OK, so you’re getting married, congratulations. Now what? Well you’ve got some planning to do, but don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as you think – just get organised? Here’s a rough guide to what you need to do and how long before the big day you need to start organising it:
12 Months to Go
- Pick a Date – The best venues will be booked up at least a year in advance so it’s never too early to make a booking. Generally, Saturday and Sunday dates will be the most popular so book straight away if you want one of these days. Midweek dates will be less popular and, hence, less notice is needed, but the sooner you book – the greater your choice of venues will be.
- Set your Budget – Once you have decided upon the type and style of wedding you can start to make a list of items together with an estimated cost of each. Consider taking out wedding insurance, things can go wrong so prepare for the unexpected.
- Choose your Attendants, Best Man and Bridesmaids – Your choice of attendee will make all the difference to the success of the big day, so bear this in mind when making your choice. You need people who are organised and reliable, not just people who look good. Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities to ensure that the wedding day runs according to plan.
- Choose a Photographer – The best people tend to be booked well in advance so don’t hang around! Picking the right wedding photographer is critical and you should try to get a personal recommendation if you can? The British Institute of Professional Photography has 3,500 members. You can search their database for a qualified photographer in your area. The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers also has a list of members for each part of the country.
- Choose Musicians/DJ for the Reception – Ask for details of events they have worked previously and ask for testimonials. There are a few booking agents that cater for weddings – this can usually prove to be the safest route, as they will have a list of tried and tested people on their books.
- Book Wedding Cars – Look for a company that has been established for a while. Make sure that you see the car you are paying for – not just a picture – and remember that the colour should co-ordinate with your flowers, bridesmaids’ dresses, etc. Confirm your booking nearer the day – if the car has changed, arrange another inspection. It’s not uncommon for cars to be substituted due to double bookings at the last minute. » Wedding Transport & Car Hire
9 Months to Go
- Find a Dress – Book appointments with at least 2 bridal shops and try as many styles and cuts as you can. Don’t rule out the high street names, there is exceptional value to be found with the big names right now so at least have a look. If you fancy a designer wedding dress, there are great savings to be made by buying from the US. » Wedding Wear
- Book the Florist – Flowers are an important part of the day – they define the colour scheme and theme of your wedding. Find out in advance which flowers will be in season and enlist the help of a good local florist – the event manager at your venue will probably be able to recommend one. As well as decorative flowers for the venue/church, think about your bouquet, the bridesmaid’s posies, any headdresses, corsages and buttonholes.
- Order Stationery – Have a good look around and get samples to take home. If you fancy something a bit special, there are a few designers specialising in hand made and custom wedding stationery which are well worth checking out, but remember to allow more time.
- Choose your Wedding Rings – Look on the internet first to get an idea of what you want before you traipse up and down the high street.
- Book the Men’s Formal Wear Hire – During the summer months most suppliers are very busy and will be fully booked for certain weeks. » Men’s Formal Wear
- Order the Cake – The wedding cake has always been the focus of any wedding and the number of designs available can be overwhelming. Try to find a supplier specialising in wedding cakes, rather than a general confectioner, and visit their premises to see the various styles available and get the benefit of their advice.
- Choose the Caterer – The catering may well be handled by your venue although you may want to use an outside caterer, in which case you need to book well in advance. Do your homework and ask for testimonials.
- Your Guest List – The tradition is to send out invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding, but you should start making up your list about now. It might be a good idea to let people know the date as soon as possible so they don’t book holidays or anything and then when you send out your formal invitations at a later date you can be sure they already have the date pencilled in.
- Ceremony Details – Arrange a meeting with minister/registrar to discuss ceremony details. Think about how you want things to run on the day. Think about your vows, the timings and how the venue will look. It’s not too early to think about the finer details. »Civil Marriage Ceremonies » Church Weddings
- Arrange a Gift List – Have a look at a few services and try to find one that all your guests will be able to use. Retailers such as John Lewis and Debenhams allow you to set up your gift list so people can use the internet, order by phone or visit their local store.
6 Months Until the Wedding Day
OK, it’s getting closer to the Big Day now. You’ve done the hard part – the next six months of Wedding Day planning should be a lot more fun!
