How to plan a wedding
How to plan a wedding – A few helpful hints and tips on things to think about for getting married!
BIG TIP – work out a budget that you want to pay and stick to it! (The average cost of a UK wedding is in the region of £25,000, info from Money Saving Expert)
You need to book three things quite early on:
- Arrange the wedding venue
- Arrange the venue for the reception or wedding breakfast if different from point 1
- Arrange your wedding photographer
- Arrange the wedding cars
Depending on where you go and whom you choose these can be quite costly to book as many will require large deposits up front with the rest payable 2-4 weeks before the wedding itself. I ask for a £300 booking fee to confirm your wedding date; meaning I will turn down other bookings on your wedding date.
There, that is the hard part over with!
Actually, only kidding! The first three bits on How to Plan A Wedding are the ones you need to get sorted and in the dairy first.
The Planning Bit
Planning a wedding is like running a project. It has a defined start, a defined end, a defined quality and a defined cost. My advice would be to set your budget first and then STICK to it.
The Cost – Wedding Budget
My advice would be to set your budget first and then STICK to it. You can find my Wedding Budget Planner here.
Think seriously about the quality of your wedding – i.e. what do you want to be included, what can you buy at what price, what can you make (and how long will that take etc). It’s not important to have all the bells and whistles. You are NOT keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths or your best mate from school who is getting married 2 weeks before you.
If memories are important to you then, yes, get a great Cardiff or Bristol Wedding Photographer and or videographer. If they are not, then you can save some money on that area. If you love cake – splash out on the cake. Same for flowers, ice sculptures, photo booths, games, magicians etc.
Remember though in weddings, as with life, you get what you pay for. If it seems too good to be true it is.
If you are on a very tight budget consider getting asking your local Higher Education (18yrs+) college if they have any photography students who would like the chance to photograph a wedding. Please be aware that you may NOT get the same variety/ quality etc as a full-time professional, but it will be cheaper. As I said – it all depends on how important memories are to you.
Sure if you have plenty of time you can have a great wedding and save costs by doing it all yourself. If not, you pay for someone to do it all for you. Or you have a smaller and more intimate wedding.
It’s possible to get married within 28 days and for only £80 if you want a civil service with no frills and it’s done mid-week. If you are madly in love – why not!!??
Most people though, when planning a wedding, tend to start around 18 months to 24 months from the date they want to get married.
How to plan a wedding – The Big Bits
Do you want a church wedding or a civil service? If the answer is a church wedding then slightly different rules may apply depending on where it is you are getting married, and which faith you are getting married in.
For example, Church in Wales will only marry couples that live in the parish of the church. Church of England will marry people outside the parish. Or they did at the last time of asking). Also be aware that if you are marrying in a church then a blessing is must, don’t moan to the vicar or priest! If you decide to get married in a different church you will need to pay two sets of fees for the “Bans” to be read out, and more than likely attend church for 6 months leading up to your wedding date at least twice per month.
It is also best to check with the vicar where the wedding photographers are allowed to be. Some do not mind them being at the front of the church whilst others will want the wedding photographers at the back of the church. This will have an impact on the photographs you will receive.
You can find out more about the costs of church weddings by reading this article.
I have had one vicar, Julian from Mathern Parish (South Wales) who was superb and was more than happy for me to use flash, move about etc. As he put it “ After the day is done the only memories the couple will have will be the photographs.” On the other hand, another vicar in Hereford refused me permission to come to the front of the church and didn’t allow flash at any time until the service was over.
Apparently, no rules or guidelines exist for vicars – it is all down to them! Wedding Breakfast – if this is a different venue than the ceremony itself then you should be asking yourself what kind of wedding breakfast do you want, how many guests will be coming, is there accommodation available, does the venue include things like a disco as part of the price. More on the details of this later, but it pays to get the best place that you can afford.
My favourite wedding venue is St Pierre Marriott Hotel & Country Club. I am a preferred wedding photographer there so offer some great prices. Additionally, it is one of the best venues for wedding photography – you are allowed all over the hotel and onto the two golf courses!
