Tag Archives: How to plan a wedding

How to Plan a Wedding: The Cheapest Ways to Get Hitched

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The cost of weddings is always increasing. While there are plenty of DIY darlings planning their big day on a shoestring, many others really struggle to see how they can shave the pounds.

The industry is undoubtedly to blame. Yes, wedding suppliers have overheads, and need to make a profit, but there are many things that are still perpetuated by the wedding media as ‘essentials’ when quite frankly that’s total bullshit. These ‘essentials’ are peddled to make people money. End of.

If you have limited funds you can still have an amazing wedding. I’m here today to show exactly you how.

The Ceremony

Undoubtedly the ceremony is the most important part of any wedding, and actually the only thing you HAVE to do in order to get married. The cheapest way to say “I do” would be to hop down to your local registry office and have a quickie ceremony with just the two of you and some witnesses (you’re required to have at least two) present.

For the purposes of this article I’m just focusing on the costs for a wedding in England and Wales so be sure to check your own country’s marriage laws if you live elsewhere.

In England and Wales a registry office wedding costs £119 (£35 each, paid when you give notice, £45 to register the marriage afterwards, and £4 to purchase the marriage certificate which you will need to prove your marital status in the future). Notice must be given at least 16 days in advance. The ceremony will be short, you must exchange some formal wording, you’ll sign some papers and voilà! You are wed!

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The Reception

The cheapest way to have a reception is to book a non-wedding venue. Wedding venues can charge a premium because they do weddings day in, day out and can offer their couples exactly what they need, all under one roof. However, if traditional isn’t your bag then there are a million ways you can have a party on the cheap.

If you’re blessed with a house or garden that can hold everyone you’d like to invite (or you have a friend or family member who’s willing let you use theirs), how about having the reception at home? Do the catering yourselves (pot luck buffet for the win!) and either have a dry wedding or buy the alcohol in bulk from a wholesaler. Moneysavingexpert.com have compiled an awesome wine discount finder which can help you find the biggest discounts and cheapest options available at Tesco Wine, M&S, Majestic and Slurp!

Another surprisingly affordable option is to hire a pub or restaurant. A little known fact is that a lot of them will actually let you hire them for a nominal amount or even FOR FREE (usually only on weekdays) as long as you (or your guests) spend a certain amount behind the bar and/ or you buy all your food from their kitchen. I know!! I couldn’t believe it when I heard that either!

Also don’t disregard church halls, village halls or local sports clubs which can also be suuuuper cheap to hire for an event (pro tip: avoid saying the W-word when you enquire, some places will slap on an extra fee if they think it’s for a wedding, the bloody cheek!)

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The Dress

There are so many places you can buy a low-cost wedding dress these days. Firstly you could buy one from a wholesaler in China. Ethical debates aside, it is still an attractive option for may brides. These gowns are often imitations of designer gowns and are made from cheaper fabrics and with less sophisticated techniques. While there is no question that a copy from China will never be even close to the quality of the expensive designer gown that it’s been based on, if your budget is really small they are something you might want to consider. Prices usually start from as little as £100.

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How to Plan a Wedding: Personalised Ceremony and Vow Ideas

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Undeniably, one of the most (if not the most!) important parts of any wedding is the ceremony. But with wedding blogs, books and magazines mostly focusing on the pretty stuff (flowers! cakes! dresses!!) it is often the bit that leaves couples the most confused. So today I thought I would briefly cover a few of your options and help you to with some vow ideas if you plan to write your own. I’ve concentrated on English marriage laws in this post so be sure to check your own country’s requirements as they may vary.

Unfortunately, English marriage laws are some of the strictest in the world. Here, you can only be legally married in an approved location and the ceremony must be performed by an authorised celebrant (usually, but not always, a minister of religion) or by an authorised registrar. So your dreams of a beautiful beach or backyard ceremony being performed by your best friend who bought his marriage license on the internet would not be legally binding. Sad face.

But, you can still do it! You’ll just have to make sure you do the legal bit as well by popping to your local registry office to sign the papers. Most couples do this on the same day, but you could do it the day before or after and have another mini-celebration! Also, if you’re having a destination wedding make sure you check where you stand legally. Ceremonies that take place in another country are not always legally binding back home! 

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If you’re planning to write your own wedding ceremony, you’ll need to check with your local government to see if there are any legal requirements that must be included. Other than that what else happens is completely up to you, especially if you’re having a non-religious ceremony. If you are getting married in a religious setting the rules about what you can and can’t do are often a bit stricter. Just make sure you speak to your officiant if you want to do anything non-traditional.

