As it’s now two years since we got engaged (HOW IS IT TWO YEARS?!) I feel like enough time has passed since our wedding for me to actually look back and reflect properly on the things that I haven’t otherwise blogged about yet.
I’m kicking off with a list of the things that made planning it all easier. It’s all very subjective of course, but these were the main things that helped me. I’ve had to split it into two posts (IT WAS 3000 WORDS OMG) so check back tomorrow for part two 🙂
And apologies if any of this comes across bluntly, I just remember reading tips like “have a nice bath” when I was planning and wanting to scream.
So here’s what *actually* helped me…
1. Having a wingwoman.
If there’s ever an opportunity for a WhatsApp group chat to morph into a full time job, it’s a wedding. It’s natural (and part of the fun!) to want to chat to anyone and everyone about your wedding plans, but you quickly realise that asking 30 people what they think about something results in getting 30 different answers. Not exactly helpful.
Tonnes of people helped me with my planning, from strangers at the hairdressers to people I’d never met on Twitter, but for my main daily (hourly) updates, freak-outs, ideas and “THIS OR THAT” picture messages I relied on my best friend Katie. My mum, sister, M-I-L and S-I-L were a huge part of everything too, but having one dedicated wingwoman who is up to speed on EVERYTHING, even drunk at 3am on a Tuesday, is a wonderful help.
2. Deciding a budget early and sticking to it.
This is one of the trickiest parts of wedding planning but deciding the budget as early as possible will make the whole process easier. Unless you are literally a gazillionaire, you’ll probably have a cap on how much you want your wedding to cost. You can’t just wing it with a wedding…unless you want to suddenly lose £40k without blinking.
Whether it’s you and your fiancé who are covering all the costs or you’re getting help from your parents, you need to sit down and have the discussion about how much you’re planning to spend. If you’re worried about this being awkward, just think about how much MORE awkward it will be if the wedding ends up twice as expensive as everyone budgeted for. Knowing your budget, then STICKING TO IT, alleviates a lot of unnecessary stress.
The average cost of a UK wedding in 2014 was £20,983 according to You & Your Wedding and £24,000 according to Brides Magazine, but remember this is an average. You can have an amazing wedding for much less. Similarly you can budget for twice as much and still not have allocated enough cash for the band.
If you’re ever getting too stressed about the financials then just think of this PERFECT scene from Friends. (Which always make me cry).
It’s not about a big fancy wedding, it’s about a marriage.
3. Starting the spreadsheet early.
Nothing like a bit of Excel to sap the fun out of planning eh? It’s not the most glamorous part of wedding planning, but it’s a crucial part as per the general point above about sticking to a budget. More than half of all brides apparently go over budget on their big day but there’s no excuse for this if you have a spreadsheet. (And the ability to say “no” when you can’t afford something, but that’s perhaps a topic for a separate post).
Every bridal mag (from memory!) has a double page dedicated to the average spend for the different elements of a wedding (everything from gifts for bridesmaids to shoes for the groom) and we used this as a starting point for our spreadsheet. We had a column for the various elements, a column for the average costs according to the mags, a column for the costs we were quoted (as and when they came in) and then a column for how much we’d paid so far (deposits etc) and a column for payments outstanding. At any time we could look at the spreadsheet and know how much we’d paid and what we still needed to pay…and when.
The averages are exactly that, averages, so it’s not like they’ll be perfectly in line with what you’re quoted for things (again, assuming you’re planning a wedding on an average budget) but they’re helpful as a guide and you have to start somewhere. Even if it’s just to realise how the cost of a photographer compares to a dress, etc.
We used a second sheet on the same spreadsheet to manage our RSVPs too. It was a brilliant brilliant spreadsheet.
4. Knowing that it’s not always fun.
You don’t have to enjoy every second of planning a wedding. It’s normal to find parts of the “magical” process overwhelming or stressful. For a lot of mine, ST was working in Asia and I felt like I was in an episode of DTTB, except it was DTTG….and there weren’t any inflatable aliens or tears at Thorpe Park. But what helped me was other brides being honest about the fact that not every minute of planning a wedding is fun. Just knowing that it’s ok to be sick of it every now and again is enough to make the whole process easier. You’ve got this.
