How To

How to Plan Your Own Wedding

It’s wedding season! I love event planning, so obviously planning my own wedding was a highlight beyond getting to marry my husband. I learned so much from planning our wedding on our own—and I love any excuse to revisit it.

When my husband and I got engaged, we knew we wanted three things: to be married in New York, have a small wedding, and to get married in a church. From there, we managed to plan the most beautiful wedding that perfectly fit us. More than that, we were able to truly share the day with our friends and family. Our wedding day was easy, as stress-free as possible, and memorable! Here are the things I’ve learned from planning my own wedding.

Decide what is important to you
Start by making a list of what is important to you. What are your must-haves? As I mentioned above, our must-haves were the following: getting married in New York, having a small wedding, and getting married in a church. Everything else was just a bonus! We worked on these must-haves first, and started with researching and visiting different churches. We narrowed our list down to three: Calvary-St. George’s, where I’d gone to preschool; the Church of the Heavenly Rest, near where we lived at the time; and St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, which was our first choice, as I grew up a few blocks away and my ancestors had a long relationship with the church. My husband also lived nearby for part of his life. We were so, so lucky that St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery ended up being perfect for us! We absolutely adored the rector, Anne Sawyer–she was so helpful in making our short timeline work perfectly. The church was just right for our wedding, and it’s been so special to revisit in the years since our wedding, even though we no longer live in the city.

Decide on what type of reception you’d like
When we were originally making our plans, we thought we’d have our reception at my mother’s club, the National Arts Club. It is an absolutely beautiful space, but it ended up being too big for the wedding we wanted. After contemplating a formal meal after the wedding, we ultimately decided we wanted to be able to mingle and talk to our guests freely, which would be precluded by seating arrangements. Once we decided on that, we picked a friend’s nightclub to have cocktails and cake! The informality of this arrangement was wonderful–we were able to spend actual time speaking with everyone who attended, particularly our out-of-town guests. Nothing was rushed. We stayed upstairs at the hotel for the weekend, which was also special–afterwards, we just took the elevator up and could get changed and go out to dinner. It was a very only-in-New-York experience and one that I’ll always remember.

Pick where to spend your budget
Once you have your list of must-haves, it’s easy to see what you can choose to spend more money on versus where you can save. Some of the things that weren’t important to us were professional photographs, an elaborate cake, and a wedding dress. I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a dress that I’d wear for a few hours, so I found a beautiful and comfortable one in a silhouette I’d worn before. We had our favorite bakery make us a beautiful and delicious cake, which was so special because I used to go to that bakery as a child with my grandparents, and we still go there today. We also asked a dear friend to take photos on the day, which was lovely as she knew what we would want and what we wouldn’t! (She took the photo in this post–she could have a second career as a photographer!)

Make lists! 
Make a list of all the things you need to do before the wedding and set timelines for each of them. Make sure you send your wedding invitations out on time, keep track of your RSVPs, and arrange for your guests at the reception. Order a cake and have someone to deliver it. We had our cake delivered the morning of our wedding and used this service. Sam was AMAZING. He picked our cake up from our town and drove it to our reception venue. He shared his location with me via the Find My Friends app, so I could track the location of the cake at all times. That was the biggest stressor on our wedding day, and it worked out perfectly!

Have fun!
Besides our wedding cake, we managed to organize everything else a week prior to the wedding. Going into our wedding day, we were able to simply relax and enjoy ourselves. I wouldn’t change anything about our day (except the absence of my late mother and late father-in-law) for the world.

Did you plan your own wedding? If so, what is something you’d share that you learned?

4 thoughts on “How to Plan Your Own Wedding

  1. My wife and I too planned our wedding and reception back in 2005-2006. Once we got her parents on board with our wishes for relatively small and quiet, the experience was pleasant enough, and there were some fun times in the planning. In particular, our meeting and subsequent conversations with the retired judge who married us, and the jazz-flavored mix CDs (for the reception soundtrack) that I burned stand out. A nice affair at a reasonable cost, with about 60 family members, friends, and colleagues in attendance.

    Kind Regards,


      1. Thank you! It was. One bit of splash was when we entered the dining room to the initial crescendo of brass in the original James Bond theme (written by Monty Norman, arranged by John Barry) from 1962. The room went wild when we burst through the doors.

        Kind Regards,


  2. We planned our own wedding as well, and kept it on the smaller side. Our reception was cocktail party style with heavy hors d’oeuvres and cake – the guests (and we!) really enjoyed the relaxed vibe. I agree, not creating a seating chart was not only less stress in the planning process, but encouraged everyone to mingle on the day of. Our reception was also in the same club where my parents had their reception, which was so special to us.

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