The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Wedding Like a Boss
Now, literally right now, as I type this, I’m sitting on a train into New York City. It’s my daily commute from New Jersey, and instead of procrastinating on this blog post, I challenged myself to write as much as possible before we arrive into Penn Station (so you know there’s at least 1 hour and 15min of wedding planning help below, sister!)
Why am I saying this? Because productivity is a skill. You have to flex that muscle, and sometimes on purpose. Brides (including myself when I was engaged) are no different and have the same problem alot. We think our wedding is just far enough away that we don’t have to plan with purpose, but what you don’t realize is: decisions made today impact your wedding even more than decisions made closer to your wedding -- think of it like a snowball!
In this post, I’m going to give you a little wisdom -- things that epically failed for me, things I had to do over again, the techniques I finally used that helped me tremendously (once I decided to get my sh*t together,) and things I now know from experience.
The good news about learning to be more productive, efficient, and effective (aka, a boss) aren’t limited to your wedding. Like a rising tide lifting all boats, it’s really hard to boss up in your wedding planning and not see those skills transfer to other important areas of your life (getting that promotion, finally getting in shape, bettering your relationships, etc.)
So let’s get started!
THE TOP MISTAKES BRIDES MAKE
Before we get into what you should be doing, let’s get into what you may already be doing that causes most brides to waste time in the planning process:
Spending too much time browsing/finding inspiration
Browsing Pinterest and your favorite wedding blog (ahem -- have you checked out our real weddings section?) may be fun, and your thumb might be sore from tapping “pin” on your phone so many times in the past couple days, but at a certain point -- you have to start making decisions. You cannot share, pin, comment, like every single wedding photo that makes you say wow.
What you can do right now: Set a time limit or deadline. By next Friday, I will stop pinning for a couple days and analyze what I’ve already set aside as inspirational. What trends pop out? What do most of them have in common? Decide a theme & get clear on your priorities with your fiance. Maybe it's really important to you to have a buffalo wing sauce fountain at your cocktail hour. Make a decision. You can always go back to pinning later, but until you make a decision on what you want, everything will look good all the time.
2. Trying to reach consensus
Consensus is when everyone in the room agrees on the same course of action. If you’ve ever watched Law & Order, or shoot, even This is Us, it can be really hard to achieve because let’s face it, everyone has their own opinions on the best way to do something. Plus, everyone may see the problem differently.
Your wedding is no TV show, but the dynamics are the same. Where are you delaying moving forward because you want everyone to agree? Does both your mother in law, three aunts, grandma, and mom all have to agree on the wedding cake frosting flavor? Or can you move forward after the tasting?
Decisions are like energy. Once its gone for the day, its gone -- so make sure you aren’t “wasting” decisions with people trying to get consensus when there is a bigger decision that might actually NEED consensus later on (for example: the flow of the wedding ceremony.)
Case in point: its hard enough to get everyone on the same page, let alone on the same decision, so make sure you’re only doing it for decisions that really matter!
3. Changing their minds too many times
When my little sister was born, I was asked to tie the “it’s a girl” balloon on our mailbox outside. So I did. Twenty minutes later, a visitor in the house asked me what I did with the balloon. Of course, I told her I tied it outside like I was asked. When I looked, the balloon was gone (awkward, because they thought i purposely let it go because I must be “jealous” of my new sister -- wrong!) What actually happened was I might not have fastened it well enough, so when the wind blew enough times, my balloon went to be with the Lord (#amen.)
The point of that story is I finally understand what people mean when they say “put a stake in the ground” and “anywhere the wind blows”! Literally, making a decision means to cut off other options. Despite the balloon story, I am so guilty of this in my every day life. My husband literally bought me a notepad that says “make a decision” on the top of it as a joke.
I am always looking for better options or alternative ways to do something, but guess what I’ve learned? You can spend time looking at other options with no end in sight, or you can do some research, make a decision, then spend all that time you would have spent searching more into actually taking action.
4. Not being clear with your vendors
Hint hint: these are the professionals whose job it is to make your vision a reality.
So don’t cloud your vision and don’t confuse them!
Real story: I really wanted bougainvillea in my bridal bouquet (this flower grows everywhere in Jamaica and I felt it reflects the beauty of my heritage) -- but there weren’t examples of it on Pinterest so I spent months browsing online for images and even other flower alternatives before speaking up to my florist about it. Turns out, she didn’t even carry bougainvillea, and the only option was for my planner (God bless her) to try to ship some from Jamaica. Turns out that was against the rules of US Customs (oh my!) so she bought some artificial bougainvillea off of Amazon. Keep in mind all of this was done the month of my wedding because I didn’t speak up the other 17 months of my engagement about what I really wanted. In all that time I could have bought bougainvillea seeds from Home Depot and grown my own tree!!!! Damn.
