With the experience of photographing well over a hundred weddings over the years, and planning my own wedding in Rome, these are my top tips for wedding planning!
Budgets may not be fun but they are important! Hopefully you’ve followed the advice in my guide on how to start your wedding planning and you have chosen the areas that you want to prioritise. As a rough guide, you should allocate around 50% of your total budget to your reception and everything involved with it. 8-10% is for your flowers and another 8-10% for your dress, suits and clothing. Again, you should put 8-10% towards your entertainment, 10-12% for photo & video coverage, 2% for invites, 2-3% for gifts and around 8% for miscellaneous items, such as jewellery, garment bags, welcome signs. Lastly, it’s essential to include an extra 5-10% for surprise expenses and going slightly over-budget on individual items.
Planning any large event takes a lot of time and organisation, and your own wedding feels even harder as there will be so much emotion attached to it. Simply everything will take longer than expected so I’d advise just to keep the planning ticking over all the time. You can plan your song list eight months in advance and then give it a quick once over before your send it to your band. If you’re planning to make any personalised items then get those started almost straight away, your guests won’t know if they spent the last six months safely in a box, waiting for their time to shine!
Anything that can be completed before your final week should be, and I’d strongly recommend you both take this week off work. The seven days before your wedding will rapidly fill up with a lot of little 10 minute tasks that suddenly take an hour to do. Friends & family will call for a cuppa before your big day and plenty of unexpected last minute tasks will be added to your list.
Guests Come First
Hopefully you have already outlined your guest list and have an idea of how many you will be inviting. Make sure you discuss this with your venue to ensure you’re the right fit for each other. If you have too few guests in a large reception room then your wedding can feel empty, conversely, if you fill the venue to its maximum then your guests may feel cramped.
Trimming your guest list is a good way to control your budget, if your reception is £100 a head then reducing a table of 10 will save you £1000!
Chat to other married couples
We all have friends who have been recently, and not-so-recently, married and they are a wealth of information! Ask them for advice and insights, they will all have tips and tricks that will help you along the way. Most likely they’ll offer to be on the end of the phone any time you need, and it’s great to speak to people who have been through the exact same thing as you and successfully planned the best day of their lives (because it will be!)
As I said in my Wedding Planning – Where to Start guide, aim to gather all your info in as few places as possible. Create a wedding email address for all communication, sign up to a free Dropbox account for storing digital files & receipts, and buy a binder to store all your papers.
Don’t forget to make notes after every meeting and follow up any conversations with an email, so everyone knows what was agreed and there’s no confusion later.
Ok, yes, that title is meant to grab your attention. Seriously though, wedding planning is (literally for some) a full-time job. You will constantly be thinking about what you need to do, when to do it, and adding more and more items to your to-do list. It can be very easy to become overwhelmed and stressed so it’s important to take a break. You could head off for a mini-getaway, even if it’s only to the next town over, or just relax at home and agree that all wedding talk is banned for 48 hours. Remember, your wedding is important but it’s only the start of your lives together as a married couple!
Balance your budget
Everyone has their own priorities for their big day, and you’ll even have different preferences to your other half. Classify every category in your budget with a 1, 2 or 3. You can splash out on category 1 items and pay for them by cutting corners with category 3 elements. As Vanessa and I had our wedding abroad, we knew we wouldn’t be able to bring any of our cake home. We chose a very simple cake and instead used the money for prosecco, cocktails and appetizers for our guests after our ceremony.
Make it personal
Your wedding is all about you and your love for each other, and your guests will love seeing touches that will make them say “Oh that’s just so them!”. Whether it’s a family tradition, shared hobby or just an aspect of your personality (I secretly added a Lego Doctor Who to my button-hole), your day is about you.
Make it fun!
Wedding planning involves so many different tasks that it can be quite stressful at times so try to make it a celebration when you can. After your first dress fitting you could head out for afternoon tea with your bridesmaids. Or head to your hotel for a weekend away to relax from wedding planning. Most importantly, make sure you have a cake-tasting, always a highlight! Also, Vanessa and I had a great Saturday night in with a bottle of wine and playing songs on Spotify to choose our wedding playlist!
Book the best photographer
Your wedding album and video will be how you’ll treasure the cherished moments of your day. You can relive your wedding story just by opening your album and browsing the pages. Just as every wedding dress has a different style, so does every photographer, so make sure you love their photos. Next, meet up for a chat and a coffee to ensure you all get along well and they understand exactly what you want. You’ll spend most of your day with your photographer and you’ll be surprised how much we keep events flowing on your day!
Get their digits
Make a small list of all your vendors’ phone numbers and give one each to your other-half, your best man & bridesmaid and keep one yourself. It’s very unlikely you’ll need it but it’s peace of mind that you have it just in case.
Once you start to walk down the aisle your day will become a blur of love, friends and hugs. You will get very little time alone with your new other-half, even sitting in the back of your bridal car you will still feel “on-duty”, running through your mental checklist of what has to be done when you arrive at your venue. I always suggest to my couples to take five minutes (or ten!) to yourselves when you arrive at the hotel, just to be alone with each other, soaking up the moment.
Love your day!
Your wedding day has arrived! The most important item on the to-do list today is “Get married”, followed closely by “Have fun”. Let all the little details go, just relax and soak it all up. Think of the weddings you have been to before, do you remember the centrepieces? Or what you ate? Or are your memories filled of watching your closest friends enjoy the best day of their lives? Be in the moment and love your day!