If you’re anything like me, the minute you got engaged you scrambled to order anything and everything wedding related. I soon realized if I let myself, I could spend almost as much on wedding planning related products as I could on the wedding itself. No thank you!
I did end up buying two wedding planners (a complete waste obviously) so I could put the pages from The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner binder into the Kate Spade planning binder. Hey, I had a gift card so I wasn’t completely burning money (just partially). Looking back a paper wedding planning binder is a bit of a novelty. It’s fun to flip through and daydream about planning your wedding, but when it comes to the ACTUAL planning you’ll most likely end up keeping track of everything digitally (unless you are the type to print out emails and receipts).
Create a Wedding Folder in your Email Inbox
The moment we started corresponding with our venue I created a folder in my inbox for wedding related correspondence. Some couples create separate email accounts specifically for their weddings (ie. jordanAndJordynWedding@gmail.com), I find this unnecessary but if it helps you stay organized…by all means, go for it! The moment I read an email from the wedding coordinator, caterer, venue, florist, etc. I move it to the wedding folder in my inbox. Most of the emails require action from me at some later date (such as updating the DJ’s playlist or sending the coordinator a day-of timeline) so creating an organized inbox ensures I can easily access the messages when I need to act on them closer to our wedding date.
Create a Wedding Folder on your desktop
Similarly, you’ll want a folder on your desktop to save wedding inspiration, timelines, excel spreadsheets and receipts. While I like browsing Pinterest for inspiration and pinning away…I like to screenshot my favorite ideas for quick reference. Within my “Wedding” folder I have a “decor inspiration” folder, “receipts and quotes” folder, a “bridesmaid dress inspiration” folder, a “bridal attire” folder, a folder for “proofs” and a folder with photos and inspiration from our venue. Your folders will probably be different than mine, your method of organization should be personal to you. Go crazy making folders, your only limit is your own neurosis!
Use a Generic wedding To-Do Timeline to Create a Personal To-Do Timeline
Prior to creating my “master wedding to-do timeline” I browsed the sample timelines in the wedding magazines, the Knot Wedding planner and on websites like Brides.com. The generic timelines give you an idea of tasks that may need to be accomplished but are by no means perfect. According to the timeline given to me by The Knot, I wouldn’t have contacted my florist until mid June (my wedding is in August)! If I had waited to contact my florist until a month and a half before my wedding she would have been fully booked. Get a sense of how quickly vendors in your region need to be booked in advance when you create your timeline. Since we are planning a wedding over a six month engagement we booked ALL of the major vendors in the first month (venue/caterer/photographer/florist/dj/baker). Another tip brides tend to forget: make sure you understand how long your wedding gown will take to take to arrive, how far in advance you should begin alterations, and what rush fees will be if you order close to your wedding date. See my tips on shopping for your wedding dress here and here.
Once you book a venue and set a date go from there to create a timeline. Schedule your month by month to-do list and stick to it to avoid last minute panic. You don’t need to include every item on the lists from Brides or The Knot, alter your list to fit your needs. Not hiring a calligrapher? Me either…skip that step. Looking for a fire dancer or wandering magician for your reception? Add these steps to your timeline. I included everything from when to order/decide on decorations, writing my vows, to buying my rehearsal dinner outfit and bachelorette party bikini to my to-do list. As I receive more information from vendors I add to my to-do list and set up reminders on my phone a few days before important deadlines. For me, organization and to-do lists are the keys to keeping wedding planning fun rather than stressful!
Create an Excel Budget Tracker before you spend a dime
I hate money, scratch that…I like money, but I hate talking about money and budgeting. One of my worst traits is my discomfort with communicating about finances. Jordan has really helped me grow in this area and has helped make me more comfortable talking about money with him. I know (and you should know by now) that talking about money with your partner is HIGHLY IMPORTANT, however it still makes me a tad squeamish.
Whether you’re the budgeting queen or you are like me and feel ill making a budget, sit down with your partner and anyone contributing to the wedding budget and look realistically at finances. This step involves a little research if you aren’t familiar with vendor pricing in your area. Look into the average price of venues, photographers, wedding dresses, catering, florists, invitations, favors, etc. and determine what is realistic for you. Don’t make numbers up out of thin air, determine the range of the going rate and see what you are comfortable spending and where each item fits in your budget.
