From the frantically pulled together in the last two weeks, to the meticulously mapped out creations of professional wedding planners, weddings really do come in all shapes and sizes, and each one is made unique by the people in them. While of course I know how I’d plan a wedding, I hesitate to call any plan “bad”. That is, so long as it returns what you really want out of it. Do you want to do all the flower arrangements yourself, two nights before the wedding and then drop them off at the venue early in the morning before you go to the hair salon? Sure, that could be a fine plan. How about getting ready up in Pennsylvania for a wedding down in Baltimore? Sure, why not. Would you like to plan a 5:00pm ceremony, and just find someone to be the groom on the way to the church? You know what, that might just work.

Any plan that accounts for all the moving pieces will be just fine, so long as all the pieces move how you expect them to. So a wedding plan will account for all the things you think are going to happen, and what you need to do to make sure they do. But a strong plan accounts for what you don’t think will happen, and makes arrangements for what you’ll do if it does. That’s what we’re talking about today, making a strong wedding plan, and to do that we need to differentiate the peripheral plans from the central plans.

Peripheral plans are things like centerpieces, boutonnieres, seating charts or flowers. Lets face it, you could somehow forget at least a few of these kinds of things and, imperfect as it may be, you’re still going to get married. I mean, you’re not postponing a wedding day after all your friends and family have arrived, and vendors paid, because you forgot your bouquet in the hotel room. That would certainly be super upsetting, but it’s not going to stop the train—you’re getting married anyway.

Central plans, on the other hand, are things like where you’re getting ready, how you’re getting around, the rings or dress, perhaps your mom and dad. If plans were to go seriously south with any number of these types of things, yeah, you might be postponing the wedding. Or, at least seriously shaking things up. You’re probably not going to be willing to walk up the aisle without a shirt on, under any circumstances. And, if your mom and dad’s flight is grounded at the last second, it might just be too heartbreaking to go on without them.

So, making your wedding plan strong means making sure each of your central plans is strong. Your central plans link together like a chain, one after the other, and ultimately your overall wedding day plan is at the mercy of the weakest link in that chain. It’s worth thinking about this in an organized way because a serious failure in one of your central plans—even one you have no control over—throws the entire wedding plan into jeopardy. So, lets look at some of the central plans almost all weddings have in common and see how we might be able to make those plans stronger.

Travel

How you and other important people will be getting around on your wedding day is a mission critical part of your plan. After all, you can’t get married if you don’t show up! So, when it comes to travel, you need to think about more than just vehicles and drivers, but about traffic, preparation locations and decoration shuttles as well.

The strongest travel plan is the one that eliminates travel altogether. If you and all of your A-list people can arrive at your venue the day before your wedding, get married and hold a reception all in the same place, your travel plans will essentially be bulletproof. Some people are able to do something like this, but it’s not realistic for everyone.

Practically speaking, try your best to keep your whole wedding day in a geographically small area. Rent hotel rooms to get ready in within a 5-10 minute drive of your venue. Use a church and venue that are no more than a few miles apart, if possible. Eliminate unexpected, unnecessary and redundant trips by staging anything that needs to be delivered to the hotel or venue all in one place, and take it over as early as possible; don’t leave it to memory!

Dress & Wardrobe

Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate! Most people have the wedding party bring their own clothes on the wedding day. The mother of the bride often brings the dress. Florist or family members may arrive with the boutonnieres. I’d say about 80% of the time there are no problems in this regard. But, in that 20% are groomsmen forgetting shirts and ties and shoes, wedding dresses accidentally dunked in mud puddles, boutonnieres that never show up and last minute improvisations that would make Project Runway blush. Also in that 20% are untold scores of images we didn’t have enough time to capture anymore.

So, don’t outsource all these wardrobe considerations to the minds and memories of lots of different people who might not be as organized or invested as you are. If possible, have everything brought to one location ahead of time, where it can be checked and placed with other things that need to make the same trip. One groomsman might forget to bring his shoes, while you’re far less likely to forget when it’s one big box of everything.

Guests of honor

Some people may be absolutely critical to your plan, either for practical reasons or for purely emotional reasons. Maybe it’s your sister from out of town, your dad whose going to walk you up the aisle, or your grandmother who rarely gets to go out. When certain people are such a huge priority for the success of your wedding plan, the only way to strengthen this link in the chain is to know where they are and where they need to be, and remind them regularly.

These people are not playing pieces on a game board, and you need to trust them to follow through with your plan. But, at the same time, for you, your wedding plan may be on the top of your mind a lot—after all, you wrote it. For them, though, it likely is not. You’d be surprised how often people are late for critical moments simply because they forgot the exact timing. As frustrating as it may be, the best way to prevent this is to simply send regular reminders. Start a chat group with these people, or start an email list. Without being overly pushy, just find some way to communicate at normal intervals what it is you need and expect of each person; namely, where they need to be, when, and carrying what.

Rings

It’s common wisdom to keep these in the best man’s coat pocket, but I would recommend keeping the rings with the bride’s dress, shoes and jewelry. You can pass the rings to the best man prior to the ceremony, and you can be sure they’re not forgotten in the first place by keeping them consolidated with other similar items. While it’s fairly rare, we’ve seen best men frantically retrace their steps in search of a ring box that was ultimately just left in the hotel room.

The rings themselves may not be one of your central plans—I mean, push comes to shove, a temporary twist-tie will probably do the (inelegant) trick. The trouble is how much time is wasted before the plan resigns itself to making-do with something else. Innumerable photos are lost in the attempt to correct a failure in the central plans, and the location of the rings is a reasonably frequent offender.

Weather

The ultimate central plan is the plan for the weather, and you have no control over it. Yeah, if you’re going to get marred outside, you really do need a rain plan. Don’t assume nice weather; plan for the good weather, and plan for the bad weather. That is the only way to make a strong plan when you’re going to be wed outside.

If this is you, ideally, you’ll choose a venue with a built-in rain plan. Many have tents on-site to provide shade in the sunlight, or cover from the rain.  Or some may have outdoor ceremony options, and indoor receptions by default. If this isn’t the case, and you’re going to be married outside somewhere a little unconventional—such as a public park or your backyard—go ahead and rent the space at your local church or at a community hall as well. It sucks shelling out a money you might not use, but that’s the nature of insurance. You pay it, hoping you won’t need it.

Where To Go From Here

This isn’t an exhaustive look at making ‘strong’ wedding plans. A professional planner would likely be able to make this list two or thee or four times longer, and maybe even throw some deeper context on some of these points. But, I hope you’ve gotten the sense that it’s important to identify what is really central to your wedding plan and what is peripheral.

I hope you see the value in padding and strengthening each part of your central plan to prevent it from going awry at the last minute, which causes tons of anxiety and can really ruin the experience of your wedding day, if not outright shut it down.

What do you think? Did you think about your wedding day plan like this? Lets connect on twitter and talk about it!

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