Be clear with your vendors -- even if they want to go the extra mile in making your vision come true, they can only do that if you communicate your vision. Wasting time in not telling them causes them to spend precious time trying to make the bougainvillea happen that they could’ve spent in other areas of your wedding. What’s the bougainvillea in your planning?
5. Not connecting with your fiance
Hey girl hey. I’m going to say something and I want you to hear it:
You’re not the only one getting married.
I know there are narratives out there that make women scream in their heads “its MY wedding” when someone has an opinion or God forbid, disagrees with you (btw sister, this may be unpopular, but if its normal and totally accepted that if I’m in the backseat of a car and I slide a few dollars up to the driver when we’re in the drive-through and I get to say what I want, then why do people get so mad when others who are helping them pay for their wedding have a say? I’m shook! Your wedding is alot more expensive and significant than me saying “spicy sandwich no pickles” at ChickFilA!)
However, you are not the only one getting married. (Also, I recognize this comes across as heteronormative, my bad.) Stop assuming your fiance doesn’t care. He may be out there saying he is just going to “show up” and laughs a little when someone asks him how wedding planning is going for you two, but trust me -- involve them in the process and watch how quickly they sit up and start saying “No, I like that one better” when its time to pick the napkin color at the caterer!
Try to set a goal each week to connect with your fiance and check in on what needs to be done. Allow them to speak up when decisions are being made and ask for their opinions. If you need a reminder, this is actually a to-do in our Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist, so tap below to download straight to your inbox, then print & go!
5 WAYS TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
Now that we’ve covered the 5 most common mistakes brides make when it comes to planning their weddings in a productive way, let’s get to the 5 simple ways you can be more productive as of today. These are simple on purpose, what’s the point of giving you advice you need a Nobel Prize in Physics to implement!?
Set a time limit
Want to know a secret to productivity? Do exactly what I’m doing right now, set a time limit! Remember in school when something was due at 11:59 and you started working on it at 11 (yikes, been there!) and of course, something you procrastinated because you thought it would take hours to complete -- took only 59 minutes to do?! BUT, If you had started at 2pm, I’m sure it would’ve taken you all 10 hours, because maybe you would have started off slow, taken breaks, come back, revised, and so on and so forth, right?
This is a phenomenon called Parkinson’s Law -- “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Take advantage of that. Flip your phone over, set a timer for 20 minutes, and tell yourself before that timer buzzes, you’ll address as many invitation envelopes as you can or finally send off those emails to your planner as you’ve been meaning to all week (whatever your THING is right now, do it!)
2. Batch work, baby!
What in the world is batch working? It’s working in batches. Come on, somebody!
Ok but what does that look like? It’s simply doing similar tasks at one time in chunks. Instead of writing your planner, calling your caterer, doing your wedding budget (ps: you get a made-for-you budget tracker attached within our free ultimate planning checklist, download here, sis!) making your bridesmaids thank you gifts, and checking RSVPs in one sitting, break it up!
It could look like:
Only taking vendor calls on Thursdays
Responding to emails on the train to work
Going over your finances on Fridays (something my husband and I do to this day)
Invitations on Sundays
It’s proven that by doing similar tasks in one sitting, it actually takes less brain power because you’re not bouncing around and using different parts of your brain. You go faster, too. Sitting down for two hours (120 minutes) to go through your guest list is much easier than spending ten minutes each day for the next twelve days (120 minutes.)
It also helps you because you stress less -- when you know you’ll speak to your planner on Thursday, you hold back from waking up in the middle of the night to text her because you’re afraid she needs a detail you didn’t mention in your last email a couple hours before (don’t ask me why I know this lol.)
So, what’s holding you back? What tasks are making you feel all over the place? What can you batch?
3. Set up time to get other people’s opinions
In the same vein as batch working, how are you protecting your peace? For example, are you working on your wedding a little bit each day but also, for every step forward, you have to hear three opinions that make you second guess what you just did?
Set up time once a week to meet with your key stakeholders (those who are closest to your wedding and/or who your wedding matters most to) and check in. Let them know how it’s going. Ask for their opinion.
This works for two reasons: (1) it makes people feel included and valued, and (2) it helps people realize that its only a matter of time before they are asked for what they think, so they’ll tend to hold off from commenting whenever a thought pops into their head. That first point is really important because from someone who’s been there, let me tell you: included and valued stakeholders (especially parents) are wonderful. There’s nothing like having to undo six months of “i’ve felt like you ignored what I had to say” pent up feelings that are emerging the week before your wedding. Do yourself a favor and make everyone feel included from the jump.
PS: Included does not equal “I will do every suggestion you give me.” It means “I value what you have to say and will see your point of view even when I may disagree with it.”
4. Pick the best vendors and give them a clear direction
Remember when I said that vendors are the professionals whose job it is to make your vision real? Well, that can only happen if you pick the best vendors for your vision.
