The world is currently speculating about details of the next Royal Wedding, after the announcement of the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. Whilst we wait to hear more about their plans, we asked Emily, our Chief of Events, to share her guide to planning a wedding: from yes to dress!
The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding
From the moment you say yes, your head will be full of ideas of how you want your wedding to be and you’ll be addicted to Pinterest (well, I was anyway!). But, it’s important to be realistic too (and remember your other half probably has ideas as well). I’ve put together some advice on how to plan your big day, based on my own experience earlier this year.
The budget is one of the first things you need to decide when planning a wedding. Sticking to it is a different matter, but it’s important to have an idea of the amount you are willing/able spend and what you will be putting it towards.
Take the time to discuss your finances with your other half. Then work out how much you can afford and how much you’ll be able to save. If you think you may be lucky enough to have your parents/other family members contribute to your wedding, then start these conversations sooner rather than later. These can be awkward conversations and hard to bring up, but it saves a lot of worry and panic closer to the time when it comes to paying the balances to your suppliers.
Tip – You’ll need to pay a deposit to most of the suppliers you book. It may seem like you are spending a lot of money at the very beginning of the process but it will settle down, giving you more time to save before having to pay the deposits. Make sure you keep a note of all the dates your deposits are due, so there are no nasty surprises!
This is debatable, but I would say the guest list is the next part of the planning process. You probably already have an idea of who has and hasn’t made the cut! All venues will have a certain maximum capacity, so it’s worth having an idea of the number of guests you are expecting before researching venues and arranging visits.
My husband and I always knew we wanted a “small” wedding and although we still had over 80 guests to the day, we kept the guest list to our immediate family and closest friends. However, there was still that age-old discussion around plus ones and work colleagues. Should you keep the guest list to just those you both know? Do you invite your friend’s boyfriend you’ve never met? Do you invite that family member you never see? These are all things for you both to consider and agree on when putting together the guest list.
For us, our invite rule was that we must have known them before we got engaged (unless it was a new baby in the family, of course!).
You may also need to consider if your parents would like to invite any friends, especially if they are contributing towards the cost of your big day.
Tip – Evening guests tend to be cheaper so if you can’t afford to have everyone to the day, perhaps there is room for them in the evening.
This is the fun part, going around to loads of different venues or, if you already know where you’d like to get married, looking at the venue as your wedding venue.
There are lots of things to consider when starting your venue search, such as the type of venue, the location, whether you’d like on-site accommodation, the capacity and suppliers. You may find that some venues have a set number of caterers to choose from (ours did) or a preferred list of suppliers they’d like you to use. Or, you may decide to get married abroad!
We spent a couple of months looking online making a note of the capacity, cost, location and distance relatives would have to travel before narrowing it down to the three we wanted to visit. In the end, we went for one which we’d originally disregarded (due to other family members getting married there) but, every wedding is different, make it your own.
Tip – We had a Civil Ceremony so needed to ensure the registrar was also free on the day we wanted to book with the venue. Your venue should be able to put you in touch with the registrars, but it’s worth asking the venue and checking one is available before paying your deposit! You won’t need to worry about this if you are getting married in a Church.
As mentioned before, your venue may have a list of preferred suppliers that you will need to use. Most will have a list of recommended suppliers which is a great starting point when researching suppliers for your wedding. We found both our florist and our DJ through our venues recommended supplier list.
When thinking about your suppliers, make sure you consider what you want from your wedding and how important all the individual aspects are. For example, if flowers aren’t your thing you may want to save money here and if photographs are really important to you, you may want to spend a bit more and take the time to meet with lots of different photographers – they will all have their own individual style so it’s important to make sure you’ll end up with photos you’ll love.
Tip – Keep in contact with your suppliers, especially as the big day draws closer. You’ll need to make sure they all know what they need to do to ensure you have the best day.
If you’re anything like me, you would have spent hours in front of the TV watching ‘Yes to the Dress’, looking in the shop windows as you drive past and searching through hundreds of websites.
