How to Plan a Wedding While Working Full Time

how to plan a wedding while working full timeI feel like I’ve seen a bunch of fun threadjacks on this recently(ish), so let’s discuss this today: what are your best tips on how to plan a wedding while working full time (or, as many of you do, well more than 40 hours a week)? What are the best things to outsource as far as wedding planning goes — and what are the best ways to simplify wedding planning? And a corollary question: what wedding planning tasks can you do at the office? We’ve talked about homing from work, making personal calls on the clock, and a bunch of aspects of wedding and business etiquette (including whether you should invite colleagues to your wedding) — as well as wedding finances — but I don’t think we’ve ever had a post rounding up everyone’s tips on how to plan a wedding.

A friend of mine just got married, so I asked her how she fit wedding planning in with her BigLaw job — here were her tips on how to plan a wedding while working full time:

Be very organized. Split tasks with your spouse. Consider a wedding planner (though we didn’t have one). Most things can be done well in advance so don’t save everything for the end.

For me, the two really busy times were the first month we got engaged, looking at venues and vendors and then the last month before. I brought a personal laptop into work and dedicated a half hour each day during lunch to just dealing with emails.

We had a full service place- I don’t know how people do it if they have to separately rent all the chairs and tables and glasses etc
We also did things when we could–we made a big playlist of both our phones and then listened to it in car rides, winnowing it down.

Great tips! I’ve also heard a lot of people who’ve advised to set up a “family” email for the wedding (I’m also a big fan of the family email once kids come along), and I could see either Slack or Trello as being a great way to keep everyone on the same page, which makes it much easier to hand off tasks to your partner as needed. (Slack is particularly great when you’ve having 15 different conversations with the same person at once so emails get totally lost and I find it easy to move among the conversations — Trello is more visually appealing if you prefer to see everything in separate buckets. Here’s a post on how to use Trello to plan a wedding.)

All right, ladies, what are your best tips on how to plan a wedding when you work long hours? 

Stock photo via Stencil.

We asked our readers for their BEST TIPS on how to plan a wedding while working full time, whether you've got 40 hours a week or crazy hours like 60-80 hour weeks like for BigLaw lawyers. Some great tips on how to share wedding planning tasks with your fiance, what wedding tasks you can do at work, and more.

Comments

  1. I just did this. I used a watered down version of a Microsoft Project plan- I created internal/external due dates for everything and made sure everyone had access to that document, plus any supporting documents and to do lists. Basically, I treated it like any other big work project, except I didnt work on it during work hours, except for quick one-off items.

    For those 8 or so months, I leaned out a little at work, and decided it was ok not to gun for a promotion or take on a lot of new work projects. I did what I needed to do to stay engaged and productive, but not much more.

    Googledocs was a lifesaver- I was particular about view/edit security access to each folder and document, and shared docs with each vendor and stakeholder.

    • I only WISH this was me! You are so lucky, and I could easily lose 5000 hours and still have 2900 to bill, and would be MARRIED! I am not sure the manageing partner would go along with it, but I could just say “YOU are MARRIED, why not me too? I do NOT think he would want to be acused of discriminating against me b/c I was trying to get MARRIED, if my husband told me I could only work 2900 hours. That would be the best of all world’s! YAY!!!!

  2. Veronica Sawyer :

    This is a little disjointed but I think good advice/what I tell all my newly engaged friends:
    Big law for first half of wedding planning/then moved in-house and across the country – added fun! We had a planner who was great, but not necessary as there are a million checklists and things available online. I do recommend getting “count-down” or at least “day-of” planners to help with last minute details. I also suggest a full-service venue if possible – they tend to know all of the details and will ask questions that you would never think of if you’re trying to put everything together by yourself.
    Be wary of who you accept money from – because then they think they have a say in your decision making. My in-laws gave very little to the wedding (my parents gave a lot) and then demanded a litany of things I won’t go into here, but I wish we never took the money from them.
    I regret spending so much money on invitations – they were admittedly beautiful, but 99% of guests throw them out, so what’s the point?
    I have no regrets about my dress/shoes, or his tux. Dress (Kleinfeld) was about 2500 + another 2500 once you added in tax, alterations, accessories. That was fine and within my budget since the dress was less than I originally planned to spend, but I wish I knew the dress cost would double – would have been a big problem if my dress cost more initially.
    We spent the day taking photos in a beautiful garden even though we got married indoors at a hotel – those photos are everything.
    Best advice I got was to put our escort cards in little envelopes – i.e., the envelope had the guest’s name and the table number was on a card inside the envelope. This way last minute changes or reprints were SUPER easy.
    I took (and still take) personal calls at work. I’m in an office and salaried. If I spend 30 minutes dealing with something personal, I just stay 30 minutes later to finish my work / deal with it at home. No qualms at all about that.
    Hope this all helps someone!

