My name is Sarah and I'm so glad you're here!
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Before I got engaged in 2019, I held a rather firm (though perhaps controversial) belief when it came to wedding planning — if you’re super stressed while planning your wedding, you’re doing something wrong.
I hadn’t planned my own wedding yet, but I had been heavily involved in the planning of several other weddings, including my older sister’s, for which I was the maid of honor.
I knew full well I could eat my words when it was my turn to plan the wedding of my dreams, and I even said as much to my now-husband in the early days of our own wedding planning process.
Now that I’m on the other side, I believe more strongly than ever… if you’re super stressed while planning your wedding, you’re doing something wrong.
My husband and I got engaged on July 6 and married on February 21, which means our engagement was about 7 1/2 months long.
While that’s actually on the long side in our friend group (most of our friends average a 5-6 month engagement), it’s pretty short in comparison to much of the wedding industry. Even with a shortened timeline by the standards of many, the process of planning our wedding — which went off basically without a hitch — was almost entirely stress-free.
Note: Before we dive into this, I will give the caveat that there can be stressors in the wedding planning process that are beyond your control. That’s not what we’re talking about here. There are many factors you can’t control in a wedding, like how your family chooses to act, but there are many other factors about the wedding you can control. That is what we’re focusing on today.
Within a few weeks of getting engaged, my husband and I had a wedding date nailed down, our venue booked, and had finalized and booked nearly all of our major vendors. Each time someone would ask how planning was going, they were continually shocked with how much we’d gotten done so quickly.
The secret to our success? We limited our options.
For almost all of our vendors, we seriously looked at no more than three options. The only situations we submitted more inquiries than that were for our photographer and our DJ.
This doesn’t mean we didn’t look at more options than that, but we eliminated certain ones before we even got to the inquiry process, and as much as possible, we looked at as few options as possible.
It would have been really easy to come up with an extensive list of options and wade through every single one to find the “perfect” fit for each area of our wedding day, but I knew I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to conduct 15 different venue visits, have tastings with 10 different caterers, and have to do trials with several different makeup artists.
We knew there would be a lot of decisions to make and giving ourselves a ton of options from the get-go would likely be overwhelming and, ultimately, more stressful, so we said no to that from the beginning.
Limiting our options led directly into the next thing that helped keep our planning stress levels low — we didn’t waffle over decisions. We just made them.
We only spoke to one florist, one makeup artist, one hair dresser, one day-of coordinator, and one honeymoon travel agent. We only visited two venues for our reception and I tried on dresses at one salon before ultimately buying the first dress I’d fallen in love with… online.
One of the vendors it took us the longest to book was our DJ. We weren’t trying to be super picky, but we were being very intentional with our wedding budget, and all the ones we’d been recommended were either way out of our price range or already booked for our wedding date.
When we were referred to and met with Ross, from Bela Sono Music, it seemed like things were finally coming together. We met with him for coffee and had a great conversation.
When Caleb and I got in the car, the conversation was basically, “I liked him. Did you like him?” “Yep.” “Okay, let’s book him.”
We didn’t hem and haw. We didn’t make pro/con lists and agonize over all the different options. In each situation where we considered more than one vendor, we used a small number of factors to make our decisions and then stuck with it. No second guessing, no questioning, no fear of missing out.
This commitment to make decisions quickly meant every single one of our major vendors was booked within the first three months of the planning process, giving us the time and brain space to then focus on the smaller details without stressing about whether or not we’d have music or good food at our reception.
The Thursday before my brother and sister-in-law got married, Caleb (who was just a friend at the time) asked me if being involved in so many weddings had changed my perspective on them at all.
Truthfully, I think it’s more age than anything else, but my response was, “Keep it small. Keep it simple.”
That commitment to simplicity made all the difference in our wedding planning process. From start to finish, we did as much as possible to cut extraneous details and add a bunch of extra work to either of our plates.
With the exception of a bit of inspiration in the beginning of the process (mostly to show vendors what I was generally thinking), I stayed away from Pinterest. We wanted the day to be elegant and lovely, but we didn’t want tons of signs we’d never use again or to spend hundreds of dollars on floral arrangements that would die within a week.
We nixed unnecessary additions like complicated photo booths or intricate favors for our guests.
We did what I’ve done in so many areas of my life over the last several years — we asked ourselves what was actually necessary for the enjoyment of ourselves and our guests and we eliminated the rest.
When Caleb and I got engaged, I told him I wasn’t allowed to start planning for at least a week. After that week was up, I sat down one night and mapped out the initial draft of the wedding planning spreadsheet.
It evolved a lot throughout our engagement, but I presented that spreadsheet to him the following day and said, “This is your key to having a sane bride.” It turns out I was right.
There could’ve been any number of other planning tools available to brides nowadays, but the key was this — everything related to our wedding was in one place.
All of the tasks and their respective due dates? On the spreadsheet. A list of vendors we were considering, their pricing and packages, and any notes or additional information? On the spreadsheet. Contact info for the bridal party and other people involved in the big day? On the spreadsheet. Guest list and seating chart? On the spreadsheet. Day-of timeline, color coded by location? On the spreadsheet. Shot list for our photographer and set up details for our reception coordinator? On the spreadsheet.
Mapping everything out in the spreadsheet from the beginning helped so much in keeping my stress levels down throughout the entire planning process.
It helped keep us on track when it came to our tasks. It helped us never lose an important piece of information. It helped us know if we were staying on track with our budget and how many of our guests had RSVPed.
It meant that most of our tasks for the wedding were done weeks before the wedding actually happened and, as a result, we were able to enjoy those last couple of weeks, instead of running around like crazy people trying to finish everything in time.
I’m not saying wedding planning can or should be perfect, but I firmly believe just like the wedding day, the wedding planning should be a wonderful, joyful experience.
Our wedding was not without its stressors. Everyone told me something would happen, and some things certainly did. But all of the things that caused stress related to our wedding were things out of our control, most having nothing to do with the wedding itself and everything to do with the timing of those things.
Happy wedding planning, friend! May your day be free of stress and full of joy!