When we started planning our wedding, we were in a funny position: we weren’t “officially” engaged. We decided to get married so quickly after meeting, John didn’t really have money saved up for a ring and, although I insisted I didn’t need one, we weren’t FB-relationship-status, tell-extended-family-level engaged until he actually purchased and proposed with a ring. Despite that, I knew we needed to start planning as soon as we set a date. Fall in Charlottesville is the most popular time to get married and if we waited for a real ring to appear (it did in January), we would lose out on working with all the vendors we really wanted to work with.
So after snagging Jen and Meghan, we got to work. Meghan is not only the most creative planner in town– she’s also the best at logistics. She drew up our wedding two ways: with a planning calendar and in terms of design components.
Our planning calendar was the busiest from October – December; that’s when we needed to research and book the bulk of our vendors.
January – April was focused on design; attire for the wedding party, finalizing hair and makeup and my accessories; choosing our menu; rentals and decor; dress fittings; sending out the Save the Dates; favors, readers, rooms for the wedding weekend. Whew!
Our summer was much lighter, planning-wise– because it was the Olympic Trials and then summer racing in Europe, May – July was easy stuff. Work on escort card designs, choose gifts, plan wedding weekend activities.
August was finalizing the last few things: marriage license, guest book, headcounts, sending out invitations, welcome baskets.
Then September… we had a cut-off deadline of DIYs for early September (although I ended up disregarding that…) and the rest of the month was focused on finalizing the seating charts, chatting with the musicians, making sure the entire wedding party was in the loop about travel and plans and toasts.
Design-wise, we took a team approach. Once we had our vision, we delegated projects to: Southern Blooms / Jen Maton / Skyline / Festive Fare / Shindig / and me. We had visions for the pre-ceremony, ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception and divvied up the decor and design tasks according to whose expertise was needed where. I was surprisingly not super controlling of this part of our wedding. Once we had the overall vision and Meghan, John, Jen, and I had schemed up a general design plan, I let the various creative parties do what they did best– create beautiful pieces they were proud of without much guidance from me. But more on that to come…
Because of our summer schedule, we front-loaded our planning calendar; generally, if you have a year to plan, you spread out your vendor meetings and decor/design decisions throughout the year and make a bulk of your styling decisions– like your hair and makeup style or your vows or your menu– in the last few months of your engagement. We just fast-forwarded those projects to a) ensure we worked with the vendors we had our hearts set on (by booking them early, we guaranteed they were free on our date) and b) to take the pressure off our summer o’racing.
My advice to anyone with a short engagement: as soon as you have a date set, get to work snagging the vendors you want to work with. Start with the crux of your team: your planner, photographer, venue, florist, all your rentals, papers, and catering. Get the overall vision and design plan mapped out. What exactly will this wedding look like and how will it flow?
Then you can go for the second round of vendors: the lighting, the musicians, the cake, the transportation and hotels, styling. Make sure you have all the attire mapped out and purchased in the first half of your engagement– you don’t want your bridesmaids scrambling for fittings or to find the perfect shade of pink in the month before your wedding!
Set yourself a cut-off date for DIYs– and stick to it! And leave the “easy” stuff– addressing envelopes, welcome baskets, wedding weekend planning, rehearsal dinner invites, favors, cocktail napkins– for the last few months. These are more “fluff” elements and if you don’t get a chance to get to them… it’s not the end of the world. Cake tastings, menu decisions, and florals, on the other hand– those are priorities!
And– as soon as you have your vision, don’t bother getting distracted with trendy projects or elements you see on blogs or Pinterest. If you aren’t planning on having a dessert table, for example, don’t get distracted by all the dessert buffet spreads you see featured. Make the hard design decisions first, find those crucial vendors to help you execute, then move on!
What was your planning calendar like? How did you divide up tasks throughout your engagement? What was one of your favorite things to plan? If you’re currently planning, is anything overwhelming you?
images by Jen!