When I was planning my own DIY wedding (which was the very first wedding I planned before starting DIY Wedding Mentor), I had hunches about the details that mattered, but - maybe like you - I heard so much conflicting information I wasn't totally sure what was true and what wasn't.
Like they say, there is no teacher like experience. Some of my hunches about details proved right. And some... well... they proved wrong.
Over time - and many weddings later - I've learned the details that really do matter for weddings, and what details are just hyped up.
Particularly if you are having a relaxed and meaningful wedidng, here are a few of my favorites to focus on and a few you can nix.
The detail that matters: signage & information
The detail that doesn't matter: wedding stationary
One of the easiest ways to keep a wedding relaxed is to make sure that guests know where to go -- where to park, where to go for the ceremony, where to go for cocktail hour, where to go for the reception, what there is to eat, what there is to drink, and where to go to the bathroom (yep, that's an important one!).
There are so many options with getting guests this information that don't involve fancy, expensive, custom print outs. Wedding websites are a great place for getting guests the basic details to get to themselves to the wedding. And one menu sign can easily replace 150 individual menu print outs, while one bathroom sign can easily avoid people wondering around frantically after they've had one too many craft beers.
Instead of worry about all the different options for wedding stationary and custom wedding suites, focus on what questions guests are going to have about your wedding, and how to best get them the answers.
The detail that matters: keeping people's belly's full
The detial that doesn't matter: what you keep their belly's full with
Having seen hangry wedding guests, I know they are a group you don't want to mess with. All of a sudden, sweet old Aunt Sally becomes cranky old Aunt Sally. She goes back to being sweet old Sally once she's eaten, but it's a situation that's definitley best avoided for all involved.
So instead of focusing on what people are going to eat (truly, at laidback weddings, guests don't care if it's pizza and beer or a 5-course meal from a Michelin chef), focus on how much food to serve, when to serve it, and how to serve it quickly.
The detail that matters: making guests feel welcome
The detail that doesn't matter: hotel bags
One thing that was a total waste of time for our wedding was our hotel bags. I remember thinking in a zombie-like state, "We must have camp-themed hotel bags to go with our camp wedding." I was frantically trying to buy items for them, make the bags, and then get them dropped off at the hotel in time for guests arriving. Yep, total waste of time.
If I were to do it all over again, this is what I'd do - I'd write a short, nice letter welcoming guests to our wedding, and telling them how happy we are that they came to the wedding. Instead of a bag, I'd ask the front desk give a copy of the letter to guests as they check in. If I was feeling really ambitious, I might leave one basket of cookies for everyone to grab a cookie from, too.
There are a bizillion easier ways to do welcome guests to your wedding than hotel bags. The easiests ways - welcome them at the rehearsal dinner, have your officiant welcome them at the ceremony, and/or welcome them with a little speech from you and your partner during the reception.
Nothing says "Welcome" like heartfelt words from you, and there's no way a bag with 2 waterbottles and Fritos can compete with that.
The detail that matters: figuring out rides
The detail that doesn't matter: paying for transportation
Getting you, your partner, and wedding party to the wedding on time is really important. But pulling up in a fancy car really isn't.
Unless you specifically want guests to see what car you pull up to the ceremony in, they typically don't see the car you arrive in. Guests are waiting for the ceremony start, chatting, and catching up with one another. By the time the ceremony music starts and take their seats, you are out of the car and lined up for the processional. Or you might even have arrived at the venue a couple hours ago for pictures well before any guests were there.
So instead of booking a fancy car or limo, make sure you know who is driving and what car they are driving in. This way there is no last-minute scramble to find a ride for everyone. Uber, your bridesmaids' or groomsmens' car, your parents' car - these are all perfectly acceptable wedding day transportation options.
The detail that matters: saying thank you
The detail that doesn't matter: favors
Much like being welcomed, it's important to thank guests for traveling to and attending your wedding. You can absolutely choose to say that with an individual favor for everyone OR you could absolutely find another way to thank them..
A few options: add a "thank you" into your speech with your partner during the reception, go around to each table during the reception to thank guests for coming, have a single thank you sign that everyone will see, hand out desserts to your guests personally and thank them while doing it, and/or write a very heartfelt thank you card when all is said and done.
One couple I worked with this summer wrote a heartfelt note to each family, couple or guest that attended their wedding, put them in envelopes, and used those for favors. They wrote people's names on the envelope along with their table numbers, and the notes then also doubled as escort cards. It was the only wedding I have ever seen where there literally was not one single "favor" left behind.