Valentine’s Day is all about romance and the most romantic gesture is to ask for your partner’s hand in marriage. So, if you’re planning to get engaged on Valentine’s Day, or you just said, “Yes!”, here’s our guide to help you get the party started.
You should have already discussed spending the rest of your lives together and decided that marriage is what you both want. If you haven’t then you should probably should consider having that talk, ideally before popping the question!
Once you have said, “Yes!”, it’s time to start planning the biggest party of your lives together. Here’s everything you need to know about planning your wedding in a step-by-step guide with links off to other useful places along the way.
Make your announcement
Once you’ve told your closest friends and family the exciting news, it’s time to tell the whole world, whether this is via social media or more traditionally in the newspaper. Better yet, organise an engagement party or meal so that you can introduce your fiancé to wider family members.
Work out the budget
Before booking anything or making plans it’s best to work out your budget and how you’ll spend the money. Not particularly romantic we know, but what is even more unromantic is running out of money half way through planning! The easiest way to do this is to use a budget planner tool where you can itemise your expenditures and update it throughout the process with the estimated and actual costs and whether it’s been paid or is due. This makes it quick and easy for you to keep track of your budgeting.
Whatever your budget, wedding insurance is a must and is best purchased right at the beginning of your wedding planning before booking anything. It will ensure you are covered for any mishaps by any of the many suppliers you will book, however large or small.
Start by setting the date. You might want to plan your wedding for Valentine’s Day next year, to mirror your engagement. Perhaps you both love the idea of an atmospheric winter wedding in a candle lit castle complete with a Christmas tree, or do you have dreams of exchanging your vows in a tropical paradise wedding abroad with a built-in luxury honeymoon?
If you want to get married in the UK and need to keep costs down then it’s worth knowing that setting the date out of season (late February to early May and October to January) can save you money on peak summer dates.
Remember to consider the pros and cons of each season. While you may love the idea of a beach themed wedding, walking on sand might prove difficult for guests with reduced mobility, for instance. If you’re keen to have a wedding in winter, take into consideration the risk of inclement weather and how this may affect your plans.
Pick your bridal party
Whether you’re going for a large bridal party or a smaller affair, it’s important to choose people who will be suitable for the job. With being a chief bridesmaid or best man comes a lot of responsibility and just because someone is your closest friend, doesn’t mean they’d be the right person for the job.
When deciding on a theme, it’s helpful to think of images you have been inspired by or that struck a chord with you. You might want a timeless look of classic of ivory or white. Perhaps a more modern and altogether edgy, inner city vibe of metallics and urban decor is more ‘you’ or maybe you can’t resist the subtle and softer mix of pearls and burlap?
Set your theme early on in your wedding planning process because it could influence the style of venue you choose, the decor used in your ceremony and reception, as well as determining the type of invitations and favours you give to your guests. Take inspiration from some of the most popular wedding themes we have to offer in the Wedding Shop or forge your own path by mixing and matching elements from across a variety of styles.
Find the Perfect Venue
Consider where you want to hold your ceremony. Find the perfect wedding venue for you, whether that’s in a fairytale castle on the coast, an ornate room in a country manor or in the middle of the sea! Maybe for you, the perfect wedding location isn’t one built with bricks and mortar, but being in the great outdoors.
Go to see a couple of venues and ask as many relevant questions as you can – such as whether they will provide the catering or if you can bring in external caterers if you prefer, or if they have disabled access if needed. Check that the venue of your choice is free to accommodate you on the date you want and secure your booking with a deposit as soon as you can.
Draw up your guest list
Draw up an A list and a B list – A list will be close friends and family you invite to the whole day, B list for anyone invited only to the evening reception. Send your invitations early, with RSVP cards, so you can move anyone from the B list onto the A list when A listers decline. It can help to consider who you would like to seat at each table, which you’ll need to decide when you draw up your table planner once the RSVPs come back.
Choose a gift list that will help you start your new lives as a married couple, whether it’s a traditional list of homewares, a honeymoon or something more personal such as a donation to charity or woodland conservation. Distribute your gift list along with your invitations, whether it’s with a department store, online gift list company or you make your own.
You should send your wedding invitations at least 3 months before the wedding. It’s stylish to match all your wedding stationery so your orders of service could match your invitations and thank you cards.
Be inspired by wedding dress images online and in the glossy bridal magazines then have some fun trying on a few until ‘the one’. You should allow a minimum of six months for a couture gown to be made, a minimum of four months for a designer gown to be ordered in and, if you’re buying off the peg, allow at least six weeks for alterations. Look for wedding shoes, veil, tiara and any other accessories once you have got the dress.
Arrange to meet a couple of wedding photographers to see who you feel most comfortable with and ask to see full albums of their work. Discuss styles and ask if they do an engagement shoot as part of the wedding photography package.
Now you’ve booked the venue and your photographer it’s time to think about the catering. If your venue does not do catering, contact two or three local or recommended caterers for sample menus and ask for a tasting session. For a cheaper option, consider ordering party platters from your local supermarket or M&S. Consider also whether you will be having a free bar, a pay bar or hiring a mobile bar.
Think about what style of wedding cake you would like and allow at least three to four months for it to be made. You may prefer cupcakes to a traditional multi-tiered iced fruit cake or go wild with sponge tiers of different flavours! To cut costs buy a plain iced cake and add your own cute cake topper or make it unique with a hand-made personalised cake topper featuring your pets!
Check your passport is in date and go wild booking the holiday of a lifetime – your honeymoon, or ask your guests to contribute to your honeymoon as an alternative gift list. This could be the only time in your life you get to have that dream holiday in the Caribbean. Do it.
When it comes to wedding transport you don’t have to book a vintage car. You could arrive in a horse-drawn carriage or on a motorbike (depending on your dress!) If your ceremony and reception are in different towns, consider hiring a double decker bus for all your guests to hop on so they can travel together in style.
Visit two or three local or recommended florists to discuss your wedding flowers, bouquet and buttonholes. Silk flowers are worth considering as they can be made in all sorts of amazing rainbow colours and will last long after the wedding day.
Your venue should be able to recommend a local DJ or live band, and you can request songs you particularly want to hear. Don’t forget to let them know which song you would like played for your first dance then book your entertainment with a holding deposit.
You won’t believe how incredible you can look with the help of a professional make up artist and hair stylist. Book a trial session and you could be amazed with the results. If you’re thinking of doing your own make up, ask for a free makeover at a department store cosmetics counter to pick up some expert tips and free samples.
The finishing touches to your big day are the decorations that will adorn your venue(s) and decorate the tables at your wedding breakfast. Make your table planner too so everyone knows where you would like them to sit.
Buy your wedding rings and have them ordered to fit if necessary. You could have matching rings especially designed or engraved with your wedding date – so he can never forget your anniversary!
Woodland Pretty personalized wedding ring box by Confetti
Get thank you gifts for the bridal party
Order personalised thank you gifts for the bridal party with enough time to have them engraved before your wedding day then present them to your best man, ushers, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride and groom to thank them all for helping you on your special day.
Kate Thompson is Confetti's features editor and wedding expert, and has worked in the wedding industry for 15 years. A widely published lifestyle writer, she has made BBC television and radio appearances discussing wedding trends in the UK.