Every now and then I get a few requests for help or tips with wedding planning. As a Type A(+) event planner, I can honestly tell you that I was a bride who loved wedding planning and enjoyed the whole process. You would think there would be a lot of stress involved over the actual weekend, but it was actually one of the most stress free times in my life. Why? All of the time invested in planning and organization really paid off! You don’t need to be an event planner to have the same experience. Armed with a great check list and good people around you, you can also enjoy the wedding planning process!
I think the wedding planning experience really strengthened the bonds with my friends and family and some of my favorite memories with these special people come from our wedding. I was fortunate to have benefited from wisdom and advice from some of my favorite brides before I got started and really put a lot of their organizational tips to use in my own process. One of the questions I get asked the most is, “How did you stay organized while planning your wedding?” I could go on for days (or many blog posts), and I may do a few more posts about wedding planning if y’all are interested. But for now, here are some of my best tips to share with anyone who is on their wedding journey.
If you would like any of my templates, have other questions, have tips of your own, or would like to see more posts on wedding planning, please comment in the comments section below!
I Dream of Pretty Things
1. Conquering long distance communication with your bridal party: If you’re like me, you might have bridesmaids, groomsmen, and wedding attendants all over the country. True, while it would be easier if everyone lived in the same place, it’s still very possible to keep people informed, engaged and updated on wedding related news and events.
- Start a private Facebook group for your bridesmaids/groomsmen, etc. This is a genius idea! My maid of honor (MOH), Amy, had this idea for our group of ladies and it was great for sharing photos, announcements or just checking in to see how everyone was doing. (Think photos of cake tasting, bridesmaid dresses/accessories, invitations, etc.). It is a low-maintenance, non-intrusive way for your long distance friends to keep up with the latest and greatest without bombarding them with too many e-mails. If you do this, remember to set the group up as private so that the whole world doesn’t see your plans (unless you want them to). 🙂
- Google Docs! If you need to gather lots of information from everyone (dress sizes, etc.), save yourself the hassle of back and forth texts and e-mails by starting a google docs document. Invite your bridal party to be participants so that they can add their own information in the one centralized location. It’s accessible by anyone you send the link to and it will make your life so much easier. If your parents, family members or wedding planner is in the mix, consider adding them, too.
- E-mail. Yes, the goal is always to lower the number of e-mails, but sometimes it’s the only way. I think it’s important for the bride and groom to keep people informed of significant deadlines along the way. Most people operate better when they know what the game plan is and feel like they are in the loop. You don’t need to go overboard, but things like deadline to order dress/suit, notification when the hotel room block is available, request for flight information, etc. are all good to send via e-mail. This next tip will not apply to everyone, but I find that when communicating with the groomsmen, it’s always a good idea to include their significant other (SO). In some cases, they will be (and prefer) the primary “manager” of wedding stuff and will appreciate being in the loop. 🙂
- Skype – Want someone special to be included in an important appointment but they live far away? Consider bringing your laptop or iPad and skyping them in to the meeting. It’s a great way to keep people engaged when they can’t be with you in person.
2. Thank You Notes: In my mind, thank you notes are not negotiable. If someone is kind enough to send you a gift (which they are not obligated to, by the way), you should send a thank you note. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have a year to send your notes of gratitude! In fact, Emily Post says the maximum time you should let pass is about 3 months. After that, the chances of you actually sending them out diminish exponentially. The ideal goal is to write a few each day. 10-15 minutes a day is a lot easier than a weekend of non-stop writing. Your timely thanks is appreciated by the gift giver and no one likes to feel overlooked or under appreciated. Here are some of my top tips to help keep you on track and make this project seem more manageable!
- Plan ahead. Make life easier for yourself and order some nice thank you notes early on in the process. (Note: It’s never too early.) Go to the post office or Costco/Sam’s and buy postage in bulk. If you have a favorite writing pen, grab a few of those. You will be much more likely to get a head start on writing if you have all of the tools to do it.
- Keep good records from the beginning. Start a google docs spreadsheet and send it to your fiance so that you both have access to and can edit it. As the gifts come in, record the name of the sender, date your received it, item(s) description, and the date you sent a thank you note. This will help you both keep track on what has come in, what progress you have made and what still needs to be done.
- Divide and conquer. It takes two people to get married, right? Yes. So all of the gifts piling up at your home will surely be enjoyed by both people. Therefore, thank you notes should come from both people. I know this is not the case for everyone, but it’s not unusual to hear brides complain that they are the only ones writing the letters. It sounds like a chore, but thank you writing is actually a great way to participate in wedding planning. Splitting the thank you notes writing is fair and it allows each person to connect with their family and friends and send that personal note of gratitude.
- Honeymoon flight. This won’t appeal to everyone, but it REALLY made life so much easier for Brent and I as we finished our thank you notes for gifts received close to our wedding date and at the wedding. We brought pre-addressed/stamped cards/notes and our spreadsheet of gifts and used our 10+ hour flight times to Europe to knock everything out. It worked great because it gave us something to do on the plane and also allowed us to pop them in the mail when we got back. If you have time close to your date (or you have a bridesmaid or family member itching to help), enlist them to help you address and stamp the envelopes.
