Wedding Guides

The Easy Guide to Planning your own Wedding

Planning your own wedding is a huge task; just organising so many people to be in one place is challenging enough for the bride and groom to be, but when you add in the budget, decisions and choices that have to be made, help is needed and that's where we come in! Here are just a few of the factors that most brides and grooms have to consider when planning their own wedding.  We are all looking forward to a joyous celebration with family and friends, so lets get started now and enjoy every bit of the journey to the big day.

Wedding Basics - Let's Get Started 

The key to getting started is knowing what you want to spend and setting your priorities and remember you don't have to spend a fortune these days as there's a lot of choice and discounts and offers are easy to find especially if you are prepared to be flexible with the date and time. Once you have set a date, booked a wedding venue and organised the ceremony you can relax for a while. You will find though that shopping for a wedding dress, booking cars and a professional photographer will need to be done sooner rather than later to secure the date.  If your wedding is coming up in a few weeks you can still find a wedding dress at a discounted price and book a reception/ceremony venue. You'll need to be flexible and organised but most wedding services are easy to source at short notice.

Setting the Wedding Date!

Setting the date and making the commitment is wonderful and you will be excited to share it as soon as you have. It doesn't have to be a Saturday, as many weddings take place during the week these days. Also if you are flexible with your date you'll find many benefits to choosing a day other than a Saturday. You might want a long weekend celebration and get hitched on a Friday so you can spend more time with your family and friends. If you are flexible you have more choice and possibly exclusive use of a venue which means you don't share it with anyone else. Most of the larger wedding venues often do more than one wedding a day and can charge a premium for weekends, especially during the busy summer months. 

Top tip Why not consider out of season? Think about October which is outside the peak season but it can be a lovely warm month full of autumn colour, and there are some great venues in spectacular coast and beach resorts to combine both a wedding and mini moon.

What does the Money Go On?

Apart from the cost of the ceremony, reception venue and wedding attire, the costs of sharing your special day with friends and family adds up. Food and drink will take at least 60% of your budget so the more guests you have the more it will cost.   One key thing is finding a venue that will accommodate the number you want to invite, so having an idea of your guest list before you start looking for a venue is recommended. Remember to add in all the extras such as invites, table settings, gifts and chair covers. 

The cost of the reception/wedding breakfast, food and drink will be the most expensive item on your budget planner and will almost certainly have an bearing on how many guests you want to invite. The guest list can soon mount up as you realise just how many family and friends you both have! Do a quick calculation and allow at least £60 per guest for food and drinks and also include all the small items such as stationery and invitations. You can always work back to a smaller figure if you need to. Everything is negotiable so don't be put off by set menus, prices or a rigid approach by the venue, as these can almost certainly be discussed. And if you want fish and chips, then all you have to do is ask. It's your wedding after all.

If money is no option you can have 'a ball', however, if you prefer to spend more money on a romantic honeymoon or perhaps your new home, look at the costs and the size of the guest list again. If your respective famiies are willing to help with the cost, you may not have to prune the list too drastically. Extending the invitations to the children of guests can be a tricky problem for some couples but it is worth noting that there are reputable and specialist childcare agencies that can be hired to keep the children safe and happy whilst the adults have a good time. Not inviting the children of guests, especially when they are close family can cause upset  so it is worth considering this option.

Top tip If you need to save some cash but still want a good bash, you can often get a good discount for a week-day ceremony and reception with many approved wedding venues offering different tariffs between Monday and Thursday depending on the time of year. If your wedding is in a few months you can still find a wedding dress at a discounted price and book a reception/ceremony venue. You'll need to be flexible and organised but most wedding services are easy to source at short notice.

Choosing a Venue for Ceremonies and Wedding Receptions

Whatever you have set your heart on the best way to start is to shortlist a few reception venues and either visit them or ring for their wedding information. You can tell a lot from how they respond to your enquiry. If they are slow, it could indicate lack of attention or staff which could make for a frustrating relationship. If you do decide to get married in 'Approved Premises', you will be expected to book their facilities for the wedding reception. If however, your ceremony is to be held in a Church or a Register Office, you will have more flexibility over the choice of venue and the location for the wedding reception. 

Change: From July 1st 2021, (to be reviewed in April 2022) the law changed to permit outdoor weddings to take place for the first time in England and Wales and at venues already approved by the Register Office, although this now does not have to be within an approved structure such as a gazebo in the grounds of the venue, private house or garden. The 'site' will have to be one that is dignified for the purpose of the marriage ceremony. The good news for couples is, that in the light of restrictions on the numbers of guests in force during the pandemic, the number of guests may be increased as long as the venue has capacity to accommodate this.

