Unless you’ve been married before, or you plan events for a living, you’re unlikely to know how to actually plan a wedding. Sure, you’ve probably been to several weddings over the years, so you’ve got the gist of it but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty details, planning a wedding can be a bit of a mission; a fun one, (of course).

So if you fall into the category of not really having a clue, we’re here to help kick start your wedding planning. In our survival guide for brides series, we’re getting down to the finer details so that you can actually plan a wedding and look like you know what you’re doing.

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GETTING STARTED

The engagement has been sealed with a ring… now what?

Share your news: It’s wonderful news so if you want to, share it with the world. Remember to firstly tell those who would be offended if they found out via Facebook, or from someone else. If possible, share the news in person so that your families can celebrate with you.

Dare to dream: If you haven’t shared your wedding day vision, now’s your chance. Together, talk about what you both really want for your wedding day and if it’s possible. Whether it’s traditional or off-the-wall, dream big and start to get an idea of how your wedding day could pan out.

Discuss dates: While you don’t need to set a date at this stage, it’s a good idea to look at timings, ruling out dates which won’t work for you. Try to establish a rough month or season for your nuptials so that you have a better idea of how much planning time you have to pull off a day of epic proportions.

Number crunching: The size of your wedding dictates which venues will work for you, as well as costs, so you should work out a rough guest list as soon as possible. You will probably cut numbers later but this first figure will act as your base.

Money talks: Wedding traditions have changed over the years, and that includes the bride’s family picking up the bill. Most couples admit this is the least fun part of wedding planning so get the awkward money talks out of the way now. Find out from both sets of parents if they’ll be contributing and if so, how much. This will allow you to work out how much you need to add to budget yourselves.

Get organised: Start as you mean to go on! Get yourself a dedicated wedding notebook (yes, really!). Have a separate section for each element of your wedding and write lists of what needs to be done, with a realistic due date (creating 200 favours won’t happen in a day) for each one. Assign to dos to anyone else who is (lucky enough to be) helping and keep a record of deposits paid, payment due dates etc. You’ll thank us in the end.

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MANAGING YOUR BUDGET

Stay on top of your wedding finances for a stress-free approach to planning.

While everyone’s wedding budget will vary, typically, a certain percentage is spent on each element of the big day. There’s no hard and fast rule as to what you should spend. If you want to blow the entire thing on cake, we say… go for it. The key is to place more of your budget on the things that matter the most to you. For example, some couples will choose to spend more on photography and less on flowers. So divvy it up accordingly. It’s your day, so do it your way.

Typically, wedding spending averages are as follows:

  • Reception: 40%
  • Honeymoon: 14.5%
  • Photography & videography: 10.5%
  • Wedding attire: 7%
  • Engagement rings & wedding bands: 6%
  • Flowers: 5%
  • Music: 5%
  • Invitations: 2%
  • Added extras: 10%

Tons of couples will tell you that they went over budget so if you want to be realistic, expect this. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of added cake tiers and a floral frenzy. If you don’t want to go overboard, keep a reign on your spending by sticking to your budget. Simples.

But just incase you need some tips for sticking to your budget, here’s our advice…

Borrow: (And by this, we don’t mean money.) Remember, it’s just one day so if you loved your sister’s wedding tiara, ask if you can borrow it. The same goes for jewellery. You’ll only be wearing it for a few hours, after all. Plus, it’s an easy way to adhere to the age old tradition of ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’. Think about other elements of your wedding that you can borrow or hire. Things like vases for centrepieces can be picked up in local charity shops and their mismatched quality can add a touch of quirkiness to your reception. It’s all about thinking outside of the box.

Get DIY: It’s time to put those many, many Pinterest projects into action. Think about what you, or indeed someone you know could create for your wedding day. From invites to favours, there are endless ways to add the personal touch to your day without going over budget.

Reuse your flowers: If flowers aren’t your thing, don’t go overboard. You don’t have to have a Kim Kardashian inspired flower wall (unless you want to). Again, if you’re creative, try your hand at making your own centrepieces for the reception. And remember, the flowers you use for your ceremony can be delivered to your venue.

Avoid impulse purchases: When everything has been ticked off your list, call it a day. It’s easy to keep adding things but if you don’t need them, don’t get them. Your bridesmaids can definitely go without matching clutch bags.

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FINDING YOUR VENUE

The search for the perfect wedding venue begins.

The setting for your ceremony: Deciding on the type of ceremony you want is the first step. If opting for a religious ceremony, many couples will choose their local church. If you no longer live in the area, family members will be able to help you sort it out. Or, if you’d prefer a civil ceremony, you’ll need to find a venue which is licensed for this. Or of course, there’s the option of a destination wedding. Just make sure that everyone who you want to be there is happy to travel for the occasion.

