(9 Months to 24 Months Before the Wedding)
If all systems are go, you have decided to plan your own wedding, and you are not going to use a wedding planner, if you want the wedding of your dreams, you have to do preliminary research. You want to start out with developing ideas. Either go to your local bookstore and go through the magazine section and browse through wedding related magazines. You want to look at Bridal Magazines, find wedding dresses that you like and pick up fashion ideas for your bridal party including gowns and tuxedos. Take note of bridal accessories too.
You also want to find magazines that feature flower ideas for the wedding focusing on bouquet styles and floral arrangements for wedding receptions. You want to look for wedding hairdo styles you like and what style of makeup looks good on brides. You want to look at food magazines to think about what type of food you want to serve at the wedding. What hors d'oeuvres to serve before the wedding reception? What should be your color scheme for the wedding? Either take notes or pick up a magazine or two which include photos on styles you like. You can pick up ideas also at the library or off the internet or even off your IPad if you happen to own one of these. If you are able you want to clip out designs or fabrics that grab your attention and put into clear plastic baggies.
The next thing you want to do is to create a spreadsheet geared toward identifying wedding vendors. You may find a wedding vendor tracking templates or spreadsheets from wedding websites or Google docs wedding or you can create your own spreadsheet using Google docs or Excel or some other spreadsheet package. You can also set up your wedding planner that under every tab is a page devoted to wedding vendors. Don't forget to staple a plastic bag with pictures or notes under the matching wedding category. Another idea is to find or pick up an index box and have all your wedding vendors with each category tabbed in the index box.
You may want to lay out your spreadsheet in the following order going across the page: 1) Rank order number of your vendor, 2) Wedding category, 3) Name of vendor, 4) Location or address of vendor, 5) Phone number of vendor, 6) Website address of vendor, 7) Email or electronic address of vendor, 8) Budgeted Amount 9) Actual amount quoted for your headcount, 10) Quote for minimum headcount, 11) Quote for maximum headcount, 12) Contact person, 13) Contact person phone number, 14) Contact person email if different than above, 15) Is Vendor available for your wedding date, 16) Status, and 17) Notes.
A couple of things to note on your spreadsheet, as you contact each vendor you want to try to get a range of headcount to help you out on your wedding planning. For example, you may target 130 people for your wedding, but some might not show or budget limitations knock your target down, you want to do what if's as you do your preliminary planning. At a minimum you may have 100. The same holds through, what happens if your list expands to 160. As you talk to vendors in the preliminary stage you should try to get quotes for what you expect then minimum and maximum amounts. For example, you will ask, How much will the wedding cost for 100, 130, and 160 guests? In your 16) Status column you might show four possibilities ("booked", "targeted", "possible", "rejected"). You could also color code your status lines so it stands out and if someone needs to get a hold of the vendor they are easy to identify. You can color code your booked vendor red for example on your spreadsheet, keep notes on the top or bottom to show what the color codes mean.
The way I break down wedding categories is as follows, in alphabetical order: 1) Bed & Breakfast, 2) Bridal Fashions & Tuxedos, 3) Catering, 4) Ceremony Sites, 5) Churches & Chapels, 6) Dance Instruction, 7) Decorations, 8) Disc Jockeys, 9) Favors, 10) Florists, 11) Gifts & Registries, 12) Health & Beauty, 13) Honeymoons & Activities, 14) Hotels & Resorts, 15) Invitations, 16) Jewelers, 17) Live Music, 18) Makeup Artists & Cosmetics, 19) Officiants, 20) Photographers, 21) Reception Facilities, 22) Rehearsal Dinner, 23) Rental Services, 24) Sweets & Treats, 25) Transportation, 26) Videographers, 27) Wedding Cakes, and 28) Wedding Planners. This is to give you an idea, you may break the categories any way you want, break apart categories further, add, subtract, organize it any way that fits your needs.
Each day, you can focus on working a specific category. It might take you a few weeks working on this project. Take each and every category and either go through the internet looking at wedding websites or go through the yellow pages and find them or visit a business in person to check them out. Find 3, 4 or 5 vendors to identify for say "Catering". The businesses you identify go into your spreadsheet. When the time comes for interviewing the wedding vendor, you can quickly look them up to make appointments. You can target making appointments with the same type of vendor on the same day. You can meet with one vendor at 10:00 a.m., have lunch somewhere, meet another at 1:00, another at 3:00. Always try to bring a friend and always try to make the appointment fun, a learning and rewarding experience.
You can make initial contact with some vendors by phoning them or emailing them, to find out the minimum and maximum their business holds and how far in advance can you book? If you have a lot of vendors you want to preliminarily checkout, you could even find their email addresses by looking in the internet or calling them for their email address and ask if they could send you preliminary information. Just to note, some businesses show email addresses and some don't show it because they feel they get too much spam. If the email is not in the website you can try to see if it shows by putting the business address in Google and put the word "email" after putting in the website address in your searcht. Facebook or Twitter is another option of making contact with many businesses.
When you meet with most businesses ( except for bridal shops), let the businesses do most of the talking first and and in some cases you don't want to divulge you are having a wedding, (you are having a party!). If you say the word "wedding" at a rental store, sometimes you get put into a wedding bucket and the prices for the weddings are much higher than the prices for just a party. Be mindful at the type of business you are dealing with. Don't let businesses take you for a ride and charge you a lot more, just because you said the word "wedding". Remember, you have the upper hand, don't let businesses take advantage, they have to earn your business.
Sometimes you may get a strong lead on a vendor, the business comes highly recommended. It still is a good idea to check out 3 or 4 vendors. Your goal always is to get the best vendor at a good price. The vendor recommended may be good but you might find a vendor better or a similar vendor at a much lower cost. Your chemistry has to vibe too, maybe the chemistry for that one vendor was good for that other couple but it doesn't mean you will have the same chemistry. You want each vendor that's a good friend and someone you can readily communicate too.
Before booking with vendors, check them out with the better business bureau, pull up the name of the business and see if any complaints or issues come up for that vendor. You always hear of the cases where brides have paid thousands for their wedding day dresses and when it comes time to pick up their dress they find the business has closed and they are out of their money with no dress and they are scrambling around to figure out what to do with their wedding. Keep in ready contact with your wedding vendors so there are no surprises.
Your assignment for a few weeks is each day pick a wedding category and lay out the top 3, 4, or 5 wedding vendors to target. Put the information of your top ones into a spreadsheet, and when the time comes to make appointments you are raring to go and calling and making appointments is the easy part. Make sure you coordinate your appointment days with anyone that is coming along with you. Remember, you have the upper hand as you meet with these wedding vendors. Your goal with each wedding vendor is to get the best deal possible, save on costs, make some friends and learn something. Do this one wedding vendor at a time and you are going to have a fabulous wedding!!!
That's how you preliminary research for your wedding, see you on the other side.
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