Real newlyweds give wedding planning tips based on their experience.

Courtney & Mike Marsden’s wedding took place on July 7, 2017, at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium.

If you could do anything about your wedding differently, what would you change and why?    

Mike: Nothing! At the end of the day, the day was our day, and the experience was our own. Embracing both the perfections and imperfections of our day is what makes it such a special memory.

Courtney: I would have asked someone to be the point person for questions that came up on the day of. I planned on turning my phone off at 1 p.m. (which I did), but I really wish I would have done so earlier. All of the questions that people had came directly to me, and it was very overwhelming. I wish I would have tasked a bridesmaid or family member with being the point person for the day. They could have filtered questions through to me as needed.

What are you happy you spent money on?        

M: Photographer/video. The ability to look back and re-experience the special moment captured is such a powerful idea. And I think we learn something new every time we watch our video.

C: Hands down, our photographer/videographer. I was trying to be very conservative with the budget, but I ultimately decided that the photography budget needed to be increased to also include video.

What do you think you could have done without?          

M: None that I can think of offhand.

C: I was very budget-conscious, so we did not spend money on items or services that weren't necessary.

What was your biggest surprise when planning your wedding?               

M: How many moving parts go into the planning process, especially around coordination between the various parties.

C: I was most surprised that the planning process comes in waves. You work hard on a bunch of tasks, then there is a lull, and then you are back to dealing with a bunch of new things.

What do you wish you’d known before you started planning?  

M: Be sure to start as early as possible, which will allow the ability to pace while completing all of the necessary tasks.

C: I wish I knew that it is okay to love certain aspects of the planning process and to hate others. It's not all fun, but that does not mean the difficult aspects of planning should bring down your mood.

Did you experience any wedding-day snafus?

C: The forecast kept changing, and we were not sure if it was going to rain [during the ceremony, which] was originally scheduled to take place outside.

M: There was a pretty decent storm the morning of, which certainly didn't help calm anybody's nerves. Fortunately, we had the ability to move the ceremony under the covered patio section, but waiting that morning and continuously watching the weather radar was certainly stressful at times.

C: I ultimately decided to move it to the indoor/covered patio area, and it worked out perfectly! There were scattered showers throughout the ceremony, but it was clear for “before” photos and the reception—and everyone stayed dry.

Did you and your fiancé get into any silly arguments?   

M: Sense of urgency was definitely an area that differed between us.

C: Our main arguments were about different timelines. I wanted to get things done right away, but my husband was more laid back—“It'll get done, don't worry” perspective It took a few of these silly arguments before we realized we needed to do a better job communicating our deadlines to one another.

M: When we hit one, we would take a step back from the moment, talk through it, and come to a consensus.

C: We developed a spreadsheet on Google Drive where we listed the tasks we needed to do, agreed when we would have them done by, and decided who would take the lead on things. This didn't solve all of the issues, but it certainly helped!

Any dress shopping advice?

C: Start early so that you do not have too much pressure and so that you can enjoy the experience. Be sure to take photos of all the dresses (in different lighting, if possible). Reviewing the photos helped me see what I liked and did not like without the emotions that come along with having the dress on. Also, once you have picked out your dress, do not second-guess yourself! You chose it for a reason!

What about menswear?

M: Renting from a company like The Black Tux worked very well for me, and made the suit process very straightforward. Just make sure your groomsmen all get the same suit!

Do you have any general advice for couples currently planning their weddings?             

C: Start by creating two things: a detailed/tentative budget and a plan for how you will save up enough money to meet your budget goal.

For the budget: Be sure to give yourself some wiggle room, because so many things cost more than you would expect! We put our budget into Excel and added formulas so that it would update the over/under on each category. When we purchased something that was under budget in one category, then we were able to shift those funds into another one—that's how I was able to increase my jewelry budget (yay!).

For the saving plan: Be sure to give yourself some wiggle room for unforeseen costs that could come up, not just as part of the wedding planning process, but also in your everyday life. That way if you need to get repairs done on your car, you will not need to sacrifice a line item on your wedding budget. Again, we logged our savings plan in Excel.

M: You will run into obstacles, tough questions and challenges throughout the planning process. Regardless of the situation, always be sure to face them together.

Do you have any general marriage advice, as a newlywed?

C: Everyone says this, but it's true and therefore worth repeating: Communicate! I think communication is key to a successful relationship. A second piece of advice is to say “I love you” (at least) every morning and every night.

M: Never go to bed angry at one other, and always say “I love you.”