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What I Wish I Knew Before My Wedding Day

 Your wedding planning isn't finished until you've heard this hard-earned advice from women who've been there, done that – so you don't have to.
1. Have a backup videographer—or two
"We opted to save money on a videographer and splurge on a photographer we loved, so we asked our friends to film the big moments for us," said AJ Hanley (in photo), who got married on May 1, 2010. "Little did we know that everyone we asked assumed someone else had it taken care of, and the only video of our choreographed first dance came out blank." With all the technology and gadgets to easily record video, it's no wonder people are scaling back on hiring professionals to tape their weddings. Yet devices like the iPhone and Flip camera—not to mention your guests—aren't entirely reliable.

CHECKLIST: If you don't get a videographer, be clear about who will tape the special parts of your big day.

2. Spend more time with mom the morning of your wedding
When Roseann Manarte (in photo) got married, the morning of her wedding was a big blur. "There was so much confusion and shuffling between stuff to get done that I don't really remember taking a few minutes to sit and breathe," says Manarte. "My mom and I are so close and she did so much to help plan my wedding, I wish I could have spent some alone time with her; I know it was such an important moment for her as well." Her wedding was the fairy tale she always imagined, but Roseann says she would have allotted some "personal time" into her morning preparations.

CHECKLIST: Even though you are the icing on the cake, don't forget about the people who helped you get to this moment. Take a few minutes to sit with each of them before you walk down the aisle.

 3. Hire a wedding planner for an outdoor venue
Melissa Consorte (in photo) always dreamed of an outdoor wedding with a beautiful natural backdrop, much like the one in upstate New York where she got married in 2007. "While it sounds so simple and rustic, the workload and responsibilities were twice as much as I expected," she says. "I never thought I'd be someone that would use a wedding planner, but if I had budgeted for one, it would have been much more enjoyable and probably would have cost the same in the long run." Melissa didn't account for all the things that an outdoor wedding would need: generators, bathrooms, grills for the caterer, pitchers for the water—even the salt and pepper shakers she remembered the day before her walk down the aisle. "Wedding planners and event designers know all of the key vendors (florists, caterers, bartenders, etc.) because they work with them on a regular basis. Many times, those close relationships can mean discounts or better pricing for the bride," says Tara Wilson, Event Designer and Entertaining Expert, of Tara Wilson Events. Plus, you won't have nightmares that you forgot to order wine glasses or butter knives.

CHECKLIST: You have to pay a wedding planner a percentage of the total cost of your wedding, but the discounts, convenience, and peace of mind they offer can be worth it.

4. Learn how to bustle your dress….or make sure your bridesmaids do
You're wearing the dress of your dreams, but your family and friends don't know how to bustle the back. Take it from Amy Dedic (in photo), who got married in April 2006 and wore a princess gown on her big day. "I lost a lot of weight and I had to have last-minute alterations," she says. "My dress was literally ready about two days before, so they offered to come to my reception to bustle the dress for me, but I didn't think I'd need that. There was so much going on at my wedding that we were all flustered and couldn't remember how to do it; we wasted over 20 minutes figuring it out." In the end, they managed to make the dress look "bustled," however, " I had to carry half of my train the entire night." This didn't ruin her evening, but it sure did make dancing more difficult.

CHECKLIST: You spent the time, money, and effort finding the perfect dress, go the extra mile and make sure you know how to work it. Take a few bridesmaids to your final fitting—and don't leave until the person you have designated as bustling buddy knows how to fix your dress. It doesn't hurt to have a backup bustler too!

5. Don't underestimate the liquor bill!
Kara Sarisky (in photo) tied the knot this April at a trendy restaurant in downtown Manhattan. They kept the guest list low so they could splurge on the gorgeous atmosphere of the location and the delicious food that their favorite eatery offered. However, they didn't set a liquor bill with the bar beforehand. "We budgeted about $2,000 for liquor since it was daytime and many of our guests don't even drink, but we never gave the bartenders specific rules as to what our guests could or could not have," says Sarisky. "I figured with the amount of guests we had, and since it was brunch, this was plenty—I was shocked when I looked at the bill!" Kara discovered later that rounds of shots and guests sampling a wide variety of signature cocktails on the menu had accounted for the expensive bar bill.

CHECKLIST: Set out a menu at the bar that your guests are allowed to order from. Anything not on the list, they will have to pay for themselves.

6. Make a shot list for your photographer
Georgianna Dente (in photo) was meticulous in planning her lavish wedding—down to customized notes tucked into each guests' napkin—but didn't discuss what pictures she wanted beforehand. "I mentioned the typical pictures I wanted taken—first dance, cutting the cake, etc.—however, I didn't think I needed to tell my photographer to take photos of my tables and centerpieces," says Dente. "The only memories we have of our centerpieces and table settings is the hard work we put into designing them—and they looked so beautiful!" On each table, she had four-foot tall clear vases filled with water and green grapes, brimming with three-dozen lilac roses at the top to reflect the luxurious aesthetics of the room. "It seemed like such a common sense thing to photograph and we regret not having formal pictures of the little details we poured our hearts into."

CHECKLIST: "This is the one day you'll be in a room full of special people you haven't seen in a long time," says Wilson. "I always urge brides to provide their photographers with a detailed 'shot list' to ensure every memory is captured." Explain to your photographer exactly what—and who—you want captured. Go bridezilla on this one!


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