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Engaged and confused? 20+ tips on how to plan your perfect wedding

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

A question I see on so many posts from newly engaged couples on social media is, 'Where should we start when planning for our wedding day?' Having planned my own wedding (admittedly a long time ago), plus working in the wedding industry as a Somerset-based wedding photographer, I thought that perhaps I could offer some advice and tips. It can feel a little overwhelming, but it really doesn't need to be.

1. My first piece of advice is to remember that this should be fun. If you are feeling overwhelmed then look for support from friends or family. If you really feel that planning a wedding is not your idea of a great time, then perhaps consider employing a wedding planner. Make sure that you give yourself time each week where you are not thinking about your wedding.

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2. Choose your budget and stick to it. Your budget will dictate pretty much every element of your wedding day. Be realistic about how much you can afford. No one wants to start their married life saddled with debts that they can't afford. It may not be romantic, and sometimes it may feel uncomfortable, but discussing how much you can afford to spend with your partner, and perhaps your family, is important. It is also important to budget for unforeseen extras.

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3. Decide on your priorities. What is important to you and your partner? Is it location, holding it at your dream venue, having your designer wedding dress, securing the services of a specific vendor? These priorities will help you to decide where your finances will be directed. Discussing this with your partner will help avoid frustrations or disagreements later on. It will ensure that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet and allows discussions to be had before you have set your heart on something that your partner totally disagrees with.

4. Make a list of all the jobs and considerations that need to be addressed. There are websites and charts that you can use to help you create a tick list of all the jobs that you need to do. It is worth considering making a folder to keep all of your brochures, magazine cut-outs, printed images and notes and ideas. This will help you to feel organised and everything will be in one place.

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5. What is your vision? Pinterest is your friend here. What would your perfect wedding look like? Perhaps you are not sure. Look at magazines and websites for inspiration. When discussing your day with vendors, showing your images will help them have an idea of the look that you like. Remember, this is inspiration. Your budget may not allow you to have everything that you would like, but it gives you a starting point and a vision to work from.

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6. Choose your date. When choosing your date, there are a few things to consider. The spring and summer months are often in higher demand. Many venues book up quickly during these seasons. If you have set your heart on a venue, you will need to get in early and secure your booking, or work around their availability. If you are wanting to book a church ceremony and then a separate venue for your wedding reception, you will need to check that they are both available for your date. You may want to consider what day of the week you want to get married. Certain, non-traditional, days may be available and may even be a bit cheaper. Are there certain people who you want to be at your wedding? It is worth checking if there are dates that they cannot attend due to commitments such as holidays etc. If there is a key supplier, such as a photographer, that you really want then you will need to contact them to check their availability. It is also worth checking whether a big event is happening on that day. For example, do you want to choose a date that clashes with the Rugby World Cup if you know that key people at your wedding are huge rugby fans?

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7. Book your venue(s). Your choice of venue will impact on other decisions that you make. Are you getting married at the venue that is holding your reception, or are you wanting to get married in a church? This will dictate whether you need transport, whether you need to decorate 2 locations or 1. Maybe you are choosing a venue that offers a wedding planner, or perhaps you are choosing a marquee where you will need to organise catering yourself. Think about factors such as whether you want sole use of the venue, whether you want to be the only wedding that the venue hosts that weekend and whether you want accommodation on site.

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8. Legalities. Make sure that you know what steps you need to take in order to fulfil your legal obligations. If you want to get married in a church, you may be required to have your banns read, for example.

9. Book your key suppliers. Who your suppliers are will depend on your venue and what your plans are for the day. Consider which elements of your day you are willing to spend more on and remember to keep your budget in mind. Don't be afraid to contact your key suppliers to see how far in advance they are taking bookings. As a photographer, I am accepting bookings up to 2 years in advance. Here are a few suppliers to consider for your day; photographer, videographer, florist, cake maker, band/ DJ, celebrant, caterers, entertainment, stationer, hair and make up artist, wedding planner, wedding car/ transport. Some key tips when searching for your suppliers are to check their reviews, actually talk to them over the phone, face to face or over a video call, read your contracts and make sure that those in attendance on your day are insured.

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10. Make your guest list. Once again. keep your budget in mind. The more guests that you have, the greater the cost. Your venue choice will also impact on your numbers as they will have a maximum capacity. It is worth creating a list of people who absolutely MUST be invited, and a 'wish list' of people who you would like to invite if possible. Consider whether you will have additional people arrive for your evening celebrations.

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11. Choose your wedding party. Deciding on who will be your best man, matron of honour, bridesmaids and ushers may be easy, but it can also be really challenging. It is worth thinking about the group dynamics and who will step up and support you on the day. Remember, the more people you have in your wedding party, the greater the cost as you will need to consider the cost of outfits, flowers, hair and make up, gifts etc.

