This weekend was all weddings for me. It kicked off Thursday night with a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for a wedding I was coordinating Saturday. At the dinner I was seated with an engaged couple, and the groom-to-be (go figure!) was picking my brain about the best advice I could give them for wedding planning. Friday night I had dinner and drinks with a friend getting married in a month who told me I gave her a few simple tips that have made a world of difference for her during the planning process. Then last night, I coordinated (and thus attended) my first wedding of the season, refreshing my bank of advice and renewing my ideas and energy for all things wedding! All of this had me thinking -- If I had to give someone my Top 3 Tips as they were starting to plan their big day, what would I say? Well, after a wedding-themed weekend and some thinking, I've come up with 3 simple rules. If you follow them, you will thank me! This week is PART ONE: The 2-Week Rule.
(Part TWO can be found here)
There are some subcategories to this rule:
1. Wait, I need a timeline for the wedding day AND a timeline for planning the wedding day? YES, YES, YES. You have how many months to plan your wedding? 6? 11? 17? You can't just dive in and assume it'll all get done without a plan. That's how couples end up sleep deprived and "over it" by the time their wedding rolls around. Make a giant list of all the pieces, big and small, that need to fall into place, and make sure it's a "working list" -- I recommend using Excel, so you can easily reschedule as you add projects and appointments. Everything from picking out a venue and finding a dress to printing programs and getting your nails done should go on there. Nothing should be overlooked, because believe it or not it's the little tiny things (like remembering to wrap your bridesmaid gifts and write a thank you note to the minister) that keep the couple up until all hours the week of the wedding. There are lots of resources online you can start with, and we here at Katherine Elizabeth Events are working on our own planning tool we hope to roll out later this year. Planning for the planning is SO key to a stress-free engagement.
2. Especially if you are DIY-ing or on a tight budget, pick out the design and materials for your projects early. (Programs, menus, table numbers, place cards, favors, welcome hotel bags, etc.) What do I mean by this? If you want to make your own programs and menus, go pick out the paper and embellishments 2 months ahead even if you aren't ready to print yet. That way you can shop around for exactly what you want (or work with a designer on the perfect custom design) and have all the decisions made and materials ready when the ceremony and catering details are ironed out. I can't tell you how many brides and their mothers walk into Paper Source (where I've worked part time for the last year) the WEEK OF THEIR WEDDING looking for paper for programs and menus. You do NOT want to be doing this the week of your wedding. Before you say, "but I don't know how many guests I'll have!" I'll tell you honestly--you can end up spending more money waiting until the last minute getting the exact amount you need than you will if you buy more than you might need at the best price 2 months ahead of time.
Better yet, hire someone like me to take care of your paper pieces, and I'll make sure you're well ahead of schedule! (Try to contact me at least one-two months out!)
3. Work backwards from 2 weeks before your wedding, not your wedding day, when setting an RSVP deadline. As I just mentioned, it's true--a lot of these details (favors, programs, welcome hotel bags) can't be firmed up until you have a final guest count. If your RSVP deadline is only 2-3 weeks before your wedding (as many websites say it should be) that gives you one week to collect the stragglers (THERE ARE ALWAYS STRAGGLERS) and then the two weeks before your wedding to get all that stuff done with your final numbers. In addition to buying a rough estimate of materials way ahead of time, I also recommend setting an RSVP deadline one month to 5 weeks out from your wedding. The reality is, with the exception of a handful of people, most of your guests will know if they're coming or not. Why put more last minute pressure on yourself?
4. Make time during these two weeks to cultivate the marriage you're about to enter. Planning to be "done" early leaves you time to go on a date. Sounds ridiculous if you haven't been there, but it's SO important to think about. The week of the wedding, my fiance and I built in a night for just us -- we went out to dinner and didn't talk about the wedding. We shared a fantastic meal at a restaurant we had been dying to try, and basked in the excitement of what was to come with all of our family and friends coming into town to celebrate our love. If we hadn't planned for our planning to be done 2 weeks out, we wouldn't have been able to fit this in.
So why do you want to be "done" 2 weeks for the big day? Well, mostly because you won't be. No matter how well you plan, there are always last minute details you didn't think of. If you plan to fill those two weeks with construction and assembly of welcome bags and favors and programs, the un-planned stuff will add a ton of stress. Also, if you finish all your wedding related projects two weeks out, you get a little more "out of your head" with all of it. Giving yourself a little break between the planning and the actual wedding is AWESOME. If you're going, going, going, right up until the rehearsal, you don't have any time to decompress and separate yourself from it before it actually happens. I've heard so many brides say that they felt like they didn't really "take it all in". This is the secret to doing that--you have to separate the planning from the experience of the day. If you think of your wedding starting the Monday before it actually happens, and force yourself to finish projects before then, you will enjoy all of it SO. MUCH. MORE.
And here's the real meat of this piece of advice that no one thinks of until they're a bride: all these extra last minute details take up precious time that should be spent on things like beauty sleep and the day-to-day aspects of your life you don't think about (like doing laundry and cleaning your house and working out and eating well). You want to be and feel your best on your wedding day, and in the days leading up to it. That means taking care of yourself!
All of this advice comes from personal experience, both in seeing what last minute projects do to brides' stress levels, and in feeling what not adding last-minute stress felt like when I was a bride. For the most part, I was done with my wedding projects two weeks out. My bridesmaids commented on how I was so relaxed, and this is the number one reason why. My wedding was long distance so my hands were slightly tied with having a few projects lined up for the week of the wedding when we arrived in town. But, the week before that, we had time to focus on ourselves, our home and the marriage we were about to enter into. We worked out every day, ate well, and I had time to clean my apartment, top to bottom. I cleaned out closets, I dusted and vacuumed, I tidied up in a way I hadn't done in months (because let's be honest--wedding planning is top priority for most nights and weekends). Returning home from our wedding to a fresh, tidy home was AMAZING. It felt like a fresh start, and it was the perfect start to married life.
Check out PART TWO of this series: Focus on the Feel, not the Look of Your Wedding