Here is my checklist for any Blushing Bride to be or grumpy groom, being a photographer I am in a very fortunate position of being able to be on the side lines of many weddings.
And the preparation that goes into them is actually quite astonishing so here is my checklist for the perfectly planned wedding.
First big thing of course it to set the date.
You can plan a wedding in just a few months but for the majority who need everything just so, it’s easier to spend a year or more on planning the event of a lifetime.
So here goes...
12 months +
• Set the date
Start your wedding planning at least a year in advance to ensure you get to book the venues and suppliers you want. Everybody wants a Saturday wedding and I'm not entirely sure why? I can only assume it's due to nobody can get time off on the Friday and Sunday means everybody will have a hangover for the Monday back at work, but midweek weddings can be a lot cheaper so don't rule it out.
• Decide whether to plan your own wedding
Or enlist the help of a professional wedding planner. You could plan the wedding yourself or pay for somebody else to do all the hard work? Me personally I like things done my way so it's unlikely I would of ever had this for my own big day.
Once you have decided that bit... this is where the fun starts.
• Send save-the-date cards
To make sure your guests don’t book their summer holiday and miss your special day.
• Set your budget
Make it realistic without going into debt, it's one day and don't be one of those couples that says "we could have gone on a round the world cruise for the same money"
• Write your guest list
Now this is where a potential argument could start... So split your list into different areas i.e. Day and night, family and very close friends for the daytime and work colleges etc for the night doo!
Just remember you cannot invite everyone and you should not feel pressured too either.
• Book your venue
The sooner you book your venues, the easier everything else will be to plan. You’ll need to book a venue for your ceremony (either a church, registry office or other licensed civil wedding venue) and a venue for your reception, for your wedding breakfast and disco or other after-dinner entertainment. Take into account seating capacity, room hire costs, catering options, indoor and outdoor settings for photographs. You could save thousands of pounds by booking out of season – many venues have fantastic winter wedding offers too.
And remember the venues want your business so ask them what little extras you could get included if you were to book with them?
• Book your photographer
Find a photographer who offers the style of photography you want for your big day, meet them personally, ask to see their portfolio and check for reviews on google etc...
• Meet your minister/registrar
They’ll be able to answer all your questions about the ceremony, and help you find suitable readings and music. For me personally I am an atheist so we searched to find somebody who would do a ceremony that was slightly less "traditional"
• Book a DJ/band/entertainers
Now believe it or not this is one of the most important bits of your experience or certainly your guests experience!
So many people treat the entertainment part of the wedding as an afterthought? Why I am not sure.
This part is going to make or break the actual atmosphere so it needs to be right, as somebody who has been photographing weddings and also performing at them I know this bit matters.
Spend the money on good acts and unusual ones, do your research on Dj's and singers and bands.
• Book your cars
You’ll need to book one bridal car for you and your father, and you may also want to book a second or third car for your mother and bridesmaids. If you want to make it easier and fun for all your family and friends – book a bus! You could get some amazing wedding photos of you and your guests atop a vintage double decker bus! But prepare yourself for the cost involved with wedding cars!
Unfortunately weddings and everything wedding costs a lot of money but even I was not prepared for the cost of cars at my own wedding, so before you make the calls sit down.
• Book your florist
This bit from a presentation point of view is important, so work out how many arrangements you will need and who has what, and try and pick flowers that are going to be in season when you get married, it's all well and good reading a blog or magazine article and saying "I won't those at my wedding" but if they are not in season at the time we already have problems. Trust your florist and pick a good one.
• Book a toastmaster
You might think you don’t need a toastmaster or master of ceremonies, or be worried that having one will make your wedding day feel too formal. They’re worth their weight in gold for ensuring everything goes to plan at the right time, in the right place and with the right people. However a lot of venues have somebody who assumes the role so that maybe an option to discuss with them to save money,
• Book your honeymoon
Book it in your maiden name and use your existing passport, then change all your documents to your married name when you return.
• Take out wedding insurance
It’s not costly and could save you thousands if a supplier suddenly lets you down. Or goes bust this little bit of paper is worth its weight in gold.
• Decide what kind of wedding dress you want
If you’re looking for a made to order wedding dress you really should finish reading my blog and get the ball rolling as a good dress maker will be booked up well in advance!
If your buying off the peg it's still fun to look around now, just don't buy too early if your weight has a habit of fluctuating, there is NO point in buying a dress then putting pressure on yourself to fit in a particular size for one day?
I'm not saying don't feel your best in the day but as a bride your other half wants to marry you just the way you are, by all means be a princess for the day but be a happy content one.!
