Planning your Wedding
Sunday, 15 February 2015 | Admin
If you’ve recently gotten engaged, you might reasonably be wondering what to do next. This is understandable; planning a wedding is an enormous undertaking and it can be difficult to know where to begin.
For this reason, the hiring of a wedding planner is considered by many to be a worthwhile expense. They will know exactly what is required in order to make the day go smoothly – they do, after all, have a great deal of experience in the matter!
Those that lack the budget or the inclination to go down such a route may wish to plan their wedding themselves. There is a great deal at stake in such a venture. Get it right and the results can be beautiful. Get it wrong, however and the result could be hideous! What follows is a guide which will help steer your wedding toward the former, and away from the latter.
Twelve Months to go
Unless you’ve decided to elope, you will want to plan your wedding well in advance. Nine months is widely considered a minimum; twelve is ideal.
Draft the budget
The first step in planning a wedding is to establish exactly how much you have to spend on it. To do this, you will need to arrange a sit-down meeting with you parents – or whoever might be contributing to the bill. Once you have arrived at an overall estimate for the wedding’s cost, you can form an estimate as to what can be achieved. This figure can be somewhat disconcerting and lead many couples toward a ‘slash and burn’ approach to certain apparently frivolous areas of the bill. There are dangers of doing so, which we will touch on later.
Draft the guest list
The second step is to draft a guest-list. Who do you want to come to your wedding? Are there some who you’d rather just come to the reception? Nowadays, smaller, more intimate ceremonies are often favoured, with larger receptions later in the evening – at which your guests can actually celebrate the marriage, rather than just observing it. Acquaintances will enjoy the latter; only close friends and family will want to endure the former.
It can be tempting to invite everyone you know – this, however, is often impracticable. It may sound heartless, but there are good financial reasons for leaving some people out. The fewer guests you invite, the smaller your catering bill will be. Would you rather have two-hundred guests eating terrible food, or one-hundred guests eating a sumptuous banquet?
Get an idea of what you want the wedding to consist of
This process typically involves trawling through wedding magazines in search of inspiration. This needn’t be the only source of inspiration though; if you’re so inclined you can catalogue all of the ideas in a special folder designed explicitly for this purpose. This way, when you come to discuss arrangements later on, you can present your ideas caterers, tailors and florists.
Eight Months to go
Buy the dress
The bride’s choice of wedding dress, like much of her shopping in the coming months, will be informed largely by personal taste. That said, there are a few pieces of advice worth imparting.
The first is that you should avoid taking an enormous posse of friends and well-wishers with you. Their opinions, however well-intentioned, will be conflicting and disorientating. They may place you under uncomfortable pressure to go with a dress you don’t really like.
Instead, take only a couple of close female friends – your mother and a sister or close female friend are ideal. They will be able to provide you with a trustworthy, honest opinion – which is a great deal more useful than the fickle consensus of an enormous crowd. This is not a democracy; this is your wedding dress. Today, you are the despot!
It is important to never go shopping for a dress unless you’re ready to buy it. You might rationalise an early trip to the dressmaker by telling yourself that it will be useful to get an idea of what you want well in advance. You will, however, have only a vague idea of your budget and may therefore form an attachment to a dress which is slightly beyond it. In doing so, you will risk disheartenment in the long run. Once your budget has been established, then stick to it ruthlessly – leaving some spare for the inevitable adjustments which will come further down the line.
Meet with Caterers
It is now that you’ll want to meet with potential caterers in order to outline a menu. They will be able to provide you with advice on the sorts of foods that will be in season on the day itself. If you know someone involved in catering, they might be able to point you in the right direction.
While, generally speaking, you get what you pay for, it is possible to obtain quality food for a modest sum. Conversely, it is possible to obtain mediocre food for a fortune. Needless to say, you should sample any food you intend to give to all of your friends and family before opening your wallet.
Meet with Entertainment
If your reception is going to succeed, you will need to provide your guests with some audio-visual stimulation. This typically comes in the form of either a DJ or a band. The latter is undoubtedly more expensive and requires a little more technical preparation; the venue will need to be consulted in order to find out whether it meets the band’s technical requirements. The former, on the other hand, is a great deal more forgiving.
This is an area which many couples are tempted to economise – after all, how bad can a cheap DJ really be? The answer is very. Good music, most people agree, can greatly enhance the evening – it’s fun and it provides an emotional lift. Bad music, on the other hand, can be excruciating - to the extent that your guests will want to leave early to avoid it.