Before you hire anyone, make sure you first understand what vendor categories you actually need and want, and then make sure to conduct thorough interviews. Not just “oh I really like her” or “oh, I love their instagram feed.”
No, try to interview at least 3-5 contenders for each category (photographer, baker, planner) and write down your thoughts on each, THEN make a decision.
If you need an interview guide with some sample questions, click here.
5. Keep a folder on your phone for random inspiration
If you know me, I love Google Drive. It saves lives out here, especially when you are on the go and also wedding planning. Inspiration can strike at any time, and its important to have a system in place to capture when a thought crosses your mind but you’re not in the library to say the least.
Even if you’re not a fan of an app, simply use the Notes app on your phone and click “add folder” to set up a folder called “Wedding.” You can then have an easy, less than 5 second way to capture anything you want to remember later. You can even save a picture into a note. Just do it.
TOOLS I RECOMMEND
Productivity is no joke (but then again, neither is being all over the place and frazzled…) The good news is that now in the 21st century, you do not have to rely on yourself for everything -- there are tools out there.
I picked all of these tools to recommend because they all have three things in common: (1) fairly simple to use and get used to, (2) low or no cost, and (3) can be used by multiple people at the same time, which is GREAT for sharing the wealth with your fiance, your planner, and your parents even.
If you struggle to keep track of to-do items, you need a project management software. Best news? Some of the best ones are completely free. I’ve heard great things about Asana, so I’ve included some tutorials below, but I personally have used Trello for everything from wedding planning, running Broomstick, and bossing up at my day job with my team.
How Trello works is you can set up a “project” and then have columns -- most people set up columns to reflect the stage the task is in, so columns would be named “completed,” “in progress,” “urgent,” “done,” “not important right now” and so on and so forth, and then you can create cards which each have a task. So a card could be named “secure caterer,” and when you click into that card, you can put a checklist with things like “call top 3 options” and “negotiate bartending rate” and even notes. You can even assign users to a card, so if this was something my husband said he was going to do, I’d assign that card to “Austin Edwards” and if he was set up in the project it would send him a notification!
HEAR ME OUT! You need a wedding email. Yes, an email address ONLY for your wedding planning. Do NOT use your personal address.
Why? Because when everything is in one place, it’s easier to manage. You can also share the log in with your fiance and say on a busy day “babe, can you check if Krista (the planner) got back to us with the quote? It’s in the wedding inbox.”
Trust me sis. Gmail is free. And the best news? Austin and I still use our wedding inbox for things related to our marriage (all our bills, for example.) Think of it as a joint account but for email.
3. Google Sheets
Also, what you don’t realize is that Google Drive and all of the wonderful apps you can use from your wedding planning are linked to a Gmail account, so if you want to plan your guest list together or track your wedding budget and don’t want to go through the mess of “sharing” the files from your personal accounts with each other, set up a free Gmail now!
What I loved the most about Google Sheets (the spreadsheet app within Google Drive) is that we could for example, set up a file linked to our Gmail, and start dumping peoples names on them that we wanted to invite together, and we had ONE central place to cut back on names, input addresses, and track RSVPs. One file.
Google Sheets also has the capability to work simultaneously with a person. What that means is they could be editing the document and you can see their mouse moving on the screen. You can edit on the go, and this is really helpful for things like guest lists because as you download a copy for your in-laws to review, all that can be done in seconds.
Need a (completely free) Made-for-You Google RSVP/Guest List Tracker, a Wedding Budget Tracker, and video tutorials that walk you through them? Download our Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist, where all of that is included! Simply Download & Copy the files into your own Google Drive.
HOW IT TURNED OUT FOR ME
Luckily, my engagement was a year and a half so while I wasted a lot of time not doing things efficiently, I had time to get woke on how i could improve in my planning and actually had the time to adjust. However, I couldn’t get that time back, and I’m sure my wedding planning would have gone alot smoother (and I would’ve spent less money,) if I had taken productivity as seriously in my planning as I do at work!
Once i got serious about techniques like batch working, making my planning match my personality (hint: if you are not a morning person, don’t plan in the morning! duh!!) and getting my vendors what they need to be successful (aka, being decisive,) things turned around for the better.
THE #1 WAY TO STAY PRODUCTIVE
Loved this post? The #1 way to stay productive is to stay on plan. In my Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist, I broke up steps by category, from experience.
What you get for free:
A Checklist for hiring the best vendors
A Checklist for staying on point with your productivity & self-care
A Checklist for keeping your relationship strong
A Checklist for setting up & managing your guest list
A Checklist for setting up & managing your budget
My top wedding planning tips
A Made-for-you Guest List & RSVP Tracker
A Made-for-you Wedding Budget Tracker
Video tutorials that show you how to set them up!