Post-It Notes – 21st October: Table Plans & Email Management

Photography Credit: Dixie Pixel Photography (full wedding on the blog next week!)

Sorting out the table plan can be one of the most stressful parts of planning your wedding (it certainly was for us) – knowing who’s going to get on with who and worrying that everyone will have a good time! The drama can be even more so if you have divorced parents or rowing relatives!

I asked my friend and wedding planner/blogger Kelly of Boho Wedding and Events if she had any advice on this tricky matter…

Table plans and seating arrangements can cause a complete headache when trying to do the right thing by all of your guests. In this instance, maybe the answer is to not have a seating plan at all? And let the guest fight it out (not literally of course!) between themselves. Lots of weddings I have worked on this year have had no formal seating plan at all, it gives a much more relaxed feel to your day and the guests really do get to sit with whomever they like.

If you are getting pressure of who to sit next to yourselves and who to put on the top table, why not forget the top table and have a sweetheart table instead? This way you and your husband/wife get to sit with each other on your own, and let the guests come to you. This way if there are any headaches with the whole seating plan then you never get to know about it!

If you do want to stick to the traditional table plan then try this piece of wedding soft wear from www.toptableplanner.com - it does all the hard work for you.

On a personal note, when I was sorting out my own table plan for my wedding,  I found using a photo of each guest really helped me to arrange the seating arrangements, instead of just a name.

Another way is to allocate guests to a table but not a seat and let them sort out who is sitting next to each other.

I love this last idea. Use ‘escort cards’ instead of a formal seating plan and just allocate everyone a card with their table number on. There are many cute ways to display these at your wedding too. Here are some of my recent favourite ideas…

♥ Wings at an airplane themed wedding Ashley Rose via Green Wedding Shoes
♥ Luggage labels & horseshoes Khaki Bedford Weddings full wedding here
♥ Navy stripes Glessner Photography via Wedding Chicks
♥ Oranges Lane Dittoe via Inspired by This
♥ Harmonicas (which can double up as favours!) Jesi Haack Weddings

This is a bit of a longer article than my usual Post It Notes but email is a bit of a nightmare isn’t it?! Therefore it takes longer to explain…Maybe you could write out like 25 post it notes and stick them all round your workstation instead?

I often get asked about my email management system so this week I thought I’d try to share my processes with you. First off I need to let you know that I am an email freak. Gareth often comments how I chew through emails like nobody’s business! I don’t by any means think my system is the most efficient; however it does work for me and the way my brain works. The key thing is that I actual have a system though. Finding one that works for you is imperative to staying on top of the dreaded inbox and keeping people happy.

There is nothing worse than sending an email and not hearing anything back for weeks (or not at all!) No matter how busy you are, taking forever to reply to your emails really does give a bad impression of you and your business (the people emailing you don’t know how busy you are) so I personally make it my number 1 priority after writing blog content.

Colour Coding

A nutshell, colour coding is your friend. Every morning I go through all my unread emails and mark them orange, this means they are unread/unactioned. Once I’ve read and replied to an email it then either gets filed in its appropriate folder (more on this further down the article) or re-coloured. If I have to do something in response to an email (ie create an invoice, find out some info) I mark it blue, this means ‘to do’. If something is urgent, (ie a magazine deadline has been brought forward or I have to edit something in a live blog post) I mark it red.

I then take a break…

Categories

After an extra cup of coffee go through my inbox chronologically. Some messages can obviously be replied to quickly like the ones I get from Lucy with the latest gossip or the ones from Emma with a new cute picture of Max the cat.

My emails can be usually broken down into 7 categories (I bet yours can too.) Mine are:

Wedding/Photo Shoot Submissions
Generic Submissions/Press Releases
Press Requests
Reader Questions/Advice
Advertising Enquiries
Junk
Gossip

Identifying what each of your categories are is imperative to streamlining your responses. I try to tackle each category at one time (in order of importance) and for me, the colour coding system helps me keep my mind and where I’m at in this process in check.

The junk and the generic press releases automatically get deleted.

Templates

Another important action for me is using template emails. This may mean that not everyone gets a bespoke response, but everyone does get a reply – whether they email me a submission or just drop me a line to say they like the website. This keeps people happy and makes me look good!

My opinion is that people like to receive emails back (and quickly) and I think it’s actually pretty shocking that a blogger (for example) can’t find the time to send a quick yes or no response to a submission that someone has taken the time to send them. Without submissions, blogs couldn’t function so the least we can do is say yes or no right? I’ve heard people say they don’t want to hurt people’s feelings by rejecting their work, but you know what, you’re not being horrible by saying no. If a particular wedding isn’t right for my site, I feel it’s actually nicer to reply to the photographer and let them know that so that a) they don’t waste their time in future and b) they can send the wedding to a more suitable blog instead (OK I’m getting off my soapbox now…)

Don’t feel bad about setting up template emails (I often will edit the first line or so to make my reply relevant to each person. I will always use their name and will often add a sentence specific to them and their wedding – ie “Dear Mary, What a beautiful wedding. Your dress is gorgeous! I can’t believe you made it yourself… etc etc”. I then go into the template reply – “Thank you so much for your submission…etc etc.”

The time you will save by editing and using basic templates is huge! If you find yourself writing similar emails over and over it make totally sense to use them.

