Simple tricks can help keep planning organized

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

With so many details to track, brides-to-be cannot expect to keep up with it all in their heads.

"Keeping a notebook is one of the best things," said Michelle McIntire of Sunnycros Flowers. "It keeps all your ideas together."

Couples planning their wedding need to think visually so they can communicate their ideas more easily.

"It's hard to be a mind reader," McIntire said.

Planning experts recommend brides start a planning folder or notebook where they can keep all their ideas together. It also helps to tear or copy pages out of bridal magazines and books, so they will be easy to share with caterers, florists and other wedding professionals.

First things first

As couples begin planning their weddings, it's important for them to prioritize their efforts, said Billie Robison, a caterer and florist who owns Billie's Catering and Mount Vernon Place in Tupelo.

Although shopping for a wedding dress is often the first thing brides-to-be set out for, Robison suggests they start off by nailing down the basics of the wedding: The sites for the ceremony and reception, the caterer and the photographer.

"Those are the people (and places) who are going to be booked before anything else," Robison said. Those who wait "can still find (service providers), but they might not get what they want."

It's smart to book six months to a year in advance, especially if the couple have very specific dates or would like to get married during the busy months of May and June, Robison said.

"We're already booking into next year," Robison said.

Home work

Before couples sign contracts, they need to do some homework to develop their ideas about what they want their wedding to be.

Networking with other newlyweds can prove invaluable in spotting unseen pitfalls. Wedding planning books, wedding magazines and Internet Web sites can provide invaluable research tools to develop ideas about the kind of wedding them want.

To stay on track, Kendrick said she combined several checklists gleaned from wedding books, magazines and the Internet. The checklists allowed her to make slow and steady progress on the to-do list and cut out a lot of stress.

"I never really felt stressed about the wedding," Kendrick said. "I really didn't realize how useful it was," until just before the wedding.

Part of the pre-planning homework includes shopping around. Robison recommends that couples talk with two to three different caterers, photographers and florists before making a final decision. Bridal fairs and open houses can be a good place to check out several different services at once.

It's important to check around for more than just the best deal financially, Robison said. It gives couples a chance to find someone who they can trust to carry out their desires for the special day.

"You want someone you feel comfortable with," Robison said.

If parents are going to be paying for the wedding, it's important to involve them from the very beginning, Robison said. If the person who holds the purse strings wasn't involved in initial consultations with the service providers, they could veto the concept as too expensive and send everyone back to square one.

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