Navigating the Planning Process …Or Just Hire a Planner
Written by Katie O’Shaughnessy

Here at ChicagoStyle Weddings, we try to make the planning process as simple as possible. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as your 10th birthday party — you can’t just book a magician and call it a day. Planning a wedding is a process.

Both in our magazine and on our website, we offer a comprehensive 12-month guide to getting it done. Weighing in at a lofty 83 steps, it can be overwhelming. Yes, all of that has to get done, and you should go read through it if you haven’t already. But before you do that, read this article, which breaks it into more manageable pieces that you can digest as easily as a delicious slice of lemon chiffon cake.

STEP 1: Find a Consultant.

In the age of DIY, many of you are thinking, “Wedding planner? Nah, I can handle it.” You’re a grown woman or man, completely capable of taking care of business, but we really recommend hiring a planner.

You probably have a full-time job, but planning a wedding is a full-time job in itself. Can you sacrifice more hours in your day? Rather than sacrificing your precious weekends, hire someone to spend their workday taking care of business.

Find a planner you gel with. You’ll be spending a lot of time speaking to this person, so you want to make sure you like how they operate. They should make you feel comfortable and at ease. The last thing you need on your wedding day is someone freaking out while you freak out.

STEP 2: Invest in Color-Coded Binder Tabs.

If you’re not the planning type, learn to be. If you are the planning type, let your wildest inner neat freak emerge from its immaculate cocoon. Buy yourself a nice calendar with puppies or beachscapes, and fill in the deadlines for all the major events.

Also, keep track of things as you go. “You need to make sure you have dates and times when you’ve spoken to someone, when you’ve showed up at a location, when something was said,” says Denise Bonds, Owner of Windermere Elegant Weddings. “Say you had a couple photographers and you liked what each one had. Keep notes of what they offer to keep them straight.”

Staying organized will help you stay on budget as well. “There are apps that are available, or use an Excel spreadsheet if you want to go old-school,” says Dr. Ramona James, President and CEO of Accent Events. “Be transparent and honest with [your fiancé] about what you’re spending on the wedding.”

“Know your style and know your budget,” says Leanne Valdes, Wedding Planner and Owner of You Name It Events. “The best way is to know where you’re coming from, and then you can know where you’re going.”

STEP 3: Enjoy the Splendid Vertigo of Falling Down the Pinterest Rabbit Hole.

Pin the most gorgeous, opulent things you can find. Determine the aesthetic you’re going for and spiral on the Internet for hours. It’s totally allowed in the name of research. Having Pinterest boards that illustrate your vision will only make the process easier.

Pin wedding photography you like so you can hand examples of what you’re looking for to photographers. Collect artsy centerpieces to share with your florist or recipes to ask your caterer about. If you’re pinning a lot of forest nuptials, you know you’re headed for some wild vows.

STEP 4: Find that Dress.

Don’t put off your gown for too long. Once you know your general look, start shopping. “If a bride can start planning 10 months out, that would be great. Some dresses take six to eight months to come back,” says Bonds.

Finding the right dress can set you up for a cohesive look throughout the wedding. “I usually suggest that the bride looks for her dress pretty early on in the process,” says Valdes. “A lot of vendors will ask you about your dress. When you meet with the photographer, they might ask because it really speaks to your style.”

STEP 5: Knock Out the Big Vendors.

Sure there are a lot of incidentals, but a few vendors take precedence. First of all, nail down your venue. This will help you determine your date so you can eliminate vendors who are booked on that day. Then find your photographer/videographer, caterer, florist, band or DJ, and your cake.

It’s a big sea full of vendor fish out there, and a wedding planner can help you navigate the rough waters. If you search the internet for vendors, you’ll be inundated with information. Instead of sifting through websites and bios, interviewing potential DJs and florists, and taking a gamble on their work ethic, ask your planner for their list of tried, trusted, and true vendors to get your party started.

“I think the younger group wants to find everything online. They miss great things because of that. There are some great vendors who haven’t gotten their stuff out there that way,” says Bonds. She recommends couples who opt out of a planner start looking for vendors by word of mouth. Ask friends who have already gotten married, your venue contact, or attend a bridal show.

STEP 6: Enhance Your Natural Beauty.

Girl, you look good. But this is a special day, and we totally understand if you want to glam it up a little. Start with your own stylist and go from there. “Don’t be afraid to try and try again,” says Valdes. “A lot of brides feel like once they do a trial, they’re obligated to use that stylist. Do another trial until you find the right person.”

STEP 7: Enjoy the Process.

This is less of a step and more of something to focus on throughout the whole process. When you start to get overwhelmed and worried, keep this little gem from James in mind: “The wedding process is a fun time for brides and grooms. It doesn’t have to be so serious. It’s going to be a perfect day anyway because you’re marrying the person of your dreams.”

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