Who better to offer wedding planning advice than those who just said “I do”? We asked some of our favorite couples from Real Weddings’ past what pieces of advice they’d offer to the newly engaged.

Their vows have been said, their wedding cakes have been eaten and they’ve taken their first spin on the dance floor as husband-and-husband or wife-and-wife. They’re our Real Weddings alums and they know firsthand the ups and downs that come with planning a wedding. Take heed their words of wisdom as you begin your own wedding planning journey toward “I do.” 


Lauren and Lauren, married Sept. 16, 2011 in Old Saybrook, Conn.: “Communication is key. You don’t always have to see eye to eye, but respect for each other’s needs and feelings goes a long way,” says Lauren. “Always take time to remember why you want to get married in the first place. Don’t get too swept up in the stress of planning and details. It will come together and it will be the perfect wedding, because you love each other and all the people who love you will be there with you. That’s what matters the most.”

View Lauren and Lauren’s wedding here. >>


Jay and Paul, married Sept. 18, 2011 in Garrison, N.Y.: “Map out all deadlines (and then meet them) as though the wedding is several weeks earlier than it really is. Then all the big pieces are set and you can start to hold the greater sense of what your wedding is, instead of being consumed by stressful details in the final weeks leading into the big day itself,” advises Paul. “Jay urged me to join him in taking this approach as a couple, we mostly succeeded, and I ended up being extremely glad for it.”

View Jay and Paul’s wedding here. >> 


Annie and Sylvia, married Sept. 30, 2010 in Long Beach, Calif.: “My biggest piece of advice to engaged couples is to have fun with it. We involved our friends in every aspect of the wedding from the cake, the music, the officiant and decorations,” says Annie. “Make it special and meaningful for you two, and don’t follow every tradition just because you think you should,” adds Sylvia.

View Annie and Sylvia’s wedding here. >> 


Kelsey and Leigh, married June 20, 2011 in Newport, R.I.: “Consider a Monday wedding. Venues and vendors are often less busy and more willing to work with you on a budget because they wouldn’t normally be able to book a wedding on that day,” explains Kelsey. “Many of our guests also took the opportunity to spend a few days in Newport and everyone said that they had a wonderful time.”

View Kelsey and Leigh’s wedding here. >> 


Glenn and Michael, married Aug. 5, 2011 in Jacksonville, Fla.: “With all the amazing food we had, we unfortunately only got to enjoy a few food items. We learned that you must have someone prepare you a full plate so you can eat!” says Michael.

View Glenn and Michael’s wedding here. >> 

wedding advice from engaged couples

Kim and Randie, married Sept. 18, 2011 in Hudson, N.Y.: “At a certain point you have to let go a little and know that it will all be beautiful and you will love your wedding no matter what happens, in fact you will love it more for its imperfections (much like the way you love partner),” says Kim. “Also never forget that the day is about the two of you. That means adding personal touches as much as it means that you control your budget, your theme, your menu. You set the price not your vendors, if they can’t work with your budget or ideas then find someone else who can. Don’t go into debt for your wedding and don’t have a wedding that doesn’t feel like you.”

View Kim and Randie’s wedding here. >> 


Shavonda and Naomi, married Aug. 25, 2011 in Sacramento, Calif.: “My number one piece of advice—get help! Don’t try to take on everything yourself or else you can end up doing your hair in your car mirror! Seriously though, don’t wear yourself thin. Also remember it’s your day. Make it about what you and your partner want. Your guests are there to support you and at the end of the day, no one remembers the monogramed napkins or the extra seat cushion you splurged on—what they remember is how in love you looked and whether or not your wedding felt like ‘you,’” says Shavonda. “Be patient with one another,” advises Naomi. “Wedding planning can be super stressful and remember your wedding should be a reflection of the two of you and the love you share, nothing else. Also, a friend of mine told me to remember to take a moment and sit back and observe. He said things move so fast and when the day is gone you feel like you were so busy that you missed it. So on your big day, have a seat or lean on the wall and just watch your guests enjoy themselves and celebrate your love. I took his advice and I can actually say I don’t feel like I missed a moment.”

View Shavonda and Naomi’s wedding here. >> 


Kevin and Pete, married on Oct. 10, 2011 in Lincoln, Mass.: “Go with your heart and stay within your financial budget and make sure that both people’s wants and desires are represented in the planning of the ceremony,” advises Pete. “Also, pick your battles. Our music system for the processional in the Italian garden would not work and Kevin did freak out a bit (groomzilla!!) but then realized that there was nothing that could be done,” he laughs. “We chatted with people as we walked down the aisle with our mothers. It was a funny and unique processional.” Kevin recommends having formal portraits done beforehand. “We did all of our formal pictures with our families and wedding party before the ceremony so that way we were able to enjoy all of the reception and not miss out on anything.”

View Kevin and Pete’s wedding here. >> 


Dana and Cynthia, married Sept. 24, 2011 in Brooklyn, N.Y.: “Most likely, things will come up and changes will happen and there won’t be a thing you can do about it! Our officiant had to cancel two days before our wedding because her mother passed away. Instead of freaking out we took it in stride and were able to find someone else in a matter of hours who did an amazing job,” says Dana. “No matter what your wedding day will be wonderful because you are marrying the person you love with all of your heart. And even if your day isn’t as perfect as you hoped, it’s only one day and, really, marriage isn’t about the wedding. It’s about the lifetime together after that day.”

View Dana and Cynthia’s wedding here. >> 


Jamie and Carrie, married Sept. 16, 2011 in Atlanta, Ga.: “It might be wise to keep the honeymoon more simple and relaxing, because the last thing you will have energy for at the end of the wedding is being a tourist and sightseeing and all that travel,” says Carrie. She also advises to make a point to schedule moments for just the two of you. “It’s really easy to neglect the relationship when you get that busy and stressed with wedding planning.”

View Jaime and Carrie’s wedding here. >> 


Nick and Paul, married Oct. 22, 2011 in Palm Springs, Calif.: “Above and beyond, the biggest thing you must have is a day-of coordinator. You may not think you need it or that you can afford it, but you do, so find it in the budget. On the day itself, with emotions running so high, the last thing you want to be thinking of is timelines and details,” advises Paul.

“Realize that planning your wedding is a very specific chapter of your life that you won’t ever have again. You’ll only register once, you’ll only do one food tasting, and you won’t ever make an invitation list like this one again. When you realize that all the preparation is in itself, a journey, you won’t stress about everything you have to do as much,” says Nick. “And for the moments where you may forget to have fun or you may argue with your fiancé, you must realize that planning your wedding is yet another way you are going to grow as a couple and get to know your soul mate a little bit more. And that is invaluable.”

View Nick and Paul’s wedding here. >> 

Photo: Alissa Dinneen Photography; Fedorov Foto; Rachel McCauley Photography; Carla Ten Eyck Photography; Kyle Bromley; Bre Sessions; Sara Maren Photographers; Kristin Korpos Photography; Hudson River Photographer; Alli Royce Soble; The Long Haul Photo