Wedding Planning 101

Remember when you were a kid and you learned all about the Food Guide Pyramid in elementary school? Your teacher told you that this pyramid was an outline of what to eat each day based on dietary guidelines. It showed you how much of each different group you needed to eat to stay healthy, depending on where it was on the pyramid. Well, with that same thought in mind, I have created the Wedding Guide Pyramid. It's an outline of what to do at different intervals of your wedding planning. As you plan your wedding, you will discover that some decisions affect others, i.e., your wedding gown will affect the style of your bridesmaids' dresses. The color of the bridesmaids' dresses will affect your choice and color of flowers; hence, there is a sequential order that is helpful.

The foundation of a pyramid is the most essential part. A pyramid with a poor foundation can be easily shaken apart and will not stand the test of time. For this reason, the basis of your Wedding Guide Pyramid must be placed on God. Without the help of the author and creator of life, your wedding, and possibly your marriage, will not stand the test of time. Before you dive into the wedding preparation, spend a consistent amount of time in prayer asking for God's direction in your planning as you prepare for marriage and spend an equal amount of time listening for His guidance. I would suggest selecting some passages of Scripture to read regularly during this engagement and planning time such as the Song of Solomon, 1 Corinthians 13, or the book of Ruth.

The first tier of the wedding guide pyramid consists of the wedding essentials. Soon after your engagement, decide the date of your wedding. The next step is to decide the place for the ceremony, what time the festivities will commence, a place for the reception and then book each one respectively. During this stage, you will also want to make a decision as to whom you want to officiate the wedding and which musicians you want to perform. It is important to notify these people as early as possible as their calendars tend to fill up. Also, it's a good idea to determine an estimated count of wedding guests so that you have a number to refer to in future decisions.

At the second tier of the Wedding Guide Pyramid, you get to do the most fun part .... purchase the wedding gown. Most bridal shops do not carry an inventory of gowns, so your dress will most likely have to be ordered. Making a wedding gown is an intricate process, so it could take anywhere from 16-30 weeks to receive it once it is ordered. With this in mind you want to make sure that you order it in a timely fashion so that you will have enough time for alterations and a bridal portrait before your big day. It is probably a good idea to pick out your veil at this time as well, so that the entire wedding gown ensemble is complete. In addition, it would also be a good idea for you and your fiancé to get together and register for gifts to prepare for upcoming engagement parties and wedding showers. You may be surprised how much time and patience this process requires and it is wise to do it early during a less stressful period of planning.

Once the gown has been purchased/ordered and the gifts have been registered for, it is time to move on to tier three. At this point in the planning process, it is time to pick out and order the bridesmaid dresses. Although they do not usually take as long as wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses usually have to be ordered and you want to allow time for your attendants to be able to alter their dresses if necessary before the wedding day. This is also a good time to set up appointments with various wedding professionals including a photographer, videographer, florist, baker, caterer, and a DJ or band depending on your reception plans.

The fourth tier of the pyramid should begin with selecting and ordering your wedding invitations. Invitations tend to have a very quick turn around (usually around one week). Make sure you order in enough time to receive them and have them addressed or address them yourself. This is also a good time to select bridesmaids' gifts, hostess gifts, and napkins for the reception, as you may be able to use the same source as the invitations. Also, don't forget to order some informal note cards to use as thank you notes. The rest of this tier consists of logistical details that are very easy to overlook. First of all, make sure that you have enough stamps on hand to use for the invitations as well as thank you notes. It is a good idea to assemble one invitation and take it to the post office to be weighed to make sure of postage. Also, collect the finalized guest list and make a couple of copies of it. Keep one copy for yourself and give another to the mothers of both the bride and groom. Keep your copy close at hand so that you can have the correct addresses for thank yous!

By the time you reach the fifth tier of the pyramid you should be about 6 to 8 weeks away from your wedding date. It is at this time that you should mail your invitations. Also, sit down and make a rough draft of the ceremony order as well as a list of the wedding party as you want them in the program. A smart thing to do at this point is to make a "vendor list" which includes all the names and phone numbers of all of your wedding vendors (i.e. florist, photographer, caterer, baker, etc). Make a copy and give to each person involved so that they can have all the contact information handy.

The final tier of the wedding guide program consists of the responsibilities the last three weeks before your wedding. At the three-week point, complete the program and have several people do a check for spelling and names. At two weeks out, print and assemble the programs. At this point, make a final count of guests and use this to help finalize the reception menu. A couple of weeks before the wedding, mail an instruction sheet to the wedding party with clear times and locations that they are expected to be. Write down any special instructions, as it is too hard to be sure you have verbally said everything to everybody. Also, sit down and make a list of photos that you definitely want and give it to the photographer ahead of time -- you don't want to be looking through your proofs and realize that you forgot to get a picture with someone! Finally, pack for the honeymoon. You'll want to get it out of the way so that it is one less thing that you have to worry about during your wedding week.

The Wedding Guide Pyramid is a compilation of the suggestions that I give to prospective brides searching for guidance as they embark on their wedding plans. Feel free to use what suggestions you like and in any order you see fit. Note that your foundation in God plays a role in each tier. Keep focused on what is really important, no matter what stage of planning you're in. Proverbs 16:20 says, "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he." I pray that this will help you get your wedding plans off to a good start and that you will be able to truly enjoy the blessings of your engagement!

Jordan Browning owns her own wedding business "Ever After" and is an Authorized Discount Bridal Service Representative. Jordan works with brides to help them create their dream wedding at an affordable price. If you would like more information on how you can save money while planning your wedding feel free to contact Jordan at