Your reception venue: Think back to your initial ‘dreaming’ stage and consider the type of venue you had in mind. If you have your heart set on an outdoor garden, this is fine, but what if you can’t find one or you’re worried about the weather? Think of alternatives. A quaint country house hotel might have a pretty courtyard that’s perfect for photos. It’s worth remembering that you might not be able to get exactly what you want so open up your mind and look for close options instead. When choosing your venue, things to consider are travel time and availability of accommodation for guests. Perhaps start with a particular area, scouting out its local venues. If you don’t fancy a grand castle or hotel, you don’t have to have one. Start scheduling visits, crossing off those that don’t meet your needs.

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HIRING VENDORS

With hundreds of wedding vendors, how do you find the one that’s right for you?

Photographer and videographer: It’s worth noting that the best ones usually book up many months in advance, so get in there quick. One of the great things about social media, is that you literally have a photographer’s portfolio of work at your fingertips. Get recommendations from friends and check out photographers whose style matches what you have in mind. Meet with a few to discover whose personalities you mesh with and check out completed albums to give you a real idea for the flow of their photography and how this will transpire on your day. Get an idea of packages and costs and if you can add on videography as an option.

Musicians: If music is high on your priority list, consider all aspects of it for your day and how each style of music throughout will work together. Would you prefer live musicians at the ceremony? What about music at the champagne reception? Do you have a style of band in mind? Will a DJ play the type of music that will get your guests on the dance floor? When choosing musicians for your day the key for is to see them in action. Many bands will invite couples to watch them perform at another wedding. If you’re hiring a DJ, find out if you can give them suggestions for songs that you like.

Flowers and décor: When your ceremony and reception locations have been booked, you can focus on making them look beautiful, in line with your vision for the day.

Here’s an idea of where flowers are typically used during a wedding day. It’s worth noting that (obviously) you don’t need them all. Pick and choose what you want and which your budget allows:

Wedding party:

  • Bridal bouquet
  • Flowers for bride’s hair
  • Bridesmaids’ bouquets
  • Buttonholes for groom, best man, groomsmen, ushers and fathers
  • Flower girl’s headpiece
  • Corsages for mother of bride and mother of groom

Ceremony:

  • Ceremony entrance arrangements
  • Altar arrangements
  • Pew or chair decorations

Reception:

  • Reception entryway arrangements
  • Centerpieces for each table
  • Top table for the bridal party
  • Cake flowers
  • Guest book table

Food and drink: Whether you need to hire caterers, or your venue provides them, you’ll need to choose your menu. From serving nibbles to guests when they arrive at the venue, to the main meal itself and even food served later in the night to hungry (now alcohol-induced) guests, decide what’s being served and when. Most venues offer a menu tasting, meaning you can sit down and choose options for the day. There’s also wine to consider. If you’re planning on bringing you own, it’s worth nothing that most venues will charge you corkage. Sometimes it’s cheaper to go with the venue’s wine rather than bringing your own, so find out their costs too.

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CHOOSING YOUR BRIDESMAIDS

Follow these tips to make sure you have the best bride squad ever!

  • When you ask each bridesmaid, let them know what their role involves, especially if you expect them to help with certain elements.
  • Choose as many bridesmaids as you want, even if this means having more in your bridal party, than the grooms party.
  • Having a maid of honor isn’t essential, but if there’s someone you want to honor with this title, go for it.
  • Some brides choose to have a female relative of the groom in their bevy of bridesmaids. Again, this is your call!

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SAYING YES TO THE DRESS

You’ve found ‘the one’ (fiancé). Now it’s time to find ‘the other one’ (the dress).

Do your research: This is where you’ll get to unleash your penchant for Pinterest. Browse the internet and check out loads of wedding magazines for some serious wedding dress #inspo. Get a feel for styles you like as well as designers. Choose a day that suits you, schedule appointments and bring along whoever you deem appropriate from your bride squad. Don’t get side-tracked by looking and bridesmaid dresses either. Right now, this is all about you!

Know what type of shopper you are: Bridal boutiques, high street stores, vintage shops and online treasures such as Etsy are all purveyors of wedding dresses. Plus, there’s the option to have a dress custom made. So choose the method that best suits your budget and style.

Saying yes: The key is not to second guess yourself. If you find yourself loving a dress and comparing every other one you try on to it, chances are, it’s the one. Go with your gut and be happy with your decision. Do not look at any more dresses!

