Planning a wedding can be an overwhelming experience. Unless you’re having a small celebration, you’ve hired someone to take care of all the details, or you’re blessed with the world’s greatest bridesmaids, you’re going to be surprised at how quickly you’re buried in wedding magazines, vendor brochures, and to-do lists. To avoid getting frustrated with the clutter or letting things slip through the cracks in the midst of all that chaos, it’s a good idea to organize your mess into a helpful, handy wedding binder.
A good wedding binder serves three purposes. First, it gives you a place to stick all of those papers, receipts, and phone numbers once you get them. Second, it serves as a good place to collect wedding inspiration in the form of magazine advertisements, fabric samples, photographs, and cds. Finally, it shows you the big picture, which can be helpful if you’re getting bogged down in details. For example, you might notice that the “dress” portion of your folder is busting at the seams, while the “reception” folder is empty, you might want to take some time to focus on thinking about your reception before you return to the question of your dress.
Although wedding planning binders are available for purchase at places like Barnes & Noble, they’re usually overpriced and often they don’t have everything you’ll need in them. It’s easy (and economical) to make your own and homemade wedding planners have the advantage of being perfectly customized to your wedding.
Follow these steps to make a great wedding planning binder:
(1) You’ll need: paper (blank and lined), a large three-ring binder (at least 3″), a three-hole punch, three-hole punched folders, at least one three-hole punched zipper pouch, scotch tape, multi-colored pens, and divider pages with tabs. If you’d like to use your computer to make some of the pages or labels, you’ll also need a printer w/ ink. Although I like to combine printed pages with handwritten ones, you’ll be just fine if you handwrite your whole binder.
(2) Decide what sections you’ll need for your binder. The sections will vary depending on your wedding celebration and how much planning you think each aspect will need, but here are some suggestions: Attire – Bride/Bridesmaids, Attire – Groom/Groomsmen, Attire – Family (mother of the bride, flower girl, etc.), Photography, Videography, Floral, Cake, Ceremony Venue/Decorations, Vows/Officiant, Reception Venue/Decorations, Menu, DJ, Gift Registries, Honeymoon, and Miscellaneous. Once you have your sections mapped out, make a tabbed divider for each section and add those to your binder.
(3) As you collect materials (vendor brochures, contracts, magazine articles, etc.), add your materials to the appropriate section of your binder. If one section seems to have a lot of small pieces of paper, such as receipts for the wedding party attire, either tape those receipts to a piece of notebook paper or put them into a 3-hole zipper pouch and add the pouch to the section.
(4) Be sure to occasionally weed out extra material so your binder doesn’t fill up too fast. For example, if you’ve chosen your photographer, don’t save the 20 brochures from other wedding photographers that you collected over time. Unless you can use them as inspiration for wedding photos you’d like to have, they’re just taking up space in your binder and giving you more to haul around.
(5) Be sure to add a few important/emergency pages towards the front of your binder. This should include a copy of your master budget as well as all of the phone numbers for your vendors and the members of your wedding party. Some brides have also found it helpful to keep a calendar towards the front of their binder so that they can keep track of how much time they have left before the big day.
(6) Even if it seems like a hassle, print out your electronic receipts and contracts. In this day and age, we’ve all gotten used to doing things electronically and it might seem easier to just store everything in a folder on your computer. However, paper copies will give you more to work with if you’re trying to stay inside of a restrictive budget and it will ensure that you have copies of important documents in the event that your computer crashes. I know it may seem like a hassle, but for your wedding it will be worth it.
(7) Once your wedding is over, don’t feel like you have to save everything in your wedding planning binder. I know it may feel strange to toss all of that information that’s been so important during your planning process, but in a few years (after you’ve moved the binder around a few times), you’ll wonder why you ever thought you needed to hang onto it. Save a few sentimental items (fabric swatches or initial cake sketches), but don’t worry about all those to-do lists or vendor brochures. Note: do keep a copy of your vendor contracts for at least six months after your wedding or until all of the vendor’s services have been rendered. It may take your photographer months to get your images back to you and in case there’s a problem, you’ll want to be able to go over that contract with a fine-tooth comb. After six months, if all services have been rendered and you’re satisfied, you should be able to toss out those contracts without any problems.