If you’d rather not spend the latter portion of the evening fielding awkward goodbyes from guests who would rather not have to endure a dreadful DJ that you cannot even understand, then it’s worth splashing out on someone with a vague idea of what they’re doing.
Six Months to go
Meet with Florist
It is safe to leave organising your wedding flowers until you have decided on a colour scheme. After all, your flowers should ideally match the overall palette of your wedding, not the other way around. Fortunately, florists are among the more flexible of those responsible for your big day. Unlike caterers, they can serve many different clients in a single day. That said, it’s wise to give them at least half a year’s notice – you will, after all, be placing a fairly large order.
Now is a good time to make arrangements about your bridesmaid’s dresses. You’ve established the colour scheme and so you should arrange the dresses to match the flowers.
Meet with the officiant
Whatever your choice of venue – religious or otherwise – you will need to meet with the people who will actually be conducting the ceremony and ensure that all of the necessary documents are in place and properly completed.
Four Months to go
Order the cake
A wedding cake is traditionally something huge and complex. It therefore requires a specialist baker. It should ideally also taste good – which is why you should taste the work of a prospective baker before committing to them – as you have done with every other area of catering.
Hair and makeup artists
If your budget allows you to spend hundreds, (or, more likely, thousands) of pounds on a dress, it can accommodate some fancy hair and makeup artists for bride and bridesmaids. Unfortunately, artists of sufficient quality are in demand – it is therefore best to book at this point in order to avoid disappointment.
Three months to go
At this point you should be finalising the details you have already put into motion over the previous few months.
Finalise the menu
Your caterer’s lives will be made easier if you give them three months’ notice of what you’d like to appear on the menu. Do your guests a huge favour and feed them something inoffensive – not everyone shares your taste for squid. If you intend to invite children to your wedding, you will also need to provide them with an option.
Finalise the readings
You need to decide what the ceremony will actually consist of – what will be read and by whom. If you’ve a Christian, then you should discuss this with your vicar or priest, who will be able to offer advice on exactly which hymns are appropriate and which passages of scripture are suitable for the occasion. But even if you’re not, you will want to discuss the agenda for the ceremony with those in charge of carrying it out – just to make sure you haven’t suffered a grievous lapse in judgement.
Two months to go
Meet the photographer
At this point you should meet with your photographer. This is an area on which many couples are tempted to skimp. This temptation should be resisted. Your wedding photographs will last a lifetime after all. When you look at them in a decade’s time, your overriding emotions should be positive – they should not wholly consist of regret that you didn’t spend more money on photography.
Send out invitations
The invitations, on the other hand, are an area where money can indeed be saved. If you have access to a printer – or know of anyone that does, you can achieve significant savings without compromising a great deal of quality. If you’re creative, you can create your own invites and in doing so lend them a personal touch. If you’re not, you can get them done professionally for a modest sum.
Having established exactly how you’re going to make your invitations, be sure to include all of the right information before sending them out. The most important things to include are an address, a date and a time. An RSVP slip is also indispensable; you might ask your guests to confirm whether they’ll be bringing a guest and remind them that, if they don’t RSVP, they will need to bring a packed lunch and a chair! You can also use the RSVP slip in order to determine your guest’s drinking habits – this information will prove useful when it comes to stocking the bar.
One month to go
Stock up the bar
You should, by now, have a firm idea of how many people will be attending – and ideally, an idea of what they’d like to drink. Stock the bar accordingly.
You will need to arrange seating for the sit-down meal and have place cards created (or, create them yourself). Use common sense here – seat people who know one another next to one another. No-one will want to be stuck without anyone to talk to. Most guest lists inevitably also contain people who don’t really know anyone else. There are two options here: you can either give these people a table to themselves, or you can disperse them across the other tables.
One week to go
Pick up the dress
You should go and collect the dress – which by now should be ready. If it is doesn’t quite fit properly, there is still time to make adjustments – though this is hardly ideal!
The day before the wedding, you might feel as though you need a manicure and pedicure. It’s also probably wise to pay for a relaxing massage, as by now your stress levels will likely be stratospheric.
At this point, it’s quite normal to be stressed. There are a few hundred tiny things that need taking care of – you cannot do them all! Delegate trustworthy people to take care of them.
Prepare for your honeymoon
You’ll want to have your bags packed and ready to go. The last thing you’ll want to do after the wedding is mess around with packing bags and other such things.
When you finally arrive at the stag and hen parties, it is important that you actually enjoy them. If you’ve done everything right up to this point, you’ll be able to do exactly that.