Illustration by Victoria Borges
It’s 9 a.m. on a Tuesday as you settle in at your desk. You’ve got three new voice-mails, 52 new emails, and back-to-back meetings all day. You really should get to the gym at lunch; that wedding dress isn’t getting any bigger, and frankly, you aren’t getting any smaller. You check your calendar. Scratch the gym—you’ve got a lunch meeting.
When you finally get home, there are dirty dishes in the sink, a massive mountain of laundry awaits you in the hamper, and you need to prepare for a business trip next week. And, don't forget, another 50 or so emails you need to address.
This is a reality for many women today, and it was definitely mine as I navigated through the insanity of wedding planning. Between the time my now-husband and I got engaged and the time we walked down the aisle, I started an exciting new job and moved twice. My job had me on the road several times a month, across the state and sometimes out-of-state. My fiancé was working on back-to-back political campaigns, which often had him away from home — and precluded him from helping with the planning (a blessing, I suppose, as our wedding may have ended up with a Washington Nationals theme).
While juggling all this, I was determined to maintain a modicum of my sanity so I could attempt to remain a good friend, fiancée, and daughter. Toss in my undeniable Type A personality, my champagne taste on a decidedly beer budget, and my particular standards for what our wedding day should look like — and it became a bona fide Molotov cocktail of high stress and no fun. I felt like everything was spiraling out of control — until I took a step back.
I asked for help. I delegated. I figured it out. And on May 24, 2014, we had our fairytale wedding that took my breath away. My best friend was there at the altar, smiling at me and excited to call me his wife. Our friends and family were all there to support us. And my mom did “The Wobble” at our reception (she had been practicing for months). I couldn’t have asked for — or planned — a more perfect day.
If you’re reading this article, my guess is you’re planning your wedding now, and you too are feeling a little bit panicked. From one busy bride to another, don't worry; your day will be perfect. Your wedding day will be the best and happiest day of your life. You may just need a little help to get down the aisle with a modicum of your sanity, too. Here are the biggest and best things you must do to make it all happen.
Put your budget’s bottom lines to work.
It can feel like your biggest enemy, but your budget can be your best friend. If you genuinely embrace it, the guidelines you’ve given yourself can actually help knock out your bridal business quicker. Courtney Spencer, owner of Merriment Events, says setting a budget is the first thing she does with her brides.
“The most important thing you can do is establish a budget because that will inform all of the decisions you make,” Spencer says. If you anticipate needing to cut costs, do so as soon as possible. “Some brides may have to retrofit everything at the last minute. You can save time and turmoil by [deciding how much to spend on each thing] at the very beginning.”
Manage the guest list like a pro.
Cutting down your guest list is usually the most effective way to cut costs, while also making your wedding more manageable (fewer invites to send, fewer hotel rooms to check on, etc.). But it also can be a major time-suck because it’s an incredibly personal issue.
Juliana Comer, the always-on-the-go public relations coordinator for Richmond Region Tourism, had a wish list of several hundred guests, and she says that trimming it has been one of the hardest parts of planning her June 2016 wedding. “So far, cutting down the guest list to a manageable number has been the most stressful thing we’ve done, she says. “It’s hard to do without thinking about people’s feelings you may hurt.”
Tackle this dreadful task by making two lists with your fiancé: The A-list (must-have guests) and the B-list (the rest). You can cut down your B-list significantly by asking tough questions like:
When was the last time you saw or spoke with this person? Are either of you very close with this person? Will their presence make or break your wedding day?
Find an organizational groove that you love.
When you’re really in the thick of planning, the little details can start assaulting your thought process: Who is in charge of tipping your vendors? Where will you stay on your wedding night? Do you have something borrowed, and something blue? The devil is in the details, and a solid organizational strategy — using Google Docs, The Knot app, or an arsenal of data-keeping tools — will be your guardian angel.
Take it from Laura Martin, co-founder of The SoGood, a mobile app helping women discover the best local businesses. The ambitious Richmond native says keeping a spreadsheet of wedding details was extremely helpful as she planned her May 2015 nuptials in Paris, France. “When you first start, your list will be high-level: band, flowers,” Martin says. “But as your planning goes on, you get into the detailed stuff. That’s when you really need an organizational tool in place — or you’re going to forget you ordered custom-printed pencils for the gift bags. There are just a ton of tiny details to manage.”
Delegate lots of little things.
Asking your fiancé, bridesmaids, mom and future in-laws to help with some to-do’s can add up to major relief for you. Whether it’s looking up addresses for your guest list or creating a playlist for your morning-of beauty prep, there are a lot of people who can do a lot of easy things to help relieve your stress. Valerie Tellman, professional ballerina at Richmond Ballet, has been getting plenty of assistance from her wedding-day supporting cast.
“My bridesmaids have been lifesavers,” says the busy ballerina. “One of my bridesmaids is doing the calligraphy for all 160 invitations, and two other bridesmaids are helping to put all of the invitations together.” Tellman refers to her leading man, Kirk, as the “General Manager” of their wedding; from scouting transportation options to creating the wedding website, he’s been a huge help as well.
Take a cue from Valerie, and lean on your loved ones for help and support. That will allow you to pirouette your way onto more important details that need your attention.
Trust your gut, you little perfectionist.
Pinterest is a great resource for inspiration, but once you’ve made a design game plan, stick to it. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting precious time flip-flopping over your decisions or “researching” things for hours.
“There are so many great ideas on Pinterest and in magazines, but there are also a lot of bad ones,” Martin says. “One thing I kept reminding myself was that I have my own creative ideas, too. Take a step back [from all the suggestions].”
Relinquish some control to a wedding planner or partial coordinator.
Hiring a professional will help you prioritize and get some things off of your overflowing plate. Most importantly, your wedding planner will help ensure that everything is taken care of on your big day, so that you can enjoy your friends, family and new husband. Pick a planner who has major logistical chops — and not just experience in making things look pretty.
“[Planners] have access to resources to find the right services to meet the couple's needs and highest expectations,” says Naomi Myer of Bridal Consulting By Naomi. "We can share our expertise in guiding the bride, groom and their families to creative answers for their perfect day."
“You hire a wedding planner so that you don’t have to stress on your wedding day,” Spencer adds. “They’re supposed to handle the logistics, not you. Because we do this so often, we know what it’s like to work with a variety of vendors; and our advice is usually in your best interest and benefit.”
Don’t forget to make time for "Me..."
Super-busy women know this better than anyone, but it’s worth reminding those who are brides-to-be: you’ll burn out if you don’t eventually set aside time for yourself. “We’ve seen so many brides who throw their entire lives into planning their weddings,” says Wendy Wyne, owner of Fête Studio in Richmond. “You need to take time and make a commitment to doing some things that are non-wedding, or you will drive yourself absolutely nuts.”
Try a barre class twice a week, or make a weekly date with your girlfriends to catch up on your favorite television show. Go for a run. Yes, it’s adding another thing onto your calendar, but don’t view it as a “to-do.” View it as a “get-to-do.” If you take care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to take care of the details.
...While also making time for "We."
While you may be buried under a sea of contracts, decisions and tulle, remind yourself why you are doing all of this — you get to marry your best friend! Try to involve your fiancé in the decision-making process so that he feels like he is a part of it, too. Have a sacred date night each week. And take a step back when you’re 100 days, a month away or 10 days away from your wedding and toast this special time in both of your lives.
Of all the things a girl like you has to manage, this is the one thing that will truly go by way too fast.