In the first few weeks after Chris and I came back from our vacation engaged, there was a flurry of confusion about what exactly to do regarding wedding planning. I remember trying to think of who to call, what to ask, what books to read—I just wanted to get a handle on everything and so I could get started. Being the bookworm that I am, I promptly downloaded 5 wedding books onto my Kindle and read pretty much all of them. Each book of course said something different, but the main theme that was common among all of them: Get organized!
What I learned from what we undertook in those days was one thing: We had to be not only organized, but extremely systematic. I know that this may seem obvious, but, really, this is the key to successful planning. After the engagement excitement calmed down and we were ready to get into the nitty gritty of the preparation, we mapped out the next 6 months on paper: We pretty much outlined each piece of the wedding we would be putting together over the next 20 or so weekends until the big day—because all we had were the weekends in between work! One weekend we’d research locations and set up visits, the next caterers and so on.
Our way of doing getting our stuff together was Microsoft Excel! Chris works in finance and I rely on the program so much at work, that the spreadsheet thing is second nature to both of us. We sat down and started organizing the first, and probably most important piece of the wedding equation: the budget. We figured out how much we had, how much we could afford to save each pay period until the wedding, and came up with our number. In the most basic budgets, the items that take up the most money are the venue (which in many cases includes food, liquor, the cake, the use of the location and everything in it); a DJ; flowers; the officiant of the ceremony; photography and video; the invites and other stationery; favors; and the limo. Of course, there could be much more depending on how big the budget is (hello, live band!), but for us this was the basic structure of what we were thinking, especially given our timeline.
We knew we wanted a photographer, that was a big priority, but we nixed the video part because, honestly, how many old, long home movies do you find yourself watching more than once? And Chris really wanted a limo to drive us to and from the wedding. So we knew those two were the items we’d spend on—the rest, we would start looking into, negotiating, and trying to fit into our number.
Even if you don’t really know Excel or it intimidates you, just keeping really detailed and organized notes in a folder will be invaluable. And remember to always keep your budget in mind and always go back to it and to your original ideas and timeline—it will keep you from buying useless things, like personalized tchotchkes that you think will be so cute as the favors (and that honestly never are!).