Tips for planning your special day!
Weddings! I love weddings! But you know what I love even more than weddings? Marriages!
If you are reading this because you are engaged, congratulations to you! And if you’re not engaged but you love dreaming about your future wedding anyway, I hear you. That was totally me. No shaming here.
I used to work in the wedding industry as a stylist so I have compiled a few tips and tricks I learnt along the way, as well as from planning my own wedding.
One thing I learnt in the wedding industry is that no couple is alike. And more specifically, no bride and no groom are alike. We are all unique individuals. And that’s a good thing. It always intrigued me to see the different decorative choices each couple made when I worked as a stylist. And trust me, I saw them all. Have a look at photos on the internet and in bridal magazines to get a feel for what styles and colours you do and don’t like. This will help you to narrow your options down.
I’m not going to tell you how to decorate your wedding because I don’t know your tastes and I also don’t know your budget. Which leads me to my next point: budgeting.
You really should have a rough idea of how much you intend to spend on your wedding otherwise things can easily blow out of proportion. A good way to work this out is to create a detailed list of every item that will cost money and beside each item, put down a rough monetary limit. Add together each limit to find the total, and there you have your overall budget. You may get a little shock once you add it all up. If you can’t or don’t want to spend that much money on your wedding, go through each item again and see where you think you can lower your limit. And do some research to find out how much the items typically cost. Don’t just make a blind guess.
As you make purchases, come back to your list and write down what you spent on each item. This way you can keep a track of your budget and how much money you have left to spend.
Don’t forget: more expensive does not always equal more beautiful.
Venues & Setting the Date
Are you having a ceremony and dinner reception to follow? Are you having an afternoon tea? Are you using a marquee or a restaurant? Is your ceremony indoors or outdoors? Is your reception at a different location to your ceremony?
There is no right or wrong answer here. I ask these questions merely to get you thinking. Organising your venue is arguably the most important task of organising a wedding. Deciding your venue/s and setting the date go hand in hand. I know couples (including my husband and me) that set the date first and then found a suitable venue (though we were somewhat flexible with the date). I also know couples that were set on having a particular venue and chose their date according to the availability of the venue. Again, there’s no right or wrong. I suggest though that it’s wise to at least have a rough idea of a date (like deciding which month) before looking for venues. Is it really worth waiting an extra six months or year to get the venue of your dreams?
Once your date and venue/s are set, everything else will more easily fall into place. It gives you a timeline to work with.
Don’t forget: once you’ve set the date for your wedding and honeymoon, remember to ask for time off work and other commitments!
The dress is something that I would encourage you to get onto sooner rather than later. If you are buying rather than having someone make your dress, you should know that most bridal stores require a certain amount of time (typically two to six months) to order the dress in your size, with your requirements. And then you also have to allow time for potential alterations. Usually you can’t customise the length of your dress when you order it, so you will want to allow time to see someone for alterations.
If you are having it made, you still need to get onto this sooner rather than later because you need to source a dressmaker, fit in with their schedule, and allow for multiple fittings. Some dressmakers may be able to make a gown in a matter of days, but some dressmakers may need a year’s notice.
In saying all this, some bridal stores sell dresses off the rack (ready-to-go) or you may be able to find a beautiful dress second-hand through a friend or website. You may even find a suitable dress at a regular clothing store. But even if you go that route, I still encourage you to start looking sooner rather than later. The longer you leave it, the less choice you’ll have.
The bridesmaids’ outfits are something that should also be taken care of early on in the engagement to save stress. You may choose to not have bridesmaids and that’s fair enough. It actually would make it much simpler in some respects. But if you do have bridesmaids, keeps things fun with them. Remember that they are likely to all have different body shapes and preferences. It is your day, but I encourage you to also listen to how your bridesmaids feel (especially if they are paying for their outfits). You don’t want them to feel self-conscious in what they’re wearing. So discuss with them what styles they like and decide whether they wear matching dresses or if they wear a variety of styles instead. Again, the sooner the dresses are organised, the better as they may also need alterations.