Top tip Some wedding venues offer an all inclusive package for food and drink based on a set number of guests, (usually 50) which is ideal for small wedding parties.

Exclusive Use for Wedding Parties

You should be aware that the most popular wedding venues can and do host more than one wedding a day. You may not want to be mingling beforehand knowing that guests from another party could wander in, or being held up by the photographer who is waiting for the previous wedding party to vacate the garden!  So if you want your wedding to be the only one that day, then you will need to book 'exclusive use' of the venue and may have to pay a premium for this. Look for a small privately owned venue where they cannot do more than one, or move your date to another less popular day, out of season or midweek when you may also get a good rate or addtional extras on the package.

Top Tip - Out of season or midweek rates for room hire can be cheaper and some don't charge at all if you plan to spend on food and drink. Many smaller privately owned country houses that have rooms approved for the civil ceremony, can offer exclusive use and the run of the house for the weekend.

Alternative Ideas for your Ceremony and Wedding Reception

In recent years marquees have offered couples an alternative to hiring a venue especially if you are lucky enough to have a large garden. Marquees are easily installed a couple of days before allowing time to decorate and theme as you wish. There are so many great ideas for marquees now, that include, yurts, tipis and every type of traditional marquee for large and small weddings.

Change: The new marriage law permitting outdoor ceremonies for the first time from 1st July 2021 (to be reviewed in April 2022) in England and Wales, may involve the hiring of a marquee that can be open at the sides to meet current Government guidelines on numbers and social distancing. 

The trend for getting married on a beach at sunset is helped by the growth in services of professional civil celebrants who conduct a ceremony based on your own personal wishes. You will have to be legally married in front of a registrar so ask your local register office for details. Generally couples can visit the register office either on the day or a few days before to conduct the legal part after which you can opt to hold a celebration anywhere you like, even your own garden if it is large enough!

If you are really on a budget, you could of course do it yourself by hiring a village or church hall and save yourself some money. It's fun and you get to put your own personal stamp on the day. It's much harder work however and you will have to think about every aspect of the day or bring in a team of experienced people to make sure it is set up, runs smoothly, and who will welcome and serve guests and clear up afterwards! 

Top tip Consider having your ceremony later in the day followed by one reception and speeches. Guest lists are often divided into day and evening guests, so having a later ceremony means you can invite everyone you want to be there with the added bonus of a welcome reduction in the cost of food and drink.

Wedding Gift Lists and Wedding Insurance

These days couples often have lived together and have much of what they need, so tend to ask for honeymoon vouchers, or even cash to help with larger items or expenses for the wedding. But asking for an amount of cash can sometimes put guests in a quandary, so wedding gift lists can provide a choice of both gift and voucher options and are easy to set up. The best known wedding list services in the UK are John Lewis who have gift list departments for couples to open an account. Typically you select a list of items from the store, tell your guests where your list is held and the store will manage and deliver the gifts they choose for you. Wonderful!

Wedding Insurance is often overlooked by many couples planning a wedding in the UK or abroad but it is better to cover yourself especially if the planned spend on the wedding are considerable. In the unfortunate event of a wedding date that has to be re-scheduled, some items such as bridal clothing, accessories and shoes can be almost certainly be saved. Other services may be able to re-schedule your date given reasonable notice and of course their availability. This may not be the case with a wedding venue, catering or marquee service where the outlay and loss of business is often considerable. Your deposits may be lost at best and at worst the whole amount payable could still be due as business cannot be regained at short notice. If you cannot afford this you would be wise to take out wedding insurance. Check out John Lewis. Their wedding insurance provide 6 levels of cover to suit your wedding spend and budget.

Now is the Time to Buy your Wedding Attire!

Generally a current season wedding dress can cost anything from £500 and as much as £4,000 for designer or bespoke creations. And alterations and delivery can take up to five months, after which you have to factor in time for your fittings.  Some bridal shops offer an express delivery service so ask them for details.

Please, please don't be tempted to buy your dress online; it is fraught with pitfalls and you could be persuaded to part with money for what appears to be a fantastic bargain. Sadly there are many unscrupulous traders who prey on unsuspecting brides to be by displaying credible looking images that bear no resemblance to the delivered dress. Think twice, and then again before you part with your money.

Top Tip If your wedding is in a few months you will find bridal shops always have wedding dresses they will sell off the rail on the day, and often at a discounted rate. You may also find these on their website. It is worth checking when shops will be holding a 'sample sale'.  Generally these sales are well advertised online or on their social media. Expect to find a bargain and to have to pay for your purchase on the day. You may also be able to arrange alteration service and storage if this is needed with the shop.

