One for the Books

Organizers guide brides through wedding planning

Whether you're hiring a professional or planning your wedding yourself, you've got a million decisions to make. A good wedding planning book helps you track the details - but with a seemingly endless array of choices out there, selecting the right book just seems like decision number million-and-one.

Relax. Most guides include the same basic features, such as calendars, budgets, guest lists and a system to compare and track vendors. What's important is that you buy something that suits your life, so think about your needs, time and style. Want a compact, flexible softcover you can slip in your purse, or a monster three-ring binder stuffed with too many receipts, contracts, swatches, paper samples, proposals, brochures and business cards to leave your desk? Looking for a workhorse you can leave tattered and dog-eared, or a keepsake album you'll maintain in pristine condition?

Despite the glut of options, it's quite possible no one planner will suit all your needs. The good news is that despite their heft and wealth of features, most planners cost $30 or less, so buying more than one shouldn't break the bank.

While this list is by no mean exhaustive, it should give you an idea of some popular products you'll want to consider to make your first decision an easy one.

"Simple Stunning Wedding Organizer: Planning Your Perfect Celebration" by Karen Bussen (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $19.95).

The author created this hardcover planner as a companion to her book, "Simply Stunning Weddings." The three-ring binder lets you add as many pages as you need, including vendor templates you can photocopy. Clear storage pockets let you see what you're saving. To help you choose your gown - and remember where you saw it - you can note each store visited and details of each dress you tried on: style, fabric, length, neckline, back, sleeves and trim. There's a large assortment of worksheets, including grids to sketch the layout of your reception. The timeline lists tasks beginning a year in advance down to an hour-by-hour checklist for the big day.

"Deluxe Bride's Year Ahead: The Ultimate Month-by-Month Wedding   
by Marguerite Smolen and Andrea Feld (Sellers Publishing, $29.95).

Instead of organizing the sections by category - such as clothing, food, photography - and then having a separate timeline counting down what needs to be done, this hardcover planner is one big timeline, with 12 sections for each month before the wedding. If you're not sure during which month a certain bit of information would be covered, an index helps you find it. Perforated "task cards" that spell out duties for the most common attendants can easily be distributed to the wedding party. Vendor worksheets with suggested questions for three to five businesses help you compare at a glance. Although the wire binding doesn't allow adding pages, there's plenty of room in six pocketed tabbed folders, a dozen clear zipped pouches, and two business card sleeves that together hold 40 cards.

"Martha Stewart's Keepsake Wedding Planner" by Martha Stewart Living Magazine (Clarkson Potter, $29.95).

This hardcover three-ring binder includes six pocketed folders, two zippered pouches and one business card holder - very nice, but what sets this planner apart is the generous number of photographs, such as in the flower glossary, which identifies hundreds of blossoms. Four pages are devoted to each color; the first two naming individual flowers, followed by two pages of bouquets, with captions helpfully listing each flower used. This planner is great for illustrated advice, such as tying a bowtie or choosing lace, yet the worksheets seem condensed compared to similarly sized planners.

"The Everything Wedding Organizer: Checklists, Charts, And Worksheets for Planning the Perfect Day, Second Edition"
by Shelly Hagen (Adams Media Corp., $16.95).

At 13 ounces and about 8-by-7 inches, this wire-bound paperback is one of the more portable planners. Of course, that means all the paperwork and samples you collect will have to fit in two pockets inside the front and back covers. Nonetheless, this book doesn't skimp on information, with enough pointers to take the most overwhelmed bride through the process, from placing the newspaper announcement to moving into a new home. A detailed table of contents helps locate the right section without tabs.

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