Wedding Planning Advice for the Newly Engaged

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You’re probably feeling a heady mix of emotions right now – excitement, anticipation, joy, terror!? While everyone you speak to will kindly remind you that this will be the happiest time in your life, you’ll soon be feeling that inevitable wave of panic too. It’s perfectly normal to be a little bit scared and overwhelmed at this stage. I mean, how on Earth do you even start to plan a wedding!? Yes, there is an enormous amount to do in a relatively short period of time but come on, if I can do it, you certainly can too.

The most important thing to remember is that this is just one day. Your wedding will not define the rest of your life. It should be a nice starting off point for your marriage. But I know how it feels, and once the happy glow of getting engaged starts to wear off, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of hyperventilating over guest lists, seating arrangements and finding that one perfect dress.

So relax.  Try not to think about everything you have to do right away, instead break your tasks up into manageable chunks and tackle them one at a time. The wedding industry is notorious for scaring you about time frames and budgets and blah blah blah. But often they’re more worried about their own bottom line than actually helping brides and grooms navigate the muddy waters of planning ‘the biggest day of their lives’ (cynical but true). On the Rock n Roll Bride blog I’ve featured weddings that were planned in a matter of weeks and weddings that cost under £1000. So whatever your timeframe and budget, it can be done.

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Get Organised

What you do have to do, whatever your timeframe or budget, is get yourself organised. Now.

I’m a huge fan of lists and breaking things down so they’re less intimidating. My only advice other than that would be to make sure you have your priorities in mind and try to book the big three first. These are the things that either take the longest, get booked up the soonest or set the tone for the rest of the wedding. They are the venue, your photographer (and/or videographer, if you’re having one) and your dress. Get those three sorted first and everything else will fall into place around them.

However, before you can start any of that you need to make some decisions. Set some time aside, just the two of you, to sit down and have ‘the talk’. You need to decide what kind of day you want, when and where you’re going to hold it and how you’re going to make it all happen.

What

Think about what kind of wedding you both really want. Will it be big or small, religious or civil, on a beach, in a marquee, a manor house or a pub? Do you want to hand make everything or is that your idea of hell? Do you want a big bridal party or do you want it to be just the two of you up there? What is most important to you both? What are your biggest priorities and what is completely non-negotiable?

Secondly, it’s time to think about the theme. Recently this has become a bit of a dirty word, but these days thinking about a theme doesn’t have to mean you should be picking accent colours or deciding whether you’re more of a glamorous, retro or modern couple. In fact I’ve lost count of the number of weddings I’ve seen recently where the couple say “Oh we didn’t really have a theme; we just had stuff we liked”. Perfect, great – that’s your theme then!

This is the fun bit. It’s time to write down anything, and everything, that makes the two of you tick. What is it that makes you both the unique little snowflakes that you are? Are you really into sci-fi, or gaming, or food? Have you always dreamt about getting married outside, or by the ocean, or in a cave? Is music your biggest passion? Are your pets the light of your life? At this stage, write down whatever you want on this list and don’t restrict yourselves. I always think that the most successful weddings are those that are really unique to the couple and a share a mash up of how they are in everyday life.

Of course when it comes down to actually putting things in the wedding, you don’t have to include everything, but making a list like this is a really good way to get those ideas flowing before you really decide what’s going to work for you both.

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Where and When

So you’ve got the bare bones of the ideas for your wedding, now it’s time to think about the logistics – basically when and where this blessed event is going to take place. If you don’t have an obvious date in mind already, refer back to your ‘what’ list as one may affect the other. If, for example, your dream is an outdoor woodland ceremony surrounded by wildflowers and with your pooch as your ring bearer, you’re unlikely to want to have a religious ceremony in Milton Keynes in November. We got engaged on the anniversary of our first date so we just decided to keep it simple and were married exactly one year later.

How

Oh this is the fun bit…. the budget (groan!)

As much as you don’t want to think about just how much you’re going to spend on this one day, having some sort of idea of a budget is vital. Sure, you may well blow it, but you do need to have one as a guide… I mean how else are you going to know if you can stretch to that giant octopus balloon sculpture or not?

There are entire reality shows that revolve around the pain and horror of the wedding budget, but yours needs to become your best friend.  It will keep you in perspective and make you pay attention to what you actually really want. Sure, the idea of the octopus balloons is awesome, but can you really stretch to spending £500 on actual hot air? Most importantly though, your budget protects your future. After all, you’re planning for a marriage here – not just a wedding – and you really don’t want to start married life under crippling financial strain.

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If

Ugh this one isn’t so fun either, but just like the budget, it’s unavoidable. A lot of couples don’t, but it really is worth thinking about a backup if something doesn’t go to plan. I’ve heard way too many horror stories from couples where the wedding photographer didn’t show, or the venue cancelled a few weeks before (this happened to us!) or the inebriated best man loses the rings on the stag do. I don’t want to scare you, and nobody wants to think that anything is going to go wrong on their big day, but – and I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news – something might.

It’s another boring bit but please, for the love of God, get yourselves some wedding insurance. Yes, yaaaawn… but bar buying a house, this is probably the most money you’ve spent in a long while, so get yourself some protection.

Why

Wedding planning can be tough. It can be stressful and expensive and put unexpected strain on a relationship. Wedding planning can also take over your life if you let it, and after a while apathy, or even resentment, can start to creep in like a creature in the night. The DIY projects mount up, the bills keep coming in, and you can begin to lose sight of why you even started to do all this in the first place.

If you feel like you’re struggling, take a break from the planning. Spend some time together as a couple. Rediscover your passion and nurture the love that makes you want to go on this journey. At the end of the day the cake will be eaten, the flowers will wilt and the dress will be relegated to the back of your wardrobe. When you’re old and grey the wedding you had won’t matter anymore, but the person you married forever will.

This article originally appeared in Issue 3 of my self-published magazine. The first issue of the brand new magazine, published by Giraffe Media and available in WHSmiths, Morrisons and independent newsagents is on sale January 8th!

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9 comments

  1. Yay! I got engaged at Christmas (not this xmas – we’re talking 11 years ago now) and I still remember the nuts, head bent out of shape, kid in a candy store feeling once January turned around…

    The budget spiralled out of the stratosphere soon enough, and what made it harder was that we were just planning for stuff that we didn’t really want anyway, but thought we should have. We stepped back from it when it was getting too hot and then JUST CHANGED EVERYTHING!

    This is a great article Kat – it’s so easy to get carried away with the One Most Important Day in the Universe That Ever Happened. I know the state that people get in to when they’re planning because when I photograph their Pre-Wedding or Engagement Session couples are always turning to me and saying that through all the planning and cheque writing and guest lists and decoration decisions this is the one time when they are told to hold on to each other, make some eye contact, and remember what all this wedding stuff is all about: the person you’re marrying!

  2. charlotte

    Love your article and love the pics! What a cute couple. Did they get married at Griffith Park?! I’m obsessed with the jumping photo!

  3. Love couples that have the strength of character to just go with what they like as their theme and not have what they think they ‘should’ have. Great advice. They’ll have no regrets and a day totally unique to them.

  4. Abi

    Thank you for posting this. Having got engaged over Christmas, I’m eager to get started with planning, but I had no idea where to start. So many things to think about! Me and My Fiance (I love that word!) are not really that traditional, and I like the idea of putting things we like into our wedding. We are keeping it a little traditional now for the sake of our parents, but the only thing I wanted that my other half has said no to is I wanted a dance routine (I’m a Musical Theatre Geek) and he’s said no and put his foot down…. I can see a Flash Mob starting…. but Shhhhh. Its just between us *wink*

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