Upon getting engaged last August, my head was buzzing full of ideas and the blissful months ahead that we would spend planning the most special day of our lives. Four months have passed since we got married and having had time to reflect on the nine months where we were literally living and breathing planning of our dream day, I now know that the reality of planning such an important day can be extremely overwhelming. And so in the hope that I may in some small way be able to help others plan their own wedding, I have complied a list in which I will impart some of my own wedding wisdom.
After you and your fiance have had time to sit down and discuss what’s important to each of you in terms of the type of ceremony you both want, the size, possible locations etc. hopefully coming to a conclusion on what you both envisage your perfect day to look like, the next thing you need to consider is….
The Wedding Budget
Not many people know this about me but many moons ago, before I ended up in the profession of HR, I did a course in wedding planning. This knowledge gave me a good foundation when it came to plan our own, especially related to the mounting costs of a wedding. Back when I did the course the average wedding cost was £15,000, as you can imagine over the years this figure has increased considerably. According to Hitched a survey conducted concluded that the average wedding in 2019 cost £31,974. Therefore, regardless if you are having a small and intimate wedding or a big event, the most important thing to consider is your budget, and setting yourself a realistic one.
You may have family members who would like to support, if this is the case establish early on what they are comfortable contributing.
As much as I hated coming home from work to Chris (well not literally coming home to him, I don’t think I should have been marrying him if this was the case)! As a Project Manager by profession and a very good one at that, it was Chris who was delegated the duty of wedding budget management, he would often suggest after a long day in the office that we needed to sit down and look at the budget sheet. Should Chris not have taken control of the budget we would be in mass debt right now as I only know how to spend money! And in mass debt was not the way we wanted to start our married life together. No wedding is worth putting yourself in debt for years to come.
Our wedding budget sheet was originally given to us by a friend, and as Chris LOVES a excel spreadsheet he could not help himself and adapted it to suit our needs. This budget sheet really helped to keep us on track and I would highly recommend using one. This is the one we used.
Now that you have established you budget it’s time for the fun part, and a chance to show off your creativity and incorporate both of your personalities in to your day to represent who you are as a couple.
If you are a visual planner like me, why not create a vision board or two! I used Pinterest for my vision boards, I created quite a few one was around a spring time wedding, then there was one for the cake, hair & makeup, flowers and bridesmaids. I used my vision boards to refer to when I was meeting with our suppliers to explain ideas and this proved to be helpful.
There are so many excellent websites out there full of wedding inspiration and recommended suppliers etc. the two main ones I spent hours trawling through were whimsical wonderland weddings and Rock my Wedding. Whimsical Wonderland Weddings had some great free wedding planning templates to download too.
Must Haves and Nice to Haves
Make a list of all your must haves in order of priority, and then any niceties which can be reviewed and added in later down the line if the budget allows.
Organisation is KEY! You will need to keep many different plates spinning if you are planning your own wedding, and will need to keep track of everything. One of my bridesmaids very early on gave me a wedding organiser, (linked here) I used this daily and it came to every supplier meeting with me. It had useful checklists and plenty of pages to make notes, it even had pockets to keep samples and plans etc. I gave a matching one to my MOH (linked here).
As well as having a soft copy file for all wedding related correspondence, be it supplier or guest related. Ensure that you have this backed up in hard copy too. We lost one of our important soft copies and it caused chaos!
From the day of our engagement I downloaded and religiously used the Hitched App, this app had checklists and gave prompts along the way at different stages, pre and post wedding day.
You may wish to send save the date cards before you send out any invites, we chose not to as see we see the majority of our friends and family regularly. Either way your save the dates and invites will help to set the tone and expectations to your guests for the day, as such I felt it important to get these perfect. I wanted our wedding to be relaxed and personal and I believe that our invites conveyed this message perfectly.
Chris and I have been together for 6 years and lived together for four of those years, therefore we were well set up in terms of our life together. As such if our guests wanted to gift us anything we suggested donations towards our honeymoon. There are many websites out there such as honeyfund that you can register with if you decide to go down this route.
Selecting the Wedding Party
Choose who will stand by you on the day wisely as you will come to rely on them heavily both before and on the day. Don’t chose people to keep others happy or because you think it is the right thing to do. Make sure everyone knows upfront your expectations and if someone does not live up to them or offer you the support, emotionally or otherwise that you need, talk to them and reiterate what you require of them to check that they are able to give you their time and support. If they are not able to meet your needs have a discussion with them and should you feel that they are not able to support your needs, don’t be afraid to downgrade them. Just make sure this is done early on before there is a cost attached. I know it sounds harsh but being asked to be part of a wedding party is a huge honour or at least I feel it should be, it’s not just about turning up in a nice suit or pretty dress on the day.
Gain Advice from Married Friends
I spent much time with my married bridesmaid Jill from watching her wedding film to going over her wedding day itinerary to finding out what worked well on the day in terms of timings, i.e. would guests get hungry if we served the food at such and such a time etc. what was the best time to cut the cake, have the first dance and have the speeches. Jill’s advice and support was priceless.
