I can’t tell you how many brides have been in touch recently either wanting a full-scale, complicated wedding in the next 4-5 months, or in a panic because whilst their venue is now booked and their wedding a year away, they have no idea what comes next! Neither need worry since where there is a will (and a healthy amount of organisation!), there is a way.
What we now class as a long engagement (18 months or longer) were more-or-less the norm up until recent years – and there are a great many advantages to allowing longer to plan your wedding: With each passing pay cheque, the wedding budget can improve leaving more cash for the things that matter to you; There will be plenty of time to thoroughly research all your supplier options and only book those you really love; Venue and supplier availability will not be a difficulty; That’s 18 months of engagement events for you to enjoy a glass of bubbly at! However, it is worth noting that having longer to research your likes also means more opportunity for you to change your mind over and over (creating more work and possibly expense). It can also mean either long periods of you resting on your laurels (actually creating more stress later on) and worst of all, serious wedding-talk fatigue amongst your friends, family and co-workers!
Late lead weddings are my favourites, but they only work if you are a naturally decisive couple and already have a good few ideas in mind. Massive savings can be made by fitting your wedding amongst your venue or supplier’s other commitments (after all, this is revenue they weren’t expecting that month!), but you might also find vendor and guest availability can be an issue, and you must be sure you have the time amongst your work and other day-to-day commitments to blitz the planning.
However you choose to play things, there is a sure fire way of making sure you stay on track and don’t miss anything out:
Begin by creating a list of all the things that you will need to do and book in order to make the wedding happen. Take inspiration from the wedding magazines which often run a regular ‘planning timetable’ near the back (although don’t take their timing suggestions as gospel!).
Reception Venue (Caterer?)
Hair and Make-up etc, etc
At this stage, this list can be more of a brainstorm than a super detailed plan – the document is a working one that will evolve and become more detailed as you move forward, but the point is just to get you looking at the big picture.
Highlight all the items that really matter to you and simply can’t be missed out. You WILL need some kind of ceremony, you WILL need a venue, your photographer, dress and entertainment ARE key to the even you have in mind. Whilst their fun to look at, and it is great to have some idea of the style you want for the day, this is not the time to be bogged down with teency design and DIY details.
For each of those priority elements, expand upon your list, thinking through the steps you need to take to organise each one. For example:
For the ceremony, you might need to contact you local registrar to establish the process of giving notice so you know what documents you might need, or for a church wedding, you should call the parish office to check that you are eligible to marry there and whether you need to attend services or pre-marital classes.
Ahead of the venue search, you need to have given some thought to your budget, the number of guests you would like to invite, whereabouts in the country you would like to be based and the style of property you like (see last month’s post on finding the perfect venue)
At this stage, these are the only suppliers you should be researching. Since they are your priority elements, you should book them first, therefore establishing how much of your budget you will have left to play with for the less important parts of the day.
Work through all the elements of the planning in order of priority, listing out all the steps involved in making your final decisions. Be aware that some things may have to be thought through ahead of time: If you are inviting guests to stay in the area, you should research a range of suitable accommodation options at different price points early on so that this information can be featured in the invitations.
Project management is all about knowing what skills and resources you have that get you to your goal, and what you need to outsource. You might be familiar with budgets, spreadsheets and deadlines – you might even have downloaded a great App or planning software that can help – but there are always going to be gaps; gaps in knowledge (like the legal side of getting married, wedding etiquette and wedding day logistics), or simply gaps in the time you have available to actually plan the wedding (researching and meeting with suppliers, chasing RSVPs, deciding on catering and decor). Don’t panic, you don’t need to be an expert to plan your own wedding, you just need to recognize when it is time to call in some help! Delegate tasks to your bridesmaids, family, friends and fiancé or pull in the professional advice of your suppliers or a wedding planner when you need it.
It is also worth noting that at some point, you are going to want to switch off and just enjoy the day so make sure you know when that point will be, and who will be at the helm from then.
Four to six weeks prior to the wedding, you should have all your suppliers and decorative details booked, ordered or made and the focus should switch to pure logistical planning:
What are the final numbers? How many vegetarians are there? Where will everyone sit?
What time are all the suppliers expected to arrive and depart? How long will each need to set-up and clear down? Will they require catering whilst on site?
What are all the timings of the day? How long will all the hair and make-up take? What length of time should you leave for photos?
Who will be the ones to set each event space up with the decorative details? When will they be delivered to the venue and where will they be stored?
The list here is rather endless, and these are the plans that make the difference between a smooth running event and a hectic day for everyone! Take guidance from your venue and/or caterer as well as all your other suppliers about all the timings and requirements on the day.
Download Isabel’s planning schedule to help keep you on track