  3. Anonymous :

    A friend of mine, a very busy doctor who married a very busy lawyer, hired a wedding planner, but they found one who was just starting her business (though she had unofficially helped with weddings before) so she wasn’t super expensive. They could have afforded a pricier planner, but they didn’t want to spend that much on it, so it worked out well.

    • +1

      Both of us had 50+ hour week jobs, no local family or bridal party to help with planning so we hired an amazing wedding planner who was starting her own business, focused on food and music and kept the other things simple.

  4. Cakebride :

    I just did this as well! My main wedding advice is, don’t agonize/overthink. If we liked someone and it was in our budget, we hired them. So we only met with one caterer. Loved them, could afford them, used them (someone recommended on here, by the way! Mimi’s in Brooklyn). Met with one band. One florist. Spent 30 minutes choosing invites. You get so so so many choices. I found just saying “yes” and not looking back was the way to go.

    Also, we didn’t ask for anyone’s opinions but my mom, because she was footing the bill.

    That said, I’m also the crazy bride who baked her own cake! That probably took longer than planning the rest of the wedding.

    All said and done, we got married for under $15k, in NYC, with 60 guests. Original budget was $10k, so we definitely went over. But it was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing. Trust yourself!! You have good taste.

    • Marshmallow :

      My response is in mod but our approaches were the same! Including the location and per person budget. Insert “let it go” gif here.

    • Currently planning mine, and this is my approach: Wedding planner, go with it if we like it and cost is reasonable without agonizing, and don’t take any opinions from anyone not getting married at your ceremony.

      I’m also refusing to cave to pressure to care about and make decisions about things I don’t care about.

    • Same here. We didn’t ask for anyone’s opinions, except we let my parents know about stuff (they were footing the bill), and executed the plan. And then once a decision is made, don’t un-make it unless it NEEDS to be un-made. Very few decisions NEED to be un-made, and they will be very obvious. Our venue was also all-inclusive so that made it easy as well. I had to take a few hours away at the front end to visit venues and such, but otherwise everything could be done after work. Also, day-of coordinator is key.

      I also second a comment above to really think about what is important to you. I thought that the details I could remember from my friend’s weddings should inform what I really care about, as opposed to bowing to the wedding industrial complex. In other words, I threw away the favors from everyone else’s weddings which made me think favors aren’t really important to me, so we had no favors. No favors = didn’t think about favors, could devote favor-brain-space to what kind of buttercream I want on my cake (a far more important consideration).

      It’s amazing how much headspace was freed up by saying “I do not care about this, and therefore will not think about it ever again.”

  5. I recently planned my California wedding while working 60+ hours a week in my New York job, so I have a lot of experience with this! I had a lot of spreadsheets, and categorized my Wedding To-Do List according to what I needed to do to deal with tasks. For example, something that could only be done in person, I either asked one of my parents (who lived near the venue) to pretty please lend a hand, or scheduled it for a weekend I planned to be visiting. Anything that could be dealt with by email I carved out some personal time during the day to do so. Phone calls I refused to do at my open floor office, so I scheduled those for the evenings after work (the time zone difference helped with this).

    I also did some of my research online at work. 20mins to spare that I would have formerly used on a coffee break? That now became 20mins I could use browsing florist websites to narrow down my options. One thing I was very careful about was to never spend more time wedding planning than I formerly spent on any other personal time at work. My office (finance) had a reasonable balance of people working very hard for long stretches and then spending half an hour on ESPN during a lull, for instance, so I just used whatever breaks I would normally have taken on wedding stuff. It helped that I had been at the job for 6 years and already had a reputation as a dedicated employee, obviously doing anything at the office is a know your coworkers situation.

