Becoming a Bride: 10 Essential Wedding Planing Tips

Becoming a Bride - planners

I’m now a few months into my engagement and thanks to my Becoming a Bride series, I’ve had the chance to collect advice from a few different wedding planners. For most, a full-time wedding planner is out of the budget (including myself) so read below for these very essential tips from the professionals at a price that will fit anyone’s budget … free!

Here are the best pieces of advice I’ve received from DeNeia Whitted of Weddings by Day, Tamera Jones of Tamera J Events, and Fallon of Fallon Carter Weddings:

10. Get It Insured!
Weddings can add up so it’s important to make sure that, like your valuables, if something goes wrong you’re taken care of. Tamera insists you make sure every vendor is insured and bonded. They might not tell you so you’ll need to ask. Many venues require an insurance policy, which can cost about $150-200, but this will protect you and your venue. It may even cover your dress and your vendors in case of disaster – like it doesn’t fit or they cancel!

9. Let Your Family Help … A Little.
Whether it’s your overexcited sister, your overbearing mother, or your overwhelming aunts, you’re bound do have some family member that can’t wait to help you plan your wedding. In fact, they might take over if you’re not careful! Tamera explains that you can find ways to let them have a voice in the parts of the wedding that aren’t as important to you. If you don’t care about the cake or centerpieces, assign it to someone as a special task to make them feel involved. But most importantly, she says, “You need to have a voice in it before you let them have a voice.”

8. Don’t Spoil the Surprise.
When people ask you about your wedding planning, you can just respond, “I’m just starting,” says Tamera. If you share your ideas with everyone, you give them an invitation to give their opinion on what you should and shouldn’t do. And when it comes to weddings, I’ve learned everyone has an opinion. “Learn to shut out those extra voices early. They will learn to respect you early,” she says. Besides, if everyone knows what you’re planning, they won’t be surprised on the big day!

7. A Taste Test is a Must.
DeaNeia told me to never trust a caterer if they won’t set up a tasting before you’ve booked with them. Schedule a time to try several options for menu items. If you’re comparing several caterers, try to do all of the tastings in the same day so it’ll be easier to compare says Tamera.

6. Videographers Are Not Essential.
This has been heavily debated by many people I’ve talked too—married and professionals alike. I’ve talked to those who didn’t have videographers who regretted it and those who did fork over the cash and have never watched their videos. DeNeia backed up my personal idea that photographs will help capture the essence of the moment and are more easily shared and viewed again. Photos are classic and will last forever. She says, “If I have enough in my budget, I’ll do it. I pray that video falls 8 to 10 out of 10 (in the list of priorities) because it’s so expensive.”

5. Your Engagement Session is Your Photographer’s Test Run.
I was debating whether getting engagement photos was worth the price and hassle. DeaNeia explained that they’re important to help you get a sense of the photographer’s style and build a connection. Your photographer is the second most intimate person at your wedding and will be there for all of the most special moments—from getting ready to your first dance. You want your engagement session photos to make you feel like you were there. If you get the photos back and don’t like them, you have time to find another wedding photographer. If you don’t have the test run, it might be too late.

4. Step Away From the Pinterest.
Every wedding professional I’ve talked to has a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. DeNeia explains, “You want all of it, but you can’t have it all. You can’t have cake pops, cake, and a candy bar.” Tamera explains that Pinterest should help inspire you and help you ask the right questions. Don’t show someone a pin and say, “I want my wedding to look like this.” It won’t and it shouldn’t because that’s not your wedding!

3. Negotiate.
Flattery goes a long way. “If there is a vendor you LOVE, but know you cant afford, tell them and see if they are willing to work out a deal. Knowing your budget will help you be a better negotiator, but be realistic,” explained Fallon. Don’t forget to factor in taxes (and gratuity) to a quoted price – a vendor or service could easily become out of budget. You can also ask if there is a discount if you pay in cash or in full. DeNeia also mentioned that a wedding planner can help you negotiate a better rate.

2. Limit Your Choices.
This particular piece of advice has been one of the most helpful to me. There are SO many options to choose from out there that it can become overwhelming and make it difficult to make a decision. Tamera says to look at no more than six venues and arrange to look at them back to back, making them easier to compare. Consider 2-3 florists, no more than 3 photographers, no more than 3 bands, and no more than 2 DJs. And book in this order: venue, planner, catering, photographer.

1. Plan YOUR perfect wedding.
Tamera asks her new brides to tell her about their favorite shoes, their favorite wardrobe ensemble, their favorite color and their favorite restaurant. She doesn’t ask about their color pallet or what they want on their tables. These personal questions will bring out your style. Your wedding should reflect you as people and you as a couple, not a bridal magazine.

See more of my Becoming a Bride series here and keep checking in for more ideas and advice that I gather along the way!

