Our story reached new heights on July 16th, 2016. Years of loving, growing, and planning led to the moment where we said “I do” in front of our friends and family and it was quite the experience. With the conclusion of this relationship series upon us I wanted to share, in no particular order, the biggest lessons and tips I happened upon during my wedding planning process. I hope and pray that it helps your planning season unfold smoothly!

Pray, Meditate, & Focus On Peaceful Thoughts

I did a lot of praying throughout our engagement and wedding planning process. I wanted to marry the man of my dreams in perfect health. I wanted our family and friends present to witness such a beautiful union. I wanted perfect July weather; sunny but not unbearably hot. I wanted favor with vendors and everyone we were going to interact with. I prayed for all of these things but could have meditated and focused on calming and peaceful things more – especially during the wedding weekend. The weeks leading up to our wedding were filled with more traveling than I cared for, planning a move to Houston, apartment hunting, and other tasks to set us up for life after the wedding. A lot of these things were on my mind the morning of the wedding, as crazy as that sounds. I’m sure I would have felt an increased sense of peace had I tamed my thoughts and focused on things that calmed me and not my intense to-do list the morning of our wedding. If possible, steal a moment away from everyone to be alone with God and your thoughts the morning of your big day. It will relax and center you before the festivities begin.

Take Care Of Your Mind & Body

Your body is a temple and it should go without saying that you should shower it with TLC. I know that a lot of women feel immense pressure to drop a lot of weight in lieu of their big day, and I’m not against getting fit, but taking care of your body consists of more than being a certain dress size. Please don’t buy into the hype that you will not look beautiful if you’re not several pounds lighter with Michelle Obama arms because newsflash – you will look amazing because you are fearfully and wonderfully made! Nourish your body with food that energizes you, move your body more, get that facial or massage to relax and rejuvenate you, drink more water, and my goodness – get more sleep! Your body will certainly thank you and you’ll feel amazing on your wedding day.

Plan A Wedding That Suits Your Personality

We live in a world where comparing weddings is the norm. Picking apart what we like and dislike and aspiring to have a social media acceptable wedding is becoming more common. It’s important to realize that your wedding is uniquely yours. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating ideas that you like but it’s more important to have a wedding that reflects your personality. Are you both reserved and wanting an intimate affair? Are you two outgoing, love a themed event, are you eclectic, over-the-top, or laid-back? Let those elements of who you two are show in your wedding. It is perfectly fine to let your parents, in-law’s, friends, and other well-wishers know that you want a wedding that is authentically your own and not a carbon copy of someone else’s.

Pick Your Tribe With Careful Contemplation

It’s an honor to have the people you hold dear backing you up on one of the biggest days of your life but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that sometimes being dear to you isn’t enough when it comes to having an integral part in your wedding day. Carefully consider who truly has your best interest at heart, who would go above and beyond to execute your plans, who would answer your late night calls, rise to the occasion when something is asked of them, and who is committed to not adding extra stress in your life on a day when you need to be relaxed and calm. Let those you pick to take part in your big day aware of your expectations early on (and kindly remind them when needed). Lastly, trust your instincts. If you have an inkling that someone may/may not be the perfect fit for your wedding act on it. Don’t succumb to external or superficial pressures on something so important. You and your spouse deserve to be surrounded by positive energy.

Create A Budget & Stick To It

I’m thankful that Chris is a huge proponent of tackling debt because it held me accountable and put my desires for our wedding in perspective. I had to remember that our save the dates/invites would wind up in the trash at some point, the festivities would not last for more than a day or two, the food would be consumed one way or another, the decor taken down, and our lovely guests would return to their lives at the end of the night. Sure, we wanted a beautiful wedding and we wanted our guests to have a great time but we didn’t want to break the bank for it. We were fresh out of school with mounting debt and worked hard to pay for as much of the wedding as we could. We were blessed with family members that graciously contributed to the festivities but we still cut costs as much as we could. To us, it made absolutely no sense to go further into debt and/or take out loans to make our wedding more lavish. We created a budget based on our income at the time and stuck to it. I designed my save the date for free online, ordered my invites through Vista Print, enlisted the help of family/friends to create my wedding program and to decorate the church, borrowed wedding decor from a sweet friend, and weren’t ashamed to look for cheaper alternatives whenever we could. Looking back, I know there were more things we could have done to save even more money, the opportunities are endless after all, but I’m pleased that we were able to start our lives together with one less debt to worry about.

