When couples first get engaged, they are soon faced with the big question, “How do we plan our wedding?”
They are bursting with romantic visions of their big day, the romance, the sparkle, the adventure. Suddenly these dreams have to become a reality, and this takes careful wedding planning. If you are at this stage right now, read on and I will light your way along this magical journey.
Firstly, and Most Important – The Wedding Budget
This is your first decision and key to the wedding planning process. Only once you know how much you can realistically spend, will you know the kind of wedding you can have. Be prudent. Don’t put everything onto your credit card, only to wake up the morning after your wedding, facing a massive debt. This is no way to start married life.
Create a Wedding Mood Board
If you are a Pinterest lover, why not create a wedding board. A perfect way to illustrate your dreams and inspirations, the colours, style and themes that you would like. Sharing this board will help your suppliers create exactly what you are looking for, in a cohesive way.
Time is Key
Give yourself as much time as possible to plan your wedding. When you get engaged you are so excited, and eager to get going. Giving yourself too short a lead time, you may find that your perfect venue or the best wedding suppliers are just not available. Your families and friends may also find that they are unable to get the time off work.
Save the Date
Send out a Save the Date invite to your guests as soon as your date is set, especially if your wedding is over a year away. This means plenty of time for them to plan work schedules, transport and accommodation.
This is a key part of the wedding planning process as this may dictate venue and suppliers you use. Do you want a religious ceremony, a civil ceremony or a celebrant, such as a Humanist? Look at the legalities and make sure you can meet the requirements. This is especially important if you are planning a destination wedding away from home. Book your minister or celebrant. Try to meet them first, as this will help them create a warm and personal ceremony.
Perfect Wedding Venue
Once you know where in the world you wish to have your wedding go and look at as many venues as possible. Like buying a house, when you walk into the right one, you know it. Book that one! Try and visit them together so that you are both equally happy with the decision. Make sure you ask the right questions of the venue to make sure there won’t be any problems further down the line. Once you have your wedding venue booked, buy some wedding insurance to protect you going forward.
If you choose to have a marquee or tipi wedding reception, do bear in mind you will have additional suppliers to consider. You will need power, lights inside and outside, heating, toilets, furniture, linen and crockery, dance floor and PA system. You will also need special wedding insurance suitable for marquee weddings. Hiring a wedding planner is a very good idea if you have a marquee wedding as they can guide you through a slightly harder process.
Come Rain or Shine
Do factor in a wet weather option for your day, especially if you are planning any of the celebrations to take place outside. Hire in umbrellas, have a gazebo on standby, make sure there is heating available in the marquee. Being cold and wet at a wedding is not much fun!
Food Glorious Food
Once your venue is booked, if you need to find a caterer, this is probably the next supplier to book. Talk to as many as you can, arrange a food tasting to sample a menu, ask for reviews and make sure you feel comfortable with them. They are a big part of your day and the food is a big part of your wedding budget.
Photographers and videographers get booked up a long way in advance and if you have always known the photographer you want to use, you may like to book him or her before doing anything else. Feeling at ease with your photographer/videographer is crucial as they will be sharing the most emotional parts of the day close by your sides. If possible, book an engagement shoot (many suppliers offer this as part of their wedding package) as this gives you a chance to relax in front of their camera before the big day.
As a wedding planner I will always suggest to my couples that if their budget permits, they should also consider a videographer. Once life has settled and your wedding seems a distant dream, all you want to do is relive your wedding and having an emotive film alongside your photos is like gold dust.
Smell the Roses
Try to choose a florist who works close to your venue so that the flowers arrive in their freshest condition. Maybe you would like dried flowers which you can keep or even silk flowers as a greener alternative. If possible, consider using flowers of the season so that there is no need for them to be flown in from overseas. You can have great fun with your florist talking colours and creations and he or she will love a Pinterest board if you have one.
If Music be the Food of Love….
No wedding is complete without music. Think about the genre of music that will get all of your guests, not just the two of you, up onto the dancefloor all evening. You may also like music at your ceremony as you sign the register? Or perhaps during the drinks reception. Consider having music appropriate to where you wedding takes place, such as a piper in Scotland. Or from where your family originates.
Don’t go out and buy your dress too soon. Your body may change in shape between now and your wedding day. You don’t want to have to rush to a dress maker the week before the wedding.
