You may have seen a lot about wedding planning in the news over the last few months thanks to the coverage of the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (didn’t Meghan look absolutely beautiful?!). From their venue to the cake and flowers, to speculation of what dress Meghan would wear and how she would have her hair – we were given a taste of what goes into planning a wedding, albeit on a huge scale and budget.
However, since planning my own wedding for the past year, I’ve quickly learned there a few things no one tells you about wedding planning. Or at least, they’ll just assume you already know. Having never planned an event to this scale before, I really had no experience to draw upon.
If you’re engaged, congratulations! Wedding planning can be one of the most exciting times, but also the most stressful with a lot of unknowns. If you’re having a wedding planner then they will no doubt explain and/or handle a lot of these things for you, but if like me, you’re taking on the mammoth task of planning your own wedding then I hope this post will help save you time and money. This post is a hefty one, but I’ve tried to cram it full of tips and answers to questions you might not have known you had. I recommend bookmarking this post, grabbing a pen, your wedding planner journal and a cup of tea. Let’s get stuck in!
1. The no.1 question you’ll get asked
As soon as you announce your engagement to friends and family, in fact, to anyone, their response will be something like “Congratulations! When’s the wedding?” As if from the moment you said yes and your partner popped that ring on your finger, the two of you sat down and started wedding planning asap. Such a seemingly innocent question can pile on the pressure when it feels like absolutely everyone in the world is asking you the same thing. It can make you feel like you’re already behind before you’ve even started if your reply is “We’re not sure yet” and you start to wonder if you’re not cut out to plan a wedding. Besides, picking a date is not such an easy task and will depend on a lot of factors, such as your budget and if you’ll need to save up for the wedding first, which season you’d prefer, the venue’s availability etc.
Whilst I’m on the topic of questions you’ll get asked by friends and family, “Let me see the ring” is high on the list. I’ve found it quite a strange experience to have to hold out my hand to everyone for them to closely inspect my ring and pass judgement on it lol. Michael and I talked about rings casually even when we were teenagers, so he knew what he was doing when he got me the perfect plain white gold band with one square diamond. I absolutely love my ring and it’s what I’ve always wanted, so it’s always an odd feeling to have to wait for someone’s comment because although they’re always lovely and gushing, ultimately I don’t care what anyone else thinks.
2. Wedding planning will consume you
You’ll start browsing wedding inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram during your commute. Your Facebook feed will be taken over by the wedding planning groups you’ve joined. Your dreams will become about wedding decor and seating plans. You’ll start giving your colleagues progress reports on your lunch breaks (even if you didn’t want to be that person, they will ask for updates). Your motivation to eat well, workout and look after your skin will become wedding related. Your to-do list will be overtaken with wedding to-dos or as I like to call it, wedmin. What I’m trying to say is be prepared for all things wedding to infiltrate your daily life. In all honesty, I’m loving it and don’t mind at all! Marrying my best friend is exciting and we’re getting to plan the whole thing together. I think I’ll need a project to focus on once this is all over!
3. How much anything costs
One of the first things you need to do before you start booking and buying things is workout your overall budget and divide it up into the different categories such as flowers, food and drink, transport etc. The difficult part is that you don’t know how much anything costs and prices aren’t always advertised freely on websites. Sure, you may want to spend £5,000 in total but if your dream venue is £3,000 and your dream dress is £1,000, then you’ll need to re-evaluate your budget and/or your choices.
The way I went about it was once we knew our ideal venue, date and a rough number of guests, before we booked anything I emailed everyone we would need to make our wedding happen to get an estimate from them. I trawled Instagram, Google and wedding blogs to find the style of photographer, florist, caterer etc that we liked and I emailed them. I set up a spreadsheet and logged the details of each vendor, their quote and what was included in their service. Two photographers may charge the same, but one might offer more hours or give you more photos at the end, so check what is included in their quote.
It may also be helpful to ask friends who are already married how much they spent on flowers etc, but if they married in York and you’re getting married in London, or if they had foam flowers and you want real flowers then the costs can be drastically different. That’s why I found it easiest to find the style of each vendor that we liked, in the area we’re marrying in and emailed them directly. From there we could work out how much our ideal wedding would cost us, decide what we could afford and see if we could cut back in some areas and spend more in others.
4. Add VAT to everything
I found out pretty quickly that not all wedding vendors include VAT in their prices when they give a quote, therefore it’s up to you to check whether VAT is included or not. Trust me, 20% can make a big difference to your budget so make sure you know exactly how much everything will cost you.
5. Midweek and “off-season” is cheaper
Who knew there would be peak and off-peak pricing for weddings?! As the majority of people want to get married on a weekend and during the warmer months, venues and wedding vendors often have reduced pricing or are willing to negotiate a deal if you choose to marry Monday-Thursday and/or outside of the May-September wedding season. The savings can be huge, with some venues being half the price on a Thursday than on a Saturday. Choosing a mid-week or off-season wedding can also afford you more time in choosing wedding vendors as they are less likely to be booked at those times. We’re getting married midweek and found it so valuable having that extra time to find our vendors when wedding planning. Plus being able to ask for discounts because of it being midweek has been great! Just make sure your friends and family are OK with booking a day or two off work.
