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  • Writer's pictureJenny

How to Plan a Wedding without a Wedding Planner

Smart wedding planning tips for the bride to be, from Born to be a Bride blog...

This post originally appeared on our old blog Born to be a Bride as "Planning Sans Planner."

Blessed but stressed.

I always sort of imagined that when my time came, I would have a wedding planner. Otherwise, who would ensure that everything runs smoothly from dress appointments to the minute-by-minute timing on the big day? When Josh proposed, and we found ourselves packing up to move to Texas mere weeks later, my planner-related plans changed. In addition to not having the time to review planners’ work and make a logical decision about whom to hire, I felt a fear wash over me that I couldn’t shake. What if I hired someone who didn’t quite “get” me, and then I ended up planning a wedding from 2,000 miles away, with the wrong person?

This fear kept me up for a few nights until one morning when my mom called and asked me what I thought of hiring a planner. “I honestly don’t want to,” I replied, not knowing this was true until I heard the words coming out of my mouth.

I could feel her mixed emotions in the pregnant pause after I’d uttered the statement. On the one hand, this was good news. Not hiring a planner would mean one less expense. On the other, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that if we did not hire a planner, we’d be doing it all ourselves. And I am a lovely person, really, but I can be a nightmare when the moment warrants it. Planning a wedding could be just that moment– one that would last for months!

Mom declared it the best idea in the end, feeling confident that with our joint vision, expert organizational skills, and fairy god sister-in-law Pookie, we couldn’t go wrong. And so began a journey that has unfolded with triumph and a few tears. Today, just over three months out from the wedding, there’s much we still need to do. But never along the way have we stopped and regretted our decision not to hire help.

Wedding planners are wonderful, and if your budget and lack of OCD allow for it, you should definitely hire one. But if you do decide to go it alone, so to speak, there are some things my experience has taught me, that I should share.

Firstly, settle on a venue ASAP. And in doing so, make sure you ask the right questions. Does this venue have firm links with a caterer and will they be responsible for coordination therein? Do they offer the services of an on-site staffer to assist in the moment-by-moment execution of the day itself? Will they be able to accommodate your need for a bridal suite, separate groom’s prep area, ketubah and/or marriage license signing area, safe storage of important go-to’s for the weekend, proper lighting for hair and makeup, etc?

Whatever your list of musts is, bring it with you on all venue scouting appointments. If you fall in love with a venue, and it’s in your budget, and the answers are firm yes’s to all the above questions and your own, BOOK IT right away. Venues get snapped up quicker than single supermodels in minidresses at hip clubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Secondly, start a binder. I realize I have yet to share my binder with you in all its splendor. I will do that closer to the day, but in the meantime know that you need a comprehensive list of your vendors, to-do items, a gown inspiration section, the contact info and sizes for your entire bridal party, a place to keep fabric swatches and floral photos, and so on. Keeping things organized in one place lets you stay on track. I popped the Brides magazine 12-month planner right in the front of my binder and I refer to it frequently to make sure I’m on track.

ALSO: Talk to other brides. Find them on Facebook or within your friend group. Tell them where your stress points are and ask how they moved through similar challenges. Write down what they tell you. I have a notebook in my purse at all times for spur-of-the-moment panic as well as sudden inspiration. Josh and I were watching wedding videos recently on our videographer’s site and found some cool ideas we’d like to implement. I wrote them down immediately and then added each item to our running list of deliverables. This helps.

Shop Around. When you’re looking for rings, you’ll need to know the best places to buy them. That goes beyond simply knowing where to buy moissanite engagement rings and anything else you’re looking for. You’ll have to know where you can get the best service and deals, with this varying drastically from jeweler to jeweler. Make sure to shop around, with this also applying to any other part of your wedding.

Phone a friend. You are not burdening your loved ones and bridal party by seeking out help. They want to help, they are just not always sure how they can do so. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “My groom wants a gray suit and we haven’t found one we like. Would you mind doing some research?” I guarantee you will receive a loving email with a list of links to gorgeous gray suits within your budget, in one week’s time or less.


Be kind. Your mom, maid of honor, groom, and other important people do want to help you to see your dream actualized. But having an acid tongue or taking out your stress on them is not only unfair, it’s downright nasty. If you feel yourself stressing and needing to vent, do so with someone who is not on your helping list. I have some great girlfriends in Texas who listen to me bitch when I need to, but they know it’s not directed at them because they aren’t participating in the wedding. They just listen and then talk me down off the ledge. Once calm, I can call my mom or write a kind, detailed email outlining my pain points so we can work them through.

These are just some of the things I’ve discovered so far. I can guarantee you that in about a month, I will have a few anxiety-ridden moments in which I regret my decision not to hire a planner. But in the grand scheme, I am confident that this is what works for us. Did you hire a planner? Did you eschew the idea? What did you learn from your decision and what do you think are the pros and cons?

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