So you’ve got engaged – congratulations! But how do you even begin to plan a wedding?! If you’re completely lost and don’t know where to begin, or if you just need some inspiration, this is the blog post for you!
Before we get started!
Yes, this is a rather long list! Don’t let that put you off! I’ve tried to cover a range of common items that should apply to most weddings. I wrote this article with the idea of it being a recurring point of reference. Feel free to bookmark it and keep returning for each step!
First things first – Budget!
Let’s be frank. Although weddings can be done for small amounts of money, most people’s weddings require a significant budget. Start by making a list (or better yet a spreadsheet) of everything you think you need – see the headers below for inspiration. Being organised from the start will help in the future, and it’s really important to keep track of what you’re spending. Be prepared to be flexible within this plan, and if you’re on a tight budget, call in favours from family and friends!
I’ll be honest, this part is easier if you have a smaller family! Your guest list affects your venue substantially, as catering can be expensive, and you need to make sure your venue can legally hold everyone you invite. My only advice here is to write your guest list early on, and move past it to the easier and nicer parts of planning a wedding!
A wedding planner
Depending on your budget, you may be able to afford a wedding planner. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic event planners, and they can be incredibly helpful in two ways. Working with a planner from the very start can take a lot of the weight from your shoulders. They are not only incredibly organised, but also usually very well connected, and can recommend other wedding suppliers they have personally worked with.
Additionally, many wedding planners also specialise in event management and as venue stylists. If you want your wedding to look Pinterest beautiful, and want somebody around on your wedding day to make sure everything goes to plan, then these guys are worth their weight in gold!
Venue & date
These two go hand in hand! You have two requirements to balance – your dream venue versus your dream wedding date. You may only care about one of these things, in which case this will be slightly easier! But I’m guessing the majority of you have a venue and a date in mind. This is why these are top of the list. The best venues can get booked up years in advance, so it should be the first thing you do, to avoid disappointment.
Couples are truly spoiled for choice with beautiful venues in the UK. We have everything from country hotels, to renovated industrial buildings and rustic barns (I could write a huge list, but I won’t bore you!). Make a shortlist of suitable venues, then arrange to visit them. Ask lot’s of questions – particularly about catering packages, drinks and added extras. Another important point – do you want a venue that includes accommodation as well, or do you also need to book a nearby hotel/B&B?
When considering the time of year: venue availability, temperature/weather and daylight are the main variables. Venues are more likely to be busy between the end of Spring and the start of Autumn, with Christmas and New Year also being popular. Although planning a summer wedding is no guarantee that you won’t get rain, you are likelier to have warmer weather. And finally, daylight completely affects your schedule and your photography. If you want a full day of events, and naturally-lit images, then I would advise planning a wedding when the days are longer.
I’m totally not biased here… But I genuinely believe that a photographer should be very high on your list of wedding priorities. Your wedding photos are one of the few things that are left after your wedding day, capturing all of the memories and little details. Not only this, but good photographers tend to be booked up well in advance! Putting budget aside for a minute, you need to love the images your photographer has taken at previous weddings. Look at their gallery, ask to see a full wedding gallery that they’ve delivered, and ask questions about their style.
Find out what they’re like! It’s so important that you and your photographer are on the same wavelength. You’ll be spending a lot of time with them on your wedding day, so it’s so important that you click! So talk to them – call them, meet up for a coffee, and just get to know them!
If you’re still looking for a wedding photographer, I offer a luxury service with added extras, and beautiful, natural and relaxed images. If this sounds like the kind of wedding photographer you would like, why not take a look at my gallery, and contact me to see if i’m available on your date!
A side note – most photographers will happily answer questions about their equipment! But please ignore any advice that suggests a wedding photographer is only as good as the brand of camera they use. If you like them and their work, then hire them! I guarantee, the equipment they use will be the last thing on your mind on your wedding day!
The Wedding Dress(es)
Ok ladies, this is the big one. Forget everything else, we all know having the perfect dress is really what matters (not forgetting marrying the love of your life of course!). Again, you will find wedding dress suppliers at wedding fairs, but for the ‘proper’ experience, it’s worth visiting a boutique with family, friends, or even your partner! Don’t be afraid to break tradition if you really value your partners opinion, or if you’re both buying dresses! Just make sure to pick out your dress with enough spare time to get any alterations made!
Suits and Dresses
If you or your other half is wearing a suit for the big day, there are an increasing amount of options for getting a reasonably priced but still very stylish suit, without necessarily sticking to department stores. If like me, you’re a supporter of local businesses, it’s definitely worth checking out suit suppliers in your local area!
