Three experts weigh in on what aspects most deserve your attention and dollars.
By Anna Sachse
Overwhelmed by the many (expensive!) details that go into mapping out a wedding and trying to figure out what to prioritize? Here, a bridal editor, a wedding planner and a real bride each share the top three things they think matter most -- other than heartfelt I Do's, of course.
Nancy Mattia, articles director for Brides magazine
>> A great DJ or band. You can have inedible food or ugly centerpieces, but if the music is fabulous, everyone is going to have an incredible time. An experienced DJ, for example, knows how to read the crowd, and if there are 100 people shaking their booties to Rihanna, he won't suddenly switch to Michael Bswitch to Michael Buble.
> An open bar. It's tacky to throw a party and expect your guests to underwrite it. Just go with wine, beer and a signature cocktail if you can't afford a full bar.
>> A great photographer. The first time I got married, I hired my friend's brother-in-law (he had a nice camera and talked the talk). He ended up shooting our family portraits on a terrace overlooking Central Park - great spot but he didn't have proper lighting and there was an awning he didn't take into account. As a result, everyone's faces were in shadow. A professional photographer will know when and where to shoot, as well as how to corral the crowd without being intrusive. The photos will be edited, retouched and high quality.
Brooke Sheldon, owner of Lilybrooke Events in Kennebunkport, Maine
>> The right wedding size. The more people you have at your wedding, the higher the expense. You'll have more tables and linens to rent, centerpieces, meals, drinks, etc. If the budget is a concern, try to limit the guest list to the most important people (those who you will still be close with five years from now), and simply explain that you are "having a small wedding" to avoid potential hurt feelings.
>> Good music. Music sets the tone for the evening and leaves your guests wanting more. A good band or DJ can even have a great look and essentially be part of the decor.
>> A great venue. Achieving the look you want will take far less time, effort and money if your location already has beautiful decor or a gorgeous view. This can be a beach, a barn or anything that suits your style.
Liz Denfeld, married August 7, 2010, in Forest Grove, Ore.
>> An amazing photographer. It was the best money we spent! The day goes by quickly, but what your photographer captures, and how he/she captures it, will live on long past the day.
>> A day-of coordinator. No matter how much you plan and prepare, having someone there to execute your vision and keep you on schedule is crucial. Take it from a control freak planner who thought a day-of coordinator was unnecessary and then almost didn't cut her wedding cake or have her first dance.
>> A relaxing honeymoon. We love our family and friends, and without them we wouldn't have had such an incredible wedding. But after all the festivities, it was amazing to jet off for some much-needed alone time and basking in our newly-wedded bliss.
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