12-9 months

Wedding planning

Planning the planning

from deciding the wedding budget to choosing the venue

You’re engaged! You are bound to be having a range of emotions at the moment, jumping from excited to emotional, to over-whelmed. This is understandable, and if you haven’t done this before… don’t panic! This guide will help you arrange your dream wedding, guiding you through the obvious whilst uncovering any tasks and tips you may not have thought of.

Wedding budget

Planning your wedding budget is a crucial step in the planning process; one that is best with a realistic mindset.

Sit down before you make too many commitments and list your priorities. Some broad questions that need to be addressed at the outset might include:
• Everyone all day or some evening guests?
• Family is defined as what?
• Do friends automatically get a plus one?
• Is a free bar on the ‘can-do’ list or do we need to manage drinks and food carefully?
• Are we sure that contributions are going to be forth coming?

Answering these questions help to breakdown your wedding budget and create a wedding budget checklist. Bear in mind, if family are paying or helping to pay for the wedding, it is best to have this discussion early on so that your planning and ideas can be realistic.

Adding wedding insurance to your budget at the start of your wedding planning means this isn’t a surprise cost along the way, and enables your budget to be more accurate.

Newlywed kiss


Another crucial decision to make in the early days of planning is deciding the type of ceremony  you wish to have for your special day…

Civil ceremony – A civil ceremony is a non-religious legal marriage performed by a registrar.

Civil partnership – A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people. Once registered, the partnership holds the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, although the couple cannot call themselves married, for legal purposes.

Religious ceremony – A religious ceremony has religious meaning and content, and can only be performed by a minister, priest or pastor.

Celebrant ceremony – A celebrant performs formal celebrations but cannot legally marry a couple. For this reason the couple may decide to have a registry office wedding to legalise the marriage prior to the wedding day. For the ultimate guide to celebrant ceremonies, click here.

Notley Abbey wedding newlywed couple confetti walkway

Guest list

Drafting your guest list is often a task that creates many discussions. A useful starting point is to group those who are essential to your big day and those that you would like to celebrate with. By doing this it’ll help to estimate the size of the venue needed and an idea of the cost per head that suits your wedding budget.

Finding your venue

Researching on the internet is a great place to start to find your perfect wedding venue, but working out the basics before you start can help to refine your search.

Things to consider

• Date availability
• Location(s)
How far are you willing to travel? Also consider how far you would be happy to travel is you were a guest. Bear in mind that if certain guests have quite a journey to the venue is may be more considerate to invite them to the entire day as apposed to the only the evening reception.
• Civil ceremony vs church vs independent celebrant
If you are contemplating a church wedding it is good to consider the journey time from the church to the venue as this will have an impact on your order of the day.
• Is it within budget?

Typically viewings are pre-arranged directly with the venue. By booking in advance it allows you time to research the venue further and prepare any essential questions to ask your wedding venue. It is best to note these down in advance so that you do not forget during the viewing. It is useful to create a wedding venue comparison sheet to help compare the venues you see.

After your viewing it is a good idea to reflect on your experience. Consider the following –

• First impression – did it match your expectations from the web search?
• Level of attention to detail and service
• Expertise – do you feel you will be in good hands?
• Atmosphere – is it what you are looking for?
• If you are visiting in a different season to your wedding date, can you visualise how different it will be?

Wedding food, service and style will vary from venue to venue. Some venues may allow external caterers. If your chosen venues fits into this category it is likely they will suggest for you to choose and book your caterers as soon as possible. This is because external caterers are able to work across multiple venues and can be booked up quickly. Another reason, is that conversations with your caterers are important to the structure of the day. For example the time of the ceremony will impact the time of your drinks reception and wedding breakfast.

Once you have found your dream venue you need to finalise your guest list, together as a couple. Bear in mind that your venue and/or caterers may enforce a minimum number of guests. The season you wish to marry can also have an impact on this. The day of the week is often another contributing factor to the venue hire fee, this is just one of the many benefits of booking a mid-week wedding.

Often a wedding venue will allow you to provisionally hold a date before officially booking it. Once you have found your dream wedding venue speak to a member of of the planning team in regards to booking the date as this varies from venue to venue.

Botleys Mansion - Green Room ceremony

Booking your church or registrar

Once you have a potential date in mind choosing whether to get married in a church or have a civil wedding ceremony is an entirely personal choice and should be made by the couple.

You will need to book a priest, registrar or celebrant depending on the your choice of ceremony.  Often your venue will be able to recommend a celebrant to perform your wedding should you need. Your venue should also be able to provide guidance on how to book a registrar, alternatively a quick search online stating your county council and “book a registrar” should help you find your way.

If you wish to marry in a church you’ll have to enquire with the church directly regarding your chosen date and the booking process. Take into account that often churches have requirements in order to be married there.

Date & Time

What to take into account when…

Fixing the date
• Availability of your favourite venue
• Availability of church/religious celebrant/independent celebrant as appropriate
• A special date for you as a couple
• Who is ‘around’ for each option
• Honeymoon aspirations if to be taken immediately after

The Day
• Which season works best
• Style of event – the outdoor summer ceremony or cosy fireside winter event
• Work or holiday constraints saving up!

If you are planning to do things in fairly short order, just double check with your venue that they are able to put you in touch with good suppliers for the date you have chosen.

There is no fixed period required for planning a wedding. If you have good support from your venue and are able to make decisions, there is no reason why the perfect Day could not come together in a couple of weeks. Most couples however prefer to spread the activity over a longer period, if only to give their guests time to sort their diaries!

