist and work out changes to your bouquets and centerpieces—adding new blooms in all of your arrangements will introduce a new color throughout the room. Same thing if you've already ordered the linens: Spice them up with bright table runners or overlays. If you decide you really can't live with it, chances are you can go back on your first choice, just remember it will have a cost. A good rule of thumb is that if you've already signed a contract or seen a proof, you will have to pay extra for any changes or additions you make. But if it's still relatively early in your planning process, don't be afraid to make the change. And don't forget, you're getting married to your husband, not your centerpieces.

5. Trying to Drop Two Sizes Before Your Final Fitting

You've found the wedding dress of your dreams, but it's not quite a perfect fit on the real-life you. Your plan: Order the dress two sizes too small, and then do whatever it takes to make it fit.

Making a commitment to eat right and exercise is great whether you're planning your wedding or trying to stave off the newlywed nine. On the other hand, crash-dieting and chaining yourself to the treadmill is a course likely to end in disaster—and an ill-fitting gown.

Instead of losing more sleep than weight, find a gown you love and order it in your current size. If you want to work on your body during your engagement, that's great, just be sure to make your goals are manageable (toning up but not dropping 20 pounds, for instance). You're more likely to stick with a routine that doesn't require superhuman willpower. And if you still find that you are freaking about your figure, just remember that you're about to get hitched to someone who can't get enough of the way you look (really, truly) right now.

If you do drop some weight, this slow-and-steady approach will help you big time (and help you keep it off long-term). You'll want to lose those extra pounds before your second fitting. Any big changes after that, and though you might be lighter, your alterations bill will be pretty hefty. Your final fitting should be for last-minute tweaks, not a total overhaul.

6. Doing it All Yourself

We love nothing better than seeing the clever projects that couples come up with to make their weddings unique. But even we have to draw the line somewhere. There's doing it yourself, and then there's overdoing yourself. There are plenty of benefits to DIY. You can be sure no one else has the exact same thing, you can keep your budget in check and (before you actually sit down to hand-tie 200 tiny ribbons) you probably think it'll make a fun story.

Rather than taking on too many projects, pick the one (or two) that you're really in love with and put your resources (both mental and monetary) into working on those. For the others, do a little research and try to find a ready-made version that makes you happy. With so many great prefab goodies out there, chances are you'll find one that fits your style and saves you a ton of time.

7. Overloading Your Mom's Day-of To-Do List

Once you've realized you can't do it all yourself, you enlist someone you trust to double-check with the caterer and the florist, steam your veil and make sure the limo company has directions. Most brides turn to their moms (or their sister or their maid of honor) to make sure things go as planned on the actually day. These folks are usually happy to help in any way they can, but don't forget that they came to celebrate with you too (and they're working on a volunteer basis!).

No matter how worried you are, most wedding-day (and day-before) chores can be trusted to any competent adult, and aren't there a slew of them coming into town just for your wedding? Before you hand your mom or maid of honor a mega-task list, consider splitting jobs among a larger group of people—friends, cousins, aunts. They'll be glad to lend a hand (and likely flattered that you asked), and it's a great way to include more people in your celebration. If you're worried about losing track, simply take the to-do list you already have and note who's who next to each task. Check in with each person at some point, then check off the chore from the list.

You also have the option, if budget permits, to hire a professional wedding coordinator for the final weeks before the wedding (or even just the wedding day). They're experts at making sure those last-minute tidbits get done, and having the extra hands around will help you (and your mom) decide what you really want to be in charge of and what you can happily hand off. It's more affordable than you might think, and honestly, can you put a price tag on alleviating that kind of stress?

8. Crying Over Mismatched Linens

The place cards just came back from the printer, and the color of the ink is a little off from the print on your invites. Or the best man's boutonniere has a hint of baby's breath where you'd specified berries. Let's face it, even the most perfectly planned wedding is sure to hit a few bumps along the way.

When you've worked so hard for so many months on your wedding-day details, it can be hard to deal when you find a flaw. The key is that when you spot one, you'll need to take a deep breath and think: How important is this going to be to me in a year? Not in 10 years, not even in five, but in one. Chances are, most mishaps that are causing you so much agitation won't really matter to you once you're at your wedding (let alone after it). If it's a serious snarl, go ahead and deal with it. But if it's a minor mess-up, try to move on. You can't give up all of your resources to every little crisis. Pick your battles wisely and they'll be better fought.

9. Blowing Your Budget

You came up with a number, did your research, revised the number, started planning—and now that number's not going to cut it. Budgeting for a wedding can be the stuff of nightmares but that doesn't mean you have to elope.

If you find you've underestimated some expenses, don't panic. Instead, sit down with your fiance and try to reach a constructive solution. Maybe you can give up an item or trade one for another (for example, dahlias over Black Magic roses saves about $4 per stem). If you're coming up short overall, you may have to take on some debt. To make it as minimal as possible, consider obtaining a low-interest loan or using a low-interest credit card. And to keep it from becoming a source of tension between the two of you, make a plan to deal with the debt and a deadline for paying it off so it won't hang over your heads.

10. Saving Your Place Cards for the Morning-of

Right now, it might seem weird to have a basic sketch of your seating plan or all of your favors tagged and ready to go. But other than taking up a little extra space in your closet, they're not causing any harm and will actually save you a ton of stress a month or two down the line. The closer the wedding gets, the busier you'll be, so making and sticking to your timeline is essential.

Don't be afraid to get ahead on your wedding timeline. If you're set on saving tasks until the appointed time (rather than going ahead and doing a little of this or that when you've got the time), you may wind up with way too much to accomplish in the last month (or week) before the wedding. That's exactly the time when anything (and everything) can happen, when everyone will have demands on your time, and you'll just want to take a hot bath and dream about your honeymoon. With check marks beside all your biggest to-dos, you'll be able to relax and enjoy both your actual wedding and the days leading up to it.