When you chat to your celebrant before the day, they will most likely go through what you can expect from the ceremony. They’ll also describe the various aspects and explain their significance to you. They may also suggest that you do a rehearsal the day before so you’re all prepped and there are no unexpected surprises!

Whatever kind of ceremony you’re having it’s nice if it follows a basic structure. This way it will be easier for your guests to follow along. A wedding ceremony usually goes as follows:

Processional (the bit where you walk in)
Welcome
A note about love/ marriage (often referred to as the “definition of marriage”)
Readings
The declaration of intent (the “I Do!” bit!)
Vows
Ring exchange
Pronouncement (aka the kiss!)
The signing of the register
Recessional

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How to Plan a Wedding: 8 Ways to Get Affordable but Amazing Wedding Photographs

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Anyone that’s been reading my blog for a while will know what an advocate I am of getting the very best wedding photographer you can afford for your big day. I’ve written about it on numerous occasions (here, here, here and here).

I know that budget can be a huge barrier for some of my readers but that still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to get the most amazing wedding photographs that you can. Whenever I speak to couples after their wedding they always say “It went by so fast!” or “the whole thing was such a blur, I don’t really remember the ceremony!” And it’s so true. You’ll be feeling so many emotions on your wedding day that often it’s very difficult to recall a lot of the details afterwards. That’s where your wedding photographer and film-maker come in.

Wedding photography is something that you shouldn’t try to DIY. Your uncle with a fancy camera will never get the same results as a professional with years of experience. It’s a massive cliché, so much in fact that I almost hate saying it, but it is totally true – once the wedding is over, the cake has been eaten and the flowers have died, the photos and video are all you’ll have left to remember the day. I love looking back at my parents’ and grandparents’ wedding photographs and if we ever have children ourselves I can’t wait for them to see how mummy and daddy got married too.

One of the biggest things my readers say to me whenever I address this topic is that while they understand how important photos and video can be, they simply don’t have the budget for them. So today, I thought I’d share a few simple ways that for you to get great wedding photographs without having to spend thousands of pounds.

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1. Do your research

Wedding blogs are a great place to start. Look through the real weddings on your favourite blogs and click the adverts running down the side of the sites. The more people you look at the more likely you are to find someone whose work you love and that suits your budget.

Speaking of pricing, it will fluctuates massively depending on the photographer’s location, experience and what kind of coverage they offer, but as a rough guide, in the UK for a wedding photographer with decent experience, you’ll likely be looking at around the £1200-£2500 mark. Same goes for a film-maker.

2. Have short coverage

Some photographers will offer shorter coverage for a lower price. They might not always do this on peak, high season days (i.e. a Saturday in the summer) because, quite frankly, shooting a short wedding for less money on a day that they’d be able to book full coverage isn’t a very smart business decision. But if you’re getting married on a weekday, or in the winter, you might be able to negotiate this option.

As a side note to that, often other suppliers will give discounts for off-season or weekday weddings too. Especially venues, they are ALWAYS more expensive to hire over the weekend. So if you want to save money across the board a Wednesday wedding is the way forward!

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How to Plan a Wedding: Reception Décor & Flowers

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The décor for our wedding was actually the bit I struggled with most. I’m not the most crafty of people, and during my (pre-blog!) planning I struggled to find any ideas that I actually particularly liked. It was all mirror tiles and fish bowls filled with water and floating geraniums back then. So we went for something super simple – tall floral table centrepieces (which I ended up hating but oh well!) and a black and white colour scheme. Yep, that was pretty much it.

However these days you are overrun with inspiration to make your wedding reception as unique as you are! From wedding blogs to Pinterest, and magazines finally getting on the more quirky train… it must be completely overwhelming.

Whatever style of wedding you’re having, my advice to you would be this: just pick stuff that you like! Try not to over-think it and simply choose things that reflect what you and your partner love in everyday life.

If you love travelling, how about a map as a table plan? If you adore reading, what about books as part of your centrepieces? If you’re really into comics why not use your favourites as the table names and markers? Once you get started the ideas will just start flowing. I promise.

