Guest Blog: Real Bride's Planning Guide
2nd April 2014
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Being the type who's spent many an hour pining over pinning and planning every last detail of my wedding before even getting engaged, it's sometimes hard to remember that not everybody is like that! Many newly engaged couples really are starting from scratch when they come to plan their big day, and this can seem pretty daunting! That's why we really appreciate these useful tips, kindly provided by our good friend and bride-to-be, (in May) Nicky.
Getting married is very special of course. It's also stressful, a bit scary, new (in most cases) and comes with its own special and unique pressure because everyone - EVERYONE - knows what 'getting married’ means. It means you’ve found the person you want to spend your life with - rejoice! But what it also means, is that there’s going to be a wedding, and people have certain expectations of weddings. And with expectation, comes pressure.
On top of that every bride wants her wedding to be 'a bit different'. So how, in a world where weddings aren't just events, they're a whole industry (a massive one), can you make your wedding 'a bit different'? These days, pretty much everything you want for your wedding is available off the shelf - what's unique and different about that?
Your wedding will be yours, and that’s why it’ll be different - simple as that, which makes the resources available to you to help you plan your wedding amazing, useful, AND inspiring – you’ll find ideas in the things other people have done, and tweak them to a way that suits you and your intended, safe in the knowledge that no two weddings will ever be quite the same.
I must confess to having an unfair advantage when it came to planning my own wedding. I own an events company, so if I don't know how to produce an event I'm in trouble. I'm in awe of brides (and grooms) who put their weddings together on their own - because how do you know where to start?
If money is no object, wedding planners are great, and actually because of the way they work, not particularly expensive. However, it is possible to do it on your own, (check out World of Wedmin's free planning tools) and for those of you who are at the beginning of your engagement journey, and dipping your toe in the murky waters of event planning on your own, I am here to try and help. Below are my top 5 tips I’ve devised to get you on your way:
1. Ask for help - being a professional and a control freak (and a professional control freak) I haven't done this - I've hardly even asked my own fiancé for help. There is no reward in this! When you get engaged your nearest and dearest will be excited and keen to help you. If you have a friend or family member who knows a lot (or anything) about venues, flowers, favours, seating plans, budgets etc etc - ask them for help!
2. Try and roughly agree the following:
* How many people you want to invite - it may seem a strange thing to do first, but it will make a difference to the venues you can use if you’re looking at having lots of people there. Work out a rough guest list - it can always change later - and bear in mind you will be likely to get a 10% drop off from the number you invite.
* When you want to get married - narrow it down to a few weekends for when you start speaking to venues, so you can check availability. This is going to be the most likely thing that sets the date for you, unless you are dead set on a particular day/weekend, in which case start as early as you can, and hope your favourite venue is available! (Venue listings)
* Where you want to get married - allows you to narrow down the location and search venues in that area. Likewise the sort of venue.
* How much you can spend - this may rule out (or rule in!) certain options, and will save pointless heartache when you find a venue you love and then realise you can't afford it
3. Think logistics - if you want to get married in a church, synagogue, or field for that matter, and you want to have the reception at a different location, think about the logistics of moving your guests from A to B after the ceremony. If they can drive from one to the other there will doubtless be a few non drivers, and in my experience when dealing with lots of people, its best to organise them - with weddings people can easily be herded, but it means they do very little to plan any bits they need to look after themselves (e.g. getting a lift from ceremony to reception!). If you’re laying on transport, consider what will work best, and if it will be able to access your venue/s. Often, it’s good to think about the guest journey - where they start and finish the day - from checking in at hotels, through to getting back at the end of the night. You don’t have to foot the bill for everyone getting around all day, but consider how easy / difficult this will be for people, as it will impact their experience and memory of the day. Which leads me to…
4. The 3 Ps of events - Parking, Peeing and Paying - if you ensure all of these are covered off, then you’re on the road to a good time!
* Parking - if you’re getting married in the remote country church in the area you grew up in, it’ll be gorgeous, but let your guests know if there is little / no parking available. If this is a concern, consider laying on transport from the nearest village / town where people can park easily. Likewise with access and parking at reception venues.
* Peeing - A simple one. What toilets are like makes a difference to the guest experience. If you and your other half love festivals, and are creating a mini festival for your guests, consider trying to create a more luxury camping experience, at least for the toilets! You are likely to have a spread of ages at the wedding (from babies up to elderly relatives) and you want everyone to be happy and able to nip to the loo. Most importantly think about your wedding dress when you’re going to the loo, and my top tip for this is straddle the loo face on (charming i know, but bear with me…). If you’re wearing a big dress or train you don’t want to be trying to hitch it all up behind you and risk sitting on it, or worse! This is the easiest way to relieve yourself! Also, take a bridesmaid / friend. They can help!
* Paying - if you have a paying bar at the wedding, just make sure your guests know if there are any issues with paying, i.e. cash only, minimum payment limit. It’s not a biggy, but the more information you can give the better.
5. Break it down - as with anything, the thought of getting married and planning the whole wedding in one go is incredibly daunting, so break it down into chunks and deal with one thing at a time. I would suggest tackling it broadly as follows:
* Ceremony - get this nailed first. Where, who will marry you, what kind of ceremony you want (religious, registry office, civil, humanist - there are options!)
* Reception - where, how many people, what kind of event - seated dinner, buffet, bowl food, just one big party? Also consider entertainment here - band, DJ or both? Think about a venue that will work from when guests arrive for nibbles, through to dinner and dancing.
* Timings - start at the end of the night and work backwards through all the elements to decide what time your ceremony should start. If you need to finish at your venue by midnight, think about how long you want the dancing to go on for, likewise dinner etc. For a seated dinner broadly allow 30 mins per course, depending on the number of guests (to include serving, eating and then clearing). When thinking about timings also consider where and when you want to do the speeches - all before dinner (in which case make sure people are comfortably fed and watered with snacks / canapés beforehand), or throughout dinner in between courses. If this is what you go for, bear in mind the impact this will have on your timings.
* Clothing - of course the wedding dress will be one of the first things on your radar, but sometimes you need to wear a dress appropriate to a venue or an event - you’re not going to wear a meringue on a beach in Barbados (are you?!), so wait until the venue is sorted before you go dress shopping. Get a sense of the wedding dress shops you like online before booking appointments - from experience I’d say 3 in one day is about the max you’ll be able to handle. Once the dress is sorted, you’ll need to think about the groom, ushers and bridesmaids - pick colours and attire that work with the time of year. Are you going to put the ushers in ties to match the bridesmaids, or do you want everyone in suits and tails?
I hope these tips are of some help as you start to plan your big day - hopefully I’ll be back with some more ideas soon!