Did you recently get engaged, and have no idea where to start when it comes to wedding planning? Stop stressing out, and come get the basics figured out with us. In this 2-hour workshop, we will help you determine your wedding priorities and create your wedding mission statement; establish an overall wedding budget and get a handle on typical wedding costs; and get started planning a celebration that truly reflects the two of you! Couples will take away their own planning binder, including Crafty Broads’ wedding to do list, sample wedding budgets and timelines, and our list of the best wedding vendors in town.
No room in your budget for a professional day-of-coordinator? Get all your wedding ducks in a row with our DOC Bootcamp! At this session, we’ll go over your plans and contracts, and provide you with the organizational documents we personally use for each wedding we coordinate. We’ll make sure you’ve the right amount of time for each part of the big day, and identify places where you may need additional help. We’ll also train your volunteer day-of-coordinator on how to run your wedding smoothly, including dealing with the most common situations that arise at weddings. Bring all your questions, and we’ll give you our secrets!
Please see our website for details and current pricing.
[This is a post I originally wrote for A Practical Wedding. It seems like the perfect wrap-up to this chunk of the series, so here it is again with a few edits/updates, in case you missed it the first time around.]
Hi, My name is Cindy, and I am a Stage Manager. I’m addicted to paperwork, checklists, sharpies, and starting on time (which, I’ve learned, is a near-impossible task). If you’re like me, you probably don’t need to read this post. But if you’re currently keeping track of your guest list on the back of a greeting card (I recently met with a client to discuss her upcoming wedding, and she whipped this out of her purse and started counting check marks…), or you’d be hard-pressed to find your photographer’s phone number if she doesn’t show up on time, you may need my help.
1. Get Organized
This is the hardest and most important step.
You need to set up a system for yourself to keep track of the big picture and all the little details. Get a big binder and divide it into tabs for each big part of your wedding. Here are some you might want to start with and what’s likely to go in them. You can use this binder from the get-go and include inspirational pictures and ideas as well, if you want.
Important Info (for me, this is a couple sheets in page protectors before the other sections; it’s the stuff you’ll reference most often on/right before your wedding day)
Contact Sheet – Name, Cell Phone Number, & Email Address of everyone with a role in your wedding (vendors, wedding party, family members, officiant, anyone needed for pictures)
Timeline – Detailed breakdown of what happens, when it happens, where it happens, and who needs to be there – for the entire day, including getting ready & getting home or to the hotel after the party is over
Checklist – of everything that needs to be brought to the ceremony or reception, and who is responsible for bringing it; this should include detailed directions on decorations, seating assignments, signage, and other things that need to be setup
Venue information, including floor/seating plans, and any needed setup
Copy of your ceremony text
Copies of any readings on separate sheets of paper (heavy cardstock is a good idea!)
List of your processional/recessional order and music to be played
Your marriage license, ready to be signed!
Anything else related to your ceremony
Venue information, including floor/seating plans, and any needed setup
Playlist for the DJ, with special songs (first dance, etc.) noted
List of who is giving toasts & list of people you want to remember to thank!
Anything else related to your reception
Guest List, including any dietary restrictions your guests may have, or meal choices if applicable
Seating Assignments, if you’re doing that
In addition to the guest list, you might also keep track of gifts received & thank you notes sent in this section.
Many of you may find this section optional. However, if you are coordinating dresses and/or suits for a large wedding party and/or parents, that could go here.
Depending on your personal organizational style as well as what things you’ve opted to do for your wedding, you might put any of these in another section or exclude them entirely.
All of them. You do have contracts, don’t you? (If you don’t, ask for them! At the very least get their commitments in writing via email, order, or invoice, and stick those in here.)
You probably noticed a bunch of paperwork referenced in that list (Contact Sheet, Guest List, Timeline, Checklists, Playlist, etc.). I recommend you use an online document service (like Google Docs) for these things. That way you can access them quickly from just about anywhere when you think of something that needs to be added or edited, and you and your partner can collaborate easily.