There are lots of options when it comes to getting your wedding dress now. Off the peg from a wedding dress shop, second hand, and beautifully vintage from a second-hand supplier (the Red Cross sell a wide range of pre-loved dresses), straight from a designer, or online (a bit risky). Try on lots, and like choosing your venue, when you have the perfect dress on, you will instinctively know. Don’t compromise.
Some brides have more than one outfit, the traditional dress for the ceremony and dinner, and then a party version to enable them to dance the night away without tripping over their long skirts.
Grooms can also buy new or hire their wedding outfits which is a great option, especially if you would like your groomsmen to be wearing coordinating suits.
Don’t forget your wedding rings. You can even make your own for the truly personal touch.
If you are going to feel comfortable on your wedding day, it is important to find the right Hairdresser and Make Up Artist. Saying that, many brides prefer to do their own hair and makeup as they feel more ‘themselves’ if they do. This is absolutely fine. It is your day.
If you are going to hire professionals, do make sure you have a trial with them in plenty of time before the big day. Offer their services to Mums and bridesmaids too, but do remember that the more people who want their hair and makeup doing, the earlier in the day your suppliers will have to start. The hairdresser may also need to liaise with your florist if you are wanting flowers in your hair.
There is quite a bit of stationery to consider when planning your wedding. Save the Dates, the all-important Wedding invitations, Order of the Day boards, Order of Service booklets, menus, table names, table plan and place names. The invites can be done online and the rest of the list doesn’t necessarily have to involve printing. There are many lovely alternatives that cost virtually nothing and look beautiful. Just dig around Pinterest and Etsy for some inspiration. Alternatively there are many stationers who can create beautiful work for you to impress your guests and fit the style of your wedding.
As well as your own transport to your ceremony, you may also want to provide transport for your guests. Speak to the local taxi and bus companies to see your options in plenty of time. This can be expensive though and isn’t something that you have to provide. You may not even need transport at all if you venue is your ceremony, reception and accommodation venue all in one.
Wedding cake can be as simple or as fancy as you like and you do not need to have the traditional layer of fruit cake to keep for your first child’s christening! There are so many flavours you can choose. You can have cupcakes, donuts, macaroons, even cheese. Your cake can be the showpiece for the style of your wedding. But be warned, wedding cakes don’t come cheap and if you have a friend who loves baking and offers to help, this may be the way to go.
My Top Tip – Sustainability
As a wedding planner I am very conscious of the amount of carbon created by a wedding. If possible when planning your wedding, look at ways that you can try to cut your carbon footprint. You may like to ask guests to offset their travel by planting a tree. Or ask them to take the train rather than drive or fly to the wedding. Car sharing with other guests is also a great idea.
You may consider buying a vintage dress that has been worn before or hiring one for the day instead. Choose a caterer who sources their food locally (and therefore has the freshest food), and recycles any leftovers. Send invites via email rather than post. There is so much you can do to lessen your impact on the climate.
Icing on the Cake
After these key suppliers have been booked you can go on and on adding the sparkly touches that give your wedding its own personal stamp. However, do watch your budget as these little extras can make budgets fly out of windows.
Nearer the wedding make contact with all your suppliers, ensure you have paid everyone as per their terms, and if possible create a detailed schedule of your day which you can send to the main suppliers. This will ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them on the day. It is also useful for them to know who they are working alongside.
As the Wedding Approaches
In the run up to your big day make sure you look after yourselves. Get lots of sleep (don’t have your hen and stag do’s the weekend before the wedding!), eat well and tie up all loose ends at work so that you can fully relax throughout the wedding celebrations.
Do not let family politics enter into your day. I know this can be hard, but a wedding is your day and should not be spoilt by any ongoing family feuds.
Make time for each other as planning a wedding can be stressful and on the day itself, try and take 10 minutes away from the party, to share a quiet moment together.
Hire a Wedding Planner
Finally, if this seems a touch overwhelming for you, why not hand over the planning, or just the coordinating on the day itself to a wedding planner? They can take on as much or as little of the wedding planning as you like, and ensure that you don’t have any of the stress that planning a wedding can cause. A wedding can take between 200-500 hours to plan. If you are both short of time with busy jobs, finding this amount of time can be impossible.
If you are planning a destination wedding, by choosing a wedding planner in the area you are getting married will ensure that you will get the best suppliers.
I hope this guide has given you a helping hand for your forthcoming exciting journey into the world of wedding planning. Planning a wedding should be fun. Stay calm, give yourself time and try to keep to budget.