Planning a wedding is like directing your own movie; you may be bursting with creative ideas, but you’re going to need an army of specialized helpers to bring them to life. Just like a good movie begins with a good script, a flawless wedding begins with flawless planning. Start right now by organizing your ideas in a wedding binder.
There are two ways to make a wedding binder: traditional and digital. Traditional binders have the advantage of easily incorporating magazine clippings and vendor receipts, as well as being easy to use by people who don’t feel completely comfortable with a computer. Plus, the physical binder becomes a keepsake when your wedding is done. Digital binders, on the other hand (such as a computer folder where you keep inspiring items), have the advantages of being portable (it’s hard to bring a bulky binder shopping in case you think of wedding ideas in the checkout line), incorporating videos and music easily, being easily shared with friends and vendors, and being more eco-friendly.
Whichever format you choose, traditional or digital, the underlying approach is the same: use your binder to organize your wedding ideas so you can easily reference them and make sure no details slip through the cracks.
There are many sections of wedding planning, and there’s no one way to divide the many tasks. You may decide to separate your binder into three main sections (“pre-wedding,” “wedding,” and “post-wedding”), then subdivide those into smaller sections like “favorite florists” and “possible honeymoon hotels.”
Another technique is to divide your wedding planning into categories like “food,” “music,” “invitations,” and so on. The essential part is to choose a categorization technique that makes sense to you–after all, you’re the one who has to use it!
Include Planning Tools
Your wedding binder is the perfect place to get down to the nitty-gritty business of planning. This is where you can work out complex problems like seating charts, staying within your wedding budget, and a calendar with deadlines for each decision. Spreadsheets and lists are your friends. You might want to include a few sheets of graph paper. (If you’re intimidated by this step of the process, it’s time to hire a professional wedding planner and step away from wedding planning stress altogether.)
That receipt for five bucks’ worth of satin ribbon may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but losing track of small amounts is a wedding budget’s greatest weakness–they can add up and destroy your careful planning. Remember, you can always throw out papers later, but if you’re frantically trying to dig up the cell phone number of the photographer’s assistant the night before the wedding, you’ll be glad you kept the cocktail napkin it was scrawled on.
Most importantly, you have to keep your vendor contracts in a safe place. Don’t ever rely on spoken arrangements (even if your vendor is also a friend). Having all of the details in your contract in writing, and easily located in your wedding binder, is the only way to protect yourself if there’s a dispute later on. That way, when your baker doesn’t remember she offered you a 30% discount for ordering an extra sheet cake, you can show her the document and avert an awkward confrontation.
The most fun part of keeping a wedding binder is having a place to store your wedding inspiration. Whether you find it on Pinterest, in magazine clippings, or from an old photo of your family at the park (Grandma’s vintage hat would make a perfect bridal accessory with just a little bit more lace!), clip it and secure it in your wedding binder. (For digital binders, just scan physical items or take a photo.)
You don’t have to have a perfectly-tuned vision of your wedding day yet. Your binder is the place to collect all of your inspiration from various sources and keep it for later reference. Go ahead and dream big–that photo of the mansion with an indoor pool might serve as the inspiration for a hotel venue to host your pool party wedding reception once you start narrowing down ideas. Just collect all of the images you like for right now. If you can’t make sense of an underlying theme yet, maybe some of your wedding vendors will.
A good wedding binder is like a good friend. It will be there for you when you get excited about brainstorming crazy wedding ideas. (Bridesmaids in sailor outfits? Sure, throw it in!) It will be there on your bedside table when inspiration strikes and it’s too late to phone your friends. It will be there when you’re biting your fingernails trying to narrow down the guest list (just add all your vendors’ prices per head and compare it against your budget!). It will even have a ready answer when you need to remember exactly which florist specialized in bulk succulent flowers.
You can turn to your wedding binder when you’re full of wedding ideas and you don’t want to bother your friends with yet another W-word discussion. Your wedding binder will be there for you whenever you need it, so if you keep it organized and full of up-to-date information, it will return the favor with a flawless wedding.