Once you’ve arranged your and your partner’s clothes, it’s time to focus on the maid of honour, bridesmaids, flower girls, best men, groomsmen/ushers, page boys, and (finally!) parents of the couple. Organising these to fit in with a theme, colour scheme and your clothes can be a logistical challange, so give yourself plenty of time!
Once you have your dress or suit, and you have picked out a colour scheme, start to consider your accessories. Picking out your accessories is one of the less urgent tasks, but it might relieve some stress to get them organised sooner! Of course the main accessories are the rings, but also consider the following: headwear (tiaras, headpieces, flower crowns, veils), earings, necklace, bracelets, shoes, garter, bag and underwear. And for the gentleman, it’s worth thinking about a tie, pocket square, cufflinks and pocket/wrist watch.
Plus if you want to stick to tradition, don’t forget to include something new, old, borrowed and blue!
Hair & Makeup
Another set of suppliers that are a crucial part of your wedding day. Like the photographer and caterers, they are actually there on your wedding day, so it’s important that you get on with them! They will be there to chat to you in the morning, to try and take away any last minute nerves (as well as making you look extra beautiful of course!). Recommendations and trials are hugely important for your hair stylist and makeup artist, so ask around! Look at reviews on their Facebook page, and try to look at lots of photos of their work. Some other considerations are ethical ones, such as do they use vegan and/or cruelty free products.
One of my favourite things to photograph at weddings! And an important part of proceedings, as you will likely want bouquets, buttonholes/corsages and table centerpieces. Although some photographers (such as myself!) put a lot of effort into getting good photos of the flowers, you can’t beat seeing them in person. So I would definitely recommend going to a wedding fair, or meeting the florist in person to see some of their arrangements.
Your flowers are a key part of your colour scheme, so you should have a good idea of this before you speak to a florist, and also give some thought to a few types of flowers/foliage that you really like, as this gives the florist a good place to start!
Often overlooked, a good calligrapher can create beautiful Save the Date cards, invitations, seating plans, banners, table numbers and menus – that all match a specific theme. These coordinated items can give your wedding an extra-luxurious appearance, with real attention to detail.
If I’m perfectly honest, I put a lot of importance on wedding cake, but then again I do love my cake! A great place to meet your cake supplier is at a wedding fair, because they usually have free samples, and you can see example cakes! Instagram and Pinterest are brilliant places to find inspiration for your wedding cake, but if you’re still not sure, arrange a consultation with some local cake suppliers and see what they suggest!
Decorations & Catering
Depending on your choice of venue, your catering and the decorations may already be organised for you! On the other hand, if you’re working with a blank canvas, this part can be especially daunting!
I’ve been to weddings where the couple, their family and their friends have decorated the venue the day before, and even done their own catering. The food was delicious, and the decorations were rustic and beautiful! But it took a lot of time and coordination, which shouldn’t be underestimated. Although this is an excellent money saving trick!
If your budget allows, this is where an event planner/venue dresser is invaluable! If you’re decorating your own venue, try joining wedding groups on Facebook, looking on Facebook Marketplace and auction sites, and going to Car Boot sales to pick up decorations for a fraction of the price!
For your food, think about the style of your wedding. What would be a better fit – a sit-down three course meal, or a buffet? Maybe street food is more your style – how about fresh pizza, a hog roast, or fajitas?! Check out local food festivals to get some ideas and meet potential caterers. This is where you need to know guest numbers, and also the length of your celebrations. Do you need to cover more than one meal?
And of course, the majority of your guests will want a drink to celebrate, so what are your options? If you decide to bring your own drinks, find out if your chosen venue charges corkage per bottle of wine, which can actually end up being quite expensive. Many venues have their own bar where you guests can buy their own drinks – which lightens the cost a bit! Alternatively, if your venue doesn’t have a bar, you can hire a portable bar, sometimes in a converted VW van or horse trailer, which are a nice addition to any wedding!
I’m lucky to have received some excellent wedding favours! It’s a lovely way to say thank you to your wedding guests. My personal favourites are homemade items, like shortbread, tiny bottles of fruity gin, and fudge! There are companies that make favours too, like lovely little wildfower seed packs.
There are some incredibly talented videographers, who can produce a beautiful cinematic video that tells your love story in the most perfect way. My advice for picking a videographer is exactly the same as for picking a photographer! One little note, is if you hire both a photographer and a videographer, put them in contact with each other, so that they can begin to coordinate and discuss working together.
If you’re not staying at your venue, how are people going to get to your wedding? There’s more options than the traditional wedding car with a bow on (if that’s not your style!). Instead, why not travel in a fancy saloon or sports car, and if you need to transport your guests, why not hire a vintage double-decker bus?
That’s it folks!
This is by no means a conclusive list, but hopefully this gives you a good place from which you can start planning your wedding!