How To Plan Your Wedding in No time, or By Taking Your Time

Guidelines for getting hitched in Pittsburgh.
Found Sep20

PHOTO BY KRISTY LUMSDEN PHOTOGRAPHY

Just as no two weddings are alike, neither are the timelines.

According to Shayne Souleret, owner of Soirée by Souleret Event Planning and Design, the average engagement lasts 12 to 16 months, which complements a steadily paced planning process. But, for those who don’t want to wait, planning a wedding in six months — or even less — is possible.

While there is no “right” way to plan a wedding, Souleret says there is one common thread.

“It should 100 percent be reflective of you as a couple and of your relationship,” she says.

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FIRST THINGS FIRST

Before doing a Google search for “Pittsburgh wedding venues,” discuss priorities and budget. The budget dictates what is possible, and it’s best for couples to invest their money in what matters most to them.

Souleret’s first steps to planning are to figure out the overall aesthetic of the event and a date. That way, she can schedule various tasks along the timeline and help couples with their payment plan.

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Megan Murphy, a behaviorist, and Arshad Bachelani, a general surgeon, weren’t expecting to find love when they met at the annual Monongahela Valley Hospital Foundation Gala in 2018. Megan was moving to North Carolina that fall, but the couple couldn’t deny their chemistry.

A long-distance relationship grew serious, and Megan wanted to move back to Pittsburgh. Before she could tell her family that she planned to return, Arshad proposed in May 2019. Between moving and buying a home together, the couple agreed an intimate wedding would best fit their style and budget.

“We put the money in our budget of what would make our memories last, just the things that would capture us more than anything,” the bride recalls.

Whimsical flowers, good company and quality photos were the couple’s top desires. They always envisioned a fall wedding and felt six months was plenty of time to get it accomplished.

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Nicole Chynoweth and Matthew Steck also wanted a fall wedding, but their timeline was years, not months.

When they met, they bonded over their fascination with the 1960s and ’70s. Their mutual love of collecting vintage items, researching their authenticity and having a general appreciation for the era inspired the couple to create a blast-from-the-past wedding.

“When people would ask me what my color scheme or aesthetic was for the wedding, I would jokingly say, ‘Grandma’s kitchen in 1977,’” Nicole laughs.

When Matthew proposed in December 2017, they agreed on a fall wedding date. Wanting a truly nostalgic aesthetic, Nicole — an expert thrifter — decided she’d need two cycles of flea market season (summer and fall) to find the perfect vintage items. They settled on Oct. 5, 2019, giving her 22 months.

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STAYING ORGANIZED

Before leaping into the planning process, it’s good to get organized. Souleret recommends keeping everything in one place.

“I love Google Drive,” says Souleret, noting how the mobile storage system organizes budgets, timelines and inspiration into neat folders.

For paper planners, she recommends Mindy Weiss’ “The Ultimate Wedding Organizer” or “The Knot Book of Wedding Lists: The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Day, Down to the Smallest Detail.”

Nicole felt official walking out of Barnes & Noble with the deluxe edition of “The Bride’s Essential Wedding Planner” by Amy Nebens. But, after skimming it, she had to take a seat.

“I felt almost stifled by the wedding binder,” she says. “There was just so much in it that was not going to factor into my day at all.”

She mostly used the planner to jot down ideas and keep track of conversations she had with her vendors.

“My secret to success really and truly was my best friend, Britain Long, who was my maid of honor,” Nicole says. “What I lack in tolerance for creating Excel spreadsheets, she makes up for tenfold.”

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HIT THE GROUND RUNNING

It’s finally time to call vendors, but Souleret explains there is a method to booking them.

“You want to start with the people that there’s really only one of [on] the day of,” she says.

Venues, photographers, videographers, caterers and bands book months in advance. Souleret recommends focusing on these vendors first and then moving on to those that can service multiple weddings in a weekend, such as a florist.

Another important item to check off early is the dress. Scouting for a gown takes time, and it will be months before it is made and/or altered. While it’s not unusual to be on the hunt early, Megan bought her dress after she and Arshad had started looking at rings but before she was officially engaged.

“I’m sure a lot of people may think that’s exciting to do,” she says. “But, I did not want to give up on that dress.”

Two months before Arshad proposed, Megan came across a Karen Willis Holmes dress online and fell in love with it. While she was in town for a family event, the dress popped up on her Instagram feed, and she decided to see if any local boutiques carried it; she discovered Blanc de Blanc Bridal in Carrick was featuring the gown in a trunk show that week. She went to try it on and purchased it after some convincing from her mother, who knew Arshad was going to pop the question while she was home.

“It just worked out perfectly,” she says.

