I feel pretty proud about my wedding planning skills.
I mean, I certainly wasn’t perfect…. I had my moments of stress throughout our 15 months of engagement. But overall, piecing our wedding day together was an exciting, delightful, and deeply satisfying process for me. And when I look back at that time, there are a few select things that really made the difference between feeling organized & confident & put together, and feeling overwhelmed & underprepared.
Now, part of me is already rolling my eyes at myself, for putting together a list like this. Isn’t it a little presumptuous to assume that my advice can be of use anybody at all? But here is my blogging philosophy: if any of my tips or tricks or methods helps, even in the least, just one of you brides-to-be out there, well, then it’s worth writing about. So, here were my most helpful resources. The tools & the tricks, the needle and thread, that made my wedding possible.
1) Pinterest.com was, by far, one of my favorite wedding planning sites. I didn’t use it in a this-is-exactly-what-I-want-and-if-it’s-not-that-way-I-will-die sort of way. Instead, I simply pinned anything that caught my eye, without considering whether it was what I wanted. That was this board (and I began this process well over a year before Will & I were engaged). And then, once we got engaged, I organized it all into boards by subject…”the paper”, the flowers”, “the food”, and so on and so forth. And here’s the amazing thing: there were patterns. It turned out that I wanted an updo. How do I know this? Because every single one of my “the hair” pins looked exactly the same. I showed my “the cake” board to my baker during our initial consult: she took one look at it and said “So, you want a round, tiered, white buttercream cake with sugar flowers?”. Using Pinterest enabled me to identify what it was that I loved. And that took so much pressure off the decision-making process, because I already had confirmation that I could live with (and delight in) the choices.
2) I found WeddingWire.com especially helpful for looking through vendor reviews. I used the site to find my incredible makeup artist and stylist, to consult about my caterer, and to confirm our decision on a photographer. I didn’t, however, use any of their other tools, mostly because I was perfectly happy with theKnot.com (see below)… plus, when I skimmed through them, I mostly felt pretty “eh” about it all. And I tend to trust my instinct on things like that.
3) Speaking of TheKnot.com… I would highly recommend signing up as soon as you get engaged. I loved it. Specifically, I loved the individualized “My Checklist” and “My Guest List” portions. Plus, there’s a countdown feature on the homepage, which is always a happy thing.
– “My Checklist” appealed to my type-A, organized, cross-it-off-the-list personality at its very core. It is a detailed, exhaustive account of pretty much everything you could need to do before (and after) the wedding. Every other list I found was vague and spotty… with this one, I felt assured that there was nothing I had to remember, because it was all written down and organized, with all the “to-dos” in one place. It’s also totally customizable, which meant that I could add random things like “Pay 90-day payment to photographer” or “Buy sparklers for the exit” or “Make kraft paper signs for the reception”. And I could remove those things that didn’t apply to me, or move the order around as I saw fit. I should make a note, though, that it operates on a due date system, where it puts a little alarm clock beside all the items that you don’t check off “in time”. Brides: you will NOT do it all in time! As for me, I mostly just tried to ignore the clocks and see it as a general timeline.
-“My Guest List” was also a pretty incredible tool. All you have to do is input the guests’ names and addresses, and then you have a brilliant way of keeping track of the RSVPs, the seating chart, the gifts, and the thank-you notes (among other things). It was, truly, a lifesaver. Each time I got an RSVP in the mail, I simply logged on and pressed “Accepted” or “Declined”. TheKnot automatically kept track of how many people would attend the wedding and generated a customizable seating chart. When we received a gift, I entered it beside the person’s name, and then when I dropped the thank-you note in the mail, I just checked the box that said “Thank You Sent”. It kept everything clear and simple. And here’s the fact: even though I thought I would be able to remember it all (what kind of terrible person doesn’t remember whether her great-aunt RSVPed?), I couldn’t. And so, like I said, it was a lifesaver.
Another note about TheKnot.com: although the community boards can be helpful, I would make sure to put on a tough skin before you post anything. Many (many) of the regulars who post here are more than a little condescending and simply mean. I hate to say it, but I really feel like I need to warn you. I almost cried the first time they responded to one of my questions.
4) The one thing that I couldn’t find online was a thorough, flexible budget application. So… I made one. Click here to download a draft of my Excel wedding budget. Obviously, we didn’t actually use all of the budgeted items on this sheet (no calligrapher for us!). But I figured it’s better, for these purposes, to include something than leave it off. So go ahead and make it your own: change the sections, hide rows, alter columns… whatever it takes for you to feel comfortable. Then, insert your budgeted numbers, and let Excel do the rest. I hope it helps!
5) And last, but not least, I loved my handy dandy pocket accordion file. I picked it up on a whim from Staples, and ended up using from the first venue meeting it all the way until last week (when I sold my wedding dress). This was perfect for all the little pieces of paper that you gather when wedding planning: from random business cards to receipts of purchase to copies of contracts. I kept it in my car, so that it was easily accessible everytime I went to a vendor meeting and walked out with a handful of papers. Yay for organization!
So, there you go. There’s not much more to say… except, happy planning! I hope that your engagement is filled with all the goodness that the season has to offer. And may you always be checking things off your list.