The day after we got engaged, Mr. Canary and I were walking around the city and we passed by a Borders on the way home. I had to stop in and buy my first bridal magazines. I had resisted purchasing them before we were engaged, though I have to admit I had been browsing on the knot, weddingbee, and indiebride a lot. Since we’d been dating for so long, I had an idea that the proposal was coming, just not sure when because our lives were in such flux.
But I think it freaked Mr. C out a bit because I was going bonkers over all the choices and possibilities. I admit, it may have been overwhelming, since Mr. C was just coming off the stress of dealing with my parents and the high of the perfect proposal… just as he thought that the hard part was over, I bust out with three magazines and go on about the guest list. Mr. C was seriously stunned. I’ve gotten a lot better lately, but I think I still freak him out when I show him all the information I’ve amassed for the wedding!
I think it really helped to get really organized in the beginning. In my previous life, I was an advertising account executive for big corporate clients. Staying organized = staying sane. We had so many projects going on at once that I had to keep separate folders and schedules for each and remind clients of anything they forgot. When you first get engaged, your thoughts are so jumbled you barely have any idea where to start. On top of that you’ve got about 50 people constantly asking what are you doing next and did you remember to do that or are you going to do this? Nuts!Here is a list (as well as some sample files) of items/tools/books that helped me through the initial planning process.
Inspiration: I started collecting a lot of wedding magazines and the only ones I ever kept intact were MS Weddings, Inside Weddings, In Style Weddings, Domino and Blueprint (both not wedding mags but still great for inspiration). I even found the coolest clipping tool, the Scotch Paper Cutter from Staples. Really indispensable for a chronic clipper like me!
- Start your own clippings library. I bought a large zippered binder, dividers, and page protectors. These are all relatively inexpensive at Staples, especially if you buy them in bulk. I created a category for various items, like “Dress/Bridal Attire” and “Honeymoon”
Tabbed dividers. If you’re using sheet protectors, make sure to buy dividers that are larger than the protectors or they won’t show. Another option is to is self adhesive index tabs and stick them on a sheet protector to act as a divider.
- Powerpoint is my best friend. For digital inspiration, I always use Powerpoint, because it’s easy to grab and paste. I kept “presentations” for every topic (same as the binders). For example, before I went wedding dress shopping, I would check the shop’s site and look at the list of designers they carried. After, I would start looking at dresses from each individual designer and copy the images of dresses I liked into a blank Powerpoint presentation. Most importantly, I would also include the style number. This was SUPER helpful for when I went shopping. Instead of sitting through an “interview” with a consultant, I would just show them a printout of the Powerpoint and a) they could tell immediately what styles I was drawn to, making it easier for them to pull our dress suggestions and b) they could tell me if they carried the particular dress in stock. Here are examples of my crazy presentations. I did the same thing for flowers and it made the florists’ job a lot easier since it’s often hard to verbally articulate floral design.
the dress powerpoint that I toted around to every dress appointment.
Vendors: As we started researching vendors, I began amassing a ton of paper and information packets.
- Create a final selected vendors binder. After we selected a vendor for a category, I threw out most of the extraneous information for other vendors, but kept important stuff like rates and menus for future reference and for other brides. For our selected vendors, I created a separate binder with page protectors where I kept vendor-specific contracts/floorplans/timelines and labeled them with each vendor’s name/company.
- Comparing “apples to apples.” Since every vendor quotes different prices and packages, in order to make it a fair and easy to decipher comparison, I created several Excel spreadsheets to break down the costs so that each vendor was compared “apples to apples.” This made it so much easier for pricing negotiation as well as to see what we were really getting from vendors as a final product. This was extremely important when booking the venue because of so many variations in menus and times. I also created a template for certain items, like the venue, so that we would remember to ask the same questions for each site. When researching on the internet, it was also really useful because I could copy and paste all the relevant information into my template and the final product would be a complete and detailed comparison.
- Timelines and charts (a la Miss Daffodil). Like every organized inspired bride, I downloaded a copy of Miss Daffodil’s amazing Powerpoint timeline and repurposed it to fit our wedding. Like Miss Daffodil, I used the Overview so I could get a sense of everything for the year (scary!) and then I broke them down into To Do Lists and Calendars (by month). I also color coded categories for vendors like Miss Daffodil, so I could easily see when and if a payment was due. Again, Powerpoint (and Miss Daffodil!), what would I do without you?
News and updates: Google has some great tools for communicating with the bridal party or future-in-laws or even Mr. C for wedding related stuff. This is especially helpful if you don’t all live in the same area.
- Forget mass email, start a Google group. I started a Google group for the bridesmaids so that I could post images of potential dresses and get all their opinions. I always had one of them with me when I shopped, but this way, everyone could feel involved even though we weren’t geographically near. It’s also better than spamming everyone’s inbox with a ton of wedding email. Google Groups allows you to select options for how often you want to be notified of comments, etc. so you can choose how in-the-know you want to be! Mr. C and I also had one since we weren’t living in the same city. Now we don’t need it because I just bombard poor Mr. C the moment I get in. 😉
- Making a guest list has never been easier! Just kidding, but sharing one is with Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Mr. C and I relied on this heavily when starting our guest list. It’s easy to make updates and keep versions straight, but also very easy to share with someone else. A true lifesaver for the beginning stages of planning.
Other resources: I will admit it right now… I am a book junkie. I just rack up books like a librarian. I don’t think Mr. C and I will ever have enough shelves! Anyway, two of the most helpful books I purchased were from the Carley Roney Knot series. Even Mr. C found them useful. 😉
- The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner I got this book later in the planning process, just after I selected a venue, but it’s been indispensable for everything else. The most helpful parts are the worksheets and question checklists for vendors. You can find a lot of the information on the Knot site, but I really liked having it all in one place and being able to pull it out before a vendor meeting was much more helpful than having to search for the information on the site.
- The Knot Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World was my first wedding book. I bought this during my Borders binge the day after we go engaged. Mr. C found this book really useful. We are the wedding guinea pigs among our friends. Although both Mr. C and I have been to a lot of weddings as kids, we’re the first ones to go of our peers so we don’t have much to fall back on in terms of customs and standards. Mr. C really liked it because it spells everything out! Very highly recommended.
- I Do Wedding Planning Software so far has been a good buy. It’s not very pricey and we plan to upload our guest list into here once both sides have mostly finalized it. It helps track replies, gifts, and Thank You notes. It does a whole lot more too, but we just haven’t had time to really play with it. One of the most useful tools is the budget calculator. All the tools are really easy to use and intuitive.
More reasons to shop…
I love buying supplies, whether for the office or just crafting. Some of my favorite places to order organization “stuff.” Fun supplies make me more productive… at least that’s what I tell Mr. Canary. Hehehe.
After doing all the initial organization leg work, having a system has been really beneficial in keeping me non-stressed. Though he thought I was crazy (more so than usual), even Mr. C has an appreciation for all my charts and timelines!
Here are some of my templates that you can download!
What tools or organization tactics have you used to help in the planning process?