I'm a little less than one month out, so I thought I'd post my advice so far since my BAM will be more wedding-day oriented. Please feel free to post your best advice for planning!
1. Don't over-plan dress shopping. I went with just my mom, to three salons. It was casual, no huge pressure from a large group. I wasn't stressed when I didn't find a dress at the first two, or when some dresses didn't look good on me. Make sure to bring a water bottle & eat a filling meal prior, it's tiring! Dress trying on is a revealing experience - literally. The salon assistants are helping you get dressed and seeing a lot of you, they are used to it, don't worry! Take A TON of pictures so you can study the dresses you like when you get home before purchasing.
2. Plan as much as you can in advance. I planned for 19 months. I'm 1 month out, I feel little-to-no stress and I feel very organized and prepared.
3. Don't put off working out & healthy diet. I put this off until 6 months out, I felt a lot of pressure because NO weight came off for the first 3 months. I've lost 12 lbs since then, it's become more of a lifestyle than anything. I'm grateful I lost weight, but the added pressure didn't help.
4. Skincare, nail care, and hair care start at home. I have seen huge progress with my skin & hair health. I did go to salons, but having a consistent at home routine has been so helpful that included vitamins, leave in conditioners, masks, cleaning brushes, no-pull hair ties, toners, serums, etc.
5. Less people may come than you originally planned, and that's okay. We invited 225 (a lot of out of state) and budgeted for 150-175. The final count is in, we are looking at 115-125 people. I was surprised and bummed at first. After thinking about the 120 guest weddings I've been to, I'm very happy and we were able to splurge more on things like a full open bar.
6. People will NOT RSVP. Plan for that. We sent save the dates out 10 months in advance with our hotel block & website fully set up. Invites went out 3 months out, 6 weeks before our RSVP date. We had the option to RSVP online & sent an addressed/stamped envelope in every invite. 85% used the paper response, 15% used the website. Our RSVP date came & went, we had to contact 61 people. I split up the work between me, my fiance, my mom, and his dad. It wasn't a huge deal and took maybe 1 day. Give yourself time between your RSVP date and when you need final counts.
7. Splurge on yourself. If you can! I was lucky, my parents are paying for our wedding. That gave me the opportunity to spend my own $ on things like microneedling, microdermabrasion, botox, facials, and hair deep conditioning treatments. I don't normal do a ton of self-maintenance, it's really improved my skin and hair and I feel a lot more confident.
8. Take dance lessons! Again, if you can. We did (4 total - 2 left) and feel way more confident about the whole thing. I took one with my dad, that was a really fun thing for us to do together.
9. No one is as excited for your wedding as you and your fiance. I have read forum posts about bridesmaids, parents, etc. not being happy or excited and that hurting the bride's feelings. For me, I wanted to do all the planning myself or with my fiance so I didn't lean on anyone to help me. I didn't over expect from my friends and family so I didn't feel any sadness over that. It made it more special when they did want to be involved.
10. You won't do everything traditional etiquette calls for, and that's okay. Personally, we are doing a ton of traditional etiquette. We didn't want our guests to pay for anything, we are doing all the traditional dances/toasts/garter toss/etc., no cash registry, etc. But I've been to weddings with cash registries, cash bars, dry weddings, weekday weddings, etc. Yeah, they may not be as traditional (to me) but we still attended and shared in the couples special day and were happy to do so. Not every bride & groom are able to have larger budgets so these things have to be cut. You may get some flack on these forums from more traditional members, but in the end do you. You know what works for you & your family & your friends more than anyone else. I am guilty with this, being somewhat mortified by some posts. But I'm not going to your wedding, so take what I say (or any other members) with a grain of salt. We don't know your town, your neighborhood, your group of friends.
11. Treat your fiance. I feel like a lot of brides spend money & time on themselves (which they should) and the groom's don't since they aren't used to it and don't think to. My MOH involved my fiance in planning my bachelorette, I helped with his bachelor party, my mom bought him "groom" swag, I bought him teeth whitening strips, we are dieting together, I'm supporting his everyday gym routine, he is tanning, he bought new clothes for our honeymoon, I scheduled a massage/pedicure/manicure for both of us before the wedding, and scheduled a fancy wedding haircut for him! I know he feels more involved like it's truly his special day too.
12. Do your research on vendors. I'm SO happy I did this. Since we had extra time, I emailed 10-20 vendors per category and really read through all their reviews on multiple websites. I exchanged emails & phone calls with them, and scheduled phone calls or meetings with all of them 1-2 months prior so they all knew the layout of the wedding and what we were hoping for. Read through your contracts and make it SO clear on what you want.
That's my advice for now! I'm sure I'll have some for my BAM but I didn't want to overload there. What do you wish you knew prior to planning?