So you're engaged?! Congrats! Let the wedding planning commence..
But just where do you start?!
Planning a wedding can be both extremely exciting and somewhat daunting - we get it, we've been there too. With so many badass suppliers out there it can be really difficult to know how and when to whittle down the ones of your dreams, and all of a sudden you feel yourself overwhelmed with it all.
It's a well known fact that planning a wedding can be a little stressful - heck, it sits in the top 10 most stressful things you can do in your life. But that doesn't mean it can't be fun. Let us help you with that - here's some tips on how to plan your special day like an absolute pro and leave the stress behind.
How do you want your day to feel? What do you want it to look like? What season do you love the most? Inside or out? Colours? Formal or more of a casual approach? Church or country house? How many guests? There are so many decisions to be made in this process, but nail the bigger picture vision before you start anything. The nitty gritty detail can come at a much later date.
After taking time to daydream about the day you say "I Do", the next step is to agree on your budget - and stick to it. This is probably the most boring step of the whole process, but equally it is one of the most important ones you have to do.
Yes, weddings can be expensive, but that doesn't mean they actually have to cost the earth. We have captured some gorgeous DIY weddings that have taken place in village halls which are just as magical as the big manor house spectacle. We've had weddings where family and friends have gifted their various skills (from making bunting and various other decorations, to cake baking and even flower arrangements) to turn dream visions into reality, which is so very personal to the couple - plus it can be fun finding out the hidden talents of your guests!
The next step is to consider possible dates - are you wanting a weekday wedding or a peak day Saturday. You do not need to set the exact date at this point, but having an idea of the month/season you would like the knot to be tied is a great guide for when you start looking at venues.
Remember that weekend and peak season (May-Oct) weddings tend to be pricier (and booked up further in advance) than if you were to opt for a weekday or off season date.
Hooray! It's finally time to book your very first vendor. Finding your venue can sometimes feel like finding a diamond in the rough. There are literally thousands out there, all of which are as beautiful as the next.
So flash yourself back to the vision you had during step one. That is your starting point. Whether that was a church, country house, hotel, beach or woodland - this is what will help you narrow down your search for the venues you want to view.
The biggest impact on your wedding day budget is likely to be the venue. But it is also the backdrop to almost every photo and memory that you will take away from that day. You want to find a place that you will fall in love with over and over again. It's also worth mentioning here that you need to consider your guestlist again at this point - you need your venue to be able to accommodate the number of people you want to invite for your special day.
Once you have chosen your venue and date and a provisional booking is in place, you will then need to contact the registrars - this is for the legal part of your marriage. Once the registrar has been booked, you can then go back to your venue to confirm the details.
Just like venues, suppliers can get booked up 1-2 years in advance (especially for sought after peak season dates). If there is a certain photographer whose work you adore, or a band that you can't bear to be without during your reception, now is the time to act - and act fast. Whilst there isn't exactly an order to booking your major suppliers, we recommend starting with your photographer first. Once your wedding day is over, it is the memories and photographs that will last - and eventually your memories will be replaced by the photographs. It is important you hire someone you can trust (we have written a post about choosing your wedding photographer here).
Florists, caterers (including cake maker), videographers, hair/make-up, transport and entertainment are your other biggies to book at this point. (And always make sure you read through their contracts carefully too).
We've heard of many a horror stories of couples who haven't insured their wedding plans only for things to go wrong and they end up seriously out of pocket. No matter how careful you are, situations can arise unexpectedly, so we highly recommend that you look into insurance for your own peace of mind. Yes, it is an added expense, but trust us, it really is worth it.
You will probably have an idea of who you are wanting in your wedding party (if anyone), but now is the time to let them know! Whilst having a wedding party isn't necessary, many couples want to be surrounded by bridesmaids/groomsmen as they celebrate this part of their love story and now is the time to propose to your nearest and dearest!
This is one of, if not the, most exciting part of the planning process. It's dress and suit time! To make things that little bit more streamlined, have a look and save some ideas that you like before heading to the boutiques/shops (although having said that, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted before trying on dresses and ended coming out with the complete opposite!). Some dresses can be bought right off the rack, however for the most part they are a special order and can take months to come in (plus alterations will likely need to be made). We recommend looking at bridal dresses 10-18 months beforehand, and bridesmaid outfits 6 months before.
Although wedding invites don't need to be sent out until six to eight weeks before your special day, it is advisable to send out save the date cards a good few months before. This gives people ample time to make any necessary arrangements and ensure they keep that day free in their busy calendars. And your wedding stationary doesn't just stop at save the dates and invitations - think about whether you want menus, place names, table settings and things like your order of service to tie in consistently together.
Don't forget your wedding bands! Shop for these around 2-3 months before your day as sometimes your size or metal of choice needs to be ordered in. You will also want to have enough time to find a ring that nicely compliments the engagement ring and to find your style. There are plenty of options out there, and they don't have to match or even be the same metals - the most important thing is that you're happy with them as you will be wearing them on a daily basis.
Once they are in, agree who is going to be in charge of making sure they are remembered on your wedding day.
Ensure your day runs as smoothly and seamlessly as possible and map out the timings of your day - even down to the time you will wake up, when you will have hair/make-up done, what time you will leave for the ceremony etc. Try to stick to these timings, but also don't get too caught up on it if you fall a little behind.
Let's nail those little details which make your day YOURS. The music you walk down the aisle to. The song you will dance your first dance to. Your wedding favours. Light up letters, cake topper, chair covers. Decor accents, guestbook, ceremony backdrop. Flip flops, blankets, toiletries. The list could be unlimited.
Even if you have decided to do your own hair or make-up on the day, always make sure you have a practice run at least a few weeks beforehand. This gives you a chance to really knuckle down the look you are going for. Save some ideas you like to take to your chosen artist and give them a go.
Also get yourself into a good skincare routine well before your big day. Think about whether you want a pre-wedding pamper or your nails done and get those booked in too. Spare a thought for things like tan lines, bra strap indentations and sock marks - avoid wearing items which might leave a noticeable impression when you're wearing your dream dress.
If stag and hen dos are your thing, then it will soon be time to buckle up and celebrate with your loved ones! This might be something you choose to plan yourself, alternatively your respective wedding parties might hold the reins on this one - either way, it's time to start thinking about the same and also booking your honeymoon/mini-moon.
It's wedding time baby!
Bonus tip: If wedding planning still makes you want to crawl back under the duvet and not come out until it's over; hire a planner!