| Wedding Planning Guide - 1 |
How to plan your wedding - survive the stress, beat the budget and actually ENJOY IT!
Planning my own wedding last year has given me a new appreciation for how god damn exciting is to be getting married, and I seem to have fallen even deeper in love with documenting such an important day . Its also given me an appreciation for how unbelievably stressful it is to make so many decisions, be asked so many questions, try and keep so many people happy, mediate between families and friends, try not to go completely broke, not throttle each other over the table plan arrangements, and above all try and create a day which the both of you will actually enjoy.
Ive written this because I want to put everything I've learnt down on paper to help other brides and grooms not go mad with the planning process, and learn from my own personal mistakes, and hindsight insights that only come AFTER the big day. This series covers everything from the very early stages of planning, right up to advice for the day itself, and I've drawn on advice from my past couples too!
A bit about our own wedding...
We had a very non-traditional festival weekend wedding, we figured we're only going to do it once so why not go all out with our ideas and our celebrations! We did the legal bit in Booths Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye (see the connection with my bookbinding company!) with our immediate family and planned an extravaganza weekend of dancing, drinking, food and friends from the Friday to Sunday. As a wedding photographer I felt a lot of pressure to have ‘the best wedding ever’ as everyone kept telling me with all the insider knowledge everything should be incredible. Of course it was to us, but it was by no means perfect or did it run smoothly. The sooner you accept that not everything will go to plan the easier you will be able to relax and loosen the reigns of control..
Right, so where on earth do you start? The ring’s only just on and already people are asking for the date and what colour scheme you are going for so they can buy their new hat and book their time off work and whatnot. Do not let this freak you out! It’s lovely that people are usually so supportive and happy for you but don’t worry if you don’t have the answers to the usual bombardment of questions you are bound to be asked. The time just after you’ve got engaged is a really lovely bubble of happiness, however long you’ve been together, and just enjoy that. Enjoy talking about ideas with your other half and seeing what kind of wedding you want – food, décor, location, weather, guest list… see what you agree on and what you don’t. Its important to remember there’s no rush, people could spend 5 years planning a wedding or 5 months, and both weddings would be equally as special and possibly equally as stressful.
SIT DOWN & CHAT
So my first advice, take some time with your betrothed over a good cuppa and chat about the fundamental important factors (it might have to be close to a certain location, or you might be dead set on a church wedding where your parents got married etc, pin these down and them let the other things fall around it. You can write them in a pretty book, type them up, drawn a diagram or just chat about it.
CRUNCH THE NUMBERS
Once you have any kind of idea what type of wedding you would like to have, think about what kind of wedding you can afford. A lot more couples are funding their celebrations themselves and the cost can add up dramatically. If you don't want to end up taking out a big credit card or racking up an overdraft, look at what you can afford and what you're happy to spend. If you're getting contributions from families budget this in too. Knowing your financial limits might not be the most romantic part of planning the wedding but it can be key in reducing the stress around the wedding. Also think about how long do you want to wait; if you're happy waiting a few years you're bound to have more money, but you may well want to use that money for something else too like buying a house or starting a family. Everyone knows weddings are expensive but if you have no idea about the costings do a little research online to get an idea of what things cost.
PRIORITISE THE BUDGET
Once you know about how much you have to spend, look at what’s important to you and where that money should go. In other words, priorities the most important things to go so you know what you are willing to splash the budget on, and look at what you can minimise the outgoings, or what you can DIY or go without. Later on in this series I'm writing a post about how to plan a budget wedding which gives you tips and advice on everything below on how to reduce your costs on some aspects of the wedding.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
When you look at them all it can seem beyond daunting. Let me be clear and say you don't have to have ALL or ANY of these - a wedding can be legalised in a registry office with two people off the street. Anything extra is fluffy padding which although is wonderful and great fun, is not necessary or always expected for a wedding.
The venue usually comes first because once you have a venue, you have a date and you can start enquiring about availability and pricing for vendors, sending out invites, giving your selves timeframes etc, so tackling that first is usually the best shout.
If you've sat and had your chat about what kind of wedding you want you probably have an idea of what sort of venue you're after too. Scout local areas for venues that might tick those boxes . Visit as many as you like and get a feel for what it could be like to get married there. If you're after something a bit different, or a bit cheaper, look at local places which primary uses aren't wedding venues - pubs, museums, village halls etc as these are bound to be cheaper. You'll be surprised what places have licenses! There are of course some beautiful stately homes, converted barns, churches, and registry offices too. When you're going around think about the space - how much work and set up will it require, can you decorate yourself, and if so do you want to do that, or have it all done for you? Also it's good to have an idea of a guest list number as this will be something to ask to make sure you can fit all your guests in.
The gorgeous Plas Dinam wedding venue in Powys - See Briar & Sam's wedding there on this post!
