Where to start with planning a wedding?

I can remember the feeling – that shiny ring sat snug on your finger, glinting at you as you sat at your desk trying to work. Nobody will notice you pinning on your phone while you’re supposed to be writing that report, right?!

It was almost exactly six years ago (six!!!) that I got engaged to my lovely husband and began to plan our wedding. Thinking back now, I actually can’t really remember how I started to plan. I’m pretty sure my mum booked in for us both to a wedding fair the weekend after I told her the news!

I wasn’t in the wedding industry at the time, so with the benefit of hindsight, and of several years industry experience, I thought it would be helpful to jot down some thoughts on how to go about planning a wedding. It’s a big task to take on!

In my opinion, there are four key things to think about when you’re starting to plan your wedding, and these are the first four items in my list below. They aren’t necessarily listed in priority order, but you should be thinking about all four of them alongside each other. They are, BUDGET, VENUE, DATE and GUEST LIST.

Budget

It’s a good idea to start off with an initial budget for your day. Think about this along side everything else, as if you know you only want a small intimate wedding, your budget is likely going to be smaller than if you know you want a big wedding with lots of guests.

Once you’ve got an idea of your budget I’d recommend deciding which element of your wedding is most important to you as a couple. For Pete and I, we had two priorities – photography and music. We knew we wanted amazing photography, as that would last forever and preserve the memories of our day to enjoy again and again. We also knew that we wanted a live band, and as we enjoy rock music, we wanted a great band that would play what we liked, but also have our guests up and dancing the night away. Decide what is important to you and allocate chunks of your budget to that, rather than trying to do everything.

Date

Once the date and venue are decided then planning can really commence! It’s a good idea to have an idea of dates that you’d like to get married (or at least months) when you go to visit wedding venues, as you can then ask about availability. Are you hoping for a date within the next year? If so, you may be more restricted as to what venues are available as, popular places are booked up quickly, sometimes years in advance. If you’re a little lower on budget for your venue, perhaps a winter wedding would be ideal as venues tend to have lower prices out of peak season.

Something else to consider is whether you’re booking your wedding in prime holiday time. If you have any friends or close relatives who are teachers for example (as my mum and two of my bridesmaids were!) then you’ll want to avoid a week day wedding unless it’s in half term.

A wintery wedding

Beautiful summer sunshine

Delicious ice-cream bar at a summer wedding

Venue

I always think the venue is key when thinking about planning a wedding. The venue you want may be dependent on the date you choose, or vice versa. Consider whether you want a church ceremony or a civil ceremony – does the location work for getting to/from the church?

If you’ve chosen a date in the summer, will you want to get married outside? If so, you’ll want a venue with outside space, beautiful gardens and a licensed area for outdoor ceremonies. If you’ve got your heart set on an intimate cosy venue, then you’ll need to make sure this works with your guest list.

The venue you choose can dictate the style of your day. A manor house might lend itself to more luxurious styling, while a barn or a tipi might give you more of a relaxed and rustic vibe to the day.

Perhaps you want a DIY marquee or tipi wedding – in which case there is more to think about than just the location. If you have a tipi wedding, or a marquee in a back garden, for example, then you also need to consider the boring bits, like catering tents, toilets and parking. Many venues that host outdoor weddings can recommend suppliers to help you with these things, and this is also where wedding planners are essential!

I’d suggest making a list of the key things that are important to you for your venue to have. It can help you narrow down your choices. Some examples might be:

  • accommodation for you and your guests (or at least close family and friends)
  • space to get ready in the morning
  • beautiful gardens or spaces for photographs
  • delicious food

If you’re stuck on choosing a venue, take a look at this post that I wrote about my top ten Hertfordshire Wedding venues.

South Farm

Fanhams Hall

Hedsor House

Guest List

Who is coming to your big day? The number of people you want attending is a key thing to consider early on when planning a wedding. This will also impact on your venue choice too, and also your budget, which is why my first four items should all be considered together! Much has been shared in the past about how to choose who to invite to your wedding. It’s such a personal choice, and there are no right or wrong answers. I think the best thing to do is to ask yourself ‘can I imagine my wedding day without this person?’ and if the answer is yes, then you don’t need to invite them!

Once you’ve answered these key questions, there are three other tips I’d suggest to help you on the road to planning a wedding:

  1. Registrar!

When you know your date and venue, the next thing to do is to get the legal bit sorted out! I didn’t book my registrar until exactly one year to go until our wedding as I thought that was the rule. In fact, the ‘one year’ rule was just for giving notice. (You must marry in between 28 days and one year after the date that you give notice of marriage at the registry office). But in many places you can provisionally book the registrar with more notice than one year. The best thing to do is to call up and check with the registry office in the area that you are getting married as soon as you have confirmed your wedding date.

  1. Wedding fairs & blogs

Check to see what wedding fairs are happening locally to you. It’s a great way of meeting local suppliers and seeing people face to face. It’s also a brilliant way of getting inspiration! Check out my blog on tips for getting the most out of wedding fairs.

I’d also recommend checking out some wedding blogs! A brilliant local one is Engage Weddings, for brides is Herts, Beds, Bucks and Cambs, and it’s packed with advice, real bride stories and local suppliers.

  1. Get pinning and get social!

I’m a bit of a Pinterest addict, and I’m not even getting married! Pinterest is a fabulous way of keeping your ideas organised and absolutely crammed with wedding inspo, so if you aren’t already on there, get an account and get pinning! It’s a great way of sharing your ideas with some of your suppliers, particularly your florist or your hair and make up team. I have lots of exciting boards full of inspiration on my pinterest account, so pop on over to follow my boards!

Instagram is another great way of seeing what’s out there in the world of weddings. Follow your suppliers to see what they’re up to and to help inspire you! You can follow me on Instagram by clicking here.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful! With so much experience of weddings and the industry, and as a previous bride, I always love to help newly engaged couples with their plans. You can see more of my hints and tips for wedding planning here.

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