How to plan your wedding from start to finish

Chances are you’re reading this as you’re engaged, so congratulations! Hopefully you are basking in the moment, and living on a cloud right now. But don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start with the wedding planning, I have you’re back! I’ve done the homework for you, and come out the other side. So here is what I would have done, in hindsight.

 

  1. Start with your guest list, and be brutal

When you first get engaged you may feel like you’re walking on a cloud, and it can be all too easy in the excitement to start inviting everyone you know to your wedding. But the biggest lesson I learned was to do with the guest list: you will regret inviting people in the spur of the moment you will never see again and you will forget inviting someone far more important instead. Before you do anything else, sit down with your other half and be brutal about who you decide to invite. You do not need to invite anyone you don’t want to, but you can’t remove people off your guest list once they’re invited (without a really good reason). And please, for your sake, keep this quiet until you book your venue!

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Questions to ask each other:

  • Who do you need to be there? Like, who would you be devastated about in 10 years if they couldn’t come?
  • Who do you want to be there? Such as friends and family where you’d get over it if they couldn’t come.
  • Who would it be nice to there? Such as friends and extended family that you’d enjoy seeing but you won’t notice if they don’t turn up. Who are you obligated to invite?
  • How many guests is too many?

 

  1. Prioritise what’s important to you and your partner

Your wedding will quickly balloon in cost and won’t end up feeling like it’s yours if you don’t prioritise. So sit down with your other half and decide what matters to you both. Prioritise further and decide on 3 things that you want to focus on. Dig deep, and think about what your limits are. In the end, for us it was having a venue that was close to Michael’s parents, a venue that has place for people to stay, and a venue where both the reception and ceremony are onsite. Just remember, focus on what the two of you want not what is expected of you. You can’t please everyone, you’re not pizza. 

Questions to ask each other:

  • How much do you feel comfortable spending? What’s your limit?
  • Can everyone who you need to be there travel?
  • Do you have an idea as to where you want the wedding to be?
  • What kind of wedding do you want and why?
  • How much, if anything will you DIY?

 

  1. Decide on a budget

There is no better time to start embarking on the wonderful journey of joint finances before you get married. Don’t put it off, or you’ll have a nasty shock later down the road when it turns out that your partner wanted to spend £5k on a wedding you were happy to spend £30k on. There is a very big difference between what a £5k wedding looks like than a £30k wedding. And the last thing you want is to start your married life drowning in debt and rowing over finances, as money is the biggest reason cited for divorce.

Resources:

  • I found that A Practical Wedding has the best practical advice on how to create a budget that’s right for you (click here).

 

  1. Decide who’s paying for what

It’s assumed that the Bride’s parents pay for the whole wedding, but as couples wait longer and longer before getting married they actually end paying their way more and more. Talk to your parents as soon as you’ve decided how many you will have on your guest list, so you can set expectations. More often than not, parents have been dreaming about this event for years and thought they would be able to invite all their friends as well -but rarely does the budget stretch to inviting an extra 50-100 people. My parents certainly had a tendency to invite everyone they’ve ever known without asking us first (yes, my Mom did invite her new yoga teacher and her Primary school friends she hadn’t seen since she left the school), and thus had to uninvite people once we discussed budget with them and they realised how much these extra people would cost.

Resources:

  • A Practical Wedding has a really good post on this here
  • Brides has a good guide to the average cost of a wedding to set expectations (click here)
  • Here’s the best article to explain to parents why your wedding will be more expensive than theirs
  • Here’s a good article for the Father of the Bride to know where he stands in this day and age

 

  1. Start looking for venues ASAP

The most popular time for couples to get engaged is around Christmas time, so venues are very busy showing couples around from January to April when the wedding season starts. So couples are therefore booking their venue at least a year beforehand, often a year and a half beforehand. If you have a very specific date that matters to you (I only had 1 date of the whole year to choose from when the American, British, Belgian and French holidays coincided other than Christmas or Friday 13th), then you’re going to have to start as early as possible. Venue first, everything else will depend on this. And remember, you only need to have a licensed venue for the ceremony -but you can have the reception anywhere.

Resources: 

  • There are so many lists of wedding venues online. My favourites were Hitched, and Rock My Wedding
  • Google will be your best friend for finding event venues, like those on Hire Space

Questions to think about when choosing a venue: 

  • Is it in the right location?
  • Does it fit your priorities?
  • Can they accommodate your guest list?
  • What is the full cost? What’s included?
  • Do they have a list of suppliers you must choose from?

 

  1. Book all your vendors

Just like venues, vendors do book out and they may have limits as to how many weddings they do a year. Start researching them, send out some emails to check their availability and prices, and book them once you’ve decided. Top tip: don’t book friends or acquaintances unless you are sure of how professional they will be.

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  1. Plan out the timeline

I had no idea where to start with this, so if you’re anything like me this will feel rather like you’re out of your depth here. And I certainly made the mistake of not planning enough time to do everyone’s makeup and hair at first. So be sure to ask your vendors how long they will need. It will be a bit like Tetris, but you’ll get there.

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  1. Plan out the details

I found it particularly hard to keep track of all the details, until I started using Trello boards (they are like online post it boards). It was much easier to then keep track of the To Do list, and you can easily share it with your partner so they can cross things off it too.

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  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Planning a wedding is stressful, no matter how much money you throw at it and no matter how much you plan for it. So no matter what happens, use the wedding planning as an opportunity to practice your communication skills. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you might find that people will step up to the plate.

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