There are so many moving parts in a wedding, but when it all comes together, it’s so worth it. Here are some ideas for staying organized and on track while planning.
Can you think of anyone who has the ability to keep track of research, vendor contracts, venue policies, catering decisions, décor details, guest lists, timelines, beauty options, vendor meetings, photo shot lists, budgets vs actuals… in their head? I certainly can’t, but why put yourself through all of that anyway?? For those of us that prefer to save our brain for other daily tasks and to-dos, it’s helpful to employ tools for working on bigger projects. Let’s look at a variety of resources and methods available for couples to organize their planning process and make it easy to share those details with the vendors and folks involved in their celebration.
Planning Binder : This was my main method I used for keeping track of all my inspiration & ideas, guests & seating chart, invoices & vendor contracts, timeline, random notes, etc., when planning my own wedding. To be fair, I love a good binder and any opportunity to shop for new office supplies. Having everything in one portable place that I could hand to others to reference was perfect for me.
How-to: I found a cute and sturdy binder, some fun, colorful dividers (with labels), plastic page protectors, and even tossed in a few new pens in my cart! I added in some lined loose-leaf paper for note taking, picked out a few colors of post-its from my extensive collection, and made sure my printer had its ink and paper ready. If you don’t have a three-hole punch, that can be helpful as well as premade calendar pages if you don’t have a printer to create your own. There are a variety of ways you can label your tabs to organize in a style that works for you. Two formats for consideration:
– Sorting into project management steps such as: Ideas/Inspiration, Main Checklist & To-Do Items, Completed Items, Paperwork/Contracts, Final Details.
– Sorting into specific aspects of your wedding such as: Floral & décor, Beauty & apparel, Guests & stationary/communications, Venue & food/bev, Ceremony, Reception, Etc.
The key to staying organized throughout the planning process is to maintain and update your binder regularly so that receipts don’t get lost, the most up-to-date decisions are easy to locate, and your contracts are easily reviewable.
Vision Board : For those of use who love seeing examples, color combinations, décor options, and expressing all of those ideas visually, creating a vision board can help you organize those creative ideas into one space. A vision board can be a physical creation that you tape or pin things to or it can be digital, like a Pinterest board or compilation of photos you save in a Word document/folder. The main pro of a vision board is that you can compare décor styles, food options, signage styles, dress types, and photography ideas side-by-side to help you visualize how they’d all come together (or not) to create your celebration. Keep in mind that this is concept is a creative idea visual organizer, not necessarily a way to keep all of your confirmed details together. It is very helpful to refer to and share your vision board when you’re chatting with vendors about the styles and vibes you’re wanting. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words!
How to: If you’re creating a physical vision board that you can attach things to, you can use a variety of bases. If you already own a bulletin board, I suggest going that route to save time and money on purchasing extra supplies. Other good vision board bases can be poster board, a nice piece of cardboard, a different/new bulletin board if yours is already full, a large canvas, a blank wall (careful there), or anything else you find that can hold your ideas. From there, it’s a matter of finding those inspiration examples! You can look in magazines, on Pinterest, Google photos, find things in your daily life that you love, snag fabric swatches from a bridal shop, anywhere and anything that you love! The goal is to bring those visual representations together and create an overall view of what you want your wedding to look like.
If you’re creating a Pinterest board, I recommend creating two different boards: one for compiling all of your finds and one for holding your final favorites. That way you don’t have to limit yourself while initially searching and can save a bunch of different ideas at once, but then you can find your favorites later in an uncluttered space when it’s time to start acting on those ideas.
Saving a variety of photos in a document is a great way to print it and take your ideas with you when visiting vendors and especially when chatting with your stylist at a salon for your hair or makeup trials. I saved a variety of hair and makeup style ideas that caught my eye, printed them out, and was able to chat through the options with my stylists without trying to squint at scrolling photos on my phone together.
Spreadsheets : I love spreadsheets. I create them all the time for organizing my ideas, project planning, contact information, and so much more. A spreadsheet document is an excellent way to keep track of and edit your wedding plans as you go and is versatile for various needs in separate tabs within the same file. Similar to a binder, you can keep all of your information in one place, but break it out into different sections using your page tabs. Some great ways to use different tabs:
– Track and keep your budget updated with formulas that automatically adjust your anticipated costs, actual costs, payments due/made, etc.
– Keep all of your vendor contact information together and communication notes
– Create your timeline with day-of to-do items and helper assignments
– Track and edit your guestlist and RSVPs with their meal choices and table assignments by table name or number
– To-do lists and shopping lists, things to bring day-of
– Anything else that you feel the need to keep track of
Don’t have Microsoft Exel? Google Sheets is a great (and free) web-based option. If you’re not keen on creating a planning spreadsheet file from scratch, there are a variety of wedding websites that offer free spreadsheet templates to get you started, find one that suits your fancy and get organizing!
