It’s not uncommon to be planning your wedding without the help of a planner. Most couples ending up planning their wedding with the help of family and friends or entirely on their own. I planned my own wedding in 2017 in about six months without a ton of stress.
Can I plan my own wedding?
Only 32% of couples hire professional help for wedding day. Which means that 68% of engaged couples plan their own wedding. There are many ways for you to plan a beautiful wedding without the help of a professional.
Here are some tips and tricks I learned a long the way.
Keep an organized list
Some like to use spreadsheets, others like notebooks or binders… No matter your organizational style, you have to stay organized. Whether that means using apps like the Knot or creating your own digital files or keeping binders, you have to make sure that you have one place where every single wedding detail will be kept. This not only includes a list of the details, but also contacts and a schedule of events. Trust me, you will thank yourself later!
You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.
Book vendors as early as possible
The more you can get off your plate ahead of time, the better. Try to book the venue at least a year in advance as most book up that far ahead. And leave several months for ordering the dress and alterations, music, florals, photography, and catering. Not only will you get it off your plate very early, but you’re also more likely to get the vendors you want for your date.
You can make things work on a tighter timeline. I certainly did. If you’re working on a last minute wedding, check out this article for more specific tips.
Start big to small
Getting the big items like the venue, caterers, DJ, and any equipment rentals out of the way first is a good strategy to use when planning a wedding. These are factors that can help determine many other smaller parts of the wedding. Once you have a venue picked, you can usually narrow down many decisions to what will work in the space.
Hire full service vendors
When hiring your vendors, ask what is included in their services. There are great vendors out there who will take care of everything in their court without asking you to do anything but pay them. If you’re planning a wedding all by yourself, this can be very helpful. Especially on the day of, you’ll want to be as hands-off in planning as possible.
Set a planning schedule for yourself
Especially if you have some time to do everything before the wedding, planning should not be taking up all of your time. You still have a life to live! Set a schedule for yourself to plan and stick to it. Dedicate a couple of hours a week in the months leading up, then get gradually more involved as the date gets closer. The best way to not freak yourself out is to make sure you’re keeping yourself as calm as possible throughout the whole process.
I spoke to one bride, Ashley, who got married in 2021 while she was attending her first year of grad school. She said that keeping specific weeks on her calendar for planning was a huge help to her mentally.
“I had so much going on with school, family things, and planning the wedding. I set up a schedule for myself for certain times of the year where I was only allowed to think about planning then.”Ashley, 2021 Bride
Keep things minimal
Even if you have a large guest list, you can keep things minimal. Don’t go so crazy with DIY decorations to the point where you’re freaking out the day before. You can keep decorations in a simple and elegant style with candles and a few flowers.
I spoke with another bride, Julie, who got married in 2021. She had 300 people at her wedding and barely anyone to help her plan.
“By keeping decorations to a minimum, it was a huge weight off my shoulder. Because of the size of the wedding, I didn’t hire a coordinator or a planner to keep my budget as low as possible. It was nice to walk in the night before, spend 2 hours decorating and then walk into a beautiful venue the next day.”Julie, 2021 Bride
Hire a day-of-coordinator
Even if you’re not planning on having a wedding planner help you with your special day, it might be worth it to at least hire a day-of-coordinator. They don’t really start to help you until the days leading up to your wedding. Coordinators are really just there to help set things up on the day of and mitigate any issues while you’re drinking mimosas with your best friends. If you can swing it, do it!
Hiring a day of coordinator was one of the best things I did for my wedding in 2017. My friend, Emmanuelle of Escandar Group, was just starting her planning business and I hired her to help. She was able to set up all of the lawn games for our cocktail party, the seating chart, do a once-over of the venue, be the main point of contact for vendors, manage the tip envelopes, and keep us on a day of timeline. She also provided a lot of great check lists and trackers to help me keep things organized leading up to the big day.
Make backup plans
No event goes off without at least one problem. Save yourself the panic and try to have a backup plan for anything you can think of. Bad weather, caterer delays, someone running late… everything! If you have a solid game plan and anticipate what could go wrong, you’ll handle it much better if something does go wrong.
Famously in my family, at my parent’s backyard wedding, the caterer arrived an hour late and everyone was starving. She always tells brides to schedule their caterer early if they’re having a backyard / DIY wedding.
Focus on the fun and take breaks
You’re getting married! You shouldn’t be stressed about it – you should be having fun and celebrating every minute you can. When you find yourself starting to get too overwhelmed, take a break. Think about the fact that you get to spend the rest of your life with your best friend. Then come back to planning when you feel better.
Ask some people for help
Most likely, you have people in your life who are willing to help with something for the wedding. Get your bridesmaids and groomsmen involved. Ask a close friend or family member to pick something up. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help with things when you need it – planning a wedding is stressful, but you don’t have to go through it totally alone even if you’re dead-set on planning most things.
The biggest thing is to make sure you plan what you can handle. If you’re truly all on your own, keep things as simple as possible. No matter what, you’re going to have fun! This is your wedding – enjoy it!
Need additional tips from other like-minded brides? Whether you’re planning a wedding at the last minute or on a budget, check out our free, exclusive Facebook group – Wedding Planning Club