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How to Plan a Wedding

Today I thought I'd just go back to basics of how to plan a wedding.

Your wedding day can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want - but there are still certain things you'll need to get organised. So here's a handy checklist of what you should be doing and when.

Wedding Planning By Numbers

  1. The very first thing you should do is set a wedding budget. Between you. Sit down together and realistically work out whether you're happy to save up for the wedding you want or whether you'd rather put your money towards something else, like a mortgage or house deposit. Remember more couples argue about money than anything else and you don't want to start married life in debt (so it's not a good idea to take out a loan to pay for your wedding day either). Work out whether you'll get any contributions from family members and what you already have saved. Once you've discovered exactly what you have to spend, you can move to step 2.
  2. Now it's time to find your venue. You're probably going to spend about 48-50% of your budget on your venue, the food and refreshments so you need to make sure it's absolutely what you want. Nowadays there are masses of different options - you can have a barn wedding, a wedding in a chic city centre hotel, a wedding in a marquee, take over a stately home or even a museum or zoo. Have a look at the inclusive wedding packages offered by venues which are often good value. Remember you'll save on car hire if you marry and celebrate at the same location, but if you're marrying in a different location, try and make it no more than 10 miles away from your venue. You'll then need to check with your priest or the venue registrar that they can marry you on the date you're interested in - and if it's a yes, then you can go ahead and book it!
  3. Finally - now you can start looking at wedding dresses. You should have an idea of how much you can allow from your budget and you'll know the time of year you're marrying and where (both of which will probably influence the style of frock you choose).
  4. When you choose your wedding dress you need to choose your shoes around about the same time. You might want to wear sky high stilettos but are they really going to match your dress and are you going to be able to walk in them? You'll need to wear in your bridal shoes on the carpet at home so they're comfortable on the big day and remember you don't have to have white or cream shoes - a colour peeking out from beneath your bridal gown looks wonderfully quirky!
  5. Next stop is booking a photographer. Shop around, ask your venue who they recommend and ask to see the photographer's work before you make any hard and fast decisions. Each photographer has their own style so make sure it fits in with the sort of imagery you're after. Allow about £1000 for your photographer. You should also consider having your wedding videoed professionally too - it's most brides' top regret not having this done. Don't be tempted to scrimp and I don't recommend relying on a friend to take photographs - your images are going to be a lasting memory of your big day so you need to be confident that they'll be what you want.
  6. You should also book a florist now. Ask them what flowers will be in season on your wedding date - choosing out of season flowers is much more expensive (and it isn't green either!) This will affect your choice of colour scheme and table decorations.
  7. Next up is writing your guest list. Send out save the date cards - a particularly good idea if you're getting married at a time of year when people are likely to be going on holiday.
  8. Investigate evening entertainment - it's a good idea to ask who your venue suggest. Band or DJ? Both have good points but ideally you should have both.
  9. I'd recommend you get some wedding insurance. It's not expensive - John Lewis offers £10,000 of cover for just £58.
  10. Think about who you are going to ask to be your bridesmaids. It's a good idea to have a chief bridesmaid - a maid of honour - to help you organise your big day. You're looking for somebody calm and organised who will be your right hand woman - and it may not be your best friend.
  11. Once your bridesmaids are organised, you need to consult with them about what they are going to wear. Obviously, you have the final say but don't force your girls into a colour or style of dress they really feel doesn't suit them. Mismatched bridesmaids dresses are very on trend and if you let your maids wear something they feel flatters them, you'll be rewarded with happy smiling faces for your wedding pictures.
  12. Your fiancé needs to be thinking about what he and his groomsmen are going to wear
  13. Choose your wedding stationery. You'll have sent out save the date cards but consider your invitations, RSVPs, table plans, orders of service, menus and thank you cards. Send your invitations out six to eight weeks before your wedding day but give your stationer as much time as possible to produce the work.
  14. Book your wedding transport. If money is tight, think about who you know with a classic car - they might love to run you to the ceremony and drive you and your new husband to your wedding reception.
  15. Wedding cakes. So many options here. You can go for a designer number if your budget stretches, or you can find some amazing cakes at Waitrose or Marks & Spencer very reasonably. Some have plain icing so you can decorate them with fresh flowers and ribbons to suit your theme.
  16. Have a think about your wedding favours. The tradition was to give guests sugared almonds but today you can be much more creative. Maybe put a packet of seeds by everybody's plate or a jar of homemade cookies? Plants? Or a card saying that in lieu of favours you've given money to a favourite charity.
  17. Think about your gift registry. If you really don't need anything, then you can always ask for a contribution towards your honeymoon but asking straight out for money is a bit of a no no.

Tomorrow I'll continue with Part II of how to plan a wedding by numbers. In the meantime, if you've any hints or tips to add, please join the discussion on our Facebook page!