7 Things I Did While Planning My Ontario Wedding That Helped Me Not Stress TF Out
This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Planning your dream wedding can come with a lot of stress, often from sources you wouldn't even expect. It's easy to get overwhelmed or lost in some drama; after all, you're planning a massive event, sometimes for hundreds of people, with no prior party planning experience.
I just got married in May 2022 in Ottawa, and truly had the perfect day, surrounded by love and laughter. While I definitely had my moments of stress leading up to the big day (they can be tough to avoid), there are seven things I did while planning the wedding that helped me stay relatively calm and enjoy the whole experience.
My husband and I stayed organized, surrounded ourselves with the right people, and reminded each other that above all it was about us, which helped us have a wedding day that felt personal and fun. Here's what we did that helped us plan out our dream wedding (and could even help you out too!)
Hired a wedding coordinator
You may be really organized and have wedding vendors in mind, so there's no need to hire a full-on wedding planner. But in my books, a coordinator is a must because they keep track of everything for you. I loved the team at Frid Events in Ottawa because they were able to answer all of my questions (no matter what they were), and kept me on track with checklists and monthly meetings up until the month of the wedding when they took over.
They hooked me up with an online planning website called Aisle Planner, where I tracked everything from RSVPs to vendor contracts and payments, and could even map out the entire seating chart too.
The best part about having a wedding coordinator, you ask? If (and when) sh*t hits the fan, it's not your problem. There was a city-wide power outage during the week leading up to my wedding, and while my coordinator and her team had to find a new place to print stationery, hunt through a dark warehouse for matching linens and deal with a delivery error, I only had to run a few small errands and enjoyed my week.
Oh, and when the back of my dress broke open while I was dancing, the coordinator team had a kit of pins and string so I was able to get secured back into my dress for the rest of the evening. You really never know what could happen and you don't want it falling all on your shoulders (or off of them).
Carefully picked the wedding party
Bride and bridesmaids at a wedding rehearsal dinner.Megan Renaud | Narcity
Your wedding party should be close friends and family who have a genuine love for you and want to support you on your big day. Just because they are your oldest friend, your sibling, or you stood in their wedding party in the past, does not mean you're obligated to have them stand next to you.
Without getting into the drama, I chose not to have a close family member in my wedding party because it didn't really feel right when it came down to it (and honestly, I don't regret making that choice).
The numbers between the groom's party and my bridal party didn't match, and we didn't care! I had two matrons of honour (I couldn't choose between my oldest besties) and two bridesmaids, whereas my husband had one best man, four groomsmen and a groomswoman. What mattered was that our favourite people, the ones we could truly rely on, stood by us that day.
Chose vendors with multiple skills
Keeping things as simple and straightforward as possible was the goal while planning to limit stress before and on the wedding day. That wedding coordinator I was going on about? She and her team were also my decorator and florist. It was so much more convenient having all of those conversations with one person. It put my mind at ease knowing they knew exactly how everything would look and be set up.
We also chose a venue that is a restaurant as well, so they took care of the food. This meant I did not have to hire yet another vendor for catering, plus they had everything we needed for dinner and drinks. The venue took care of the late-night snack and dessert table too, which made it nice and easy to coordinate it all with one contact.
Our ceremony and reception were also in the same place (adjoining rooms, in fact). Once guests arrived for the afternoon ceremony, they didn't need to leave the building until the party ended.
Booked key vendors ASAP
Bride with sparkling wine in a robe the morning of the wedding. Megan Renaud | Narcity
Popular vendors such as the venue and photographer book up quickly, and with so many weddings delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is even more competition to hire the people you want.
Before anything, you'll want to have a set venue to confirm your wedding date and overall vibe. I reached out to some vendors that I had my heart set on ahead of time to try and make sure dates lined up and that they were in fact who I wanted to book. Looking into tons of options takes time!
As soon as the venue was confirmed, I started reaching out to the main vendors (like the makeup artist, hair stylist, florist, and DJ) for information and quotes. Photography was a top priority of mine, and since I had emailed my top pick, Crystal from Of Wild Dawn Photos, before even securing the location, she was free on the upcoming wedding date.
In general, I'd recommend doing everything and anything as soon as possible and not leaving things to the month leading up to your special day. This includes smaller things too, like guest books or sparkling wine.
Stayed organized with Excel
You don't need to specifically use Excel, but I've never used spreadsheets to stay organized more than during the wedding planning. Before you know it, you will have a bunch of information you'll need to keep track of from both vendors and guests. I had a bunch of different checklists, organized roughly based on when I needed to get things done, which really helped with prioritizing.
I had a spreadsheet specifically for guest information indicating their names, addresses, emails, allergies and RSVP responses, as well as documenting gifts received and when a thank you card was sent. There was another document with vendors' contact information and payment dates, and one other spreadsheet that detailed the budget and the actual wedding costs.
Start organizing and having these details laid out as soon as you start planning, because it's a pain going back through endless emails looking for contact information or a contract you signed months ago. Trust me.
Took time off before
Biking through Ottawa on the Thursty Pedaler party bike. Megan Renaud | Narcity
It can feel like no matter how much time you have for planning, or how much you've done ahead of time, things will pop up last minute that need to be taken care of. I was lucky enough to be able to take the full week off of work leading up to my wedding, and I'm so glad that I did.
There were things that couldn't be completed before the week of — such as steaming my dress, buying breakfast food, getting my nails done and having my engagement ring cleaned — that I was happy to have extra time for. Not only that, emergencies can happen and unexpected situations occur. The May thunderstorm that caused a city-wide power outage in Ottawa, yeah, that was the weekend before my wedding and our house was out of power for days. This added even more tasks to the to-do list, like throwing out the contents of the fridge and it made other tasks, like cleaning the house, more difficult.
Having days off also gave me a chance to enjoy the time leading up to the big day and have some fun. Most of my family and friends travelled to my wedding from out of town, and I was able to spend time sipping on patios and even go on a party bike crawl.
Set boundaries with family
Get ready to say the word "no", or alternatively, prepare to feel annoyed. You may think you won't get any strong opinions, but it will most likely happen (and sometimes from surprising sources). Weddings bring out some interesting sides of people.
Now, situations, of course, differ, like if a family member is helping to pay for part of the wedding and wants certain people invited, for example. But even then, make it clear from the beginning when their opinion is warranted and when it's not. Boundaries are key and you don't want to feel pushed around when it's your special time.
Our families had no say on the guest list, wedding vendors, or really anything (haha, sorry mom). We wanted the day to truly feel like ours and traditions that didn't make sense for us didn't happen. We were married in a brewpub and did a beer cask opening instead of a cake cutting, had a Blink-182 song in our ceremony, did not do a receiving line nor a grand entrance, slept at home together the night before the wedding, did a first look and photos before the ceremony (definitely recommend), and had a rehearsal dinner in my mother-in-law's backyard.
Did we receive some opinions and comments? Sure. Did we do what we wanted anyway? Hell yeah. As much as it's beautiful to bring families together and the event is a bit about your parents too, it's YOUR day, and if you need to remind people of that, make it clear.
Don't forget to enjoy the process and the day. Everyone says it goes by so fast and that's because it's true! Many vendors told us how chill we were on our wedding day, and I think that has a lot to do with who we surrounded ourselves with, being organized and planning a day that really felt like "us."