Sub-Folders

The other way I keep my inbox de-cluttered is by filing emails in subfolders. My email has 18 folders (sounds a lot actually!) and when each email has been dealt with it gets filed accordingly. My folders are as follows:

Advertising
Contest Entries
Events
Guest Posts
Reader Requests
Magazine Orders
Misc.
My Photo Shoots
Nubby (stuff from my graphic designer)
Photo Pro Magazine
Praise
Press Requests
Rock n Roll Bride (this is where everything else goes…ie rejected submissions, non-important emails)
Tax Stuff
Thursday Treats
To Do
TV Stuff
Wedding Magazine

I think most of these are self-explanatory? I also use a colour coding system within these folders. For example, when I have everything I need for a submission (full set of images and questionnaire response from the couple) I mark the emails in blue (to do.) I then know when a submission is ready to be blogged. I go through this folder chronologically so I know when to post each thing and so I don’t miss anyone out. If I’m hosting a contest, and accepting entries myself via email, I mark them within the Contest Entries folder in red so they are easy to locate when it comes to finding a winner.

My system of colours and filing may seem a little overzealous, but having a regimented  system like this helps keep my mind free of clutter, my inbox numbers low and my ability to search for old emails faster.

I hope this helps you a little bit with taming your email monster and will start you thinking about your own email categories, templates and folders!

Shameless Pimp

I don’t know if you’ve seen, but I’m now doing blogging workshops in London! In these I’ll be talking about running a successful blog, how I earn my moolah and all that businesses-but-in-a-non-stuffy-business-way kinda stuff. In these workshops I’m happy to share anything and everything you want to know about how I run my business.

The first two (November & December) have already sold out but if you’d be interested in coming to one of these in future, be sure to get your name on the VIP list to be notified when new dates are announced. To do this simply ‘like’ the Cherry Sorbet facebook page and add your name to the thread relating to the Rock n Roll Bride Blogshop!

UPDATE – a couple of people have asked which email service I use and its Thunderbird. I also get around 200 emails a day and yes I still manage to reply (usually) within 48 hours. It’s all about organisation!

23 comments

  1. evie

    re table planning!!!!when we got married a long time ago ..we didnt have any name tags at all ,we just had tables with numbers on them and photographs(headshots) of people on that table all around the table ,if you do not have photos of every guest then improvise….ie wot are they best known for …. ie we used a leg shot for one friend and minnie mouse ears for anouther(they knew who they were) it was so much fun and did bring people togeather before they sat down !!!x

  2. Nikki Ward - Knots & Kisses

    Thanks for the emailing tips Kat .. this is amazingly helpful! I’m oretty good at replying to emails quickly but have had no system up to now as to how to categorize them once a quick reply has been sent. I’m so going to sit down and do this this weekend!

  3. This email advice is amazing. I get really overwhelmed sometimes especially as each bride is so individual and important.
    I will go forth and start a system so that I no longer don’t wake up at 3am trying to juggle brides in my head or do a ‘shut down’ and don’t repsond for a day. Thank you!

  4. I just wanted to say that I was having a discussion earlier with some other ladies in the biz and I was commenting on how wonderful you are to work with because your e-mail responses are so quick and you are always so friendly.

    Your system definitely works!

  5. I would second Jaye…I think you have it nailed and always have the good grace to reply, no matter how stupid the question I ask is ..lol

  6. I am going to try the colour coding thing. I have an email add that is just for enquiries from my blog and another for general email to wedding vendors. I keep all tax expenses filed for each year which means I can print them out from one location on my email. Need to go in and add more folders like you have. Thanks for this.

  7. MrsEtoBe

    Table plans are all well and good-but what about the relative that turns up & thinks they are invited to the whole day…that kinda messed ours up!! I found a good thing to do was have a very loosely drafted table plan when doing the guest list so we didn’t add on extra people who would make it tricky with seating. Good advice all round though Kelly and Kat!

  8. Hety Kat, glad that your readers found the table plan info helpfull!.
    As for your email system, very impressive! I also think it’s important to reply to people ASAP and I use the colour coding method myslef, I have 11 differnt colour combinations and 38 differnt sub folders to file stuff in. It may sound a lot but trying to keep the blogging side of things and the planning side of things seperate means lots fo colours and lost of folders. My brain can’t settle unless my inbox is clear with just a few colour coded emails left to action or do more work on. I also find that doing them in bulk throughout the day instead of answering each one as it comes in helps.
    I also write myself a plan each day for my tasks, and allocate them a time, my own time line for that day. This way I leave myslef a block hour 3-4 times a day to aswer emails, while making sure that each other job, writting blog posts, researching artcials, working on a brides file etc also gets the correct amount fo time designated to it.
    Some days admitedly are busier than other and I can find that it’s 3pn and all I’ve done since 9am is answer emails! BUT the system really helps. everyoen needs one…a buit of organisation nevr hurt anyone!
    (sorry didn’t mean to ramble as much as that!)

  9. You are so right Kat as a photographer we do like to hear back even if it is no! It’s better than not knowing at all. So many blogs either take to long to get back to you or never do! Good article :-)

  10. Wow, I’ve only just had time to read this because I am feeling so overwhelmed with all my to do things and emails – oh the irony! But this has been so useful, even just so that I now realise having a system, any system, would help rather than just getting back there and then or having to remember to do so, which doesn’t often happen as more emails pile in on top, especially with an 8 month old baby around! So I’m gonna sort my shit out, you have inspired me. As per usual!

  11. Throughly impressed with this as so detailed and explained very well. By the sounds of it it’s a good system and I wish all bloggers or not, have same outlook and organise themselves I know I will! Having emailed you an always got a reply I know that it works for you. Thanks Kat x

  12. Re seating plans, why not put all the names in a hat and then do the plan randomly? At least no one can take offence then… And you never know what might happen. Incidentally, I met my boyfriend at a wedding. The b & g wanted to create a singles table but they wanted to be discreet about it so they put 2 boys and then 2 girls. The four of us had a great time, although my boyfriend did spend a lot of time leaning forward to try and talk to me!

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