Most bridal shops offer a service for kitting out the men in the party! There are specialist shops on the High Street and also tailors and department stores if you want something a bit different. Top hats with morning suits and highland wear are a regular choice for the men and most can be hired at a reasonable cost along with the accessories. The key thing is to find one shop, get the men together and get measured especially if hiring in. A good shop will ensure the suits and accessories will be available in the run up to the big day.

Top tip  Ensure that all suits and shirts are tried on at the time of collection just in case something does not fit!  

Time to Book Hair and Make Up Artists

Finding a hairdresser and make up artist that will come to you on the day is an early task to tick off the to do list. Good and competent services often get booked up very quickly. Most offer an initial consultation and trial runs with all the wedding party including mum and bridesmaids. It can be an effort getting everyone together for this so if time is of the essence just make sure you get an appointment! You need to feel confident about the hairdresser and make up artist, so take some ideas with you along with a photo of the wedding dress and an idea of the colours you will be wearing on the day. A good professional MUA will have photos to show you and will also often have a gallery on their website. The alternative is to find a salon you can visit on the day but make sure you have enough time especially if there are quite a few of you in the party. 

Top tip It is a good idea to discuss the timings of the day with your makeup artist and hairdresser. Let them know if a photographer is coming beforehand to take photos and what time the cars will be arriving to collect the wedding party.

Wedding Flowers and Specialist Florists

Flowers at a wedding are pretty essential and most flowers are available all year round. Booking a florist early is recommended especially if there are multiple sets of blooms, table settings and a church to decorate. Specialist florists get extremely busy during the summer months but can handle more than one wedding a day. We suggest having an idea of what you would like along with how much you will spend before you visit a florist for a consultation. There is no shortage of ideas and florists will often feature their work in wedding magazines and on their websites.These days anything is possible, from a simple hand tied bouquet with Lily of the Valley or Tulips, to a grand shower bouquet of country Roses and Peonies and there are florists who specialise in silk flowers which can become keepsakes. You might also want additional services such as a wedding arch or a decorated gazebo which are often available from a specialist wedding florist or venue stylist.    

What about Wedding Planners, Toastmasters and a Wedding Godmother?

Nowadays couples are capable of organising a wedding without the help of a professional wedding planner, however if you don't have the time and can afford it, make sure you engage the services of a professional wedding planner to help. You should verify their reputation and check to see if they have some level of qualification from a recognised body which should be shown on their website. There are quite literally hundreds of wedding planners in the phone book and online; and many are attracted to the wedding industry because they have planned their own wedding or that of a friend and so think that organising another will be a doddle! It takes a lot of organisational skill, business acumen and a well established reputation with the industry, to plan a successful wedding for another bride and you need to be sure that they are competent.

A professional wedding planner will typically charge a fee for their services; and some will offer options such as 'On the Day', which means you stay in control of the planning of your wedding but have assistance in the 'run up' to and on the day itself so you can enjoy the day without worrying about the details.  Many wedding venues have experienced staff to help with many aspects of the wedding day and can possibly also recommend in house services such as a florist. If you are busy you can still hire your own wedding planner to act on your behalf and thus have the best of both worlds. Hiring a planner involves either a daily rate or a fixed fee in return for their services and you'll usually meet up at the outset to discuss what help is required and when. 

Another useful service to consider is that of a professional toastmaster. In our experience, toastmasters are usually gentlemen, although many ladies perform this role too.  Some venues will state they have a 'Master of Ceremonies' or MC as part of their services. This is quite different from the services provided by a professional toastmaster. Generally the MC works for the venue and is part of the operational function designed to make sure that the staff and the services they provide run smoothly. This isn't the same as having a dedicated wedding co-ordinator or planner in the weeks prior to discuss and organise the other important planning aspects of the day.

One thing is for sure is that the wedding journey can be a stressful one, when it should be enjoyable. However help is at hand from Sally Jackson, a wedding wellbeing coach, and trained nurse who uses her skills and experience to help brides flourish. Sally is the fairy godmother of weddings; her aim is for brides to arrive at their wedding day feeling calm, confident and looking radiant. Sounds brilliant!

Top tip If time is in short supply,  you might find it easier to have your own dedicated wedding co-ordinator, as staff at many venues can be part time and on rotas which don't always fit with when you want to get in touch and organise your plans!