2. Make Backup Plans
Ok, now that you’ve got everything in one place, there are probably some things for which you should have backup plans. Examples are: outdoor events, which should have an indoor location secured in case of inclement weather; flower girls/ring bearers who may be suddenly shy and unwilling to walk the aisle in front of all those people; your iPod playlist which should be copied onto someone else’s iPod too!
3. Find the Missing Details
Consult online checklists or friends who’ve gotten married, ask a planner – whatever. There is probably something you forgot (reserved signs for your family’s seats? someone to press play on the iPod? toasting glasses your grandmother sent you a month ago?), and if you take a little time now to check your list twice, you’ll figure it out before the big day arrives and thus avoid panic.
4. Hire a Wedding Stage Manager or Sweet Talk a Friend
A stage manager is not optional. Not because you need someone to plan your wedding for you, because, obviously you already did that in step 1. But because on your wedding day, you do not want to be setting up chairs and centerpieces before you run back to the hotel to get ready, wearing a watch to keep things happening on time, or talking to the catering manager every twenty minutes about what food to bring out and which tables go where.
Do you have to pay for this? No, you absolutely do not. But know that a professional has done weddings and events before yours and will help you with or even do all of the steps above for you. (Please go read this article on Offbeat Bride by the awesome Ang of Lowbrow Events about what a wedding coordinator does). If you go with a friend, choose wisely. This is not a job for the social butterfly who makes everyone feel welcome and gorgeous at the party just as soon as she shows up late and without her potluck dish…again. This is a job for that friend who sends out the evites with driving, parking, and public transit directions from three different starting points and can usually be found apologizing for being ten minutes early with an extra bottle of wine in hand.
I know everyone’s schedules are crazy and it’s hard to get people in the same place at the same time, but even if it’s fifteen minutes the morning of the wedding, try to schedule at least a quick walk through of your ceremony. Practice walking slowly, unless you want to be like me and beat your future spouse down the aisle.
6. Relax, Get Married
Hand over your binder, your watch, and your cell phone to that person you designated in Step 4 (preferably the day before) and simply be present. Soak up all the moments in the first day of the rest of your awesome married life.
Ask your baker how to cut that first slice of cake. They often place dowels and plates in and between layers so that it doesn’t slip or fall over; it’s better to cut around those, yes?
Make a shot list for your photographer. Even if you aren’t doing formal, posed photos, you know there are people you’d be sad about not getting a picture with. Write it down and check it off.
Decide in advance what you’re going to eat on your wedding day (before the reception) and the days before. Put someone else (great job for your best person) in charge of making sure you eat. And choose healthy stuff that you know won’t upset a nervous stomach.
If you’re having any kind of welcome party or rehearsal dinner in your home, especially if you live in a condo or apartment building, let your neighbors know ahead of time or be prepared for them to throw big hissy fits about it. (I speak from personal experience.)
Write your thank you notes as soon as you get gifts. I cannot stress this enough. (A friend has a rule that she cannot use a gift or deposit a check until the note is written – an excellent rule.)
If you’re getting married outside (or spending time outside right before your wedding) and you burn easily, for the love of all that is sacred, please wear sunscreen. Lest you have a big red blotchy area on your chest that is not in the shape of your gown’s neckline. (Yep, that’s me.)
Little Phrases from Theatre that May Help You
Finally, a couple of my favorite phrases from theatre that may help you keep perspective and/or sanity:
The 6 Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Productions. Or weddings in this case.
There is a very fine line between “The show must go on!” and “This is stupid, I’m going home.” If something about your wedding seems like way more trouble than it’s worth… it probably is. Cut it without guilt, and move on.
“It’s just a show, it’s just a show, it’s just a show…” This is my mantra when people are being pains in my butt or I’ve just messed up a cue and I’m beating myself up about it. It happens. Point being, it’s not life or death (unless it is, in which case your stage manager will be calling 911, administering first aid, and otherwise handling it) so let it go and refocus on what’s ahead.
→ Got more stage managing questions? Need some spreadsheet templates for your wedding? Please feel free to email me – cindy AT craftybroads DOT com. We also offer wedding coordination in Chicago and beyond. Schedule a meeting time here.