    I was also ruthless with myself for decision-making. I set deadlines to make decisions by. For example, I spent two days visiting venues on a trip home, and chose my favorite. I gave myself a week to research photographers and get quotes, and chose the best option. I didn’t have time to go back and forth on a zillion decisions so I made the big ones early and never second-guessed myself.

  6. Rainbow Hair :

    Guys… does anyone NOT do this? I think it’s safe to assume the vast, vast majority of people planning weddings are working full time (or more) while planning them? This isn’t a departure from the norm at all? Why isn’t it the post just called “How to Plan a Wedding”?

    • yes, the title of this post bothered me a lot. Maybe how to plan a wedding while working in big law would’ve been a more appropriate title. I do not know anyone who wasn’t working or a full-time student (which while i realize is not the same thing as working can still be demanding) while planning their weddings.

    • Anonymous :

      Good point. Is there such a thing as stay-at-home-fiance?!

    • Ugh +1. I work significantly more hours than my fiance. We both work full time. But even when he’s “working” he isn’t exceptionally busy so I’m relying on him to do a lot of the planning.

  7. Marshmallow :

    I did this during my first year in NYC big law. My strongest advice is to just let go of fairy tale wedding dreams– I just got to a point with decision-making where if I didn’t have an immediate visceral reaction, whatever was within the budget and pretty simple was fine by me. We chose a full-service venue in a beautiful historic building that didn’t need additional decoration or to cart in tables, chairs, etc. Because we kept it simple in the first place, there were no crazy details that sucked up huge amounts of my time.

    Outsource what you can. I signed up for Fancy Hands and used them for a lot of research and vendor communications when possible. I hired a calligrapher for invitations and escort cards: it was more about saving the time than having beautiful calligraphy. Where our vendor had a baseline option (flowerbeds planted outside in the ceremony space, white tablecloths, built-in uplighting but only in one color) we went with the baseline.

    Essentially, we picked a few things that were really important (for us it was food, booze, and music), invested time and money in those things, and then went with a default option for everything else. We had top-shelf liquor and live music, but we used house table linens and table numbers, low-end flowers, and our favors were candy ordered from Amazon. Everybody had a great time and nobody’s career suffered. Huzzah!

    • +1. I planned my wedding while in BigLaw, but knew I was planning to leave, so I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. My approach was as follows:

      1. Find a list on the internet of all the things you HAVE to do to have a wedding.

      2. Cross off (enthusiastically and preferably with red pen) each thing that is not actually important to you and/or the person you’re marrying.

      3. Proceed with the remaining items.

      For us, the crossed-off items included invitations, flowers (other than my bouquet), a DJ/dancing, cake, a wedding video, and bridesmaids and groomsmen. We realized our main priorities were a ceremony personalized to us, some great photos of us and our families, good food, good alcohol, and just generally a fun party with about fifty of our closest family and friends. We picked a venue that was garden-esque and didn’t need decorations and that handled the food and alcohol part, my best friend officiated, I spent $300 on my dress, and we were married within six months of our engagement.

      Caveats: we paid for everything ourselves and our families are super low-pressure (i.e., no one’s heart was broken by the absence of wedding cake or not getting to be in the bridal party). I know that is not everyone’s situation.

      The point, though, is don’t get caught up in doing stuff/planning stuff just because that’s what everyone does. If it isn’t important to you, just… don’t do it.

  8. +1

    Both of us had 50+ hour week jobs, no local family or bridal party to help with planning so we hired an amazing wedding planner who was starting her own business, focused on food and music and kept the other things simple.

  9. May I just say, with absolutely zero intent to offend and absolutely no judgement, that I just do not get it. The whole wedding thing. Why you would spend so much time (8 months??) and effort planning a party. I get the idea of getting dressed up and eating good food with your friends and family to celebrate your and DH’s relationship. But the pressure and number of (seemingly unimportant) decisions and the amount of prep is mind boggling and I sincerely do not understand it. Like if I planned a traveling vacation or a dive trip (things that I truly enjoy) and spent this much time and money on it, my expectations would be so completely through the roof that I don’t think they could ever be met. Does anyone else feel this way?

    • Yes, obviously other people feel this way. Not everyone spends 8 months planning their wedding. If you don’t care if anyone comes, you can do what a friend of mine did and get married one week after you announce it on facebook. But if you actually want to have people be able to come, and any of them have to buy plane tickets, you have to give at least 3 months notice.

