YOU SAID YES
- Since -
- 2009 -
32 STEP GUIDE TO WEDDING PLANNING
“Seven short years ago, we were in your shoes. Planning our own wedding. Counting down the days until February 14th 2016 - the date we would marry in a boutique hotel close to Lake Windermere.
Below we will share the step-by-step wedding planning tips and tricks we have learnt since planning your perfect wedding.”.
- Mat & Julia
Wedding Planning An Introduction
First, planning a wedding can feel overwhelming, and feeling this way is perfectly normal! It isn't unusual to hire a wedding coordinator outside the UK to assist in wedding planning. Yet, while there are an increasing number of fantastic wedding planners in the UK, many of us choose to take on the role ourselves.
If you are taking on the role of wedding planner yourself, organisation is the key to everything. Because juggling planning decisions, lists, and deadlines along with everyday life becomes much more challenging if you are also searching for the information needed to make those decisions.
Once the question has been popped and you have said yes, it can be tempting to try and organise your wedding as soon as possible. Time, however, is your friend! The longer your timeline, the more time you can commit to planning and organising your day. Anything less than a year will increase the pressure, while planning two to three years in advance is becoming increasingly popular among our couples.
Ensure that you and your significant other share responsibility for planning your day. Not only will this help share any stress, but it will also mean that your wedding reflects you both.
So, where to begin? The most important thing to remember is to try and have fun! This is your wedding day; it is a celebration, don't allow the planning to become a chore and not something you look forward to doing together. Don't get hung up on the small details; focus on what's important. Celebrating the love you share with those closest and dearest to you.
For the rest, we have you covered! Here are our 32 top tips for how to plan your wedding. From getting organised to understanding legal agreements and vendor contracts to maintaining your mental sanity!
Below, we have included everything you need to know to start your wedding planning from beginning to end. We have covered everything from setting your wedding budget to saying thank you. We have also included plenty of tips and tricks to keep everyone happy along the way.
YOUR 33 STEPS
THE FINAL DETAILS
18. Wedding Speeches & Readings
19. Stag & Hen Nights
20. Block Booking Hotels
21. Wedding Attire
22. Websites & Social Media
23. Wedding Gifts
24. Wedding DIY
25. Rope In Your Guests
26. Take Some Time Together
27. Personal Touches
29. Wedding Rings
30. Finalise Details
1. Set Your Budget
2. Involve Your Partner
3. Choose Your Priorities
4. Start Planning Your Guest List
5. Picking A Season
6. Wedding Styles
7. Talk To Other Couples
8. Research Your Area & Venue Options
9. Read Every Contract
10. Buy Wedding Insurance
11. Get Organised
12. Understand what you DONT want
13. Hire Your Officiant
14. Book Your Suppliers
15. Pick Your Invitations
1 - Set Your Wedding Budget
Let's start off with the boring but practical stuff, and it doesn't get much more boring or practical than budgets. Excel at the ready!
In reality, your budget will be the major driving factor for many of your wedding-related s. Knowing what you can comfortably afford (which is essential) should be one of the first things you should tackle. Historically it may have been the bride's parents who were expected to pick up the wedding bill. Still, times have changed and so have expectations. Today it is more than likely that you will be looking to foot most of, if not all, of the bill yourselves.
If any of your family members are willing to contribute, make sure you have a conversation early to understand what they are comfortable spending. Talking about money is never easy, but asking for money that simply isn't there is always much harder! If you are funding the wedding yourselves, it's time to take a long hard look at your finances.
Be willing to accept some reality checks when planning your wedding day, as the cost can quickly spiral and money can only stretch so far. Once you have that magic number, add a contingency pot and stick to it!
Check out our detailed guide to wedding budget planning
WEDDING BUDGET PLANNING
AdviceFor Each Budget
SMALL WEDDING BUDGET
TYPICAL WEDDING BUDGET
LUXURY WEDDING BUDGET
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2 - Involve Your Partner
Unless you are marrying yourself, at least two of you are probably getting married. While it is easy for one partner to take the lead in planning a wedding, planning your wedding solo can be stressful. In fact, this is the number one complaint in most wedding forums!
