How to Have the Best Wedding Ever: Complete 12-Step Guide

How to Have the Best Wedding Ever: Complete 12-Step Guide

There are a lot of misconceptions about how to have the BEST WEDDING EVER. Many people make the mistake of stressing over details that aren’t memorable to anyone, including YOU and that ultimately don’t matter AT ALL. It’s okay — we all make mistakes! But I made this list to help you avoid them on your wedding day.

The best weddings you’ve ever been to are the ones that had the perfect combination of HEART at the ceremony, where the couple was ecstatic all night instead of stressed out, where the drinks flowed and there wasn’t much waiting around to be had… and love and excitement rained down on everyone!! And if there happened to be real rain, nobody noticed or cared… because the wedding was just that great!

So how do we create these kind of weddings?! I can tell you one thing: no amount of time spent on favors, centerpieces, or flower arrangements will make any difference. Don’t waste your time, money, and energy DIY-ing or spending thousands on things like decor, unless they reallyyyyy matter to YOU. Because your guests and everyone else will forget these ultimately insignificant details soon after your wedding night.

What DOES matter is the time and energy you put into the heart and soul of your ceremony, AND how much you pay attention to the FUN and COMFORT levels of your guests.

Follow this 12-step guide EXACTLY and you’re guaranteed to have the best wedding ever!! Here goes…


#1: Don’t Conform to Any Traditions or Expectations

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about wedding ceremonies, read about them… or even that you’ve seen firsthand at other weddings. FORGET EVERYTHING. Now, think about what you think would work best for YOU and your partner.

Question every tradition and every expectation, and ask yourself: Is this me? Do I want to do it this way or is there a way that’s more ME?!

Here are some examples of traditions, customs, and expectations that you might want to question (“QUESTION” being the operative word — you don’t have to remove these things if you want them!! Of course not! Just question them critically before blindly putting them into your ceremony because “that’s what people do”). If these suggestions sound crazy to you, it’s because we’re all so used to the things that we “have to do” at a wedding and we rarely question them or think to change them:

  • Do I want to have bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, etc? Should I remove these things all together, or can we mix up the genders (since we each have guy friends and girl friends)?!
  • Do we want to do a processional? Or can we just start the ceremony at the front without one?
  • Do we want to do a garter toss, bouquet toss, cake cutting, or can we nix those things?

The list is literally endless. Get rid of anything that seems extraneously, unnecessary, stressful, or that you straight up don’t want to do. Nothing is required, despite popular opinion 🙂

One last note on this front is to reaaaallly take the time to think about how you want your ceremony to look and feel. Design it and personalize the crap out of it:

  • Have the officiant you want (who knows you and loves you)
  • Use readings you love or that your friends love
  • Play music that is YOU and don’t worry about it conforming to any norms or being “right.”
  • Incorporate any rituals that you really like: Handfasting ceremonies (I have a guide on how to do this if you’re interested), sand ceremonies, unity candle ceremonies, etc. — the possibilities are endless!

It’ll be totally authentically you and amazing for your guests who know and love you. If you need a little help writing your ceremony from scratch, read my article How to Write the Perfect Wedding Ceremony in 10 Steps which also includes some sample scripts you can steal and tweak.

#2: Don’t Spend a Large Chunk of Your Wedding Day Taking POSED Photos

Now if you and your partner are the kind of people who adore taking photos, then ignore this one.

But as my 3-year-old nephew screamed after a Christmas photo shoot last year that went too long, “I HATE PICTURES!” and he isn’t alone. For many people, posing for photos, especially an hour of photos, is a chore. And doing a chore on your wedding day is lame.

I’m not sure why we became obsessed with having an hour-long posed photo session at our weddings, but here we are. Meanwhile, your guests who came to see you are waiting around to hang out with you. I say, skip it. Attend your cocktail hour for gosh sakes!! Ask your photographer for candid photos only, or take 20 minutes of posed photos and that’s it.

