Between picking a venue, finding a caterer and making sure invitations get sent out, planning a wedding is exhausting, even if your wedding is relatively low-key. Luckily, there are plenty of tools, apps and websites that make it easier to keep up, and help you do your research at home or on the go. Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári.
Find a Venue and Build a Seating Chart
When my fiance and I first started thinking about our wedding, we Google searched "wedding venues Los Angeles" and, of course, we were overwhelmed with options. Expensive options. It took us quite a bit of searching to narrow down an affordable spot in the area, and we could've saved some time with a venue search tool like Wed Shed (or, if you want to get hitched in the US, Wedding Spot). These sites let you filter search results by price, location and style. It will also give you a price range for each venue, depending on the number of guests you plan on inviting.
Hitched is another option, and allows you to search venues with late availability. It doesn't, however, offer a price range for each venue, but it does give you an idea of how budget friendly the vendor is using a dollar rating system, sort of like what you'd see on Yelp.
With these tools, you can compare venues and make appointments to see the ones you like. Airbnb also offers wedding options, and you can browse their venues here.
Once you've decided on your venue, you may want to figure out seating arrangements, and a tool called AllSeated can help with that. It allows you to create 3D floorplans of your event, and you can import contacts from your email or social networks to create a guest list. Once you add your venue to the tool, it automatically imports the floor plan if that venue is in the system (mine was included, and it's not exactly a popular venue). If it's not included, you can also draw the floor plan yourself. From there, you can add tables and guests and keep track of who has RSVP'd, what party each guest is in, and so on.
Design Invitations and Save the Dates
It's easy enough to make your own invitations, but you have to be careful of the tools you use. We created one round of save the dates using a combo of Canva and a printing site, and they came out looking pretty bad. The image quality sucked, plus, we're not designers, so we had no idea what looked good, really.
A design and printing site like VistaPrint is a decent compromise between doing it yourself and paying for a service that's dedicated to this sort of thing. They have plenty of wedding-specific options to choose from (from invitations to place cards to dinner menus), and you can tweak the designs a bit to make them look a little more customised. Plus, there's a better chance the image quality won't suck, because they have created the design themselves. And if you upload a photo and the resolution is bad, VistaPrint warns you.
Our save the dates with VistaPrint looked much better than the ones we designed ourselves (and they were cheaper!), but before I opted for them, I checked reviews on a site called WeddingWire. You can look up the business or service by name to see what other customers thought of them. This way, you know what you're getting into. (Of course, this is still a budget-friendly option, and it's probably not going to look as good as hiring a professional designer)
WeddingWire is also great for searching for invitation services and tools in general, though it is US based, so you'll have to check if the individual vendor you're interested in will mail your invitations to Australia. Alternatively, Wed Shed is also good for searching for invitation services and is Australian, featuring Australian designers. And if you want to go digital, Paperless Post has plenty of options you can just email and send. Most of them are free, and you can upload your own designs, too, and they will email and keep track of your guests.
The venue might be the biggest part of your planning, but the little things add up, too. You have to pick all sorts of vendors and services, from caterers to bartenders to photographers.
That said, once you pick the venue, you might be able to narrow your options down. Most venues require you to use their vendors or they at least suggest a few other people have used and are familiar with their location. Of course, you can also use wedding sites like Wed Shed, Wedding Club, The Bride's Guide, The National Wedding Directory and MyWedding to find vendors and services. Here are some additional sites for specific types of services:
- For photographers, there's SnapKnot or Photographer Central
- Australian Caterers for caterers
- Entertain Oz for bartenders, musicians and DJs
TaskRabbit was hugely useful. We found a photographer, cater waiters, a cook for the brunch the next day that we're also hosting at the same Airbnb apartment, cleaners - at definitely a fraction of the cost it would have taken to have, like, a proper crew come up and do that for us... So for the ceremony itself, we're ordering from one of our favourite barbecue places and having a TaskRabbit pick it up for us. And then for the brunch the following day, we've ordered from Instacart which is kind of like Peapod.
They hired a someone on TaskRabbit to cook brunch for them, too. Of course, you're working directly with the tasker, so you might not get the guarantees you'd get working with an established company (though TaskRabbit and AirTasker have their own guarantees has their own guarantee), so that's something to keep in mind.
Find a Dress and Other Formal Attire
It's easy enough to find and make an appointment with local wedding boutiques or big name retailers. However, if you're looking for more creative options, there are plenty to choose from.
Nearly Newlywed, for example, sells used and sample sale wedding dresses at big discounts. Once you order your dress and receive it in the mail, you have five days to decide if you'd like to keep it. And, if you want, you can sell it back via their online marketplace.
You can also rent your wedding dress from a service such as Sunset Bridal. And if your bridesmaids don't want to buy a brand new dress for one night only either, you can also rent bridesmaids dresses from services such as Simply Borrowed.
Weddington Way is another option for bridesmaids dresses, tuxes and suit rentals. You can order a few at a time to try on, then pick the one you like. There is, however, a $US10 ($13) fee per dress that you try-on, but if you go with their services, they credit this amount. Roger David Suit Hire and Spurling offer a similar service for renting tuxedos and suits online. You pick a few you like, coordinate with your groomsmen, then set up an order date for your rental.
If you don't feel like trying on a ton of dresses, Brides.com has a pretty neat tool that lets you try stuff on virtually. This way, you can get an idea of what works for you and narrow down your options. This will save you time trying stuff on in-store.
Keep Your Notes and Plans Organised
When my friend heard I was planning a wedding, she offered to help, then pulled out a humongous binder from her own wedding. I laughed, because I thought she was just being over-the-top organised, but nope — there's so much info to keep track of: Ideas, quotes, receipts, business cards, addresses.
It's become pretty cliche, but Pinterest is a useful tool for keeping track of all your ideas. You can create boards, hunt for ideas and then organise those ideas according to board. If you're a visual person and see a ton of interesting things around the web during your research, it's perfect for you. There are plenty of wedding-specific sites that are meant to be all-in-one resources for planning, researching and keeping track of everything. Those are awesome tools, however, I've just been using Evernote to keep track of stuff. I have an entire notebook called Wedding, and I just shove all my receipts and ideas there. You could take it a step further, however, and create subfolders dedicated to each category: Vendors, receipts, addresses and guests... you get the idea.
Wedding Happy is a fun iOS app that counts down the days to your wedding and keeps your planning on track with tasks. It's like a to-do list and digital notebook all in one. Our Wedding Planner is a similar option for Android (both options are free). Brides.com also has an interactive Wedding Checklist to help you along. Tasks are broken down by month, depending on your date. You can also filter by category, overdue tasks and completed tasks.
OurDreamWedding.com also has a useful Budget Tracker to help you figure out how to allocate your budget to different categories. It also factors in the number of guests you're inviting as well as how many people are in the wedding party. And here's a whole list of wedding budget spreadsheets for Excel.
Planning a wedding is fun, but it can also be really stressful — especially if you're not really a wedding person and haven't ever given it much thought. These tools can help you streamline and organise the process, making it a little less intimidating.