Choosing your dress will be one of the most exciting, emotional and personal parts of organising your wedding. Take the time to try on as many as you like to find the dress for you. I’d recommend going for styles you wouldn’t normally consider. You might be surprised. I never believed people when they said ‘you just know’ but believe me, you do!
Once you have sorted your dress, it’s time to sort dress your Bridesmaids.
Tip – Don’t underestimate how long it can take to order your dress – mine took seven months so don’t leave it too late! You can order dresses closer to the day but choices may be limited, and there is a cost for express delivery.
Choosing your bridal party will probably be one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make when planning your wedding. I know it was for me! You don’t want to upset anybody and, unfortunately, you can’t afford to have everyone you want (or maybe you can, in which case, fantastic!)
Whoever you choose, you need to be able to trust them and rely on them. Bridesmaids will be your saviours! They help with all the ‘wedmin’, they are at the end of the phone day and night and they will always keep you smiling, and that is SO important! You need to choose bridesmaids you can be honest with – they will be a huge part of your planning and the day. Don’t ask anyone you think may cause you stress or upset – there’s already a lot going on!
Tip – Bridesmaid dresses do not usually take as long as Bride dresses (mine took four months) but it is worth getting appointments booked in as soon possible after you’ve sorted your dress. Also, more and more high-street shops are selling bridesmaid dresses and have great options. Why not search on the high-street to help keep costs down?
Asking for presents can be awkward! You don’t want your guests to feel like they have to buy you anything and, for most of us, the most important thing is that your loved ones are there to share your day. But, guests do want to give the happy couple something to help them remember their day so setting up a Gift List can be a big help!
You may want to consider setting up your Gift List before sending out your invitations so you can include all the relevant information. Some Gift Lists will only let you add items to your list a few months before the big day to avoid any changes to the product range, but you can still set a list up before-hand ready for your invites.
Tip – Add a large range of items to your lists allowing for all budget types and put some fun stuff on there too! It doesn’t need to all be crockery and bedding.
Invitations can be as simple or as extravagant as you want them to be. They give you a chance to show off your creative side if that’s your sort of thing. If not, there are plenty of options available online to buy – but do your research. You might find you are inspired by lots of different invite ideas and that it’s cheaper for you to get the bridesmaids and in-laws-to-be round (like I did!) and make them yourselves.
Don’t forget to include all the important information – the date, the venue, the time, a date and address to respond to and, of course, your names. If your caterer allows you to offer guests a choice for the wedding breakfast, make sure you include this too. Give your guests plenty of time to reply – you may find the date you RSVPs by depends largely on when you need to confirm final figures with the venue so give yourself time to chase any late replies too.
Tip – You don’t need an invite for every person on your guest list! Make sure you time the time to work our exactly how many invites you need before placing an order.
Taking out wedding insurance didn’t even cross my mind to start with, but it’s really important to make sure your wedding is covered. Weddings are expensive, and everything soon adds up. While you don’t want to think about what might go wrong with your wedding, it’s worth being prepared.
Most wedding insurance policies cover suppliers letting you down, the venue cancelling and loss or damage to the rings/dress. Make sure you read the policies carefully you ensure you are covered for everything you need.
Tip – Use comparison sites to make sure you get the best deal and policy for you
Hire a Planner ?
If event organisation isn’t your thing or you just need a helping hand – get in touch! Here at The Assistant Quarters, we’ve all been there and done that. We can happily recommend suppliers in Surrey and the South East, helping to take some of the stress out of your planning.
It’s your day
For me, I loved the whole process! From getting engaged on New Year’s Eve 2015, to getting married 16 months later in April 2017. Pinterest boards, venue hunting and dress shopping, I loved it all!
However, I know it’s not the same for everyone. It’s important to remember it’s YOUR day! The most important thing is that you and your other half are happy and it’s the day you dreamt of. Everyone will have their own opinions and ideas of how your wedding should be, but this is your day, make it yours!