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12. Wedding insurance. This may offer you peace of mind. Read the small print and ensure that it covers everything that you want it to.

13. Create a wedding list online. I remember finding this really uncomfortable when I was a bride, but as a guest I am always relieved to see that the couple are giving me some direction as to what they would like as a gift. Think carefully about what you actually need. What would you enjoy having? Perhaps, if you already have an established home, you would prefer that your guests contributed towards your honeymoon. It is worth deciding this before you send out your invitations as it can be included with your invites and it gives people time to buy your gifts.

14. Send save the date cards/ messages and then the formal wedding invitations. Once you know your date and have created your guest list, you may want to send a save the date card/ message to guests so that they can ensure that they keep your date free. This is particularly useful if you are getting married quite far into the future or if you plan on getting married abroad. The general advice is to send out your formal wedding invitations 3-4 months before your wedding day. Ensure that your RSVP date is before your venue needs your final numbers.

15. Accommodation. Some venues have onsite accommodation that you can book for your wedding party. This can be quite handy and convenient. Some venues may offer a slight discount for block bookings of their rooms. If your guests are needing to travel, it might be worth looking at local hotels and guest houses that are located near your venue and creating a list for your guests.

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16. Seating arrangements. As your RSVPs arrive, you can start to think about where to seat your guests. Your venue may have a table layout plan that they can give you and they will advise you on how many people can sit at each table. Think about grouping your guests with consideration to how they know each other and who your guests will enjoy sitting with.

17. Choose your dress. It is worth starting this process early so that you have time to search for the dress of your dreams and for a seamstress to make dress adjustments. Remember your budget! It is easy to get carried away when you see all of the stunning dresses in the bridal shop. Remember that you are not just needing a dress, but accessories such as shoes, a veil perhaps, jewellery. This all needs to be considered when budgeting for your outfit. Try to keep an open mind and try on different styles of dress.

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18. Bridal party attire. Once again, shop for suits and bridesmaids dresses early enough that alterations can be made. It is worth discussing your ideas for attire with the people in your bridal party, after all, you want them to feel comfortable in what they are wearing. Think about the styles that will flatter everyone.

19. Book your honeymoon. You will need to decide what type of holiday you would like and how soon after your wedding day you will have it. If you are leaving a few months between your wedding and your honeymoon, it might be worth considering a minimoon shortly after your wedding day. Make sure that you have everything you need to be able to go on your honeymoon, such as up-to-date passports, the required vaccinations, holiday insurance, visas etc.

20. Rings. You may want to coordinate your rings or choose something that matches your engagement ring. Think carefully about the type of metal you want your rings to be made from. It is worth discussing this with your jeweller.

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21. Create a schedule of the day. As you get closer to your date, you will start to get an idea of how your day will flow. Create a schedule showing timings, vendors and locations. You will need to discuss these timings with some of your suppliers, in particular your venue and photographer. Make sure that it is realistic. Your timings may not be followed exactly on the day, but that's okay. Just having timings to aim for will help keep everything on track so that you are not running behind by hours. Make sure that you give a copy of your schedule to the venue, photographer and key members of your wedding party.

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22. Communicate with your vendors. Around 1 month before your wedding day, make contact with your vendors to ensure everything is still running to plan, inform them of any changes and confirm previous arrangements. Discuss your schedule and timings and the logistics of how things will happen. As a photographer, I also like to talk to my clients the week before so that we can discuss the final details and the group photos they would like.

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23. Hen party/ stag do. These are often organised by your wedding party. It is worth thinking about how close you want your party date to be to your wedding day.

24. Final touches. Try to get as much done before your wedding day. Do you really want to still be creating your seating plan display, for example, on the morning of your wedding, or would you rather be enjoying your time with your family and friends, having your photos taken and being pampered by your hair and make up artist? The day goes quickly, allow yourself the time to enjoy and savour the moment.

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25. This is a special day and should be spent enjoying the conclusion of all your hard work and planning. Try not to let the wedding planning consume you; take time off each week where you think about something other than your wedding. Finally, when your big day arrives, stop every now and then and to just take it in. It goes so quickly so be present and enjoy being with your partner and all your friends and family who love you.

You can do this. Good luck!

Emma owner of EJ Photography Somerset wedding and family photographer

Hi! My name is Emma and I am a Somerset-based wedding and family photographer. who captures people's stories all over the West Country. If you would like to discuss your wedding or family photoshoot with me, I would love to hear from you.

You can see more of my work on Instagram and Facebook.

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