You’ve had friends to your home for dinner. Maybe you’ve hosted a Super Bowl party or two. But have you ever planned and coordinated an event for 50-300 guests?

If you haven’t, then welcome to the world of wedding planning.

Caterers, florists, and other wedding-related companies will be banging down your door to get your business. Friends and relatives will offer advice, phone numbers, and web sites for you to check out. How will you juggle the multitudes of research and information from those who want your day to be special? The key to smooth and stress-reducing wedding planning is…

Being Organized

Being organized is the art of having the things you need when you need them whether it is a brochure, a phone number, or a picture of your ultimate bridal bouquet. And no one recognizes the need to be organized more than someone who is planning a wedding. A few organizing techniques you can use to help you plan your wedding are the consistent use of a calendar/PDA and making ‘to-do lists.’ But what about all of those wedding-related papers you’ve accumulated? Estimates from caterers, song sheets from bands, and all of those pictures you tore out of magazines–how are you supposed to keep them all organized?

The Wedding Binder

The top tool for organized wedding planning is a ‘Wedding Binder.’ Besides your future spouse, your ‘Wedding Binder’ will be the closest thing to a best friend you’ll have during your engagement period. The wedding binder is essentially a ‘home’ for all wedding-related information. Each topic will have a specific area in the binder allowing for quick referencing and retrieval.

How should you build your wedding binder to work best for you?

The size of your wedding and how many ‘extras’ you incorporate into your wedding day (ex. ice sculptures, doves) will determine the size of your binder. If you are having a small, simple gathering or you’re not doing much research, you may not need more than a 1″ spine. Large gatherings with many ‘extras’ will probably require a binder with upwards of a 3″ spine.

Besides the binder itself, you will need:

three hole punched, two-sided pocket folders extra wide dividers or self adhesive divider tabs for the pocket folders three hole punched, zippered pocket for pen/pencils/paper clips (optional) One, two-sided pocket folder is usually enough room for the paperwork of one vendor. One side of the pocket folder is for ideas and research and the other side is for estimates and contracts. Keeping these different types of information separate will allow you to locate them and retrieve at a moment’s notice.

Examples of some categories for your pocket folders are… Catering Photography Bridal Gown Transportation Ceremony/Officiant(s) Honeymoon Assemble the pocket folders in order of importance to you. If you are constantly making calls to your caterer, place that folder towards the front of the binder. Already know what favors you want to give out? Place that folder towards the back.

What other information can be stored in your wedding binder?

Guest lists/gift lists E-mail/phone list of bridal party members Seating charts A print-out of your registry Benefits to using a wedding binder

Money-saving benefit: You’re always prepared when a vendor wants to talk about price. If someone quotes you a price in writing and you can’t produce the paper it’s written on, they could try to charge you more money for their services. Time-saving benefit: Since all of your information has a ‘home,’ you won’t be wasting your time printing duplicate information off the internet or repeatedly asking for the addresses of your guests. Sanity-saving benefit: All of your wedding information is in one place. No need to take apart your living room looking for what you need. Tips for keeping an organized wedding binder:

Label the pocket folders clearly Place new papers/information in the correct pocket of your binder as soon as you receive them. Sort and purge your binder once a month. Toss any information that is no longer relevant in the trash or in a folder for a friend or relative who may need it in the future. Always bring your wedding binder with you when meeting with your vendors. You’ll have all the information you need to compare prices and make educated decisions. You will be organized, prepared and in control of your special day.

How to Give a Great Wedding Toast by Jonathon Stewart

Hey guys –  Boring your guests, insulting your inlaws, and pronouncing your love for your best friend’s wife are all pretty much faux pas in the game of life. So why the temptation when making a speech at a friend or family member’s wedding? Well, here are a few pitfalls to avoid, and a few tips to heed, when giving a wedding toast that will have people raving for generations to come. Check it out. Prepare for Your Wedding Toast. The first key to a great speech is preparation. Before you do anything, decide what form your toast will take. Will you write it out and read it verbatim, use notes for reference, or just wing it?

Generally speaking, just winging it is most likely to get you in trouble on the day. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard some great toasts that sound completely off-the-cuff, but they’ve always been from naturally gifted speakers, who I’d be willing to bet made some well-rehearsed mental notes going into it.

Writing Out a Toast

If you’re a great writer, there’s nothing wrong with writing out your entire toast. Your facile with language and ability to string together impressive sounding words won’t be lost on your audience if you read your toast with conviction. Just don’t get too stuffy – this isn’t a term paper or a TPS report.

You might also be most comfortable just making some notes to keep you on track as you go – this allows you a greater connection with your audience, and gives you the flexibility to see what’s working and what’s not as you give your toast.

Which is key, since there’s nothing sadder than watching a bad toast turn even worse, but it happens a lot. To start off on the right foot and avoid digging yourself into a big hole, try using this simple but universally effective game plan, patent pending.

No-Fail Toast Game Plan

Start by introducing yourself, and your relationship to the bride or groom. Explain how you know them, and how far the three of you go back. Next, go for the funny, but don’t be obnoxious. Share a witty anecdote about how you met either the bride or groom, and how their lives became better after they were together.

Talk about some quirky trait that one has which completely complements the other. Remember that wedding audiences are generally pretty easy – they’re all good friends, with their emotions at the surface, and they’re probably a little tipsy. So keep it all pretty clean and light – a good natured approach will get ‘em smiling and even laughing with almost no effort.

Make the Wedding Toast Emotional

Next, go for the tears. Once you have them laughing, they’re primed and ready for some good schmaltz. Talk about what an incredible couple they are, how inspiring they are to all those around them, and how the world is a better place with them together. Bring up the beautiful union of families, and hint about their incredible kids down the line.

Keep the Toast Positive

If you’re ever in doubt, go for compliments. These people have been through a lot to get to this day, and sometimes it’s just nice to hear how much your friends and family dig you. Whatever you do, remember that the goal is to NOT embarrass the bride and groom in front of everyone they know. This is a toast, not a roast. Also be sure to steer clear of these all-too common snares:

Wedding Toast Faux Pas

Don’t drink too much before your toast – a drink to loosen up is okay, but much more than that and you’ll be telling old college stories that are best left in college. Never use an insult of any kind – this is a festival of love, remember? Don’t use any corny one-liners, make sure that any humor in your toast comes from genuine sentiment, not Little Johnny jokes. Never mention ex-girlfriends or boyfriends, and be sure to give time to addressing both the bride and groom. And finally, don’t hog the spotlight – this day is about celebrating the wedding, not your toast.

Staying Cool During the Toast

But if all this sounds a little daunting, or if you’re simply terrified of speaking in front of other people, just remember this: keep it simple. Tell the bride and groom how much you care about them, and how much it means that they’ve included you in their wedding celebration. Wish them all the success in the universe, have everyone raise a glass, and give them a big hug. And if you mean it, you just might snag a tear or two.