Vet Your Vendors & Ask Tough Questions

I could create an entire post on this topic alone because it’s extremely important to make sure your vendors are not only capable of getting the task done but that they understand your vision and are committed to executing it. Ask questions, review their previous work, and give specific instructions on what you want and what you do not want. We were in constant communication with our photographer, videographer, decorator, and church/reception venue. It was important for us to know exactly what we were getting into. It’s important to solidify your vendors and get contracts signed as quickly as you can to avoid having to pick one out of desperation and always, always, trust your instincts when it comes to doing business with them. Take my bridesmaid dresses, for instance. It took entirely too long for me to come to a consensus on the color and style and I simply didn’t have the time to hunt for dresses at a store. I was referred to a local seamstress by a friend and knew almost from the beginning that I wasn’t a priority to her. I felt like my hands were tied since I was only a few months out from the wedding. If I could do it over again I would buy dresses from a store and not deal with the stress that came with having them made but hindsight is 20/20, right?

Consider A Wedding Planner Or Day Of Coordinator

I’m a huge proponent of wedding planners if you can afford one, especially if you’re not a stickler for details. I chose to go with a day of coordinator since I planned a majority of my wedding on my own. My day of coordinator handled the major details of my wedding day and managed the flow of the day. Just like any other vendor, seriously consider who you bring on to your team and ask tough questions. Make sure they have experience planning/coordinating a wedding of your magnitude. Don’t know what you should be asking? Reach out to family/friends that have experience with weddings and pick their brains. Ask for feedback from others that may have worked with your planner/coordinator in the past and again, trust your instincts. Don’t shy away from making sure your expectations and desires are made clear from the beginning.

Ask For Assistance

Like I mentioned earlier, we utilized the resources and talents our friends/family possessed to help make our day special. The Lord truly blessed me with help that came from many places all because I opened up about the things I still needed assistance with. For instance, my MOH knew the perfect place to buy silk flowers for my cake and bouquets. Not only did she help pick them out she put them together and created my card box. She also had a co-worker who was able to alter my wedding dress at an amazing price. A good friend of mine referred me to the perfect hairstylist that happened to be way below my budget and another made my cake stand. A bridesmaid of mine is extremely crafty and created the perfect sign for my nephew to carry down the aisle. Another bridesmaid volunteered to do my make-up for our engagement ceremony and did an amazing job! After talking about the perfect wedding dress I saw online a former patient I treated put me in touch with her daughter that owned the same dress (that had never been worn and only needed to be altered) and offered it to me for several hundred dollars less than the regular price! I only wished that I asked for more help from my bridesmaids to handle the little tasks I was bound to forget about (because I did forget quite a few things). At the end of it all, we were extremely grateful for all of the help we received from the amazing people in our lives.

Fight For What You Want But Learn When To Compromise

Chris and I realized early on that we would end up having a wedding with over 300 guests, not because we necessarily wanted one, but because our families knew so many people! We could have (and probably should have) fought a little more to keep the guest count to a number we were comfortable with but we also wanted to give our parents a chance to have a say in our day. We did, however, have several things we were not willing to compromise on. Certain vendors, our traditional Nigerian outfits, the order of service, and venue were some of the things we were adamant on having our way. The input of family/friends is important but the last thing you want to do is look back on your day wishing you could have had more of the things you and your spouse wanted.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Again, I could write an entire post on this! I felt extremely nervous during my entire wedding weekend. I was so afraid my plans would fall through, that there would be too many eyes on us, or that something would go wrong. Newsflash, something will go wrong but it will probably be something so minor no one will even notice. It will only seem like a big deal to you because you’ve spent months fine-tuning details and obsessing over this special day. I mean, my cake was leaning to the side, my reception program went out of order, there was a change in the music I would walk down the aisle to hours before the wedding, and the church we used decorated the inside of their church with brown construction paper (from ceiling to floor) the night before my wedding for vacation bible school without telling me! I internalized all of these small, and relatively unimportant mishaps and freaked all the way out instead of focusing on the fact that I needed to dance the night away with Chris, our family, and friends. Remember to focus on the positive and the fact that the goal is to get down the aisle (and have fun doing it). Anything beyond that is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Take a breath and remind yourself to stay in the moment with your beau and loved ones. The day will fly by and it’s more important to have a great time with those that want to celebrate you as opposed to freaking out over things you cannot control.

Thank you so much for following along during this series. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have additional questions, especially if you’re in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. As always, share your thoughts with me in the comment section below. I’d love to hear about your engagement/wedding season and the lessons you’ve learned along the way.

New to the series? Catch up below!

He Has Made Everything Beautiful In His Time

Unpacking The Proposal

Premarital Counseling Made Me Feel Normal

– photos taken by Temi Coker –