Firstly, congratulations! It is such an exciting time.
You may have been anticipating it, if your partner is anything like my husband (who took 6 years to propose), or it may have been a complete surprise! Either way, grab a cup of tea or a glass of champagne and have a read through my top tips on what to do next.
Take some time to enjoy being newly engaged. Stare at your new ring, tell family and friends, change your Facebook status and watch Say Yes to the Dress back to back! It is a time you (hopefully) won’t get to experience again, so make the most of it.
2. Don’t rush it.
It is easy to panic and think you must book all your vendors immediately and invite all your friends to be in the bridal party. However, these initial decisions are some of the most important one you will make and can impact your entire wedding planning journey.
Yes, popular wedding vendors do get booked up quickly, but there is no point in jumping the gun and booking your favourite local florist or childhood hairdresser, if you later decide to have a destination wedding. It could be an expensive mistake and cause you to lose valuable deposits.
The same applies to your wedding party. The average engagement length in 2015 was 14.5 months, so think twice about rushing to ask your current work bestie to be a bridesmaid. You may be lucky to have a group of friends who you have been planning weddings with since you were little, but otherwise it is important to take some time to think about who you want to be in your bridal party.
The bridal party will play an important role in your wedding planning journey. They will not just be there on the day in a nice outfit; they will be a support network for you and it does take an investment on their behalf. You may have to rely on them at times and they are likely to have to set aside time for fittings and other wedding related events. A friend who travels 40 weeks of the year is unlikely to be available when you need them to be and this may lead to frustrations on both parties. So pick carefully and explain your reasoning if you have to decide against including someone in your bridal party.
3. Discuss the big issues.
Set aside an evening with your partner and discuss the big aspects of your special day. It is vital to check whether you are on the same page and to bottom out any potential lines of conflict.
If you want a wedding in an intimate church with no more than 30 of your closest friends and family but your fiancé wants a civil service in a stately home and a huge party, there is a lot to discuss and to compromise on. What is important is having the conversation at an early stage.
Below are some suggested questions to help you to establish a joint vision for your wedding:
- Where do you want to get married? Close to home or abroad?
- Do you want a big or small wedding?
- Do you want a church wedding or civil service?
- What time of year do you want to get married?
- What is your vision for the day?
- What is the most important part of the day for you?
- Create a rough guest list
Understanding the size of your guest list is a necessity, even at an early stage. It is not possible to obtain genuine quotes for elements of your day, such as catering, without it.
The number of guests is also likely to dictate your wedding venue. If you are having 200 guests you won’t be able to choose a barn which only seats 80 people. Likewise, 50 guests are likely to be dwarfed in a huge ballroom which can sit 150 and you will lose the party atmosphere.
This will not be your final list, it is only a guide to get you started! It will evolve and you will not need to finalise your invite list until you are ready to send out save the dates or invitations. I was still adjusting my guest list and table plan the evening before our wedding. It is inevitable that some guests will be unable to attend, or you will have guests who suddenly meet the love of their life and beg to bring a plus one.
This may also be the time to make some difficult decisions, which can lead to stressful discussions with parents and family members. The guest list was my least enjoyable element of wedding planning and something which caused a lot of stress. It is good to have these discussions at an early stage and to establish some ground rules.
- Create a budget
The discussions about your visions of the wedding, together with a rough guest list, can help to draft a budget.
As a first step you should analyse your savings (if there is one) and how much you genuinely believe you can save over your intended engagement period. It is important to be realistic and to look at your out goings. Can you forego your weekly shopping habit to save for the wedding of your dreams? Will you need a credit card to pay final vendor balances and is this something you can manage?
It is also at this stage that you should confirm if there are any contributions towards your wedding. You may be fortunate to have parents, other family members or friends who have kindly offered to contribute. Whilst it can be awkward addressing questions about money, you need to know exactly how much is being offered and when this will be provided to you, before you can start planning. For example, we were offered a large chunk of money towards our wedding; however it was dependent on the sale of a property which never went through. If we had relied on this money coming to us, we would now be in a very tricky financial situation and significantly out-of-pocket!
You may need to approach and research venues and vendors which match your vision, in order to build a picture of how much it is likely to cost you. It is then important to prioritise elements of the day which are important to you both and adjust the budget accordingly. You may believe flowers are an absolute necessity and your other half is adamant on a live band, so weight the budget to reflect these priorities.
6. Get organised.
Think about how you organise other elements of your life and use the same tools in wedding planning. I personally like to write down lists and ideas, so my wedding planning book didn’t leave my side throughout the entire process. However, you may have prefer to create spread sheets or electronic calendar reminders .
Start early and use whichever method you choose to note down ideas, budgets, potential vendors and quotes. This will help with compartmentalising your life and reducing stress. If something comes to you at work or just as you are falling asleep, jot it down and come back to it later.
- Create a wedding email address
This is one of my top tips! It was something we did early on and I was so grateful we did.
It took 5 minutes to sign up for a new email, we just used our names and the year we were planning to get married. We then gave this email address to all potential wedding vendors and it meant everything was kept in one place, and we both had access to it.
We also used this address at wedding fairs and other events, meaning that after the wedding we could remove the email account from our phones and we no longer received marketing emails that were purely wedding related.
Styling your wedding is the fun part! It is impossible to avoid jumping on Pinterest and pinning every beautiful thing which catches your eye and I highly recommend it!
Pinterest gets a bad reputation with wedding vendors because it can create unrealistic expectations in clients. It is important to keep in mind that there are no price points on Pinterest, that amazing flower wall is beautiful, but do you have the thousands to pay for it? That hairstyle may be perfect, but are you willing to wear a head full of extensions on your big day, like the model in the shoot?
If you keep in mind that the majority of the photos on Pinterest are from either styled shoots or very expensive weddings, it can be a great source of inspiration. Use it to pin things that really stand out to you and create a board which clearly shows what you are drawn to. You may realise that you pin every copper, geometric wedding detail on Pinterest, or you only choose bouquets of colourful wild flowers, you can then draw on these elements whilst styling your day.
9. Consider whether to invest in a wedding planner or day of co-ordinate
Once you have decided on where you would like to get married and potentially the venue, you may wish to invest in a wedding planner.
I would certainly recommend considering a wedding planner if you are getting married in a different part of the country or in another country. It is also something to consider if you work long hours or are planning to get married in a short time scale, so will have limited time to plan. In these cases a wedding planner will do a lot of the heavy lifting and will present you with options on a short list, saving you time researching.
We had a long engagement, 18 months, and got married in our local area; therefore I did not engage a wedding planner. I enjoyed taking on all aspects of planning, but appreciate this is not for everyone. However, in any event I would recommend a day-of-coordinator (DoC) to manage the vendors, caterers and deliveries. We had one who came with our venue and she was invaluable. She sorted issues that I didn’t even realise arose, which meant I could enjoy the day without worrying!
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I hope that helps! Post a comment or send me an email with your initial wedding planning steps and thoughts.