Wedding Planning - Your Wedding Planning Guide

If you're not the most organized person in the world, prepare to change your ways. You'll need every ounce you can muster to plan your wedding. It can be great fun, but it does require keeping track of a lot of elements. Those elements often have dependencies - you have to set the date before you can reserve the caterer, for example. Set it all down and tackle it one by one and you'll do fine.

Step 1 - 9 months to a year or more ahead of The Big Day

'Prepare your preparation'. What that means is gather the tools you need to plan well. If you're familiar with how to use a spreadsheet, it makes for an excellent tool to keep track of things. You can list events and/or items and costs. With more sophisticated tools, which aren't hard to learn, you can build in dependencies so that you'll be aware of what has to be done in what order.

Book a photographer.

Step 2 - 6-9 months or more in advance

Use the tools.

List, off the top of your head, what you know you'll need to do. Prepare to revise it many times, filling in gaps and including things you didn't know about up front.

That will include such things as: buying rings, reserving a venue for the ceremony and reception, renting and/or buying clothing, and many more. If the wedding is catered you'll need to make arrangements, usually months in advance. That can turn into as long as 2 years ahead for larger weddings that hire a very busy catering company.

Associate with each of these items and/or events a date or date range. You don't have to get rings on a specific day (until the wedding, that is). But you should have them by an approximate date months ahead so you can move on and not worry about it. Ditto with the wedding gown, the bridesmaids' dresses and more. The more time you allow, the lower your stress level will be.

Keep versions of your list and back it up to email or a flash drive. You don't want to lose it after weeks or months of effort. Keep the versions straight by naming them, v1, v2 or some such scheme.

As you build and modify your list, keep a running budget. You may have an initial target. That will change as the guest list shrinks or grows, and as many other items come and go. Always have a buffer, or be prepared to forego items you had planned.

Make a guest list.

Step 3 - 4-6 months or more ahead

Make arrangements.

Reserve the locations. Anchor it so you know your target. The same applies to the caterer, the priest or pastor or Justice of the Peace. Naturally that doesn't apply to those who just go down to City Hall, but even then reservations are sometimes needed.

Check in with the photographer and caterer.

Have a backup plan in case someone you depend on doesn't follow through. Have in mind a second caterer, or another wedding ceremony official. People get ill. Accidents happen. Don't go crazy trying to ensure against every contingency, but knowing of alternatives gives peace of mind.

Revise your budget as you execute these steps.

Send out invitations at least two months in advance and keep track of how many are coming. Keeping track of who is helpful, but can drive you crazy. Worry only about the ones who absolutely have to be there.

In most cases guests will have to make transportation arrangements, hotel accommodations, arrange their own plans and so on. Give them as much notice as possible.

Step 4 - 2-4 months or more ahead

Buy stuff.

Ah, now we're approaching the fun part! Buy that wedding dress. Purchase those rings. Put down money for a honeymoon trip. Make a deposit with the wedding cake maker and so on.

Revise your budget again.

Step 5 - One month and counting

Execute your final steps starting a month before the big day.

Get that final wedding gown fitting. Check with the wedding party, but don't drive everyone (or yourself) crazy asking over and over again if they are ready. Allow for the fact that some things will go wrong. You don't have to control every step, but don't allow chaos to reign either.

Step 6 - The Big Day

Go there. Get married. Enjoy your big day to the fullest!

See, wasn't that easy?