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BEWARE OF THE MIDWAY LULL

“There’s a lot to do at the beginning and a lot to do at the end, but the middle seems unexciting sometimes,” says Souleret.

After confirming her venue, The Lamplighter Restaurant in Delmont, and other main vendors, Nicole felt that slump — it was too early to plan the menu or begin making decorations.

“That part of it was driving me crazy because I felt like I was doing a bad job,” recalls Nicole. “If there was a weekend that I wasn’t doing something wedding-related, it felt like I was failing.”

During these middle-mark blues, Souleret encourages her clients to focus on attire, overall design and the day-of schedule. It’s also a good time to get gifts for the bridal party and your parents.

Diving into a passion project helped Nicole reclaim her excitement for the wedding. She purchased thank you boxes for the special women in her life and decorated them with floral handkerchiefs and enamel brooches she selected to match their personalities.

“I enjoyed the hunt of it all,” she says. “It became more of a creative outlet than it was a mental or emotional drain on me that other parts of the wedding planning process can be.”

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GETTING DOWN TO THE WIRE

Between sending out invitations and finalizing design and logistics, it’s natural for couples to feel overwhelmed in the last few months of the planning process. But they shouldn’t face it alone.

Nicole was a DIY bride who hesitated to ask her loved ones to share in too many responsibilities. From crafting decorations to planning her own bachelorette party, she was determined to do as much as she could herself. But her bridesmaids couldn’t let her tackle a 138-person event on her own. They scavenged for antiques, helped create the bouquets and boutonnieres and assisted with organization.

“Your bridal party wants to help you,” Nicole says. “There are absolutely no rewards for shouldering all of the heavy lifting and work yourself.”

It’s understandable to want everything to go perfectly, but Nancy Mundy, owner and lead coordinator of Big Day Little Details, stresses that couples should remember the bigger picture and the joyous occasion ahead.

“Don’t get so caught up in the details that take away from the beauty of what is supposed to happen on that day,” she says.

Nicole fretted over having enough time to get her reception hall decorated. She recalls the night before the wedding fussing over the remembrance table when she paused and noticed her friends fluffing tissue honeycomb decorations.

“I turned around and saw all these people that we love sitting on the floor working together to make all these decorations for us,” she says. “That was when I realized I was the luckiest bride in the world.”

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THE DAY IS FINALLY HERE

The last thing a couple wants to worry about on the wedding day is getting directions for a lost vendor or losing precious time with a loved one by having them serve as the event coordinator.

“You want to be in the moment and enjoy the day,” Mundy says about hiring a day-of coordinator. “There’s a peace of mind that you’ll have knowing that somebody is capably handling that for you.”

Megan says her vendors’ consistent communication, between herself and one another, made for a breezy planning process and wedding day, and she trusted them to pull off the natural, backyard vision she and Arshad imagined.

Walking into their venue, Point Breezeway, on the morning of Nov. 2, 2019, Megan felt there was nothing to micromanage. The owner of the venue kept an eye on the clock and crowd to ensure the couple was able to enjoy their day stress-free.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to do it so seamlessly,” Megan says. Although they had a schedule for their four-hour event, the couple didn’t mind going off-script. They returned from taking portraits early to be with their guests, cut the cake before dinner for those leaving early and lingered on the dance floor to soak in their romantic setting.

“Once I removed that stress of it going absolutely perfect, it ended up being absolutely perfect,” she says.

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Online Organization

On-the-go couples can plan anywhere with these helpful apps.

  • Evernote: Sync with any smart device to save everything you want to keep track of: articles, receipts, PDFs or a checklist.
  • Wedding Planner by The Knot: This all-in-one planning app helps with everything from finding your bridal style and local vendors to managing your guest list, registry and budget.
  • Mint: Create a wedding budget and keep track of outside expenses.
  • WeddingHappy: Set your date and this app will customize a timeline with notifications on upcoming tasks.
  • Google Drive: Keep your planning circle in the loop by sharing folders, documents and more.
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Timeless To-Do’s 

A list of tasks that all weddings should check off.

Beginning Phase of Planning 

  • Set budget
  • Pick bridal party
  • Choose wedding style or theme
  • Research and hire main vendors
  • Look for a wedding dress or groomswear
  • Create registry

Middle Phase of Planning

  • Hire a bakery for the cake
  • Finalize attire for those in the ceremony
  • Create guest list
  • Look for gifts for the bridal party
  • Hire novelty vendors if applicable

Final Phase of Planning

  • Make a reservation for rehearsal dinner
  • Get wedding rings and marriage license
  • Send out invitations
  • Purchase smaller design pieces
  • Finalize day-of schedule
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