I have been a wedding coordinator for nearly 5 years and planned my own international wedding. I’ve seen and experienced the trials and tribulations, the family fallout’s and the pitfalls that come with lack of research and forethought. I’ve also seen the happy faces when plans come together and the excitement at the end of the night when the months and years of planning come together. So, where and how do you start? It’s amazing the clarity that comes with completing a long and often arduous task and there is usually an infamous sentence uttered after the big day itself sounding something like, ‘If I could do one thing differently it would be…’
Whether you’re newly engaged and looking for advice, half way through the planning or you’re just really struggling with controlling your plans, this post is for you! So, to help avoid these stressful situations that come with planning one of the most special days of your life, here are My Top Tips that you would only have found out along the bumpy road of wedding planning. (But I’m nice like that you see…)
Set a Realistic Budget and Stick to It!
Three words: Budgeting is crucial! Set a realistic amount that you are happy to spend on your wedding that is achievable without working you both into the ground and realistic. If you are thinking you can spend £1,000 for 200 guests to celebrate with you on your big day you might either be crazy or not fussed about serving up happy meals for your wedding breakies! Divide up your budget allocating money between your venue, flowers, attire, entertainment, legal fees etc and work towards those figures. If you’re under budget in one area, bank the money for a honeymoon or move it to another area where you might be in need of additional funds.
Top Tip: If you are not interested in planning your wedding or feel you won’t have control of your budgets, build in a wedding planner. The money you will spend having an extra pair of knowledgeable and informed hands to do the labour intensive work and keep you on track from frivolous spending is likely to save you money!
Ask the Right Questions
You know all of those questions you have in your head before you start venue shopping and then you get there, feel totally overwhelmed and forget almost all of them apart from ‘what beers do you have?’ Never let this happen and take a list of questions with you to each venue. Make a list of 5 ‘non-negotiables’ and a list of 5 ‘preferables but negotiables’ and take this with you to each viewing. Your mind will become so boggled with the different venues, different packages and different selling styles of the coordinators that keeping your ideas at the forefront of your mind becomes challenging. The last thing you want is to end up feeling flustered! Note: I strongly discourage ‘non-negotiables’ such as ‘must be a manor house’ or ‘must have a specific date’ as these are not deal breakers. There are some amazing alternative venues besides the fashionable barns and manor houses that are out there. You just need to look for them!
Top Tip: Always query for hidden charges! Is VAT, service charge and venue hire included in the prices? Sounds crazy but some venue charge one price for your meal and a hire charge for the instruments to eat it! Don’t be wary or suspicious of venues though. 99% of the time they are not dishonest or out to get you. Relax and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting in black and white before you sign on the dotted line.
Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
If you don’t have the time or simply don’t want to plan for your wedding, then you need a wedding planner. This is one of the most important and special days of your life and if you don’t plan properly, you’ll end up stressed and making decisions lastminute.com. You could end up feeling unhappy with your results and be putting your relationship under unnecessary strain. The earlier you get all of your plans in place the less time you spend flapping and the more productive you are. Book items in a logical order giving yourself enough time to research properly. Firstly the ceremony and the venue, followed by the photographer and videographer. Book the suppliers who only supply wares for one wedding a day to make sure you’re not missing out.
Top Tip: Getting a booking in early often means you avoid suppliers’ annual increases. It generally doesn’t work with venues but you could end up saving £££’s by beating the crowds.
Following on from the planning stage involves keeping all of your planning in a logical format, be it in a folder on your computer or a folder on your desk. Keep everything in one place where you can see your forecasting and invoices, your contracts, your decor ideas/moodboards and your format for the wedding day itself. Timings, catering, setup details and anything else you have organised with your venue. I strongly suggest creating a wedding timeline to help take your organisational title from ‘novice’ to ‘hyper-anal’! Name calling and judgments aside here, this will keep you on track for all manner of important deadlines. Sending your save the dates, sending your invitations, making payments. This will be your make shift wedding planner if you have decided not to hire a professional to do the legwork for you.
Top Tip: Include important decision on your wedding timeline so you avoid the common habit of procrastinating and putting things off until later. Later may not roll around until it’s too late so make sure you set your deadlines and you meet them!
Friends? What friends?
When I was planning my wedding I had my best friend by my side to listen to my crazy ideas and tell me she would do anything I needed, wear anything I wanted her in and do anything I asked to make sure I was stress free and happy. God I love that girl! Unfortunately, some people are not always so supportive and seemingly go out of their way to make you feel a little bit crap. Don’t ask me why this happens or if their is a predisposed gene that we will hopefully some day be able to extract but it is worth while knowing that after the cake has been cut, the champers has long been drunk and everyone is off home, relationships might not be the same. (Family are not excluded from this bizarre phenomenon). Whether it’s begging to be a bridesmaid, moaning about the seating arrangements or criticising the decor, be aware and ready for jealousy and unwanted input.
Top Tip: Don’t add hassle to yourself by worrying about causing controversy. Have your wedding, your way and surround yourself with the people who want to help not hinder you. Don’t be afraid of having a frank conversation with someone who is being less than helpful – what might seem awkward at the time will be a weight lifted from your shoulders.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
It’s so common to become totally overwhelmed with your wedding day and micromanage each and every aspect from the angle the place cards should sit to the perpendicular relation that the chrysanthemums are to the tulips, when in reality you are not going to notice. Yes, I hear you, “I would”. I guarantee you, you won’t. And even if you do, you won’t care. If you do care, maybe you shouldn’t have got married! It’s so easy to get sucked up into the minor details and forget the real things that will mean more to you than anything. If your guests had an amazing time, the food was fab and you had the best day of your life – it was all a success! Just destroy that photo of the place card that went walkabouts…
Top Tip: Enjoy every second. People don’t say “It goes so quickly” for the fun of it. It’s true – absorb everything, talk to who you want, when you want and enjoy being the centre of attention. Minor hiccups mean nothing and no-one will remember them so let go of all of your worries and dance your night into the morning!
What is Marriage Like?!
Ok, so this one you’re never going to know in advance but you can take the advice for those who are now in the throws of wedding bliss, or not. If you have just moved in with your new beau and all that is forecasted are sunny skies and ice creams for the foreseeable, you’ve either fallen over and hit you’re head or your in Brighton. I’m not saying that you won’t be endlessly happy, because I’m sure and I certainly hope that you will be. But what happens with the money, the chores, the shopping? Who does it, when, how? How do you deal with your first argument as a married couple? All of these things should be discussed beforehand so when the time comes, you are both more prepared to deal with the down’s as well as the up’s.
Top Tip: Pre-marital counseling is a fantastic way to strengthen your relationship before stepping into the unknown. It helps to better understand your partners’ fears and concerns and why they react the way they do. Counseling is not failure but a smart and mature approach to one of the biggest decisions of your life.
So those are my 7 helpful hints and tips that will hopefully help avoid extra stress during your wedding plans! Take the advice now so you don’t become another bride saying that fateful phrase, “If I could do one thing differently it would be…”