Thankfully suits are easier and quicker to organise. You may consider hiring a suit, but at least where I’m from, this typically isn’t any cheaper than buying, they don’t get to keep it (obviously), and the suits may look a little more worn. So I personally would recommend buying over hiring, but it still doesn’t hurt to check out your local suit hiring place to see their options. If you shop around, you can probably find yourself some good deals on buying suits and accessories.
In my opinion, this is the worst part of planning a wedding. Sorry to start this paragraph off on a negative tone, but it’s a reality you may as well come to terms with now. This can be a delicate task because you don’t want to offend those you aren’t inviting, but most venues and budgets require that you stick to a set amount of guests. No matter how big or small your guest list is, it’s always a tricky task deciding who makes it onto the list and who doesn’t.
One thing that helped me with making my list was asking myself whether or not I would expect a wedding invitation from that person if they were getting married. If you would be sad to not receive an invite, chances are they would also be sad if you didn’t invite them. But if you wouldn’t mind not being invited to theirs, chances are they also wouldn’t mind not being invited to yours. Also think about who is likely to remain in your life. You may find this helps you in your decision-making. Apart from this, all I can say is that I wish you well!
Don’t forget: be sensitive and tactful while not getting bogged down in creating the guest list.
Invitations & Stationery
Firstly, I ask you, do you enjoy DIY? If so, you could save yourself some big bucks by creating your own invitations, place cards, menus, and seating boards, etc. There are so many possibilities with creating your own – sophisticated and impressive to understated and elegant. The choice is yours. But do remember to keep your eye on the cost of materials you purchase because it can quickly become the expensive option if you’re not careful.
If making them yourself does not appeal to you, there’s plenty of other options, including paying a company to make them, buying pre-made templates that you simply fill in with the details, or perhaps calling on a friend to help out.
Don’t forget: be sure to show your appreciation for any friends or family that are helping you in any way. Don’t take their kindness for granted. Gratitude goes a long way.
Length of Engagement
This is a personal choice. I can’t tell you what the right amount of time is. I think it depends on the couple and their circumstances. For my husband and me, our engagement was a little less than five months and this was a really good amount of time for us. It gave us enough time to prepare for the wedding as well as (and more importantly) for the marriage without making it feel like an eternity to wait. It’s bizarre – the engagement period passes so quickly and so slowly simultaneously. I think it’s because you feel like you haven’t got enough time to get everything organised, but also just can’t wait to be married to your future spouse! My advice: take only as long as you need to organise a wedding and marriage and everything that comes with it (i.e. finding somewhere to live).
I’m yet to hear of anyone’s wedding day that went 100% to plan. So chances are that some things will not go exactly to plan on your wedding day also. And that's okay. It's good to be organised but don't sweat the small stuff. Sort out all the nitty gritty details in advance and leave the day free to be enjoyed. Decide now to not let any mishaps fluster you on the day. Be flexible and roll with it. Keep focused on what’s really important.
My Most Significant Advice
A very important thing to remember when planning a wedding: the wedding is just one day. The marriage is the lasting part. A wedding is a celebration of the beginning of a new marriage. The countless days, weeks, months, and years spent with your spouse that follow are more important than one wedding day. Your marriage is what this whole day is celebrating. Invest into your marriage. Always keep this in mind as you plan.
But a wedding day is also extremely significant because it marks the beginning of a man and woman being joined in God’s name from that day on. Marriage is profoundly significant and lasting as Jesus said:
And God said, ‘So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.’ So there are not two, but one. God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.” (Matthew 19:5-6)
A marriage binds two people together. It is a covenant created by God. So a wedding is a momentous occasion worth marking and celebrating. But remember that a wedding lasts just one day.
Working as a wedding stylist, I became highly aware of this as I have set up and packed up many ceremonies and receptions. So much time, energy and money goes into planning a day that passes so quickly.
The marriage is a lasting covenant. Whenever you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed with planning, shift your focus back to this. You are marrying your future spouse. You are not marrying your wedding. Keep the main thing as the main thing.
Don’t forget: Honour God in your marriage. Keep Him number one. Invest in your marriage.