Do we really need a million pictures of us with every combination of our family members and friends? And then another million pictures of cheesy posed photos with our partner? This may sound super harsh, but all I can think about when I look at reels of posed wedding photos is that the couple was missing their cocktail hour for this. And that it’s posed and they’re not actually having a special moment… It’s a photo of a staged moment.

Okay I’m ranting a little bit! But I just feel strongly that posed photos do not an epic wedding make! Actually HAVE fun and then ask the photographer to follow you around and take photos of THAT.

#3: Prioritize FUN over decorations

Decorations are nice. Pinterest tempts us strongly with this one and wants us to have as PRETTY a wedding as possible!! I’m guilty as well as evidence by my own wedding Pinterest boards

HOWEVER, we should be careful not to let the decor monster take over our sanity… spending thousands of dollars or hours of DIY-ing time on the “pretty” aspect of our weddings. It’s better to go simple, cheap, and easy and to put our efforts into other endeavors IF we really want to make our weddings THE BEST EVER.

It’s not to say that people don’t notice the wedding decor, but just that the time, money, and energy is RARELY worth it. The epic-ness of your wedding is simply not going to come from how pretty it looks. This may sound sad after we’ve spent literally DAYS pinning pretty things, but honestly, pretty enough is all you really need.

Instead focus on things that make a wedding FUN for you and your guests, such as:

  • Good (and enough — PLENTY of) FOOD
  • An open bar (can be very basic — beer and wine will do the trick)
  • Writing a ceremony that is authentic to your personalities
  • Providing music or entertainment that suits the tastes of your guests
  • Making your guests COMFORTABLE physically
  • Making your guests feel INCLUDED, welcome, and part of the occasion

All of these items are a thousands times more important than centerpieces, wedding favors, and an elaborate backdrop.

#4: Carry on Planning as if the RAIN Plan IS Plan A, And Not Plan B

We had to postpone our wedding until next year because of the global tragedy of 2020 that shall not be named. And so I’ve been doing a lot of reevaluating of our wedding plans from ROUND 1 so that I can do better in ROUND 2 of wedding planning. One of the things that I got wrong in Round 1 was the rain plan for our wedding.

We were making all of our plans for our outdoor ceremony and reception as if it would be a sunny, beautiful day. And I realized recently that this was the WRONG way to go about this from both a mental and logistic standpoint, and that I was setting us up for potential disaster and disappointment.

Imagine it rains on your wedding day, and everything you’ve visualized has been for sunshine… the ceremony, the food, the dancing, the late-night bonfire…. etc.! How could you be anything BUT disappointed? This was the position I’d put myself in. As I said, we haven’t had our wedding yet because we’ve had to postpone indefinitely but if it had rained, our Plan B rain plan would be looking REALLY sad and lame.

So instead I am suggesting to myself and to others who want to have the best wedding ever: Plan your outdoor wedding as if it’s definitely going to rain. Rain should be Plan A. Plan every detail with this thinking and really visualize your day as if it’s going to be pouring the whole time.

If you do this, you’re physically, logistically, and mentally prepared for all weather conditions on your wedding day and won’t have even a second of panic or regret. And if it does end up being sunny… that’s just gravy!

#5: Hire Staffing and Delegate Tasks to Friends

Another mistake we made that could have put a dent in our attempts to have the best wedding ever: Not hiring staffing to set up, or at the very least, CLEAN UP.

You don’t want to leave this to the guests — to bus their own dishes and trash. Many of them will clean up after themselves, but many won’t! And this stress shouldn’t fall on your relatives who are paying attention. Or your friends. Unless you have relatives and friends who have specifically volunteered to do this for you… in which case, great!

Hiring staffing, however, allows all of your guests to have an epic time without worrying about these things. And as people drink, party, and get tired, it’s nice to rely on actual hired help to tear down and clean up.