So if you are marrying someone else, ensure they are involved from the start. Your partner may not need to be involved in every step of the planning, but giving them space for their opinions and input will be invaluable and make the process much more fun for you.
For more information, check out our detailed guide to getting your partner involved
3 - Choose Your Priorities
It is time to compromise. unless you have just won the lottery!
Sit down with your partner and list the three or four most important aspects of your wedding day. Is this the venue, a specific date, or a particular photographer or band? Once these must-haves are locked down, be prepared to compromise on the rest to stay within budget.
Getting caught up in nice-to-have details when planning your wedding is easy, especially early on. However, setting key elements will help you focus on what counts toward making your day memorable while keeping the budget in mind.
4 - Start Planning Your Guest List
Guest lists are often pushed further down the planning list than they should be. This is because they can be complicated, often offering all the family fun of Monopoly without the fun!
But knowing your approximate numbers early can be a big help. Whether this is choosing a venue or staying within budget [catering can be one of the most significant single expenses at your wedding].
Sitting down with your partner and close family members can help put together an initial wish list of guests. As you move through your wedding planning, this list may change.
You may need to cut numbers. You will also need to decide if children are invited and who will bring a plus one, but this can all be done later.
Our wedding guest list planner will help you navigate the tricky politics of wedding planning and ensure your loved ones are where they need to be on your big day.
5 - Pick A Season
Early on, your date does not need to be set in stone but knowing what time of year will help focus your search and influence your wedding style. Each season will also affect your wedding photographs;
Spring weddings are full of colour, and flowers appear to be everywhere! Of course, I always recommend airing on the side of caution and having a few hay-fever tablets on standby, but a few other times of the year are so full of life! Natural blooms and blossoms can look stunning in portraits.
Summer is the peak season for weddings, and it's not hard to see why! In some months, good light will last beyond 8:30pm. With so much daylight, the opportunities are endless. So if you are having a summer wedding, I strongly recommend planning time for some sunset portraits! You will NOT regret this! This is the absolute best light of the day, and you will want your photographs during this time.
Fall or autumn is one of my favourite times of year for weddings. It's not unusual in the UK for early autumn to be warmer than some summer months. Even though nights are getting longer, it never feels like you are "chasing" the light! What makes fall so unique to me is the colours and the way everything changes; even the light & a little colour can go a long way! Once your timeline is finalised, your photographer should be able to discuss the perfect time for portraits.
Winter weddings are gorgeous! However, they can take some additional planning due to the early sunsets. As Julia and I married in February, winter weddings have always held a special place in our hearts! The key to stunning winter wedding photographs is organisation and ensuring you take full advantage of the natural light available. Photographing indoors can also be perfect for creating incredible memories of your day.
If a particular date didn't make it onto your list of priorities, try to remain flexible. This way, you won't be too limited when trying to book your wedding venue and suppliers.
Consider other factors that may come into play, such as how popular some dates may be. Some wedding dates are more popular, so you may pay more. Look at your guest list. Are some dates more difficult for guests to attend than others?
6 - Wedding Style
Once you have the basics nailed down, it is time to start getting creative with your day and picking your wedding style.
Your numbers will give you an idea of the size of the wedding venue you are looking for, and the type of year is likely to play a part in influencing your style.
Having a scrapbook [old school] or Pinterest board where you can bring all your ideas together is a great place to start if the idea of styling your wedding seems a little daunting.
To begin with, don't worry too much about a theme or specific style. Don't worry if one idea will work with another. Simply collect and save everything that makes you smile. You will soon start to see some patterns emerge, which you can begin to build on.
Once you have a style in mind, you can use this to guide your supplier selection. Style and mood boards are also a great way to share your vision with those suppliers.
7 - Talk To Other Couples
Referrals are one of our most important forms of enquiries. Your friend and family can be a handy source of information. If you recently attended a wedding, you enjoyed, speak to the couple. They have likely picked up some expert tips and tricks they would be delighted to share with you.
8 - Research Your Area & Venue Options
By now, you know your budget, your approximate wedding size, time of year and wedding style. Then, it's time to start looking at venues.
Before looking at venues, sit down and discuss what you both want. For example, if one of you dreams of a fairytale castle while the other dreams of festival wedding, you may need to find some small compromise.
