Wedding Planning The Smart Way

“So what does wedding planning the smart way mean and how do I do it?” Do you know the answer to these questions? Whether you’re aware of it or not, your mind has probably been working on these two questions for a long time. Get these straight and you’ll make your life, and the lives of everyone around you a lot easier. Otherwise, beware the bridezilla.

The answer to the first question is straightforward. And I’d be willing to bet you’ve already figured it out, clever one that you are. Wedding planning the smart way means taking the time to gather the resources in order to make the process as easy and enjoyable as it can possibly be. There will be stress. Any task this important, with so many decisions to make and all of the expectations, is going to have some level of stress. The key is to manage the stress and keep it from having an unhealthy effect on your relationship with your fiance, family and friends.

The answer to the second question depends on you your personality, your skill set and your budget. Obviously, budgeting is one of the most important considerations you should have and one of the first things you should do after letting yourself brainstorm. But lets put that aside for a moment. I have a thought experiment for you. Suppose that money is no object when it comes to your wedding. Would you hire a wedding planner to work with you to handle all of the details? Would you be able to let a professional help you with the planning or would you feel a need to manage every last detail yourself? Your honest answers to these questions will determine which type of wedding planner is right for you.

The Options

If you’re like a lot of brides to be, you’ve given quite a bit of thought to your wedding. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about it since you were a little girl. And now that it’s starting to “get real”, you might find yourself feeling excited and maybe even a little anxious. It’s a this point that you may begin to realize the the need to balance the joy of getting married with the stress that comes with planning a wedding. If you’re a detail oriented, hands-on, planning princess then you may seriously consider the DIY wedding planning route. This is definitely the best option for the bride with the time, energy and desire to personally oversee all of the details. We’ll talk more about this later. If you lack planning prowess, or if you just like the idea of having some help, there a couple of options (Full Service Planner or Day Of Coordinator) for hiring a professional wedding planner. It should become clear during your initial consultation which option is best for you.

Full Service Planner

A Full Service Wedding Planner will walk hand in hand with you through every step of the wedding planning process. They’ll help you with the venue, vendors and all of the details that go into planning a wedding. During your initial consultation, the planning professional should ask questions to help you determine what kind of wedding you want and then explain the packages that are available to help bring your vision to life. This process should clarify whether you need a full service planner or a day of coordinator. The consultation is really all about setting and managing expectations for both you and the planner.

Once you’ve selected a package, the full service planner will initiate a discussion of the total budget for the wedding. Because your budget will have an effect on every decision you make, it’s important to come to a realistic expectation of what you are willing and able to spend. It’s not always an easy process, but doing a good job here will save you time, money and your sanity. Budgeting for your wedding can be an evolution. Don’t let yourself get frustrated if it doesn’t immediately come together. You may wind up spending a little more or less than you first imagined. It’s ok.

After you’ve determined the budget, it’s time to move on to selecting a venue. Start by making sure your date is available. If you can, try to find three or four options to choose from. Beware, venues book on a first come, first serve basis, so if you see something that works for you, quickly make a decision and move on. Since this will probably be your single biggest expenditure, it’s a good idea to carefully review the fine print. A missed detail here can literally cost you thousands of dollars.

The Details

All you have left now is everything that makes a wedding, your wedding. This includes planning the rehearsal dinner, scheduling salon appointments, and selecting the decor, linens, attire, flowers, food, cake, invitations, place cards, etc. A full service planner should be willing to give you as much help as you need to tie up all the loose ends. And at this point all that’s left is the Day of Coordination.

Day Of Coordinator

Imagine yourself as the CEO of Your Wedding Inc. It’s your job to cast the vision of your wedding and hire the key players that will bring your vision to life. This means that you will have taken care of 99% of the pre-wedding planning and preparation. Your Day of Coordinator will serve as the Chief Operating Officer of Your Wedding Inc. Their job is to coordinate the festivities so that everything goes off without a hitch. What does that mean in a practical sense? It means that they will review your vendor contracts and confirm day of event contact information, create the wedding day timeline, direct the rehearsal, act as the liaison between you and the vendors, manage the flow of events and transitions  and collect, pack and secure your gifts and personal property after the reception is over.

