1. Don't be superbride.
You're smart, you're focused, you're energetic. But you're still one woman. Superbrides—those engaged gals who devote every waking hour to wedding planning, brushing aside all offers of help—eventually run out of steam and end up near the big day with favors unassembled, invitations unstamped, shoes undyed, heads uncounted. How to avoid this fate? Call in your trusty sidekicks before you're really scrambling. Here's a little secret: People want to help. So do yourself a huge favor and accept their kind offers. Then, once you've got a cadre of pals stuffing your envelopes, sit back and have your toenails polished. You deserve it.
2. Don't have a cash bar.
Forcing guests to reach into their sequinned clutches every time they want to enjoy a celebratory champagne or a refreshing gin and tonic is just plain rude. Think of it like this: You invite people to a party—your wedding, for heaven's sake!—and then you ask them to shell out for part of the fun. It's a recipe for bad feelings! Keep in mind that you don't have to have a top-shelf bar; in fact, there are plenty of other ways to serve and save. You could offer wine and beer only or create a signature cocktail. You might have an open bar during the cocktail hour only and serve wine at dinner. Ask your caterer to suggest lower-cost options.
3. Don't include registry info on invites.
Registering is a good thing for everyone. When gift buyers are steered to the things you actually want and need, it saves them time—and saves you from having to contend with a pile of cut-crystal candy bowls. Registry info, however, does not belong on your wedding invitation. Why? Giving wedding gifts is never mandatory, though the vast majority of attendees will naturally want to do just that. Best way to get the message across is by word of mouth on the part of your mother or your bridesmaids or on bridal-shower invites.
4. Don't be bossy with your bridesmaids.
In the most traditional sense, your bridesmaids, in particular your maid of honor, are there to stand up for you as you take your vows, to act as witnesses to this solemn event. Somewhere along the line, bridesmaids have become, well, more like maids, and to an extent there's nothing wrong with that. These are your sisters, cousins, best friends, future in-laws, and there's something sort of sweet about the way they gather around you, wearing finery you picked out, helping you pin up your bustle, holding your flowers. But some brides ask (or worse, demand) far more: They expect their bridesmaids to shell out for needlessly expensive outfits, to run endless errands, to wear their hair just so, to attend (and buy gifts for) countless all-for-you parties. Don't let this happen. Be sensitive to how you'd feel if the tables were turned. Gifts to the maids are always welcome, of course, but a little kindness and care go a lot further than any pashmina shawl or monogrammed trinket.
5. Don't make guests cool their heels for hours between ceremony and reception.
I once attended a lovely wedding in a quaint wooden church in a rural area. Beautiful. Then I checked my invite. What?! The reception was scheduled for much later in the day, at a location that was a good 45-minute drive away. Sometimes it can be hard to plan a perfectly seamless schedule, especially if your heart is set on sites that are wildly inconvenient to one another or if your ceremony and reception times don't line up. But do your best. If you really must wed at, say, your childhood church, confine your search for reception locales to local spots. If that's truly impossible or if you can't avoid a time gap, provide transportation and/or a comfortable spot for guests to hang out while they wait.
6. Don't plan a difficult destination wedding.
Ah, the lure of the exotic faraway wedding—you can just picture it, can't you? Exchanging vows on top of a volcano in Hawaii… or how about in a ski gondola or on a majestic slope in the Austrian Alps? Hmmm, nice idea, but will Grandma Gert be up to the trip? Will your college pals drain their bank accounts to get there? No, and no. Destination weddings can be terrific, but as with any wedding, it's not only about you, it's also about your guests. While some friends and families welcome—and can afford—an Alpine adventure, others will end up resenting the cost and hassle or simply decline the invitation. Make it easy for everyone by (a) choosing a well-traveled locale, (b) planning well in advance and (c) providing information and help (securing group rates, for example). Bon voyage!
7. Don't go DIY crazy.
You know that clever bride who sewed her own dress and designed and made her own invitations? Or the one who baked her own three-tiered cake? Everyone's in awe of the girls who can do these things, and I say good for them—if they did it because they really, really wanted to, and if they managed not to get stressed out. The point of these projects is to use your craft/sewing/baking/designing skills to save money and to put a one-of-a-kind stamp on some aspect of the wedding. But if you are really not the hands-on type, don't drive yourself crazy hot-gluing tulle and folding fiddly favors until 3 a.m. Do only what you can, and beg, borrow or buy the rest.
8. Don't let your parents (or his!) steamroller your invite list.
Back in the old days, when parents footed the bill and brides were barely out of high school, the invite list was more Mom and Dad's idea of a good party than the bride and groom's. Times have changed, but that doesn't stop some pushy parents from insisting on having the whole book club/golf club/garden club/Elk's Lodge at your wedding. The best advice is to brush up on your negotiating skills and start early. Once you have a budget in mind, you can rough out the number of guests it's feasible to invite. Then ask both sets of parents for invite lists, in order of preference, so you can cut from the bottom if necessary. Stay in charge!
9. Don't forget about your fiancé.
Doesn't sound like something you'd do, but plenty of women surprise themselves. We've got our heads stuck in a glossary of floral terms (tussy mussy? anemone?) when all our men know is that there will be flowers at the wedding. We're neglecting our regular TV and pizza night in favor of dress fittings. Hey, listen up: You're not just having a wedding, you're getting married—to that guy over there, sitting on the couch, munching a cold slice of pizza. Put aside the bridal to-do lists and go give him a hug, would you? All kidding aside, the engagement can be a stressful period for a couple. This is not just party-planning time, it's major life transition time. So talk to each other. Talk about your life together. Talk about what color you want to paint the bedroom, what you want to name the puppy you'll adopt—whatever. Anything but flowers and crab-cake appetizers, please.
10. Don't bow to bridal peer pressure.
It's insidious. You just got back from a friend's wedding and you're battling the green monster: She had an eight-piece band (while you booked an inexpensive DJ). She had Dom Perignon, you're having a nice sparkling wine. Well, stop right there. If you scramble your plans to best hers (or anyone else's), two things will happen: 1) You'll go over budget and 2) you'll hate yourself for it. Worse, you'll veer off the course you set for yourself when you imagined your own dream wedding. And you'll hate yourself for that, too. She made her wedding hers. And you're making your wedding yours. And that's an “I do!”