Engaged and Confused? Wedding Planning in 8 Simple Steps
A little intro from me, I’m Charlotte, Founder and Creative Director of Charlotte Nichols Weddings, a wedding planning and design consultancy. This is my first piece for Want that Wedding, so I figured what better way to start than to talk proposals and the often overwhelming topic of the wedding planning journey.
So firstly, Happy New Year! If you are reading this post, it probably means that you are one of the lucky ones still floating on cloud nine following a festive engagement – so congratulations! This is such an exciting time and you are no doubt enjoying the endless celebrations. Now that January has arrived, you are probably starting to hear family and friends ask “so have you set a date yet?” and all of a sudden panic mode starts to set in.
You’ll be pleased to hear that you are not the only one, but rest assured the experts are on hand to walk you through it. Your wedding planning process won’t necessarily follow the same pattern as someone else’s but what it will (or should) do is go through the same phases, whether you have three months or three years to plan your big day.
It’s not about letting wedding planning rule your life, it’s about finding a process that fits in with you and your lifestyle so that you can get maximum enjoyment, minimum stress and basically just stay floating on cloud nine until it’s time to say ‘I do!’
So let’s get started, planning your wedding in eight simple steps.
One of the most important things to remember throughout this process is that your wedding day is about you and your other half. No-one else. Sure, family members will want to have their say, but being yourselves and doing exactly what you want to do will ensure that your day feels personal and truly authentic.
It’s also important at this stage to ensure that both you and your other half are on the same page. You will likely have different priorities and wish lists, but at the end of the day, it’s all about compromise and settling on a vision that you can both agree on.
I believe that your wedding day should be an extension of you as people, your home, your loves, your hobbies and should truly highlight what makes you, you.
This all about the big picture and visualising what your day will look like. Is it going to be a formal, traditional affair? Are you going for something more intimate with your nearest and dearest at a meaningful location? Or do you envisage the party of all parties with the ultimate wow factor?
Dreaming and Pinterest binging is all very well, but how are you actually going to make it happen? What budget are you working with and who is going to foot the bill? It’s important to have those (sometimes uncomfortable) conversations early on so you know where you stand. It’s not just your budget you need to consider, also bear in mind the time and resources you have to spare. Is it realistic to expect that you can take it all on yourself or is it time to consider bringing onboard a wedding planner to help out?
This is the part that can often cause the most stress as, unfortunately, you have to draw the line somewhere, but ask yourself who are the people that you really want to share your special day with? And how far you are willing to stretch your list to include great aunts, second cousins and childhood neighbours? And then there are the all-important plus ones. Do you invite your old high school friend’s boyfriend, or are you going to impose a ‘no ring, no bring’ policy?
You’ve agreed on a vision, a budget and a guest list, so now it’s time to get started on the venue search. Perhaps you already have a family home where you plan to host the occasion, but if not start to think about location, style and size. My favourite resource is Coco Wedding Venues, a curated collection of wedding venues for the style-focussed couple. Make your search targeted, organised and decisive.
If your heart is set on a specific venue, your ‘when’ might be restricted by what dates are available, but if not, think about the time of year that means the most to you. When are you at your happiest? Do you and your partner have significant memories from particular seasons? If you have jumped ahead and already started with ‘pinspiration’, you may have specific colours or themes in mind that lend themselves best to a particular time of year.
Nailing down a venue can be overwhelming and stressful but once it’s booked, trust me it will be such a relief. Make sure you see the venues in person. Websites and social media are great but can often be very misleading, and you need to see these places for yourself to get a feel for how your day will be.
Be sure to prepare a list of questions to ask each venue when you go for viewings. Check out this list of 30 wedding venue questions you should be asking by BRIDES magazine.
A bit like buying a house, usually you will get ‘the feeling’ if you have found the one. When you have, don’t waste a minute – make sure you pin it down.
One of the biggest mistakes when buying a new home is to start decorating and buying furniture before you have even moved in. The same applies to weddings, and so you will probably find that if you plunged straight into aesthetics, canapé menus and bouquets, a lot of your work may now be wasted.
Now that you have a clear vision, budget, venue and date, you can really start to get those creative juices flowing. Think of it as the brainstorming stage, don’t hold back, think out of the box. You can always refine later. Think about the design concept, the colour palette, the timeline, the flow, the personal touches and the mood and ambience.
If you feel you need some guidance at this stage, consider bringing on a wedding designer to help bring your ideas together.
There is an abundance of creative wedding professionals out there and now it’s time to find the ones that are the perfect match for you.
- The three R’s: Research, Record and Refine so that you have your top picks for each supplier category.
- Enquire to check availability, pricing and communicate your vision.
- Review quotes, contracts and go with your gut! Once you are happy, book them in.
- Remember to keep a record of payment schedules. Most will require a deposit and then subsequent payments further down the road.
Once the suppliers are booked in you can MOSTLY sit back and relax, but depending on how much you are taking on yourself, and how much you have delegated to others, you will now likely have all the odd jobs and ‘wedmin’ tasks to work through.
For example, catch-up appointments with suppliers, dress fittings, sending invites, planning the ceremony components, managing RSVPs, tastings, managing payments, devising a playlist for the band or DJ. These are just a few.
Congratulations, it’s the final hurdle and you are nearly at the finish line! By now your suppliers should be 100% confident in what they are expected to deliver, and you should have 100% confidence that they will!
All those final details that you have been leaving to the end, tick them off your list now so there is no need to fret as the big day approaches.
Some items that might still be sitting on your list: The Seating Plan, Confirming final numbers and details, on-the-day stationery, honeymoon shopping and prepping your emergency kit!
One of the most important parts of planning your wedding is to ensure that you leave some time at the end, time to take a moment, time to focus on you. You should now have all the details under control so it’s time to just let go, breathe and enjoy the build-up to your special day.
Enjoy every minute, take it in as much as possible, and get ready to start on this magical journey of married life together!
In the final days:
- Book in some beauty time or perhaps a pampering session with your girls. Take this opportunity to unwind and make yourself feel gorgeous.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Try to get in as many as possible, because the night before your wedding, you might not!
- Prepare a note for your other half to open on the morning of your wedding day.
- Have a ‘final supper’ with close family before the big day.
image 1: photography by Whitney Wiatt | image 2: photography by Katie Stoops | image 3: photography by John Barwood Photography | image 4: photography by Erich McVey | image 5: photography by Luna de Mare Photography | image 6: photography by Lauren Fair | image 7: photography by Studio 47 | image 8: photography by Cotton Weddings