THE GUEST LIST
This may seem like a daunting task, and thats because it usually is. Start by writing down everyone you would love to have there, and see where you get. A small wedding is roughly 30-50, medium 50-100 and large 100+. The biggest bit of advice I'd give here is just to invite who you want, not who you think you should invite. Stick to your guns and try not to be pressured into having some one you don't want there. This can be really hard if you have financial assistance from family members who might want a say but my advice is its your wedding and try and hold fast. More guests mean more mouths to feed, and also more people for you to spread your time around. We had 120 for the weekend and trust me the more guests the more daunting it is, and seems to make the time goes faster too as you're trying to get round everyone! Evening invites are a great way to still see some people but not to have an over crowded ceremony. The venue will also dictate your guest list to a degree as it'll most likely have a limited capacity. Think about if kids are going to be welcome too - personally I adore kids at weddings but some people prefer an adult only affair. Either way you'll need to let parents know.
If you're after a church ceremony you may well have to attend that church regularly in order to get married there, which you might want to think about if its not local to you. In England the venue has to have a license for you to legally marry there, and you also have to conduct the ceremony "indoors" or with a roof over you. A common way to do things now is you can do the legal ceremony separately so you're not bound with such tight constraints. Personally, I think It’s lovely to stretch it out and celebrate the two bits separately! Read my post about having an unplugged ceremony here.
One of the most expensive things at a wedding... and there are lots of options and ways to do it! If you've booked a dedicated wedding venue they will probably have their own caterers and own menu, or only allow you to use certain people. If you have a more relaxed venue you're more open to do something else entirely - you could get outside caterers to do a buffet, a hog roast, an outdoor BBQ, or even get people to do a bring and share dish. This is a great one for budget friendly weddings!
Keep the flower girls happy with cake and all will be well.
An important one! It is true that good photographers get booked up quickly so if it's a priority for you I'd start your search pretty soon after you've got your venue & date. Take your time choosing someone you love, read their website thoroughly, look at full galleries as well as favourite images. Im doing a full post next week about how to choose a wedding photographer which will be more in depth!
Although quite often over looked, often one of my couples biggest regrets is not getting a video. They can be expensive, and right so as a huge amount of work goes into creating them, but they're worth their weight in gold not just immediately after the wedding but in 50 years time when you're memories of the smaller things have disappeared. There's tons of different styles for videography, I'd ask the venue, your photographer and any friends who they'd recommend to see what style suits you most. Unfortunately your uncle with his hand held video cam will just not be able to do the same job...
INVITES & STDS
Ahh the invites.. The biggest source of contention between me and my dearly beloved during our wedding planning process... We opted for a custom built site to RSVP and hand drawn invites sent out via the post. If you're crafty, think about doing them yourself. The plus side is you only need to get them printed and then posted, which can be fairly cheap, compared to getting a designer to do them for you. Remember to put on all the details (dietary requirements, accommodation options, how to rsvp, WHO is getting married etc). Also double check the date and time at least twice (!) Keep track of who you've sent an invite too, and who's rsvp'ed on a spreadsheet or in a wedding book so you know who to chase when the time inevitably comes!
STDs is the snigger-worthy acronym for Save The Dates, something people send out if theyre getting married in a few years time and want people to book it out far ahead. This could be because it's abroad, far from where their family and friend are based, or if on a popular date (e.g august bank holiday). Likewise if you're getting married on weekday and people will need to take time off work, they can be useful.
For some couples I know they're a top priority in which case find a florist sooner rather than later and get a quote, so you can build it into your budget, as they can run quite a big bill! I wasn't going to have any flowers as I was put off by the cost for something which wilts very quickly, but the amazing Barney & Victoria stepped in and gave me some of their beautiful blooms and I have to say I am SO glad they did. If you're not too fussed about flowers think about other bouquet alternatives (check out my paper roses tutorial on The Vintage Binding Co) including lasting ones like felt roses. If you're having a bridal or groom party think about bouquets and button holes too. There are great Pinterest tutorials on how to make your own bouquet if you'd like to cut costs by making them yourself. Also you can look at homegrown flowers as well, for bouquets and also table decorations.
Look back to your budget for this, was a custom dress or suit in the high priority list? If so check our boutique bridal shops where you'll get a wonderful service and experience, but mostly you're looking at at least £1,000+ for a dress. There are lots of second hand wedding dresses if you're after something more budget friendly, as well as high street brands who are now bringing out their own collections. Also if you're going SUPER budget then have a rummage in relatives attic and charity shops.. you never know what gems you might find. Whatever your budget, pick something you love and that you feel comfortable in! When looking at shoes think that you're going to be in these all day, if you're opting for heels, wear them in so you don't get blisters and definitely get some flats for the evening. Have some wellies on hand if you're planning an outdoor do and want to go exploring so sometimes the dolly shoes or stiletto heels don't quite cut it...
My favourite kind of dress shot is a dress shot with people in it. From Bonnie & Melchior beautiful wedding in Cornwall.
