How to plan a wedding from afar: part I

April 14 |
How to plan a wedding from afar
Photo by Beth Baugher of True Love Photo

I'm by no means a wedding planner. I had never even planned a large event before I got engaged… but in planning our wedding from over 2,000 miles away I found that there ain't jack shit for resources on this topic.

So here it is, "Shrie's Humble Guide to Planning A Wedding from Afar: Or How to Get Hitched Without Pulling Your Hair Out." I hope my teeny tidbits of advice will help at least one crazed, "I don't know where to start!" bride-to-be looking for a little relief.

Getting married and putting the whole shebang together can be awesome fun. Getting married and putting the whole shebang together at a location 2,100 miles away from where you live can be awesome fun AND a little stressful. Lucky for you, I've been through all that and will graciously divulge all my time-saving, stress-free secrets…

1) Focus!

If you're planning your wedding in a location in which you do not live, I'd recommend starting as far ahead of time in the planning process as possible! Look for inspiration online, in crafting stores, on TV, in the yard, at your hairdresser's salon.. wherever! Get a feel for the overall environment you'd like to create before you go one step further. Ours was focused on two main themes, vintage 50s and the celebratory Mexican fiesta! We wanted to find a venue with charm, flair and a vintage vibe. We had to realistically gauge our needs, budget and wedding "environment" ideas in order to choose the perfect venue. One of the big deciding factors for us was complete freedom with booze, food and the ability to have our sweet red dog as our ring bearer. Find your focus, like we did on the booze and food, and steer your efforts in that direction.

Minimize, ladies: If you were getting hitched down the road from your house, moving theatre set displays and a huge photobooth might be realistic. When you're traveling for three days in an FJ Cruiser with a dog and wedding gear, excess is not an option. Sure, we had grandiose plans but when reality hit like a ton of bricks we scaled back, and I think we were better off because of it.

2) Tools!

Google Docs is a dream… I could start a spreadsheet, email the link to my Mom and she could edit and view it! From there, we noted everything from cost to availability to restrictions to the specific person to contact from each venue on the spreadsheet. Spreadsheets were my saving grace in this process, along with the amazing Momz of course.

Because my parents were chipping in for the wedding ANOTHER spreadsheet was necessary to keep track of expenses. Luckily, Google has many needs-specific templates available. We chose a budgeting spreadsheet and everyone could edit it online as well, so we could keep a close track of what we spent and where we were at in terms of our overall budget. Because I was getting a jillion emails from the caterer, piano player, hair lady etc. I just set color-coded label in my Gmail inbox entitled "Wedding". I tagged any incoming wedding-related email with that label to make it easier to search for pertinent information when I needed it. Go Google!

3) Organization!

It makes it SO much easier to plan a wedding from afar if there are people you can trust to help you out. Because we were traveling with the dog and didn't have a lot of room in our vehicle, I assigned tasks to several people. It was hard to let go of control, but I wouldn't have been able to get everything taken care of in the few days we had before the wedding without their help. Elect another person to help you organize, delegate and run around. For me, it was my Mom, as my maid of honor lived in Colorado and couldn't be there til the eve of the wedding. She was more stressed than me for sure, but that's a Mom's nature, no?

Get down to the dirty work with "Planning a wedding from afar: part 2." Venue, food, decorations… tips and pics galore!

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  1. Thanks for sharing your advice on this under-developed topic!! I'm maid of honour for my best friend right now, who is planning a wedding in Canada, from Spain. The jokes about not having hair left by the wedding day have already started.

  2. I am looking forward to part 2 of this….I live in southern china and my wedding is in austin texas….fun fun fun

  3. Yes, yes, yes to number 2! I'm planning my Oklahoma wedding from France, and Google is the glue holding this thing together!

    I'm waiting eagerly for part 2!

  4. Thank you thank you so much!! I'm planning my Mexican Puerto Vallarta wedding from Nashville, TN of all places! ha I'm so excited to start using the spreadsheets on Google to Budget Baby!!

  5. As an attender of this event, I can personally tell you how organized and festive this wedding was! Shrie did an amazing job and everything went like clockwork! YOU ROCK GIRL!

  6. Awww, man. I wish I would've thought of the google docs thing before my wedding. That would've been verrry helpful! Looove your hair!

  7. THANK YOU.

    I'm planning my wedding in New Zealand from New York. 18 hour time difference. Does "across the universe" work as a theme???

    1 agrees
  8. We planned a wedding from 1500 miles away – in my home town, but there were still challenges. The things that helped us stay sane: doing lots of research ahead of our trips out, narrowing vendors down to 2 or 3 and only meeting with them, and making choices and STICKING WITH THEM. It was great not having to second-guess ourselves; once we picked a caterer, that was it. The other main sanity saver was the oft-quoted indiebride mentality of "good is good enough." We didn't strive for perfection and knew it wasn't possible anyway.

  9. great tip on the google docs and labels! I'm only getting married 200 miles from home, and they've been a life saver in the planning process 🙂

  10. This is terrific!
    We've been engaged since November, but have felt overwhelmed at the thought of planning a wedding from afar!
    Thank you so much for all the tips!

  11. How did you find your vendors? I'm planning a wedding across the country and need to find gay-friendly vendors with only Google searches to lead me! Any advice on vetting?

  12. I too have been struggling with this… and I have come to a completely different solution: wedding coordinator. Yes, DIY is awesome, and if it were just distance I would be more interested. But it's distance, an immigration move, and a new job! I quickly realized that any one of the above would be stressful, but all at the same time? Heck no. I have to say that I've been very considered that I might compromise my budget or my offbeat-ness in hiring someone else, but I'm optimistic! So far it seems that all the ideas will be mine, but the time and stress spent is hers. I think she'll more than make up for the cost in negotiations and stress reduction. And I'm still going to DIY a bunch of things that are easier to do from a distance (e.g. paper stuff). I don't think it's right for everyone, but coordinating is more negotiable than you might think. It's something to consider!

  13. Emilykate, where are you getting married? I'm planning a Massachusetts lesbian wedding from afar, and I'm going on the advice of my photographer for several other vendors. Ok, I haven't met her either, but in addition to finding her here on OBB, her work online looks gorgeous, and it turns out that we have mutual friends so I actually can check her references. I will meet her in a few weeks when my partner and I visit Boston.

  14. We're using Google Docs, too! I'm a list and spreadsheet junkie and I did the invite list and my family filled in addresses, etc and I mail merged to do the invite labels!

    • Ahh! A fellow person in this too!! I'm planning my wedding in Mexico from Chile as well! And my fiance is in D.C. (I moved here right after the engagement for a job, so we're long distance until after the wedding).. Fun!!

      Love this post, thank you!!!

  15. EmilyKate, have you checked with local BGLT groups? That would be the first place I'd check for BLGT-friendly vendors – you might even be able to support businesses owned by BLGT people!

  16. My dress was made by a rad lady I found on Etsy in the Alchemy section. I gave her an idea of what I wanted, we went to pick out the fabric together, and over the course of about three months she put together my dress, sash, bolero jacket and petticoat! Check back for part 2 next week!

  17. I love your hair!
    Thank you for this great information, I can't wait for part 2!
    (I'm in Spain, with the wedding to be held in Michigan.)

  18. I love this article! I'm in the last 2 weeks before my long-distance wedding in South Dakota. We're having it in a town that NONE of our family or wedding party live in, but with some phone calls, and some friends, we've made it happen!

  19. Thank you! Can't wait for more tips, we are living in Ireland and getting married in Poland so not only do I have the distance problem but also a huge language problem! oh and i didn't know google docs existed, will definitely be using that!

  20. Thanks for this topic! My wedding isn't thousands of miles away, but it is hundreds! It's good to know that it IS possible to do it!

  21. I'm doing the same, planning from 3000 miles away with no $$ to visit the area ahead of time, and my advice, check out vendors on Better Business Bureau, this helps ease the worry of hiring people you won't get to meet ahead time. http://www.bbb.org

  22. organized people make my heart throb.

    tell me more! did you use google apps, too? we just launched our website, and it has three different google apps, and im terrified that its not going to work out.. advice.

    thank you!

  23. Great post and lots of good ideas – can't wait for part 2! We took the "easy" way out by eloping to Vegas after trying to plan a wedding from 2,800 miles away, but the "fun party" we are going to have back east is just as much (if not more!) a pain in my arse then an actual wedding would have been.

  24. This is a great topic that you don't find much on wedding websites. I'm in the final months of planning a Washington, DC wedding – from Bangalore, India!

    Not everyone can do this, and if I was more organized I might not need to, but I've decided to spend the $$ to fly home for a quick trip in order to be able to see the ceremony site in person and to meet (face to face) the officiant and caterer. I think it will be worth it to feel more settled with the arrangements before the big day.

  25. I'm very interested in your second part as well, partly because I can't imagine the difficulty in planning long-distance and I admire you keeping your sanity. I'm also totally selfishly interested because I'm getting married at the same venue next year! Your wedding was lovely (and I second everyone about your dress!) and I can't wait to see more pictures! Thank you for sharing on what seems to be a seldom-covered topic on wedding sites.

  26. Wow, its good to see there are others suffering along with me! I'm in Scotland planning a wedding either in Colorado or California…we haven't been able to stick to one plan yet!
    Thanks for the info I didn't know about the google spreadsheets!

  27. Yay!!! Just what I needed… it gives me hope and doesn't make me feel like I going to far by planning a wedding in Alaska that is going to take place in the Midwest. Thank you for this. This post came at just the right time. 😀

  28. SHRIE ROCKS. LOVED THE ARTICLE AND I CAN'T WAIT FOR #2 EITHER. BUT REMEMBER IF YOU DON'T ENTER THE INFO IT DOESN'T GET SHARED.
    THE MOMZ

  29. Oh I'm so happy you tackling this topic1 I live in Chicago and I'm planning a wedding in Italy. I'm sure the pay off will be worth it but damn some spots were har pullingly stressful. there's still 6 months to go and lots to be done so I'm looking forward tomore advice in part 2! Thanks!!

  30. We're getting married in Florida (not the Miami/Keys), so it's harder than it would be if we were doing it in one of the states that's more supportive. But I will definitely look into the BLGT group suggestion! Thanks so much!

  31. My husband and I were a little bit involved in Shrie's and Bretts wedding and we were absolutly amazed how efficiently they and the Momz and non sappy father pulled it off. Shrie made all the mexican flowers and they were gorgeous. She handled the whole thing with such grace and was very organized and able to express exactly what she wanted with firmness but was always appreciative for everything that anyone did. She had an ability to make everyone want to do more for her because they could not believe that she was as calm as she appeared. She was able to delagete and allow that person to use their own abilities to get their part of job done. Shrie and Brett are very creative and most special. The whole wedding was most original and unique but we enjoyed it greatly and had a wonderful time.

  32. I feel you Wildstyle!! In Japan it's a 16hr time difference. Lots of staying up late (2-4am) to make calls. If you are overseas, there is an amazing thing called a "MAGIC JACK". It has saved my life in wedding planning!
    Throwing my wedding together in 5 months from overseas has definitely been challenging, but your advice is pretty legit Shrie! Keeping calm is for sure #1. Thank you!

  33. Thank you for posting this. It's worth repeating that your greatest tool as a long-distance planner is a trusted set of eyes and hands in the venue area. For us (planning a wedding in upstate NY…from Taiwan), it's my parents, who are fortunately extremely excited and happy to help. This means I have to go on their timeline – I'm a Type A "GET IT DONE GET IT DONE GET IT DONE" sort and my mom is a former hippie, so…err…haha. It also means I have to trust my mom's taste even though our styles differ, but she's doing her best to stick to what my fiance and I like. It's definitely brought us closer together. I used to email mom maybe once every 1-2 weeks. Now we correspond every day.

    I, too, am a bit frustrated by wedding resources that assume you live near your location. So many couples don't – I don't even mean across continents, but couples who live far from the hometown they've chosen to get married in – that you'd think there'd be more advice and tools out there. But hey, since there aren't, we long-distance couples get to create them and innovate ourselves, which makes the whole process a lot saner and brings it back to what WE want, not what the wedding industry tells us to want. A huge upside to not having a gaggle of professionals waiting and wanting to 'help'.

  34. Can't wait for part 2! Planning my warm country Georgia farm wedding from cold snowy Sweden… Not only is the time difference and distance an issue, I'm having trouble just visualizing a warm place right now!

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