It's 11 a.m. on a busy weekday morning at your job, and you have a mountain of paperwork on your desk—but you're surfing the Net for a caterer for your wedding reception. The big day is getting closer, and you have a lot of preparation still to do. Are those the first twinges of panic you're feeling? If you are feeling panicky, you're definitely not alone. Brides are spending an average of 37 hours per month planning their weddings, and a large majority admit that at least some of it takes place on the job, according to the Association for Wedding Professionals International. Here, some strategies to help you get it all done.
Once you and your fiancé have set a wedding date, you'll know just how much time you have for planning your wedding. Now you can try to estimate the amount of time you'll need out of the office so that when you sit down with your boss you can present an organized picture of your plans. When recent bride Kim Vapenik got engaged, she went into her boss' office to show off her engagement ring. "After the hugs, I told her the wedding would be in five months, so she knew right away that I was going to request personal and vacation days," Kim says. With advance notice, it all worked out. "It's tough for a boss to turn you down if you ask for something a week in advance, but it's easy to say no if you ask just two hours in advance," says Doug Sundheim, president of Clarity Consulting, a firm specializing in executive leadership coaching, and co-author of the book The 25 Best Time Management Tools & Techniques: How to Get More Done Without Driving Yourself Crazy (Peak Performance Press).
The heaviest wedding-planning activity takes place at the beginning of the engagement period, when you’re setting your budget and deciding on your reception venue, and then again toward the end, when you’re attending to details like the seating chart and shopping for guests’ favors. So you’ll want to get organized, right from the get-go. Keep Bridal Guide’s “Countdown Calendar” on hand, to get a good sense of what lies before you. Check things off the list as you accomplish them (good for the morale!). Remember that during the busiest times in the process, you will probably need to devote all your free time to planning. "In the three months prior to my wedding, I dedicated every waking, nonworking hour to wedding planning. I knew in advance that it would be this way, so that made it easier," says Liz Sadler, who got married in 2005.
Successfully managing a project, like a wedding, is all about organization, says Sundheim. And there are plenty of tools available to help you do just that—and minimize the possibility of wasting precious time. Many brides like to use wedding-planning books that have helpful checklists and worksheets.
Sarah Lusardi, a wedding planner and owner of NY Engagements, LLC, in Westchester, New York, says that being well-prepared is the best way to stay out of trouble. She suggests keeping a binder that includes separate folders for all the information you gather about your wedding ceremony, reception, vendors, bridal party, guest list and finances. As your wedding-day draws closer, get another binder to hold separate folders that contain contact information for all your vendors (including cell-phone numbers), final tallies for guest lists, seating arrangements, schedules and any other pertinent information that you just may need for your wedding day.
Get to the office early (yes, you can!). If you’re at your desk before everyone else gets in, you’ll have a chance to send out some e-mails to vendors and get the ball rolling. Make a couple of follow-up calls on your coffee break. If you commute to work (by bus, train or ferry), make use of this time to go over contracts or to update your to-do list. Have a doctor’s appointment? Take along samples of wedding photographers’ work to go over while you wait.
“I did almost all my wedding planning on my lunch hour,” says Vapenik. “I went online for everything: I picked my music, I researched what flowers were in season, and I got lots of ideas about what other brides are doing these days.” While dining at your desk, update your wedding budget or file research in your binders. If you can escape from the office, shop for bridesmaids’ gifts, or if it’s a nice day, head outside with your cell phone and call vendors. Just make sure you’re prepared. “You’ll want to create a list of questions to ask so you can interview each vendor quickly but thoroughly,” says Lusardi. If you run out of time, ask vendors to mail or e-mail you samples of their work. Other doable lunch-hour tasks are updating your registry and your wedding web site, and researching honeymoon destinations.
Many busy brides are going high-tech to get the help they need. Wedding-related computer programs, like weddingsoft.com and fivestarsoftware.com, allow you to keep track of expenses, the guest list and your deadlines. Some brides find they can’t go anywhere without their smartphones, which can store names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and appointments. Of course you can also use your phone to get on the Internet and check to see if your vendors have gotten back to you with answers to your questions. And you might want to keep a voice-activated tape recorder in your purse—you never know when inspiration will strike!
Even with the best-laid plans, things come up. Perhaps you find that your chosen reception venue isn’t available, and you need to take a couple of extra mornings off to visit more sites. Or maybe the bridesmaid who was going to help out with the wedding invitations comes down with the flu. When you explain to your boss that you need to take more time out of the office, be up front about it—you don’t want to sound out of control or irresponsible, so ask if you can work some Saturdays to make up the time, or else arrange to work late. If you find that you have to schedule early-morning appointments, find out if you can come in to the office a bit later and make up for it by working extra hours at the end of the day. You can avoid making your boss anxious about your job performance if you reassure her that you will be certain to meet all of your deadlines.
Are you finding that you’re missing deadlines at work, making careless mistakes or misplacing important papers? Take control by enlisting the help of friends, family and fiancé. “With a full-time job, I saw that I just couldn’t do everything myself,” admits Vapenik. “I learned how to divvy up tasks among my family members and eight bridesmaids.” Catherine Turner, founder of Melica Wedding Event Planning, in Montréal, Canada, adds, “Typically, the mother of the bride wants to be involved, so she could be in charge of flowers, décor or anything else. If you have creative friends, let them help you design your wedding programs, create place cards or make a scrapbook of your wedding. Friends can look up addresses for your guest list. Your bridesmaids can set up hair and makeup appointments.”