Music for your Wedding

Ask your Vicar if you are getting married in church, or the Registrar if you are having a civil ceremony, what type of music is allowed? In church, a mix of religious music, modern and classical is fine, but this is not so for a ceremony in Approved Venues, which are strictly non religious. However live music is a popular choice, especially surprise singing waiters which are typcially revealed with great amusement at the reception. Ask these questions, as music is a very important element of the service.

Top tip Make sure you have someone competent to look after the equipment, plan the music and turn it on and off at the appropriate moments!

Booking a Wedding Photographer and/or Filming Service

The cost of a professional photographer can range from a few hundred to well over a couple of thousand pounds. Find one who will be fully insured and happy to spend time with you finding out your needs. It is a modern thing for guests to take photos and add them to social media sites such as Facebook, but don't rely on this as you may regret not having a complete set of professional photographs to last a lifetime. Most good professional photographers are able to offer a full service of reprints, books, albums and framed prints which you and your family and friends will no doubt want to have as keepsakes of the occasion.

If money if tight, amateur photographers can be tempting especially if they only charge a couple of hundred pounds. You may know a friend who is willing to help out with the photography, but consider this carefully as he or she may not have the experience and also the risk of losing a friend if your photos are a disaster. It happens. Amateur photographers will not belong to a professional body such as SWPP or BIPP and are unlikely to have insurance so you could be taking a further risk if things go wrong.
Once you have chosen your photographer, you will typcially pay a deposit and sign a contract. A professional photographer will arrange a meeting a few weeks before to discuss the format for photos and details of the key family groups and guests on the day. At this point you may be presented with a choice of albums, photo books or images on a CD and they often offer a gallery service of all the images of the day so family and friends can order directly.

Top tip Provide your photographer with a list of key members of the wedding party you want in the photographs and give a copy to your best man or chief bridesmaid as well.

Hire Wedding Cars and Vintage Transport

You will want to make a grand entrance and travel to the church or venue in style, so if you haven't anything in the garage that fits the bill, you'll have to hire a specialist to supply one and there are many to choose from; vintage, sporty, classic and traditional Rolls Royce cars. RR Elite Ltd have a fine collection of traditional, classic and iconic cars created from a privately owned fleet of beautifully cared for vehicles that are just too magnificent to be kept out of A great favourite with couples is the NYPD car or the Yellow Checker Cab direct from New York. Whatever you choose you may need more than one car unless you are not too far from the venue or church.

Top tip Choose a car hire service that can provide an additional cars as required or a back up vehicle in the event of a breakdown.

Food and Drink - Sweet or Savoury Wedding Cakes?

There are many fabulous wedding cakes to choose from and you can pay several hundred pounds for some of the most extravagant! And don't be put off if you have dietary concerns as many artisan producers can make a bespoke cake that are gluten and dairy free and still look and taste delicious. New ideas for DIY brides are to make your own wedding cup cakes that look really pretty on a tiered cake stand decorated with rose petals. If you are making your own foil cases and decorations can be bought from most sugar craft shops. Layers of sponge cake infused with elderflower are a delicious alternative to heavy fruit cakes. And they are in vogue too! Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding reception featured a wonderful elderflower and lemon cake.

If you have savoury tastes, cheese tiers decorated with fresh fruit and served with served with rustic breads, artisan biscuits and jugs of celery are lovely. In most regions of the UK there will be a dairy from which you can buy a variety of locally produced cheeses and which can be assembled into a cheese cake the day before. And the traditional cutting of the cake can be done with the savoury cheese cake!

Top tip Have an English Afternoon Tea theme with a tower of scones, complete with jam and clotted cream! Dress up a side table with vintage china and decorative bunting. Your guests will love the informality and some may be even be up for baking a home made sponge as a gift!

Save the Date, Invites and Placecards

You will almost certainly require a quantity of stationery; invitations, place settings, orders of service and thank you notes. An invitation on Facebook is not recommended! You will want to convey the style and theme of your wedding and these can be made to order. However if you intend to buy your own, most high street department stores have a selection of ready made invitations that are inexpensive and good quality. It is a useful idea to include information on how to get to the ceremony and venue, where the guests can stay and a note about your wedding gift list if you have one.

Top tip It is OK to add an email address for the RSVP's so you can plan the final guest list.  

The Finishing Touches

It's all in the detail and your own personal finishing touches make your wedding individual and special so it is worth setting aside a small budget for decorative effects and ideas. Chair covers are very popular and provide the solution if you need to harmonize your colours at the wedding reception. Many wedding venues keep their own chair covers and can include these in the package. If not, you can hire these in using specialist chair cover services. We suggest you do as it is time consuming draping chairs and tying on sashes. Just saying!

Planning your own wedding is so much easier with Wedding Whispers!