Delegating tasks is also important. If you have friends and family members who want to help you, let them. Pick the things off your to-do list that you trust them with and that aren’t particularly interesting to you, and let them do it for you!

A happy, stress-free couple who has delegated and entrusted tasks to friend, family, and hired help will be much more likely to HAVE FUN at their wedding… and when the couple is having fun, the guests are more likely to be having fun too!

#6: COOL IT on the Timing and Timeline Preparation

The amount of time and stress that goes into planning a wedding timeline frankly makes me not want to have a wedding at all. I totally understand that couples want to create a certain flow to their event so that their guests don’t get bored. But I tend to think that we overthink this TOO MUCH. And as far as grown adult guests who get bored/need to be constantly entertained… do we really care if they leave early?

A better solution, in my opinion, is to simplify your event. If there are fewer moving parts (for example, rituals and traditions — cake cutting, garter toss, grand entrance, first dances, etc.), then a timeline isn’t as essential!

Think of epic parties that aren’t weddings. They’re much more simple, with fewer expectations, and so people RELAX and just have fun…. without having to be entertained with some kind of speech, or ritual, or whatever every twenty minutes.

So what I guess I’m trying to say is reduce the number of THINGS that you want to happen at your wedding and reception. Pick a COUPLE. Simplify everything. And convey that to your guests in your conversations with them leading up to the wedding and maybe on one single program board at your wedding itself.

The message to convey would be something like: This will be a SIMPLE and intimate event celebrating LOVE. Have fun, chat, dance, relax, and enjoy your night! If things are kept simple, do we really need a minute-by-minute timeline of everything that’s supposed to happen? I don’t understand why this has become the norm! For those of us wanting a laid back, low key wedding that’s just SUPER FUN, modern wedding timelines are too much.

#7: Get GOOD Food and ENOUGH of It

For a GREAT wedding to be had, a centerpiece doesn’t matter but food certainly does. You don’t have to spend a lot of money for the food to be good. Get a buffet, tacos, BBQ… order from your favorite family-run business… whatever! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just good.

And as far as having ENOUGH of it… we went to a wedding that was really extravagant and had a buffet line. Unfortunately, that buffet was self-serve and so they actually RAN OUT of food by the time we got up to get some!! It was really shocking for such a fancy, well-planned out wedding. Food is really essential.

So before you spend hours picking out and designing wedding favors, make sure that you have a rock-solid food plan for your wedding. Order lots and make it delicious!

Also, don’t forget to take into consideration the allergies and food preferences of your guests, so that everyone can eat something. If your party is going into the wee hours of the morning, consider ordering a cheap late night snack such as pizza, or having chips and salsa! Your guests will appreciate it.

#8: Have an Open Bar

For me, this is a “duh” but I know that open bars are controversial… yet I vehemently stand by this one. Get a cheaper venue, a cheaper dress, a cheaper photographer — and find a way to make the booze free at your wedding. There, I said it. I feel so much better!

The most epic weddings I’ve ever been to had open bars. And they don’t have to be FULL open bars. Wine and beer will do just fine. Or even a keg. A cheap keg that’s free for your guests is a hundred times better than charging them for fancy alcohol, in my opinion. FREE = FUN.

Of course, this is very cultural and will depend where you’re from. In some countries, an open bar at a wedding is really unusual. If you’re concerned about the cost of having an open bar, I wrote an article breaking down all of the details which I suggest you read before buying booze for your own open bar.

#9: Do Everything in Your Power to Make Guest Comfort a Priority

This should probably be number 1 actually. Guest comfort is everything. If your guests are uncomfortable, either physically or mentally, they’re NOT going to be able to enjoy ANYTHING else at your wedding.

Imagine having crafted the perfect 30-minute ceremony (which is a good length for a ceremony by the way)… and then having your guests sit through it in DIRECT sunlight getting scorched and sunburned OR having them STAND during it because you wanted to forgo chairs for a “short” ceremony. No. They will be uncomfortable and totally unable to enjoy or appreciate the beautiful ceremony you’ve worked so hard on.

