Planning: Working Girl

You’ve got a full-time job, a jam-packed social calendar and now, a wedding to plan. Here’s how to do it all – without losing your mind

It happened 17 days before my wedding.  I was on my way into the office, inching along I-95, late for a meeting, steering with my knee. A Starbucks cup was in one hand, a mascara wand in the other, my cell balanced in the crook of my neck as I confirmed last-minute details with my florist: How many strands of ivy on each pew? Has my grandmother decided between the peony and the gardenia?  Then I had to brake suddenly. Hot cappuccino spilled all over my lap, the mascara wand streaked across my cheek, and my florist heard me shout some very unladylike words into the phone.

I had officially reached my breaking point. I began to cry.

I am an editor at a wedding magazine, I thought. I should be able to handle this. But cramming vendor appointments, fittings and everything else wedding planning entails into an already hectic life is difficult — really difficult. But it is, I promise, possible. Here are some fail-safe tips (from personal experience and fab local experts) for getting it all done — without losing your job, your friends, and – most importantly — your sanity.

Start soon. (Like, now.) Bask in the just-engaged glow for a bit. Soak it in. And then pull yourself out of it. You’ve got work to do, girl.

It may sound harsh, but the sooner you start crossing things off that ominously long Wedding To-Do List, the better off (and less frazzled) you’ll be in the long run.

Tackle the big aspects first: “Hire your main wedding vendors early — the photographer, videographer, caterer, and band or DJ,” says Lynda Barness, veteran wedding planner and owner of Philly-based I Do Wedding Consulting. Another right-away task? Determining an approximate guest count. “Your guest list is a critical part of finding a venue. Some can’t accommodate a lot of people, and a smaller party may get lost in a huge venue,” says Barness. Once these wedding nuts and bolts are taken care of, she says, “give yourself a little vacation from wedding planning.” Perfect.

Hire a wedding planner (and not just because our wedding-planner experts said so). Most brides are newbies when it comes to wedding planning. And, even if you are in the wedding industry (like, ahem, me), it can still be overwhelming to narrow down a pool of hundreds of local wedding vendors. Enter wedding planners: They know the drill. They’re familiar with area vendors, and can easily whittle a list of 100 photographers down to five or six that will fit your style and budget (a task that would otherwise entail countless hours of poring over websites and enduring dead-end meetings). “Hiring a wedding planner means brides don’t have to do so much research,” says Barness. “We know the pitfalls, we know where to save money.”

If you’re concerned that hiring a planner will sap your budget, inquire about different packages — most planners offer super-helpful hourly consultations. “For brides who can’t afford a full-service wedding planner at the beginning, they can hire a planner halfway through or even at the very end,” says seasoned event-planner Gina Sole, owner of The Wedding Planner in Philadelphia. And not having to spend yet another weekend searching for the perfect videographer is truly priceless.

Organize.  With so many potential vendors, nebulous contracts, and confusing budget spreadsheets, staying organized is the key to staying out of frenzied-bride status. “Keep good notes,” says Barness. “It’s too difficult to remember it all. ”

Sole advises buying a binder to use as a catchall for ideas, receipts, contracts and contact information — it’ll keep important paperwork in one easy-to-find spot. (Even non-type-A brides can appreciate that.)