Holy cow, they proposed! You are officially engaged - now what? There is soo much information out there but it can be a bit overwhelming to run through it all. So as someone who has been to their fair share of weddings, and planned one of their own, here's my ten steps to planning the perfect wedding.
1. Establish a budget
You're scrolling through different venues, you're lining up your suppliers ready to contact them, but STOP. It's so important you agree a wedding budget first. This is the final figure that you are willing to spend on everything, from stationary to DJ. I recommend you do this before you see anything. It would be simply devastating if you go to see a venue and then realise you would have nothing left to spend for the rest of your wedding. You won't be able to get that dream venue out your head. Be realistic on what you're willing to spend. If you want all the flower arches, the wedding planner and the top photographer, you're looking at £20-30k at least. There is a wedding to work with every budget but you'll need to prioritise what is MOST important to you then spend your budget according to that.
2. Your venue sets the tone
Your venue is one of the most important decisions you'll make when it comes to your wedding day. It determines how your wedding gallery will look, the overall vibe of your day (traditional, rustic, modern), and it will be the backdrop for every event that happens. In my opinion if you're on a tighter budget you want a venue that needs little decorating, trying to glam up a blank space is a lot more challenging and pricey than just lightly decorating a space that's already beautiful as it is. I cannot stress enough how important it is to consider the amount of natural light in the venue too (think big windows everywhere, huge glass doors, outside ceremony etc). If you like those bright and airy images, or colourful and bold images, you NEED lots of natural light to get those perfect photos. You'll also want to look around thinking where would we have our portraits taken, is there space for all our guests to mill around, are there good options for if it's a rainy day? Try not to be too set on a wedding date until you know what your dream venue has available.
3. Prioritise your suppliers
Think about what part of the wedding day is most important to you, now you have found your venue. Is it what you'll wear, your photos, the entertainment? I suggest with your remaining budget you take money from the parts than mean the least to you, and put them into the suppliers or items that you know you'll cherish the most. For example, I went super cheap on my shoes so I could pay for the photographer I really wanted. It's all about what YOU want most and prioritising accordingly, unless you have an unlimited budget of course! The other option is you can push your wedding day out later so you can secure more budget to get all the things you really want, without compromise.
4. Book your photographer/ videographer
Your photographer will be spending more time with you than anyone else, the photos they create will be one of the only things you get to keep from your wedding day, so choose wisely. Don't forget it's not just about the photos, but the experience they will give you from booking to final gallery. Get to know the person via Instagram and a discovery Zoom call, are they someone you feel really comfortable with, do you trust them, will you have fun with them? Look at their images are they pure documentary (no direction at all), are they editorial (more posed), are they a mix of the two? Will their style of photography work with the venue you've chosen? Have a look at the types of weddings they've shot before. Photographer's book 12-18 months in advance, especially on summer weekend dates so you need to get in there early.
5. The guestlist
The guestlist can get very political. Your family & friends will all have opinions on who you should invite but remember it's your day, and you are paying for it. To keep things simple, when deciding who should be on the guestlist, think would you buy them a £60 meal? If not, either invite them to the evening do or not at all. With plus 1's a good rule to follow is, have they been together for over a year, are they living together? When it comes to children, they can be incredibly good fun at weddings, but parents will be more than happy to leave them with a sitter and have a night off (unless they are very small babies). Ultimately, it is your choice. If it helps, the more people you invite, the less time you get to spend with each person 1 on 1, so surround yourself with your nearest and dearest who will help make your day perfect.
6. Create a Pinterest board
When you're planning your wedding, a Pinterest board can be a super useful way to show all your suppliers what kind of vibe you like and how it might work. They can pull out certain features and tell you what's possible or advise on ways you could do that as part of your wedding. Sometimes we go in with all these ideas but in reality they wouldn't work how we'd expect. So think large scale, big ideas and then narrow down on the details when speaking with your suppliers. Ultimately this is why you booked them, for their experience and skills so use that to your advantage. For example, if you go in desperate for hydrangeas and it's not the right season for them, you'll be gutted. Instead think about the types of colours you like and allow your florist to advise what would be available.
7. Get those save the dates out
Now you have your wedding theme, you can sort your wedding stationary to give your guests a taster of what your wedding is going to be like. Think about the fonts, colours and style and try to align it with what your wedding will be like. For example, if you're having lots of green and white foliage, incorporate that into your save the dates design. The key thing is to get these out as soon as you have your date booked. If you're getting married on a weekday, people will need time to book that off work, if you're getting married in the summer, your guests may have already started thinking about their summer holidays. The more notice you can give the better, then the pressure is off so you can take your time finalising your formal invites.
8. Selecting your wedding party
These people will be your ride or die crew. You should be choosing from your friends and family people who can help you in planning your day without being too pushy with their own ideas, friends who hype you up on the morning of your wedding to get you excited, family who are organised and will think of all those little details you might have overlooked (bringing spare buttonhole pins, printing off a copy of your portrait list, watching the time for you so you stay on schedule). Ultimately these need to be people in your life who mean the most to you, and will bring all the energy to your wedding day, especially during those times when you might feel a little nervous. Just remember, you don't need to have a large wedding party if you don't want to, it's all about who is there rather than how many are there!
9. Your wedding attire
Did you know it can take up to 10 months for a wedding dress to be ordered, made and sent back to you? A custom suit can take a similar amount of time depending on the make you choose. There is of course, 'off the rack' options for couples in a hurry but if your wedding attire means a lot to you give yourself a good amount of time to find the one. I suggest you visit no more than 3 stores, it can be tempting to visit as many stores as possible but it's likely you'll just get yourself more and more confused as you try on so many different options. Instead, research the designers you like, find stores where they are available to try on and make a day of it. Also, never feel pressured by what other people think, all to often I hear stories of people picking the outfit their family loved, but maybe not the one they loved the most. So if you need to, go back alone to make that final decision, then it's a total surprise from everyone!
10. Enjoy it!
Your engagement season will pass before you know it, so soak every little bit of it up. Book that engagement shoot, buy all the engaged merch, make every decision an event with champers and festivities. I know it can feel stressful sometimes with all the planning, but you will look at this time as such an exciting and magical one. So grab the bull by the horns, and enjoy the wild ride!