6. How to actually get married legally
I had no idea how to actually get married. This might be my naivety due to the fact I’m a straight woman, so I took for granted the fact that I always could get married and never looked into the legal side of it. But since joining groups for brides and wedding planning on Facebook, I’ve realised I’m not the only one who didn’t know. In the UK you have to give notice of your want to marry at least 28 days before your wedding at your local register office.
To be legally married in the UK your ceremony will need to be carried out by someone authorised to do so (such as a registrar, priest, vicar etc) and witnessed by at least two people. The most common ways to get married are to have a religious ceremony, a registry office ceremony, or have a registrar come to a licensed venue of your choice. Each of these ceremonies will have a set order and wording of the vows, although you can have some input. There is also an alternative way of getting married, which allows you to say or do anything and get married anywhere. That is to have a wedding Celebrant, also called a Humanist ceremony. This isn’t a legal ceremony so you will need to have a registry office ceremony first, but that can be just you, your partner and two witnesses. Then you can invite all your guests to your celebrant ceremony which you can completely tailor to be personal to you as there are no legal obligations involved. It also means you could get married in the middle of a forest or the ocean because it doesn’t need to be a licensed venue.
If you’re having a religious ceremony, let’s say in a Church, for example, then there may be rules around only being able to marry in a Church that you are actively part of and regularly attend. This may mean you’ll need to attend regular Mass together before you can approach the Priest to ask about marrying there. You may also need to take a marriage preparation course together for some weeks or months before your wedding day. Have a chat with the Priest or leader of your preferred religious ceremony to find out their requirements.
7. Real wedding or styled shoot?
When you’re browsing #wedding on Instagram or pinning wildly to your wedding board on Pinterest, one thing you might not realise is that a lot of those images are not real weddings. Wedding vendors such as a photographer, a baker, a venue, a stylist, a props and furniture hire company etc collaborate to style up a wedding scene together. The photos are always stunning because these wedding vendors are putting their best work forward in order to show off their skills and get featured in wedding magazines and blogs. The downside is that it sets unrealistic expectations for us when we’re wedding planning. They may have used the most gorgeous place setting, intricate floral arrangement and really interesting chairs to dress just one wedding table. Well, that’s great when you only have 6 chairs and one table but when you try to recreate that look for your wedding with 100 guests, you’ll soon realise the costs just aren’t feasible.
8. Buy your shoes first
You’re probably so excited to gather your bride tribe and start trying on wedding dresses, but have you thought about your shoes? It may be worth buying them before your dress so that when you find ‘The One’, you’ll be able to get the hem measured to the height of your shoes, whether they’re flats or skyscraper heels. Also, think about whether you’ll wear heels for some of the day and then change into flats later and let your tailor know this.
9. You’ll need wedding insurance
Weddings are expensive and I hate to say it, but things can go wrong. Therefore it is essential that you get wedding insurance so that you’re covered in case any of your wedding vendors let you down or you have to cancel or postpone your wedding for reasons out of your control. We decided to go with John Lewis Finance for ours, but there are lots of places that offer wedding insurance so it’s worth looking around. Buy your wedding insurance before you start booking and paying deposits for things to make sure you’re covered.
10. Keep a paper trail
If you agree to anything over the phone or in person with any of your wedding vendors, always follow it up with an email to confirm what you discussed. This is so that you have a record of what has been agreed upon for both parties to refer back to. You’ll be contacting so many people that it can be easy to forget what you said to who. Also the vendors will be working on multiple weddings at the same time as yours, so having everything written down in an email will be helpful for everyone. If you have a wedding planning binder then you can print these emails and store them in your binder to easily reference later.
11. Negotiate on (almost) everything
My Maid of Honour Jenny told me to negotiate on prices which I thought was strange because I thought all prices would be fixed – turns out they’re not! You can (and should) negotiate for deals, whether that’s for money off or to add in extras at no added cost. If a venue offers you a food and drink package, see if they’ll add an extra drink for each guest during the drinks reception at no extra cost. If a florist is slightly out of your budget, be clear about what you can afford and see if they will be willing to meet your budget. Not everyone will negotiate and that’s OK, but there’s no harm in asking. Just make sure you are polite when asking, the wedding vendors have their prices for a reason.
12. You could win your wedding cake, honeymoon and more
Perhaps the most exciting of all – you could potentially get married for free! There are several wedding magazines and blogs and many of them run regular competitions to win lots of things wedding related. From your wedding cake to jewellery, to lingerie, to honeymoons, to outfits for your bridal party, to a whole wedding day – there is so much to be won. Sadly, I haven’t been lucky in the few competitions that I’ve entered but that doesn’t mean you won’t be. Have a look at your favourite wedding magazines and blogs, follow your favourite wedding vendors on social media and have a search only to see if they have any competitions and get entering. Good luck!