51 Tips for Planning the Perfect Wedding
An essential list of go to tips for wedding planning perfection
Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming wedding! Now you have shared the good news with family and friends, it is time to plan your big day, and you may be wondering where to start!
Having spent the past 15 years planning wedding transportation, we have experienced a number of key factors that will eliminate all the hassle out of the day and make things as smooth as possible.
Plan your big day, enjoy every second of it, then look back on it and celebrate every anniversary where you can relive your dream wedding. It all starts here.
Belle Vue have put together their 51 top tips to planning the perfect wedding. If you’re at the beginning of your planning process, this is the perfect place to start!
1. Be flexible with dates.
You may have a particular date in mind for your wedding, but bear in mind your dream venue may not be available on that date. Don’t discount the perfect place just for that reason. Remember that whatever date you pick will become special – one that you and your partner will celebrate for the rest of your lives.
2. Set a budget.
Whether you have £1,000 or £100,000 to spend, it’s vital that you set a budget. The average cost of a wedding in the UK is £20,248 and overspending by just 10% means you’d need to find an additional £2,024! Allocate an approximate sum for each item from our checklist (at the back of this guide) to keep you on track and on budget. These figures don’t have to be set in stone, however. If one of your must-have items comes in over budget, see if you can make savings elsewhere.
3. Choosing your bridal party
Choose your attendants carefully! Pick people who you can rely on to help and support you through the planning stage and on the Wedding Day itself. A particularly organised Best Man or Chief Bridesmaid could make the ideal contact for your suppliers and your venue’s Wedding Co-ordinator, which will leave you free to enjoy your wedding without added stress.
4. How to balance the guest list
Begin by looking at both the number of people your venue can comfortably accommodate, and how their price per head fits with your budget. Then, start your list with close family and friends before moving on to more distant relatives and work colleagues. You’ll probably find you have more people on your list than expected. Don’t worry, there are ways to reduce the number and keep everyone happy. Most venues can accommodate more people for an evening buffet with dancing than they can do for a sit-down wedding breakfast so a good option could be to have only family members at the wedding breakfast and invite your friends to join you later.
5. Choosing your venue.
Whatever your perfect venue, there are some practical considerations to think about. Do you have guests travelling a long way who will need to stay locally? A venue with its own accommodation will allow your guests to enjoy the day without the worry of driving home. Always ask if there is a discount on room rates for wedding guests.
If you’re planning a civil ceremony, consider a venue that can cater for both the ceremony and reception. This will allow your day to run smoothly, and you will have the venue’s Wedding Co-ordinator on hand from start to finish. If you’re having a church wedding, make sure your reception venue is not more than half an hour’s drive away. Any further and it can slow down the day and increase the chances of guests getting lost. Always ask what is included in a venue’s price – does the room hire or price per person include linen hire, menu cards or table decorations?
Are there any discounts available if your wedding is not on the traditional Saturday or if you’re planning your wedding at short notice? It never does any harm to ask.
6. Giving notice or Calling of Banns.
Before you can marry you need to notify the relevant authority depending on the type of wedding you’re planning. For a civil ceremony, you need to give notice of your intention to marry to the Superintendent Registrar in the district in which you live.
This notice will be displayed for 15 days at the register office and providing there is no objection your marriage will be authorised. This notice is then valid for 12 months.
If your wedding is to take place in a different district to the one you live in, you will need to speak to the relevant office to ensure a registrar is available to conduct your wedding. The Calling of Banns is required by the Church of England before a wedding can take place. Details of the couple and their intention to marry must be read out on three consecutive Sundays in the three months before the wedding. Banns must be called in the parish church of both the Bride and Groom as well as in the church the marriage is to take place in.
7. Use recommended suppliers
Once you’ve chosen your venue, ask them if they have a list of recommended suppliers. They work with other wedding suppliers all the time and may be able to save you a lot of time by suggesting some local companies whose standards they can vouch for.
8. Plan your transport.
You, your bridal party and your Groom all need transport on the day. If you have a large party, a limousine or a more traditional convoy of Rolls Royce’s may be the best options.
9. Make a weekend of it.
Weddings are a great reason for families to travel long distances to get together but your wedding will go so fast you may feel you’ve hardly had time to speak to everyone so why not make a weekend of the festivities? Perhaps you could have an informal dinner the night before with the friends you haven’t seen for a while. How about having a brunch for the immediate family the day after your wedding? This means you’ll have plenty of time to speak with everyone, and it will allow the families to make the most of their time together. Depending on your venue choice you may be able to accommodate all of this under the one roof.
10. Make your ‘out of town’ guests feel special
When your wedding guests are travelling from afar, show that you appreciate the effort and expense they’ve gone to. Before the wedding, send them information about events and attractions in the area, in case they want to extended their stay.
