Well, you have done the most important thing, which is “we want to get married”, but all of the options in front of you can seem incredibly overwhelming. 50 guests or 150 guests? Vintage or modern, or modern vintage? Chapel ceremony or garden ceremony? What budget, how much will it cost? How many Bridesmaids, do I even have Bridesmaids? What is my colour scheme? What on earth is Pinterest?
The first decisions that you need to make regarding your wedding are the hardest so it gets easier the closer you get to the date, and eventually things will just seem to fall into place. One of the most important parts of your wedding is the people. Deciding whether you want all of your people to be there, which could be 250, or simply your closest people, which could be 30, is a very important decision. Both ends of the spectrum are perfectly legitimate methods of making people the most important part of your wedding. So, start with the…
Your guest list will determine many, many other aspects of your wedding. Mostly it will affect your budget. If you want all of your people, you may have less to spend per person so making the decision about whether to scratch cousins off the list is a conversation better had earlier than later. Then again, you may simply choose to think outside the box, you need to weigh up the importance of your people against your desire for a three course dinner on a Saturday night. The options are limitless and with a bit of creative thinking you can have an amazing wedding on a limited budget.
Your venue will have one of the biggest influences over your wedding. It’s a good idea to start looking for a venue 9 to 12 months in advance, although if you would like a wedding on a Saturday during peak wedding season you may need to book 12 months to 18 months in advance. As a general rule, venues will show greater flexibility with price, menus and minimum numbers for mid-week or off-peak weddings. Friday nights are also a great option if you are looking for something more budget friendly. Many venues run specials for short-lead weddings and this can be a great way to save some money, or take advantage of complimentary upgrades.
Your choice of venue will also help set the theme for your wedding. The private dining room of an uber-cool inner city restaurant will need totally different décor to the Hotel Grand Ballroom complete with red velvet drapes and black and gold carpet, which will be different again to the rustic community hall you hired as a vacant space. A venue with character will also save you money on styling, you will need to do less to create atmosphere.
Most importantly look at the big picture – Does the venue have capacity for your guest numbers? Are you able to source your own caterers or does the venue provide this service, or are there restrictions on which caterers you can use? Will they allow you to play your music, have a DJ or musicians? Do the aesthetic qualities you like outweigh the ones you don’t? Do the staff seem friendly and knowledgeable?
Start thinking about your dress around 10 months out. There is a LOT of choice, but Brides-to-be generally fall into one of two camps – meringue or not-on-my-life-ever-meringue. Both are perfectly acceptable. Do extensive research on the internet, narrow down the styles that you like, pick a trusted friend (who is not afraid to tell the truth!) and go boutique trawling. Then, take a few weeks to think and do some more research. There are quite a few options, made to measure, off the rack and you could also consider buying from an online store. With on-line purchases allow ample time for shipping and alterations, and be prepared that the dress that arrives may look nothing like the one in the photo…
There are no hard and fast rules for budgets. It depends on what is important to you and relative to your wedding. In general terms the order of the most expensive to least expensive is: Venue, Catering, Photography, Dress, Flowers, Stationery, Attendants Dresses, Cake, Cars and Décor. But, you may opt for an amazing photographer, or a designer dress, or your bridesmaids may be happy to pay for their own dresses. Research – this will provide a good indication of prices and enable you to develop an accurate budget. Remember the internet is the best tool you have.
Now you have the guest list, send out Save the Dates. It is ideal if you can provide 6 to 9 months’ notice. Busy lives, shift work, sporting commitments etc. all place a lot of pressure on your guests’ time. Many may need to source babysitters, arrange travel and most importantly, apply for leave from work.
Wedding fantasy time! This is the fun stuff (and where Pinterest kicks in). Use the internet for inspiration, read wedding blogs and investigate brand, designer and suppliers social media accounts. See who they align themselves with, there is often fine print at the end of an entry. Who supplied that gorgeous arbour or the vintage boxes and vases? Local is good, there are many great local wedding directories and suppliers who have a social media presence, and following local suppliers will increase your chance of sourcing the flowers, dress, cars, stationary etc. And if you love one suppliers product there is a good chance you will love the products of those they follow.
Hit the shops for your Bridesmaids dresses. How to choose your Bridesmaids dresses is another story in itself, so I will keep it short. Be honest with yourself, accept that what you love may not suit your friends, and focus on your friendship, they are your most important people. Hire or buy the outfits for the groomsmen, which is more often than not, a much easier task .
By now you should have booked your venue, caterers, celebrant, and photographer and chosen your dress. You should also have found your bridesmaid dresses, sent out save-the-dates, chosen your florist and flowers, decided on a cake maker, ordered your grooms and groomsman’s suits and selected your gift registry (if this is your preferred option).
If you are opting for a Gift Registry, now is the time to start choosing gifts. It is very important to be realistic about your guests’ budget. Make sure you have allocated enough smaller gifts so that those who leave shopping to the last minute don’t find themselves left with only the big ticket items.
Finalise your wedding cake order and the cars for the day. It is now that you may be feeling stretched financially. It is a good time to revise your budget, revise your expenses and future outlays. Remember it is important not to lose sight of the true meaning of your wedding day, the act of marriage and the bringing together of two families. It is all too easy to get lost in the world of styling and theming and creating the perfect day.
Choose and order your wedding rings, book your hairdresser and make-up artist and decide on the finishing touches of your look for the day. Book some trial appointments, you will be charged but it worth it for peace of mind on your big day. This is also a good time to organise outfits for the younger members of the Bridal Party.
Traditionally wedding invitations are sent 6 to 8 weeks in advance of the date, hence the need for save the dates. You can send them earlier, especially if you have guests travelling or have decided on a destination wedding. This is a good time to include the little extra details, such as “Bundle Up!, It’s an outdoor ceremony”, or a map if the venue is harder to locate. Also note whether you have decided on a wishing well or include the gift registry details.
RSVP’s should be set for 2 to 4 weeks before the wedding, and this timeframe will also depend on the confirmation of numbers and payment timeline required by your venue.
Finalise guest numbers and seating plan with the caterers. Have your final planning appointments with you event planner, venue, caterers etc. and get your dancing shoes out for the hens night.
Collect your wedding rings, dress, veil, grooms and groomsmen’s outfits. Call all of your suppliers and confirm everything for your big day. If you are travelling to your venue, or preparing at a friends or family members house, pack a survival kit of paracetamol, a basic sewing kit, band aids, safety pins, hairdryer, lip gloss and some home comforts such as your favourite blend of tea. Knowing you are prepared will help you relax on the day.
Check your wedding dress, is it wrinkled? You may want to organise for it to be steamed a couple of days before the wedding.
Take your dress out of its bag or closet and let it breath and hang out any inadvertent folds. And then relax…