You’ve given an enthusiastic “yes!” to the proposal, but there’s still a lot to sort out before you say “I do.” Use this step-by-step guide to create a wedding binder that will keep you organized (and sane) throughout the planning process.

By Sarah Stebbins
Updated April 21, 2014
Bride holding bouquet of dahlias
Credit: Dana Gallagher/Getty Images

To stay on top of wedding details, planners rely on an old-school tool: the trusty three-ring binder. “You can do a lot on the computer, but weddings still produce a ton of paper,” says planner Nicky Reinhard, who keeps more than 200 past and present client binders in the New York City office she shares with partner Ann David. We asked pros how to divide and conquer the deluge in an attractive, organized file that will carry you through the planning process.

First Things First

A great binder ($24, begins with—what else?—worksheets! Print and hole-punch our wedding planning checklist (a.k.a. your master to-do list) and file it in the front. Next up? Use our budget worksheet to divvy up and track your cash and our vendor contact sheet to keep the major players straight. Be sure to jot down a “day of” and an emergency contact for each vendor, says Charleston-based wedding planner Tara Guérard. That way, if the band is late, and the company you booked through is closed on Saturday, you have someone to chew out—er, call.

Add Tabs

Use tabs ($5 for 8, to create a section for each major wedding category—ceremony, reception, flowers, music, etc.—then punch and file things like contracts, menus and seating charts in the appropriate spots. Staple smaller items, such as business cards, fabric swatches, and stationery samples to paper and slip the weighty pages into sheet protectors ($6.50 for 25, for easy flipping, says Guérard. Put any ideas you pull from magazines in sheet protectors, too, and organize them by subject or under a separate “inspiration” tab, where they’ll form a kind of paper Pinterest board. The latter method works particularly well for big picture thinkers who might tear out photos of artwork or room interiors that speak to an overall mood or color scheme, says Guérard.

Corral Receipts

The laws of wedding planning state that you will make approximately 75 trips to the craft store before the big day. To keep track of purchases from your shopping excursions and make returns a snap, write the item names on your receipts and stash them in a cute pencil pouch ($3, that hooks onto the rings in your binder, says David. After the festivities, the case can hold makeup, gift cards, or souvenirs from your honeymoon.

Include Extra Paper

Keep some loose-leaf sheets ($12 for 80, in the back of the binder for taking notes during meetings with vendors, then file the pages under the relevant tabs. Later, when you’re trying to recall the florist’s stance on roses versus ranunculus, you’ll know just where to look.

Stash and Carry

Your binder deserves better than a reusable grocery bag. Designate an eye-catching tote ($23, and the file will be ready to go when you need to head to a meeting—and you’ll be proud to lug it around.