The Guest List
We were on the whole very strict on our guest list, we only wanted people with us who we knew had a place in our future together and whom we both knew. Despite what we wanted, we did spend many hours bickering about a particular guest trying to please others while putting our own feelings aside even though it made us feel uncomfortable. In the end we compromised but regret not standing our ground to this day. Please don’t allow yourself to be influenced on your guest list choices, it’s your wedding and your day to celebrate with your chosen guests.
I never wanted any of our guests to feel anything but comfortable with whom they were sat next to for the wedding breakfast, as I know how awkward I myself have felt in the past at weddings.
Once the top table for ten was sorted (my parents are divorced), sitting the rest of our family and our friends was the easy and fun part. The choices we made have resulted in new friendships forming which was exactly what we had hoped for. We put people together who we knew would get along well or who we knew already like each other. To help you plan your own table plan there are many sites that can help you build one online like this one.
We were extremely lucky on this front and we loved working with all of our suppliers. We made a list of all the suppliers we would need from Tipi’s to Toilets and then went out to get no more than three comparison quotes for all the ones we most liked the look of. We spoke to all personally or where able to, in person to see who we got the best feel from before we made our final selection. Most suppliers will issue contracts however some suppliers may not, in this case make sure you push for one as the only one we did not do this for we were let down by.
I love fresh flowers, and this was one area I was not prepared to economise on, apart from at the church as we would only be there a short while and as such we went minimalistic. To get the most out of our ceremony flowers both visually and monetary wise we reused these back at the reception. Another area we saved on was by having the pew end flowers diagonally and every other pew. Additionally, the bridesmaid bouquets were popped in jars and displayed back at the reception on the top table, where they could pick them up for any photos as they pleased.
Make sure your photographer knows the shots that are not to be missed and provide a list of these ahead of the day. One thing we requested was that we wanted to receive all of the photos, not just the photographer’s selection. Obviously, everyone has their own tastes and what your photographer considers a lovely photo might not meet your own expectations so by having all the photos you get to cherry pick your favourites.
I personally prefer live bands, and this is what we opted for. In fact, we had two, an acoustic band called Wildlight Duo in the afternoon and a band called Rockit in the evening who kept the dance floor full until the early hours.
We booked both bands via Functional Central and were able to listen to some demos prior to booking which was helpful. We also had a DJ set which came as part of the package and would run between sets. Functional Central also have DJ’s you can book if this is more your style.
Whoever you choose to do your hair and makeup, have a couple of trials before the big day. The first I had, I hated not because it was horrible it was very well done actually, but as someone who wears very little makeup I did not recognise myself in the mirror and I wanted to feel like myself as well as for Chris to recognise the person standing at the alter with him! This made me realise that I wanted to have the makeup toned down and I loved the end result.
For any Sussex/Surrey brides I can highly recommend Charlotte not only is Charlotte talented, but listens to your requirements and on the day has a very calming effect.
Be sure on the day to leave yourself much longer than you think you need to get ready to save any rushing.
By this point you will already know where both yours and your fiances strengths are and how they complement each other, make sure you share tasks according to each other’s strengths, and talk though ideas and challenges to help lessen the load. Chris flew through his list of delegated tasks and started picking up mine when he knew I was behind. Team work makes dreams work as they say.
Create a Wedding Day Itinerary
Once finalised share this with your entire wedding party so that all know timings and can keep things on track throughout the day. When delegating on the day tasks do so according to abilities and time available. For example, don’t have a shy retiring type make announcements. As much as you can plan and prepare be prepared that not everything on the day will run to plan no matter how hard you try, there will be things that come up and knock all the best laid plans off track. But by having a plan in place it will help to alleviate some hiccups.
A month before the wedding make sure to confirm set up times etc. with vendors and share vendor details with those that need to work together, for example so that the florist can talk to the cake baker to come to arrangements about displaying the cake.
Schedule in some Wedding Planning Time off
This so important, especially as the big day gets closer. Take time out with your fiance to appreciate each other where you do not have to think about anything wedding related. We booked a Romantic getaway and said that during this time we would not discuss anything wedding related for 24 hours. Even if it’s the occasional evening or Sunday afternoon, this non-wedding time will be invaluable to you as a couple.
Planning a wedding should be a magical experience, so do your upmost to enjoy the process. Remember to step back occasionally and remind yourself who your wedding is about – you and your fiance. There is an element of people pleasing but don’t allow this to take over the day. And if things do not run to time or something was missed, remember that your guests will be none the wiser, the only people who will know will be you and your fiance. There will be things that go wrong or a drama or two, (I am now able to giggle over ours, they were memorable to say the least)! In the end if everyone leaves in one piece and you have fun it doesn’t matter. I hope my wedding wisdom has given you some ideas or helped a little in some way.
If you want to see how our wedding turned out you can watch our wedding film here.
Any questions please leave a comment below.
Love Emma x
A thoughtful and detailed summary f advice;although I must say, having been married for forty-two years, an extra wedding is something I hope not to have to repeat. All the best to both you and Chris, and it comes across in your account how important it is to compromise and agree as much as you can not only for the wedding, but also the marriage therafter! All the best to you both – have a long and happy union,Bless you both! Stephanie and Richard and the Demolition Team!
Thank you Stephanie. Love the reference to the Demolition team! Hehe xx