How to Start Planning Your Wedding
The day after a close friend of mine was married my boyfriend proposed to me, perhaps he choose this day as he was caught up in wedding fever from the gorgeous wedding we had just been to or maybe he just couldn’t stand to be holding on to the ring for too long in case he misplaced it or I found it! In any case I now find myself very happily engagement to be married to my bestie.
When the fizz and buzz of the initial shock of the proposal resolved and we had the oohs and ahhs from all our family and friends and cooing over my engagement ring, I must admit to feeling a little overwhelmed. Where do I start with planning the actual wedding day! My fiancé and I very briefly discussed our wedding, but we had not really progressed much further than “er yeah in about 2 years” and “probably abroad” mainly because it felt like there was such a lot to arrange and being busy running our own businesses and raising a very active 18 month old it just seemed like a massive task. Two years however comes around quick and with weddings things need to be booked in advance hence my anxiety and stress levels starting to bubble over. We were excited about the prospect of being married and both wanted to be married but the whole arranging the wedding left us feeling quite overwhelmed.
So, to help all you brides out there who are feeling exactly the same way as I was, I have put together a checklist of sorts to help you get started.
18-12 months before the wedding
Set a Wedding Timetable
This is a great way to start the planning process and should ideally be around 18 months before the wedding date. I found this extremely helpful. It’s hard to decide what’s first, do we set a date, do we find a location but in reality you cant set an exact date if the venue and location you choose is not available but you cant choose the venue and location unless you have a date!
Instead sit down together and focus on determining a range of wedding dates that suit you and your partner and think about the season or seasons that would work for you. The average wedding takes around 18 months to plan. Check with those closest to you whom you absolutely cannot do without on your wedding date and check that the range of dates and seasons work with them then you wont be disappointment when you finally choose your date if they are unable to attend.
Set a Wedding Budget
Right from the start set a wedding budget and stick to it. Weddings can be, as everyone knows, expensive, the last thing that you want is to spend way too much on something that you could have done without and not being able to spend on the things later that you have forgotten about or really wanted. Not planning a wedding budget can add an element of financial stress and disappointment later down the line. Sit down with your partner and have an open discussion about your finances, how much the two you can realistically afford and how much you would be able to save between you.
Some couples are able to have help from parents with finances, if your partners have expressed a desire to help then have a chat with them early and make sure that everyone is clear about what they can contribute.
Before you even attempt to try on bridal gowns have a think about what the overall style of your wedding will be. Do your research and collect lots of wedding inspiration so you can start to narrow down the style of your wedding day. Be careful not to get overwhelmed with doing the research and stick to one outlet such as Pintrest or Instagram. Create mood boards and Pintrest boards with colours, themes, locations, designs, table decor etc that you like. Create different boards with different colours, styles and themes to narrow down what you think will work for you and what wont and the style of your wedding will be clear. Have some fun with it! Once you have decided on a style or theme, stick to it! It will be much easier for you to make decisions once you are clear on what the overall style of your wedding is.
Choose your guest list
At this stage you do need to know roughly how many guests are likely to be at your wedding. The final guest list will come later but it is important to have an estimated guest list early especially when it comes to your venue options. Once you have decided on a venue it will be important to have an idea of how many guests are likely to be at your wedding as this could impact on the venue you decide upon.
Choose the Bridal Party
Many couples already know who they want for their maid of honour, best man and bridesmaids but for some this needs careful consideration and thought. It is not something to be rushed. Think very carefully about who will support you best throughout the wedding planning and on your wedding day.
Think about your budget here also, if you have a large bridal party the costs will increase. The bridal party will need outfits, shoes, bouquets, thank you gifts and the more you have in the bridal party the more it will impact on your budget.
Choose your location and venue
Next up choose your location and venue. At this stage you should be around 12-15 months before your wedding. Once you have your budget, a few wedding date ideas and a style you can start to choose a wedding venue and location. Sit down with your partner and decide what type of venue will fit with your chosen style whether it’s a wedding in the country or a wedding abroad now is the time to decide and compromise with each other.
There are so many locations abroad which hold significance for my fiance and I, the favourite being Hamilton Island in Australia, but this may not be a great location for many of our family members, this is something to think about when considering location. Can all the guests you really want at your wedding get to the location you are considering. Cost for the guests is also a consideration.
Have a think about whether you want accommodation at the venue, your own caterers and whether the venue will allow your own caterers, the guest list, whether you want a band and if they can accommodate the size of your preferred band.
Once you have chosen a location its then time to start to look for wedding venues in that location and start to narrow it down keeping in mind the overall style of your wedding.
Choose the wedding date
Now that you have your venue you can set the official wedding date from the list of dates you were considering. Keep in mind that weddings on a weekend especially a Saturday are the most expensive and are often booked up early, to keep costs down you could consider a wedding on weekday. At this stage you should already have spoken to family and friends and asked for confirmation of any specific dates that they could not attend so you should be in a position to narrow the date down and pick your official wedding date.
