How To Plan a Wedding
Eeeeek, the festive period has just passed, you’ve got a new bit of bling on your ring finger, learning your new title of fiance, and January has started with a to-do-list to get your nuptials sorted! Are you in Camp Overwhelmed or Camp I’ve-been-planning-this-since-I-was-seven??!! If it’s the latter… High five to you, let’s chat more, you can give me tips. If it’s the former, I bet the first thing you did was google, “how to plan a wedding”?!
Firstly! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!! This is wonderful news!! Just take a moment to bask in that glow!
Although planning a wedding is a big deal, don’t forget that this period of being engaged is also a pretty special time in your life too, one that’s not usually repeated. It’s like that liminal space between dating/being a couple to the actually formalities of legally being bound to your chosen life partner forever. And there’s a whole lot of planning that happens in that liminal space. Buying a house, having children and planning a wedding are up there on the list of the most stressful things you can do as a couple.
Let me help you break it down. I’m going to try to work on this chronologically in the ideal to-do order. I’m not going to tell you how long this should take, some people have a short engagement of weeks and months, some go years and years… it all depends on your budget, timeframe, availability of your must have factors and how focused your organisation can be.
1: Post on the ‘gram / wedding email
If it isn’t on social media, it’s not real!!
Haha!! Just kidding, this has nothing to do with how to plan a wedding!! Socials aren’t for all, but if you’re gonna pop your bling on display, it’s a great excuse for a trip to the salon for a manicure LOL
This well organised groom-to-be knew he was going to propose on a certain day, so booked me for a quick shoot on that day to make sure their announcement was ready to go in picture form!
In all seriousness though, instagram aside… to avoid an inbox of doom and lost threads of emails, set up a wedding email address so when you start planning, all your supplier correspondence is filtered to that account. This is simple enough to do with any mail provider (gmail/hotmail/yahoo etc) and you can both set it up on your devices to share the wedmin load!
2: Set a budget
You may have been saving for this very moment. Planning to budget on the go. Or even have family who would like to support you and contribute to your wedding day.
Whichever way the money ends up in your pocket, try to discuss and decide between you what services you value the most. Is it all about the epic party? The album that will be looked at forever? Or is it all about that dress?
When you start looking at quotes, you’ll probably realise that everything costs far more than you anticipated. Expect the assigned budgets for different services to have wiggle room as you move funds from one service budget to another. You don’t want to be spending more than you value on flowers if your priority was actually the rings which you end up compromising on.
3: Nail in your date and venue
This is going to be the deciding factor that will determine how the rest of your planning is structured and within what time frame. Without an official date, no other suppliers can be booked that require one (think caterers, photographers, videographers, entertainment, registrars, outfit hire, transport etc)
You may have your ideal season or venue already in mind, so scheduling in some viewings is a great place to start. Don’t forget the added bonus of google images. If you’re viewing in January for a summer wedding, the venue will look different, so be sure to also use their portfolio and the internet to get an idea what the venue looks like in your preferred season.
Use wedding fairs as a tool to look around venues. These usually occur throughout the year and have a host of other suppliers to get your inspiration going. They’re also a great place to go later down the line if you’re just after those final services to finish off your plans (or a glass of bubbles and a taste of free cake!!).
Once you’ve booked your venue, do check what’s included (a planner/designated coordinator on the day/catering/registrar organised/PA system etc). You may find the services provided within your venue may well help you with how to plan a wedding.
If the venue booking seems overwhelming as a place to start, I’ve written a more detailed blog about that here: How to choose your wedding venue
Once you’ve got your venue you can start to finalise your guest list with the knowledge of your venue’s capacity. Depending on your plans and whether your ceremony is in a different location to the reception you may need to segment this into ceremony/reception/evening party
4: Start booking vendors
Vendors and suppliers may be limited to how many bookings can be taken on a single day. Us photographers, for example, can only be at one wedding a day so dates can book up well in advance. Others suppliers, like entertainment agencies, may have a number of options on their books but once those options are booked, they’re booked.
To avoid disappointment, I would consider now the time to book the following services:
- caterers (if not already provided)
- registrar/celebrant (if not included)
- hair & make-up-artist
Looking at these services comes with its own level of research and preference. It’s down to you to work out what your wants and needs are in these areas, as well as your budget and priority value. I would say, however, that research, looking at reviews and evidence of their work is pretty key! Also chatting with those suppliers is important to get a feel for how you’ll get along. If you can’t stand to be in the same room as you’re hair & MUA, yet you love their work, that discomfort may set the tone early on in your day (FYI this does not apply to the lovely Toni Todd featured below!)
I plan to do more detailed blogs on these services in the future, but for now I have a regular Monday Mini-Blog up on my Insta with tips on how to choose your wedding photographer, go check it out here!
