First Steps to Planning Your Wedding
Congratulations - so you’re engaged!!
You have broken the news to your nearest and dearest, and perhaps held an engagement party… but what now? The thought of actually getting down to planning your wedding can feel for some like a daunting task. Where to start? How does the process actually work?
To get you started, I have created this guide to assist you in the very initial stages of planning, and help you through the process with the minimum of stress.
SET THE DATE
Whilst a number of factors will need to be considered in fixing an exact date, it is helpful to have a rough date in mind. This will focus your mind on the planning process and enable you to approximate timescales. Is your heart set on a date in the summer, or would you prefer a magical winter wedding? You will also need to ensure you allow enough time for preparation, and to be mindful of clashes with event dates in your local area, for example festivals, major sporting events and school holidays, all of which can have a knock-on effect on travel and accommodation arrangements.
KNOW YOUR BUDGET
Unless you are fortunate enough to have a limitless wedding budget, it is essential to put a carefully considered budget in put place from the start. Will you be covering the whole cost of the wedding, or will parents be likely to contribute? Either way you will need to discuss the total amount you are willing to spend on the big day and know what you can afford.
Once you have discussed contributions and determined your budget, create a spreadsheet containing each aspect of your wedding and be sure to update it regularly, so you can see at a glance where money has already been spent and what you have remaining. It is also strongly advisable to allow for at least a 5% margin on top of your budget for contingencies.
CREATE YOUR GUEST LIST
Whilst you do not need an exact figure at this stage, it is important that you and your partner have in mind an approximate number of guests you will be expecting on the day, and any additional guests in the evening. This will be an important factor in considering a wedding venue for a start – if you are planning to invite 160 guests you can immediately rule out viewing venues which only cater for 100. Also be mindful that the more guests you invite, the higher the catering budget will be.
At this point it is also worth considering who will play key roles in the wedding, for example the Best Man, Maid of Honour, Bridesmaids and other attendants, as this will help with allocating the budget to their attire and other expenses.
FIND A VENUE
With your date, budget and number of guests in mind, this is the time to start thinking about the type and style of wedding you would like, and to research the venue options.
It is useful to start with an internet based venue finder; we love Coco Wedding Venues which allows you to search for the perfect venue by geographical location and wedding style, and contains essential information about each venue at a glance, for example license details, venue capacity and catering information. The site also enables you to shortlist your favourites to print, share with others or save for later, and even contact the venues directly from your shortlist page.
When you have narrowed down your preferred venues (ideally 3 or 4), arrange viewings with each to really get a feel of the venue and take the opportunity to directly ask the venue coordinator any questions you may have.
BOOK YOUR REGISTRAR
Once you have selected your chosen venue, provisionally book your date (most venues are happy to agree to hold the date for up to 2 weeks before requiring a deposit). As soon as you have done so, contact your local council to check that there is a registrar available on your wedding date. Registrars require a minimum of 28 days’ notice and a maximum of 12 months ahead of your chosen date, however the further ahead you can book the better. If opting for a ceremony in a church or other place of religious worship, now is the time to make the necessary arrangements.
Take a look at the latest issue of the Bristol Ceremonies Guide for further information on marriage requirements in the Bristol area.
CHOOSE YOUR SUPPLIERS
Undoubtedly there will be a host of suppliers involved in your wedding, however there are a number of key suppliers which should be considered in the first instance and ideally booked as soon as possible.
If catering is not included in your venue’s wedding package, or if you have opted to choose your own, selecting a caterer should be a priority. Take time to research sample menus taking into consideration any special requirements (for example vegan or gluten-free options), and when you have selected a few favourites, arrange tastings with your preferred caterers to ascertain the quality of their food.
We would also recommend thinking about your photographer in the early stages. Good photographers can be booked up well over a year in advance, so if you have received a personal recommendation or have a particular photographer in mind, contact them to secure their services well in advance of your wedding date.