For most couples, your wedding venue will be the first thing you book after saying "I Do". Booking your wedding venue will determine your wedding date, location, the maximum number of guests and a large amount of your budget, so take your time.
Make sure you get a chance to speak with the team involved in your planning and coordinating on the day [If possible]. When booking our wedding, we spent time trying to get to know the supplier we were interested in booking. More often than not, it was how we felt we related that resulted in us booking or not. You want everyone planning your wedding to be as excited about your day as you are.
Before signing your contract, ensure you know what is included and what is extra. For example, is it a venue you can get married at, can they provide accommodation, do you have exclusive use. There are no right or wrong answers but make sure you know exactly what is and isn't included.
9 - Read Every Contract - Closely
While it can be tempting when handed a bunch of papers to skip to the signature box and get things signed, STOP! Before you sign any contract, no matter how excited you are, make sure that you read every detail carefully.
While it is unlikely that anyone will deliberately mislead you, taking time to read everything you agree to now can save you lots of money later. Double-check that dates, locations, and times are all correct. Do you understand what is expected from you? Payment schedules, additional fees, and deposits should all be listed as agreed. Suppose your booking is for a specific item or quantity. Is this accurately described, as any discrepancy can lessen your protection if anything goes wrong?
You shouldn't need to be a lawyer to read and sign a wedding supplier contract, and most red flags are easy to spot. Be wary of any clauses that look to limit your options to leave a review, wording that sounds overly one-sided or leaves you feeling uncomfortable. I.e. the contact should outline what happens if either party is forced to cancel, not just you. Carefully read any sections that outline changes in the scope of service which means the agreed rate could be revised. These sections are not uncommon, but you need to be aware of the terms. i.e. in your contract, you agree to cater for 50 guests, but you later want to increase this to 100. You would expect to pay more, but your agreement should explain this cost. Similarly, your venue may state the minimum number of guests. What would the implications be if your RSVP total was less than this?
10 - Buy Wedding Insurance
According to the Hitching National Wedding Survey, the average UK wedding costs just under £32,000. While a £32,000 wedding budget may seem a lot, items such as the cost of your venue, catering, dress, etc. can all add up surprisingly quickly.
While definitely under the title of boring but practical stuff, insurance is one of those things you buy but never hope to use.
Buying wedding insurance from the moment you start spending money. It can help your peace of mind and stress levels while planning.
11 - Get Organised
Another tedious but practical task is getting organised. Still, the sooner you start, the easier it is to say that way.
There are plenty of ways to do this, from a checklist to spreadsheets. Whatever works for you as long as you can gather all your thoughts, budgets, numbers etc., in one place.
Also, consider your wedding timeline early before booking too many suppliers or events for your day. We do this with each of our couples so they can visualise how their day will likely flow.
As you might imagine, plenty of online tools and resources are available to help.
12 - Understand What You Don't Want
Understanding what you don't want on your wedding day is as critical as understanding what you want. As a couple, this should be a decision you make together but could include traditional aspects that make you uncomfortable. If you feel things are outdated or don't represent you as a couple, don't include them as part of your wedding.
13 - Hire Your Officiant
The number of ways and places you can marry in the UK seems to increase yearly. We do not yet have the flexibility of the USA, but you probably have more options than you realise!
Most religious ceremonies will occur in a place of worship and are likely to be performed by an ordained minister. However, each religion has their own rules and customs, so ensure that you are familiar with these early on as they may impact your planning.
In the UK, it has been possible to hold non-religious civil ceremonies in register offices since 1836.
Today the freedom to choose where to get married is larger than ever, with more licenced venues added each year. In addition, in 2021, the requirement that weddings take place [within a permanent, immovable structure comprising at least a room or any permanently moored boat or vessel] was suspended due to COVID. In effect, it became possible [at the superintendent registrar's discression] to marry outdoors at any licenced venue in the UK. In September 2022, this change was made permanent.
As of September 2022, a wedding Celebrant can not perform a legally binding marriage in England, so why might you choose to book one?
Despite the relaxation of rules around civil marriages, restrictions do still apply. For example, civil weddings must still occur at a licenced venue ruling out options such as a favourite beach, most woodland or at your own home. Music and reading texts during civil ceremonies can also be restrictive, leading some couples to consider a 3rd option, a celebrant.
