A three-ring notebook
I would suggest a three-ring notebook so that papers can be put in and taken out with ease. If you use something like a spiral notebook, once you rip a page out, it's not going back in - unless you staple or tape it. Then it looks messy, but if you are ok with that, go for it. I could never deal with that. It's up to you.
To put in the three-ring binder...
These are what will keep you organized. I would set up dividers for: Caterer information, photographer information, florist information, etc. And by information, I mean paperwork they will give you with menus, photo packages, hourly rates, bouquet costs, and so on. This method ensures that you know exactly where everything is when you need it! And that will keep the stress at bay.
Another life-saver right here, my friends. When you open your notebook, I would suggest the very first thing you see is an information page. This page should be complete with vendor names (i.e., Southern Catering, First Christian Church), name(s) of person to contact, phone number, email, website (if available), and any other information you deem necessary.
Ex (all this info is made up):
I'd have this for each booked vendor. I'd also keep this information on the places where you get your dress, the guys get their tux, the girls get their dresses, where you order your invitations, save the dates, and so on. Any person or company you may have one or more contact with throughout this process, I would have at the least a name and number written down and easy to find - just in case. We are eliminating possible stress here, people!
Behind this information page, I would also suggest a couple copies of another list. Once your wedding party is complete, I would go ahead and type up an information sheet for all your bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls (or their parents), and anyone else who is part of the wedding party. Include their name, their role in your wedding, address, number, email, and maybe even their relationship to you. This is helpful to you because people who throw you showers and when his parents are working on the rehearsal dinner, they are going to need this information. And when they ask for it, you have it. Already complete, and all in one place to just easily hand over.
I wrote on a guest list here, but I'm going to go ahead and paste it below:
This notebook is also a great place to keep several copies of a guest list with address of each guest. As shower invitations, Save the Date cards, rehearsal dinner invitations, and ceremony invitations are being sent out, it's going to help you and others who may need the list/address and it's going to help ensure every one is accounted for - because people who are invited to showers are expected to be invited to the wedding and you don't want to overlook anyone. I'd also say go ahead and put these in alphabetical order - just to help you out.
Not only will having the guest list with address be helpful with showers and invitations, but also having these addresses on hand as thank you notes are being sent out is quite a blessing. Thank you notes will be a whole other post later on, but just let me go ahead an say, gifts can come in waves and before you know it you are needing to write 50+ TY notes (especially after showers) and having all the addresses in front of you will make things that much easier.
Thank You Note List
I would most definitely have a divider tab for thank you notes. Once you register (I can't wait to post on this!) gifts will start coming in - slowly at first and then they pour in! As these gifts come in, write down the giver and the gift immediately and write the note as soon as you can. The point of this section is so that you always know where your running list of gifts and givers is. Once you write the note, cross off the name and gift. This is just another way to stay organized and ensure that everyone receives a note (then they know you got it and you appreciate it).
Most everyone already has a calendar they use - whether it's at work, in your purse, or on your phone. And if you already have this, that's great! If you have a calendar that's just for work, you may want to consider purchasing an additional one - one that will fit into your notebook. If you keep a calendar with you everywhere you go, then you probably don't need an additional one. Having a calendar is crucial. You are going to be setting up appointments to meet vendors, discuss menu options, cake option, try on dresses, dress fittings, and so on. You are also going to be asked about dates that will work for showers and parties. You need a calendar handy for this. You can usually purchase calendars that are thin and already punched with three holes to fit perfectly into your notebook.
Ideas and Inspirations
As you think of ideas you are considering for the wedding or you see ideas on websites that you like WRITE THEM DOWN. As you come across pictures you like in magazines TEAR THEM OUT. If you find pictures you like online - START A FOLDER on your computer to save these photos to. You are going to have so much on your mind during this time that it's likely you may forget something you read or forget where you saw that gorgeous picture - so when you see or read things like this - hold on to them! Either in a new section of you notebook or even in an entirely new notebook, keep up with all the ideas and inspirations you run into.
*These are all just suggestions. If you are working on putting together a notebook and find that a different set-up works better for you, go for it! The main point I am trying to share is that making this extra effort and putting in a few hours to create a system where number and information are easily accessible will make your life easier during this process. I was kind of organized with all my information, but not like this. It was all a bit scattered. I had files saved on the computer, I had websites book-marked, I had a notebook with running lists and information, and I had a large folder with everything else. It was better than nothing, but still things were here and there. If I could re-do it, setting up a system would be the first thing I would do.