Last year, while planning my own wedding, my bridesmaids went dress shopping without me. But I didn’t mind. How could I? You see, my bridesmaids lived in California, while I lived all the way across the country in Washington, DC. Like some of you, I was a ”bicoastal bride” – busy planning a wedding 3,000 miles away, with the added challenge of bridesmaids and groomsmen scattered all over the country. With one bridesmaid living in Germany, I guess I should say scattered all over the world!
Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No. Since I only traveled to Thousand Oaks – my California hometown and wedding location – four times tops before the big day last June, I had to become extra organized very quickly. Check out the top lessons I learned (sometimes the hard way), and feel free to share with me your own tips and strategies.
· Simplify, simplify, simplify. During my first “get-started” planning trip, I discovered that I didn’t realistically have time while in town to meet with five, or even three, different florists, photographers, caterers…you get the picture. By zeroing in on what I wanted ahead of time, doing a lot of research, and reaching out to vendors by phone or email – in many cases having multiple conversations, I could easily narrow my choices to two top favorites long before I ever get on the plane. After all, I love a cake tasting as much as the next bride, but don’t think that even with my extreme sweet tooth I would hold up too well hopping from bakery to bakery in just one day!
· Speaking of vendors, try to develop a good relationship ahead of time. While I definitely prefered to meet in person before contracting, in the case of our fantastic, highly-recommended photographer, I knew that by the time we got to town, our wedding date would have been long ago snapped up. By asking tons of questions during a great back-and-forth web discussion, I was able to at least get a feel for whether our personalities would mesh. And in the end, he even agreed to sign with us ahead of time, but refund our deposit should we decide to go with another photographer after finally meeting face to face. (We didn’t.)
· Create an individualized timeline that works for you. Traditional month-by-month planning schedules may not be very useful for a long-distance bride. Instead, I chose a couple popular guides to rework into my own unique guideline, even if it meant that I had to tackle certain tasks earlier than usual.
· Ask for help, but not from those who will put their ideas before your own. I feel so lucky that my mother is a friend who was completely open to and respectful of my ideas for my wedding day, and, when she disagreed, offered truly constructive advice. Since we only got to town a week before the wedding, we also quickly decided that hiring a month-and-day-of coordinator was a smart idea, and made sure our chosen wedding party members felt up to the task of lending an even bigger hand than might usually be necessary.
And maybe that’s the biggest lesson I learned in the end - that the key to a great wedding is having a truly great team that’s got your back. What are your tips and tricks for stress-free planning?