As a London and Essex wedding planner, it’s my job to understand a couple’s vision, and to put myself in their place so I can step in where needed, guide them through the planning and take the stress off their shoulders. Of course, it also helps that I’ve actually been in their shoes! As a recent bride myself, I remember all too clearly what it’s like to be on the other side of the process. And while planning has always been my forte (my bridesmaids had to remove my planning folder and replace it with a glass of champagne on my own wedding morning!), I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and helpful it was to have some objective, calm help! So here are the wedding planning tips I learned as a bride, and that I wish I’d known when we got engaged!
Don’t start planning straight away
I love to plan so this tip might seem counter-intuitive, but trust me and don’t jump straight into it. I was so excited that I wanted to start on Day One, but my wonderful husband (ever the calm, rational one!) convinced me to first take a deep breath and enjoy being engaged. We spent a few wonderful weeks seeing family, eating out, and toasting our engagement with many glasses of champagne before we got stuck into the serious business of planning. I wouldn’t trade that time and those memories for the world!
Make (and stick to) a budget
Whatever you do, make a budget before contacting any suppliers! It’s important to be clear about your limits before you start as it will affect which suppliers you work with and what you prioritise. If you don’t have a wedding planner to help you, make a spreadsheet detailing what you plan to spend and apportioning it roughly against each element of your wedding day. Keep a record of everything you spend (including those little details – they really add up!) and check on the totals regularly so you can stick to your budget!
When you do start planning, take it slowly. There’s no point drilling down to the fine details with your suppliers over a year before your wedding date. They are unlikely to have the time to focus on those elements for your wedding that far in advance and may not remember what you’ve agreed – and besides, you might have changed your mind in that time! Be proactive and get to know your suppliers, but follow their lead in terms of timing.
Be prepared to put in the time
I planned my own wedding remotely. We were married in my husband’s family church and held the reception in a country manor estate a short drive away. This sounded like the dream when we started our wedding planning, but at the time we didn’t have a car as we lived in Central London, and I had not quite accounted for the many (many!) trips we would need to take to visit the venue and local suppliers for meetings and walk-arounds, in order to refine things to a T. Luckily we’ve a close family and I love spending time with my in-laws, as we spent a lot of weekends staying with them and they were patient enough to drive us around in the months leading up to the big day! If you don’t have time for this or are planning a destination wedding in England from further afield or even abroad, I highly recommend getting a professional planner on board to do a lot of this for you!
Listen to advice, but trust your gut
Be ready for everyone to have an opinion and to tell you about what they did a million times! My advice is to accept their input graciously but remain firm about what you want. It’s your wedding at the end of the day, and you can choose to do whatever you want to do. Just take a deep breath and remember they’re only trying to help. Besides, it’s our stories that bring us closer together, and just as you have no doubt enjoyed telling your engagement story (which you no doubt already have down to a fine art!), they enjoy telling theirs. You might even learn something about them you didn’t know before!
Lastly, know that your wedding will go by in a flash. The planning process itself starts off busy, calms down a bit in the middle, then gets crazy again in the lead up to the big day (again, a planner can help with this!). The wedding day itself goes by so fast! I had a lot of people come to my own wedding from abroad, so made sure my reception venue was available in the lead-up to the wedding day to act as a base. This worked perfectly for us, and I was lucky enough to take a whole week off before the wedding and spend it with my immediate family. I found this time invaluable to take a breather and relax before the big day, spending time with those close to me before the whirlwind that the wedding brings with it! I would highly recommend blocking out some time like this if you can. On the day, make sure to stop throughout and take stock – it’s such a happy moment in time! You’re marrying the person you love most in the world and get to celebrate with all those you hold dear, who have come together from all over the world for this one special day. Remember to enjoy it!