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You will find that you get all kinds of advice when you ask this question, and be prepared to get unsolicited advice from those who love you and are just trying to help.  This is the most exciting time of your life, and also the most stressful.  In your mind, you have your dream day planned out to perfection…maybe some of it; maybe all of it.  Nonetheless, you have at least a little bit of an idea what you’d like it to be like, but you might be unsure where to begin.  The following tips work better if you have a lengthier engagement, but they can also be accomplished in a shorter time.

First, go to an office supply store and get yourself the following items:

  • A 2-3” three ring binder
  • An enclosed bag to keep pencils, sticky notes & pens  (also pick up those items)
  • Blank notebook with three ring binder holes to keep in your binder
  • Address labels (I’ll explain later)
  • Tabbed dividers with pockets
  • Clear business card pages

Now, assemble the above items into the binder, and keep it in a safe and accessible place.  As you go through your day to day life, if you see a magazine article with a picture of your dream cake, tear out the article/picture, and put it in one of the tabbed dividers.  If you see a picture of the wedding dress you see yourself wearing, tear that out too.  Start to keep articles and pictures in the tabbed divider pockets, separating them by item (cake, dress, flowers, venue…etc.)  If the divider starts to get too full, get another one and keep adding to it. When it comes time to work with your Wedding Consultant, or you’re doing it on your own, you’ll take out all your pictures.  As you look back through them, you can get rid of the ones that no longer appeal to you, and keep the ones you still like.  It might even be a good idea to keep the less appealing pictures in a tabbed divider in the back of your binder…..just in case.

Use your notebook to write down ideas, special words you might want to include in your vows, memories of your wedding planning process, dates, names, phone numbers and much more.  Be sure to date every item that you put into your notebook so that you don’t look back at some random piece of information wondering “What day did I do that?”

Use your business card page to keep cards of vendors you are thinking of working with.  Put notes and other information on the backs of the cards if that helps you to remember something about each particular vendor.
Use sticky notes to mark pictures in magazines, places in your notebook that you need to quickly refer to, and if you need to make a quick note on the run and get back to it later.

Be sure those pens work too!  Keep writing utensils and maybe even a roll of scotch tape handy in case you need to use them.  Your zippered bag will also hold color swatches of fabric and/or ribbon.  Sometimes brides will have a favorite color that they want to incorporate into their wedding day, and it helps tremendously if you have the exact color you want, right?  Having a 4-5” sample of your color will better help in matching linens, flowers, and
other wedding details.

Next, the address labels.  This might seem like a funny item to include, but there is reasoning behind it.  Bridal shows are taking place somewhere close to you in both the spring and fall.  You will also notice, as you shop around for wedding ideas, that you might see wedding vendors offering drawings for wedding related services.  If you have mailing labels completed with the following information, you’ll save oodles of time:

  • Your first and last name
  • Your fiancés first and last name
  • Your address
  • Telephone number(s)
  • E-mail address(s)
  • And your wedding date, if you know it

If you’re planning to attend a bridal fair, take plenty of your labels with you.  Depending on the size of the show, you could easily use 100 labels in just a few hours.

Now you are ready to embark on the next step of your planning.  You’re already collecting ideas, pictures, colors, and a general collection of things you’re interested in.  The next step is to put them all together in a way that helps you best figure out a plan.  If you are working with a Wedding Consultant, she/he will be able to tell more about your vision if you are ready with your binder of ideas. 

I always ask couples if they have an idea for a theme for their wedding.  Maybe he enjoys motorcycles and you like animals.  Maybe you like pink and he likes black.  Maybe the two of you are making an effort to save the earth by “going green”.  Whatever is special to the both of you can be included in your day.  It would be good to narrow it down to one idea each, and go from there.  I worked with a couple last year that enjoyed going to city parks together with the brides younger siblings.  They decided that was a special thing they both shared and enjoyed, and ended up having their wedding at a remote city park.  Another couple loved golf, and ended up getting married on the golf course, and celebrating their reception in the club house.  Whatever your passion is, tie it into your special day.  If the grooms cake has fondant icing ATV tracks going across the top of it, make it count!

Talk to vendors in the business.  Feel free to call them or e-mail them and ask specific questions.  They will most likely be eager to meet you and find out more about you and your wedding day.  An “in person” meeting will probably be more beneficial for you as you can really get an idea if your personalities and styles are in sync.  Ask to see their portfolio, check their web site, and ask for references.  All of these are things vendors are used to, and will be happy to supply for you.  Always keep track of dates and names in your notebook, and keep those business cards too.  Interview several vendors for each category you need help with (wedding consultant, flowers, cake, catering, tuxedos..etc.)  You might like one of them ok, and then meet the next one and think “WOW-this is the one!”  Never hesitate to ask questions, don’t let someone else make your decisions for you, read everything carefully before signing anything, and never ever settle for something less than what you want.  This day is about you and your fiancé. 

Work out your budget so you know what you’re working with and where you’d be willing to cut costs and make sacrifices.  Have a plan of what you’re willing to spend for each aspect of your wedding and reception, and leave yourself a little extra for wiggle room.

Get together with your families and start drawing up a guest list.  If someone is adding “Uncle Leo” to the guest list, be sure that person also get’s Uncle Leo’s address and phone number.

Search the internet for ideas and advice.  Contact businesses and ask questions about anything at all that you see on a web site and ask questions.  If they are in Florida and you are in Colorado, they will most likely be happy to help you, or they can refer you to someone closer to your area.

Most of all, remember that this is a special time for both of you.  Try not to lose sight of the milestone celebration coming up because of daunting wedding plans.  Spend time together, talk about things you are happy and frustrated about.  Share the planning experience with each other and divide up tasks.  Try to envision yourselves standing at the altar looking into each others eyes.  The love you feel that day will be something you remember all of your life.  The planning chaos that led up to that moment will be behind you, and you can hold hands and look towards your bright future as husband and wife.

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