In this guest post Emma Finnigan (publicist and married person!) shares her top ten wedding planning tips.
1 Decide on your budget
First decide on your budget, and discuss what sort of wedding you want. Do you want a hog roast in a barn for 150 people; a chic hotel do; an escape to Vegas with just two witnesses? It can be surprising to hear how your other half has always envisaged their big day and this needs quite an honest discussion early on. For us, we wanted to have a civil ceremony somewhere close to home, as we had an 18 month old to think about.
2 Decide who to invite
Once you’ve decided on the type of wedding, you can decide who to invite. Now, don’t be naïve enough to think that if you’re properly grown up (I was in my mid-thirties when I got hitched), and paying for the wedding yourself, you’ll get complete say over the guest list. Oh no! Your mother and your mother-in-law will both have strong ideas on who needs to be invited. In my opinion, on an occasion like this, it’s best to appease them where you can. No one wants bad feeling so early on in the planning process! It’s your big day, so don’t agree to anything that makes you unhappy, but my advice would be to pick your battles…
3. Choose your ‘style’
After you’ve chosen your venue and booked the date, the fun can really begin. How do you want to ‘style’ your wedding? This is when Pinterest and the countless wedding blogs out there become your friends. Are you crafty, or do you have friends who are? Do you like the idea of trying to make things a little bit original? There are mountains of inspiration that can be mined. Start mood boards; visit flower markets; tear pages out of magazines; decide if you want a ‘theme’ or if you’d like a bit more of a relaxed approach. This is where you can start gathering bits and pieces too - vases, napkins, photos of your grandparents on their wedding day...
4. Save the date...and think about wedding invitations
Make sure you give people plenty of notice for your wedding. We designed an nice save-the-date email to send, to save money. We followed up with proper wedding invites about 3 months ahead of the wedding. You can choose your invites when you’ve decided on your ‘style’ and maybe even incorporate elements from the invites into your order of service on the day. Some suppliers offer all your wedding stationery, or you might want to save money by just buying professional invites. Little Paper Mill designed ours, and we loved them. You could also think about whether you want to make your wedding invitations yourself, and just buy the bits and pieces you need for your design.
5. Embrace the spreadsheet
So, I’ve always loved a list…and my husband has a penchant for spreadsheets. There was always going to be an element of Excel involved in planning our special day, and actually it was brilliant. You can list what you need to do, set yourself a deadline, have a ‘budget’ and an ‘actual spend’ column all in one place. I even colour coded for ease… and so it didn’t feel too much like a work assignment! Using spreadsheets means that nothing should get missed, and you can manage your finances more easily too. If you’ve overspent on the venue, you can make sure you try and find a slightly cheaper band, and so on.
6. Think about ways you can save money
Think about ways to save money and where you might be able to source the decor items you need. We saved nice jam jars and filled them with tea lights and put them all the way up the staircase of our venue. We borrowed so many clear vases from friends that we didn’t need to buy any for the flowers on the table (if you can't source enough free items, IKEA is brilliant for this sort of thing too). We borrowed tea light holders from a friend who’d had her wedding a few years before (it’s like having a baby - you really don’t need to buy everything new, borrow wherever you can)! We bought kilner jars for our sweetie table. We used an old, ornate frame to make our own table plan, decorating it with some paper that was left from our Little Paper Mill wedding invites. A friend used offcuts of our kitchen work surface and made large, heart boards for the tables (on top of which went flowers, menus, table numbers, candles etc). We decided that as we wanted quite a laid-back, not too shiny and perfect vibe, we’d do our own flowers. My best friend’s Mum was really helpful with advice, and even showed my friend how to make my bouquet, which she recreated weeks later. We went to a flower market at 6am one morning and ordered everything we needed, to be delivered the day before the wedding. We spent a fraction that we would have done at a florist, and the flowers were amazing. We had a great morning putting them together. Meanwhile my mother-in-law raided our garden for sacks of ivy and other greenery that we used to decorate the the staircase, window ledges and any other conceivable surface at the venue. And all for free. FREE!
7. Choose your wedding suppliers carefully - and use them creatively
In my experience, as soon as you mention the word wedding things double in price. So try to be creative about sourcing your caterer and photographer, and think about how you want to use them.
Our caterers were great, but we knew we couldn’t stretch to a full sit down meal AND canapes after the service. So we got canapes delivered on the day from Waitrose, and asked our catering staff to serve them. We opted not to have a cake, as in our experience it often gets left uneaten. As people were having canapes after the ceremony, a three course meal not long after that and then bacon butties later in the evening, we thought that cake would be overkill. Thinking like this also had the benefit of saving us lots of money.
Our photographer was fantastic, but didn’t normally work as a wedding photographer. We met quite early in the process, and I immediately felt comfortable with her, which is hugely important. She has young children, and was very comfortable around the chaos that small people tend to bring! We couldn’t stretch to having her for the evening too, but we’d asked our friends and families to take lots of pics and email them to us after the wedding. Rather than getting an expensive package put together by the photographer, we got the images on a disc and then did our own book using Photobox.
8. Set up a wedding website, and give your guests all the info they need
Ok, so the big day is kind of meant to be all about you and your partner, but in actual fact you’ll really want to make sure that your guests have a brilliant day too and don’t feel anxious about any aspect of it. That's where a wedding website can really help.
We had family travelling from all over the world (Canada, China, Italy, Ireland), so we set up a wedding site which include lists of hotels; details of how to get to the venue from wherever you were travelling from; the ‘order of the day’; numbers for local taxi companies etc. We also had the menu on the website and people could RSVP through the site and pick their meal. Their responses fed through to a little spreadsheet. We were that couple… but our caterers loved us for it!
On the day itself, our printed order of service had not just the ceremony and the readings in full, but the names of the songs too (people always want to remember!), along with a plan for the day, taxi numbers and details of a nearby pub for late revellers.
9. Help the wedding party help you
Friends and family will really want to help you plan your day, but they can’t be expected to be mind readers. If you’d like someone to help with a specific task then ask them, and tell them exactly what they need to do. Don’t leave anything to chance. One of our best men flew into London on the morning of our wedding, so we had no chance for a rehearsal or even to see him beforehand. Both best men, the ushers, our friends who were playing music at the ceremony and even my husband-to-be had a detailed schedule for the day, outlining exactly what they had to be doing and when. Our son needed an early nap; the buttonholes needed collecting; the table settings needed to be double checked etc etc. Having our own plan handy meant that no one was in a panic… All this meant that there was a really relaxed vibe on the day (even when I forgot my bouquet on the way to the wedding and the taxi had to turn around so I could pick it up!)
10. Don’t forget to say thank you!
Obviously you’ll be thanking lots of people in the speeches, but it’s important to remember the ‘thank you’ cards when factoring in the cost of your wedding stationery. Everybody likes to receive a note after the wedding! You can either use an image from the day, or incorporate elements of design from your invites.
Good luck, and happy planning!