Well, this page is currently a work in progress... When I first started poking around on Project Wedding, I remember that I found the advice bios from former brides very helpful.
So here are the things I learned... In some cases these are things that worked very well for me, in others, it's something I wish I had done. I hope someone out there finds this useful!
1) Enjoy just being engaged for a while.
Seriously, just being engaged is such a wonderful, tingly, smily, happy thing -- but that new feeling only lasts as long as you make it! As my new sister-in-law told me, and as I would pass on to any newly engaged couple... just enjoy celebrating! Don't start with all the wedding planning (which is fun but also can be hectic and stressful) for as long as you can, whether that's a couple weeks or a couple months.
2) Make your wedding about you as a couple and your marriage
The first thing I leared as we started to plan was that there are a million sources of advice and a LOT of decisions to be made in planning a wedding. Do not let pushy parents, overzealous vendors, picture perfect wedding magazines, or nice-girl guilt, or some former-bride's bio page (hehe) ;) drive your decisions. We were extremely lucky to have parents who just went with the flow, but I still definitely felt external influences at different points in time. Just remember that a wedding is really about you and what you want!
3) Hire people you like. Listen to their advice.
We ended up with a really amazing set of wedding vendors. Not everything was completely perfect... but we wouldn't do things any differently. We met our photographer and just really liked his personality. It was great having him around for the day and his photos rocked. He also recommended a DJ friend of his that was awesome. The first hair appt. I made was with some crabby woman because I had a reccomendation... but I kept looking and just found someone who was super sweet. She was awesome and then recommended a makup-artist who she had worked with a lot and thought was great.
4) Once you find "the one", don't underestimate the FIT of the dress.
This is sooo important! One dress shop owner told me early on: If you are figiting or self-conscious with something about the dress in the store, you are going to be doing the same thing on your wedding day. I only wish I had followed through on this...
At every fitting I would pull at the bust, wondering if I should have it taken in. Every time, the girl at the store reassured me that I didn't NEED it done and that it wasn't worth the expense for just a 1/2 inch. And I kept thinking: Oh, well that's nice she's not trying to upsell me on some alterations that i guess I don't need. BUT... it did bother me the day of and it still bothers me in pictures now! (See my bio pic? That was just a little more of the family jewels than I wanted to show!) If only I had listened to myself! I LOVED my dress and probably nobody noticed but me... but if I could go back and spend the money, I would!
5) Don't sweat the details... at least not on the day-of.
All of the unique details that a couple puts into the wedding are what makes it special. However, I think there's a point where you just have to let things run their course... By far our best wedding present was the gift of a day-of coordinator. Our good friend's sister does this for a living, and he "hired" her as his gift to us. How amazing. I didn't have to worry about my family being in the right place, the linen rentals, DJ, musicians, cake, etc... or even myself. We set out a plan and she executed. It just all came into place and I didn't have to worry about a thing. Priceless!!
6) It may be the best day ever, but you still don't need to spend a fortune ;)
Negotiation works. Vendors, independant bridal shops, etc... they will all bargin a price --it's not an insult. I really wish I had done it more!! Do it yourself ideas are everywhere -- they can be cost-effective and add meaningful, personal details. Creativity counts -- Think of those designer shows were they re-do a room on the cheap... There are creative ideas and high-impact ways to make the most of your $$. For me, for example, having extravagant centerpieces was not as cost/design effective as chair-cover and linen rentals, which really helped to set the mood at the reception.