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Picking a colour palette can be difficult (hence why we went for monochrome!) and unless you’re a stylist or designer it can be really tricky to know which colours will work well together. A great resource to get you started is Adobe Kuler. Simply select your main colour on the wheel and it will show you which other ones work with it – genius! Another great resource is Colour Lovers. This site is packed with thousands of colour schemes and you can search by type (wedding, corporate, home, fashion) as well as upload an image and get the codes for the actual hues used in it. Amazing!

Don’t stress to much about everything being all matchy-matchy. We actually went for our black and white theme because I literally couldn’t think of anything worse than having to carry colour swatches around with me to make sure the bridesmaid’s dresses matched the napkins matched the flowers… YAWN! Little did I know that an intentionally mismatched and eclectic scheme looks flippin’ awesome. Embrace the colour chaos I say!

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How To Plan A Wedding: Catering, Cakes and Cocktails

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Whatever kind of wedding you choose to have, the food and drink are in prime position to make or break the day. Not only will they help to set the tone, they’ll bring people together and fuel those bodies for dancing into the wee hours! The food and drink can take up a huge chunk of the budget so it’s important to make wise choices.

Catering

Here are a few things you need to consider when making decisions about what kind of food to serve:

What kind of food do you really like to eat? These days traditional wedding breakfasts are almost a thing of the past, especially for alternative couples, so the world really is your delicious oyster when choosing what to serve! Obviously you want everyone to enjoy the food, but this is also a time to please yourselves.

I’ve been to fully a vegetarian wedding, and even though I’m not a veggie myself, I loved the experience. It’s something that defines the couple so I loved that they stuck to their guns and didn’t feel like they had to serve meat just to please everybody else. This is not the time to worry that your great aunt might not enjoy your favourite food, this is your day so your taste buds should dictate the menu!

If you’re on a budget, consider having a buffet (or BBQ if the weather is nice). The wedding buffet used to have quite derogatory connotations (soggy sandwiches, frozen volovants and lank sausage rolls anybody?) but these days more and more couples are opting for this idea – and doing it in style! With a little bit of forward planning and imagination, a buffet meal can be both delicious and cool.

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Wedding catering doesn’t have to be all about a three-course sit down meal. There are many catering companies offering really unique options such as portable woodfire pizza kitchens, taco trucks and baked potato bars. And don’t forget about dessert too. How about an ice cream trike, a candyfloss vendor or a candy apple station?! My friend London Bride did an amazing blog post on some of the coolest options in the UK so be sure to have a nosey and her suggestions.

Think seasonally. Just like with flowers, food that’s in season will be much more delicious, fresh and affordable than anything that has to be shipped in overseas. Also consider sourcing your ingredients locally if you’d like to support growers and producers in your area. Farmers markets and local independent restaurants are a GREAT place to start!

If you really want to save money, how about having pot-luck catering? Instead of gifts, ask your guests to bring their signature dish. This will make for a yummy and truly unique culinary experience!

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How to Plan a Wedding: Choosing your Dress

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Sashy rocked her Vivienne Westwood wedding dress, dare I say even more then SJP?

I think it’s safe to say that for most brides, finding that perfect dress is the first thing they think about when they get engaged. It certainly was for me – I was online and trawling through dress designer’s websites the day after Gareth asked me to marry him!

When I was looking, way back in 2007, I struggled to find anything that wasn’t white, long and strapless. In retrospect I probably wasn’t looking in the right places, after all I didn’t have Rock n Roll Bride to guide me (ha!) But seriously, I actually had no idea that there were other options besides going to a bridal boutique and just picking one out, oh how things have changed!

These days, even the most traditional of designers have caught up to the fact that many brides want more options. A lot of them now offer short styles, dresses with straps (who would have thought it would be such a revelation!) and oodles of colour, style and fabric options. In fact, now you’re spoiled for choice!

Basic wedding dress shapes

The style of dress you choose to wear will most likely be determined by which one suits your body shape best and what kind of wedding you’re having. If you’re planning a small backyard family gathering then a giant ball gown might look a bit ridiculous, although in saying that, if that’s what you want – go for it!

The world really is your oyster when finding a dress style you like, but these are the basic, and most common, wedding dress shape options:

A-line dresses are flattering to most body shapes. The top is fitted around the bust and flares out smoothly and gently as it goes down. There’s usually no break between the top and skirt sections of the dress.

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Dress by Nova Mia

Ball gown styles are corseted with a full skirt. There is usually a more distinctive break between the top and skirt of the dress (sometimes with a sash but most often just a seam). Ball gown dresses help to create an hourglass figure and look fabulous on girls with great boobs!

