How I planned my wedding: Tools and tips

Weddings are a magical and exciting time. You get to mark a significant milestone with your partner, and celebrate your relationship with your friends and family. I got married to my husband Chris on a beautiful day in June 2016 at a restaurant in downtown Toronto. Our ceremony and the reception were quite informal, and it was more of a cocktail party than a traditional wedding.

It all worked out perfectly, but not without some serious preparations in advance.

Working in PR has allowed me to hone my event planning and project management skills over the years. I planned my wedding myself given my background of planning and executing events, and the knowledge that came from working with amazing team members who mentored me as I learned the ropes.

Although doing the planning myself was time consuming (which I mentioned in a previous post), I enjoyed the process overall and it made my wedding even more special.

So, if you’re recently engaged, congratulations! I encourage you to think about planning your wedding yourself. But don’t be discouraged by the claims that you should worry about your sanity while doing it. If don’t have a background in planning events or managing projects, I wanted to share the tools that came in handy as I planned my wedding. They included:

A detailed budget – The first thing I did was start a budget. The budget broke down the total amount we wanted to spend into every different category and item we’d need to spend on. This included our stationary, stamps, venue (which included food and drinks), flowers, the officiant, décor… it seemed endless. However, the result of this exercise was eye-opening because it made me understand how much everything would cost altogether, and it allowed us to direct our planning to things that fit within the total amount. Without doing the budget first, I could have wasted time and energy considering things that eventually wouldn’t fit into it.

I treated the budget spreadsheet as a living document throughout the planning process. I updated my estimates with the actual amounts I spent on everything on a regular basis. It was tedious, but extremely helpful because I always had a clear picture of how much was spent as compared to my original forecast.

Critical path – A critical path lists the key milestones and dates in the planning process, and outlines the steps to get there. There are many things to do in advance of a wedding so this tool was very important.

We got married in the summer in Toronto. Venues and vendors book very early due to high demand. Also, working with some vendors is very involved (such as an officiant or venue), and some require some paperwork or meetings (such as a florist or DJ), which takes time. Therefore, I started engaging the venue and vendors in the fall of the previous year to book them and then fully understood the steps required to work with them. I also wanted to plan and complete DIY projects far in advance of the wedding. So, I built the critical path to with these timelines in mind, and laid out the requirements, steps and payments and when I needed to have them done. I used an Excel spreadsheet, but a Word document also works.

The completed critical path allowed me to see everything we needed to do in one glance. The anxiety of missing a deadline was pretty much erased. Like the budget, I updated the critical path regularly, marking off when things are complete, changing deadlines, or adding in new steps as I learned them.

As a result, in the two weeks before the wedding, all the major things were done. I was almost stress-free (I said almost!) knowing everything important had already been taken care of.

Weekly action items – The critical path provides all of the actions and deadlines, which is a lot of information. So, each weekend I reviewed the critical path and then jotted down the things I needed to do during the week in note in my phone. This provided an easy-access to-do list. I found that doing short tasks on a weekly basis was easier than overwhelming myself with a lot of tasks all at once to meet a deadline.

Run of show document – This explained the who, what, where and when of the entire wedding day. It was in the form of a spreadsheet that listed times in half-hour increments along the left side of the page. Separate columns were dedicated to the important players. They included, me, my husband, our dog, the photographer, the DJ and the venue. Each column was colour-coded and blocked off the times for different activities throughout the day, as well as where they took place – kind of like a timetable in high school.

For example, it listed when family photos would take place and where, when the dog walker would take our dog home, when the food would be served, when the speeches would start, and when the dessert buffet would be set up. I also included contact information, so for example, the venue could contact the florist or DJ to see if there was a problem if they didn’t arrive when they were supposed to.

I shared this one-page spreadsheet with everyone – including the venue, vendors, family and friends –  to cut down on potential questions or confusion in both before and on the day of the wedding.

Lastly, a clear vision of what you want – Trust me, you want to avoid the falling into the wedding wormhole when researching online, shopping, or talking to your friends, family and others about your upcoming nuptials. My husband and I aligned on having a simple, non-traditional wedding that focused on food, drinks and having a good time. Without this clear vision in mind, it could have been tempting to incorporate other things, distorting what we both wanted.

In summary, remember that your wedding day is about the marriage of you and your partner, so your opinions and happiness are what matters – both on the big day and once it passes!

I hope my tools and tips are helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments!

Also, you may have noticed that it’s a year since we got married. I’m fully aware that post is a dorky way to celebrate our anniversary month!

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