Saturday, November 21, 2009

Long-Distance Wedding Planning – Strategies & Stress Relievers

A couple months ago, my bridesmaids went dress shopping without me. But I didn't mind. How could I? You see, my bridesmaids live in California, while I live all the way across the country in Washington, D.C.

As I mentioned in my first blog post yesterday, I'm a "bicoastal bride" - busy planning a wedding 3,000 miles away, with the added challenge of bridesmaids and groomsmen scattered all over the country. With one bridesmaid now living in Germany, I guess I should say scattered all over the world!

Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No.

Since I'll only be traveling to Thousand Oaks - my California hometown and wedding location - four times tops before the big day next June, I've had to become extra organized very quickly. Check out the top lessons I've learned so far (sometimes the hard way), and feel free to share with me your own tips and strategies. I can definitely use all the help I can get!

· Simplify, simplify, simplify. During my first "get-started" trip this summer, I discovered that I don't realistically have time when I'm in town to meet with 10, or even five, different florists, photographers, caterers...you get the picture.

By zeroing in on what I want ahead of time, doing (a lot) of research, and reaching out to vendors by phone or email - in many cases having multiple conversations, I can easily narrow my choices to two top favorites long before I ever get on the plane. After all, I love a cake tasting as much as the next bride, but don't think that even with my extreme sweet tooth I would hold up too well hopping from bakery to bakery in just one day!

· Speaking of vendors, try to develop a good relationship ahead of time. While I definitely prefer to meet in person before contracting, in the case of our fantastic, highly-recommended photographer, I knew that by the time we got to town, our wedding date would have been long ago snapped up.

By asking tons of questions during a great back-and-forth web discussion, I was able to at least get a feel for whether our personalities would mesh. And in the end, he even agreed to sign with us ahead of time, but refund our deposit should we decide to go with another photographer after finally meeting face to face.

· Create an individualized timeline that works for you. Traditional month-by-month planning schedules may not be very useful for a long-distance bride. Instead, I chose a couple popular guides to rework into my own unique guideline, even if it has meant that I have to tackle certain tasks (like choosing my wedding gown) earlier than usual.

And finally...

· Ask for help, but not from those who will put their ideas before your own. I feel so lucky that my mother is a friend who is completely open to and respectful of my ideas for my wedding day, and, when she disagrees, offers truly constructive advice.

Since we'll only be getting to town a week before the wedding, Stephen and I also quickly decided that hiring a month-and-day-of coordinator was a smart idea, and made sure our chosen wedding party members felt up to the task of lending an even bigger hand than might usually be necessary.

And maybe that's the biggest lesson I've learned so far - that the key to a great wedding is having a truly great team that's got your back.

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