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10 Tips to Plan Like a Pro for Your Wedding Day

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Did they pop the question? Let’s pop the champagne! Congratulations!

Even though you’re in the blissful stage of the newly engaged, it’s never too early to start thinking about the nitty gritty details of your nuptials. From venue selection to photography and florals, here are 10 tips to help you plan like these wedding pros.

Save yourself the heartache; hire a planner.

You might think you can handle everything on your own, but don’t you want to actually enjoy your wedding planning process? As a couple, this is (probably) completely new to you and can quickly become overwhelming. Enlist the help of an expert with experience. “Hiring a professional saves time, reduces stress, and quite often saves you money,” says Luba Gankin, founder and CEO of Primavera Dreams Wedding Planning & Design. “The planner can find great vendors and all other necessary elements to ensure that everything goes perfectly. Plus, the presence of a planner is extremely important to relieve the couple’s stress and give them the ability to focus on their magical day.”

Gankin compares hiring a wedding planner to hiring a real estate agent. “Many of us know how to look for homes for sale on the internet,” she says. “But in most cases, we still tend to seek professional help from a realtor to understand what we need, how to find it quickly, and tell us the pros and cons. A planner provides that help for weddings. I often create a vision and design, efficiently presenting and exploring a variety of options. It’s easy to become inundated by the abundance of images on social media and to feel lost when there are too many choices.”

Confirm the most important details first.

There are a lot of decisions that need to be made for your big day, but prioritize the main responsibilities first. Gankin says there are three main components to wedding planning that have to be decided before anything else.

  • Determine size of the wedding. “Will you invite many people to a big party or would you rather have an intimate group of friends and family? Or something in between?” Gankin asks.
  • Choose setting and style. “Would you prefer an outside or inside wedding? Local or destination? Is your style classic or rustic? Glamorous or laidback? These are important decisions to make because the first logical step is to find the right venue,” she says.
  • Plan your budget. “While it’s difficult to get an accurate estimate of a budget right away, you can search for information online and see how it plays into your area, what are the major components, and how it correlates with what you are ready to spend,” Gankin says.

Photo credit: Person + Killian // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Choose a space you love that includes the right services.  

Securing the perfect venue can be tricky. Before going in, you should at least have a rough estimate for guests, wedding date, and ceremony location if not onsite. First, find the wow factor—in what place can you picture yourself dancing the night away? “The physical space is often the most common way to wow a couple,” says Robert Smith, senior catering sales manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. “Look for new or recently designed spaces. For example, The Ritz-Carlton, Boston has floor-to-ceiling windows and beautiful views overlooking the Boston Common from our new ballroom.”

Next, consider what services that venue can offer you. “Aside from the physical space, I believe the most impactful element is the people within the venue that transform your wedding from something special to something unbelievable,” Smith says. “At The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, it’s the attentive white glove service from our Ladies and Gentlemen and the way the team treats you like royalty from your arrival until the moment you depart as a married couple.”

Smith says you must also consider the convenience of the venue. “You want a venue that makes your life as easy as possible on your big day,” he says. “Think about the many ways you can utilize your venue outside of hosting your wedding. Is it where your first look will take place, where you’ll be getting ready before the wedding, and where your guests will be staying overnight? Find the location that meets all your needs, beyond the ballroom.”

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Use testimonials and portfolios to find the perfect photographer—and definitely get that first look photo.

There are a lot of wedding photographers out there, but not all are created equal. Search for someone who either suits your style exclusively or proves capable of adapting to whatever style you want. “You want to gravitate to their work and feel that it will be a good fit for your wedding day,” says Jill Person, owner of Person + Killian Photography. “Testimonials are key. They’re honest and provide accurate feedback from couples who have worked very closely for many hours on such an important day. You want to feel comfortable with the person or group that will be with you in every special moment, every step of the way during your wedding.”

And speaking of special moments, Person says the trend of first look photos is here to stay for a reason. “I love the first look photo and highly recommend it. I hear from couples all the time that are on the fence about this because they’re worried that they will lose the moment of seeing each other walking down the aisle for the first time and having their breath taken away,” she says. “Taking the time to do this beforehand still gives you that moment without 100-plus people standing in between you. It’s so much more private and emotional. I also find that couples who wait to see each other at the ceremony are more anxious beforehand; the first look gives a calming feeling to the couple.”

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Plan flowers early and know what works seasonally.

Flowers are a crucial component to your wedding and need to be planned far in advance. “We recommend that you start looking at florists nine months to one year prior to the wedding date,” says Sandra Sigman, founder and owner of Les Fleurs. “We love to meet with our couples one-on-one several times throughout the process, and we appreciate when a couple provides us with pictures that show the flowers they envision at their wedding.”

