When you’re planning a wedding, you need all the help you can get. We caught up with wedding planner Stephanie Longworth, who is known as The Secret Bridesmaid, to find out what things you’re most likely to forget when you’re in the thick of planning your dream day…
You can meet Stephanie at The National Wedding Show – see which other Midlands-based wedding suppliers will be there too.
The Wedding Planning Basics That Always Get Overlooked
Choosing a Date
Think ahead – make sure your date does not clash with any local or sporting events as this could affect traffic and pricing for your day.
Also, something to bear in mind, mid-week weddings are usually a better price and getting married during the wedding low season could work in your favour too. No couple wants to be upstaged on their wedding day by a football team or horse at the Grand National!
Read more: How to plan a wedding on a £10k budget
Planning Your Guest List
To start with write a list of people you want to invite so you can get an idea on approximate numbers, this will help you find a venue. Remember you can split the guest list into day and evening guests, this may open up a few more options for you.
You may also want to consider welcoming children in the evening to save on potential childcare costs, if you are having an ‘adults only’ wedding during the day.
The easiest way to reduce your wedding budget is to reduce your daytime guest list… Most of your wedding expenses will go towards wining and dining your guests. Keep in mind it usually costs £100 per person, so reducing a table of guests can save you big time.
You may also want to implement the ‘No Ring, No Bring’ policy, where you only allow your guests a plus one if they are married or engaged. This usually applies where you don’t know their partner.
Choosing Your Venue
Go and view venues in person, and get to know the wedding co-ordinator, as they may be able to offer you something a little different than the usual package, which is just perfect for you. You will never know unless you ask.
Read more: How to negotiate with your wedding venue
If, however, you do book a wedding package make sure you 100% know what is included in it, and how much additional guests may end up costing. Your venue may also offer accommodation, check to see if your room is included the night before and the night of your wedding, so there is less travel involved for you.
Remember to ask for any additional block bookings of rooms, for friends and family or if they offer a discount for wedding party guests.
Whatever the Weather
Check the weather – if you are planning an outdoor wedding ceremony or reception, please think of a Plan B that you would still be happy with. Similarly, make sure the venue has a snow or flood plan in place so your wedding can still go ahead just in case mother nature throws you a curve ball.
We live in the UK, there are no guarantees what it will do from day to day. If you are planning a beach wedding, you may also want to check tide and sunset times.
Ceremony Time & Photography
This depends on the time of the year. Photographers will tell you about the ‘golden hour’, listen to them! They know what they are talking about.
If you are having a wedding in British wintertime, think about having an earlier ceremony, starting at midday (you get to wear your dress longer!), or in summertime you could opt for a later ceremony, to make sure you get to take full advantage of the golden hour. You will get the most beautiful natural light photographs!
Ceremony Time & Your Budget
If you only want to feed your guests once then maybe a later ceremony time is for you. You could opt for a more relaxed meal in the evening such as a hog roast or BBQ.
You could still go for a traditional sit-down wedding breakfast, if you are able to spend a little more on food, if you are just having the one meal. Bear in mind that golden hour though – you will thank me later, I promise.
Read more: Unusual wedding catering ideas
The Legal Bits
Before you even say ‘I do’, you need to give notice to ensure your wedding is legal. This is done at your local register office to where you live, not where you intend to marry.
When you give notice you are both asked a series of questions in turn, before you sign a legal document to declare your intent to marry. This must be done at least 29 days before your ceremony and is valid for 12 months. Don’t forget you will also need to pay for a marriage certificate.
However, if you’re having a destination wedding, you will need to complete additional paperwork, and your marriage could take longer to be recognised by different governments. You may also have to make additional trips to your chosen destination to pick up your marriage certificate.
Children at Your Wedding
At the end of the day it is you, the couple, who get to decide if you would like children to be invited to your wedding.
There are a few choices. I have heard from both the bride’s family and the groom’s alike, and even from other close family and friends say to the couple: “Well if you don’t invite such and such children they won’t come to your wedding!”
At this point you have a few options – remember it is your wedding, so do what makes you happy.
- You can welcome children with open arms, and something to bear in mind if you do is the cost of additional guest meals. If you’re having a sit-down meal and you’ve paid for a package, categorise the children as your additional guests, as their meals are cheaper!
