Stories from Your Wedding Friend - The Wedding Planner's Blog
Once you've agreed a date for your wedding day, you'll be able to start on the next stage: planning your timeline of tasks, your to-do list. To state the obvious, your wedding date is the end goal of any timeline you create, so that's where you start from and work backwards. If you've never worked on a long planning project before, don't panic. You might not know where to start yet, but you will soon if you read on...
A longer lead-in time will give you plenty of opportunity for researching and looking around for wedding suppliers as well as allowing the space you might need if you're planning to DIY any wedding venue decorations, table centres, etc. After booking your wedding venue though, I'd suggest that the next big thing on your workflow/to-do list/timeline is to officially give notice. Whether you're having your ceremony in a church or civil ceremony licensed premises, you still need to give notice for it to become legal. Bear in mind that if you're starting your planning over 12 months ahead, your local registrar will need to be contacted between 12 months and no less than 6 weeks before your wedding date.
In previous blogs I've looked at how some services need at least 12 weeks to create your bespoke item (eg. dress/suit or jewellery/hair piece maybe). If you want bespoke, these should be up there in the priority list for your timeline. There are also ways you can work with a shorter timeline; including buying some of your wedding items off-the-peg (I can point you to some such suppliers), which allows you a little more flexibility. Your main deadlines are any of the things that need to be planned ASAP, and should be the main priorities on your to-do list. I'd suggest starting by booking your photographer next as the good ones tend to book up early for peak season. Decide what you want most for your wedding and book that - for some it's getting that great band/DJ you know about, for others it's the award winning baker, you get to decide!
The next consideration is when are deposits and payments are due? - add these to your timeline at the intervals suggested by your suppliers. Venues will generally need a deposit to secure your date, so basically immediately, which is often therefore the first big payment you make. Your final venue payment will also likely be a big one so make sure that is highlighted in your timeline. It may be possible to agree a payment schedule with your suppliers, so include these in your timeline - we'll talk about budgeting in another blog.
I find creating a spreadsheet works well for what is sometimes called a workflow; anyone who has worked in project management will be well versed in creating a workflow. Put simply it's a method of listing all the tasks to be done and who will do them, by when. You might prefer to work from topics or headline tasks, rather than list everything. It's important that you find whatever way is comfortable to you, so long as the detail isn't forgotten or missed. But for the more visual people amongst us you might prefer to work from a hand-written wall chart or calendar, that you create yourself. The bonus of creating your own workflow chart is that you will also have a keepsake of your wedding plan. I've created a basic calendar for your workflow, which you can print off and fill in to keep, if you get in touch*.
Allow for response times and give yourself thinking space, build them into your timeline. Don't make any decision if you're feeling pressured into making it. Your wedding planning shouldn't leave you panicking about a decision you made and second guessing yourself. At the same time, some decisions shouldn't be procrastinated over, especially if it involves buying a dress you think you love off-the-rack - ask if you can put it on reserve for a few days and stick to that timeline, if you don't love it on second viewing, keep looking.
Response times vary between suppliers but don't ping off an email at 1am and expect a response by 8am
From this point on most things are pretty flexible, so if you have the time, don't feel like you have to get everything booked within a week of choosing and booking your wedding venue. Take the time to research your suppliers, go for trials and tastings, but don't book to do all your meetings in the same week or you'll very quickly start to feel overwhelmed. Sure go for your hair trial once you've decided what (if anything) you will be wearing on your head, take it with you if you can. Doing things in the most sensible order will help you avoid wasting time as well as money - eg don't book your caterer before you book your venue as you may not be able to use them!
By planning what you want to achieve and by when, you'll find it much more achievable. Don't forget to add new things to your timeline as they are confirmed, such as final payment due dates and keeping your suppliers informed of set up times/access to your venue. When you know something is coming due, you can plan for it. If you don't have a plan, so much will catch you by surprise and we're back to feeling overwhelmed.