Sigman lists some of Les Fleurs’ top picks for each season:

  • Spring: lily of the valley, garden roses, freesia, peonies, lilac, sweet pea, flowering branches
  • Summer: peonies (through June), dahlias (mid-July), lisianthus, garden spray rose
  • Fall: dahlias (through October), berries, grasses, foliage
  • Winter: hellebores, anemone, jasmine, ranunculus, amaryllis

Aside from the traditional bouquets and centerpieces, Sigman says couples can always find ways to work in new floral trends. “Lately, we’ve been seeing things like candle-scapes, succulents, oyster shells, greenery, fruit, and even incorporating personal items from the bride and groom,” says Sigman. “That could mean filling trophies or heirlooms with florals.”

Photo credit: Person + Killian // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Be honest at your menu tasting and try new things.

Food and drink are some of the most significant factors, especially to your guests. Be open with your caterers—both in trying new items and letting them know your honest opinion. “When trying multiple dishes, always pick one or two items that you wouldn’t normally choose,” says Smith. “It’s a tasting for a reason; try it out because you never know what might surprise you and end up on your final menu. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your chef or event manager regarding dish feedback. From our perspective, we prefer to know exactly what you like or didn’t like so that we can adjust and accommodate to your preferences.”

Smith says you should also pay attention to more than the taste. “When doing a tasting, observe the presentation of a plate,” he says. “At The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, the philosophy is you eat first with your eyes. We want to provide a beautiful plate that excites you when the food is placed in front of you.”

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Marquee signs are the new must-have.

In keeping with the times, a new trend that has cemented itself in the wedding scene is marquee signs. “Marquee signs create striking statements and focal points for weddings that are both visual and personal,” says Tom Kura, co-owner of Your Love In Lights. “They help create an atmosphere within a reception and commemorate the occasion. Guests react with smiles, tears, and lots of photos. Some of the best reactions occur when guests first see the sign as part of a TV-style big reveal, at the end of the cocktail hour when the ballroom doors swing open.”

Kura says couples should consider location, size, and style when choosing a sign. “Do you want it to welcome your guests into the room, act as your backdrop at the sweetheart table, or get your guests on the dance floor?” he asks. “Choose a style that blends with the rest of your décor and lighting. We offer bulbs in multiple styles and colors, as well as greenery or flowers instead of lights.”

Photo credit: Person + Killian // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Know what needs to be rented.

When it comes to rentals, Robin Legere, a business development manager at Party Rental Ltd., advises checking with your venue to confirm what is provided and what you’ll need or want to upgrade. “Many hotels and venues have their own chairs, tables, and dishware, so couples should check to see what’s included in the contract,” she says. “It’s also helpful to decide on what style of dinner service you will have at your event before coming in for a design consultation. Needs for a formal plated dinner will differ from specialty food stations or a more casual buffet.”

Legere says linens and rentals should support an overall wedding theme or aesthetic, so bring those details to your rental company. “Many couples will share a Pinterest board with us so we can get a feel of the style they’re attracted to, or they might bring in a swatch of a bridesmaid’s dress or a sentimental object that inspires them,” she says. “Linens, chairs, and furniture cover the most surface area in a ballroom and set the foundation for a thoughtful, balanced design. Smaller details like flatware, china patterns, and votives add style and personality and really tie everything together.”

Photo credit: Lynne Reznick Photography // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Deal with drama diplomatically.

Your wedding should be all about you and what you want—but family and friends will inevitably try to insert themselves and their opinions into the decision-making process. Don’t lose your cool when the in-laws insist on inviting distant cousins you’ve never met or when your tone-deaf best man asks if he can sing a heartfelt song instead of delivering a speech; stay calm and stick to your guns. “My advice to couples dealing with challenging family or friends is to initially have an open mind and listen to what they have to say,” says Smith. “Take a moment to absorb it, think about it, and then respond. Ask for a night to sleep on it so that you can give an informed decision with reasoning. Don’t lose sight of what you want for your dream day.”

When all else fails, you can rely on your vendors to offer their opinion and steer you in the right direction. “Ask your vendors what they think about any ideas or questions,” says Smith. “These are event professionals who will have an unbiased opinion and can tell you what they think is best from past experience, so you don’t have to feel like you are making every single decision alone.”

Photo credit: Person + Killian // Shot on location at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston

Enjoy yourself, relax, and remember that you’re marrying the love of your life.

This is a happy occasion! Don’t worry too much and focus on the end game. Gankin advises couples to enjoy the planning journey and look to others for support and guidance. “Sometimes, couples are so obsessed with being perfect that they end up being stressed as a result and lose the genuine happiness of the moment,” she says. “Take a deep breath and relax! Enjoy your wedding and each other. Drink it in, take time to slow down and look at each other, spend this day together, try not to rush—these are the essential things which make your wedding meaningful, happy, and so yours!”

For more information on perfectly planning your big day with The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, visit ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/boston/weddings.