Organization is Key, Prioritizing is King

I’ve been in the wedding industry for nearly 3 years now.  In that time, I’ve reviewed hundreds of articles and infographics on planning a wedding.  I’ve scoured blog posts, tips, suggested timelines, anything that I thought would be of value to our clients.  But for the last 11 months, I’ve been planning my own wedding, and the real-life experience has given me far more insight that one could ever glean from reading or studying the process.  With my wedding just 37 days away now (eek!), I wanted to take a few minutes to share one of the most helpful things I’ve learned:

Organization is key, but Prioritizing is everything.

I’ve always been an overly organized person.  I love order, lists, and structure in all aspects of my life, and these qualities have been incredibly helpful in planning my wedding.   If you’re not hiring a wedding planner, organizing your ‘to do’ list and establishing realistic priorities can be your saving grace.  A wedding is an event, but it’s also a complex project with many moving parts. As such, I approached it almost as if it were a work project, and I knew I wanted a tool to help me manage the process.  I chose Google Sheets.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sheets, it’s Google’s version of Excel and you can access it from anywhere, anytime.  This is super helpful because you can make updates in real time from any device to keep up with decisions as they’re made and as you add/cross tasks off your list. (There’s an endless supply of list-making or project management apps out there to choose from and I encourage you to use whatever you’re familiar with.  I just personally like Google Sheets because it’s simple to use and I felt it might be easier to share with other people who are involved in my planning process – my Mom, future Mother in Law, maid of honor, etc.).  Whatever program or system you use to track the ‘to dos’, here are the key things to remember to help keep things moving and minimize the overall stress of the process:

  • Start by making a list of everything you have to do from day 1 through a month post-wedding– I’m talking everything- from the big things like booking the venue and securing vendors, to the small and seemingly obvious things, like writing thank you notes for shower gifts, packing your dress, getting a marriage license, etc. I built my list over time but I started with everything I could possibly think of for pre-wedding and post-wedding tasks.  (Post-wedding tasks are things like changing your name, sending thank you notes, getting a new license/passport, updating your personal information with your HR department and so on.)  Then I consulted some lists I found online from TheKnot and other wedding sources to fill in the gaps.  As I moved through the planning process, I added more tasks that came about organically, as well as those that vendors outlined for us – pay deposits, complete questionnaires, schedule dress fittings, etc. The more comprehensive your list is from the get-go, the easier it will be as you move along.
  • Prioritize the list. There are going to be many items on the list that have deadlines associated with them, whether those are set by you or your vendors.  Identify any hard and soft deadlines that exist within your ‘to dos’ and prioritize these tasks as needed.  Be mindful of delivery dates, vendor deadlines, or tasks that require feedback from a third party.  As you move down the list and identify deadlines, flag the tasks with dates or phases (phase 1-3) so that you know which things to tackle first.  If you’re using Google Sheets, you can create a “timeline” column where you can assign a target date or phase to each task, and then sort the entire sheet by the timeline column.  I used months so I could see a snapshot of what I needed to do each month and then created a corresponding calendar tab in the same sheet where I designated certain days for executing those tasks.  This was incredibly helpful when I had to coordinate schedules with my fiancé, my parents, or our vendors.  As you progress through the planning process, you’ll add new tasks and identify things that need to be done before completing others, but keeping an eye on the time sensitive ones will help you prioritize.  It also helps you spread things out so that you don’t take on too much at any given time. For example, half way through the planning process, I had about 60% of my tasks assigned to the same month and only a handful in another.  I reorganized some of them to make it more palatable and to be more realistic with my time.  Ultimately my goal is to have as few things as possible left to do in the 2 weeks before my wedding because I want to stay healthy and enjoy every moment of that week.  I’m hoping my last week beforehand consists of nothing but wrapping things up at work, touching with the vendors one final time, and maybe whitening my teeth. 🙂  With this in mind, there are several things I did much farther in advance than necessary, like wrapping my bridesmaids’ gifts, prepping a “to bring” list for the reception, and similar tasks.  This way I have a time buffer in case some last minute things pop up, or best case scenario, I can enjoy more restful sleep in the nights leading up to the big day.
  • Consider financial factors. Weddings can have a long list of expenses associated with them and even the little expenses can add up quickly.  Throughout the planning process, I color coded the tasks that had financial implications and prioritized them to space them out over time.  This way, my fiancé and I had a financial plan for each phase of the wedding and the larger expenses were split up to create balance each month.  If the wedding rings and the photographer deposit are both larger expenses, find out the lead times on both and plan accordingly so that they don’t hit the same month.  If you work in a field where your paycheck fluctuates, try planning the expenses for the months where you have more cash on hand and/or fewer bills coming in (e.g. car taxes, medical bills, etc.).  Both are good tactics to keep expenses more manageable.  By planning your expenses farther in advance, you also create more opportunities to take advantage of promotions, flight deals for your honeymoon, holiday sales, and so on. I designed my reception signage and wedding invitations in advance, saved them on the vendors’ sites, then went back and ordered them when they ran promotions to save as much as 50% on some items! Be mindful of the delivery time for certain items but selecting the products you want and then ordering when a sale hits can help you get some great deals.
  • Remember what’s important. All the little details of the wedding are so fun to think about but it can get overwhelming at times.  Pinterest and your friends/family will give you a million ideas of things you “have to have” or “would be so cute!” but at the end of the day, it’s your day.  When you’re looking at your ‘to do’ list, focus on prioritizing the things that matter to you and your spouse-to-be.  For us, the most important part of the day is that we celebrate our love, and that our friends and family get to know us better as a couple. With this in mind, our priorities included choosing a waterfront venue (because we got engaged by the water), writing our own vows (because we’re both really passionate people and have a way with words), and incorporating photos of different places we’ve visited as part of the reception table centerpieces (to reflect our love of travel).  If the photo booth, favors, Mr./Mrs. Signs, aren’t meaningful to you as a couple, focus your time and energy on the things that celebrate your love.  If you have extra time down the road, you can always add ideas and elements to the party, but focusing on what really matters to both of you from the beginning will help you prioritize your time/energy on creating a wedding that speaks to your relationship on a higher level.

I hope some of this is helpful as you plan your wedding! If you have any tips or tricks you think would be valuable to share with our readers, please let me know at Kathryn.kell@glastonbury-ct.gov. Happy planning!

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