As a Bristol, UK and destination wedding photographer, I’m occasionally asked to help plan the venue with the wedding couple, and it’s a great honour to be asked to help in this.
Let’s look at the wedding venue in more detail…
If your venue provides accommodation – can you do a deal for cheaper rooms if you block book? Does it have enough accommodation for your main wedding party at least?
What does the bridal suite look like? Can you stay the night before if it is the civil service? Does it have great lighting for your hair and makeup artists? What time can you get into the wedding venue to set up or even to get ready?
Does the venue have great grounds for photos or will you have to ask the wedding photographer to recce a suitable location close by? Is the wedding photographer willing to even to this? (By the way, I regularly put clients into my Mercedes and drive them to various locations if we can’t get the wedding photographs we would like at the venue itself!)
Are the tables going to be round or oblong? From my experience, they are usually round, but you never know. Top table or less traditional with the top table in the middle?
You will probably want to dress the chairs. The venue will do this for you, or you can get a company to do it for you. Be aware that some venues may charge you extra if you do not use them – ask when you book!!
You can get the chairs dressed to suit your colour scheme also.
Most venues will be able to provide drinks and canapés for after the service for your guests whilst the photographer is taking some outstanding simple intimate images of you and the new Mr in your life. Orange, white wine or champagne is usually the order of the day.
After that it’s down to the bar – and I’m not being stingy here but let the guest pay for extra drinks themselves!
White and Red wine on the table for the reception along with mineral and sparkling water also.
How to plan your wedding when choosing a wedding photographer
I’m predominantly a Bristol Wedding Photographer – Have a good look through the magazines and websites at the styles of photographers out there.
Don’t limit yourself to one area. It is easy for wedding photographers and clients to meet up face to face or use modern technology such as Skype or Facetime etc to meet. I do this on a regular basis if the clients are more than a 60-minute drive from me.
- Style of photography matches what you have in your head for your wedding.
- The personality of the wedding photographer. Are they normal and down to earth or stuck up or whatever
- Do they include wedding albums or can you add one on to the package
- Do they include prints of some kind if they don’t include a wedding album? Have a look at the Folio Boxes I offer my clients.
- Do they give you the option of photographing groups or limit you to 2 or 3 groups?
- What price are they and does it fit your budget. (Don’t forget that sometimes you may have to think about travel/accommodation also)
- Do they have Access to a second photographer if you feel you really really need one?
- Do they offer payment plans to help you plan your budget?
- Do they have a blog of lots of weddings with a full variety of images – getting ready, service, reception, evening, first dance etc.
Drop them an e-mail or give them a call and ask them to come and visit especially the more local ones. They should be more than happy to come along with sample albums etc for you to look at.
Photographers pricing comes in a wide variety of sizes, from cheap and cheerful £199 to over £5000. As a rough estimate, you should be looking at spending approximately 8% – 10% of your budget on the photographer. Click here for my Bristol & Cardiff Wedding Prices.
Remember – once the day is over you only have the photographs to look back on. It pays not to scrimp in this area so go with a professional.
Choosing a wedding photographer to go with is difficult – the best option is to visit the wedding fayres and speak to them in person. Check out their albums, personalities, any deals they have on offer and how willing they are to accommodate your wishes, will they hold the price if you book a year or more in advance?
For me the personality for your wedding photographer is important. You need to be able to trust them. I’ll generally be with the bride for longer during the day than the groom will be! What is their personality like? Are they willing to step in offer an extra pair of hands when you need them? Can they stay calm and collected when things are not going as they should? Then look at the quality of work, price and check out the online reviews! Andrew Miller Photography Reviews.
How to plan a wedding – Details details, its all in the details!!
Next up is the colour scheme. What are you going to choose? Your bridesmaids, groom, best man, ushers etc should all have some of that colour picked out to help them go together.
The colour scheme should also move into the flowers you want to have so think carefully about the date of your wedding as you may be paying for flowers that are out of season!
