Planning your own wedding can feel very overwhelming. Not to mention disheartening, as many couples soon discover that everything may cost far more than they’d expected. But there is a way to be a DIY wedding planner without all the stress. Here are my top five tips for the DIY bride who’s intent on putting together her own wedding day.

1. Find yourself a reliable wedding planning workbook or checklist — and use it. You can never be too organized, but it doesn’t have to be hard. That’s what checklists are for! They’re an effective tool to ensure you don’t forget anything along the way. DreamGroup’s Step by Step Guide to Planning the Perfect Wedding is a fantastic e-book for the busy bride who has bravely decided to tackle her own wedding planning. It’s filled with terrific tools, planning tips, DreamGroup FAVs, links and advice to help get you through the planning process with as much focus, encouragement and direction as possible. Think like a professional planner: keep everything related to the wedding in one easy-to-find area (a binder does the trick perfectly) and fill it with plastic envelopes and pockets to add contracts, fabric samples, estimates and quotes, etc. Keep a copy of your working budget in there too for easy reference.

2. Take the time to create a realistic estimated budget for all desired products and services for your wedding using realistic cost averages. If you’re unsure of costs, call up a vendor and ask what an average might be for your number of guests and needs. Just because you want to spend $1,500 on flowers doesn’t mean that what you want can be done for that amount. It’s better off knowing from the start what you think you want will actually cost, so you can adjust your plans if need be. The typical urban Vancouver wedding budget can be estimated as follows: number of guests x $200 to cover all food, drink and related rentals, plus a minimum of $15,000 to $20,000 to cover all the rest (dress, flowers, photography, music, transportation, etc.). This amount can very quickly increase with higher-end expectations, designer gowns, decadent florals, etc. The average 150-person downtown Vancouver wedding budget sits at $50,000 to $70,000 once all costs are factored in. This amount can be scary for some, but it’s better to know now rather than later so the right decisions can be made for you from the start. DreamGroup offers budget consultation assistance through our Blueprint Package and Wedding Day Essentials Services package.

3. Schedule a budget discussion meeting with your families (either separately or together) to confirm exactly what amount(s) or portions of the budget they will be covering, if any. It shouldn’t be a topic that can’t be discussed — it’s your family, after all. Not sure how to approach the subject? How about: “We’d love to sit down and share with you some of our initial thoughts and plans for the wedding and learn about the areas that are most important to you and what areas you think you might want to be involved in more directly.” Then come armed with a realistic budget factoring in all your wants and needs. Work together to determine what is affordable and who might cover the cost of each area. Confirm that what you have to spend is in accord with the bottom line on your estimated wedding budget after factoring in family contributions and your own contributions. If it’s not in line, then go back to the budget drawing board and discuss your priorities, reducing or omitting products and services better suited to an unlimited or larger budget.

4. Start researching potential vendors (two to three in each category is plenty to get an idea of costs and the best style of service for you). The best way to approach this step is to be honest about what you hope to spend. A vendor can then help you make the most of that amount or advise you should your vision and budget not match up. The trick to a positive outcome is to work with reputable vendors with integrity. Those will be the ones who are honest with you. Detail your wants and expectations, get quotes in writing to ensure everyone is on the same page, and then step back and allow those chosen professionals to bring your vision to life. Wedding Wire and online resources are great ways to obtain reviews on vendors you’re considering. Once you find the vendor that “makes it easy,” book them.

5. Follow your checklist and try your best to stay on track. There is a method to the madness, and every task has a time and place to be considered and addressed. Procrastination is one of the top three reasons why couples experience stress during the planning of their wedding. This can be prevented by not putting off today what you will have to end up doing tomorrow. And keep communication lines open with your fiancé, vendors, family and wedding party. Make sure everyone involved knows which wedding tasks are being handled by whom, and when they need to be addressed. Never assume someone knows what you’re thinking or how something needs to be done. (Check out our article about working with “Friendors” to make sure you make the most out of what can be a frustrating experience.) Clearly communicate your needs and desires for a particular task and don’t forget to say please and thank you. You don’t want a Bridezilla reputation!

My last two unofficial bits of advice are, for some, the most important:

Enjoy the process: For most, a wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to plan the greatest party you will ever plan and spend more money on one day than you will ever spend again. So it would be a real shame if you didn’t enjoy the experience. Wedding planning can bring many ups and downs, especially where family dynamics and budget stress are concerned. But it’s important to remember the reason you are doing all of this and to take time to embrace the experience — because after all is said and done, you will miss the planning drama! Really. Even the arguments with mom — because in the end she just wants you to have the best day possible, even if she may be unaware of how to help without seeming demanding or annoying in the process. Still, it will be a time in your life that you will eventually look back on and be thankful for. So, make mom feel heard and respected by involving her in some of the decisions and/or jobs. This may sound like a strange planning tip, but I assure you it’s important. Depending on a bride’s relationship with her mother, this “task” will become more of an issue for some than for others.

Don’t forget each other: Lastly, make time for your fiancé and enjoy date nights that don’t necessarily involve wedding discussion. This is a sure-fire way to remind each other why you’ve chosen to get married and unite in all the wonderful moments to come.


Genève McNally, principal planner at DreamGroup Productions Inc. Wedding & Event Planners, began her career as catering manager for one of Vancouver’s most sought-after wedding venues. In 2004 she joined forces with good friend Sarah Shore to found one of Vancouver’s longest-running and most-trusted wedding planning companies, DreamGroup Productions. With her in-depth knowledge of the industry and candid communication style, Genève enjoys giving back to the industry with several ongoing blog features and through the professional wedding planning classes offered through DreamGroup’s dg Academy.