A wedding conducted by a celebrant can be uniquely personal and is often crafted around you two as a couple. Unlike religious or civil ceremonies, there are no boxes that need to be ticked, meaning you are free to be as creative with the ceremony as you wish.
Celebrants accredited by Humanists UK can perform legally binding weddings in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Jersey. In England and Wales, however, they are not yet legally recognised, although many are campaigning for change.
14 - Only Book Suppliers You're Comfortable With
It's easy to feel out of your depth while planning your own wedding. It's likely your first time planning such a significant event, and everyone you speak to is an expert in their area! So how do you decide who will be perfect for your wedding day, and just as importantly, who isn't!
The first essential step is not to rush! Make a short list of potential suppliers who you like the look of, and then SPEAK to them. Electronic messages are a great way to make an enquiry or start an initial conversation, but pick up the phone as soon as possible! You want to ensure that the supplier you're speaking to understands your vision and can provide it within your budget. Your wedding day suppliers will be the nuts and bolts that bring your wedding day together. Having the perfect team who understands your vision will ensure your day is ultra-memorable and everything runs smoothly. You also want to make sure they are someone you want on your team and that you vibe well with.
15 - Pick Your Invitations & Save the Dates
Once you have your wedding style and venue confirmed, start planning your wedding stationery. If you are travelling further afield for your wedding, you will want to send save-the-dates nine months in advance. You can send these out six months in advance if you're staying local. Invitations follow six to eight weeks before your big day.
It is likely that even if you ask friends and family to RSVP, you will need to chase a confirmation, do this early!
16 - Finalise Your Guest List
With your wedding date confirmed and your plans started, it's time to start finalising your guest list. Go back to your original list and make any necessary changes with the information you now have about your day.
As not all families split neatly down the middle, make sure any decisions are made together as a couple. For example, who do you want with you for the whole day and who would you like to come to in the evening only.
Often the easiest way to approach this is to simply write down everyone you would like to invite and then split them into daytime and evening guests with your numbers and budget in mind.
Once you have your list ready, send out your save the dates, and don't forget to chase a response!
17 - Finalise Your Wedding Party
You want the friends and family directly involved in your wedding party to be able to provide physical and emotional support right through the wedding planning process.
First, sit down and discuss the size of the wedding party that works for you, keeping in mind the budget and any additional costs involved. Then, discuss who you want with your the morning of your wedding. Along with who you want to stand next to you during this monumental occasion. Will they be a calming influence or rely on you to settle their nerves?
You may instantly know who you want to be your maid of honour, bridesmaids, ushers, best men, flower girls and page boys, but you might also want to think about it.
Remember, just because something is traditional doesn't mean it needs to be part of your wedding. Best women, best men (plural) or bridesman are all options should they better represent who you are.
Choosing your wedding party can be one of the most fun parts of your wedding planning. Think about making the request memorable and having your ready phone to capture the moment.
18 - Wedding Speeches and Reading
There are a few things your guest will worry about more than being asked to deliver a speech, so make sure you ask early.
Wedding readings are typically delivered during the ceremony. This will generally be a spiritual reading by one of your guests for religious ceremonies. For civil weddings, a reading can be given by either a guest or registrar officiating your wedding; this can't be religious and will need to be approved before the ceremony. Finally, for a celebrant lead wedding, few rules must be followed, but your celebrant can guide you if you have questions.
Traditionally in the UK, wedding speeches are made after the meal and delivered by the bride's father, the best man and the groom.
But, just because something is traditional doesn't mean it has to be part of your day! For example, you can ask any guest to read a speech, and either partner can choose to do so. In addition, you can choose to do your speeches before the meal, after, or during; you can even choose to skip them all together!
If tradition isn't your thing, let your other suppliers know beforehand. As a video and photography team, knowing where to have the cameras pointed and when is always helpful before the speeches start, which is it is a question in our pre-wedding questionnaire
19 - Stag & Hen Nights
We all hope our amazing bridesmaids and best men will have us coved, but make sure you stay in the loop. Ensure you are aware if there is anything you need to prepare, pay for or pack so that you can plan these in and update your budget.
