Planning a wedding is a joyous experience, but it can also be majorly stressful. One way to ease the pressure (aside from frequent self-pampering trips to the spa) is to seek advice from those who've been there.
This is why InStyle editors took a look back on their own trips down the aisle and are sharing the best tips and tricks they picked up on their way to "I Do." One valuable lesson our senior editor Sharon Clott Kanter (pictured above with her groom) can offer is simple: Choose what’s important to you.
"There are almost too many things to do, to plan, and to pay for—it can be really overwhelming," she says. "So, before any planning started, my husband and I sat down together and each wrote down three things that we absolutely had to have and then the rest was negotiable. It helped us figure out what was important to each other and avoided conflict.”
Click through the gallery to see all of their tips, from rolling with the unexpected to planning surprises your guests will never forget. It'll help make your trip down the aisle go all the more smoothly!
1. Choose What's Important to You
"There are almost too many things to do, to plan, and to pay for—it can be really overwhelming. So, before any planning started, my husband and I sat down together and each wrote down three things that we absolutely had to have and then the rest was negotiable. It helped us figure out what was important to each other and avoided conflict. I stole that little trick from my girlfriend—and now I tell everybody to do it!" —Sharon Clott Kanter, Senior Editor
2. On Finding "The One"
"When it comes to your wedding gown, don't compromise. Choose something you love—even if it's non-traditional!—and don't base your decision on anyone else's opinion. When I first saw this Vera Wang dress on the designer's fall 2012 bridal runway, I fell in love. After trying on a multitude of other gowns—including this same style in white—I knew going the typical route wasn't for me. The moment I put it on I felt like a bride for the first time, and I knew it was 'The One.' Go with your gut: I promise, you won't regret it." —Kelsey Glein, Associate Editor
3. Add Personal Touches for Your Guests
"One advantage of having a small(ish) wedding is that you can personalize things for your guests. For our favors, we purchased 50 sets of vintage salt and pepper shakers off Ebay. Each set was unique, and we had so much fun deciding who received which set. Years later, we have been delightfully surprised to hear that our friends not only still have their table toppers, but also display them. This one shown here is a pair we kept for ourselves. It's from Arizona, which is where we were vacationing when we became engaged." —Angela Matusik, Executive Editor
4. Plan a Surprise for Your Guests
"To me, the key to having a fun, memorable wedding is creating one BIG suprise moment for your guests (placed early enough in the night before the drinks start flowing). I've seen grooms perform songs for their brides, and I've even seen a zombie flash mob at a wedding on Halloween. Our wedding surprise happened to be a full firework display, which was seriously incredible and a much-too-kind gift from our family friend, Larry. It made our day so special and definitely memorable for our guests." —Alex Reside, Senior Photo Editor
5. Embrace Your Different Cultures
"Interfaith weddings are so common now, and some people feel like they need to do away with all religious/cultural references. We had a priest and a rabbi; we danced the Hora and lit a unity candle. We gave out Jordan almonds (an Italian wedding tradition) and signed a Ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract). The blending of our traditions was the first step in blending our lives, and it made the day so special and unique. My second piece of advice is to choose a venue that you will love regardless of the weather. I had this dream of getting married on a pier with a view of the Manhattan skyline, but our wedding day was a torrential downpour from morning to night. It was such a bummer, but the old wives' tale has been true for us so far: rain really does bring good luck."—Selene Milano, Senior Beauty Editor
6. Remember to Enjoy the Moment
"Take a few minutes after the ceremony just to really take in the moment with each other. The day goes by so quickly, like everyone says. Also, have a makeup and hair trial—really! You don't want any surprises." —Sheryl George, Beauty Editor
7. Spend Time Writing Heartfelt Vows
"My favorite part of our wedding also happened to be the part I was most nervous about: the vows. My soon-to-be husband and I did not share them with each other prior to the ceremony, which was both nerve-wracking and super exciting. I went first, and could barely speak I was tearing up so much. Amazingly, we both wrote really similar sentiments, and each referenced each other's favorite fruit and the same Smith's song. Standing in front of our loved ones and sharing our most heartfelt feelings was incredibly meaningful and memorable." —Violet Gaynor, Senior Fashion Editor
8. Roll with the Unexpected
"When something doesn't go as planned—and something will—do your best to just roll with it. Our DJ wound up being a bit of a disaster by bringing an unsanctioned fog machine (really?! This was 2010), which he used so much it set off our venue's fire alarms. The fire department had to come, and we wound up getting this great photo of my husband 'punching' a New York City fireman I attempted to 'run off' with. Plus, all of our single guests were like, 'Oooh, firemen…'" —Jennifer Merritt, Deputy Editor
9. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
"I think the best advice is don't worry about the details. I planned my wedding in less than three months and really didn't worry about anything (my mom did the worrying for me...). To make decisions, always go with your first instinct. I think those are the most classic decisions that you will appreciate forever. My wedding day probably would of turned out the exact same if I would of nit-picked every detail and planned for a year. Also I think the most important thing is to realize that everyone is there for you and your spouse and they are just so happy for you, so no matter what, it is going to be so much fun and a day where you feel loved and grateful." —Ali Pew, Senior Style Editor
10. Donate Your Flowers the Next Day
"You spend so much time planning and pouring over the details, that it can be such a bummer when the day flies by. One thing that I wish I had known about when I got married is Rebloom, which lets you donate your flowers to be repurposed for another event the next day while raising money for charity. It's a nice way to share a little bit of your special day with someone else after the party is over!" —Christina Shanahan, Senior Editor