If you decide to plan a wedding yourself, go into it with eyes wide open.
As with most things, you have to put in the work in order to ensure success. And it doesn’t make any real difference whichever end of the market you are aiming at.
If you’re willing to take advice and are prepared to work hard, then you can do it!
Here’s how you can get started.
You are likely to be hiring professionals, which could include all or some of the following: wedding planners, photographers, caterers, celebrants and florists. How do you know which to choose?
Don’t go with the first quote you receive, even if it seems reasonably-priced. Ask two or three suppliers. Better still, try and arrange a personal meeting. Skype or, at least, phoning are a good second best). That way you can ask questions directly and get a feel for the supplier’s personality and professionalism. If you take an instant dislike to your celebrant, say, you won’t want to work with them over the course of the year or so while the service is compiled. You certainly won’t be eager for them to conduct your actual ceremony!
Testimonials (especially first-hand) and web-sites can be very informative too.
Obviously, don’t leave things till the last moment, but allow reasonable time. Success is in the planning.
To avoid disappointment, especially when looking at venues, get in as early as you can.
You need to be prepared (lists are good!) so that you do not spring last-minute surprises on your suppliers. Maybe you have specific dietary requirements for the caterer – don’t leave them till the day before!
You need to read Ts & Cs carefully and be sure of what you can expect from the supplier.
You will have to choose your venue carefully. Depending on budget and climate, the world is almost your oyster. You can save money by planning the wedding out of season or at an unusual venue (such as a beach or field). The time of day of the reception can also be significant for pricing.
If you are trying to reduce expenditure, take care not to stint on what really matters to you (be it clothing, the guest-list or whatever). You might be able to cut some corners elsewhere. It should go without saying, but don’t take unilateral decisions! Consult with your partner before you act!
Keep within budget!
Don’t forget to organise accommodation, both for yourself and for out-of-towners, if necessary.
If you leave yourself plenty of time (and make notes and ask questions), there’s no reason at all why your big day can’t go completely smoothly. As long as you have thought through what you want, your every desire can be fulfilled.
My gift to you
My “Wedding Countdown Checklist” details what needs to be done and by when. To receive it completely free of charge, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
Alternatively, for about £5 on Amazon, you can purchase my book “Your Wedding Guide” (https://amzn.to/2KaS6jv). You know, I can heartily recommend it!!
Let’s face it: who should have the final say about everything when planning a wedding? Is it the bride’s family, who may be bankrolling the affair? Or the professional (if you’re employing one), ie the wedding planner?
It pays to listen to advice – but it must be the bride who takes the ultimate decisions.
If that’s you, this is what you will need to consider.
You must list what needs to be done – and by what time. You can buy a wedding book, or create one with a ring binder, say. Ensure you record names and contact details of suppliers.
You could do worse than download (forgive the plug!) my free “Wedding Countdown Checklist” (click here), and you’ll be well on the way.
You need to get on with this early in the process. Choose your maid (or matron) of honour; her main job will be to organise the bridesmaids and support you both emotionally and practically.
As for the bridesmaids themselves, you want people you can count on, so choose carefully.
Don’t forget you’ll later want to show your gratitude to them. It could be a gift presented at the reception or a lunch before the wedding.
Dress and Accessories
It’s also worth starting this process early (you ought to have placed your orders six or more months before the wedding). Your dress is the first priority. Then look for (if appropriate) veil, gloves, shoes, handbag, jewellery and undergarments. You may want to involve your maid of honour or a parent here.
You’ll need to decide on a hair and make-up stylist early. A good idea is to book a trial run a couple of months in advance of the wedding, as well as the ‘real thing’ on the day.
Other suppliers may book up quickly, so do your homework and act on your findings in good time.
You may want to have your engagement ring cleaned and even book a manicure.
Although, as I suggest, the final decisions will be down to you, there is no need to do everything yourself! Nor is there any sense in it, as burn-out would then be a real possibility.
So why not delegate (gently!)?