Ok, so you’ve got your wedding mission statement, and you’ve got your budget, and now you need to figure out who to hire. The only problem is you have no idea how to find those people who will make your wedding awesome, give you great service, and not rip you off. How do you find them?
Ask! If you hired a wedding planner, that is a great place to begin. She or he will be able to give you a general idea of how much things cost in your region as well as suggest some vendors in your price range. If you didn’t hire a wedding planner, start talking to anyone you know who has recently planned a wedding; they will certainly have opinions to share. You can also use our favorite tool – the internet. Search for the kind of vendors you need, check out their reviews (make sure you look at public review sites, not just the hand-picked testimonials on their own websites), and ask around on the various wedding community boards for suggestions.
Once you start contacting vendors, make sure you can afford them before you fall in love with them! If they don’t have at least some general pricing on their websites, send an email or call and ask for an average (be sure to include how many guests you expect, as this can make a big difference in some categories).
Found a few that fit your budget? Awesome! Interview them!! Please don’t skip this step. You should use and trust your gut instincts when you meet with vendors. If they don’t communicate in a timely fashion now, they are unlikely to do so once you book them. If they are awesome and go out of their way to customize a proposal for you or accommodate your budget, they are more likely to be great to work with throughout the process.
Got it narrowed down to one or two? You are almost there! Ask to see a sample contract, review it and make sure you understand everything in it. Find out what their payment schedule is. Ask any question you may have about their services and pricing now, before you sign anything. Still want to hire them? Go for it!
Once you have everything booked, get organized! We’ll talk more about this soon, but go ahead and start a spreadsheet with all you vendor contact information now, and mark payment due dates in your calendar (with reminders!) so you don’t miss them.
That’s it! Now, go relax until the wedding! =)
→ Need more help? We can help you find the right vendors, negotiate contracts, and keep track of payments for you.d
So here’s the one thing where you are more or less on your own – the guest list. Figuring out who to invite or not is possibly the most difficult part of planning your wedding. Unfortunately, it’s the part where no one else can really help much, because ultimately it’s up to you to decide who you want to be there.
Here’s the advice I can give:
Make your guest list first, before you decide anything else except maybe your budget. The size of your party will guide a lot of your decisions, especially your venue and food selections. Balancing budget and guest list is a giant challenge, I’m not gonna lie, but I truly believe you should decide who you want at your wedding before you decide what your wedding will look like. You may need to make cuts and compromises to other things in order to invite everyone you want to; believe me when I say that you will remember WHO you spent your day with far more than the food, fancy clothes, and flowers.
If there are people who you know will not be able to attend, but you would definitely invite them if they could, invite them anyway. They will appreciate it, and undoubtedly celebrate it with you in their own way – and that’s really the point, isn’t it? To celebrate with the people you love most.
Be warned: Parents may expect to be able to invite a bunch of their friends too, so discuss this upfront, and make sure you know how many guests they anticipate will come.
Don’t forget your wedding mission statement! Was it to have an intimate gathering? Then stick to your guns and only invite those people who you just can’t get married without. Or is your goal a big, fun party? Then maybe you need to forego fancy centerpieces so you can feed them all.
Keep track of it! I recommend a spreadsheet with columns for name, mailing address, email address, phone number, meal selection (if applicable), and their RSVP status at minimum. Optionally, you may want to track guests by household, in which case you’ll want to add columns for the number of adults and children as well. This is a good spot to keep track of gifts and note when you’ve sent a thank you card as well.
…And yeah, that’s really all I’ve got for guest list advice. Hopefully knowing that it’s just as hard for everyone else will help you get through it!
→ Need more help? We can create a custom guest list spreadsheet with online access, track RSVPs and meal choices for you, address and mail invitations, and more.Schedule a consultation time here.
Why yes, we do keep our rainy day savings in a Kool-Aid man jar from 1987.
There are two parts of planning a wedding that can reduce even the toughest couple to tears, fighting, and pricing flights to Vegas: the Budget and the Guest List. We’re going to try to tackle that first beast today.