For example, I love wedding videos, but I knew I wasn’t comfortable spending $6,000-$7,000 on a wedding videographer. We decided we would either sacrifice a videographer altogether or find something within our MUCH smaller videographer budget on Thumbtack. In the end we found a videographer we were comfortable with at a price we were willing to pay. When you look at Pinterest or the wedding blogs you see grand floral arrangements hanging from the ceilings and floral arches lining every door way. If you look into the price of florals, you’ll quickly realize you’d need to have a $20,000-$50,000 flower budget to achieve the dramatic floral looks. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! Prices vary by vendor, by region, by time of year, etc.
After you and your fiancé have looked into your finances and researched vendor pricing in your area set an overall budget and a budget for each area and item. We set a dress budget, a shoe budget, a hair & makeup budget, a flower girl dress budget, etc, etc. GET SPECIFIC and keep track as you make purchases. If you go slightly over in your budget in one area, see how you can spend a little less in another area (or earn a little extra money to make up for it).
There are quite a few resources available for helping you plan your wedding budget.
- Creating a Wedding Budget(via Brides)
- Wedding Budgets 101 (via The Knot)
- A Perfect (for you) Wedding Budget (via A Practical Wedding)
I love looking at REAL weddings (not styled shoots) to see how couples create their dream wedding at every price point. It’s fun to browse Budget Savvy Bride to see real weddings and the price breakdown for weddings from $1000-$20,000. You can google “wedding on $X budget” to find how real couples planned a wedding with your exact budget. (Here are two examples I found for a $50,000 wedding: One, Two). You can search ANY price point $0-$200,000+ and find real wedding examples and budget breakdowns. No matter how much you are spending (or saving) on your wedding, it’s helpful to see a few budget breakdowns. You don’t need to allocate your funds in the exact same way as other couples but it helpful to see how your budget could work out.
A Few of my Favorite Planning Resources:
- Bridechilla Podcast & Facebook Group
- Bridechilla Survival Guide
- Weddiculous: An Unfiltered Guide to Being a Bride
- The Knot Wedding Planning App & Wedding Planner
- Wedding Planning Inspiration: WeddingChicks & Green Wedding Shoes (two of my favorites but there are thousands of fab wedding planning blogs out there, grab a glass of wine and spend a Friday evening browsing for inspiration).
A Note on Wedding Boards & Forums:
Personally I love turning to the anonymous wedding forums for a good laugh. It’s like reality tv-sometimes informative, but mainly just a train wreck. Somebody somewhere is offended by your father-daughter dance song choice, someone will call your wedding a a sham because you lived together prior to marriage, and someone is going through a psychotic breakdown over an unsatisfactory proposal or a diamond ring that is, dare I say it, too big. *Eyeroll* The pain! The trauma!
It’s sort of like that episode of four weddings I watched last night in which one of the brides was “graded down” for having “too much food” at her wedding and another was told her dress “didn’t have enough sparkle”. The horror! People take weddings a little too seriously. By all means take your marriage seriously, but I find the wedding forums a good place to laugh at humanity. Don’t assume that everyone in your real life thinks like the anonymous posters on the wedding forums. Read the wedding forums for entertainment purposes or for a little brainstorming session but remember anyone can post anything they want anonymously. You don’t need to gain the approval of anonymous strangers online.
Wedding Etiquette, Rules & Traditions
I personally skipped the books on wedding etiquette and wedding traditions. I don’t come from a very traditional family and I figured that by behaving in a manner that I deemed polite and gracious I wouldn’t offend anyone too much. Perhaps my invitations will be addressed improperly but I have bigger issues in my world (even in my wedding world). You know your crowd better than anyone else, so it’s up to you whether to skip a traditional church ceremony or forgo dancing or cake or a white wedding gown. Some people love unique weddings, some people love traditional weddings! I love both! Be honest with what you want and what your partner wants and you’ll create a day that makes you happy!
If you are all about traditional wedding etiquette (hey there is nothing wrong with that) there are many resources available for planning a day the royal family would be proud to attend.
- 10 Biggest Etiquette Don’ts
- Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette
- An Modern Feminist look at Wedding Traditions:The Adventures and Discoveries of a Feminist Bride
If you have any tips or tricks for staying organized while planning a wedding please send them my way. I know you guys are super creative and I appreciate hearing all about what worked (and what you wish you had known) while planning your own weddings. What can I say?I love love, and I love parties!