10 “Essentials” You Can Take Off Your Wedding Checklist


Visit any bridal website and you’ll likely find a link to its all-encompassing, all-knowing master wedding checklist—a collection of all the must-haves and to-dos you need to complete before you can get yourself down that aisle.

Of course, having a checklist is super handy—and necessary—for keeping you on task as you plan your Big Day. But the bulk of this list often feels obligatory and overwhelming… and it doesn’t need to. Every wedding, every bride, every groom is different. And just because a magazine or website tells you “this is how things are done,” or “this is what you should do,” that’s definitely not the case.

As a wise relationship expert, and friend of mine, Andrea Syrtash, writes in one of her books, “Don’t should all over yourself.” (Heh. Clever, eh?) This advice is easier said than done when you’re immersed in wedding planning. (I have less than three months to go before I say my vows, so I get the pressure brides-to-be can feel.) But in the spirit of separating the actual “musts” from the “eh, you’ll be fine without it,” I am giving you permission to take the following completely unnecessary items off that checklist. And perhaps you’ll be inspired to cross off a few more on your own.

1. Choose your wedding theme.
After you’re engaged, you’re going to get a lot of people asking you what your theme is and what your colors are. It’s an easy way to make conversation. But you don’t, by any means, need to pinpoint an actual theme—i.e. Rustic Chic or Classic Country or Mod Hipster—for your wedding. As the folks at A Practical Wedding say, the theme of your wedding can just be, well, marriage. Or what about fun?

2. Look through wedding magazine for “gown-piration.”
Trust me, I love a lazy afternoon spent leafing through Brides and Martha Stewart Weddings. But what I’ve come to realize is that wedding magazines are a lot like fashion magazines—the models donning those gowns are stick-thin (or perfectly shapely in the few plus size options) and seven feet tall. The dresses they model are in the thousands of dollars. If this inspires you, awesome. But these images don’t really make me feel anything but inadequate, bodily and financially.

Hayley Paige Designer Wedding Dress from Mon Amie Bridal Salon
Designer Hayley Paige Wedding Dress from Mon Amie Bridal Salon

3. Get a monthly manicure. (Because everyone’s going to ask to see THE RING!)
If you’re the type who already gets regular manis, you don’t need this item on your list anyway. And if you’re like me, and you ruin your nails approximately three-to-six seconds after they’re painted, and thus you rarely get professional manicures, then there is no point in getting them. You’re not going to magically change into some mani-prioritizing, no-polish smearing lady once there’s a diamond on one of your digits. (And, if you think about it, a super awesome manicure might even overshadow your bling…)

Same thing goes for checklist items reminding you to “get a tan,” “find a facialist,” and “buy your shapewear.” Yes, you may be prepping to becoming a Bride, but you’re still you. A wedding is a great excuse to finally go see the dermatologist and rein in your cuticles if you want it to be, but you don’t need to completely transform your beauty routine in order to become someone’s wife. (And do note that men don’t get the same beauty “suggestions” in the wedding checklist.)

4. Remind your fiancé to XYZ.
Yes, men can be forgetful—and less into wedding planning—but some of the most annoying tasks on these checklists are the ones that make it the bride’s job to wrangle everyone, including her fiancé. Supposedly, these lists are for couples to tackle together. If not, your man can make his own damn list. And if he forgets to buy his accessories and wears the wrong socks, who really cares?

5. Research travel for out of town guests
Unless you’re getting married in Siberia or Timbuktu, you can rest assured that your guests know how to use the Internet (or can call a travel agent) to figure out how to get to your wedding and where they need to stay. While it’s awesome to reserve hotel blocks for people, some cities (ahem, my own) don’t have a ton of available options unless you’re actually holding your wedding at that hotel. To again quote the bible of all wedding reason, A Practical Wedding, your wedding is not an inconvenience. It’s not up to you to find the cheapest or easiest hotel and air travel options for 100 friends and family members. People can use AAA, Hotels.com, Airbnb, Travelocity—the list goes on.

6. Create detailed shot list for your photographer.
Yes, you might want to let your photographer know that you need a picture with your great-great aunt Madga, who is practically a grandmother to you. But, other than giving her a list of who’s who and your must-have snaps, you don’t need to outline every photo you want her to take the entire eight hours for which you booked her. She knows to take a photo of you coming down the aisle. And that you may want a picture of you and your groom cutting the cake. At some point (or, hey, from the get-go), you need to just trust your vendors. They’re pros. That’s why you hired them.

7. Order programs.
The way I see it, if the people at your wedding can’t identify any of your bridesmaids, don’t know who your brother is, or can’t figure out why you’d be walking down the aisle with two men (your dad and your stepdad), then they don’t need to be at your wedding. A bold statement, I know. Some people really, really care about having programs, and if that’s you, great. But many people don’t and they worry that if they don’t have them, their guests will be confused. They’ll live. If you don’t think programs are dire, then they’re a waste of paper and, I’d argue, a big waste of time.

8. Plan post-wedding brunch
First came the engagement party. Then the shower. Then the bachelor/ettes. Then the welcome dinner followed by the wedding. And now you’re having another event?! Unless you’re hosting a destination wedding and feel obligated to feed your guests one more time, remove this one off the list. Or, do as one of my friends is and put Starbucks cards in your hotel welcome bags, to give guests breakfast on you without the obligation to get up early and dress nice the day after. Seriously, no one likes the morning after brunch. Except maybe the person who insists on throwing you one.

9. Buy gifts for each other.
Personally, I think this is unnecessary. Your guy has purchased you an engagement ring. You’ve purchased wedding bands for each other. You’ve likely put down some major cash for your honeymoon, and you may even be footing the bill for your wedding. And now you need to think of a thoughtful, pricey—but not too pricey—extra gift? If money is no object, by all means, have at it. But don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you or your relationship if you just can’t make this happen (or don’t want to). Write sweet notes for each other to read the morning of the wedding instead and save your shekels for meaningful one-year anniversary gifts.

10. Schedule caterer, if desired, for gift-opening party.
I saw this “to-do” on an Arizona-based bridal magazine checklist and, needless to say, I was shocked and appalled. I’m pretty sure you don’t “have” to, number one, have a gift-opening party (who would honestly want to attend an event that solely consists of watching someone else open presents?), and, number two, that it doesn’t need to be formally catered. Also, is a “gift-opening party” actually a thing? Because…scary.

Natasha Burton

Natasha Burton

Relationship expert Natasha Burton is the author of three books: 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, and The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags. When she's not writing, she's likely doing yoga, baking, or watching The Bachelor.
Natasha Burton

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3 thoughts on “10 “Essentials” You Can Take Off Your Wedding Checklist

  1. Nailed it! I agree bridal magazines are fun for browsing, but they do make you feel like you have to subsist solely on iceberg lettuce and cardio until your wedding day. I didn’t do anything extra to my body before my wedding day, and most brides lose weight naturally due to the stress/anticipation associated with their Big Day. I did programs but wish I hadn’t, especially since it represents an opportunity to get something wrong — I put the wrong month on the program and got teased by more than a few people over it. Buying gifts for each other is definitely reserved for the rich and famous; I remember watching my cousin greedily opening a Louis Vuitton box gifted to her moments before walking down the aisle and thinking “is this for real?”

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