- Sort out Bridesmaid Dresses – You may have done this when you found your dress, but if you didn’t, now is the time to do it. A good idea is to go for looser fittings now, with a view to having some alterations done nearer the day.
- Arrange your Honeymoon – Most of the operators have a dedicated Honeymoon service offering something a little more special than a normal package holiday.
- Hen and Stag Night – Start planning ideas for the Hen Night and Stag Night with your head bridesmaid and best man. Top Ten Overseas Hen and Stag Weekend Locations – Top Ten UK Hen and Stag Weekend Locations
3 Months to Go
- Hair and Beauty – Decide on the image you want. This is the time to experiment and work out any glitches before ‘the day’, such as the right make-up colour pallet to suit your skin and dress, and how to style your hair with your veil, if you have one. » Wedding Hair & Beauty Tips
- Arrange the Order of Service – Once you’ve chosen your music and readings, now’s the time to plan out your Order of Service. You can see an example of an Order of Service here. Send out Invitations This should be just a formality by now, everyone should have been pre-warned and be expecting your invite. You need those RSVPs coming back to you as soon as possible so that you can finalise your details, so be disciplined. Traditionally, this is the duty of the bride’s mother but it is perfectly acceptable to do this yourselves nowadays.
- Buy Wedding Accessories – The cake knife, balloons, table decor and wedding favours. Check with your reception venue as to what they will supply and arrange on the day.
- Buy your Shoes and Accessories – Remember you’ll be on your feet most of the day so choose wedding shoes sensibly!
- Organise jabs and visas for Honeymoon – Don’t forget to change the name on your passport. You can arrange this up to three months before the ceremony, although you’ll be unable to use your passport until the actual day of your marriage or civil partnership. If you apply to amend your passport before you get married you will need leaflet PD1, which explains what you need to do, and form PD2. » UK Passport Service
- Finalise Catering Plans – Your caterer or venue should be fully versed by now, make sure they have catered for special diet requests from vegetarians, etc. Arrange your seating plan so that the two families are intermingled but not to the extent where they are isolated from people they know. With a bit of thought and planning it should all fall into place. When you are fairly sure about your seating plan, check with the venue and caterer that they can accommodate your arrangement.
- Make your Choice of Wines – It is sometimes better to get your own wines and pay corkage to your venue then it is to buy their own wine. There is money to be saved here so do your research, charges will vary from venue to venue. As a guide, allow 2/3 glasses of Champagne or Sparkling Wine per person. Generally, reckon on 34 standard bottles per 100 guests. For wine, allow half a bottle for each guest, a regular 75cl bottle will fill 5 medium wine glasses.
1 Month to Go
- Chase up those RSVP’s – If people haven’t replied by now you will have to get on their case! Have a list handy of people you could invite at the last minute – just in case.
- Shoes – Start wearing your wedding shoes around the house The big day will take it’s toll on your feet so you need to break those shoes in!
- Hen Night – Between now and a week before, you should be having your Hen Party. Don’t leave it too late as you will need to be in tip-top shape on the day. The last thing you want to be doing is nursing a hangover!
- Talk – Have final chats with your Wedding Service Providers Check that everyone knows the numbers attending, seating arrangements, & who’s responsible for what. Iron out any problems here rather than on the day itself.
- Buy Gifts – A small gift on the wedding day is traditional for the bride/groom/bridesmaids/father of the bride, etc.
- Arrange Dress Fittings – You should arrange the final fitting as near to the day as you can, your weight will have fluctuated from month to month so now is the time to make those final adjustments. Try and get all the bridesmaids together at the same time for any last minute adjustments.
- Have the Rehearsal – The evening before the ceremony is the time when a lot of people choose do the rehearsal, often this is a Friday night, which is probably convenient for most of your guests.
- Notify your Change of Name – Write to your bank, utility companies, etc, to give notice of your change of name and address. Send your driving licence/car registration to the DVLA. Some of these will require a copy of your Marriage Certificate – which you get once you are married – but it’s a good idea to have the letters prepared in advance.
The Wedding Day
- The big day has arrived – Your hairdresser/beautician should be fully prepared so don’t worry, they do this every day, everything will be fine! Your bridesmaids, ushers and best man have all been briefed and prepared, it’s their job to do the worrying now! Relax, take a deep breath – it’s your big day now so enjoy it!