3. If you ask for opinions, you will get them. All of them. This is a hard lesson that every bride and groom face at some point throughout the planning process. If you ask someone for their opinion, they will give it to you. It seems straightforward, but it always seems to knock people off their feet when they least expect it. It’s completely normal to want advice (hey, you’re reading this post, right?) from time to time. Just don’t be surprised or offended if the person has a very different view point or opinion on your question. Don’t feel obligated to do things their way, either. Here are some of my rules of thumb for navigating the quest for advice/opinions and how to decide who the decision makers are in the process.
- Identify the “stakeholders.” Stakeholders are the people who you and your fiancé deem as the Inner Circle. These are the people whose opinions matter most and will most likely influence your decision making. In most cases, they are the bride, groom, key family members/anyone contributing towards costs of the wedding, and key bridal party members.
- Identify relationship and level of participation with “stakeholders.” Here, I mostly mean family members who might be contributing to the wedding. I always think it’s a good idea to sit down as a couple with those family members to talk about expectations and levels of interest in participation. Some couples may find that their moms want to plan every detail while other couples may have the green light to move forward on their own. Establishing their interest in participation and key things that are important to them up front (ceremony readings, inserting a family tradition, etc.) can save a lot of heartache and tense conversations down the road.
- Ask and you shall receive. Look, you can feel free to ask anyone for advice at any time. Take their advice under advisement and just think on it. Don’t feel obligated to validate their opinion or change your mind because of what they said. With that said, please be smart about what you put out there. If you text a photo of your favorite dress to your 30 best friends from college and 25 of them hate it, you have to deal with that reality. Does it mean you can’t buy it anymore? Absolutely not. Does it mean you are now second guessing yourself? Absolutely. The lesson here is if you are absolutely set on something, then consider just asking a few of your trusted stakeholders. Bottom line: The more opinions you seek, the more feedback you get. No one likes to feel that their wedding planning experience is a runaway train or turning into “someone else’s wedding.” Don’t be that bride. Feel confident in making the choice that’s right for you and feel good about it.
4. Get organized and Share the Game Plan for the Big Day/Delegation!: The Big Day is full of excitement, stress and surprises! Unfortunately, human cloning is not an option and you, the bride, cannot be everywhere at once. The “Plan,” details, the conversations that you had with your vendors are in your head, but how can you possibly relay that to everyone else? Don’t wait until the day of the wedding to share your wishes with the friends and family members who are helping you set up. Do it in advance! Packing up for the Wedding Day can be one of the most stressful things you do, but it can be a breeze if you plan and organize in advance.
- Inventory- There’s a lot of stuff that the bride and groom bring to the venue. Family photos, heirlooms, bridal portrait, special cake servers, centerpiece items, etc. It all comes with you. Find an organization and inventory method that works for you. Brent and I purchased a ton of plastic tubs from Target and divided items into “ceremony” or “reception.” Every box had a typed inventory sheet that listed all items/quantities. We put them in plastic sheet protectors and taped them to the box. This made it easy to quickly identify the box’s contents and where it needed to go once on-site. Bonus: Create sheets of labels that have your name, phone number and e-mail on them. Where appropriate, stick the labels to the bottom of or behind the object. This is helpful for when your family and friends are cleaning up after you have your grand exit. Those stickers will help identify things that belong to you vs. the venue.
- Centerpieces/Displays- If you have a special centerpiece set up, cookie/candy display, etc. and a certain way you’d like them to look, then take a picture of the finished product, print it out, and stick it on your box. This way, people can use the photo as their guide while they set up, leaving you to have more time to get ready and relax.
Identify key family members for important stuff-Have you put your mom in charge of bringing the rings to the ceremony? Is your dad in charge of bringing the homemade photo booth back drop? Maybe your MOH is in charge of bringing all of your bridal accessories for your photos. Ok. Just remember to tell them. Again, seems obvious, but sometimes we have so many things running through our minds that we forget what we’ve actually said out loud to someone and what we haven’t. We had a spreadsheet (can you tell I love them?) that detailed important items and who we were putting in charge of bringing them. A few days before the wedding I contacted each person and told them what I needed them to do/bring. Their items were labeled and packed and we were all good. Success!
5. Checklists and E-mail: Every organized bride needs to be in the drivers seat when it comes to the checklists and e-mail. Here are my tips to keep it all manageable!
- Start a separate e-mail account just for wedding stuff. If you’ve ever been to a wedding expo, you know why. Spare yourself the headache of sifting through hundreds of vendor e-mails and spam messages in your main account from the very beginning. Use your wedding account every time you meet with a vendor and keep your communications there.
- Do as much communication as you can with your vendors on e-mail vs.the phone when possible. E-mails keep both people organized and accountable. It’s easier to refer back to when you are trying to remember the details of your last meeting and will help keep you on track.
- If you are changing your name after you get married and plan on using a new e-mail address, go ahead and set up another e-mail account with your married name. My sister-in-law gave me this tip and I’m glad I did it! You won’t need it until later, but it’s good to find something that’s available now just in case it gets taken down the road!
- I searched high and low and I really think theknot.com‘s checklist is the gold standard. It’s easy to navigate and you can easily add in your own tasks in addition to the ones they have listed. If you are looking for one source to keep you organized, go there.