17 Things No One Tells You About Getting Married

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Wedding planning can be one of the happiest phases in your life — but it can also be one of the most stressful. Even if you're planning a low-key event — or you think you're the chillest bride in the world — you're still bound to get hung up on something during the process.

And unfortunately, even if you think you have all the details worked out, you will likely forget at least one small thing — and even if you don't, there's always at least one unexpected thing that goes wrong. A lost thank-you card, a late flower delivery, a hiccup with the marriage license — it is bound to happen, and when it does, you just have to roll with it.

We asked Refinery29 staffers to describe what they wish they knew before starting wedding planning. Some of the tips came from people still in the engagement and planning stages. Others are from employees who are already married — but still remember the details they lost sleep over. Click through to see our best tips and secrets. Happy planning!


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Ideally, you'll have a bridal party filled with your best friends, but because of family politics, that might not always be possible. One Refinery29 staffer recounted inviting her husband's sister to be a bridesmaid — only to have her complain the entire time.

And if the people you ask to be in the party are your friends, they still might say no. If a friend's tight on cash, she might not have the money to shell out for a bridesmaid dress, plus the bachelorette party, bridal shower, and travel costs. Don't take it personally — it doesn't mean she doesn't value your relationship.
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Hopefully, everyone on your invite list is someone you'd love to have there to celebrate with you. But whether it's because of health reasons or prior commitments, you'll undoubtedly have family and friends who can't make the big day — even if you give them plenty of notice about the date. Remind yourself that they'd probably love to be there if they could. Instead of dwelling on it, focus on the support you'll have from everyone who is there.
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Make sure you leave plenty of time to get your marriage license — and make an appointment, if your state allows you to do that.
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"When my husband — then fiancé — and I initially registered to start the process toward our marriage license, we neglected to realize that marriage-license applications expire [in New York state] if you don't get married within two months of filing. We registered the license in January with the intention of getting married in August and announcing our engagement with the invites.

"Well, the whole thing kinda went sideways when we were approaching the expiration of our license application by about a month and we were both about to be out of town (separately) for a month. So with one day's notice, we pulled together two witnesses, hired an officiant named Vlada Von Shats on nyceremonials.com, and made her marry us on the East River Ferry. It turned out to be hilarious. The ferry operators let us pop a bottle of vintage Dom on the ferry. The tourists were confused AF.

"We announced our engagement later that day, even though we were already married. It all turned out totally awesome, but I still sorta wish I knew about the whole marriage-license expiration thing, because this could've all gone super badly." — Michelle
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"If you are having a friend or family member officiate your wedding in NYC, give yourself a minimum of 40 days before the wedding to take care of paperwork. After registering your officiant as a minister, he or she has to go to City Hall in Manhattan to register as an officiant, and paperwork can take up to 30 days." — Deb
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"So you want to have a friend DJ from an iPod? Cute, but you need to think about renting and setting up a sound system, making some kind of table or booth area for her to sit, and — of course — asking a friend to sit out the party (and probably turn down the drinks) to be the designated DJ." — Emily
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"It would have been great to know that whatever price vendors gave me did not include [things like tax and tip]. It would have been so helpful to have the final figure when keeping the budget instead of doing the math on my own after the vendors sent me quotes." — Maia

"The quotes most caterers give you are basically just for the food itself. And some of those prices are astronomical off the bat, while others (at first glance) are feasible. But then come the add-ons: cutlery, dinnerware, glassware, servers, kitchen-prep equipment, trash removal, bartenders, insurance, admin fees, delivery, gratuity, tax, cake-cutting fees...it's insane." — Aurea

"I wish I knew that tailoring would cost almost as much as the dress itself — and that you can mitigate those costs by what type of dress you get. All-over beading, pleating, ruching, or complicated draping is always going to put the costs firmly above average. A hemline edged in lace makes a normally simple chop-and-sew a much more complicated affair." — Emily
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"Wish I had opted for a more traditional wedding photographer. Instead, I chose a 'photojournalist.' Now, I have 1,000 super-arty shots of me getting my makeup done and whatnot, but none of the staged group shots of my actual extended family. And with relatives newly departed, I wish I had the pics of everyone all together on the big day." — Lea
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"I ordered my stationery through Wedding Paper Divas, and I was really unhappy with their first round of printing, and then they were a week late in sending me my reprints. So, I ended up getting the entire order for free, plus a credit and discount off my next order." — Deb
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"When they mess up, you will be barred from doing anything about it." — Benish
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"You should never pay vendors on the day of the wedding, especially if they didn't live up to their end of the deal. Have it in your contract that they will get paid upon completion of the terms (day after)." — Benish
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"We are holding our ceremony and cocktail hour on the roof of [a] studio, but if it rains, we can easily fit everyone inside. We have a floor plan designed for the studio in case of rain." — Deb
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"We had one friend who texted me five days before the wedding to say he and his girlfriend wouldn't be attending. He said he had a new job and had to travel for work. I texted back and asked where the new job was, and he didn't respond. Then, on the day of the wedding, I looked at his Snapchat story — he wasn't out of town." — Meghan
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"As cliché as it is, it really is a day to celebrate you, your partner, and the things you love. If flowers are important to you, that's fine. It's okay to choose to spend your budget differently from how every money-saving blog and well-meaning relative says they'd do it." — Emily
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"It was love at first Pin when I first saw the blush-colored, intricately beaded Monique Lhuillier dress I eventually ended up buying. A voice inside told me this was my dress. The only problem? It costs $6,940, plus tax, alterations, etc. I was originally not planning to spend more than $3,000 on my wedding dress. But after trying it on, I realized that none of the (20 or so) dresses I had tried on from other stores would do. And I realized, eventually, that this was the right decision. You will have unexpected splurges that throw off your budget — learn to roll with it. Don't feel bad about splurging on things you feel strongly about and rolling back elsewhere." — Natalie
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"It is another huge headache." — Deb
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"No matter how chill you are or how low-key you think your wedding will be, there is going to be at least one random thing that stresses you out hardcore. For me, the melting point was centerpieces. I could not give a flying fart about them, but my mother and sister-in-law-to-be nearly had a coronary when I told them I wasn't doing them. Mind you, I got married in a state park and used their on-site, air-conditioner-less lodge for the reception, but they were adamant that the centerpieces were needed. I talked them out of chair covers — there's only so much you can do for 20-year-old metal folding chairs, and I refused to spend money on renting chairs and tables — but they would not budge. So I just gave up, removed myself from the conversation, and let them plan it out. Sometimes you just need to compromise and let them make some Mason jars full of colored-glass stones to avoid the ensuing bridal meltdowns." — Megan
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