First things first: what to do when you just got engaged?
You’re engaged! Congratulations! Did one of you propose? Did you both decide to get married? Was it grand or simple? Was it a surprise? Do tell me, I love love stories.
I guess the first thing you did was tell your nearest and dearest, to share your joy, your excitement, and start wondering how to start planning your wedding. I’m sure questions have started to arrive, as well as suggestions, or expectations may be.
Handling communication well with people who love you is really important as you want them to be happy for you but not take over or feel left out.
1- The first thing to do is dream. Dream of your day, the one you want as your and your beloved’s wedding.
Dream separately, dream together, just imagine what it’d be like, and see what seems most important, the bits you can’t see your wedding without. For some, it has to have a grand venue; for some, live music is a must; for some a helicopter and 4 different outfits; whereas others want a simple, meaningful, home-made wedding; whatever you want is fine.
2- Make a list of must haves- of would be nice and of can do without or can do ourselves. Make sure you both get what you want. A wedding is the beginning of a marriage after all.
Real weddings: Charlotte and Al had decided that their priorities were a venue where people could play games and have nice food; live music during the day and evening and photography. So they did the invites, flowers and cakes themselves.
3- Working out a wedding budget is essential. Have an idea of what you want to spend. It will change as you find out prices but everything has a top, middle and a small budget options. So when you look at prices, write down – or even better, have a Excell sheet- the range of quotes you come across and have an overview of what you want to prioritise. Keep 10% of your budget as a float.
Real weddings: Amanda loves flowers but didn’t want to spend money on them, so she asked her local friends with gardens to bring a small bunch in a cute pot and she had more than enough to decorate the tables and the windowsills
4- To start the ball rolling, you need a date, and for that you need a venue. You can decide on a date and see what venue you can get or the other way round.
5 – To choose a venue you need to know about your guest list. Some couple choose their guest list and find a venue that fits everyone for their budget, others fall in love with a venue and invite the number of people who can fit in the venue.
In term of dates, the season and day of the week will have an influence on the price and the availability. Off peak, mid-week with be the cheapest, but can make it harder for people to travel and take time off. For the photography, if you’re having a winter wedding, think that daylight is over by 3 pm. Do avoid big dates like Christmas and the final of the 5 nations if possible. You can see more thoughts on seasons here
Recap: dream- budget- venue- guest list – date are the first steps
Another decision you might consider early on is whether to employ a wedding planner. I must say it had not occurred to me when I got married, but it can save you a lot of time and even some money, not to mention your sanity. They can help you for the whole of your wedding or only some aspects like venue finding. Some, like Val Mattinson at Benessamy Events run workshops to set you on your journey well equipped. Some like Linzi at That Black and White Cat specialise in certain kinds of events- themed, alternative, retro, outdoor etc.
6 – Once you’ve got a date, you need to decide if and if so who will be in your wedding party. I say if because, like everything else, it’s not compulsory. You only have to have two witnesses, the rest is up to you: if, how many, who, and what they should wear. If you’re having one or more people in your party, you get to decide whether you want to choose their outfits- and pay for them or if you leave them free to choose- with some guidelines on shape, length, colour etc if you want, but they can buy themselves their outfit. See my post of bridesmaids here.
Timings are important too, see some tips here to work out how many times to feed the guests, how to make the most of people you see too little of etc.
There are many planning tips and schedules on the internet, but none of them tell you that all that is your choice, they all act as if everyone has the same things.
From the weddings I’ve photographed, I can tell you that you can
- have 1-2-3-4 outfits on the day
- not have flowers at all and have other things instead such as a paper, button, or origami bouquet. Or no bouquet at all.
- not have one theme but everything you like all in one day including a bouncy castle and archery
- not have all your tables looking the same, but each and all with their mini theme
- choose whatever theme you like and bake your own cake to match
- not have an evening party, just some relaxing music so people chat and socialise
- cook all the food at home (!)
- have high tea, or burger and chips, a pizza or ice-cream van, whatever food you fancy
- make it last with a pre-wedding picnic/ dinner so people meet up before hand- and also afterwards
- have different parts of your wedding in different countries- even on the same day!
- mix traditions form all over the world
- have a celebrant help you write and live the ceremony that is most meaningful to you.
- ask for one luxury as a gift. I was a gift to the couple at a DIY wedding.
- have as many guests as you want: I’ve shot weddings with 2 guests and some with over 600
In terms of booking vendors, book asap as good people get booked fast. As a photographer I get enquiries for 2-3 years ahead although there are usually free dates left so do ask.
What to look for when you book a vendor?
- You like their work and can afford them- even if it means adding more later if there is money left
- You like them as people, your gut is to trust them AND you have a contract with them
- You can see / taste/ listen to their work. For a photographer see many whole weddings, not just the highlights.
- They are flexible and keen to understand you and give you what you want.
- You know who will be there on the day and what will happen when
- They can help and advise you.
- They have good recommendations, insurance, professional equipment and a back up plan.
Booking early also allows you to budget better and relax knowing all is done. You can even have a pre-wedding honeymoon to arrive really relaxed and a bit tanned!
There are many more things to talk about and I’m writing a book on the subject but if you have any question, email me. I’m more than happy to help, and if you know anyone getting married, please send this article to them. Thank you.