• DJ: If you can by any means, ask a friend to DJ instead of hiring one. Maybe even hire the friend. But a DJ who knows you, your friend group, your in-jokes, and really cares about making you happy, is so much better than someone who’s trying to get through this with minimum hassle compared to all their other gigs. Plus, you don’t get this guy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZP4Ugev82I
• Food: We chose to go with a wedding that started after dinner, and a reception that was a lot of finger food, rather than a meal. I feel it let us have a lot more interesting and fun food, less logistical hassle, less social awkwardness with table planning, and let us inter-mingle with everyone more.
• One of the things our minister said in pre-marital counseling, was that “you’re already married in your heart, this wedding is just letting your community celebrate it”. I felt that was really true, and important to keep in mind as the day approached.
• Yeah, as I just said, we did pre-marital counseling. I thought it was great. I encourage other future couples to at least sit down for a couple sessions and think hard about what questions may come up in their lives that they haven’t discussed before.
• Plus ones: guest lists are hard, and deciding "which guests get to bring a date and which don’t" adds another tier of complexity. We decided to not give any guest invite a “plus one”. Instead, any guest who might be bringing a date, we thought we should know the primary guest well enough to either know their date or to specifically ask them. So all of our invites were specifically addressed to both members of the couple.
• Guest lists: the normal approach is to figure out how many people you are inviting based on cost per person, and with that maximum number of people, every marginal guest is viewed as “do we want to give this guest one of our 8 remaining spots” or something like that. I think this can be both paralyzing, and make you weigh one guest against another unfairly. Instead I view each marginal guest as “do we want to pay this cost per person for them to be at our wedding”, which in truth is the question you’re asking.
• B list: Not everyone who you invite, or even who rsvp’s, is going to come to your wedding. Dealing with a B list is politically hard, and has to be tailored to who is understanding of such things, but if you find 10-15 guests who are fine with it, I’m pretty sure in the end they’ll be able to fit, and you’ll be happier for that.
• Bridal party: Just make sure at least one person in both the groomsmen and the bridesmaids are logistical geniuses who you would trust to plan anything at the last minute.
• Try not to plan this over a holiday weekend.
• Social tank: ask one or two people to have the specific responsibility for handling any awkward situation or trouble that may come up at the reception, so that you don't have to worry about what to do. People like being heroes!
• Morning after brunch: A friend offered to host a brunch the morning after our wedding, and I thought it was a great affair. It was a relaxed counter-point to the earlier activities, a good place to actually get to talk to people, something anyone who was unavoidably busy the night before can go to to still express well wishes, and the food was yummy!
• Photo booth at the reception. I saw this recently and it was cool!
• Roast at the Bachelor and Bachelorette parties. A bunch of friends getting together and telling embarrassing stories and humorous insults about you. SO MUCH FUN.
This may be updated as I remember more things I was very happy that we did.
PS: I’m turning off comments on this post, largely because I don’t want to risk any arguments about proper wedding planning going on here, and future nervous friends who are looking for positive ideas to see any arguments. If you feel you have different wedding advice, I encourage you to make your own advice post! And of course, you can email or chat me with questions.