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Pinterest Expectations vs. Reality

I remember the joy of discovering Pinterest for the first time; all inspiration was right there at my fingertips.

Cortney Dryden
Cortney Dryden
confused and stressed bride to be

confused and stressed bride to be

Photo: Glitter Lens Photo & Design

Hi! I'm Cortney Dryden, blogger at and bride-to-be! As a newly-engaged ingénue, I entered the wide world of matrimony with high expectations and a strict budget. Come with me as I take you through some of the lesser-discussed realities of the wedding-planning process.

I spent hours scouring recipes, fashion, and, of course, weddings. Years later and finally engaged, I ceremoniously made my private wedding board public...a rite of passage for all newly-engaged pinners. I reveled in the immaculate blush-sequined perfection that was my board. Everything matched, everything was crème de la crème, and blissfully unbeknownst to me, everything was out of my price range.

Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. in 2015 was $29,958. That’s a full year’s salary for some people!

But how are first-time brides and grooms to know any better? Thanks to wedding photos being shared and spread all over social media (yes, especially Pinterest) , we have grown accustomed to shopping with no price tags and habituated to the best the web has to offer. I honestly thought these weddings were ‘typical’!

Enter wedding planners, or shall we call them expectation managers? A benefit of working with a professional who is aware of your personal budget is that they will screen out options that are too expensive. Your ignorance will be your bliss. Let me take you through my first few chats with the wedding-hardened veterans of the bridal industry, where I had a crash course in the gap between my expectations and my budget’s reality.

The Startling Reality

Expectation: I am going to have a rustic barn wedding complete with mason jars, burlap, and carved tree stump centerpieces!

Reality: Is there actually a barn out there that converts to a fully-functioning entertaining space complete with electricity and a kitchen? Sure, but they aren’t necessarily easy to find. As it turns out, those perfect barn weddings that you’re probably seeing everywhere are one in a million. Depending on where you live, there may not even be a barn at all. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives.

Expectation: I am going to craft all the things!

Reality: Not to brag, but I know my way around a BeDazzler. Even with such a steady hand, I was unprepared for the logistics of crafting for my wedding. Namely, the time aspect of it. How did I think all of my decorations were going to get to and from my venue? Did I truly believe little mice would clean up after my wedding, returning each decoration to its proper home?

An important thing to keep in mind when booking your venue is how much time before and after the wedding they will allow for you to set up and break down anything you may have brought yourself. Many venues will require that everything you bring to be out of there by midnight so they can prepare for an event the following day. Consider if you are leaving directly from your reception for your honeymoon. Who have you assigned clean-up to?

One of the most advantageous parts about hiring vendors is that they do all of their own setup and break down. You won’t have to time to worry about setting tables and arranging flowers on your wedding day, so leave it to the professionals.

Expectation: I’m going to save so much money by buying my own bulk fabric!

Reality: The fabric isn’t the pricy part… it is the cutting, sewing, and hanging that piles on the pennies. Love the look of a draped ceiling? All it is is a few strips of white fabric! Well, I can tell you that you don’t want to be responsible for the logistics of a cherry picker while you’re having your rehearsal dinner.

My tip would be: don’t reinvent the wheel. If your reception space has never had the final look you dream of at a wedding past, it may be impossible and you need to reconsider venues or come up with a new decor plan. At your tour, ask the venue coordinator to provide pictures of weddings’ past and glean inspiration from there. There may even be leftover fabric cut specifically for the venue that you can reuse.

Expectation: My cocktail hour will be done up to the nines!

Reality: You don’t even get to see your cocktail hour. Guests understand that this is just a waiting period while the wedding party snaps pictures. Signature cocktails are adorable, but no need to splurge on heavy décor or flowers. And please, don’t stress over how to paint the cornhole boards. 

Expectation: My reception will be dripping in flowers!

Reality: Flowers are expensive, plain and simple. It was a punch in the gut to learn those perfect Pinterest tablescapes cost more than my entire budget. Do your homework to find an experienced florist. Did you know English garden roses look almost identical to peonies? Plus, they’re less expensive and in season throughout the summer. Being equipped with this knowledge saved me a ton!

Additionally, many local greenhouses will rent potted plants for the weekend with delivery and pickup included for a steal. Consider lining blank walls with trees or palms and incorporating greenery into your theme to cut back on flower costs.

But There’s Hope!

Ok, so Pinterest may have been stretching the truth. But what are you to do when faced with this stark reality? Cry into your glitter-dipped mason jars and handwritten chalkboard signs? Of course not! It’s time to get focused and use Pinterest to your advantage.

First things first, step away from the computer and nail down your wedding and reception venue(s). Reception halls go fast! Many are booked a year and a half out, so do not wait. Much of your theme, design, and color scheme will be contingent on what is already in place here.

Once you know what you’re working with, you can return to Pinterest with a clear plan. Create two separate wedding boards: one that you can pin every imaginable source of inspiration and one with actual, tangible ideas you will use. Let this function as an online bulletin board for real-life décor, dresses, gifts, etc. you have cost-checked. Use your less detail-oriented pins at vendor meetings to properly articulate your wedding’s color scheme and overall feel.

Finally, use WeddingWire’s budget tool to see a comprehensive breakdown of the best way to divvy up your funds. You can track savings in one category to, in turn, splurge in another!

The main thing you must always keep in mind is your wedding is not in competition with anyone else’s, especially the ones on Pinterest. There are beautiful weddings at every price point and yours will be no different. Keep what is most important to you at the forefront of your thoughts throughout the planning process and your wedding vision will soon become a reality.