5: Start scouting for your wedding dress / suit
You may be thinking “whaaaaaa??!! Already??” but yes, already. Many bridal shops are now appointment only, which means scheduling slots into your weeks and spare time to start looking at gowns. If you’re lucky enough to find the perfect dress off the peg with minimal alterations, you’re winning. Many are made to order, or come with a generic structure that will still require bespoke alterations and adjustments. I have a more detailed guide into choosing your wedding dress here.
The same goes for suits, if a hire company is required, it may still need booking in to ensure all the members of the party are catered for with the right sizes for the right day. If the suit is going to be tailored to fit, time needs to be allowed for this to happen (as well as the fitting and measuring appointments.
And don’t get me started if you’re planning radical health regimes in the lead up to your wedding!! Making sure you allow enough changes for adjustments becomes even more important. This post may be about how to plan a wedding, but I have written one about how to look and feel your best on your wedding day.
6: Send out ‘save the date’ cards or invitations
By now you will have booked the venue and hopefully some other key players in your supplier team. Each service should provide you with a timeline of any action points they require between booking and your wedding date (booking make-up trials/dress fittings/menu tastings/engagement shoots/music choices etc). Make a note of these micro details and when they’re supposed to happen.
You may also be closer still to getting your outfits. It’s time to nail that guestlist and get those invites out!! It may also be time to look at a gift registry, should you wish to include a link to that too.
I’m going to be real here. People can be a total pain in the backside (and we’re likely all guilty of it)….you get those invites out and even make sure to put a RSVP by date on it AND STILL you are waiting, chasing up and using precious energy on invite admin. It’s frustrating to say the least.
It may be worth investing in setting up a wedding website which can handle your save the guest lists/dates/invites/RSVP’s/gift registry/details of the day etc. (here’s a site for example that does this).
If you’re more analogue than digital, then make sure to create some sort of spreadsheet so you can keep track of replies/dietary requirements etc.
If you’ve hired a lovely stationer for your invites, consider also that they may also be able to provide you with bespoke stationary on the day (order of service, welcome signs, table name cards, menu sheets etc)
7: Research and book additional suppliers
Consider the suppliers you’ve already booked the macro detail of the day, and you’ll have an action timeline for those already…. Now’s the time for the micro details, the threads that will tie in the theme, style and energy of your day, connecting all the larger pieces together.
This list is by no means exhaustive, whose services you’ll need to engage will depend on how you see your day shaping up, but here goes!
- venue decor
- additional entertainment (music for drinks reception/magician/tattoo artist/lawn games / clay pigeon shooting etc)
- additional details (dance floor flip flops / photo booth / wedding favours)
- additional catering (ice cream van / pizza van / sweet cart /cocktail bar etc)
- transport (for couple and/or guests too)
- honeymoon (don’t forget that!!!!)
8: The final purchases
Pretty much everything major and minor should now be purchased (or as close to a decision as you can), it’s time to make sure you have some final details bought and ready.. you are really nailing how to plan a wedding!! This is actually quite a fun part as it’s some more personal touches, and you may already have sourced these earlier on, but if not, don’t forget these:
- Bridesmaids/groomsmen/flower girl/page boy outfits including any shoes, jewellery and accessories
- Your shoes!! Make sure you and your fiance have enough time to practise wearing your shoes inside so they get nice and comfortable for your wedding day.
- Underwear. A nice treat for the both of you on your wedding day… 😉
- Jewellery (including watches, cufflinks, earings, necklaces etc)
- Bridal party/groomsmen gifts
- Gift for each other
- Any gifts etc to be given out during the speeches
9: The final arrangements
This is it, you’re so close!! It’s all down to final arrangements and logistics now!
If you haven’t already, these are the final things you will need to make sure are organised, and signed off with whoever needs to know. Also, make sure that whatever is planning to happen on your day, someone other than you and your fiance are in the know… your wedding day is your time to enjoy, so make sure you have one or two people you can rely on who knows what should happen where & when.
Anyway, back to those final bits and pieces. Here’s what you may need to do:
- finalise any readings
- choose music (for ceremony, reception backgrounds and reception party)
- nail down your shot list with your photographer
- finalise your order of service and timings of the day
- arrange your seating plan
- write your vows and speeches
- book any last minute spa or beauty treatments
- pick up your rings
- pack for your honeymoon
- drop off any items to the venue/s
- ensure everyone knows their role
10: ENJOY YOUR DAY!!!
That’s it!! You’ve made it!! All the epic time, energy, though and hard-earned dosh has gone into this day. Sit back, take in the vibe and enjoy every last minute! You deserve it!
xX Fiona Xx
How to plan a wedding