Think about the following five questions before you jump headlong into visiting venues, choosing caterers, and researching bands. They'll help you keep your head on straight and keep the process moving along smoothly while you simultaneously have a life.
What's your organizational style?
In general, would you describe yourself as organizationally challenged or do you thrive on keeping track of lots of details? If the former is true, you might consider hiring a planner or asking a very organized friend to help you stay on track. If you're great with details and research, you might be just fine on your own, although I still recommend hiring or appointing someone to deal with last-minute issues on the wedding day (or weekend).
Is your work schedule nutso?
Will you be scheduling appointments around a busy workweek? If so, use a calendar or an online planning tool to block out available times for meetings and general wedding-planning duties—and stick to it. Tell prospective vendors about your schedule limitations up front and make sure they'll accommodate special meeting times.
Are you on the road a lot?
Will you be traveling frequently during your engagement?
If you will be away from home often, ask your service providers to streamline meetings and set up conference calls instead of having in-person meetings whenever possible. There are many free or low-cost teleconference and web-meeting services available. You can sign up for them online and ask everyone (vendors, your fiancé, your parents, etc.) to dial and/or log in at the appointed time, even if you're not in town.
How do you choose?
Are you someone who makes decisions quickly and easily, or do you prefer more time to consider a variety of options and do detailed research? If you are the kind of person who has difficulty picking out a restaurant for dinner, it's a good idea to have one other trusted friend or family member involved in important meetings so you can share concerns and get their opinions on the spot. It's best if the same family member or two can be with you throughout the process, as having too many opinions can add to indecision—you know, too many cooks . . .
Do you know what you want?
Do you have a pretty clear vision of your celebration, or could you use some guidance? If you really don't yet know what you want, I suggest hiring an event planner, who can help you distill your ideas and bring them to life. A good planner is an acute listener who can take your inspirations and guide you through the process of turning them into memorable event details.
Once you've explored the answers to these questions, you can think about how best to structure your tasks and allot your time. If, for example, you are a busy professional and you travel often for work, you might want to consider hiring a wedding planner to help you throughout the process by coordinating your meetings, evaluating vendors, and managing the team, so you can direct without getting mired down in all the small stuff.
Reprinted with permission from Simple Stunning Bride* by Karen Bussen; published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang; March 2010.*