Gone are the days of partying the night before your wedding, so make sure you communicate and that any planned dates work for you both.
20 - Block Book Hotel Rooms
Wherever you decide to have your wedding, some friends and family will likely be travelling. If you are getting married, a venue with accommodation, block booking rooms may be an option. Block booking rooms typically means asking the venue to hold several rooms at an agreed rate [usually reduced] for your guest to book.
Unless your venue is exclusive use, most will release unsold rooms after an agreed date, so you don't have to pay for them. It is a thoughtful gesture and means more of your guest can stay with you longer.
Even if your venue does not provide accommodation, you may arrange a similar agreement with hotels local to the venue.
21 - Wedding Attire
Choosing the perfect wedding dress is a process all of its own. Still, it is typically recommended that you start your search right after you pick your venue [I know brides who chose the dress first!]. Choosing your dress early, 9 months or before, will give you plenty of time for fitting and alterations.
You should start thinking about shopping for your wedding party around seven to eight months in advance. In contrast, groom and groomsman shopping should be scheduled around 5 months before. [This is shopping for their suits, not an actual groom!]
If you are looking for inspiration on how to celebrate your dress, please check out our wedding dress guide for several ideas.
22 - Website or Social Media Platform
No matter how many save the dates, invites, etc., you send out, you will likely receive an endless list of questions via text or email.
To save repeating yourself, you can set up a simple website where they can check out all the essential details. Include all important information like dates, times, Transport and accommodation details. Really everything that is in your invite.
While there are plenty of online tools and apps to help you with this, there is one free option that is often overlooked, Facebook!
While Facebook may not seem the obvious choice, we have created several private groups for our couples over the last few years. These groups can be private, so any information is only shared with your guest. Unlike most other platforms, however, once inside the group, guests can upload and share posts with everyone else. This then gives everyone a perfect space to share their photos and videos of your day. If you have guests who would love to join you but cannot travel, these groups are also perfect for live streaming your wedding!
If you are looking to go even further, with your social media there is now the exiting new Trend of The Wedding Content Creator
23 - Wedding Gifts & Registry
While asking for gifts can make us all feel a little squeamish, an online list can be a handy way to avoid ending up with 3 toasters and a slow cooker you will never use!
Sit down together early on and think if there are any gifts that you really want, and then let your guest know in advance. Again there are plenty of apps available to help you with this, or you could create a wish list on Amazon or similar.
If traditional gifts are your thing, nothing is stopping you from getting creative. For example, maybe ask for gifts related to your honeymoon, or opt for charitable donations.
Convention dictates that this information should not be a wedding invite but can be included as an insert into your invite or on your wedding website. Unfortunately, the convention also dictates that half of your guests won't read this anyway, and you will likely end up with several bottles of prosecco!
24 - Wedding DIY
Not the type of DIY that starts in the hardware section of B&Q, ends in A&E and is hopefully more cost-effective.
If you are creative, DIY wedding decor can be a cost-effective way to add a personal touch and save money.
While getting carried away with inspiration is easy, don't go overboard! The is nothing less like you to get you in the mood for your wedding day than spending the night before panicking over napkin origami.
Plan to keep your DIY project small and projects that can be down well in advance. On the day, jobs such as room decor, floral and food are best left to the professionals. If just for your sanity!
25 - Rope In Your Guest
Don't forget you are not alone. Your wedding party, partner, and family can all be roped in to help. But if you need their help, you will probably need to ask or delegate. For example, one crucial role is rounding up family and guests for group photos. You want someone who will know who everyone is and isn't afraid to hurry them along when needed.
Most Couples assume this is a task best suited to one of the groomsmen. We typically suggest a bridesmaid!
26 - Take Some Time to be Together
For sanity's sake, schedule some time for just the two of you. You can do anything but your wedding planning! Trust us, you will need a break. If possible, book the week before your wedding off from work to help keep on top of everything. It is surprising how much time and effort goes into all the small last-minute details, so give yourself time to deal with them. It will help keep the stress levels low.
