All photos by: Kristen Soileau Portraits

All photos by: Kristen Soileau Portraits

I am a planner at heart. So, naturally, when I got engaged, I was beyond excited to finally be planning my dream wedding. And, that's exactly what it was... a dream. When I look back on that magical day, the biggest grin grows across my face.

My husband and I had an 11-month engagement. Some may say that 11 months is too long, but it was a perfect time frame for me. I had ample time to plan and prepare for our wedding day. And in those 11 months, I learned a lot about wedding planning. 

For those out there in the midst of planning, here is some advice from one bride to another:

1. Be yourself. When you become a bride-to-be, you suddenly have hundreds of decisions to make ahead of you. And there's this pressure to pick a theme for your wedding and to have everything coordinate, match and make sense. I felt this pressure immensely and it gave me anxiety. I didn't know what "theme" I wanted my wedding to be, I just knew what things made me happy. Finally, my florist alleviated this pressure for me when she told me, "Ashley, when you make a decision for your wedding, just make sure it's something that you love. If you love it, everything will come together and your wedding will reflect you and Joel's personalities." I loved that and it gave me so much freedom when planning the rest of my wedding. 

2. Live in the moment. When you're engaged and planning a wedding, it's easy to have your eyes set on the prize. For months, I was very focused on my wedding day and the actual ceremony and reception taking place. This is perfectly normal, however, don't let the anticipation of the wedding day take away from the excitement of planning it. Tasting cakes, trying on wedding dresses, shopping for flowers, having fun with your bridesmaids, picking out a venue... these are once-in-a-lifetime moments. Savor them. I know that planning a wedding has it's stressful times, but don't wish them away. I would love to go back and tell myself to stop, take a deep breath and appreciate the moment. 

3. Not everything will go according to plan, and that's okay. I don't think I've ever talked to a bride that had everything go smoothly on the day of the wedding. I am not saying this to scare you. I am saying this to prepare you. If someone would have told me beforehand all the things that weren't going to go according to plan on my wedding day, I would have been so upset. However, on the day of... those are the things that make your day your day. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter that the boutonnieres didn't get pinned on for pictures. It doesn't matter that the wedding favors didn't get put out in time for everyone to grab one. It doesn't matter that there was a missing groomsmen in the cake picture. What matters is that you and your loved one are joined together as one, surrounded by family and friends who love you. 

4. Have a private dining moment. This was one of the best decisions we made when planning out the schedule of our wedding day. Right after Joel and I were married, signed the wedding license, and rode to the reception with our wedding party, we went into a private room and ate dinner. It may sound strange, but this was such a precious time together. We were able to actually taste our wedding food, smile and giggle about being newlyweds, and take a breath before being the center of attention for the next 3 hours. It was only 20 minutes, but that short time recharged me and made me excited and ready for the reception. 

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