5 Tips for a Stress-Free Wedding Planning Experience!

When I meet someone new in a non-work setting and tell them I am the CEO of a Wedding & Event planning company, I am usually greeted with a few stories of wedding nightmares.  I am amazed to find, that over my seventeen years of holding this position, this one part of my life never seems to change. Sometimes it’s wedding day nightmares: during the ceremony a killer storm popped up and ripped over the bay bringing lightning and hail, or the cake that was made by a friend and collapsed during the first dance (both true stories, by the way).  Other times, it’s about the planning experience in itself: They hired a friend to help out who didn't do anything, and the things she did do, she did wrong (she did not ask the rental house if they could host a reception there -- they couldn't -- and they were out a $1500 deposit and needed to find a new reception spot, ouch!). Or, they didn't hire anyone and they bickered with their mother, mother in law, sister, maid of honor (insert role here) and are no longer speaking to them or their relationship has never been the same.  

These are of course, extreme examples but non the less, I hate to hear about wedding nightmares. I and our team get to be a part of so many beautiful, happy, and successful weddings. I truly wish everyone could have a positive wedding planning experience and stress- free, fun wedding day that leaves them with fond memories for sincerely an eternity.  That is why I decided to offer 5 simple tips for a stress-free wedding planning experience! Note I didn’t say perfect or use the word perfect …(skip to #5 for the spoiler!)

Tip #1: Hire a Professional, Experienced Wedding Planner

  • “A good wedding planner is worth his/ her weight in gold” - say EVERYONE

What I didn't mention in my story above, is that there are always a few folks who meet me that RAVE about the positive experience they've had with their wedding planner.  “She took care of everything so we didn't worry about a thing” or, “A hurricane was set to hit the day of my wedding. My planner called all the wedding professionals and made all the appropriate adjustments including making sure the band didn't back out!  We were so thankful for her”. How do you know you have a great planner?

  • They've taken some formal training - this shows they are committed to the industry and learning

  • They have great client testimonials - from more than just one or two of the same weddings

  • They have a diverse portfolio -- they can do everything well, not just one niche

  • wedding professionals refer them - they have seen their work and think enough of it to send their clients to them!

  • Their pricing is fair.  If it seems too good to be true -- it probably is.  An inexpensive planner can sometimes be over committed -- which translates into less time for you and your needs.  This can be extremely frustrating, and I actually gain a lot of clients that have gotten fed up with the “great deal” of a planner they've secured.  Also, on the other side of the equation, A planner out of your budget range will leave you feeling jilted that you can’t get all the wedding professionals and bells and whistles you want.  A good planner will be upfront and steer you towards a package that is in your budget (hourly, day of, partial or full service) because they too want it to be a win win!

Remember when investing in a planner,  they will not only help you stay in budget, but save you tons of time and energy.  Well worth the investment at any level of service.

Tip #2: Hire Other Great Wedding Professionals and Listen to What They Have to Say

  • It’s important you are working with the best wedding professional you can afford, and also you can reach a bit for a wedding professional you adore so long as you are willing to cut back elsewhere.  Don’t overreach -- that doesn't leave anyone happy! How do you find a great wedding professional?  

    • Get referrals from friends, other wedding professionals, and online

    • Check references -- not just online, but ask for some people to call

    • See samples of their work and find out what the cost of that service was

    • Pay a fair price -- if you are wheeling and dealing with a wedding professional, sometimes you might not get the best service or the service that originally brought you to them.  I’m not saying it’s impossible to bargain, but let the wedding professional lead and work with your budget. If it’s not a match -- it’s better to find someone that is a match and will be happy with the amount you’re willing to spend.

Tip #3:  Set a Budget & Decor Guideline

I hear lots of complaints about overspending, or not spending enough.  Just like any major project in life, I think it is important for you to decide BEFORE you start shopping how much you want to spend.  When buying a house or car, you would never ask a realtor to show you around or step into a showroom without knowing how much you want to spend.  With wedding planning, I ask you to take it one step further and not only decide how much you want to spend, but break it down into wedding professional categories.   I am happy to share with Hannah’s readers an exclusive look at Wedding Savvy’s suggested wedding professional breakdown by clicking here.   This is a general guideline and will need some tweaking as you start meeting wedding professionals, but it is a great place to start!  

In addition to creating a budget outline, I think it is equally important to create a decor outline.  This can easily be done by creating a Pinterest page you can share with your wedding professionals! Please keep in mind that almost EVERY client has many or some ideas on the page that wedding professionals are going to tell you- -are out of your budget range.  However a good wedding professional can make suggestions as to how to fit your ideas into a realistic budget.