If you are looking for more information on taking care of your mental well-being while wedding planning 77 Diamonds has a brilliant article worth reading The Complete Guide: Taking care of your mental well-being before and during your wedding. This is a great in-depth article for anyone juggling feelings and pre-wedding anxieties (both perfectly normal) in the run up to their wedding. 77 Diamonds is also the prefect spot for a bit or retail therapy, should it be needed 😍
27 - Add Some Personal Touches
Don't be afraid to add some personal touches to your day. It doesn't matter if they are traditional or not, and they don't have to cost anything. For example, while exchanging gifts may seem lovely, exchanging letters on the morning of your wedding is often far more emotional. Likewise, reading your own vows may seem unnecessarily awkward. Still, they will be far more memorable than simply repeating what you are told.
The decision is ultimately yours, but remember, this is your day! Embrace what makes you unique as a couple and celebrate it.
28 - Organise Transport
If you are getting married, having your daytime, evening and staying at the same venue, you can probably skip this step. Otherwise, read on;
Wedding transport typically falls into 3 categories;
0ne - Transport to get you to the ceremony
Two - Transport from the ceremony to the reception
Three - Guest transport if needed
What type of Transport and who gets to use it is entirely up to you, but feel free to be as creative and unique as you wish. Keep an eye on the budget, though. Remember, helicopters don't come cheap!
29 - Wedding Rings
Shopping time! Enjoy this part together so you can decide if you want matching or uniquely personal rings. Remember that some materials are more durable than others, so if you are concerned, speak with your jeweller, who will be able to offer expert advice and guidance.
If you don't already have it, now is an excellent time to insure your engagement ring and add your wedding rings to the policy. Again, you may be able to do this under your home contents without the need for a separate policy.
30 - Finalise Setup Details
As your wedding day approaches, check in with your venue to ensure they have all your vendors' details. Confirm this information has been passed on if there are any restrictions regarding when they can arrive.
Finalise your wedding playlist. For example, for a civil ceremony, you will typically need 3 to 4 songs, one to walk into, one during the signing and one to walk out to. Check who will be responsible for this, and if it is you [normaly a guest], check how you will connect to the PA system.
This is a detail often forgotten, or that falls fowl of technical hiccups! If you use a playlist on your phone and have asked a wedding party member to control it, you will probably need to disable your phone's lock screen.
What is simpler is creating the playlist you want and then sharing it so they play it from their own phone. If possible, check how you connect to the venue's PA system before your wedding so you are not struggling to do it before walking down the aisle!
Check that everyone doing a reading and speech is prepared and has copies of what they intend to read printed. It is tempting to just use your phone, but batteries due go flat!
If you are giving out thank you gifts, make sure they are on order and speak to the venue to ensure they are happy to store them until needed.
31- Build A Wedding Playlist
Even if you have a band, a DJ or both having an outline guide of the must-play songs will help. You know your guest better than anyone, so having a playlist that will get everyone on the dancefloor is ideal.
Try to include a little bit for everyone, but remember this is your day and the best way to get your guest on the dance is to be up there.
32 - Finalise Schedule of Events
We go through a rough wedding timeline with each of our couples early in the planning process. Now you are closer to the big day, your venue will likely have confirmed this with you. This should be a comprehensive guide detailing what will be happening with them at each point of the day.
Use this as a starting point, share with your suppliers and fill in any gaps. For example, what time will your hair and makeups start, and when will your suppliers arrive.
On your day, expect some flex in this, as weddings run according to their own timeline, but make sure someone is keeping an eye on things. This will most likely be the venue's wedding coordinator. At some weddings, this has been us, and at others, a wedding party member. You are the two people who should not be organising the things on the day!
Check out our guide if you are planning to end your evening with a exit to wedding sparklers
33 - Say Thank You
Saying thank you to everyone involved in planning and organising your wedding goes a long way. Often words can be as meaningful as any gift, but if you plan to hand these out, keep them small and personal.
You will have put a lot into getting to this moment, so be present it the moment. Feel the love from your family and friends, and don't sweat the small stuff!
Being stressed out will ruin your wedding day, and honestly, those small things you may have noticed, only you saw them!
Your wedding day will fly by; honestly, this no exaggeration! If you are still looking for further inspiration the wed2b If you are unsure where to start the the wed2b in depth guide on the wedding checklist is an amazing resource.
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