Ensure your special day goes without a hitch with our tips and advice. From booking a venue to dressing your bridesmaids, we've got the wedding planning tips to ensure your big day goes smoothly
Pro wedding planning tips
The path to a perfect wedding is not always paved with gold, so here are some savvy ways to smooth the build-up to your big day…
Get a rough idea of costs by asking for estimates, but remember an estimate is not a quote. An estimate is influenced by season, availability and numbers involved. Always get a written quote clearly showing whether VAT is included, when deposits are needed and the company’s cancellation policy.
2. BOOKING A GREAT VENUE…
Don’t be panicked into booking a venue that doesn’t feel 100% right just because you’re worried you won’t find anything else. Nothing about your day should be a compromise, let alone the location. If you have to visit 15 places, visit 15 places – only one needs to be perfect.
If you’re planning an early ceremony, consider the impact on the day. If guests need to travel for a 1pm ceremony, they’ll be up early, getting ready, then making their way, so eating food around lunchtime often gets bypassed. We usually suggest a later start, but if you want to stick to earlier you’ll need more substantial canapés with the welcome drinks. Naturally, this has cost implications.
An early start also impacts on evening guests – think about what time you want the evening party to start and work backwards. A 1pm ceremony would see guests arriving around 6pm; a 2.30pm start pushes it back to 7.30pm. Emma Deeley, owner atThe Tythe Barn, Oxfordshire
4. CHILLING OUT…
‘Don’t get stressed about all the details. The only people who know exactly what was supposed to happen – and when – is you. If a flower is out of place, or the speeches are slightly running late: a) no one minds and b) no one else will notice.’ Laura & Sam, married at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire
Try to avoid a wedding date that clashes with a major sporting event. Who wants to celebrate their big day with guests glued to their phones watching The Ashes, the Six Nations or the Ryder Cup?
6. CHOOSING A THEME…
‘Before making every design decision, first ask yourselves “Do we love it?”. Whether or not it works with the rest of your day should be secondary to the feeling it gives you, especially as having everything overly coordinated can sometimes fall a little flat. If you do have your heart set on a theme and it needs to change – availability, cancellations, budget – try to see these changes as quirks that add contrast and interest.’ Claire Berry, creative event design agency Perfect Cartel
7. ASKING FOR HELP…
‘Create a spreadsheet and record everything. It helped us save money for little extras like thank-you presents for people who helped – from friends who did designs for the stationery to our mums who made wedding signs and favours.’ Alice & Pat, married at Southend Barns, West Sussex
8. DRESS SHOPPING…
Take one person (a trusted friend/your mum) on your first shopping spree to get a feel for styles you like. Or even go on your own. Lots of people will offer to come, because they want to be part of the action, but too many opinions can make you feel unsure and even stressed.
9. CATERING STYLES…
‘Think about food on a number of levels. If there are lots of children, will a five-course meal work, or would sharing platters or food stations be better? We’ve seen an increase in the number of couples wanting more time to mingle and party, so the length of time dedicated to eating is a factor in that, too. Whatever you choose, talk to your venue. Even if the time dedicated to your wedding breakfast is shorter, it remains a big budget factor so it’s so important to get it right.’ Bonnie Williams, owner at Alrewas Hayes, Staffordshire
10. DRESSING BRIDESMAIDS…
‘I had eight bridesmaids – all different sizes – so the most important thing was for them to feel comfortable. I picked four different dress styles and let them decide what they wanted to wear on the day.’ Yasmin & Nick, married at The Tythe Barn, Oxfordshire
And some interesting challenges…
11. Too many guests
Consider a ‘limited kids policy’, especially if you don’t know friends’ children well. Make it politely non-negotiable by saying things like ‘as we don’t have space for lots of children outside close family, we hope we’ve given you enough notice to arrange childcare, as we’d love you to still join us’.
12. Hen pressure
You may be eyeing up Ibiza, but not everyone has the budget or time to jet off. Instead, consider more than one do – something fun and more local during the day maybe, that older family members can enjoy. But make sure they are activities you want to do, not just to please everyone else.
13. Table tantrums
If one, or even both of you, has divorced parents, deciding who sits where can be tricky. Consider asking both sets of parents/stepparents to host their own tables (the best man and maid of honour could do the same). You could then have your own sweetheart table just for two.
14. Inviting exes
No-one wants that Four Weddings scenario of Hugh Grant surrounded by exes, but if one of you has an ex who’s still part of the crowd, not inviting them may feel awkward. If you’re happy to include them, make it clear that you want everyone to be civil, please, without any whispering and pointing.
15. Pay bar?
If funds won’t stretch to free drinks all night, warn guests in advance. After a day of bubbles and wine, people understand, but it might be an idea have cocktails to welcome evening-only guests so their first drink is on you. If you do have a free bar, ensure children can only order drinks with an adult – those soft drinks soon mount up!
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