If I had to summarize the 44 responses to this question in one sentence, I would do it this way: Do not skimp on your big day's photography. Just. Don't. Do. It.

Many of the people who gave an opinion either regretted not spending more money themselves, or knew someone who did. "You can skimp on everything else, but those pictures are forever," one of my friends wrote. Another noted she hadn't even ordered digital proofs because she's so disgusted by the work her photographer delivered. (Word to the wise: Negotiate, or try to negotiate, so that you receive a disk of digital images and have the right to print the images.)

Photography is one of the biggest reasons I turned to bartering. I knew I couldn't bear to not have gorgeous, candid images of our day (I've worked for years with fabulous photojournalists, so I know how striking photography can be when done well), but I suffered from some serious sticker shock. Then, I met Ken Cavanaugh at Cavanaugh Photography, who did want to barter, and my mind was set at ease. We would have a professional behind the lens, and I would work to earn it.

Others, in responding to this day's question, said they wished they'd hired a videographer, and one said she would hire a DJ if she could have a do-over.

I liked this advice: Spend more on what's more important to you. If you dig live music, this person wrote, hire a band. If you're particular about food, splurge a little on a top-notch caterer. For one former bride, having a string quartet was worth the extra $400, while spending more to have live flowers simply was not. 

One former groom said he regretted pinching pennies on tuxedos because the shop they used did an awful job tailoring and actually delivered some of the tuxes to the wrong places.

Here's what I've learned generally in my own wedding planning: You get what you pay for, in most cases. If you want a fantastic photographer, said fantastic photographer will cost more. If you want a newspaper journalist to write your love story, it will cost more than hiring your friend to do it for you (shameless plug, I know). The husband-to-be and I are paying more than we initially expected for our caterer, and I'm glad. They serve a tasty chicken piccata, mashed potatoes made from scratch and a lot of other delicious food, and they're a third-generation company -- tried and true.

Another of my Facebook friends said her husband and she ran out of booze, which reminds me to share with you what I've learned: You can find distributors who will sell alcohol on commission. That means that if Steven and I buy more alcohol than our guests end up consuming, and if any cases and bottles are unopened, the distributor will take the alcohol back and refund us that money. When it comes to purchasing for our party, we'd rather over-purchase, and we're glad to know that we can potentially return some of it.

One woman said she was sorry that she skimped on her wedding shoes and doesn't like any of the photographs that show those shoes. 

Of course, nothing is all about price. A former editor of mine urged that simply spending more dough does not ensure a great vendor or responsive service. He suggested asking oneself, "Did they capture each couple's story, or take cliché images?" when vetting photographers, and considering how a DJ plans to keep your party lively.

When it comes to our pending nuptials, we've definitely spent more (via my bartering) to ensure we have karaoke and a very competent DJ and emcee. It's important to us to have a party that gets people up and dancing, and keeps them up and dancing, and I hear from Something New Entertainment's former clients that they deliver. 

Finally, one former bride said she wished she'd spent more on linens because she saw another wedding with pricier linens, and they did make a "tremendous" difference in the overall feel of the room. Speaking of linens, we've decided to buy ours instead of renting them. Anyone know a quality site that sells them?
 
 
Three words came up most frequently when I asked this question on my Facebook page: Three. Ring. Binder.

Many of the people who responded to this post said they kept organized by filling a binder with printed materials about vendors and services, plus signed contracts. One said she organized the binder with tabs labeled for each of the major vendors one can expect to hire.

I haven't kept a binder. I've stuffed a bright green folder with contracts and to-do lists that I've ripped out of magazines. I also make a copy of every check we write to book a vendor so I have record of it. I also never go to an appointment without my copy of Today's Bride because the very back of the pub provides lists of questions to ask any given vendor.

As for finding vendors in your price range, many photographers share their rates upfront, one recent bride said, and other vendors will provide quotes if you ask. She recommended -- and I can speak from experience that this is important to ensure you receive an accurate quote -- that brides and grooms share their event's approximate number of guests, location, time and date when asking.

A sorority sister of mine also noted that she's found vendors through bridal shows. As has happened a few times, it's surprising how often I re-read the replies to these questions only to find that they have a timely relevance to my current planning. I just booked a hairdresser and makeup artist I met at the Boutique Bridal Bazaar, where my sister and I showcased our own company, Story of Your Life. (*Like* us, please!)

A few people also noted that they used Excel to do their budgeting. I personally have a piece of paper with three columns: 1) the service being paid for, 2) the amount we've already paid and 3) the amount we have yet to pay. Either, I'm sure, works. It's staying organized that's important.

Finally, one recent groom (yes, sometimes grooms answered these!) recommended delegating projects you can to others. I haven't done this much, but I am working with two wedding planners to whom I will delegate a most important role: coordinating the biggest day of our lives.