No matter how much planning goes into your wedding, some things you can only learn after you say “I do.” So we asked real brides (who shall remain anonymous for fear of angry mother-in-law calls) who’ve been down the aisle and lived to tell about it for their best advice.

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wedding dos photo booth

Do: Splurge on a Photo Booth

“I was surprised, but it was a great way to break the ice with guests and keep everyone—parents and kids included—entertained during downtime, like the moments before dinner is served. It’s also a fun way to have a record of every single guest who attended your wedding. Your photographer can only capture so much, but you can almost guarantee all your guests will hit the photo booth once. Last, a photo strip from the night is the perfect party favor.”

wedding dos dj

Don’t: Forget to Coordinate Carefully With Your DJ

“He did an amazing job, but in hindsight, there were a few things we just didn’t think of—like how much encouragement our guests would need to stop playing corn hole and make their way to the dance floor.”

wedding dos reception

Do: Plan a Pre-Wedding Event for Guests

“We had a casual get-together the night before the wedding at a house we rented and loved the vibe it set for the big day. It gave our guests a chance to meet and get to know each other a bit, which helped our wedding feel much more intimate and relaxed. Even better, since we had time to say hello to almost everyone the night before, there was a lot less pressure to circulate at our actual wedding.”

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wedding dos portrait
Jupiterimages/Getty Images

Don’t: Create a Laundry List of Family Shots

“I wish I didn’t give our photographer a list of 50 (literally) photos that I wanted during our two-hour photo session on our wedding day. Between rounding up kids and waiting for people to show up, it took up the whole time and I didn’t get as many candid or unique pics as I would have liked.”

wedding dos photos

Do: Videotape the Speeches

“Even though we didn’t get a videographer, we had friends capture all the speeches on a smartphone. Those would have been so easy to forget. Plus, it’s amazing to have actual video of our dads and siblings wishing us well. It’s all in the delivery. A framed transcript of the speech wouldn’t have done it justice.”

wedding dos cab

Don’t: Ignore Transportation

“We left it up to our guests to find their own way back to the hotel from the venue and a lot of them had to wait a long time for a cab. I still feel badly about it and wish I had organized a shuttle.”

wedding dos lights

Do: Splurge on Decorative Lighting

"I got married at a historic home and twinkly lights strung up on the dance floor ceiling, on the porch, and bordering the lawn really got the place into party mode. The lights were just so soft, pretty and magical. And while they certainly weren't free (I rented the lights from my florist and paid to have her hang them since she knew the layout of the venue well), they made a far bigger impact than any other craft project or floral arrangement of equal value."

wedding dos dress

Don't: Forget to Sit Down at Your Dress Fitting

"Instead of giving my gown a true test-drive (walking around, sitting, maybe even dancing a little bit), I only considered what my dress looked like as I was standing perfectly still. On my wedding day, the ribbon around my waist rumpled, rode up, and frankly, kinda spoiled the look of my dress. If I'd sat down during my fitting, the seamstress would have noticed that the ribbon wasn't tacked properly—and I wouldn't be cringing at some of my photos now!"

wedding dos sunset

Do: Mention That You’d Like Some Sunset Pics

“One of the things I’m happiest about is telling our photographer that we wanted to take photos at sunset/dusk. He tapped us on the shoulders and we slipped out during the dancing to get some quick shots with the sun setting over the lake.”

wedding dos button

Don’t: Waste Time Dealing With Your Bustle

“I had two friends quickly watch as we did the bustle once, but on the actual day, no one could figure it out! It ate up our entire private cocktail time with our wedding party while everyone was bending down behind me trying to button it up. I’d recommend taking a video with your seamstress or having your friends try multiple times in a row if yours is a little tricky.”

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wedding dos flowers

Do: Have a Post-Wedding Plan for Your Flowers

“My mother is a nurse so the Sunday after the wedding, we loaded the extra flower arrangements into the back of her car and drove them to the hospital where she works to be distributed to patients.”

wedding dos pictures
Halfpoint/Getty Images

Don’t: Forget to Put a Photo Deadline Into Your Photographer Contract

“We loved our photos, but it took us forever—as in, almost five months—to get them. I would recommend putting a date in your initial contract with your photographer with an exact time frame for when you will receive them.”

wedding dos confetti

Do: Delegate Even the Smallest Day-Of Tasks

“I had one stylish friend double check all the table settings and flower arrangements so I didn’t have to, one bossy friend make sure everyone left the hotel in enough time to get to the venue, and one calm friend serve as ‘emotional handler’ for my volatile sister.”

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