TIP #1 – ACTUALLY PLAN YOUR WEDDING PLANNING
This doesn’t sound terribly difficult. However, we have known a few couples who have stated “Oh I’m all over it, I have everything under control” when in reality… they don’t… yet! All they initially mean is they’ve rung a couple of suppliers and have a shopping bag full of cut outs from bridal magazines. That’s an OK start! Nevertheless, couples at this point are not truly “all over it” until they have a system in place!
Personally, the most relaxed couples we have seen started with a scrapbook or folder. There is something about having physical, tangible copies of things that is quite different from having a list of websites saved on your phone. Whether you have printed them out or whether you have sourced offical brochures, your decision-making brain with thank you later. You can purchase a scrapbook from any local art store. (We reckon the bigger the better!) If you are inclined, make a nice title page on the first page. (Why not? Books like this make great heirlooms.) On the first double page, you need to make a wedding timeline. Jot down all the things you are going to need to do (in pencil – nothing’s set in stone yet!) Select dates that you are going to do certain things. It may be easier to start with the wedding date, and work backwards. You can also do this on a computer and print it out to put in your book.
Planning a Wedding – Book The Big Things First
The things that usually require your booking a long time out are the things to consider first. The big four, in our opinion, are venues (i.e. reception venues, chapels, churches, gardens) wedding photographers, florists and caterers. On one of your front pages, give yourself deadlines to make these important decisions so that you don’t miss out on the providers or locations you want most. Collect emails, quotes and recommendations from friends. Essentially, it’s a plan for a good plan! (Michelle’s tip: For those who are decidedly digital, one way to keep track of how your thoughts evolve is to write everything in emails to yourself so you can re-forward it to yourself with each update. You can print the final version and stick it in the front of your scrapbook at any stage.)
TIP #2 – HAVE A CHECKLIST AND KEEP IT UP TO DATE
Having a checklist is a seriously useful thing while you’re planning your nuptials. However, if you have multiple copies of it, or don’t keep it up to date, it can create more problems than it solves!
If you are using a scrapbook or folder system, this checklist should probably go on the page immediately after your timeline. While they might sound like similar things, they are not. The timeline is a meta plan… a ‘plan for your plan’, so-to-speak. The checklist is a detailed, visual representation of what you have locked in already. The checklist should ideally have ideas grouped in themes, so you can start from the top and work your way down! Once you have completed your timeline, you might even put the actual date of when you wish to complete the checklist item. If you only use this as your checklist, then you are in no danger of becoming confused. However, this is not always practical when you are out and about and struck by inspiration. Another solution to this problem is to use a mobile checklist that updates automatically with your phone or tablet.
Google Calendar offers a neat solution to this, as it has the ability to keep multiple task lists separately. It also integrates with your day to day calendar. The only catch is that when you make changes to your checklist there, you must make the same changes to your written list in your scrapbook. It’s handy to make it a ritual. Sync them up before you leave the house and as soon as you get home. (Michelle’s tip: use the camera on your phone to snap anything handwritten etc. so that you always have it with you!)
TIP #3 – DON’T FORGET THE LOVED ONES!
It might sound like a pretty obvious thing to say. For most couples, key family members are generally going to be there for your big day, of course. But early on, you need to remember to make arrangements with loved ones and members of your family who don’t live in your immediate area.
My family has branches all over the country… and all over the globe! It is difficult to organise interstate or international travel quickly (goodness, especially in COVID times!) The later you leave it, the more it costs. Save everyone some money and heartache by letting everyone know as soon as you do when and where the big day will be!
TIP #4 – INCLUDE YOUR PARTNER FROM THE START
This is another tip that might seem obvious when you read it the first time. However, it is one that often gets overlooked! There are so many reasons why it’s a good idea to work as a team from the start. After all, teamwork is what a marriage is all about!
Stereotypically and historically, wedding planning has generally been largely the domain of the bride. The dress, the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the jewellery… none of these things have generally been considered in the groom’s domain. Most of the time, he has nothing to do with them! That doesn’t mean he has to be left out of the planning though! Modern grooms are often as inolved with all aspects of the planning as their brides. And now (hoooray!) there are same-sex weddings as well which allow for a whole host of new dynamics. Even if you want to embrace a very traditional wedding style where you don’t see each other’s outfits or styling until the day, there are lots of aspects that you can research and decide upon together. Most of the time it is more fun and less stressful to organise and plan things as a team. Organising any groomsmen for their suit fittings, working out seating plans, browsing venues, or organising wedding car hire… one person shouldn’t have to take it all on by themselves! It’s a wonderful time to work together and plan the biggest celebration of your life in harmony.
TIP #5 – BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET!