      Also, for what it’s worth, many of the tiny decisions that go into planning a wedding go into planning any large event. Throwing a corporate even for 100 people? You need to rent chairs and tables and table cloths and dishes etc. and someone is going to ask you which kind you want for each one of those things. Parties don’t come together by magic without anyone making any decisions about any of the details. Or, anyway, good ones don’t.

      • “If you don’t care if anyone comes, you can do what a friend of mine did and get married one week after you announce it on facebook. But if you actually want to have people be able to come, and any of them have to buy plane tickets, you have to give at least 3 months notice.”

        Giving notice is a lot different than planning for months on end. Obviously.

        Large corporate events do not take a half hour a day for months on end to plan.

        • “Large corporate events do not take a half hour a day for months on end to plan.”

          No, they just have dedicated event planners whose sole job it is to plan those things.

    • And that’s why if you don’t care about the party, you should not do it. Elope or organize a very small and easy ceremony with the closest family and friends.

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t get the money part of it. I don’t have a spare 50k sitting around, nor do my parents, nor would I expect them to drop that much money on a wedding. With all the other expenses in life (debt, student loans, COL, etc etc) I don’t know where people get the money.

    • biglawanon :

      Yes, feel the exact same way. And also cannot imagine dropping thousands of dollars on it when we need to pay down student loans, save for a home, save for our kids, and save for retirement. Why we simply went to the courthouse.

    • You don’t have to get it. Some people want to go all out for the biggest commitment of their life and some people want small and simple, nothing wrong with either way. Say, rinse, repeat: good for her, not for me.

      But my prediction is troll, so that’s all I’ll engage.

    • I think its legit to not understand it. I don’t understand why people spend 80k on a car. But that’s their choice, not mine. To each their own.

  10. Blueberries :

    Hire a wedding planner with experience in the kind of wedding you want. I started out without one, but am so glad I had one—not only did she make things much easier, but she also helped us get a lot more value out of our budget. Also, she had really good taste, so for things my husband and I didn’t care about, we had her pick.

    For example, she spent the time (during the workday—so many vendors want to talk during the workday) to talk with a bunch of caterers about what we wanted. She then presented us with proposals from a few caterers and let us know that caterer x (that had a bad website and a kitchen in a less nice part of town) was really good. We had a phenomal tasting and food at our wedding that guests still talk about as excellent many years later. Within budget. I wouldn’t have spent the time to work with this caterer on my own and might have just gone with caterer y, which had a pretty website and staff that were really easy to work with, but mediocre food for the same or more money.

    In hiring a wedding planner, know that they vary quite a bit. A bunch I tried to get quotes from seemed to specialize in extravaganzas. One didn’t give me a quote after I said the theme of my wedding was “wedding.” The planner my husband and I ended up hiring was great for us, though.

  11. I went through wedding planning while working 20 hours and studying full-time for PhD comprehensive exams. I would hugely second the advice to only care about what you care about and forget about the rest.

    I would also recommend picking vendors you trust and letting them use their expertise to plan something great for you, and not spending your time getting into the details. For example, we put effort into researching a great florist, then had one meeting with her where we discussed colors, general vibe, and budget, and then let her do her thing. We were totally surprised on the wedding day–the flowers were even more beautiful than we expected, and she threw in a lot more than we had paid for because she was so grateful that we had trust in her talent and creativity!

  12. I planned my wedding during my first year in big law, and could not have done it without a wedding planner. I put time into picking the right planner, and spoke with several people before deciding. The one I chose understood my so-called ‘vision’ for the wedding, and was great at giving us 2-3 options for each vendor that kept us in our budget, had the feel we were looking for, and who also had experience at our venue. She also made sure the little things didn’t fall through the cracks. I was hesitant to get a planner at the time, as I’m type A and totally could have planned and researched everything, but with my hours at work, I needed someone to make sure that everything got done and sped up the process.

  13. Anonymous :

    I’m fairly senior in BigLaw, and just came off a very long, out-of-state trial. Our wedding is this summer, and we got engaged early last year. We didn’t hire a planner, because the sticker shock of what they said a wedding would cost was above what we thought we’d spend. The truth is, we’re way over that sticker shock number now, when you include the honeymoon.

