Much like getting caught in an avalanche, wedding planning can seem perfectly under control until you’re suddenly buried. Whether it’s three feet of invoices, missed call notifications, or frosting samples that you’re buried under, there’s no doubt about it — the wedding planning process is complicated. Still, you can go from engaged to newlywed without succumbing to stress — we promise! Whether you’re just starting to plan your nuptials or you’re halfway there and overwhelmed by everything you still have to do, these expert tips will help you get your ducks in a row and your happy self to the altar.
Lists are amazing. Not only does it give you a simple visual reference and highlight everything that needs to get done, you get the incredible satisfaction of crossing off each task once it’s completed. Seriously, few things in life feel better than drawing a big, fat line through “choose a venue” or “tell MIL she can’t really sing ‘Ordinary People’ at the wedding.”
When constructing your lists, draw on your old school-day habits and use a traditional outline structure. You know the one:
- First Task
- Secondary Item
- Another secondary item
- Mini tasks that fall under secondary item
- More mini tasks
- Second Task
And so on. When wedding planning, the beginning of your outline might look a little something like this:
- Flower arrangements
- Find out what flowers are in season
- Get several quotes
- Seasonal Décor R Us
- Bob’s House of Flowers
- Make guest list
- Call each venue re: capacity
- Look at per-person budget
- Ask Mom if we really have to invite her old sorority friends
- Call each venue re: capacity
Some people love writing everything out by hand, but technology has its advantages. Digital to-do lists are much easier to edit. Plus, there are apps that allow multiple people to access the same list so you and your betrothed can work on things together while always staying on the same page.
If you’re a visual person, it helps to take all the must-do items out of your head and put them on a calendar. That’s just the beginning, though. Next, color-code each item according to the category it falls under (dress, venue, photographer, etc.) or the vendor. You can use a dry erase board and markers or use colored sticky notes — the latter is particularly handy as you can move the notes from date to date if you need to reschedule an appointment.
Pro Tip: Use a single flashy color like neon green to call attention to deposit due dates. You don’t want to miss out on your top choice for a band or caterer because you forget to send them their money!
Remember when Monica got engaged to Chandler on Friends and whipped out her wedding book? Her ideas may have been a little outdated, but she sure was organized. Using a binder isn’t the most modern way to keep track of things, but it’s especially effective for wedding planning because of all the physical samples involved.
With a binder, you can collect everything from bills to invitation mockups to candid photos of you and your soon-to-be spouse testing out photo booth backdrops. You can always use other more techy tools like online calendars and app-based planners to complement your binder system. It’s the best of both worlds!
Sources say that the average person has about 200 emails in their inbox and they get an additional 120 or so every day. Those sources must know some pretty organized people, because other anecdotal evidence points to email backlogs in the thousands (or worse). Point is, it’s awfully easy to lose track of important communication when your inbox looks like it got hit by a tornado.
Before you kick off months of vendor communication and messages to your bridal party, get ready for the deluge. Clean out your inbox, create folders just for wedding stuff, and learn how to flag important emails just in case you can’t respond right away.
Marriage is all about teamwork, so you might as well get used to not doing everything on your own. Wedding planning is a monumental task, and it helps to have a crew of people ready to jump in and tackle your to-dos. Maybe your social butterfly sister can put together a list of activities for out-of-town guests to help keep them occupied and entertained. See if your crafty cousins are willing to DIY your wedding favors (you can pay them for supplies and their time, too). Most of all, share the load with your partner. This is a big day for both of you, and even if you’ve been planning the perfect wedding for years before you met, they should be there to support you every step of the process.
Remember, there are no trophies for driving yourself crazy trying to plan a wedding single-handedly. Don’t be a hero. Let people take a few things off your plate and you’ll enjoy the next few months/years of planning much more.
Just when you thought every aspect of wedding planning was going to leave a hole in your pocketbook, the experts step in with templates and wedding planning checklists that don’t cost a penny. Our favorites organize the planning process according to how many months you have to go until the big day. For instance, if you’re a year out, you might have a broader focus, with things like choosing a date, creating a wedding website, and putting together a vendor list taking priority.
Fast forward until you have just four or five months left before you become a Mr. or Mrs. (or Ms. or Mx!), and your checklist is more about finishing touches like booking a hotel room for your wedding night or scheduling final dress fittings.
These tools are absolutely invaluable. So much so, you might want to look at all of them right after you get engaged to help build your own calendar and make sure you’re addressing everything that needs to be addressed.
The average wedding in America costs a whopping $33,391. In many ways, that’s a small price to pay for the “I dos” of your dreams. But if you’re on a budget and need to stick to it, it’s crucial you track your costs and keep an eye on any changes.
Consider all the things you’ll need to pay for (your personal list will vary, of course):
- Wedding planner
- Stationery such as save-the-date cards, wedding invitations, and programs
- Other decor like dance floors, lighting, and furniture
- Photographer and videographer
- Dresses and/or tuxes
- Wedding cake
- Wedding favors
If you’re having a destination wedding or themed event, then additional expenses such as flights, hotel stays, and that horse your future husband insists on riding in on may factor in as well.
One survey found that half of couples exceeded their wedding budget by an average of $7,319. Put everything into a spreadsheet and use formulas to watch totals grow in real time and you’ll always be aware of where every cent is going. You may still overspend, but at least it won’t be a surprise.
There are lots of useful wedding apps on the market very much worth exploring. That said, relying too much on technology can lead you to miss out on chances to personalize your invitations or look through all your photos, not just the ones your friends posted with your custom hashtag. For every bit of automation you put in place, sit with your dress swatches and imagine what they’ll feel like when you’re wearing your gown on the big day. It’s good to be balanced, and you can embrace organization without losing touch with the very best parts of the wedding planning process.
9. Give yourself options
One last piece of advice: Be flexible! Wedding planning often spans years. Things change, and the more organized you are, the easier it is to roll with the punches. If you’re able to build a few different options into your lists and plans, you can be even more prepared in the event that an audible needs to be called.
In the end, all that really matters is that you live happily ever after — sounds like the perfect thing to put at the top of your to-do list!