Will you choose a colour that can match the seats at the venue?
The Dress or should that be THE DRESS!!!
The dress is one of the most important parts of your outfit. Actually – it is the most important part of your outfit! Choose your dress carefully and think about the time of day and year you will be getting married. Think about how the dress will look from the back (especially important if your photographer isn’t allowed at the front for photographs!). Will you be wearing a short bolero jacket or similar?
Get out with your girlfriends and get the mam’s involved (keeps them busy!) and try on as many dresses as possible to get the feel of what is out there and what you like. Take your camera phone with you and snap away so you can remember what they look like on. (Remember to take shots from the back as well!!). For some reason, some bridal shops frown on this!?
A really good point is to think about YOU. What is your body shape, body size etc? If you think you need to lose a few pounds – make sure you can and the weight loss is sensible over a sensible period of time. Does the wedding dress suit your body height? Can you move easily when you are in the wedding dress?
So, we have the ceremony venue, the reception venue, the photographer and the dress. This How to Plan A Wedding lark is getting easier!
For same-sex marriages are you both going to wear a dress? Will they clash? Have you discussed what types of dress you both like? BIG questions!!
The Men in your life…(that usually means the Groom, Bestman and Ushers)
Next up is the groom’s outfit. Most blokes (take this the right way guys!) are not that bothered by details such as this and leave it to the brides! Good job as the brides can then make sure that the details on the grooms, best man, ushers suits etc all match the colour scheme!
Gents normally wear one of two outfits. An evening suit or a morning coat. Both look great, though a morning coat is very formal! The cravat is worn the bride gets to add the colour scheme, and possibly with the waistcoats as well. Grooms usually wear a different colour waistcoat to the best man or ushers, or possibly a different shade of cravat.
Dinner jackets are also popular, though these tend to be very USA style.
Again, for same-sex marriages – have you both discussed what you will wear, will it clash, will it compliment each other?
Wedding Cars – How to Plan a Wedding
Many people are now opting for a civil ceremony and thus can stay at the wedding venue the night before the wedding. This more than likely saves on wedding cars for the day. If however, you are going to get ready for another location then you need to think about wedding cars.
Vintage, modern, classic? The colour of the car (vintage tends to be a bit limited in this respect!).
The one thing I’ve noticed is that where people want to save a few £££ they are hiring a modern Mercedes or BMW, putting the ribbon around it themselves and asking a friend to drive. Considerably cheaper than a vintage wedding car.
How to plan a wedding – The Littler bits!
When you are thinking about how to plan a wedding the invitations are pretty important. How else are you going to let people know your getting married!
Two ways of doing this. Do it yourself or pay for it to be done for you.
You need to work out the time it would take you to do it yourself and whether the time is worth paying someone else! I personally think making them yourself is great as you can call the mums, friends etc to help and this makes them feel part of your big day. (Also keeps them out of the way of the bigger things!!)
Get down to Hobby Craft for some fantastic ideas, look on Google and get typing then printing then cutting then folding the tying! This can be a really good way to get more people involved in the wedding and takes the pressure off you having to do everything. (Also helps to keep the costs down!)
How to Plan A Wedding and get a great looking cake?
So do you like traditional or sponge? How about cupcakes as well or one big cupcake? Arrrgghhhh so many different things to think about. Many people ask Why are wedding cakes so expensive – well, they aren’t really. This blog post by Wedding Cakes Bedfordshire explains it all.
The thing here is to get a cake that YOU like and then think about your guests. Most cakes have at least two tiers – so you can easily have a traditional and a sponge version
If you go for three tiers remember the old tradition of keeping the top tier for the christening of the first baby…
The decorations on the cake are down to you and can be fancy, simple, coloured or whatever. I have seen some great cakes with little icing models of the bride and groom – really cute.
Once again, get the magazines out and start looking. Get out to the fayres and start talking. Do you know a friend who can make one for you?