Notebook : I take my cute little notebook (lets be real, I have about 17 of them) with me everywhere… along with my laptop. Whether you’re meeting with vendors, talking through details with your fiancé, attending a planning walkthrough at your venue, or just brainstorming ideas, it’s good to have a notebook with you where you write. down. everything. It is always better to write down everything you talk about and agree upon as well as anything mentioned by your vendors, than to not be able to remember an answer later or forget about the issue entirely until it’s too late. You also don’t have to worry about not having internet, lugging around an entire binder, or your battery dying. You can transfer your notes to your binder or spreadsheet later to keep things updated or take a picture of them in the moment to share with someone else. Having a notebook is just a great idea for life in general, in my opinion.
How to: You write in it.
Google Drive/Cloud Platform : This is a game changer and a great backup tool. Not only did I have my contracts printed and stored in my binder, but all of their digital copies, my spreadsheets, planning notes, even my centerpiece sketch and timelines, were uploaded to my Google Drive. I could easily access all of my wedding information from anywhere I had internet access, share any of those uploaded files to vendors, family, officiant, etc., and not worry if I happened to leave my binder or other tools at home.
How to: If you already have a Gmail account, you have access to your own personal Google Drive platform. It’s basically a simplified desktop where you can upload files, photos, spreadsheets, etc., and organize them into folders. While in your web-based gmail account, look up to the right corner and click on the box of dots. A bunch of icons will drop down and you can click on the triangle-looking one that is labeled “Drive.” (This is also where you can access your online calendar, Google Sheets, and much more!) Once it opens, you can start uploading files and organizing! After your files are uploaded, you can click on them to view and edit them, too. If you are an Apple user, you have access to a similar Cloud option through your AppleID/mail account.
As mentioned in my blog post, “You’re Engaged! Now What??,” there are a bunch of online resources for helping you plan your wedding. The two biggest and most established are going to be The Knot and WeddingWire. They have just about everything you could need for planning your wedding, including budgeting tools, vendor searches, check-lists, planning timelines, tips & tricks, inspiration posts, and more. However, those two are not your only option and there are more online wedding planning resources popping up all the time, such as Offbeat Bride, which was used by one of my recent brides! Find one that you like and get planning!
Planning a wedding isn’t something most couples have experience doing and it can be a very daunting task, especially if you’re working your regular job(s) while trying to do it all. If you aren’t familiar with the wedding industry, what to look for in vendors, or simply don’t want to go it without guidance, it’s time to hire a wedding planner! There are different types of wedding planning help and different price ranges that you can expect to pay for each. It may seem like a hefty investment, but the time saved, stress avoided, and often money saved in the end, is totally worth it.
Full-Service Wedding Planner: They handle and plan everything for you from day-one. Budget development, vendor research, pricing & upgrade negotiations, style & timeline planning, day-of coordination, and more. A ballpark range for a Full-Service Wedding Planner around the Twin Cities, Minnesota, is $2,500-8,000+, depending on their experience and talent.
Day-Of Coordinator/Wedding Management: You do the fun planning and your coordinator will make sure everything goes smoothly and according to plan on the day itself. But don’t think they just show up that day and that’s it. Most Day-Of Coordinators put in a lot of work before that by reviewing your timeline, confirming with vendors, completing a walkthrough at your venue, and troubleshooting issues you may not have noticed before- which is why I’ve starting calling it Wedding Management instead. According to yours truly, a Wedding Manager at a minimum is a must-have (it doesn’t even have to be me!) to reduce your stress and let you truly be present on your wedding day. From various venue hosts and vendors I’ve worked with, they really appreciate when a couple has hired a planner/coordinator to help out. A ballpark range for a Day-Of Coordinator around the Twin Cities, Minnesota, is $1,500-2,500+, depending on their experience and talent, but if your budget needs, you can usually find one for a bit less, too.
Partial Wedding Planner: For those that love the challenge of planning their own wedding, but would like to have some help and guidance along the way. A Partial Wedding Planner package is usually determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on what you decide you need help with. It could be budget planning, vendor research, and timeline creation, while you work on décor styling, DIY work, and everything else. Pricing for a partial wedding planner will depend on just how partial you’re looking to go, but expect the price range to be somewhere between $1,200-3,000+ depending on their experience, talent, and services being provided.
Add-Ons/A La Carte Services: Some Wedding Planners/Coordinators/Managers also offer A La Carte planning consultations and stand-alone service options such as set-up only, décor DIY help, aesthetic event design, post-party cleanup, and more. The pricing for Add-On or A La Carte Services will be entirely dependent on what you need and the experience and talent of the Planner you’re asking, but to be safe, I’d recommend planning for at least $200 minimum for whatever service(s) you’re inquiring about.
As I mentioned above, the cost of a Wedding Planner or Wedding Manager/Day-Of Coordinator can seem hefty, but it is also well-worth the investment. If you think you might be interested in help with your wedding, contact me and we can talk about your needs and options.
All in all, your best bet for planning your wedding is finding a way to stay organized and on top of planning that works for you and your personal style.