From the time you are a girl, your vision of the perfect wedding day swirls in your mind … the cut and shade of the dress shapeshifting with your changing preferences, flowers framing your every move as you float down the aisle towards your dream man and then, the close-up on your perfect cinematic kiss. Cut to slow motion: everyone cheers and throws rice in the air as you and your handsome man run through the crowd, laughing, toward your white vintage Bentley dripping in gorgeous garlands. Wait! No, the crowd has sparklers and you hop into a 1950s blue Ford Thunderbird with cans tied to the back for that chic, throwback feel. No, OK. Maybe a New Orleans-style exit with the band leading a procession toward your car, the crowd waving white napkins and throwing lavender as happy tears wet their faces!

wedding kiss

The very picture of romance! Image: Amy Arrington Photography

It’s one thing to cling to a perfect daydream about your wedding, but it is quite another to get a room with the people who are paying for it and deal with real-life elements such as weather, flowers, differing tastes and budgets. “You’ve had time to daydream about what the wedding would be, and then you get to this point where it’s time to pull the trigger. It’s time to make decisions,” says Neillie Kirk Butler, owner and executive planner of Mariee Ami, a wedding planning studio in the heart of Mountain Brook. Neillie says it’s often deciding on the most minute details and coping with the unexpected, less-than-dreamy elements of reality that can set a bride off and make her lose sight of what’s important.

“It’s all about the marriage,” says Louise McClure Pritchard, wedding planner at Mariee Ami. “You can overanalyze and get hung up on one specific color or linen, but at the end of the day, that stuff really doesn’t matter. If you keep in mind why you are doing this — to marry your best friend and the man of your dreams — then everything else is just fluff.”

bride and flower girls

A beautiful bride poses with her sweet flower girls. Image: Catherine Taylor Photography

“People say that weddings can bring the best or the worst out of you, and it’s the truth,” adds Neillie. “Don’t let it bring the worst out of you. It’s not worth it. It’s one day of your life, and there is so much more to life than this one day. Do not let a shade of taupe or an invitation ruin you. Keep grounded in this process. Keep things in perspective.”

Today, these experienced planners from Mariee Ami give us the insider secrets to staying grounded and graceful while planning the big, beautiful day of your dreams.

10 Tips to Grounded & Graceful Wedding Planning

1. Don’t try to control everything.

Scenario:

The bride is on the 15th proof of her wedding invitation, and the shade of the gray ink and the swoop of the ‘s’ doesn’t feel quite like she imagined it. She’s thinking of changing the font altogether and maybe even the color scheme. Everyone says it is beautiful, but she is in tears.

Mariee Ami Tip:

At this point, we like to have a one-on-one conversation. We have to talk it through and get down to the nut of the problem, and nine times out of 10, the nut of the problem has nothing to do with the color. It’s “I’ve blown my budget,” “I’m mad at my groom” or “My mother’s driving me crazy, and I’m taking it out on the ink.”

So much is changing in your life when you’re getting married. You’re moving in together, you’re moving cities, you’re gaining a whole new family. There are going to be personal emotions wrapped up in the whole process. You can’t escape that. Because there’s so much that you can’t really control in this process, the bride has the feeling of I can control the wedding, because the wedding is mine. And in all honesty, you can’t control that either. But you can ruin it by holding on too tightly.

We advise people to hire good vendors that you can trust, and let them know what you want, but, at some point, you have to relinquish control. And, if you cultivate a sense of rolling with it and not sweating the small stuff, you’ll have much more fun.

2. Graciously welcome your new family into the fold.

party favors

Maker’s Mark gifts to get the party started | Image: Rob & Wynter Ingram

Scenario A:

Your mother-in-law wants to wear a tea-length dress instead of a full-length gown. And this drives you crazy.

Mariee Ami Tip:

It’s not going to make or break your wedding. Let her wear what she wants to wear. But pitching a fit will be a lifelong problem. You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.

Scenario B:

The parents of the groom are not informed of the cake cutting or the first dance and feel like they are lost in a sea of guests at their daughter-in-law’s party.