Selecting a time for the ceremony can only be done confidently in the context of pulling together a schedule for the Day. At the time of booking your venue and ceremony this will of course naturally create an ‘outline’ but your venue will be able to assist making sure that you have allowed sufficient time for each of the significant elements of the day:
• Time to get ready – hair, make-up etc
• Time for reception drinks/photos
• The meal will normally take two hours for a typical three course meal and this may not assume coffee-service, so check
• Speeches
• Musician set-up times
• Room clearing at various points in the day
• Starting/finishing time may be fixed and this may determine the dancing/music/party aspect of the day once all other elements have been fixed.

Such timetabling ahead of booking your venue will generate an ideal time for the ceremony but if you need help working around a time that has been prescribed by a church or registrar, speak to your venue to get their advice.

church wedding

Book a photographer and/or videographer

Wedding photography is an important factor to consider when planning your wedding, however, there are many reasons to hire a wedding videographer as well. Your venue may have recommended suppliers who they have worked with on multiple occasions and trust, this is a useful starting point, but keep in mind that photographer and videographers often get booked up quickly!

How do you choose? A few starting points

• Look at images on photographers websites
• Ask questions by email or on the phone
• Read the testimonials
• Are they a recommended supplier – Does the photographer know your venue or will s/he be relying on the venue staff to know where the best photographic opportunities are?
• Try to decide how you want your photographs to look. Creating a mood board of your favourite examples may help you to decide.

Technical questions to ask

• What format do they shoot in?
• How many shots will you get and who will edit them?
• Who will have copyright?
• Will there be an album or separate prints
• Is there appropriate insurance

Choosing the wedding party

If you wish to have a maid of honour (MOH), choose someone you are particularly close to. Someone you trust and is able to stick by any ‘bridezilla’ moments you may have. A MOH can also be referred to as chief bridesmaid. Having a single person occupy this role can help to lead your bridal party to keep things organised, have your best interests at heart when it comes to the hen do, and help with the all important bridal preparations on the day.

The number of bridesmaids and groomsmen you decide to have is a decision between yourself and your fiancé (if you wish to have them at all). Although, if you choose to pay for their hair/makeup/grooming and outfit for the day then carefully consider the cost this will entail.

In addition to these roles you may wish to have supporting roles. These are a great opportunity to make a loved one feel a special part of your day, once the initial bridesmaids and groomsmen roles have been filled. Why not consider asking them to be a witness when signing the register, to do a reading during the ceremony or sing a song?

Save the date cards

Save the date cards give your guests notice of your wedding day to ensure they keep it free. Depending on your guest list and budget, sending these letters may be costly. With a little research you’ll be sure to find plenty of creative save the date ideas online, a fun option could be save the date magnets, or for a cheaper alternative, how about sending an e-invite or a ‘save the date’ selfie over text.

Mansion wedding venue Surrey bridal car newlyweds

Booking wedding transport

As it is your special day why not travel to your venue in style by hiring a wedding car. If you are traveling from a church to your wedding venue this can be a nice touch for your newlywed photographs. Alternatively, you may wish to travel with some of or your entire wedding party, if so consider larger transportation options such as a limo or red bus. When speaking to suppliers ensure they are able to access your venue – low trees may be an issue for taller vehicles, for example.


Often when planning your wedding entertainment, deciding whether you want to have a band and or DJ is a useful starting point. This is because they often get booked up quickly. Your venue may be able to recommend suppliers they have previously worked with, or if you have opted for a wedding package a band/DJ may be included in the offering.

When arranging entertainment think about your own interests as well as your guests, and what is appropriate for those attending. If your wedding invites extends to children you may want to consider how to entertain children at your wedding.

Bridal preparations

Wedding dress shopping

When looking for a dress, it is best to allow plenty of time so that you can be confident in your decision. Especially if you are looking for either a designer gown or a bespoke design from a seamstress. Giving yourself time will enable you to try on a selection of styles to find the perfect one.

Finding ‘the dress’ is one of life’s magical moments.You’ll want a style that makes you look and feel your best, so think about the most flattering style for your figure before you start shopping for your Wedding dress.

Try to visit bridal boutiques with an open mind, as it may be the surprisingly unexpected that you love the most. Of course take along your nearest and dearest, but remember, it is your opinion and how you feel that is key when trying on wedding dresses and making your final decision.


Make sure that you try one with your dress. Even if you are adamant that a veil or similar is not for you…you may just be surprised!

If you are considering a veil bear in mind the hair style you wish to have on your wedding day. These decisions often come hand in hand as you want them to complement one another.

Hair & Make-up artist

Finding the right person to look after your wedding hair and makeup on the day is critical – s/he will be with you while you are getting ready and needs to be a calming influence rather than providing an independent element of drama!

Collect pictures as you come across ideas and make sure you have a dry run. A rehearsal, usually combining make-up and hairstyling, will give you comfort that on the day you can confidently sit back, relax and be pampered.
If you already have a veil and/or headpiece it is ideal to show these to your hairdresser so they can create a hair style to complement the look, or advise you on a veil and/or head piece to create your vision into reality.

When researching suppliers you may find that some people offer wedding hair and makeup packages, therefore, ticking two boxes in one!

Choose Your Bridesmaids and Maid of Honour

Shopping for bridesmaids dresses

Once you have found the dress, you can start to search for your bridesmaids dresses so that they complement your look.

A day out shopping with your bridesmaids may fill you with excitement, or dread. If the latter, shopping online may be a useful alternative as it enables you to view a wide selection of dresses from your own home. In addition, creating a group chat with your bridesmaids can be a useful place to share your favourite finds and show one another all at once.

Of course you want your bridesmaids to complement your look, but this doesn’t have to restrict your choice to one dress, how about considering multiway bridesmaids dresses or the trend of mismatched dresses…after all, shopping for bridesmaids dresses to suit multiple shapes, sizes and personalities all can be tricky. This could be the answer to all your troubles!