Some of you know I ran a wedding venue for many years here in Jackson County, and in conjunction with the Greene Center’s upcoming Bridal Expo on Saturday, Feb. 29 (a first in our county!), I thought I’d share my personal commandments for good wedding planning, so you can enter the Bridal Expo with some tips, tricks, and hints to making your day the best day ever!

1. Know thyself: this is your wedding, and should reflect what and whom you love. Your friends and parents had their weddings. This one is all yours, so pick the colors that spark joy, the theme that you’ll happily live with for six to nine months, and the details that mean something to you. Knowing yourself will make all the little decisions, from flowers to tablecloths to food that much easier to pick out.

2. Thou shall incorporate your personal taste into the entertainment: your people can dance all night, so get a fantastic DJ. Your people might be more of a corn-hole crowd, so get a bunch of boards. A wedding is your ultimate idea of a celebration, so celebrate in the ways you love the most. Karaoke, badminton, dance offs… be merry in the way you love most with the people you love most.

3. Thou shall pick thy battles, within budget: your family has their own ideas about a wedding, and some of the things you don’t care about are VERY IMPORTANT to them. You don’t care if anyone wears a boutonniere, but Grandma is threatening not to come if the preacher doesn’t have one. If you can’t afford it, nix it, but if you can (or if Grandma is willing to pay), pick one out and be done. In the grand scheme of things, you’ll never notice them, but she’ll be over the moon.

4. Thou shall not make thy own wedding food: unless you or your family have considerable practice in making food for 100-200 people, leave it all (or at least some) to the professionals. Time on your wedding day is precious, so don’t spend yours slaving over pans of mac and cheese and sweating off your good make-up job. Spend the money on a caterer, and enjoy a meal you didn’t have to cook. Catering can be extremely reasonable (and often comes with more services than just food prep), so take the time to price it out, even if it’s just a main-dish splurge.

5. Thou shall spend thy extra money on good photography: a good photographer won’t just make your day easier, it’ll bring back all those memories you were a part of, but feel like a blur in the moment. Pick a photographer whose style you love, work with them on your needs, and then budget accordingly. Of all the things you won’t regret spending extra on, it’s a photographer that you love.

6. Know thy fiancé: if they feel most comfortable in jeans and boots, then a tux isn’t ever going to feel “right.” It’s their wedding too, so when it comes to what they wear and eat, let them have some input (within your theme and your color scheme, obviously). Let them show their talents as well: some of the most meaningful décor at your wedding will be the things your fiancé makes for you.

7. Pick thy wedding party carefully: you want people who will lift you up during the process and want the best day for YOU. Avoid anyone who uses the word “I” in 80 percent of their sentences, because it’ll become a day all about THEM. Pick your party based on deep friendship and family, but put anyone you love, but can’t rely on, on some task like guestbook keeping or warming up the dance floor. Everyone else will happily spend Friday evening fixing centerpieces and hanging lanterns for you.

8. Temper thy expectations of Flower Children and Ring-bearers: if they have learned to use their legs, they will either run away, run towards their parents, or totally nail it, so you’ve got a one-in-three chance of them having no issues getting to the alter. When committing to children in your wedding party, keep your expectations of them low so you won’t be disappointed when your rose petals get dumped into one spot, ten-feet before the alter, and look at them as the opportunity for humor that all weddings need to be memorable. Also, try not to schedule the ceremony for their nap time. It will not end well.

9. Thou shall keep thy celebration within a reasonable time frame, but allow extra party time: look, your grandparents and your friends with children they’ve brought to the wedding love you, but they can’t party like they used to. Don’t make them feel bad about leaving at eight-o’clock by making sure the big moments wrap up in no more than four to five hours from the start of the ceremony: that means photos, dinner, speeches, first dance, and cake should be done, and then release everyone to either party on all night or head home with favors (if you got them. If they weren’t in budget, get to-go containers and let them load up on extra cake and wedding food).

10. Thou shall remember why you’re there: because two people decided they want to brave everything this world can throw at them together, and they want their friends and family to stand beside them as they do. So on that day, when you’re surrounded by people and things and details and noise, take those precious moments together to hold hands, to look at each other, and just breathe and smile. Because you’re in this together now, and as long as you always keep that in the forefront, you’ll never go wrong.

So visit the Greene Center (the old Kenna Elementary school) from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, to kick off your planning, or cement the ideas you’ve been working on. And one last tip, for you wedding BBQ lovers, get half the amount of baked beans you think you need. Don’t ask me how I know, but trust me: I know.