5 Things: Wedding Planning 101

Man, my Facebook timeline has been filled with so many engagements! It's such an exciting thing. It doesn't even have to be happening to anyone I know. A mom and daughter came into the store yesterday and started talking about how their daughter/sister was getting engaged in the next few days, and I think I freaked them out with how enthusiastically I reacted to a stranger getting married. 

This would be me. 

This would be me. 

...oh well. C'est la vie. 

Anyway, I've written a more sentimental post here about the qualitative things that are important when wedding planning, but this one is a down-and-dirty details post about some things that will tangibly make your life easier. 

I remember the first couple of days after getting engaged and thinking to myself, "Oh WOW. This is a WHOLE LOT." Luckily, I had my mom, who ran a very tight ship and planned the wedding and reception of my dreams. I learned some things from her that I thought I'd share here in the hopes that anyone else who is newly engaged can take home a tip or two!

1. Prioritize. 

I've already talked about this one in this postbut it bears repeating. Weddings are EXPENSIVE. No matter what your budget is, you'll probably end up going just a teeny bit over it because of something unexpected. 

Because that is the case, you and your future spouse should sit down and decide: what's most important to you? Is it the band? The drinks? Is it the venue where you have your reception? Is a sit-down, full-service meal what you want? Are beautiful photos at the top of your list? Is your dress most important?

Whatever makes you happy - go with that. Choosing three or four things right out of the gate that you know you're willing to spend a little extra on will keep you from feeling guilty when you splurge on an open bar, for example. You'll already know that you've budgeted for that expense, so it won't keep you up at night.

2.  Spreadsheets are your friend. 

I'm a Google Docs girl, myself, but if you're an Excel person, I won't hold it against you. 

When I was getting married, I had a spreadsheet for EVERYTHING. Guest list. Gift log. Honeymoon locations. Party invitation lists. 

There are too many details swimming around in your brain ("Did we confirm the florist?" "Did that last bridesmaid order her dress yet?" "Why has my hair suddenly turned grey?") for you to keep track of the little things on your To Do list, or to whom you've sent a thank you note. 

(The other great part about keeping an address spreadsheet is that you now have that address forever! I keep our guest book address log on my desktop and use it as my little address book anytime I need to mail something.) 

Here's a little sample of what I used as my gift log - it's certainly not rocket science, but I used it religiously.

3. Hire a day-of coordinator. 

As I mentioned, my mom and I were at the helm of my wedding and reception, but that doesn't mean we did it by ourselves. There were so many generous, kind, thoughtful people who helped us get that ship in the water. 

We didn't use a wedding planner, but we did use a day-of coordinator at the venue where we had our reception. This is something I can't recommend enough. If you're planning your wedding with a family member (your mom, sister, etc.), having someone else on the ground to handle those last-minute details is incredibly freeing. Because we used one, my mom was able to sit back and fully enjoy her only daughter getting married, and I as the bride was blissfully unaware of the couple of logistical hiccups that occurred that day (as they inevitably will). Neither of us was concerned about anything except the pure joy of the wedding.

When you select this person, you'll want to sit down with them and go painstakingly through each tiny detail of your day. Examples of things no one thinks about that your coordinator can/should take over: 

  1. How is the couple getting from the wedding venue to the reception (if they're in different places)? 
  2. Will the couple eat before or during the reception? Where will they eat? How long will that take? Will photos be taken? 
  3. How will the wedding party get from place to place? 
  4. Who will be responsible for getting the bride's belongings from the church? 
  5. When will you pay people associated with the wedding (minister, musicians, etc.)? 
  6. Who will stick around and gather up all the family heirlooms (vintage champagne glasses, tablecloths) from the reception venue? 
  7. Who will be responsible for getting the bride's wedding gown from the hotel room if the bride and groom are leaving for their honeymoon straight away? 

Thinking through every single piece of your day gives your coordinator ALL the information he or she will need to keep you and your family members out of the fray. It's an invaluable investment to know that someone else has got everything handled! 

4. Write thank you notes as you go. 

I know, I sound like your grandmother. I know. 

Here's the thing, though: if you don't write them as you go, you're going to end up with a pile of dozens and dozens AND DOZENS of notes to write when you get back from your honeymoon. I promise this will not be a fun task.

I can also promise that your husband, though his intentions may be great, will only write two or three and then decide that it's best that you handle it from here on out. 

Mmhmm. Lookin' at you, Jordan. 

The ONLY note that Jordan wrote. 

The ONLY note that Jordan wrote. 

When I got a gift, I immediately put it into that log featured above, then (in almost every case) IMMEDIATELY sat down and wrote the thank you note. It was so, so much better and easier on me to complete that step as gifts arrived than to put it off and have to do it later. 

It also keeps you grateful. If you wait to do them all at once, it starts to be a pain, and your notes will probably reflect that you're zipping through them and trying to get them done. People went to the Post Office (or the Internet) and sent you a present! How fun and wonderful is that?? Sending a note is just another way to remind yourself what a wonderful season of your life this is. 

5. Backwards plan. 

This is a lesson that all educators know very well. 

When you're getting married, things are often on a pretty tight timeline. You have to buy your dress with enough time to get it altered. You have to book your band or DJ, photography, and florist quickly so that they don't get scooped up by another bride. 

The easiest way to keep track of all that stuff is to backwards plan it. 


Let's say that you're sending save-the-dates out on September 1. It'll take you a couple of days to address envelopes/mail them. So now we're at August 28th. It'll take the printer two weeks to get the cards finished, so now we're at August 14th. You'll want a couple of days to design them - August 12th. So, if you're taking pictures to be featured on the card itself, those need to be edited and in the can by the 10th, which means they need to be taken by the 8th at the very latest.

You get the picture. 

If you keep a calendar of all the dates by which certain tasks need to get accomplished, you'll never find yourself screaming in your sleep about needing more time to book a caterer. 

This is a boring, tedious, and not very fun thing, but holy COW it saves you some brain space and some years off your life that will be eaten by stress if you decide to just wing it. theknot.com has a GREAT wedding checklist that will help you start this process - here's a snapshot of my checklist from their website for the month of February (I got engaged in January, married in August): 


Okay, friends. Hope everyone has a beautiful weekend - can't wait to talk to you Monday (but especially Tuesday, where we get to see if JoJo is going to make the wrong decision or the wrong decision. Get it? 'Cause there's no right choice.)