When bad weddings happen to good brides, it often comes down to the wedding planning. Many brides vastly underestimate the time it will take to plan and execute their wedding, which can lead to all kinds of stress, conflict, and additional costs. In fact, the average bride spends thirty hours a week on wedding planning – that’s almost like having a second full time job!

Many, of course, hire professionals who can handle the wedding planning, taking the pressure off of the bride. For those thinking of going it alone, here are five things every successful wedding planner does and every bride must do – and do well – to plan the perfect wedding:

Organize

The perfect wedding starts with a detailed project plan. Look at the wedding date and work back to understand what has to happen when. There are two things that are invaluable to planning the perfect wedding: a wedding information binder and a tickler file.

The wedding information binder is sometimes called a “wedding bible” because it contains copies of all pertinent information, including contracts, lists and contacts. It may have a variety of other tabs as well, and should include tabs for all important elements, including the cake, wedding dress, catering options, and all other potential contractors, like possible photographers, videographers, makeup artists etc.

A tickler file contains date-stamped folders in which important, time-specific items requiring action are kept. Those items might include to-do lists, invoices, bills, etc.

Multi-task

There are an astonishing number of details that need to be coordinated during the wedding planning process, many of which must progress at the same time. Inevitably, for whatever reason, there are always undesirable tasks on any list. They must be done, however, and there are ways of ensuring things stay on track.

One is to set aside a specific amount of time per day and another is to set specific goals for the day or for the week. Try accomplishing one easier thing before tackling something harder or more stressful. And don’t forget to delegate where possible.

Build the Right Team

Brides who plan their weddings themselves will need the help of their wedding parties in ways brides who will have a wedding planning professional simply will not. Many brides put dear friends with no planning or organizational skills in charge of their weddings – and that is a mistake that harms both the wedding and can even end friendship.

Brides who are planning their own weddings must choose friends for their wedding parties who don’t mind working. Close friends who won’t want to work may not be the right fit for this particular honour.

Communicate Clearly

Excellent communication skills are a huge asset in wedding planning. Ensuring everyone is on the same page at the same time is absolutely vital. Never be afraid to ask a “dumb” question. If something isn’t clear, keep asking questions until it is. Never assume anything and ensure everything is confirmed in writing.

It is more likely than not that members of the wedding team (including the wedding party) are not in the same location and do not have access to one key file. There are, however, online time and task management services that brides can use to keep everyone easily updated, most paid, some free. CreativePro Office is one example of a great, free online tool that will allow brides to assign tasks to her wedding party and keep track of project updates.

Remain Calm

Things happen. Flights get delayed, people get sick, mistakes get made. The trick is to have contingency plans for everything, and have good people in the wedding party who can step in to help if and when things go wrong. Don’t panic and listen calmly to everything being said and engage others in thinking about the best possible solutions to the issue at hand.

It is absolutely possible to pull off the perfect wedding without a wedding planning professional’s help. Some weddings can be planned in fewer than one hundred hours but most require more – sometimes many more — hours.

Just remember to build in lots of extra time, dust off every possible organizational skill, enlist the help of the wedding party and expect the unexpected. Everyone will remember the event as perfect if the bride remains gracious, no matter what goes wrong.

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