Wedding Advice for Newly Engaged Couples: Sarah Bradley

 How long after your got engaged did you begin planning the wedding?

We had just about 9 months between our engagement and wedding date so we started planning immediately – starting with booking our venue.

How did you determine the wedding’s budget and who contributed what?

I’ve always known I wouldn’t have an extravagant wedding + I love hunting for deals so our budget was set primarily by how much my mom contributed and what little extra we had to spend.

How did you keep track of your wedding planning (book, planner, Excel, other)?

I kept a three ring binder filled with tear sheets of inspiration pictures divided by category- flowers, dress, hair etc. For budgeting I kept an Excel spreadsheet.

When you discussed the wedding, what 5 things where most important to the two of you?

-Providing a fun, comfortable party for our guests.

-Serving excellent food that was warm (we’ve been to many weddings where the food was lukewarm or cold).

-Allowing our guests to see the stunning beauty of the Southwest.

-Staying within our budget.

How did you incorporate those 5 things into your wedding?

-For the fun, comfortable aspect we hosted a cocktail party with food stations instead of a sit down or buffet dinner.

-The caterer we chose had won numerous awards and had many recommendations. We mentioned our concerns and she was able to address them.

-To show our guests the beauty of the desert, we were married at the Desert Botanical Garden, a nature preserve in the middle of the Phoenix valley.

-We worked really hard to stay within our budget by eliminating things we didn’t find important: lots of flowers (we were in a desert garden after all), buying my dress off ebay and borrowing the veil (you would have never guessed), eliminating favors, printing our own invitations (you would never know since my mom’s so crafty), and limiting the hosted bar to only beer and wine instead of a full liquor option.

Did you register for gifts and was it a good experience?

We registered at Bed Bath & Beyond and Pottery Barn. Looking back, we registered for many things we wanted without realizing what we needed. In the end we had to return fun things in exchange for things we needed, like towels and sheets. Also, in reality, cash and gift cards were the best.

Could you share some wedding planning advice for newly engaged couples?

Your wedding should be a party where everyone you love is there to celebrate the love that you and your fiancée share. Don’t be concerned about what other people will think. If you love it, then do it! It’s your day! But above all, don’t forget that the wedding is about two lives coming together and the commitment and vows you are taking and giving to each other.

Where did you splurge and where did you save?

The rental of our facility took up a huge chunk as did the catering. We saved on invitations, my dress, shoes and veil, eliminating favors, and limiting our bar budget.

What specific cost surprised you (pleasantly or unpleasantly)?

I was beyond thrilled when I found the dress I wanted on ebay at a fraction of the price it would have cost getting it from a boutique.

Could you share a favorite DIY project from your wedding?


I really loved the invitations and rehearsal dinner menu my mom created. You can see them at Lilac & Ivy.

Did you have to handle any tricky or delicate issues while planning your wedding and how did you cope with them?

I don’t really remember any tricky or delicate issues. I do remember I was stressed (the planning was challenging, I was living at home to save money, was in a horrible job, my fiancée had already moved across the country, and I was nervous about my impending move that would take place a few weeks after we were married) so I think dealing with my own emotions was the delicate issue for both myself and my family.

Could you share some wedding day advice for newly engaged couples?

Make sure that on your big day there is a go to person for questions besides you or your fiancée. Even better if it’s not a family member. It should be someone you trust to load up your car with your bags, gifts, hand out final payments and gratuities and just answer questions from vendors. You don’t want to deal with it.

Could you share your favorite photo from the day and tell us why you love it?


I love this picture because I think it shows the beauty of the garden and also because our poses (which actually weren’t posed) are opposite from our personalities. I am gazing, not paying attention to the camera. When in reality, I’m extremely focused, always paying attention. In the picture, Stephen appears to be focused, aware of the moment when in our day-to-day life, he’s more light hearted, go with the flow, dreamy and observing life.


Thank you, Sarah! Your wedding must have been stunning - what great advice about the true importance of a wedding! Would you like to ask Sarah any questions about her wedding experience? Leave a comment and we'll try to get back with you! Be sure to check out Sarah's blog and wedding planning services.