Your parents or in-laws may well appreciate being invited to participate. Drawing up the guest list is an obvious communal job. They might want to publish news of your engagement or your wedding in the newspaper. Maybe they can book a band for your reception.
Your bridesmaids may well enjoy being consulted about their dresses.
The groom can prove himself useful. (No, really!) Traditionally, he may take on buying the wedding rings, choosing the ushers and the best man (and their attire) and buying gifts for them. He may organise the registrars, the transport on the day, arrange to pay the celebrant and plan the honeymoon. So he needn’t get off that lightly!
In addition, at the start, you will surely visit the venue together. You may want to set the budget, discuss your ceremony, agree/write your vows, share thoughts on whom to invite and which gifts to put on the wedding list.
Your beloved may have contacts and might be able to help organise the catering, florist, photographer etc.
To sum up
The bottom line is: accept help and advice gracefully ; don’t try and do it all yourself; plan meticulously; be the final arbiter; and relish the whole process!
How difficult can planning a wedding be?
Well, don’t go asking that question to too many people!
Even if finances don’t enter into it (but they invariably do), you have so much to consider. Things like the venue, any theme you might be having, the reception, the dress, decoration, presents, catering, flowers, cakes, photographer, the guest list – it seems never-ending.
One thing people tend to overlook (or postpone) is the ceremony itself. In many cases, couples assume that the service must either be a full religious one or a register office ceremony.
You do not, however, need to put on that straight-jacket. In fact, you have a lot more choice than that. The only obligation you must comply with is to have your wedding legally documented. (This will normally be part of the full religious service.)
Not everyone is comfortable with a full religious service. Nor is it permitted for all, either. So what alternative is there, particularly if you want a personalised ceremony, which a register office service – or indeed, the church – won’t really offer?
You are quite welcome to celebrate your marriage wherever and however you wish (well, within reason!), once the registrars have done their bit. So you could go to the register office the day before your wedding in jeans, with two witnesses (remember to make an appointment first, though) to become legally married, and then appear at the venue of your choice, relaxed and happy, for what to all intents and purposes is your wedding. Then your celebrant can conduct the ceremony of your dreams that reflects your personalities and beliefs.
You can even have the celebrant-led ceremony directly after the registrars have left the room, if you want consecutive ceremonies.
This works particularly well for people of different religions who want at least a religious element, but cannot be married in their church/synagogue/mosque/temple etc. One ceremony I am conducting will include the bride’s mother, who is Russian, presenting icons and also bread to the couple. I have gladly put Jewish rituals and blessings into several part-Jewish weddings.
Some people don’t want any religion really, but are keen to keep their families happy, so choose to include a few token elements – maybe a religious reading, prayer or blessing.
Others want their wedding to stand out, so they may incorporate religious – or pagan – elements that are, to say the least, unusual. For example, they might appreciate a Unity Sand ceremony. Each of the couple has a container of sand – one might be red, the other blue. Together, accompanied by suitable words spoken by the celebrant, they pour the contents of their container into a funnel, and the different sands merge in a third container (which the couple take home) to symbolise their new unity.
Some may choose a handfasting – partial or total (I talked about this in a recent blog).
The point is that you can work together with your celebrant and put together your ceremony. It’s your big day, and you should be able to celebrate it as you really want. Let it be perfect for you.
Of course, you are looking to create your perfect day. Well, many elements will go towards the completed whole, but you really need to take account of at least these five points when planning your wedding.
- The budget
Obviously, this is the most important factor. You have to work together with anyone who is helping you here (probably your family?), and decide rationally what you will spend. It’s no good getting carried away with enthusiasm – you need self-discipline.
Big as the occasion may be, you do not want to bankrupt yourselves. And remember that the amount spent does not guarantee the success of the marriage!
The event is (or should be) a commitment ceremony; it should not be an attempt to show off how rich or extravagant you are. Should the reception really mean more than the vows?