    In terms of planning logistics, we opened a shared email address and whoever has time to respond to vendors or send emails, does so. No part of this wedding is exclusively mine to plan. My fiance also works full time, but his job is often more flexible, so when someone needed to meet the lighting vendor at the venue to get an estimate, he went. We use google sheets to organize logistics and keep track of costs and deadlines.

    We planned all of the big things (venue, photographer, caterer, rentals, band) within six weeks of getting engaged. We wanted a city wedding and vendors go fast here. We were decisive and, like a poster above, booked vendors we liked as soon as we found them, even if it was the first appointment. I bought my dress at the first store. We do not second guess decisions.

    We are spending a vast sum of money on the wedding, and sometimes it gives me a little heartburn. But our student loans are paid off, we own a home in the city we love, and we both save a lot on top of maxing out our retirement savings. We live far away from where we grew up/went to college. This is probably our only opportunity ever to have everyone we love in one room, and we want to be good hosts for people who are traveling. We’re footing the bill for a lot of things guests would normally pay for. No parent help, but obviously a BigLaw bonus doesn’t hurt…

  14. Anonymous :

    Echoing what others have said here – hire a full time wedding planner.
    I found that this worked best for several reasons, but chief among those were (1) my then fiance and I were never going to be repeat customers of these particular vendors. our planner was. so, the potential for us getting screwed was huge (how many times are you going to hire a caterer in your life? a full-day photographer? a florist to create several different flower arrangements?) and for her, not so much because if they screwed up, no more business from our wedding planner, (2) she was the “keeper of all of the wedding information”. I was fortunate that my parents paid for most of our wedding. My parents and I get along and they have excellent taste. My parents also live several states away and had a LOT of questions about the wedding happenings. I was busy working and didn’t know certain things so I just said, “talk to the wedding planner.” It helped calm my parents down and assured them that things were happening and someone knew what was going on. (3) at the end of the day, there were only about 3 things that I really truly cared about to the point where if they didn’t go my way, I was willing to throw a tantrum. The rest? I knew it was just going to be fine. I wanted a family style dinner, I wanted brightly colored wildflowers (a variety) as the flowers (vs. just sticking to a color theme).

    I’ve heard lots of my friends say “I wouldn’t hire a planner because I don’t want to give up control.” This was never the case. every single decision had to be okay’d by me and or my fiance or parents first. Nothing was not in our control.

  15. I am so, so, so delighted by the general consensus of answers here. I am a professional wedding coordinator (I work for the venue, definitely not a wedding planner) and I agree with what’s been said so far:

    – Splurge on 3 elements you definitely care about, and choose the baseline option for everything else.
    – Try to get a full-service venue if possible.
    – If you don’t have a full-service venue, absolutely get a wedding planner (sometimes they’re called wedding designers now?), tell her the budget, and use her recommendations unless you have a visceral negative reaction to something.

    I also want to shout into the void that if it is at all possible for you, your fiance(e), your family, etc… you should elope for the ceremony (with a photographer!) and then have the reception 6 months later. You can send out a wedding announcement in the same envelope as the reception invite! You can take as much time as you want on photos (even a different day!) and then show them at the reception! You get to eat cake and wear a dress and dance while enjoying the bliss that is being already married!

  16. wedding planning survivor :

    All these tips are great so I won’t repeat them. I used a google voice phone number exclusively for my planner and vendors, so it was easier to screen the calls and quickly read the voicemail transcript to decide if it needed an urgent response. I planned a wedding while interviewing and negotiating a job offer and move 1500 miles away. It also helped me screen the moving vendors and apartment search calls.
    Also, you can always change or cancel a google voice number! Tt was totally worth it so I didn’t get future solicitation from the movers, event rentals, etc. :-)
    This only instance this didn’t work was mom :-)

  17. How to plan a wedding while working full time? I recommend elopement. You can even get fancy with it. In Vegas you can get married by Elvis or on a gondola at the Venetian and there was one place that would livestream your wedding; in the Keys you can get married by a Hemingway impersonator; and of course in places like Napa you can find b&b’s with comprehensive packages for elopement. All I cared about was not saying “obey,” not wearing white or ivory or any of those pale colors, having chocolate cake, and having my mom there. My wedding day was SUPER relaxed and checked all those boxes. AND we had plenty of money for a house downpayment and honeymoon.

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