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Dress by Anne Barge

Empire line gowns have a high waist, just under the bust, and are perfect on petite girls, pregnant brides or anyone who wants to disguise their tummy.

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Dress by K’s Custom Gowns

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How to Plan a Wedding: The Wedding Party

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Uneven numbers in your wedding party? Who cares!

For the lucky ones amongst you, choosing your bridesmaids and groomsmen will be a walk in the park. You ask your siblings and best friends, he’ll asks his and voilà! But for others there may be some drama surrounding who to have standing up there with you.

While the short answer to all the questions you might have is “choose who you damn well please”, as with everything in weddings there are often other people’s feelings to consider.

How many attendants should we have?

While there is no strict rule as to how many people you should have in your wedding party, tradition states that you should have one bridesmaid/ groomsman for every 50 guests. Goodness knows who came up with that number, but there you go.

However, remember, the more bridesmaids you have, the more likely it is that there could be disagreements on dress choices!  If you’re on a limited budget, think less is more. Although your bridesmaids may be wearing their own dresses and doing their own make up, you’ll still need to get everyone a bouquet and those things can really add up!

Do you have to have the same numbers of bridesmaids and groomsmen?

Of course not! I had three bridesmaids and Gareth only had a best man when we got married and it made not one ounce of difference. With must less importance being put on the classic line up photos these days anyway, who’s honestly going to care if you’re not evenly matched?

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Awww!

What’s the deal with flowergirls and ring bearers?

Other than being cute and adorable, throwing petals as they walk down the aisle and handing you the rings, honestly not much. If you have young children, siblings or relatives it’s nice to have them involved in the wedding, but if you don’t then you don’t have to bother.

Should all my bridesmaids wear the same dress?

Not if you don’t want them too! I personally love it when bridesmaids wear mismatched but complimentary dresses, I think it looks so great in the photos. 

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How to Plan a Wedding: The Guest List and Invitations

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Choosing the guest list for your wedding can be a task fraught with stress and drama. Who gets final say on numbers? Do you have to invite children? What about long lost relatives we never see? Will my tattooed, punk rock friends get on with my much more conservative family? How about just inviting some people for the evening? Will people be offended if they’re not included in the whole day? Are we allowing +1s?

There are so many questions and many, many concerns surrounding who to have (and not have) at your wedding. In fact I’m sure a lot of you are now starting to see the benefits of eloping!

The short answer to all those questions is that you should invite who you want to, but unfortunately weddings are never as simple as that. It may well be ‘your big day’ but there are other people’s feelings to consider too, like your parents. As I mentioned when we discussed the budget, they have probably been looking forward to this day since you were born and will want to be involved in the plans.

You have to remember that not too long ago a wedding was pretty much the parents’ party that they threw to celebrate their daughter getting married. A lot of the major decisions (such as the guest list) for their own weddings would have been made by their parents, so don’t seem too surprised if they want some input.

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The way we got around this for our wedding was that we actually had two celebrations. The first was the main wedding where we invited our closest family and friends (which was still about 120 people!) and when we returned from our honeymoon my parent’s threw a second wedding party for all their friends in their back garden. It was actually a great idea. I got to wear my dress again, my dad did his speech for a second time and we cut another cake. In many ways we all enjoyed it a lot more than our actual wedding day because it was so much more laid back.

So just how do you start to compile a list of wedding guests? Well, my advice would be to sit down and write down everyone you’d like to invite – friends, family, co-workers, everyone. Get your fiancé and both sets of parents to do the same. Then split the master list into two – an A-list and a back up B-list for if you have any extra space or someone can’t make it. The final number will usually be down to how many you can afford to feed and how many your venue actually holds.

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How to Plan a Wedding: The Venue

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Unusual venues such as museums will make a really fun and different wedding!

When it comes to planning your wedding, the venue is usually the first major decision you need to make. Not only is it often the biggest expense, but it is difficult to plan anything else until this is sorted out.

The first thing you need to determine is where in the world you want to get married. If you are both from, and still live in, the same town as all your friends and family then this is a pretty easy task, but if your family and friends are more spread out it can be a harder choice.

It is my personal opinion that you should make things as easy as possible for your guests. A destination wedding may sound wonderful and romantic (throwing the honeymoon in with the wedding, yes please!) but they can often be very stressful and expensive for guests. If you want all your friends and family to be able to attend, then jetting off to the Bahamas might not be your best option.