The finishing touches: When you’ve found the one, make sure you complete the look. Extras include veil, headpiece or floral crown, jewellery, shoes, cover up and underwear.

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CULLING THE GUEST LIST

Do you really need to invite your second cousin’s new boyfriend?

When you’re paying per head, every added guest means more money, and quite frankly, not everyone can afford (or wants) to have 500 guests at their wedding. If you need (or want) to keep your numbers down, here are our top tips for taming your guest list…

Don’t invite all your colleagues: Just invite your boss and people you actually class as friends, or don’t ask anyone at all.

Only invite people you see: If you haven’t seen them in a year or two, they don’t need to be at your wedding.

Reign your parents in: A little tricky, give both sets of parents a set number of friends that they can invite.

Consider plus ones: If your cousin has just started going out with someone who you haven’t yet met, your wedding day shouldn’t be your first encounter.

It’s also worth remembering that on average, 17% of guests that you invite will not be able to attend.

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SENDING INVITATIONS

Sharing the good news!

These are usually sent out six to eight weeks before the wedding. More and more couples are also choosing to send ‘Save the dates’ when their venue is confirmed, particularly if their wedding day falls during a holiday.

Typically, wedding invitations include some or all of the following:

  • Who it’s hosted by (either you or the bride’s parents or a combination of both)
  • Place and time of the ceremony
  • Reception details
  • Accommodation details
  • Navigation
  • Menu options
  • Gift list details
  • Reply card
  • Envelope

Whether you’re choosing to go DIY with your invites, or you’re having them professionally made, make sure you proof read them!

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BRIDAL BEAUTY

It is all about you, after all.

Sleep well: The run up to the big day can be stressful with late nights aplenty, so make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Carve out some me-time for just you before bedtime so that you can relax and get your mind off wedding favours and table plans.

Have trials: If you’re choosing to have your hair and makeup professionally done, book trials ahead of the wedding. This will ensure you know exactly how you’ll look on the day, with no unwelcome surprises. If you’re wearing a hairpiece, bring it along to your trial. Ask your hairdresser and makeup artist to share their top tips to help keep your hair and skin in good condition in the lead up to the wedding.

Do it yourself: If you are planning to do your make-up yourself…practice, practice, practice. Visit make-up counters and ask for their advice for best products for your wedding day. Many also offer make-up lessons so you can recreate the look yourself like a pro.

Don’t try anything new: The week before the wedding isn’t the time for experimenting. Don’t change your hair colour, try new products or indulge in a treatment for the first time. Stick to what you’re used to so there’s no unwanted surprises on the day.

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THE DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING

Finalise the details for a smooth running day

Pack your bags: Think of everything you’ll need for the next few days and pack it all separately. If you’re not getting ready at home, pack what you need for the morning. Pack your wedding day bag and also your overnight bag for wherever you’re staying that night. Have one of your bridesmaids put together an emergency kit, complete with anything that could come in handy such as plasters, needle and thread, hair spray and clips.

Confirm your vendors: Have a quick call with everyone to make sure they know who needs to be where and when. Put together a list of phone numbers and give them to your maid of honor.

Sort out money: If anyone needs paid in cash on the day, have this ready in an envelope with their name on it. Pass it to the best man to take care of.

Have a relaxing evening: Spend time with family and chill out. Try to get a good night’s sleep (if possible!).

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GETTING MARRIED

Here comes the bride…

Your wedding morning should be about you and you alone so don’t find yourself caught up meeting florists or organising things at the venue. If there are things that simply must be done on the morning itself, make sure these are assigned to a (trusty) member of the wedding party.

When you’re ready, it’s over to everyone else. At the reception, you should have a point of contact who will be responsible for overseeing everything and ensure things run on time.

On the day, don’t forget to stand back and take in all the amazing elements that you successfully planned.

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POST-HONEYMOON

When you return, continue your wedded bliss by completing the final few tasks.

Change of name: If you decide to change your name, contact all the relevant companies to inform them of your new surname. Contact your bank, credit card companies, and request a change of name on your driving license too.

Store your dress: To perfectly preserve your wedding dress, firstly find a reputable drycleaner who is skilled in cleaning wedding dresses. Have it preserved in tissue paper and boxed up, for you to store in a cool, dry spot in your home.

Liaise with your photographer: Meet with your photographer to finalise which photos you want included in your wedding album. Have any additional prints created for your parents, etc.

Write your thank-you notes: Finally, say a big thanks to your guests for being a part of an epic day!

Now all that’s left to do is enjoy married life, and contemplate a career change as a wedding planner.

Happy planning!

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