Planning makes perfect
A Buckinghamshire-based wedding expert on everything you need to consider to make your big day go swimmingly.
Once the initial excitement over your engagement dies down and you start to think about the wedding itself, it’s really common to start getting completely overwhelmed. After all, if you’ve never planned anything like a wedding before (how many of us have?) then how on earth are you supposed to know where to start?
The truth is, the first phase of planning can be a bit of a puzzle, and putting it together can spark more frustration than excitement – but hang in there, it does get good!
Food and drinks are going to be amongst the biggest expenses, so knowing how many people you’re catering for will help you both plan your day, and budget for it. Start by working together to make a list of absolutely everyone you would invite if cost and venue size were no issue, grouping guests into ‘essential’, ‘ideal’ and ‘would like to have’. Don’t worry about addresses or details for the moment.
Now is the time to have the ‘children or no children’ conversation as well as determine how much (or little!) involvement you want your parents or other family members to have. Weddings can get really political (“well if we invite cousin Jane, we have to invite uncle Vik”), and parents can make this worse – especially if they are contributing to the wedding costs. So the two of you need to get on the same page about anything potentially controversial and create a united front in case of political pushback.
This is another area that family can sometimes get pushy about, so again, make the decision together regarding whether you are going to have a civil ceremony or a religious one so you can present it as a ‘done deal’. The rules about where you can legally marry in the UK can get a bit complicated so there’ll be some research and legwork to come, but for now, the main thing to be clear on is whether or not there is a specific venue that you aim to marry in (e.g. your regular place of worship or local Register Office) since this will influence the search area for your reception venue. You really don’t want guests to have to travel more than 20-30 minutes (including traffic) from one to the other on the day.
If you want your ceremony and reception to take place in the same location, you can search for a legally registered venue anywhere, but you still might want to bear in mind how far particular loved ones (like your older guests) can reasonably travel to and from their homes in a day.
If you’ve always dreamed of an informal ‘back-garden-style’ wedding, but your partner wants the ‘fairy-tale castle’ vibe, you’re going to need to hash this out up front. Broadly speaking, the more formal and fancy, the more expensive, so if you want fairy-tale, you might need to whittle down your guestlist (or opt for a 2+ year engagement so you can save up).
Again, family might have their own ideas about what a wedding ‘should be’, so if you want a more relaxed day with a buffet versus their traditional sit-down meal, get in agreement before involving others. If you are struggling to agree, think about the sort of wedding which will really reflect you as a couple. Are you formal? Do you like to party late into the night? Are you foodies? There is usually a compromise to be made, and there is nothing wrong with thinking outside the box. If you’re early bird introverts then how about a midday ceremony followed by brunch for 50? If you’re social butterflies with hundreds of friends then a later ceremony and evening party with buffet works. Mega glam but on a tighter budget? Go for ceremony, cocktails and canapes only. Anything goes these days as long as you two love it.
This is the big one of course. How much can you (or do you want to) spend? Try to think practically and ‘cut your coat according to your cloth’ as my mother likes to say. What have you got in savings? What can you realistically afford to put away each month? If family might be willing to contribute, are there any strings attached?
Once you have some sort of figure in mind, do your research to break it down into specific wedding costs (ceremony, reception venue, food and beverage, photographer etc.). Be realistic and include a contingency. If the maths just doesn’t work, you can go back to your guestlist, re-think your style of wedding or push the wedding back as needed. Important as your wedding is, it really isn’t worth taking on heavy debt for.