Becoming a Bride: Fabulous Florals

This is a series that I’m writing and producing for This blog was originally published on


Hi! You may have seen my post last week, intro’ing this series – Becoming a Bride. I work for The Queen Latifah Show and am recently engaged, so I’m going to be sharing tips and tricks from all the experts I can get my hands on–figuratively, of course–on how to navigate the crazy waters of planning a wedding on a real-life budget.

If you’re recently engaged like me, picking a florist and your florals are probably a ways down the line, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to chat with florist to the stars Jeff Leatham when he visited the show last week. I had the change to ask him for his tips and tricks for choosing a florist, how to get the most bang for your flower buck, and how to keep those flowers lasting longer once you get your paws on them. Take a look at this backstage Q&A below:

Becoming a Bride: Free Champagne

This is a series that I’m writing and producing for This blog was originally published on

becoming a bride

Hi I’m Steph! I work on The Queen Latifah Show and just got engaged to my boyfriend of two-and-a-half years, Kalem. And, at the behest of the editor of this lovely site, I have decided to blog about my experience planning the biggest party of my life on a real-life budget. Which (let’s be real) means it will not be Kimye style.

Plus, I hope to share advice from experienced wedding professionals, unlike myself. If you are one, hit me up!

Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself. I am insanely organized, I’ve had a wedding board since I started on Pinterest two years ago, and I do NOT believe in spending a house down-payment on my wedding. So I will be looking for many ways to make this sha-bang unique, but also inexpensive.

Now, let me share the first few things I’ve learned:

  • It’s OK to wait to tell everyone. Because as soon as you do, they will want to know every detail and when is the wedding? and how many people are you inviting? and can I bring my boyfriend? I wanted to tell everyone right away and then once I started in on the phone calls, I was a little overwhelmed. Just be vague about your plans because obviously you have no idea about your wedding – you just found out you’re having one!
  • Every girl you meet will ask to see your ring. Which is so much fun, but sucks if you need to get it resized, which you probably will. I’m without my ring right now, but at least it’s at the jeweler and not at the bottom of my kitchen drain.
  • Which brings me to my other point, you should probably get insurance for your ring. Especially if you’re like me, meaning you would lose your nose if it wasn’t attached. I hear if you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you can include it in your policy. There are also companies who will offer insurance on JUST your ring, if that’s what you decide. Just Google “Wedding Ring Insurance.” It’s on my to-do list…
  • Get a head count. I had decided to not do any planning for a whole month and just “enjoy my engagement,” but it’s now only two weeks in and I’ve already toured two venues. How did this happen? Because I’m a crazy person. But I decided the first thing to do was count the number of guests I would invite if I could invite everyone. Then I tagged them by priority (in case I need to chop it down) and who is likely to travel or not. But once I did that, I started to see how big my venue will need to be. And I actually breathed a big sigh of relief because the list was smaller than I expected (it’s hard to know more than 200 people well).
  • Budgets are hard. I started this thing with the idea that we were not going to spend more than $10,000 on everything. To those of you who are not married, that sounds like a lot. To you Mrs. out there, you probably just burst out laughing. It’s not impossible, but it is TIGHT. As soon as I started to research venues, I found I needed to loosen the change purse a little. But, I’m in Los Angeles. I would be more than happy to have a wedding in a field, but we don’t have many of those around here (but FYI, those weddings are not without their expenses, when you think about permits, generators, rentals, etc. Didn’t think about that, did you?).
  • Don’t pick a date. Unless you have a specific date that you NEED to get married, it made the most sense to me to find my venue first and see what dates they have available. If the place is in high demand, I realized I might need to be a bit flexible.
  • You’re only a bride once! I say this because the thing I’m looking forward to most about planning a wedding is going to silly bride events where you get free shiz and champagne and get to walk around with your besties. Sign up for everything! And register for every bridal blog. They have tons of giveaways and you could win something big – even a honeymoon!


Here are some of the resources I’m digging so far:

Brides Magazine …of course. <– if you sign up here, they have tools to build your budget, guest list, checklist, registry, and even a wedding website!
Broke Ass Bride’s Wedding Guide <– Yes, author Dana LaRue guest blogs for this site, but I did PAY for her book and I love it! Great realistic tips for planning on a budget.
Green Wedding Shoes <– Lots of beautiful real weddings for inspiration (with photos taken by photographers only Kelly Rowland can afford). Plus, DIYs, vendors, and giveaways.
100 Layer Cake <– inspiration, vendors, DIYs, and giveaways!
Style Me Pretty <– Pretty weddings, vendors, and DIYs
OffBeat Bride <– If you’re looking for something off the beaten path of weddings, this site is for you.
The Wedding Chicks <– Among real weddings, DIYs, and vendors, they also have FREE printables, like invites and signs! <– This is a website and an app, and not just wedding related. It allows you to follow all of your favorite blogs in one place. Like an RSS feed or Google alerts but WAY better. Follow all of the above blogs with this cool tool!

If you have suggestions for me to include in my next update or want to share your tips for this series, tweet @QLShow with the hashtag #BecomingABride!