There are a myriad of things to consider when it comes to picking your wedding venue. Do you want to have your ceremony and reception in the same place? What style of wedding are you having and what kind of venue would be suitable? How much can you afford? Do you want to invite children? Do you want a place that offers packages or one that it a lot more flexible? Do you want to bring in your own caterers and supply your own booze? What’s the weather going to be like? Is an outdoor ceremony possible?

It’s easier said than done but try not to get stressed out. Yes, it can all feel very overwhelming but you can do it. My first recommendation would be to look on a venue listings website. There are lots of them around but I recently used Coco Wedding Venues to search for a venue for an event and it was great. They had some really cool and quirky places listed and you can search by style of wedding or location. Another good one is Funky Weddings.

Also have a search through the real weddings on this blog! You can use the search bar at the top of the site to search things like ‘urban’, ‘pub’, ‘farm’, ‘festival’ (or whatever you like) and see what comes up. Each venue is listed and linked to in the Supporting Cast section at the bottom of the wedding gallery.

Finding the right venue is often really tricky, and for me was the least fun part of planning our wedding. In fact our original venue cancelled on us three months beforehand! PANIC STATIONS!  It actually worked out fine, and we managed to find a much nicer place in the end although I wouldn’t recommend it!

It’s worth noting though that if you do book somewhere last minute you’re in a much better position to negotiate on the price. The manager may well be more flexible because it’s unlikely that they’re going to get another enquiry at such short notice, and they’d probably rather have slightly cheaper booking than no booking at all.

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How to Plan a Wedding: The Budget

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Toni & Colin spent just £3000 and their wedding was flipping amazing!

Regardless of how much you have to spend, planning an amazing wedding is completely possible. If you’re cleaver with your choices and make smart decisions, you’ll be surprised how far you can make even the most meagre of budgets go.

While crunching numbers may be way less fun than, say, dress shopping, having a hold on your wedding finances will make things much less stressful overall and will help you to keep things in perspective. Yes, that Vera Wang one of a kind gown is incredible but do you really want to spend 90% of your entire wedding fund on it?

Most importantly though, having a 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 the shadow of a massive post-wedding debt.

First things first, sit down with your fiancé and discuss what you can afford and how you’re going to pay for the wedding. If your parents are helping you out then you should include them in this too.

Although you might see this as ‘your big day’, your parents have probably been dreaming about this since you were born. Especially if they’re paying for or contributing in any way, you should include them in any major decisions. It’s unlikely that they’re going to write you a blank cheque and not see you until the day.

Ask your parents which parts of the wedding they’d like to be involved in. My mum really wanted to be included in the picking of my dress for example but wasn’t really bothered about the stationery. To make it easier and to avoid the ‘too many cooks’ syndrome, do the research yourself and then present them some options when it comes to selecting things (“We’re thinking about these three photographers at these prices. What do you think?”)

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How to Plan a Wedding: The Timeline

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Sophie & Tom planned their wedding in just four months!

As the weddings showcased on this blog show, there are a million different ways to say “I do”. A large family gathering, a small DIY affair, or a budget friendly backyard bash – the possibilities are endless. While wedding blogs are great for showing you style inspiration when planning your own big (or small!) day, I’m yet to see one actually publish a really comprehensive guide on how to physically plan a wedding.

So I thought I should be the first! Over the next ten weeks I’ll be covering ten of the most important things for you to consider when planning your wedding. It will be a practical and step by step guide that I hope will help you whatever style of wedding you choose to have.

However long you have to plan your wedding it’s important to have an idea of when you need to do certain things. While I’m not going to list exactly what I think you should do and when (the back of pretty much every wedding magazine includes these, although be sure to take them with a pinch of salt and edit them to suit your own needs) there are a few key elements that you need to sort out sooner rather than later.

Your engagement will likely be split into two main bursts of activity – the initial research and booking of your most important contributors near the start, and the coordinating of everything right near the end. The middle is usually full of DIY projects (if you’re that way inclined) and making decisions on the pretty things like your dress, reception décor, cakes and flowers. If you’re having a short engagement then these will probably all be smooshed together but that’s perfectly fine!

It is really important to book your suppliers as early on in your engagement as possible, especially if you have people you really want to work with. Many of the most popular vendors (particularly photographers and venues) will get booked up months, or sometimes even years, in advance! So if you have your heart set on something, don’t delay in sending that enquiry.

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