Guest comfort needs to be prioritized both for the ceremony and the reception. Here are some ways you can accomplish this:

  • Always have a place for them to sit should they choose to do so.
  • For anything outdoors, provide shade. Don’t make them sit in direct sunlight longer than 20 minutes.
  • Reduce ALL LONG LINES: Have enough bathrooms, bartenders/bars, and food servers for minimal wait times.
  • If it’s going to be hot, provide handheld fans, plenty of cold drinks, and maybe even industrial sized fans.
  • If it’s going to get cold at night, provide blankets or jackets.
  • Let guests know the attire they should wear including footwear and whether or not they should bring a jacket or change of clothes if your event is outside at night.
  • Have a welcome dinner with ice breakers so that guests can get to know each other before the wedding.
  • Be mindful with seating arrangements and don’t put people with people they don’t know.
  • Make guests feel as if they can join the dancing or that they have a place to sit and chat quietly.

#10: Invite People Who Actually Matter to You

Another touchy subject here because there are a lot of couples who feel obligated to invite all kinds of people to their weddings… be it bosses, coworkers, distant relatives, friends of your mom, friends who invited you to THEIR weddings,… etc.!

But if you’re able to be honest with yourself and brutal with your guest count slashing, you’ll not only save a bunch of money, but you’ll also make your wedding more fun and epic for everyone there. And that’s because the vibe created will be made up of people who actually love and care about you, and who you actually love and care about.

Think about your potential guests and ask yourself if you’re inviting them because you truly want to share this experience with them, and you enjoy their company, or if it’s because there’s some kind of obligation that you feel.

We had to slash our guest list because my extended family is too large and we make a budget-friendly, intimate wedding. It was hard, and many people I would actually love to have at our wedding. For us, it was much more about cutting the guest list for PRICE and to create an atmosphere of intimacy.

#11: Choose Entertainment that Suits You AND Your Guests

You don’t have to have a DJ, although I did write an article defending DJs and why they’re important. Despite this fact, we’re not having a DJ at our wedding and are opting for a playlist instead. This is mostly because we’re not in need of someone to make announcements and “move the timeline along” (see #6 on this list!).

But whether you hire a DJ or make your own music playlist, it IS ESSENTIAL to take into consideration the musical tastes of your guests, as well as your own. If you don’t do this, you’re not going to have a super fun epic dance party. You can’t just play a bunch of hardcore gangster rap or indie b-sides and expect your guests to pack the dance floor.

So expect to play crowd pleasers. Put a question on your electronic RSVP that says “What song will get you on the dance floor?” Talk to your guests in the months leading up to your wedding to get a sense of what they like to boogie down to, and then incorporate those songs into your wedding playlist.

#12: Choose the Things MOST Important to YOU as a Couple and Let Everything Else Fall Away

This is the overall thesis of this article, but I want to reiterate it anyways: YOU DO YOU.

Choose 2-4 “MOST IMPORTANT” items to you for your wedding. Be it your dress, the food, the music, etc. And then put most of your own focus, time, and energy on those items. Don’t spread your precious consideration, care, and money across 100 different wedding details. Choose a few and MAKE THOSE ONES GREAT! Have high expectations for THOSE ONES ONLY.

For everything else, keep your expectations low-ish (trust me!). Delegate those tasks to others. Pay less for them. Care less. If you do this, you’ll be more sane, happier, and able to concentrate on the details that ACTUALLY matter to you on your wedding day!! Instead of crying over a cake that turned out wrong, and that you probably didn’t even care about in the first place (if you’re being honest with yourself), you can rejoice in how great the packed dance floor is and how beautifully authentic your ceremony was.

Enjoy every minute of this wedding planning journey 🙂

Brittany

Brittany is a writer, teacher, and a graduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.