- You can decide to have an ‘adults only’ wedding, but if this is the option you choose, be firm about it. In my experience 99.9% of the time, your friends or family will come to your wedding and say how much they love having adult time away from the kids.
- You can include immediate families’ children or those who are part of your wedding party; this is a nice way of having the balance of a few children, without possibly being overrun, depending on how many of your friends and family want to bring children.
- For some couples, whose family live overseas and there is no way out of bringing their children, even though you have specified it will be an adults-only wedding, there is always the option of providing childcare, either at the wedding venue in a hotel room or at a family member’s home. To prevent hurt feelings, it’s wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).
- Or if all else fails, you could compromise: adults only during the day and invite kids to your evening party.
Wedding Stationery Details You Won’t Have Thought About
Sending the Save the Dates
Send them out sooner rather than later. There is no harm in being too organised and your guests will appreciate the early heads up, particularly if you are having a destination wedding. Just make sure you finalise your guest list before sending them out… you don’t want to unintentionally not invite someone.
Keep the information to minimum, your names, wedding date, location, wedding website and the notice of a formal invitation to follow.
Wedding websites are becoming more normal now, it’s a place where you can add loads of additional information, such as local hotels, taxi information, your gift list, which can be integrated from another website… use it like your personal wedding Google space.
You can even ask for your RSVPs to be made via your wedding website and menu choices, this way you can download your guest list and their food choices and hand it directly to your wedding venue or caterers.
Tradition says send out invites 6–8 weeks before the wedding, but I find this cutting it fine to say the least!
Your wedding venue or caterers will want to know your final numbers at this point, so save yourself the stress and get them sent out early. Also, if your guests are travelling from out of town, you want to give them a decent amount of time to book travel and accommodation.
Your guests may also need to book extra time off work, and bear in mind that different companies have different holiday rotas (January-December or April-March). I would recommend sending them out as soon as you have all the details worked out, exact venue/s location and time of ceremony.
Ask for RSVPs to be sent back 4–6 weeks minimum before the wedding. This allows enough time for you to get a final head count to your venue or caterer and organise a seating plan without the panic of the final four week countdown.
Don’t forget to include yourselves in the final head count!
Hidden Costs of Wedding Stationery
Don’t forget to factor in postage costs to your wedding stationery budget. You may need to buy three or even four sets of stamps: one for your save the dates, one for your invitations, maybe one for your RSVP cards if you haven’t set up a wedding website and one for your thank you cards.
Read more: How to plan a wedding on a £25k budget
This can soon mount up in postage costs. Also remember that you only need one save the date or invite per household, not per person!
If your chosen stationery is a little bulky, you will need to take them to the post office to be weighed and check they fit through the standard slot size, otherwise you will be forking out for large letters, or your guests will be charged the extra and have the inconvenience of going to pick their invite up from their local post office. Not what you (or they!) want!]
There is more to it than just save the dates and invitations! Now there is a plethora of other products to choose from to ensure your wedding day stationery matches from start to finish…
Remember to budget for vow cards, order of the day cards, table plans, place cards and menus. If you purchased them all at the same time your wedding stationer may be more inclined to offer you a discount, or there may also be options to combine your place name cards and your wedding favours to save buying both individually. This is something I offer to my couples.
Read more: The most beautiful wedding sign inspiration
The Order of Things
Some couples may opt for the larger order of the day sign set up near a welcome sign or others may opt for a more subtle approach which can be incorporated into your wedding stationery, sometimes at no additional cost…
If you are having a church service, the chances are you will be having an order of service anyway. If, like a lot of couples, you are opting for a civil ceremony, you can still provide an order of the day to you guests, so they have a breakdown of your ceremony and readings, as well as timings, and where you guests need to be at certain times, to ensure they don’t miss out on any photographs, entertainment or food.
To save money, you can display it all on one big sign in a prominent position.
Read more: The suggested order of your wedding day
Keep all wedding related paperwork in one place and make sure to take it to meetings with your suppliers. Pinterest is also a great visual tool for stylists like myself to work with, so get pinning!