12 Months before the Wedding
Book your Suppliers
Most couples have a list of around 10-15 suppliers to help arrange their wedding and most need around 12 months’ notice. It seems a large amount of people until you sit down and think about who you actually need to make your day run according to plan, baker, photographer, wedding planner, the wedding officiator, invitations made, the band, the DJ, caterer, the Videographer, the Florist, the transportation to name just a few. Do your research into suppliers, recommendations are a great way to start the search. Contact suppliers whom you think will suit your style and budget, don’t be afraid to discuss budget with them and shop around.
Start a registry
It’s a great idea to give guests a list of potential gifts that they can buy you. It makes life easy for the guests who may want to buy you something and find it hard especially if like most couples you already have a home. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, you can add and change things later if you decide to.
Invitations and Save the Date
Lots of couples are now using social media tools for wedding invitations like Facebook, as opposed to traditional invites. It a very quick and cost-effective way of notifying all your family and friends of your wedding date and any additional plans that you have along the way such as a pre-wedding dinner, hen and stag party’s and the like. Just be sure to include all the important information about the big day, date, location, time, travel information, accommodation details etc. You can send save the date by social media and formal invitations later or you can send them all at once on social media.
12 – 8 months before the Wedding
Now it’s time to go shopping for all your wedding attire! Give yourself plenty of time to find your perfect attire especially when it comes to wedding dresses. It can take months for the dresses to arrive and then you have to factor in alterations. So, don’t wait until the last minute as this creates another element of stress.
Create a Schedule of the day’s events
Work with your wedding planner and create a schedule for the day’s events. This should include things like what time the ceremony starts, when suppliers will arrive, when you will be having the wedding breakfast. This will allow you to feel confident that the day will run as you want it and create an order for you. It will remind you of anything you have forgotten and will also give all your suppliers something to work from.
4-6 months before the wedding
Plan the Honeymoon
After all the planning and the build-up to the wedding day it’s a welcomed break when the honeymoon finally arrives so make sure you have spent time planning and arranging it. Now is the time to sit down together and decide where you want to go to take the well-earned break and spend time together as a married couple. Book your travel and accommodation and start planning the vacation!
Before the wedding you will of course have several pre-wedding events such as bridal and stag parties, engagement parties etc. You will need to ensure that you have plenty of notice for these events, as they are usually something that you don’t plan yourselves, but you will need to make sure you have left room in your calendar for them.
Hair and Make-up trials
Don’t forget the hair and make-up trials. They are important. They can be a lot of fun if you do them with some of your bridal party but if you choose the wrong hairdresser or make-up artist or you are not clear on what you actually want it can affect your whole style and theme and it is a further added stress on your wedding day. In
stead have a good sit down with your hair and make-up team and have a play around with styles and colours in order to achieve your rosy bridal glow.
3 months before your wedding
If you are having a formal wedding breakfast which is usually the case now is the time to consider your seating plan and start to get together what the wedding breakfast will look like. It is a good idea to work with your wedding planner or the supplier on this and let them lead you into how many tables and guests around the tables etc you can have. Once you have finalised your seating chart and it’s not subject to change sent it out to relevant people such as wedding planner, caterer, venue, stationer.
Don’t forget the rings
Buy your wedding bands a few months before your wedding date. It should reflect your personality and style and most of all feel comfortable to wear. If one or both of you not wearing bands consider your vows and how they will be adapted and if you are instead wearing another piece of jewellery to take their place. Don’t forget to notify the wedding officiant of any change such as this and go through with them how the vows will change to accommodate you.
Obtain your marriage licence
Make sure that you obtain this at the right time. Where you tie the knot will depend on when you need to purchase your marriage licence in the event you have to wait for it and make enquiries early regarding this as you can’t get married without it!
Check your details with your suppliers.
Usually you are in contact with your wedding supplies constantly but make sure that you have tied up any loose ends with them and they are very clear on what you want for your wedding date. Make sure that they have all the relevant information they need to make your day run as smoothly as possible. Check that you have paid the supplies or whether they require final payment on the day and maybe allocate this task to someone else perhaps the best man or your wedding planner so it’s not something that you forget on the day and another thing for you to think about.
If you want to have a rehearsal dinner or a pre wedding dinner with family and friends now is the time to consider this. A rehearsal dinner usually takes place the night before the wedding and will require some form of planning. I would consider starting to arrange this around 6 months before the wedding date allowing guests to have plenty of notice and time for you to plan
Enjoy the day! Relax take help when it’s offered on the day or beforehand. Don’t worry, don’t stress and if it doesn’t to plan it honestly does not matter. The only thing your guests will remember is that you married your best friend in front of all your family and friends.