As would be expected for a time management coach, I’m a very organized person who is good at getting things done.
But even for someone like me, planning a full-on wedding in six months was no joke. Here are some of the best strategies I used to stay organized and stave off overwhelm.
You could apply these to upcoming nuptials or really any large project.
Decide on the Date Early: My now husband, Stephen, and I went ring shopping in September 2021, and he was kind to let me know that he was proposing by the end of the year. That was helpful for this little planner’s heart and allowed us to decide on the date and lock down the church for the wedding and reception prior to him even officially putting a ring on it.
Construct a Master Task List: I’d never planned a wedding before so I searched online for templates for how to plan a wedding in six months. My favorite ended up being an Excel sheet with these columns: Check Box, Tasks, Notes, Budgeted Cost, Actual Cost, Difference. The Excel sheet also was broken down into time ranges. For example, the first section was for items to get done in the December/January time frame about six months out, the second section was for January/Early February. As you got closer to the wedding, the time frames got shorter with headings for items under the “day before the wedding,” “day of the wedding,” etc.
I consolidated ideas of what should be on this list from three or four different sources. And whenever I thought of something new that wasn’t on the list, I added a row for it.
Put Together a Wedding Reference Document: In addition to having lots of tasks to complete, I had many thoughts about what I wanted, what other people were telling me, and resources that I didn’t want to forget. To capture these items, I created a Word document with different headings such as “Ceremony” or “Speech,” and then whenever something came to my mind, I added it under the appropriate heading. Then when it was time to do an activity like write my speech, I went to the appropriate section to view my notes.
Clarify Weekly Wedding Goals: I encourage all of my time management coaching clients to do weekly planning, and I do weekly planning myself for my work and life. But planning a wedding meant that I also had to do weekly wedding planning on top of my normal planning. During that time, I would skim through my master task list, decide on the specific items that I wanted to move forward for the week, write those goals in an all-day event at the top of my Google Calendar on Monday, and then also block in time throughout the week to get the projects done.
I found this strategy of narrowing things down really reduced the feelings of overwhelm and also kept me from the unproductive habit of scrolling through the task list again and again without actually doing anything.
Ask for Help: I did the majority of the coordinating for the wedding. But I definitely couldn’t do everything on my own. I put together a shared online doc with my fiancé so I could let him know which tasks I needed him to do. I also hired a wedding coordinator to do the day-of coordination and who also ended up taking the lead on all the decorating, which was wonderful. And finally, I did end up asking friends and family to help before and after.
Cut Back on Commitments: Planning a wedding was about a 15-20 hour a week endeavor on top of my other life and work commitments so I really needed to scale back in other areas. Stephen and I made the wise decision to not pursue buying a home until after our wedding. And I also pulled back on social plans as well as volunteering, especially the last few months before the wedding.
Take a Wedding Sabbath: Because of the intensity of planning a wedding from December 19 to June 18, it could feel like all I did from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed was work, wedding planning, exercise, and the occasional social event. To help counteract the burnt-out feeling that began to set in, I instated a weekly wedding sabbath on Tuesdays.
On Tuesdays, I wasn’t able to do anything related to the wedding–no research, no meetings, no working on invites, no nothing. And this was fantastic because I then had time on Tuesdays before and after work to do other things I wanted and needed to do, and on Wednesdays, I re-engaged with wedding planning with revived fervor.
And overall, I really tried to remember that MOST importantly, everything was about the people. I wanted that ethos to guide me to slow down and make sure I didn’t get too task oriented in my pursuit of getting everything done for our joyful celebration.
I hope this gives you some good tips for whatever project you may be planning. It is possible to get an enormous amount done without overwhelm and to not have last-minute stress. The week leading up to the wedding, people’s prayers and the planning I’d done carried me, and I just had so much peace.
About Real Life E
Elizabeth Grace Saunders-Lukasik is the founder and CEO of Real Life E® a time coaching company that empowers individuals who feel guilty, overwhelmed and frustrated to feel peaceful, confident and accomplished. She was named one of the World’s Top 30 Time Management Professionals by Global Gurus. The Christian division of her company focuses on a God-centered approach to time management through Divine Time Management.
McGraw Hill published her first book The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success with Less Stress. Harvard Business Review published her second book How to Invest Your Time Like Money. FaithWords published her third book Divine Time Management: The Joy of Trusting in God’s Loving Plans for You. Elizabeth contributes to blogs like Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Fast Company and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox.