February 8, 2008

Grab your Book: The Brain Dump

Posted in Planning Your Own Wedding: Step by Step at 4:18 pm by Jess

If you hire a wedding planner, he or she is going to make a Master List of all the details of your wedding. I am my Wedding Planner, and thus, I need to make this list myself. If you are planning your own wedding, or a friend’s wedding, I recommend that, after preparing yourself accordingly (sorry, had to drop the pun)*, you do the Brain Dump.

The Brain Dump has its roots in my fifth grade after-school club. (It is probably the only happy remnant of that year – I was having quite the awkward phase.) I was part of a group called Future Problem Solving, where we were given a problem and asked to brainstorm and list all of the possible complications and solutions. So in fact, you will need to do two Brain Dumps. 1) Everything that needs to happen to make my day happen how I envision it and 2)All the things that could go wrong, and their possible solutions. We call the latter a Backup Plan, and we’ll get to that later.

The Brain Dump is truly an exercise in getting all of the ideas out on paper. It does not have to be in chronological order in the first draft. The trick is: Just Start Writing. No matter where you start you are apt to feel overwhelmed by the number of details involved. I recommend, then, that you try this scheme:

Draft One: All things High-Level. You don’t need it to be chronological, or even clean. Just write down all the high level things that need to happen.

My example: “Dress. Caterer. Music. Florist. Wine. Invites. Website…” etc etc….for two pages.

Draft Two: The Details. Here you should take each High-Level item and blow out all of the details involved. If you feel overwhelmed by the growing list, shirk the task and skip steps, you will suffer in the long-run. Write out every detail, painful (or as enjoyable if you heart lists) as it might be.

My examples:

“Find dress styles. Make dress appts. choose and buy. fitting and alterations.buy shoes. buy lingerie. buy purse. get jewelery from mom’s on next visit.


“Call Bernard about white wine. Pick 5 reds to try. Blind tasting with jon’s parents. Buy red. Take wine to __ for storage”

Draft Three: Getting things in order. Here is when you put things chronologically. Rip out Draft Two and find a few consecutive clean pages in your book. Write one header ONGOING and the rest of the headers by Month, leaving a decent amount of space under each month. Now, start copying the list onto the clean page by what needs to happen when. Cross out each item on draft two as you transfer it, to avoid confusion.

My example: I knew I was going to America in November so the Dress Searching and Buying needed to happen then. I also needed to get the jewelery in Nov. too. Shoes and Purse don’t have a specific deadline, so they go under Ongoing.

Now you might be thinking to yourself: “I’ve never done this before! How am I supposed to know where things go!?”

Go to one of the popular wedding websites, such as theknot.com or weddingchannel.com and click on or search “Wedding Checklists.”

These checklists are written by people who have experience planning. They have a good gauge on what goes where. However, don’t think that you must follow these to the letter. Your list, and your planning should be organic.  It will also depend on where you live, and your priorities. Booking the location is probably a key first step everywhere, but here in Switzerland, I am not going to be choosing the flowers until a month or two before the wedding. Likewise, I have got to get people squared away on flights and hotels at least four months in advance (the town is small, rooms are limited) so other things are waiting until that is done.

Once you have your list in relative Chronological Order you can get started. And you can re-work it as needed. I just set up a pick-up date for the white wine, and so I mark that under May. When you meet with vendors they will give you more concrete deadlines as well.

I can’t bear to leave you without some sort of visual stimulation, a bride has her cake made in the likeness of, who else? Herself.

photo curtesy of current.com

Don’t Go There…


1 Comment »

  1. […] you understand the staggering amount of details involved? (Have you made the Master List? Mine is about six […]

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