6 months +
now here is a note from me that is from experience... it is not always cheaper to go into somewhere like "hobbycraft" and DIY all your table decor and invitations etc... we started to do this and halfway through buying a lot of stuff we realised there are so many companies out there who hire table centrepieces etc... and they are not pricey, for example you might well see tealight holders for the tables in the shops for £1 each and that's great you only need 80 of them for the entire venue to make it look magical, but these companies will hire them to you for 20p each including the candles and you are not stuck with 80 tealight holders to pick up the day after?
• Order/make your wedding invitations
Don’t forget all the other wedding stationery including: orders of service, place cards and thank you cards and if I am honest getting them done for me was the best thing we did.
• Order the wedding cake
Or cupcakes or ‘cheese cake’, or have your wedding cake home made.
3 months +
• Have your wedding dress alterations done
• Buy your wedding rings
Make sure they are both the right size and that your wedding ring will sit comfortably alongside your engagement ring if you plan to wear them together. And this bit should be fun and something you can do together without wanting to kill each other.
• Send your wedding invitations
Traditionally they are sent out 6-12 weeks before the wedding but you can send them sooner if you prefer. Include information for your guests on overnight accommodation, transport, parking and any dress code if appropriate. Include reply cards to ensure they all RSVP, at this point most people will have done the menu tasting and know what food will be there on the day so include this in your invites and get people's menu choices, and when you have them create a chart and write people choices down as you receive the RSVP's because you will need this info for the day.
• Decide on a gift list
These days most couples are already living with each other and the usual wedding list no longer applies and usually a gift of money is asked for, there are loads of great poems online to send to people with the invites that are a sweet way of asking for money as a gift and here is one for example.
• Buy gifts for the parents and best men and bridesmaids,
• Arrange to have any vaccinations done
If required for your honeymoon.
1 month before
• Arrange for a final fitting of your wedding dress
And bring along your mum, sister or best friend to share in this big moment, emotions will be high by this point and it's good to have people around you.
• Reconfirm the wedding arrangements with all your suppliers
Speak to them personally and make sure you have confirmation of dates, places and times in writing from them. I cannot stress how important this is, don't feel you are nagging them, you are paying a lot of money for their services so you need price of mind on the day that they will be there.
• Finalise the seating plan
And make your table planner, as a tip we made ours from a beautiful old wooden multi frame (you know one of those large frames with precursor holes for individual photos, we had 9 tables and it made it very easy to create if you have more tables buy a bigger frame
• Contact any guests who have not replied to your invitation
• Write the wedding speeches
Write them from the heart, and then practice, practice, practice… if your not a funny person then I strongly suggest you go for heart strings as a badly written funny speech delivered by somebody who isn't funny can be painful.
• Have your hair trimmed and/or coloured
Then you’ll know it’s looking its best for your ‘up do’ or curls on the big day, but only do as planned in your hair trials – this is not the time to experiment with a new colour.
• Pack for your honeymoon
You’re going on the holiday of a lifetime!
• Wear-in your wedding shoes
Don’t wear them outside, but do wear them around the house to make sure they’re comfy on the day. And if they are not take a spare pair that are to wear later on, trust me your guests will NOT notice.
• check the weather and if it looks like there is any chance of rain buy some props and speak to your photographer about ideas regarding when and if it rains for fun and cheeky pics! A good photographer will have a bundle of ideas, there are some great wedding shots out there in the rain so don't let it hinder your day.
The day before
• Have the day off to relax
Don’t go to work, spend the day with friends or family and don’t do anything too exhausting. However I would recommend getting everybody together if the two families are meeting properly for the first time so the ice is broken before the big day. We did this as my husbands family are from Belfast and mine were is Spain and England so the night before we went out for a big family meal and drink, so on the day the awkward intros had already been done and some stories of getting tipsy together were already flowing.
And, just one final word of advice…
On your wedding day, things might not go 100% to plan and the reason for this is you have planned for everything BUT... you cannot plan for other people, so if things don't go exactly as you hoped for then this will prepare you for marriage.
Do NOT focus and get fixated on all of the tiny things when planning your wedding trust me when I say nobody is going to notice if a place card is not as perfect as you are! I spent so much time focusing on every little detail and when I actually experienced the day, people are there to have a good time, and share and bask in the love of the day, they do not and will not care if the candles on the table don't match the ivory on the dress! Enjoy this amazing day and stick to budget!!
And finally I must point out that the images I have used in this blog are not mine, they are from shutterstock images, 👍🏼