Eva Marcille and Michael Sterling’s Atlanta wedding looked like a vision that literally leapt off of the page of a fairytale. Marcille’s gorgeous selection of wedding gowns, towering flower arrangements and opulent venue gave us serious bridal envy. But as we saw all season long on Real Housewives of Atlanta, it took a lot of stressful days to achieve the wedding day of their dreams.

ESSENCE spoke to the mother of two back in December about wedding planning, what we may not get to see on the upcoming wedding episode of Real Housewives, and words of advice she received from her castmates in preparation for the big day.

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“One of the privileges I had being on the show with other women that are housewives of sort — meaning that they’ve been married — they’ve had weddings, multiple weddings, they’ve had ups and downs,” Marcille said. “I look to them a lot. Like, NeNe [Leakes] what did you do that you hated? And what did you do that you were like, ‘Everybody has to do that’?”

“With Cynthia [Bailey], I learned to not over exhaust myself financially,” she continued. “To set a budget and stay to the budget. And people have to get upset at you because you’re not spending more money to accommodate whatever it is they desire. Remember that your wedding is only six hours.”

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💍 Mrs. Sterling 🌻

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Unfortunately, when it comes to budget, the advice wasn’t so easy to apply.

“I was naive enough to think that I can plan a wedding for $80 to $100,000,” she told ESSENCE. “I spent well over $350,000.”

Marcille also says she enforced strict rules to make sure the royal ball theme really shined through.

“No kids, no plus ones and no ankles,” she said, revealing that no everyone stuck to the code. “I wanted ballgowns and [some people] still showed up in a cocktail dress! I’m like, no, no ankles!”

The Sterlings also gave tons of thought to their wedding party, settling on one deciding factor for who should participate in their big day. It’s advice every bride should take.

“What we decided to do was to choose people that have supported our union,” she explained. “Like when I’m pregnant again and irritated and working like crazy and Mike’s working, and I’m upset, and I’m going off, I need someone that was in my wedding to be able to call me and be like, ‘Look, your man loves you, he’s providing for this family, you guys are committed to each other.’ I need someone that’s gonna pull me back off that ledge.”

“We were very strategic in involving people in our wedding that had great common sense as it pertains to matrimony, which is why I asked NeNe to say the speech and the toast at my wedding. She has had her host of ups and downs as it pertains to marriage,” Marcille said. “She and Gregg have been married twice. One of the big things she always tells me is to never go to sleep away from each other in the same home.”

Aside from the beautiful decor, Marcille and Sterling made it a point to keep their guests safe, and more importantly that she didn’t have crashers on her big day.

“My husband hired plain clothes officers that were there in tuxes, so you would have never have known,” Marcille told ESSENCE. “Then I had five…police department people there and then I had security.”

Whew! Them Sterlings don’t play! See more of Marcille and Sterling’s beautiful wedding when Real Housewives of Atlanta airs on Bravo on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.