Wedding planning in the UK: The wedding season survival guide

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Congratulations, you’re getting married! Now all you have do is plan the big day. Wedding planning can seem a daunting task, but don’t let the horror stories about guest lists and catering options send you into a panic – create a checklist, prioritise the important decisions and the whole process should run smoothly.

Here are some tips for planning your wedding with minimal stress. Use this checklist to work through the various wedding tasks in line with your own wedding countdown.

Step #1: Set a budget.

Before you can begin your planning, you need to know the budget you will be working with. Sit down with your betrothed and discuss how much you can afford to spend or how much you are comfortable borrowing for your wedding. Your budget will inform a lot of key decisions – namely where you get married, how many guests you have and the elements you want to include, such as photography, videography, live entertainment and transport.

Your budget will also help you choose when to get married – dates outside of the peak wedding season (typically May-August) may be cheaper at certain venues.
Your family may also want to help you with the costs of the wedding – one or both sets of parents may come forward with a donation that can boost your final budget.

Step #2: Consider your guest list.

How big, or small, do you want your wedding to be? If you’re set on a three-course formal wedding breakfast, how many people can you afford to have at the wedding? Make a guest list and determine who will be invited to the whole day, and who will be evening guests – it’s also wise to speak to parents on both sides, as they may have family members or friends they would like to invite. Once you’ve got your final numbers, you can move forward.

Step#3: Set a date.

When it comes to choosing when to get married, consider how long you need to plan the wedding and comfortably save the amount you need to pay for it. Is your heart set on a colourful summer wedding or would you prefer a romantic winter theme? Is there a date, such as an anniversary, that you would like to use as your wedding date?

Step#4: Find a venue.

Popular venues are sometimes booked up to two years ahead of time, if not longer, so don’t delay in finding your dream hotel, manor house or banqueting hall for your nuptials. If you are having a church wedding, make sure the date is free at both the church and the reception venue before laying down any deposits.

Your guest list will help you decide which venue is right for you in terms of space, accessibility and accommodation needs for the wedding party and guests, and it’s also important to consider the quality of the food, potential locations for beautiful wedding pictures and what services come with your wedding package. Some venues include details like floral centrepieces and a Master of Ceremonies as standard, others may charge separately for extras. Most important of all, ask yourself: can you imagine your big day there?

Step#5: Secure a photographer and form your wedding party.

Once the date is set and the venue booked, the next big expense is likely to be your photographer. Packages can range from hundreds to thousands of pounds depending on how long they stay at the wedding and what services they provide, from a simple disk of images to a full wedding album, engagement photoshoot and more. Ask your married friends if they would recommend their photographer, compare portfolios and meet with photographers in person to discuss your day and their style of photography before choosing who is right for you. However, make it a priority – photographers, like venues, can be booked way in advance.

You should also finalise your wedding party, including the best man, maid of honour and bridesmaids, flower girls and other roles. Ask each person if they would like the job, and discuss the responsibilities and tasks they will have. Suddenly you have a whole team of people to help plan your day and help make it special.

Step#6: Decide on the details.

Now you can pay attention to smaller, but just as important details, including wedding attire, entertainment, invitations, flowers and decorations. Make a list of all the extra details you want to include, for example will you need transport between the church and the reception, or is the wedding taking part in one venue? Are you buying a wedding dress off the rack, or ordering a bespoke gown? Do you want live music or a DJ? Are you going to make your own invitations, or hire a stationer?

Sit down with your partner and make a list of all the smaller details you need to consider, price up and find suppliers – divide tasks between you to make it less taxing. Some companies can take care of flowers, table decorations and invitations in one fell swoop, or you may be able to ask a talented family member for help. If an aunt or cousin makes beautiful cakes, you could save money by asking her to lend a hand.

And don’t forget the honeymoon – after all this work, a relaxing break with your new husband and wife immediately after the wedding will be just the ticket. There’s also hen and stag weekends to consider, with the help of the best man and bridesmaids.

Step#7: Dress to impress.

The bride should start looking for her wedding dress at least nine months before the big day, to give her ample time to find ‘the one’, and if necessary, order it from the designer – it can take up to six months for a wedding dress to ‘come in’ to a bridal store. The best way to find the right wedding gown is to compare styles, lengths, materials and colours until the bride has found something she feels truly special in. It can also be a fun day out for the bride, her mother and the bridesmaids, who can offer valuable feedback during the dress selection process.

But it’s not all about the bride – the groom needs to look his best too! Men have numerous options for their wedding suits, from formal hire of morning suits or tuxedos to having suits tailor-made. The suits should incorporate an element of the wedding colours or the colour of the bridesmaid dresses – it can also be a nice touch to dress the groom slightly differently, for example with a different waistcoat, to make him stand out.

Step#8: Send out the invitations.

Invitations are typically sent out around three months before the wedding, with some venues requiring final numbers up to a month in advance. Set the RSVP deadline in accordance with your venue deadline and give as much information as possible to your guests, from how to find the venue to nearby hotels they can book. If your invitation design doesn’t have room for that much text, include an insert or guest pack in the envelopes, or set up a free wedding website with all the information and share the web address in the invitations.

Step#9: Tick off your checklist.

As the wedding approaches, use a checklist to tick off everything that has been dealt with and keep track of outstanding tasks. A month before the wedding it can be useful to check in with each of your suppliers, from florists to musicians to photographers, to confirm their services and discuss how the day will run. Create a rough timetable to follow and share it with the venue coordinator, finalise your wedding breakfast menu, and draft a table plan – leaving some flexibility for last minute cancellations.

Step#10: Say thank you.

With perhaps just a week or two until the big day, you’ve probably enjoyed the help of your wedding party, family and friends in putting together your dream wedding. Take some time to consider thank you gifts and make sure the right people are thanked in the wedding speeches, if you’re having them.

And remember, enjoy it!

In all the planning chaos, the happy couple can become overwhelmed and lose sight of the fact that their wedding is a day to celebrate their love and their union. On the day itself, let your wedding party deal with any last minute queries or details and simply enjoy your wedding – it will go by faster than you think! At the end of the day, after the champagne has been drunk and the cake eaten, what matters the most is that you and your other half are now man and wife. Good luck!