Mariee Ami Tip:

The marriage of two families is important, too. Making the parents of the groom feel informed and a part of the process is so much more enjoyable for everyone. On behalf of the bride’s family, we try to make sure that the groom’s parents are always everywhere that they are supposed to be, that they have food and they don’t miss anything. Then, they feel integral to the celebration and leave feeling like that was a special night for their son, as well.

3. It’s how you react to the unexpected moments that matters.

wedding reception

A gorgeous reception awaits the newlyweds and their closest friends and family! Image: Amy Arrington Photography

Scenarios:

The bride misplaced her earrings. The groom puts icing on the bride’s nose at the cake cutting. The flower girl tee-tees down her leg the minute that she is supposed to walk down the aisle.

Mariee Ami Tip:

You can plan, plan, plan and even check the earrings off your checklist as you pack them, but no matter how organized you are, you are human and can forget something. Something is always going to happen. It’s how you handle it that matters. You just solve it, and you move on. You can’t harp on it. You can’t keep talking about it. You can’t have a breakdown. You just have to keep going. And it’s going to be OK. We’ll find another pair of earrings. We’ll laugh off — and wipe off — the icing on the nose. And we’ll take the flower girl’s panties off, and she’ll walk down the aisle without any panties on! You just roll with it!

4. Timing is everything.

Scenario:

The cake arrives and the venue has not set up the tables, so the cake people don’t know where to put the cake. And the florist cannot put the flowers anywhere without the tables. So, the cake people and the florist start setting up the tables to stay on schedule. But they aren’t sure of what the floor plan should be. Then, the caterer arrives and is upset that the tables are in the wrong place. Chaos ensues.

Mairee Ami Tip:

When it comes down to it, not one person is going to care or notice the shade of gray on your invite, but if a wedding is hectic and unorganized and not timed out perfectly, it will be noticed by all. When girls don’t have a planner, I tell them “Have a timeline. Have a timeline. Have a timeline.” And also have someone there who also knows the timeline besides you. The more informed everyone is on what’s going on the whole day, the better. When the bride knows exactly what to expect from the day, that keeps her — and everyone — a lot more calm because they have a detailed agenda for the day.

5. Don’t let the weather rain on your parade.

wedding reception

This sparkling indoor reception is stunning! Image: Amy Arrington Photography

Scenario:

You’re dead set on having your wedding in an open field without a tent. However, you will melt like the Wicked Witch of the West if it rains.

Mariee Ami Tip:

Weather can give a bride a lot of anxiety. We always tell a bride in the beginning of the process, “If you are going to have a total meltdown over it raining, then you are not a bride that is meant to get married outside, because we can’t predict the weather. We have to have a plan that you are happy with, rain or shine.” You have to be a little realistic in the fact that you don’t know what is going to happen, and, if it is going to rain, you need to be OK with the rain plan.

6. To thine own self be true.

Scenario:

You’re getting ready to put on the wedding gown of your dreams, but you find yourself having to step over your 14 bridesmaids’ bags, shoes and curling iron wires. Makeup, hangers and dresses are strewn everywhere. It’s just not the special, beautiful moment of prewedding reflection you envisioned.

Mariee Ami Tip:

There are two different types of brides when it comes to getting ready for that day. Know which kind you are. Do you want to be around all 14 of your bridesmaids, or do you want it to be just you and your mom? Don’t be forced into doing something as a bride just because your friends did it. Think about your personality, what stresses you out and how you want it to flow and feel.

7. Wait to see the big picture.

wedding attendants

Could this picture be any more perfect? Image: Rob & Wynter Ingram

Scenario:

The bride wants to stop by and see the reception in the making. Naturally, the whole room is a wreck, and she sees that one rose that is a creamier shade than the stark white she envisioned. She gets upset and can’t move past this unexpected detail.

Mariee Ami Tip:

There’s such a difference between walking in and seeing what looks like chaos as the vendors are putting it together, and then walking into a room filled with all your favorite people, cheering for you and you’re on this high because you just got married and everything is beautiful. Know that there are so many things that go into ordering organic, perishable items. For example, the stark white roses didn’t grow properly or the rose may not be 100 percent open. Whether you get a cream rose or a white rose, not one person is going to know that detail, so don’t let it ruin your day. Stop nit-picking, and let yourself float through the day and enjoy every minute of the big picture!

8. Be a good friend.

Scenario:

The groomsmen get the party started a little too early and are a bit unruly at the photo shoot.

