How I Plan A Wedding – Phase Based Planning

While every couple I work with is different and every wedding unique, one thing remains constant – the process I use to plan their weddings. 

And it’s not your typical process filled with generic checklists, to-do lists, and vendor recommendations. Wedding planning takes a whole lot more than that because it IS a whole lot more than that. It’s big decisions, big investments (time and money), and big emotions. 

Naturally, you need a comprehensive planning process that keeps things simple. A process that makes the experience joyful for everyone involved. 

Photo by Shannon Cronin Photography

The good news is, I’ve discovered that process and the right way to plan a wedding. It’s called phase-based planning, and it breaks everything down into smaller, more manageable stages so that things feel less overwhelming and less stressful. 

This three-phase process allows us to build a solid foundation for your wedding and create a design plan that expresses your vision. It’s simple but strategic and will make the planning experience smoother and more joy-filled. 

The Phase-Based Planning Process Explained

When you book Pocketful of Plans as your event planner (hurray!), I’ll send you a welcome packet with basic info about what you can expect going forward. You’ll get a sample timeline, access to Aisle Planner, and a rundown of the planning phases. 

The three phases of my process are:

  • Phase 1: Planning
  • Phase 2: Design
  • Phase 3: Execution

Let’s take a closer look at each of the phases and what’s involved, so you have a better idea of what to expect. 

Bride Smiling during Ceremony
Rachael Kazmier Photography

Phase I: Planning

The Planning Phase starts about eight months out from your wedding day. In this phase, we’ll start the groundwork for your design and create mood boards for what the day will look like. We’ll also secure your main vendors—especially those who only do one wedding per day and who are super important to your event.

Phase I is all about:

  • Defining your top priorities and laying the foundation for your overall vision
  • Collecting all the necessary info to make the big decisions with confidence
  • Sharing communication and planning tools
  • Nailing down initial vendors
  • Creating a preliminary timeline
  • Reviewing decisions and contracts for those vendors you have already booked 
  • Developing the next steps 

Phase II: Design

The Design Phase starts about 4-7 months before your wedding day. In this phase, we’ll organize all the design details, from creating the design boards (more detailed and specific than a mood board) to sourcing all the design vendors to putting the pieces into a cohesive plan. 

Phase II is all about creating a custom-tailored, unique, and personalized experience. One planned with intention and made as a perfect expression of you two. 

This is a phase where it’s essential to get into the details because design is subjective. Classic and timeless or elegant and simple can mean different things to different people. And we all have varying perceptions of what exactly those look like.

So we create design boards and visuals, which act as a language we can all understand. They include a few solid images that represent your style and can effectively communicate your vision.  

We also focus on feelings in this phase – not just static, pretty images of weddings that have been done repeatedly. To ensure we create a one-of-a-kind event, we’ll focus on how each image on your Pinterest board makes you feel.

What do you like about each image? How does it inspire you? Perhaps certain colors or design elements resonate with you and make your heart sing. Or maybe some unique details pop out. Once we identify what elements speak to you and why, you can let your imagination run wild. 

Shannon Cronin Photography

Phase III: Execution

The Execution Phase (production/management) begins about 120 days before your wedding day. At this point, everything is secured, but there are still numbers and details to finalize and put in place. This is where we make sure there are no holes, gaps, or oversights in the plan. 

In the Execution Phase we:

  • Confirm all the moving parts
  • Finalize your guest count
  • Update your layout
  • Finalize the timeline
  • Confirm vendor contracts/proposals
  • Recommend unique elements to elevate your wedding day

Once your wedding day arrives, most of the work should already be done. And we’ll take care of vendor communication, timing, and everything to do with the production of your event.

A Note on the Planning Timeline

One thing to note is that there are certainly “lulls” or times when there is a lot to do in planning and then times when it isn’t as busy. Typically, I see that the first 3-4 months are busy because you are in the planning phase, which means there are many big decisions to make and big deposits to secure major venues and vendors.

Then comes a little bit of a lull because other elements are not as in a time crunch. I find that there is usually a bit of a mid-planning process downtime. This is typically in Phase 2, which many people call “the fun part of planning.” This is the stage where you dream a bit, play a bit, and nothing is as massively time-sensitive as in the other phases.  

I try to get as much done in this downtime as possible because it picks up full speed once you hit the third phase. And that’s where we hit the ground running. As the couple, you’ll have some more legwork to do, like seating charts and answering guest questions. But I’ll be there to do as much as possible to make the process stress-free and fun. I would love to take you through this process to help you plan your wedding in Monterey, Carmel, or Pebble Beach. Ready to get started? Reach out!

Shannon Cronin Photography

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