Good taste and sincerity are more important.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a few OTT touches (budget permitting), but that should be a bonus rather than the intention. There are probably certain elements that you will insist on, and it’s as well to discuss these at the outset, so that they aren’t overlooked later.
The budget will also dictate the ceremony, participants, reception and number of guests to invite, but that is something I cover elsewhere, notably in my book “Your Wedding Guide”.
- Date & location
Naturally, it will be more expensive to schedule your wedding at peak times (such as summer holidays, Christmas or around Valentine’s Day). You may want to avoid major events, such as World Cups and holiday season, when your potential guests may be otherwise engaged.
You’ll need to consider climate too, if you want an outdoor wedding.
The venue should (as far as possible) be the place of your dreams, but if it’s in an exotic location, your guests may have to go to a lot of expense and trouble to attend, so keep that in mind.
- Other Suppliers
As soon as you have settled on your budget, start discussing suppliers that you may need. Like the venue, which may require a year or more’s warning, you should allow plenty of time, in order to secure the supplier of your choice.
Among others, you will need to consider florists, caterers, dressmakers, musicians and, not least, celebrant. Where possible, you should meet with these first, so you can feel confident you have made the right choices. All that takes time, so allow for that.
- Choosing theme and colours
It’s easy to get excited and let your imagination run away with your wallet. Keep your budget in mind, use wedding books and planning guides and whatever resources are available to you.
Do not over-decorate, but make full use of flowers and candles.
Be creative with the colours. These may reflect the bride’s personality. Vivid colours (tastefully combined) can be most effective.
5. Vows and music
The vows are one of the most important elements of a marriage. They should be well-planned – and audible. They are a public declaration of your mutual feelings, and should not be under-estimated.
Equally, the music should be planned carefully and be clearly audible. Make sure you choose lyrics that you really want, as they will be publicised to all your guests.
Hopefully, the planning will be a team effort (maybe the groom will be willing and able to participate!). If approached in the right way, it will be enjoyable and exciting, and so, so worthwhile. Do think about my book “Your Wedding Guide“, which takes you by the hand and helps you to get things right.
An insuperable obstacle?
Planning a wedding is a pretty daunting prospect. You may just be lucky, and have wise advisors and experienced, understanding support. The chances are, though, that it’s new to you, and you’re going to have to do the best you can. You’ll have to make – and learn from – your own mistakes. Some may be expensive.
An amazing solution
That sounds pretty grim. However, would you be prepared to spend about £5 to get a dependable, easy-to-follow guide?
If so, you have come to the right place!
As part of my role as civil celebrant, I frequently come across couples swimming in a sea of bewilderment and despair. There’s not a lot of help out there for them – although there is at least the option of an event planner. Naurally, these don’t come cheaply.
What if there was a guide that they could buy for ‘peanuts’, that would lead them gently and securely towards the Eldorado of a successful wedding? Towards a unique, memorable and meaningful day? That would offer them great ideas? Something that they could consult at every step of the way?
Well, look no further.
I am proud and excited to announce that I have put the proverbial pen to paper (except it’s all been done by computer, of course) and produced a handbook specifically aimed at helping couples get on their way with a minimum of fuss or difficulty. That’s not to say that there isn’t still hard work to be done, or time and money to expend. Of course, there is, but you can at least be sure that you are progressing, covering most eventualities and not going round in circles.
What areas are covered?
Some of the areas I look at include:
- choice of ceremony and celebrant
- the service: rituals, vows, music, etc.
- ‘team’ roles
- same-sex weddings
- hiring professionals
- social media
I don’t pretend to have something for absolutely everyone (budgets, as well as taste, will vary enormously), but I am convinced that there is so much in the wedding guide for everyone (from first-timers to wedding planners!).
I am delighted to be the one to fill what seems to be a huge gap in the market.
If you know somebody who might benefit from this handbook, please put them in touch with me. It’s easy to buy: just click here, and you’ll be through to Amazon.
I am not actually anticipating a million-seller block-buster, but I am really excited to be offering practical help to couples, so that they can have the wedding they are dreaming about!