Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wedding Planning for the Organized Bride

I don't know about you, but I couldn't afford a wedding planner when I got married.  I was practically paying for the wedding on my own with only very little help from my parents.  Not because they didn't approve, but because they had little money to spend on an impromptu wedding themselves.  All the while, I was unemployed and living off my financial aid checks for school.  So, I became my own wedding planner and it's actually been suggested that I make a living out of it but I have no desire for the a lifetime of the stress the couples with wedding planning. =P
If you ask anyone that knows me or has seen any file/folder/etc. of mine, they will tell you how organized I am.  I am also madly obsessed with Microsoft Office and creating documents that takes the chaos out of my life.  Anyone planning a wedding knows how chaotic it can get so me being the OCD type went a little crazy with Microsoft Office and creating documents to stay organized.  Just a few minutes earlier I was going through old folders on the computer and cleaning it out and found my wedding folder.  Right before I was about to delete it because I have no need for it, I decided I should share my organization tactics with anyone that may be at a loss of what to do while planning their big day.  I've already shared some of these files with a bride before and they helped immensely with her planning.

I wish I could find my budget document that saved me lots of headaches but unfortunately it was on my flash drive and I cleared it out already. If anyone is having problems controlling their budget and needs help formulating a document for it, let me know and I can probably whip something up that was similar to what I used but not until someone actually requests it. ;)

First off, I'll share my guest list.  All last names, addresses, etc. were removed for the courtesy of my family and friends.  I'm sure they do not need any stalkers any time soon. =P  Let me explain what I did for my list.  I also only included the first couple of parties, I figured you would get the picture with just the few mentioned.
  • All guests are numbered, even the children.  It made it easy for a quick headcount for chairs and tables.
  • Each party is grouped together.  The first party listed is my brother's and if you'll notice the background color is dark grey, you notice a shift in the party when the color changes.  This helped SOOOO much.  It allowed me to quickly see who was in which party, how many people there were, and if I needed to count how many parties there were total, all I had to do was count the colors.
  • Of course I had the mailing address listed for each party.  Rather than listing the address for each guest, I only listed it once per party member so it was easier to quickly find the address than seeing a big blur of letters and numbers.
  • I also have two versions of the list, one for prior to the wedding, and one for after the wedding.  The one used for prior to the wedding includes the far right columns of "Invitation?" and "Received?" As I was addressing invitation envelopes I would mark off a party in the invitation column after I finish their invitation.  As RSVP's started rolling in I would mark off which RSVP's I had received.  Doing it this way allowed me quick an easy access as the date got nearer so I could contact those who didn't send in an RSVP.
  • The "after" Guest List included different columns on the side.  Since my husband and I sent out thank you cards to not only those that sent us gifts but also those that attended the wedding, one column was for each "attendance" and "gift".  That way while writing the thank you notes, we knew if we needed to additionally mention thanks for the gift that they gave us.  It was important to have a sheet that had this information AND their mailing address because it made it quick and easy while sending out thank yous. 
  • Finally, and although this may be a simple formatting choice, I chose a landscaping format orientation so that all these lovely details could be seen without the edge of the page cutting it off.  
I'll share them with you now so you can see all the hard work that went into the wedding planning on how easy it was to keep the guest list organized. =)

Since having a caterer requires you to have a fairly accurate headcount and a pretty solid list of how much food is going to be needed, I produced the following list to help keep the count accurate.  For this list, I printed it out occasionally so I could pencil in changes and update them on the computer later, but on the computer is where the real magic happens.  If you know how to work Excel well, you know that you can make it total up different columns automatically without having to do any calculations on your own.  This is a godsend since I really didn't feel like counting to over a hundred several times.  My list is pretty self explanatory so I will just show you without any further delay. 
One note though, the notes that can be found to the right were notes I needed when planning to have possibly other mouths to feed or when planning for a party to need extra room at a table (i.e. bringing a stroller or car seat for a baby)

Now this doesn't really have to do with "organization" but I wanted to share something that we did.  Early on in the planning we decided that we didn't want to do the whole "favor" thing.  GASP! I know right?  But think about it?  Why spend all the money on favors that are probably going to be stuck in a drawer somewhere, cause a mess, or are under appreciated.   I stumbled upon an alternative when I was planning the wedding and I was really grateful for it.  Cancer is very prominent in both of our families.  Colon cancer has a very strong line in my family and I wouldn't be surprised if one day down the road I was diagnosed with it and Matthew's father battled throat cancer when we first started dating.  Therefore, cancer has already made a big impact on our lives so we decided to donate the money that we were going to spend on favors and submit it to the American Cancer Society instead.

I was a little worried that people would be disappointed that they wouldn't be receiving bubbles, or M&M's, or chocolate bars with our faces on them, but the response was great.  A lot of my family was touched by the fact that we reached beyond ourselves and contributed to something like finding a cure to cancer.  Of course some blogs I have read suggested that telling people about the donation seems a little arrogant as if you are "fishing for compliments" but if people aren't going to receive what they expect (i.e. favors) I think they deserve to know why.

So this is how we did it, we made a letter and framed it and placed it on every table.  I'll link the letter for you to see and you can judge for yourself whether it was the right thing to do or not.  I would however recommend doing something similar to anyone planning a wedding if they are as impacted by a type of disease, cancer, condition, etc.  There are TONS of foundations that are great places to donate to a greater cause.

I really wish I could just post a template for all of you to use rather than looking at my documents and attempting to recreate something similar.  I know it would make your life so much easier if I could.  But in all honesty, I don't know how to do that on here.  BUT, if you DO need any help recreating these documents, please do not hesitate to ask.  I know a lot about Microsoft Excel and would be delighted to help you.  Just shoot me an email or leave a comment. =)  Good Luck!

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