Tip #4:  Be a decision maker

  • Pink napkins or Fuchsia?   Gold Chivaris or Black? You can drive yourself crazy by obsessing over small and large decisions alike.  That is why I suggest creating the budget and decor documents to serve as a guiding force in your decisions.    I always tell clients to trust their instincts, listen to great wedding professional advice, then set it and forget it.  It’ s no fun obsessing over small details. If it is a very bad idea, people will tell you. If lots of people (wedding professionals) are telling you a bad idea…. then start listening!


Tip #5:  It’s NOT going to be Perfect. That is ONE thing I can GUARANTEE you!

  • Did you notice in the opening paragraph I didn’t say ‘perfect” wedding day? Let’s get away from that term all together. Well, let me rephrase that. Your wedding day will be PERFECT for you, and that might include someone jumping out of a trolley window to get your wedding ring that accidentally flew off when you were laughing having fun with your bridal party (another true story). The earlier you come to terms with there is no such thing as a “perfect” wedding where everything is 100% the way you planned, people do what you expect, and mother nature and the traffic Gods are at your beckon call, the more enjoyable your planning process will be. Little things happen. Do your best to plan for success and then let go. 95% of the time the only people who know that something did not go as you planned are you and your planner (and trust me, she IS sweating it and doing whatever she can in the background to make it work for you!) T

    The other 5% of things that guests do notice, they want you to be happy and will do nearly ANYTHING to make that happen. Stand outside in 50 degree weather so you can say “I Do” by the water line instead inside on the ballroom dance floor? Check. Not mention the fact that the Best Man tripped on his way up to make his toast and took down a tray of champagne in the process? Never happened! The band that called the Groom Mike instead of Matt? Who cares (and the videgorapher can edit that out).

    Now that’s not to say that if something is contractually wrong with a wedding professional that had a large impact on your day that you don’t have recourse. I do suggest you follow up with that professional after the wedding day and have a conversation about where you feel they fell short. But don’t take care of it on your wedding day and certainly don’t let your joy be stolen by the fact that the salad dressing was on the salad and not in boats on the table or their was too much peach in your bouquet and you wanted it to have more pink. Trust me, I get it, it’s important and disappointing, but not important enough to steal that smile from your face. I’ve literally been in a snow storm in October and had to move a tented wedding into an unfinished basement and I will tell you guests (and the couple!) had a knock down drag out good time and if it wasn’t for the bride and groom having such a happy attitude, I’m not sure guests would have enjoyed it as much. The happiest brides and grooms I work with let the small stuff roll off their backs and remember, in the end, they are got married!  That is the real purpose of the gathering and they choose to have a positive memory of their day and know it truly was “perfect” for them :)

I hope you have enjoyed my tips for a stress- free wedding planning process and it has added value and perspective to your wedding planning experience. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!

~Raquel Shutt, MBA, CWP, SCWC

CEO, Wedding Savvy, Inc.


9 Outdoor Ceremony Venues we Loved!

If you want the sun on your back or a view of the water, scroll down to see some fabulous options!

Oxon Hill

Oxon Hill Manor, constructed ca. 1928, sits high on a hill with a picturesque view of the Potomac River from the garden area. Its lush grounds, expansive views and stately large rooms make it an immensely popular rental site for meetings, conferences and events. The grounds include formal English gardens, rose bushes surrounding a reflecting pool, and a large brick patio for outdoor entertaining.

Penderyn Estates

With an expansive courtyard, complimented by a pool with a stately 15-foot bar and stunning patio, Penderyn Estate in Queenstown MD is set triumphantly among an abundance of gorgeous trees and colorful gardens. This marble-clad masterpiece is a home of rare and beautiful distinction.

Hemlock Farms

This expansive farm is tucked neatly away in Edgewater, MD off of Solomon's Island Road. Offering a guest house for the newlyweds to stay in and a space for food and beverage service, this venue comes with all the bells and whistles! 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Among the world's "greenest buildings," CBF's Philip Merrill Environmental Center is surrounded by acres of unspoiled natural beauty. The facility offers extraordinary views of the Chesapeake Bay—both inside and out—that are unmatched by any venue in the area.

Catherine Marie

The unobstructed view from the top deck shows 360 degrees of the magnificent Chesapeake Bay. Tables and chairs are plentiful for dining or just enjoying the sun or stars. Catherine was renovated in late 2014 and features new furnishings, carpet, wallpaper and decor.

Pier 5

Their stunning waterfront garden is located at the end of Inner Harbor's Pier 5. Its features include panoramic views of the harbor, transparent or traditional tenting and is located next to the historic Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, a great location for wedding photos!

Elkridge Country Club

Elkridge is set on 117 acres just outside downtown Baltimore. Its elegant surroundings and lush green lawns are the perfect backdrop for you and your hunny to say "I Do"!

Kent Manor Inn

The Kent Manor Inn, located in Stevensville MD, offers two outdoor ceremony locations! You and your fiancé can choose to have a field side or a waterfront ceremony for your guests to enjoy and soak up the scenery!