How to Stress Less During Wedding Planning

how to stress less during wedding planning

From venue visits to competing for dates, to trying to figure out what the heck your caterer is thinking – being a bride is TOUGH. Read on for my guide (that I wish I had!) on how to stress less during wedding planning.

But first, here’s where I’ve been.

Guess who’s back, back, back again… it’s your favorite absentee blogger, Thea Neal! Here’s a whole bunch of stuff you’ve missed in the past year: I got married, I lost 30 pounds, our dog got ACL surgery, and oh yeah I was named one of Forbes’ 2018 30 Under 30 in Marketing and Advertising (WHAT?!). My poor blog had to take a major backseat to my work and personal life, and for that I’m sorry. BUT GET THIS, I’m back and I’m going to make a much better effort to update. So why was planning a wedding so hard and stressful? Oh yeah, because we paid for a 140-person wedding in another time zone. So I’m zooming back into the interwebz to give you my tips for how to stress less during wedding planning – THIS. SHIT. IS. HARD.

Sure as heck doesn’t sound like I knew how to stress less during my wedding…

Yeah, that’s because wedding planning was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life! We paid for most of the wedding ourselves, our family literally lives in every corner of the country, our dog had ACL surgery two months before we had to leave for the wedding, and we were living in a new city/state/time zone with new jobs (DID I MENTION A DIFFERENT TIME ZONE). Even if your life isn’t this stressful, wedding planning is a giant expensive pain in the ass that takes theoretical years off of the lives of many brides. Here’s how to minimize the mind-boggling exhaustion of it all.

Fun fact – in this photo, my mom was trying to hook the buttons on my dress after my man of honor accidentally pulled one off. She ended up not even buttoning them all. I had no idea. (All photos by the amazing Brett & Jessica Photography, engagement ring by Heidi Gibson.)

Don’t rush the wedding.

We got engaged in August 2016 and didn’t get married until February 2018 – why? Well, because life happened. We immediately moved to Kansas City for my job at Hallmark, Ronny got an awesome job at BicMedia, and we had NO idea where to get married. We debated going to a National Park and having a small outdoors wedding, but were quickly priced out of that. So what did we do? We went with what we knew. And I am so grateful.

We went to exactly ZERO venue showings. Luckily, as a Duke alumna I was able to get a spot at Duke Chapel, which you have to book a year before your wedding date. We had previously attended a wedding reception at Motorco Music Hall, and were stoked that the same date was also open. When you go with what you know, you don’t have to stress about visiting the venue 100 times, or micromanaging the tiny unimportant details (more on this later).

If you can be engaged for a year (or more) to save money for the wedding, that is also a huge lifesaver.

Look at these beauties!

Get married during the offseason.

WINTER. WEDDINGS. ARE. AWESOME! And here’s why – vendors are cheaper. They are trying to get folks in those dates because it’s the down season, so look for dates in December, January, February and March for minimal stress of competing with other brides for dates and vendors. We got all of our preferred vendors because we got married during the offseason and we had a year to plan the details after booking our date.

Duke Chapel Wedding

We got married at Duke Chapel in Durham, NC, where I went to grad school.

Also consider Friday or Sunday wedding dates – saving money is dope. I know it’s easy to worry your out-of-town family will be bummed they have to take another day off work, but, hey, it’s your day. You’re the gahdamn bride. Or maybe you’re the gahdamn groom. Doesn’t matter – IT IS YOUR DAY. You can plan it for however and whenever you want.

I did all of our flowers myself! Probably obvious but it was really fun.

Don’t cut corners if it causes more stress.

Doing my own flowers was really important to me. I love arranging flowers – I have since I was a kid – and it saved me at least $2,500 to do it myself with the help of my awesome family and friends over about three hours. It’s great to do your own flowers, but if it’s going to add more stress to your week, SKIP IT. If you can’t afford the cost of professionally done flowers, lessen your total flowers by skipping table arrangements. We re-used our bridesmaid bouquets for centerpieces, and ended up sending the flowers home with our awesome waitstaff. Since I couldn’t bring any of them or the vases back to Kansas City on the plane, this was an easy action to take.

The same attitude goes for other DIYs – if you LOVE making cakes or cookies, do it yourself. But if you don’t have time OR PATIENCE for that shit – don’t. There will be so many things on the day of your wedding for you to be stressed out by – don’t add more to it for the sake of saving money. I was lucky to have an amazing artist friend (shout out to Gill Morrow!) who made us a donut board. Renting those things is crazy expensive – don’t forget a wedding takes a village. It’s okay to ask your family and friends to lend you a hand. Chances are, they’ll be happy to do it.

Your mental health is worth more than $100 and hours of work.

We all got ready together at the Durham Hotel.

Practice self-care.

One of my favorite people at work told me to practice self-care by treating yourself like your son or daughter. In wedding planning, remember you’re still a human living a life outside of this event. Don’t punish yourself because you’re stressed or have bad skin (both things I did!). Just be happy someone loves you and you’re about to have an awesome day where you’ll look smokin’ hot.

Self-care also means surrounding yourself by your best friends and favorite family members. Just soak in everyone’s love around you and try to push away any negative energy as much as possible.

My family did this with our extra flowers!

Get the hell off Pinterest.

Like most brides, I spent too much time on Pinterest. I had this idea that I *had* to have matching bridesmaid robes, a DIY flower crown station, and Christian Louboutins to be a ~true~ bride. Hi, yes, that is untrue. Very, very untrue. I wish I was reminded of this more often – the tiny details do not matter on the day of the wedding.

I had custom-flavored cupcakes from my favorite Durham bakery created for the reception, with hand-lettered labels I did myself. Guess what – they were all eaten before I got to the reception. Every single one.

Don’t get stuck on the Pinterest-like details. Your stress levels will go way down once you realize one thing – all that matters is your happiness. Which leads me to the next point…

I met this dog on the street and I was SO happy. Look at his little tongue!

Pick what you love, and share it with your guests.

One of my very favorite things in life are dogs. Since we got married in North Carolina and live in Missouri, we couldn’t bring our dogs to the wedding. Instead, we asked a local dog rescue I used to volunteer with to bring adoptable dogs – they TOTALLY delivered.

It was unique, fun and totally my style – I definitely didn’t find it on Pinterest. As soon as I got to the reception and saw all my guests happily snuggling dogs I was overjoyed.

This is my face when I was asking my ~*husband*~ if we could take this dog back to Missouri and he totally said yes but somehow the dog didn’t come back to Missouri with us???? But I did end up going home with a super steamy husband, so I guess that makes up for the puppy.

No matter what happens, your wedding will be an incredible, memorable day full of joy and laughter. I can promise you that. Be easy on your soul, and remind yourself to stress less during wedding planning. You are going to have SO. MUCH. FUN.

Vendor details:
All photos by: Brett & Jessica Photography
Ceremony: Duke Chapel
Reception & DJ: Motorco Music Hall & Luxe Posh
Accommodations and first look: The Durham Hotel
Bridal dress: Marisa Bridals
Bridesmaid dresses: Renz Rags (Etsy)
Bridal hair: Shawna Causey
Bridesmaid hair: Jade Marion Hair
Groom’s suit: Suit Supply
Dog rescue: Independent Animal Rescue
Flowers: Bride’s own arrangement
Engagement ring: Heidi Gibson Designs
Leather jacket: Blank NYC