Before The Wedding

One of the first things your Day of Coordinator should do is to review all of your vendor contracts. Your coordinator may discover potential issues with arrival times or other unfavorable terms. And even though a vendor may refuse to alter the terms of a signed contract, it never hurts to ask. Your coordinator should then contact each vendor a week or two before the wedding to verify the day of event contact information. Knowing who to call in the unlikely case of a day of emergency is good peace-of-mind insurance.

Fortune favors the well prepared, so creating a detailed itinerary of events is the best way to ensure a smooth wedding day. Your day of coordinator should work with your caterer, photographer and entertainment to develop a timeline that includes all of their respective activities. After all, you wouldn’t want the photographer to miss an important moment because they were on a break. The master timeline should be approved by the vendors, family and bride and groom and given to all members of the bridal party at the rehearsal. This is the best way to make sure everyone is in sync and literally on the same page. Make sure you use the time spent at the rehearsal to let your coordinator coordinate. It’s what you pay them to do so try to let yourself be comfortable with them taking the reigns.

On the wedding day your coordinator should arrive at the venue(s) in time to supervise vendor setup, answer questions and trouble shoot any potential issues. It also gives them a chance to review the timeline with the key vendors. Because the coordinator is you liaison with the vendors, you should feel free to relax and enjoy the occasion. Your wedding is probably the biggest, baddest and most expensive party you’ve ever thrown so make it fun and memorable by spending time with your family and friends.

The Ceremony

At the ceremony the coordinator should make sure everyone is in place and on time. They will be responsible for passing out personal flowers, making sure the greeters and ushers are performing their duties, ensuring the guests are comfortable, cueing the music and managing the flow of the processional. After the ceremony, they will coordinate the receiving line and the transition from the ceremony to the reception. Getting the wedding party together for pictures is one of their critical tasks. A disorganized wedding party can throw a monkey wrench into the best timelines. Setting the expectations of the wedding party so that they know where to be and when to be there will help ensure that your reception starts on time and runs smoothly.

The Reception

At the reception the coordinator will once again  be responsible for making sure everyone is in place and on time. Most of the ceremonial activities happen in the first half of the reception. So your planner should be busy making sure that the key players (bride & groom, bridal party, caterer, photographer, DJ) are informed in advance of each event (grand entrance, prayer, dinner, toasts, cake cutting, first dance, garter toss, bouquet toss, etc ) and that everyone is ready.

After the reception, your planner should be responsible for a smooth, orderly and on time exit of your guests from the venue. A great way to do this without seeming pushy is to organize an official send off. A send off can be as elaborate or as straightforward as you like. Whatever the case may be your coordinator will be responsible for getting the guests lined up in the appropriate area and passing out sparklers, rice or other materials. After everyone has left the venue, your coordinator and trusted friends and family members, should make sure that all of your personal items, wedding gifts and rental items are securely packed and stored away for safe keeping. Have them make a list and see to it that everyone does their part to make sure that the conclusion of your wedding day is smooth and trouble free.

The Choice Is Yours

By now,  you may have read enough to feel you can handle planning your own wedding. If you decide to go the DIY route please keep in mind, the more elaborate the celebration, the higher the stress level can rise. Your best bet is to find a system that helps you stay organized and on track.  So whether you’re planning a blowout celebration, an intimate gathering or something in between, the key is to break things down into manageable bits. To help you out we made a simple checklist, divided by months left to the big day, of what to do and when to do. Just click the following link to use our free and easy 12 month bride’s wedding planning guide checklist. If you’re tech savvy and want to plan using your phone, tablet or pc you can check out some of the highest rated free wedding planning apps.


App Free/Paid iPhone iPad Android
2life Ultimate Wedding Planner Free After All These Years - Revelation (feat. Arnel Pineda) Little Big Town - The Road to Here - Bring It On Home N/A
The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner Free After All These Years - Revelation (feat. Arnel Pineda) Little Big Town - The Road to Here - Bring It On Home
Wedding Countdown Free Kelly Clarkson - Thankful - A Moment Like This Little Big Town - The Road to Here - Bring It On Home
Big Day Event Countdown Paid Anniversary (Radio Version) - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Tony! Toni! Toné! Little Big Town - The Road to Here - Bring It On Home
Wedding Dash Deluxe Paid Anniversary Song - Time After Time Little Big Town - The Road to Here - Bring It On Home
Wedding Planner for iPad Paid Anniversary Song - Platinum & Gold Collection: Cowboy Junkies Little Big Town - The Road to Here - Bring It On Home N/A