You’re planning your wedding – here’s how to get started and keep your sanity ….
If you’ve become engaged over the festive period, then the chances are you’re starting the new year with a whole new (and perhaps slightly unexpected) project to plan. Congratulations, this is such an exciting time and there’s lots of fun ahead. As one who’s worked happily in the wedding industry for over 20 years knows, the popping of champagne corks can quickly lead to a certain amount of questions unanswered, uncertainty and stress as you seek to start this whole new process.
I’m delighted to share my key tips from my considerable experience of working with hundreds of couples in building their weddings from the ground up; these fundamentals should set you on a really stable, safe start, making sure you can cherish and enjoy the planning, not wish it away.
And if you are stressed out, then try reading my A to Z of wedding planning first.
Work out what YOU really want when planning your wedding!
That might sound simple, but make sure that the ‘you’ is the two of you marrying, not a whole team of well-intended advisers. As soon as the engagement cat is out of the bag you will have advice thrown at you from all directions. This is the time to listen, but not to act. Instead, focus on really working out how you both envisage your wedding looking and feeling before taking on board other considerations.
Be prepared for some compromise here, as invariably you will both have slightly different views on this. Write it down and refer back to it regularly during the planning, especially if & when you’re wobbling on various decisions. But accept that there are things you can’t control, like the best man speech. But you’ll have to trust me, things always work out on the best day of your lives.
Decide on your priorities – following on from the above, ask yourself what your top 3 priorities are for the wedding day. Work those out and stick to them as you get into the nitty-gritty of the wedding planning. It might be the most spectacular marquee you can afford, it may be an ‘all you can drink’ bar, a wow wedding cake creation or very special paper goods.
Just as you work out the must-haves, list those things less important to you and again stick to that when you’re allocating budget and spending. Even the biggest of budgets often involves an element of compromise, so be prepared to budge on some of the less important items to ensure you enjoy the big picture and the experience.
£££ – since we’re talking money, the budget is really key to work out from the start. Have those difficult conversations with family early on and really pin down as closely as you can how much money you have to play with. It shapes everything in event planning. It’s not to say you need a luxurious and large budget to have a great wedding, but you do need to shape and tailor your choices right from the off.
I’ve had clients come to me over the years having overspent on their venue choice right at the start; from here it’s very difficult to alter the path, when there is simply not enough to do the venue choice justice. As a guideline no more than 50% of your budget should go on the venue and food and drink elements, allowing the other 50% for everything else.
Dates and numbers – This is where our wedding planner and timeline comes into its own. Before you get truly carried away with all the gorgeous wedding sparkle (and boy are there lots of amazing products and services out there) – work out some key things which you’ll need a firm grip on before you tackle the first big task – the wedding venue/s. Plan out your guest list (write it out if you can because in your head it’s always smaller than it actually is).
You need to look for venues with the right capacity – that is vital! Work out also your preferred dates and days – keeping some degree of flexibility is always good and certainly if you’re looking for special offers. And have a wet-weather contingency plan as there are no true dry months in the UK.
Check the paperwork – I can’t stress enough how big a decision the venue for your wedding is and, whilst I don’t want to scare you, do be careful of going ahead without reading the small print and doing due diligence. Whilst I can’t cover every single eventuality here, look out and check for things like access hours for set up and clear up, minimum contracted guest numbers, restrictions on your choice of suppliers, restrictions on music and noise levels as well as other events/exclusivity.
Contracts/paperwork should be offered and in place for all key suppliers and be sure to read it and ask for clarity on anything which doesn’t sound right to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a simple contract or confirmation of key details from all of your suppliers; some are not terribly good at this but without it you have no security. It’s always better to pay a deposit to secure services even if suppliers don’t insist on it.
Building your team – as you probably already know this is a special occasion for so many of your nearest and dearest and one you want to be memorable for all the right reasons. Enlist some help from early in the process by appointing your brilliant team of bridesmaids and groomsmen to help you with roles and responsibilities like hen and stag planning, dress fittings, DIY projects, invitation envelope stuffing and more.
Also, whilst it’s key to know your minds before you consult with too many of your closest, there’s nothing like the support and involvement of parents along the way. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone – sharing really is better!
Breaking it down – my biggest tip for beating overwhelm is to break down this project (and it is a project) into bite-sized chunks. You’ll read a lot about the urgency to book and how suppliers get booked up early. Yes, this is true but as a planner who often plans weddings from scratch in less than 6 months, they always come together and we always find great suppliers.
I’m not suggesting waiting until the last minute but I am suggesting you tackle things in bite-sized chunks as you can manage with life’s other activities and responsibilities. In general after your venue, look at photography/film, then invitations and then tackle 1-2 things at a time for the other things you’ll need; it will become a lot easier to research, meet, confirm 2 suppliers at a time than to be researching 10 different things at once.