Friends Season Four, Episode 20: “The One with All the Wedding Dresses.” Image via Friends Wiki.
Mr. Wallaby and I are down to mere days until our wedding! Woohoooo!
Weddings are all about numbers. Guest counts, budgets, checklists, gift prices, calendars…When it comes to wedding planning, everything seems to revolve around numbers. And especially the moola. I’d like to dedicate a post to budgeting, organization, and how Mr. Wallaby and I have generally managed to stay stress-free.
Let’s start with planning tools. I’ve mentioned already that my favorite wedding-related book is A Practical Wedding. If you haven’t already, you really should pick up a copy of this book. It sheds a lot of light on the emotional aspects of engagement and wedding planning, how wedding traditions and expectations evolved over the last 50 years, and how you can avoid a number of pitfalls to ensure that everyone makes it out in one piece. (Miss Treasure wrote a great review of the book last spring.) The other book I’ve found useful is The Bride’s Essential Wedding Planner by Amy Nebens. This is really more of a binder than a book, and it is chock full of checklists, sets of questions to ask each vendor, and plenty of tips on etiquette. I would recommend this for any bride looking for a resource on “wedding planning for dummies”; however, if you are an off-beat bride or if you’ve had some experience helping others plan a wedding, you could save $19 for another wedding-related expenditure.
Instead of relying on all of the checklists in The Essential Wedding Planner, I have relied very heavily on the free tools provided by TheKnot. My favorite tool is the guest list manager—this tool has allowed Mr. W and I to share our guest list with our families, and our parents have logged in and added the addresses of the guests on their lists. Since we mailed out our invitations, the tool has been super helpful with tracking RSVPs and gifts. After the wedding, we’ll export the list of gifts to help with the process of writing thank-you notes. I’ve also been using The Knot’s checklist tool—I’ve found that it’s a pretty comprehensive list of to-dos for brides and grooms. Now that the wedding date is approaching, Mr. W and I downloaded this checklist onto an Excel spreadsheet and added all of our personal items—e.g. “order fireworks for fireworks exit,” “finish preparing out-of-town bags,” “drop all wedding planning and go on a date night.” (Just kidding… That last one isn’t on our list; we neglect wedding activities and go out on dates all the time!) We also created an Excel spreadsheet for our budget, and we’ve uploaded both this and our to-do list onto Google Documents so that either of us can download the spreadsheet to make changes.
Mr. W and I’s checklist—an Excel spreadsheet shared via Google Documents. Personal photo.
My Google Documents dashboard. Personal photo.
My other planning tool has been Pinterest. I will do anything to save a tree, and to date I have bought just one bridal magazine. (I bought it the day after we got engaged to read on the flight back from NYC to Houston…a girl’s gotta do something to pass the time on those long flights!) For me, Pinterest has replaced the “wedding binder” or physical inspiration boards that used to be common practice for newly-engaged women. I pin away as I browse through wedding blogs, vendor websites, and plain-old Google image searches. I’ve created a pinboard for each of the major category of wedding planning: cake, flowers, dress/beauty, signs, invitations, favors, and decorations. (If there were more visuals out there about marriage wisdom, I’d pin those too!) Before I meet with a vendor, I browse through my pinboard, pick out my favorites, and email them to the vendor to share my inspiration and ideas. Pinning different ideas on the same pinboard also allows me to see what different things would look like side-by-side— such as my dress and a makeup style, for example, or white garden chairs with an aisle of scattered rose petals.
A Pinterest board for cocktail hour inspiration. Personal photo.
By far the most important tool in this process has really been my email account. I’ve been using Gmail for years, and its capabilities far exceed those of the version of Office 2003 Outlook email that I use for work. I keep all of my emails with vendors in case there is any wrinkle further down the road, and I keep the email receipts for all of our wedding-related purchases. Our honeymoon has its own folder, too. With the flood of emails I get most days from advertisers, Groupon, shoe sales, etc., it’s really nice to be able to search for the name of a vendor or something specific— e.g. “ice cream truck”— and pull up my whole conversation with a person. My Gmail is also linked to my Google Calendar, which I share with Mr. W. He and I keep track of appointments with vendors and payment due dates on our calendar, and I am pretty sure it’ll be a lifesaver the final weeks before the wedding, when most of our payments are due. As I mentioned above, he and I also share our documents via Google Documents, which has proven to be a super easy, efficient system of sharing information. If you haven’t taken advantage yet of all of these services Google and Gmail have to offer, I would highly recommend them.
We are on a tight budget, as I’m sure are many of you! We’ve managed to stay on budget through careful planning, resisting impulse buys (most of the time…!), and carefully tracking our expenses along the way. I would strongly recommend setting up a spreadsheet with separate columns for “Predicted Cost” and “Actual Cost,” as this will help you gauge whether you are staying within your original limits. (I was happy to find that my dress alterations were much less than I had expected, so this freed up some money for us to buy sparklers for our exit!)
Lastly, I want to touch on how important it is to keep the romance alive in your relationship while you’re planning your wedding. Remember, all of this planning is leading up to just one day in your lives together, and the state of your relationship once the planning has ceased is much more important than any details of the wedding day. Mr. W and I make sure that we still do the same activities we did before we got engaged—we still go out on date nights to restaurants, we still go out with our friends, and we still exercise a lot. (We’ve been doing a boot camp a few nights a week after work, and it works wonders with stress relief and feeling good physically!) Even though you may want to stay home and do crafts, you will feel much happier—and more productive!—if you take out sufficient time to maintain your relationships with your significant other and your friends and family. There are plenty of projects I have skipped (cough, cough… learning calligraphy!) due to time constraints, yet I am so happy that Mr. W and I have been able to keep on having fun and making memories during our engagement. Remember that wedding planning is short; marriage is forever.
If you’re looking for more tips or resources, there is abundant information out there from other brides and brides-to-be – check out Mrs. Mink and Miss Treasure’s advice on paperless planning, Mrs. Panther’s tips on de-cluttering wedding-related crafts, and Ms. Ferris Wheel’s praise for wedding planning with Google tools.
Do you have any more tips on how to plan for a wedding, and how to reduce stress?