5. Making the most out of every big decision.
One of the best things we did during the planning was to “make an occasion” out of the big decisions. On the day we chose our wedding cake flavours for example (blogged about here), we spent the rest of the afternoon after our appointment walking around the City in the sunshine, popping into bars for cocktails and football updates. If I remember correctly Costa Rica v Greece went to penalties and I was still pretty buzzy off Baileys buttercream, so it was a thrilling time.
We tried to make the most out of every “appointment” like that, driving out to see our wedding band perform at a Surrey pub one Saturday night, going for a massive Mexican feast with the girls immediately after wedding dress shopping, hitting a bunch of bars to make the most of my trial hair and make-up. That type of thing. We have lots of lovely memories of those days.
6. Booking the honeymoon for straight after the wedding.
Obviously we were excited about marrying each other, but knowing we were going on an epic holiday straight after the wedding was a close second. If you’re able to go on honeymoon straight away, do it. DO IT. By the time the wedding comes around, you’ll deserve (and need!) a holiday, but more importantly you’ll just want some time alone to reflect on that awesome wedding you just had and to get all excited about the brilliant life that you’re embarking upon together.
If you can’t go on honeymoon straight away then def book a few days off work and spend some time together as just the two of you.
7. Having a second hen/stag weekend “for the families”.
I am SO pleased we did this as it meant our families got to spend more time together before the wedding. Obviously our parents and sisters had already met, but not all the extended family had and as we’re so dotted around the country it wasn’t like we’d spent a lot of time together en masse. It was a fabulous thing to do and it definitely made the wedding itself more fun, as the best man already knew my grandparents and my cousins had spent time with my S-I-L and so on. I didn’t have to worry about first introductions the night before the wedding, as all the “key people” had met.
I blogged about what we got up to on our family hen/stag weekend here.
8. Deciding not to have evening guests.
I’m going to write a separate blog post about this but not having evening guests made everything easier (and cheaper!) to organise. You don’t have to worry about timings, feeding people twice, who makes which guestlist or any of that lovely stuff.
9. Deciding not to invite colleagues or children.
Decisions like this are hard to make, but sometimes it’s easier to have a blanket rule than it is to worry about the politics of inviting X but not inviting Y. We were only able to afford the wedding we wanted because we didn’t go crazy with the invites. We had around 80 guests so it wasn’t small by any means, but if we’d invited children and colleagues that number would have jumped to 110 without a flinch.
My general rule of thumb was that if we hadn’t BOTH met the person at least twice, they weren’t invited. We didn’t end up sticking to that rule of course (international guests, godparents etc) but it’s a good measuring stick when you’re deciding who to invite. There’s something weird about meeting people *for the first time* at your own wedding.
The decision of whether or not to invite children will inevitably be out of your hands if you or your siblings have children, but we don’t have children in our immediate family. Most of our friends have children, but the majority said they appreciated a boozy night away from them (in the nicest possible way). On the flipside, lots of people say a wedding isn’t a wedding without kids doing skids on the dancefloor…so you have to weigh up what’s right for you.
Whatever you do, someone will be offended…so just do what YOU (both) want.
10. Asking for RSVPs by email to a dedicated email account.
Literally the best thing. People RSVP immediately (even if you put stamps on envelopes for people, they’ll say going to the post box “is hard”) and you can keep your spreadsheet updated with ease, rather than have to call your mum every five minutes to ask if the post has been yet.
My mum still works full time, I wouldn’t want her to have to deal with our RSVPs just because it’s “traditional”.
11. Keeping wedding dress shopping low key at first.
I don’t know why I was so stressed about wedding dress shopping. I felt physically sick about it. I think part of the problem was that we got married the same year we got engaged and by the time I wanted to start looking at dresses it was apparently “already too late”. Of course it wasn’t too late, but they like to make you think that.
I’ve written about my wedding dress shopping in more detail here but as I was so uncharacteristically nervous, I’m glad I didn’t make a fanfare out of the first shop visit. I went with just my sister and it was perfect. My mum and best friend joined us for the next visit.
Check back tomorrow for the rest of the things that helped me! (Edit: part two is now live here).
And you can find all my other wedding posts here.