Spend your time (and money) on the places where it really matters.

The sight of a wedding-planning checklist can make you feel overwhelmed before the polish on your post-engagement manicure has even dried, which is why it's so important to narrow you focus early on. While it's easy to get excited about all of the possible options and each of your ideas, it's important to remember that not all of those details have the same impact on the overall feel of your big day. Whether you're trying to minimize the number of decisions you need to make or maximize a tight budget, say professional wedding planners Holly Patton Olsen of Perfectly Posh Events and Michaela Caul of Engaged and Inspired, you can rethink some of the most traditional elements of your wedding—without your guests even noticing.

The catch? The pros say there's one detail you should devote more time, energy, and funds towards.

Personal Flowers

Flowers can be one of the wedding's main expenses—as well as one of the biggest visual impacts—so they aren't something you want to forego entirely, but you can definitely scale back on personal flowers without guests noticing. Olsen notices couples swapping groomsmen's boutonnières (which often don't survive after a few hugs) for pocket squares, which are more lasting keepsakes, and mothers of the brides and grooms deciding to skip the corsage (though grandparents still like to have them).


Ceremony programs are a traditional way to honor your bridal party members and help guests follow along with your ceremony—especially if you're combining two faiths or cultures into one service—but they're rarely kept. "More often than not, ceremony programs are left behind and discarded for the trash," says Olsen, "which makes them an easy thing to forego." Instead, display a custom sign at the entrance to your ceremony space that lists the names and roles of people participating in the wedding and describes any unique parts of the service.

large white reception tent lit with string lights


You've probably attended enough weddings to know that favors rarely become treasured keepsakes. "Very few guests will notice if you opt not to offer take home gifts," says Olsen. "More often than not, guests are getting spoiled with a great night of eating, drinking, and entertainment, so the favor really isn't necessary." If you do decide to send each guest home with a token of your special day, Caul has one suggestion: "On this one, go big or go home."

Upscale Menu Add-Ons

While the quality of the food and service is one part of the day that will get your guests' attention, you can simplify: Choose a plated salad and family-style entrée, suggests Olsen, for a dinner that feels more formal than a buffet but is less costly than a full-service plated dinner. And when it comes to "elaborate desserts," says Caul, you can cross those off your list: "Hopefully—and usually—guests are occupied with the dance floor!"

Floral Arrangements

When designing your ceremony and reception décor, says Olsen, "talk to your florist about choosing arrangements that can be used for both the ceremony and reception." Repurposing flowers helps keep your costs down without sacrificing the look of either space. You can also streamline your florals by opting for "heavy greenery with a few statement pieces," says Caul. Olsen agrees: "I recommend that they choose one 'wow' element to focus their floral on and then keep the centerpieces on the table pretty minimalist"—which she did at one wedding by hanging vines and bistro lights above the tables to draw the eye up toward the venue's dazzling chandelier, and decorating the table with small bud vases and candles.

Pay Attention to Scheduling Instead

One part of your guests' experience that you don't want to ignore is the timeline. Plan appropriately for food and drink between events, and make sure your planner or day-of contact is ready to make adjustments as needed during the event—like if your photos run long, the band has trouble setting up, or the food service slows. "If guests have to wait around and get bored or drunk because they haven't been given enough food over the course of an extended cocktail hour, then that will be very noticeable and be something guests are talking about during and after the event," says Olsen. "Guests may not remember exactly what your flowers looked like or what they had for dinner, but they will certainly remember if they had to wait around or if the band played for a short amount of time and the party ended early."


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