CHOOSING YOUR BESTIES
One mistake I hear about time and time again is picking a bridal party too early, and then regretting it, or ending up with too many groomsmen or bridesmaids. Think about your choices carefully before asking someone. Its usually expected you'll pay for their dress/outfit too. Don't feel like you have to follow tradition with this - have some best boy and girl mates? Have a mixed bridal party! Kate had 'bride folk' at her wedding, and look how cool they look! Choose people who will help you with the planning, and you know will have your back on the day.
Now, what weddings are all about... The booze! Seriously though, you have a good opportunity to go to town with this. You can make and serve a signature drinks (cocktails, pimms, etc) have barrels of your favourite beer, a shot of your favourite spirit at the speeches or even ask everyone to bring a bottle of their own, if you're having a wedding at your own homemade venue.. Make sure there are tasty non alcohol drinks too for the littlies and the non drinkers.
Instead of a bin for their bottles, Laura & Jack needed a skip to dispose of all the empty champagne bottles! That's my kind of wedding..
HAIR & MAKEUP
My advice on this is if you want to go down the professional route - have a trial before hand. If you don't want to get a pro in and fancy doing it yourself don’t feel pressured, it can feel weird wearing a lot of makeup if you're not used to it! Invest in some good brands (an excuse to splurge in Boots on the ‘wedding budget’!) that will last you afterwards. There are great makeup counters that will show you how to apply it properly too. I didn't have a makeup artist as I don't wear much as was convinced anything would feel too heavy, and also that it would all fall off from crying (the ceremony) and sweaty (leaping around dancing). I did have a hairdresser but I opted not to have a trial, and ended up taking my hair out after they'd left and doing it myself as I hated it. In my wedding photos i cam see all the little bobby pins I stuck in myself and it drives me mad!
MUSIC & GAMES
Choose something you’ll enjoy but also think about your guests - if you want a full dance floor go for crowd pleasers, whether that’s a covers band or a funky soul group make sure they have energy. Other options are getting some decent speakers and have an iPod disco, and a popular thing to fill the playlist is asking guests to rsvp with their favourite tracks so someone will love at least one song played! There are also options for other very cool after dinner entertainment - We hired a magician to come and wow our guests who didn't fancy dancing and he went down an absolute storm. Some people love board games, cards, outdoor garden games (which you can rent or cheaply DIY) and fireworks and sparklers are a popular choice too.
A full dance floor is always a good thing! Stella & Ashlee's friends are enjoying themselves at The Station in Bristol. You can see their laid back bristol registry wedding here.
You can spend £20-£2,000 + on wedding rings and it all comes down to how important they are to you, and what your budget is. It's worth bearing in mind you can always upgrade them a year or so later when you're feeling a little better off, its still 100% legal without them too. You can get metal, wood, custom rings, or something totally different and unique to you. There are some great courses where you make them yourself as well!
CAKE, CAKE, CAKE
Long gone are the traditional square fruit cakes with a figures (the male in tails and the female in a meringue DRESS) on top. You can have what you want! Most people are probably secretly relieved they're not asked to wolf down anymore marzipan icing. Cheese cakes are very popular (as in wheels of cheese piled up) donut piles, cup cakes, also great British bake off specials! This is where guests can bring their own dessert and you can set up a table to display them.. variety and a cost saving measure!
You CAN have your cake and eat it! Huzy munching on their delicious sponge at their Asian wedding in Manchester.
THE 'STAG' & 'HENDO'
Personally I hate the outdated names, but they are such a fun part of the wedding planning! You might want to leave it up to your trusty chief bridesmaid or best man, or you might be like me and a total control freak and do it yourself! Think about what you love to do, and work around that. Going abroad is usually going to be more money, and there are some great places in the uk to do a whole range of things whether its an activity, a spa, a rented house for a weekend of partying, an afternoon tea, a bring and share picnic, design it around enjoying yourself with your bestest ones.
DECORATIONS & DIY
Do you love DIYing and spend hours on Pinterest? You'll probably want a venue you can put your own stamp on. Think about what you can do, what you can't and what might actually cost you more to do yourself than to buy. Those little DIY bits on eBay don’t seem much but add them together and you could be looking at hundreds of pounds. Also if you're thinking about taking on a big project, think about the time it's going to take you and if you'll be as enthralled with the idea when you're on your 10th handmade place name. I roped my friends into DIY at my hendo which was a very good way of getting a lot done! I only had to bribe them with prosecco and cake.
aaaaand that's probably enough for now! The main thing is don't feel like you need to conform with traditioanl that you don't agree with or align with your views, and don't worry about people's opinions too much. If you want to keep your bouquet instead of throwing it, walk down the isle by yourself (or with your other half!), keep your name after the wedding, wear a nonwhite wedding dress or untraditional suit, then DO IT.
Next week I'm talking about choosing a wedding photographer - what styles there are, how to go about finding people whose work you love, finding someone to suit your budget and how to choose between two people you love. I've written this as a helpful post written from the perspective of a bride, not a shameful plug for my own business, promise!
I love hearing feedback from couples, other suppliers, or anyone who's read this so please feel free to leave a comment..
Why not take a look at my other blog posts!
Why not take a look at my other blog posts!