Right from the start, before you even purchase your planning scrapbook, discuss your budget with your partner. One of the biggest sources of frustration when planning a wedding is not having the money for what’s important. Even worse, you could end up overspending and starting your life together as newlyweds with regrettable debt! To be honest, before we became wedding photographers ourselves we marvelled at and felt mystified by the budgets of some couples. Now, having been to so many weddings, we have a deeper understanding of why people often go all-out to make these events glamorous and extra special. A big part of it is treating your loved ones to a magical experience. The other part is to create a sense of ceremony (no pun intended) as you commit to a lifetime of prioritising and loving each other. Whilst every aspect doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive it is important to manage expectations. If a deal seems too good to be true – it probably is! Knowing where you want to splurge and where you want to tighten the belt is important and it is vital that the two of you are on the same page.
Once you have agreed upon a budget, do some research and create a list of all the things you want for your wedding day. Importantly, you’ll need to put them in order of most important to least. Divide your budget up accordingly, estimating what you think is realistic for each section. The things that are most important to you get allocated the most funds whilst the ones at the bottom of the list are open to a bit of a squeeze.
Remember when budgeting that compromise is sometimes (if not often) required. If your wedding budget is $10,000 chances are you shouldn’t be buying that $9,000 Vera Wang wedding gown! Working within your budget can be a real challenge. It can also make for a bit of fun as it requires you to really get down to what matters most to you. If your quotes are higher than expected, don’t panic. Make it a little bit of an adventure and challenge yourself to think outside the box. There are load of way to save money on a wedding, the only limit is your imagination!
TIP #6 – CREDIT CARDS – THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
This is tightly linked with budgeting. Credit cards, as a general rule, should be avoided like the plague. However, in the context of a wedding, they can be useful. How? The answer is reward points!
If you have worked out your budget and have the money saved up to pay for your wedding, you can earn a stack of rewards to put towards your honeymoon or your new life together. There is a catch though. If you can’t pay for what you rack up on your credit cards, you’ll end up paying WAY more in interest than you’ll earn in rewards. Make sure you get one of those cards that has an interest free period, and be sure to pay it back to ZERO each month before it starts to accrue interest.
Also, if you take on this idea, make sure you designate a new credit card solely for the wedding. Do the math beforehand… you don’t want your everyday living expenses eating away at your precious wedding budget!
TIP #7 – DOES YOUR WEDDING HAVE A THEME?
There are literally thousands of themes you can choose for your wedding. I am not going to list them all here, that would be folly! However what I can do is tell you that if it does, you need to get the word out as early as possible to your guests. You also need to be consistent with your styling around a theme. Take it from me, there is nothing worse than being the only person in formal wear at a toga themed wedding!
TIP #8 – SCHEDULING
This is one of the most important parts when it comes to wedding planning. Scheduling. When you couple the emotion with the events of the day, it can seem like the whole thing is over in the blink of an eye. It’s very easy for something that you truly had your heart set on to be missed, whether it’s a family member that you didn’t greet, an element of a meal that was missed, or even an opportunity for the wedding photography that you wanted.
Liaising with your event coordinator, your caterer and your wedding photographer to ensure that each of them can meet your vision and your requirements is a must. If your wedding reception is in the evening at the beach and you really want bridal portraits on the beach at sunset, you simply cannot serve meals for the 45 minutes before the sun sets! Some wedding photographers will arrange to do your bridal portraits with you on another day if there are scheduling conflicts. There are many ways to get what you want. It’s all about being organised well in advance and communicating effectively with the people you are working with!
TIP #9 – EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
That’s a cliche, I know… but it’s a cliche for a reason. As I mentioned in #8, the whole day can fly past in the blink of an eye. It’s easy to get focused only on what you need to get through. This can leave you emotionally unprepared for the things that you didn’t think of beforehand.
Even though most parts of most wedding days are fantastic, there are a myriad of unexpected things that can’t be forecast. Flat tires, spider bites, rain… if you can name it, it can go wrong. It pays for a properly planned couple to spend a bit of time while planning their wedding playing “imagine if…” Try and envisage what could go wrong and how you might react, or better how you want to react. It can only help you… or your partner… maintain dignity on the day!
TIP #10 – DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY YOURSELF. SERIOUSLY.
Another ridiculously obvious but again oft overlooked part of planning nuptials. It is a party! And it is likely to be the biggest, most expensive one you ever throw. So in the months and weeks leading up to your big day, enjoy it!
It will be – to at least some extent – stressful, and most definitely time consuming, and it won’t always go to plan. However you only get one shot at making your wedding right for both of you. Make sure you communicate and talk, make sure you laugh and smile, make sure you plan things early and you stand a much better chance of pulling things off smoothly.
Planning a wedding – Our Ten Tips
So there you have it. That’s our take on the initial stages of starting to plan a wedding. There’s a lot more detail to divulge in actually planning individual parts of the day, and I’ll be more than happy to share bits with you as I get the chance. Hopefully if you are just starting out on the road to planning your dream wedding, I think keeping these tips in mind will help you on the road to smooth sailing.
Until next time guys, happy wedding planning!
Mich and Ben xx
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