Beginners Guide to Planning Your Dream Wedding
Discover our tips and tricks to plan the wedding you've always dreamt of
After the magical proposal, the reality of wedding planning starts to set in. What will you wear? Where will you get married? Who are you going to invite? With so many questions and so much research involved, the process of planning your wedding is an exciting, stressful and complicated task.
Thankfully, we’ve created a list to help you get through each and every step with minimal fuss. The list is in rough chronological order, but if you’d like to plan things differently just read through all the tips and then rearrange them to suit your own process. Follow the tips to planning your wedding below and you’ll be able to get hitched without the hassle.
Step 1: Budget
As dry and boring as it is, your first step is working out exactly how much you can afford to spend on a wedding. The average UK wedding costs approximately £20,000 – meaning you’ll need to have a good idea of what you want to spend before you begin planning, so you don’t go massively over budget.
Step 2: Create a binder or journal
You’ll need lots of inspiration if you want a day to remember. It’s your special day, so you’ll want to have something different that matches you and your partner’s personalities. With that in mind, create a folder or notepad full of ideas. Print out pictures from wedding blogs, magazines and anything else that takes your fancy. That way, you’ll have a visual reference to allow you to blend styles and include elements you like the look of.
Step 3: Begin drafting your guest list
You’ll need to work out how many people you’ll be hosting. This could be included at the budgeting stage – because you’ll be forking out lots of money per head if you’re paying for catering. You’ll also need to start getting a good idea of who will be the groomsmen and bridesmaids, so you can ask them in advance. It’s only once you know how many guests you’re going to be accommodating that you can truly start planning the rest of the wedding.
Step 4: Research and book the ceremony and venue
Arrange the actual officiant who is going to help you both tie the knot. After this, the venue should be booked well in advance. Whether you want to get married in a church, registry office or another venue altogether, you’ll need to book your place with plenty of time to spare. The reception venue is just as important – generally, it should be close to where you get married and be able to accommodate all your guests.
Take plenty of time at this stage to ensure you’ve picked something you both love and that can offer everything you, need such as catering for a range of dietary requirements, nearby accommodation and any other wants or needs.
Step 5: Arrange photography
Capturing your big day is one of the most vital roles up for grabs at a wedding. That’s why wedding photographers can charge such a high price, and why it’s worth the extra money to get a professional. There’s nothing wrong with your friends taking photos – but to avoid any mistakes and to get shots you’ll treasure forever, hire a professional.
Spend time researching photographers. Arrange a meeting to look through their work and chat about your requirements. Book them with lots of time in advance so that if anything changes you are not caught short.
Step 6: Begin to book entertainment, catering, accommodation and florists
Once you’re around eight months away from your wedding, you’ll need to start getting solid confirmations from the companies and people involved in your wedding. From the florists to the band, you’ll need to get bookings arranged for your big day. This also helps keep your budget under control – as you’ll have now arranged both the venue and the hospitality aspects, so you’ll know the bulk of the cost.
Florists can generally work on multiple weddings in a single day, which means they don’t need as much advance notice, so if you have to leave any booking late, this is the one to leave.
At this stage, it’s worth contacting any local hotels to book out space for family members. Although you’re in no way obligated to provide accommodation for people, you might have an empty wedding if people can’t easily find lodgings!
Step 7: Arrange your attire
One of the main focuses of any wedding is the bride’s dress. By now you’ll have already researched styles and have a good idea of what you’re after. Get it purchased or rented well ahead of the day so you don’t encounter disaster. The bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen attire should be decided by this stage too – so go about arranging all of it at once to keep your theme alive.
Step 8: Invite people to your wedding page
Send out ‘Save the date’ reminders to everyone on your guest list. Thanks to the digital age, it’s easy to set up your own personal wedding page which allows people to input their attendance and also any dietary requirements. Include this on your save the date and you can use this page to explain the itinerary and the travel arrangements, and also offer links to local hotels.
Step 9: Arrange transport
Once you’re around six months out, you’ll need to book your transport. Think of limos, busses and town cars – or quirkier options if you’d prefer something unique. From a wedding party in a motorcycle with sidecar to riding a horse to your ceremony, there are lots of quirky options. Get them arranged at this stage so you’ve got peace of mind for the day.
Step 10: Get the rehearsal details arranged
You’ll need to perform a wedding rehearsal to run through the details of the day. This needs to be arranged in advance (like everything!) so that you and the venue knows when to expect your arrival.
Step 11: Organise a cake
Your wedding cake is the centrepiece of the table and most bakers will need lots of notice to craft something suitably grand. Get samples or tastings from a variety of bakers before committing to one. Once you have, make them aware of the date and arrange collection or delivery.
Step 12: Make a check of all outstanding aspects
So far, you need to have the following things booked, or in the process of being booked:
Guest list (for invitations)
Step 13: Purchase rings
While rings may be a small item, they’re a big part of the wedding. Go with your partner and pick out bands that seem special to you both. Doing this around three months before the wedding gives you plenty time to get things resized if needed.
Step 14: Send out your invitations
Send out your invitations to all your guests around three months beforehand. Include RSVP details and set a deadline so that people have to respond. This way, you won’t be left wondering who is going to attend, and you’ll be able to make any adjustments for people’s requirements.
Step 15: Arrange and go on your stag and hen do
As you’re planning your wedding, your theme will become evident. With any celebration, the personalities of both bride and groom should come across. This is also true of your stag and hen do, where some people may want a ‘last night of freedom’ clubbing extravaganza and others may prefer a trip to the spa. Whatever it is you want to do, make sure you have appointed your best man or maid of honour to the task and that they make you aware of the dates.
Go on it, savour it, and then come back ready for your wedding!
Step 16: Chase up RSVPs
As you head closer to the ceremony, you’ll need a firm idea of who is coming and who isn’t. Chase up any RSVPS you’ve yet to hear from. Ring them if need be, as it’s important to get your attendees sorted. Once everyone’s accounted for, tackle the seating plan.
Step 17: Confirm everything
Once you’re a few weeks away from your wedding, you’ll need to make payments and confirmations on everything so far. From catering to entertainment to hair and makeup, make sure you have confirmed everything you’ve booked. You’ll also need to have your final dress fitting and confirm that.
Step 18: Organise the details of the day with relevant parties
When the wedding is just around the corner, you’ll need to arrange a seating plan. You’ll also need to confirm arrival times with the caterers and vendors. You should check in with your photographer to make sure everything is going ahead smoothly and also let them know if there are any special shots you’d like taken. Send your guest list to catering so they can provide for everyone’s requirements.
While this advice will fall on deaf ears – try not to get stressed!
Step 19: Collect your dress/suit and get ready!
Most brides and grooms will be separated pre-wedding, so it’s a great opportunity for a sleepover with your bridesmaids or a quiet night at the pub with your best man. Relax, don’t let nerves set in and go over everything that needs to be done the next day. At this point you should have everything sorted. You’ll be able to plan out any duties such as who is going to hold your bag and other minor details with your bridesmaids or best man at this stage. Then you’ll have to try and get some sleep!
Step 20: Enjoy yourself!
Once the big day is upon you, you’ll have no choice but to go along with any hiccups or accidents that occur. A good wedding is about adapting to any problems and still smiling through them. From coping with bad weather to avoiding guest dramas, a wedding is a day for celebration and you should enjoy yourself. Things might go wrong, but as long as you’ve done your preparation you’ll be fine. Once you and your partner say your vows, everything else will fall in to place.