Mariee Ami Tip:

If you are asked to be a bridesmaid or groomsman, it is not about you at all. Be cognizant of what that day is about for the bride and groom. The family has spent a fortune, and you’ll have a chance to party, but up until that point, be aware that you’ve been asked to be a part of this process. So be a good friend, cater to your friend and their family, do what you’re told, and be respectful of the parents and all they’ve put into this big day.

9. Mind the generation gap.

wedding cake

These flowers and this cake are breathtaking! Image: 509 Photo

Scenario:

The bride just sat down on the wedding planning couch for her first meeting. The Mariee Ami team asks her to tell them every detail she has for her dream wedding. The bride, glowing, begins to share her dream ideas. She gets to the part about her bridesmaids wearing their own choice of dress in the same color family. “That’s ludicrous!” says the mother. “What in the world are you talking about?!” The daughter feels completely shut down.

Mariee Ami Tip:

These days, the bride has a lot more say in the wedding than she did even 10 years ago. For this generation, the mothers have never planned a wedding, because their mothers planned it for them. So they come in expecting to plan their daughter’s wedding, but are surprised to learn that their daughter thinks she should make all of the decisions. There’s always a lot of give and take in that area, and we are able to act as mediators.

We can say on behalf of the bride, “Different dresses in the same color family is a trend. It’s still beautiful. I promise they are not going to look like ragamuffins up there.” And it’s the mother’s party, too! So we help balance the generation gap and play friend to everybody. We recommend that the mother and the bride sit down and pinpoint what is most important to them. The bride might only care about the band, while the mother is passionate about the invitation. Then they know how to compromise and share in the planning decisions.

10. Match your expectations to your budget.

Scenario:

The bride comes in with pictures of famous people’s weddings. She wants to accomplish a $250,000 wedding on a $50,000 budget.

Mariee Ami Tip:

One of our biggest jobs is to manage expectations. People often ask, “How much is a wedding going to cost?” That is an impossible question to answer, because it depends on your expectations. Do you expect a reception that is dripping with flowers, drapery and custom linens? Are you thinking a wedding for 100 or 1,000 people? Oftentimes, the expectation talk goes hand-in-hand with money. Planning a wedding within your means is so much more enjoyable, beautiful and successful than trying to make it into something that is beyond reality.

So, very early on, we try to figure out what people’s overall expectations are, and, at the same time, we want them to know what to expect with every detail of the wedding. For instance, letting them know that a gray ink sample on a Pantone swatch is going to be darker when printed in letterpress. We are just always trying to paint that picture of the reality of each decision, so they know what to expect.

The Long View

“Plan your wedding like you plan your life,” says Louise. “You can try really hard to plan your life, but how often does it work out exactly the way you envision it?” In short, be ready to roll with the punches, and react gracefully to anything that life — or your wedding — throws at you.

Caroline Wilcox, a bride whose wedding was recently featured in StyleBlueprint, offers some sage advice to brides in the throes of wedding planning: “Realize that your wedding day is just one day of your life. Instead of focusing so much on planning for that one day, focus on preparing for your marriage, which is every day for the rest of your life. You will always reap the rewards from investing in that lifelong covenant.”

wedding reception

A stunning reception tent entrance is flanked by a canopy of greenery, oversize white pumpkins and twinkle lights! Image: 509 Photo

wedding rose

A beautiful rose hanging among the sparkling lights | Image: Rob & Wynter Ingram

Your wedding may be the most visually stunning day in your life, as well as the most expensive day and the best party ever, but the most important days of your life will shapeshift like the daydreams you once had about your wedding. The most important parts of your life will reside in the moments that you find the right words to handle your child’s insecurities or in the years of choosing to consistently make people around you feel good in your presence. The wedding day is a celebration of the many rich and beautiful days ahead. So squeeze your loved one tight, soak in the big, beautiful picture as it unfolds before you, let your heart be buoyed with joy and gratitude as you are surrounded by all of your loved ones — and don’t forget to enjoy the party!

Thank you to Neillie and Louise of Mariee Ami for sharing their insights to enjoying the wedding planning process!

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For more beautiful ceremonies, dresses and receptions, check out StyleBlueprint’s featured weddings!