The cake should be ready at least 2 days before the wedding – just to be sure.
Flowers are next on the list of things to arrange. By now you will have the colour scheme sorted out with your dress, the ladies, the groom and guys all done. All florists will be able to match the colour scheme to a suitable selection of flowers for you.
What you do need to think about is the following…
How to plan a wedding and get the perfect wedding bouquet – do you want to hold it or go for something smaller and have it on your wrist? You are going to be holding this for what could be a long time so make sure it is not too heavy!
- Bride’s mums, Grooms mum
- Dads on both sides
- Best man
- Bridesmaid’s corsages
Table decorations – you don’t want too much in the way of table decorations really, they tend to get in the way of conversation and eye contact! Keep them simple.
Church flowers – remember the church seasons and you may get lucky and get flowers in the church already… though they may not match your colour scheme!
Etiquette is important here. Ladies go on the right-hand breast side flower down and gents go on the left-hand breast side flower up.
This will depend on the venue, where you are getting married etc. If your bridal prep is at home then transport for you and the bridal party is a must.
Cars, Vans, VW, Vintage or Modern?
If you are on a tight budget or transport isn’t all that big a thing for you I’d go for a hired Mercedes and ask an usher or good friend to drive. It’s cheaper.
Remember that vintage cars are old and may be prone to breaking down, so add that risk to your wedding planning. Will the company have suitable alternative cars/transport for you?
Will you need to think about getting your guests from the wedding service to the wedding reception? Personally, I’d leave it to them to get from A-B.
DJ / Music / Band.
Not all DJ’s are the same! Again, do your research, meet them and chat with them. Many venues will have DJ’s on staff almost so it makes it easier. Band’s are a different kettle of fish! They cost more but can give a real boost to a wedding and the dancing afterwards.
I’m not a big fan. It’s a trend that’s come over from the USA and it just adds to the expense. For me, a better option would be to donate to a charity that is close to your hearts and ask them to produce the name cards for your wedding breakfast.
Last Thing – Supplier Professionalism
Any wedding supplier who runs a business needs to have a certain amount of info displayed on their website and invoices. This is irrespective if they are a Limited Company or a Sole Trader or a Partnership. This website is a great place to check out the legalities.
- If the supplier doesn’t have a website and only a Facebook page – ask why.
- If the supplier doesn’t have a landline – ask why.
- If the supplier doesn’t have an email address associated with their business name – ask why.
- If the supplier doesn’t have a Cookie Consent thingy – ask why.
- If the supplier doesn’t have a contact address – ask why.
- If the supplier doesn’t have a contact number or name – ask why.
- If a supplier doesn’t have a Terms & Conditions page – ask why.
With the amount of very personal data that wedding photographers collect you should be careful of using a business that does not comply with simple legal stuff.
Just as websites need the info by law, so do invoices. This UK Government website shows you what needs to be included.
All companies –
- a unique identification number
- your company name, address and contact information
- the company name and address of the customer you’re invoicing
- a clear description of what you’re charging for
- the date the goods or service were provided (supply date)
- the date of the invoice
- the amount(s) being charged
- VAT amount if applicable
- the total amount owed
Sole trader invoices
If you’re a sole trader, the invoice must also include:
- your name and any business name being used
- an address where any legal documents can be delivered to you if you are using a business name
If your company is a limited company, you must include the full company name as it appears on the certificate of incorporation.
If you decide to put names of your directors on your invoices, you must include the names of all directors.
You must use VAT invoices if you and your customer are VAT registered.
These include more information than non-VAT invoices.
This isn’t hard to do – but it shows a level of professionalism that, by law, ALL UK business (and to be honest EU business) MUST show. If they are not being professional with the basics you need to ask your self would they be professional at supplying you? Do the checks – play it safe.
- If a supplier uses a personal PayPal account – ask why.
- If a supplier asks for a Bank Transfer without any paperwork – ask why
- If a supplier is including a lot in the package as standard – ask why.
Seriously. If it looks too good to be true – it is.