Think ahead of time, what are the main pictures you want your photographers to capture, and make sure they have a copy of your list along with your bridal party so they can help get key people to where they need to be. This is a great role for your ushers.
The Wedding Party – What You Haven’t Considered
Trials & Treatments
Check with your hair and makeup artist/s when you book that their price includes a trial! Some do and some don’t. The trials are definitely worth it to perfect your look!
Also don’t forget to factor in any other beauty treatments you may want…These might include your hair cut and colour, fake tan, teeth whitening, facials, manicures and pedicures and lash extensions. And do these costs cover just you or your wedding party too?
Read more: How to prepare for your wedding beauty trial
Getting Ready on the Day
The more bridesmaids you have the longer getting ready will take on the morning of your wedding. Hair and makeup artist/s like to start with the bride, so you may want to hire more than one hair and makeup artist if there are a lot of you, and don’t forget the mother of the bride and the groom too.
Bridal Party Duties
You asked your closest friends to be part of your wedding party, and if you’ve paid for their hair, makeup and outfits, you can ask them for help on your wedding day.
Give them specific duties, like handing out order of the service at the church, greeting guests as they arrive, and if you are a DIY couple give them a list of things that need setting up before you arrive.
Read more: 50 DIY wedding centrepieces
Let them know when you will be off having your couple photos so they can talk to your guests, and you have the time to capture all the moments you want to. That way Auntie Sheila won’t be calling your name at the top of her voice and making a surprise appearance in your couple photos, or leaving a big red lipstick outline on your perfectly contoured makeup.
Trust a Friend with Photos
If you have a close friend or family member that isn’t part of your wedding party and you trust, give them your phone for the day.
They will take pictures for you throughout the day. This way you will have a few pictures of your wedding day without having to wait for your professional photographs to come back.
Most little girls will have dreamed of the day when they can go and try a wedding dress on… what they don’t dream about, is the price for any alterations you may need, which can stretch into the hundreds of pounds.
Just something to think about before you say ‘yes to the dress’. Your bridal store should be able to give you a rough cost of the alternations you would need/like. Depending on what you are looking for and the cost of additional alterations, it may work out cheaper to have a bespoke bridal dress made just for you.
Read more: Why I designed my own wedding dress
The Little Extras You Won’t Have Thought Of
Feeding Your Crew
Possibly an unforeseen expense is feeding the lovely people you have hired to make your wedding day as magical as you imagined it (FYI: I supply my own food). Before you sign a contract with other suppliers make sure you’re not required to serve them the same meal as your guests, as that could be pricey.
By choosing a packed lunch option for them, it means they can eat when it’s convenient for them. Don’t forget to check if your suppliers have assistants or allergies too.
If you opt for a church ceremony, you may stumble upon some hidden wedding costs you weren’t expecting and had not budgeted for.
Churches may charge you extra for heating, which during winter months may be essential. Other churches may ask you to leave your floral decorations, which means you can’t then re-use them at your reception, putting an additional cost on your flower budget.
You will also have to pay for the use of the organist, choir and bell ringers…and this price will only increase further if you have a videographer due to performing rights.
Most venues and suppliers will ask for a deposit or booking fee to confirm your booking. This is standard practice, but deposit amounts can vary between venues and suppliers.
This can often be a surprise to some couples who were not expecting to pay anything until closer to their wedding date. Check with your suppliers if their deposits are taken off the final bill, or if you pay a booking fee, what this price includes.
Venues and suppliers may also ask you to pay a damage deposit on the day of your wedding – in most instances the money will be held by your bank before being paid back to you after our wedding, either in full, or minus damages.
If you choose to switch suppliers or change your mind on something you have already paid for… be prepared to lose your deposit and booking fee.
If you have chosen a venue in which hiring a wedding car or something more elaborate is needed, bear these costs in mind. Usually the bride and father of the bride travel together, separately from the rest of the wedding party, so you may need more than one car, or multiple trips depending on distance.
Read more: How to save money on your wedding transport
Again, if your ceremony and reception venue are a fair distance apart, you may opt for a coach or minibus to transport your guests between the two.
Want to be even more organised? Make sure you read up on what all couples forget to do after the wedding reception…