Budgeting can be broken down into two parts:
How much money do we have?
How should we spend it?
STEP ONE: I’d like you to note the absence of “How much does a wedding cost?” above. Because here is the thing – a wedding costs whatever amount you spend on it. YOU. Not everyone else that ever got married in the history of ever. It’s critically important to remember that. You have what you have, and you can have an excellent wedding using whatever dollar amount that is (provided it is at least enough to buy your marriage license.) So the first thing you have to do is figure out what that magic number is. Many of you may be paying for your entire wedding yourselves, and so it’s easy to figure this out, if only because you know exactly how little money you have. Some of you may have enough money available that you want to research costs of venues and caterers and photographers before you settle on a total (you should check out our Real Wedding Budget series). Others will need to (tactfully) find out if parents plan to contribute. About that – get a firm dollar amount from your generous relations. Do not accept “as long as it’s reasonable” or “not too much” because those are totally subjective things that only the person holding the cash can actually decide. Keep in mind that the person who says “I’ll pay for the cake/dress/band/flowers/etc.” may have no idea what those things cost. Also, find out if there are any strings attached. Do they expect to be part of decisions made with that money? To have input on the guest list? If so, you may need to decide whether or not want to accept a gift with limitations on how you spend it.
STEP TWO (the hard one): Armed with your wedding mission statement and a total dollar amount, you can prioritize what are your real must-haves and what you can ruthlessly just say no to in order to stick to your budget. There are all manner of breakdowns on wedding websites telling you to spend x percent of your budget on this and y percent on that; those guidelines can be helpful, but you shouldn’t be afraid to change them! Maybe your priority is a really good meal; your reception might cost 70% of your budget instead of the recommended 50%, and you may cut back on flowers or use an iPod playlist instead of a DJ in order to make it work. When in doubt, go back to that list of priorities you made and ask yourselves: does this fit with our wedding priorities? If not, scale it back, go with the cheapest option, or cut it out completely.
Questions? Fire away in the comments. Next up: wedding planners – do you really need one?
→ Need more help? We offer a 90-minute budget strategy session, where we go through your wedding budget line-by-line with you, and figure out how to make what you want happen with the money you have. After the session, you’ll have online access to an awesome budget spreadsheet we create just for you. We can do it in person in the Chicago area, over the phone, or online.Schedule a consultation time here.
New Year, new series, right? Since the holiday season is when so many people get engaged, I though I’d start the year with some posts on the wedding planning process. I’m going to call it ‘Ask Crafty Broads’. If you have a question I can answer or a topic you’d like to hear about, submit it here! I made a nifty form and everything.
Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? First, I’m going to assume that you recently became engaged and you have never planned a wedding before. CONGRATULATIONS! If you haven’t already, I strongly urge you and your fiancé(e) to take a few weeks to enjoy this new facet of you’re relationship before dive head first into planning. Celebrate, tell everyone you love, and practice saying “Thanks for your advice”, full stop.
Ready to go? The first thing I advise you to do is set aside an evening with your future spouse and really think about what you want your wedding to be. Without talking about specifics, begin the conversation about what your wedding should look and feel like. Very general ideas here, folks – like do you want it to feel formal or casual? Traditional or quirky? Big party or intimate brunch? What are your priorities as far as the overall vibe goes – to make a formal declaration within your community, bring your two families together, or simply have a kickass party? What wedding dreams have each of you formed through the course of your life and what do they have in common? What traditions come to mind when you think of a wedding, and do you love or hate them?
At the end of this conversation, I suggest you write down your top three priorities, whatever they may be. (And feel free to share them in the comments!) Use them as a mission statement of sorts, so that whenever you are unsure if something you’re considering is right for your wedding, you can refer back to it and see if it fits. This will help you with every aspect of your wedding, including our next topic: budget. Stay tuned…
→ Need more help? We offer consultation by the hour or month on any aspect of your wedding that you want an expert opinion about, and we can do it in person, over the phone, or online.Schedule a consultation time here.