You may also want to leave a small welcome present in their hotel room and arrange a block booking rate from a hotel close to your wedding venue.
11. Plan your menu according to the season
When you choose your menu, take the time of the year into consideration. If you have something particular in mind that isn’t on your venue’s suggested menus don’t be afraid to ask. Most chefs are happy to create a dish to suit your needs. Remember to select a vegetarian option and to make the venue aware if any of your guests have food allergies or special dietary requirements; most venues will be happy to adapt your menu choices to make them suitable.
12. Don’t let your guests go hungry during the photographs
The main photography session usually takes place after the ceremony and can take over an hour and a half to complete, so consider having canapés served with your reception drinks to tide your guests over until the Wedding Breakfast. This is especially welcome if your ceremony is between midday and 2 pm.
13. Find the right photographer for you
The photographer and videographer will provide the permanent reminders of your special day so make sure their work is what you want. Consider whether you would rather have a traditional album or a more contemporary art book and choose suppliers who specialise in your preferred style. Make sure you look at a completed example of their work from the last six months, not just a sample album or video, to check the quality. If possible select a photographer and videographer who have worked together before: it will help the day flow if they can work together rather than getting in each other’s way!
14. Remember to feed the photographer and videographer
Unlike your other suppliers, your photographer and videographer will be with you all day without a break so if possible arrange for a plate of sandwiches and a soft drink to be available for them at the reception.
15. Prepare a list of ‘must take’ photographs and images
If there are special details to your day, a choreographed first dance for instance, make sure you let the photographer and videographer know before the Big Day so they’ll be prepared to capture the moment.
16. Keep younger guests entertained
If young children are coming, perhaps you could have an activity pack for each one. Include a colouring book and crayons, a small puzzle or toy to help keep them entertained. Perhaps include a one-use camera and set a photo challenge for them during the day. Alternatively, provide a child-minder or crèche so the parents can relax and enjoy your wedding without worrying about their little ones.
17. Make sure you say hello to everyone
A receiving line leading into the Wedding Breakfast is a great way to make sure you’ve spoken to all your guests. The line usually consists of the Bride and Groom, their parents, the Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid, but if you have a large number of guests this can take a long time. You could speed this process up by limiting the line-up to yourselves and your parents.
18. Think about the best time for the speeches
Traditionally, the speeches follow the Wedding Breakfast however there is no reason why you can’t change this. If you have a particularly nervous Groom or Best Man you could have the speeches before the meal so everyone can then relax knowing the formal obligations are complete. If you’re planning an intimate Wedding Breakfast with a lot more people joining you in the evening you could save your speeches so everyone gets to hear them (if the speechmakers are willing, of course!).
19. Get recommendations for a band or DJ
Your DJ or band will be responsible for getting everyone up and dancing the night away; you may find a DJ a more fitting choice as they will be more able to alter their set to fit the mood and requests of your guests. Always ask your venue if they have an in-house or recommended DJ or band. They will have a proven track record or your venue wouldn’t use them! Plus if they know your venue, they’ll be able to set up and start playing much quicker thus not interrupting the flow of your day.
20. If you’re staying all night, let people know.
Traditionally, the Bride and Groom leave the celebrations first to head off on honeymoon but with more and more venues offering bridal suites this is becoming less common. If you plan on partying to the end of the night, ask your DJ or band to let your guests know so that they don’t feel embarrassed about leaving before you do.
21. Try lots of wedding dresses before you make your choice
Your wedding dress is the most important (and probably the most expensive) dress you’ll ever own so getting it right is essential. You may have an idea of your perfect dress but try on a range of styles – you might find your opinion changes when you look in the mirror.
22. Make sure you can move comfortably in your wedding dress
Before you make a final decision about your wedding dress, practise walking, turning and sitting down so you know it will be comfortable on the day.
23. Pick a dress to suit the weather
When choosing your wedding dress, take the time of the year into consideration: for example, a long train may not be best suited to a winter wedding when the ground is likely to be wet. If you’re planning a summer wedding, materials such as chiffon and organza are lighter and will help keep you cool.
24. If the back of your dress is ornate, don’t cover it with a veil
Since brides spend a lot of the wedding ceremony with their backs to their guests, designers now make the backs of their dresses as detailed as the fronts. If this is the case with your dress, rather than covering it up with a long veil, consider wearing a shoulder or elbow-length veil or a tiara or fascinator.
25. Only buy accessories after you’ve bought your wedding dress
Save choosing your accessories until you’ve decided on your dress, as they need to complement each other. If you’ve chosen a dress with a lot of detail, such as embroidery or beading, keep your jewellery simple and understated; for a particularly ornate dress, you may prefer to forgo jewellery altogether.
26. Make sure your dress fits into the wedding car or carriage
Whether you dream of a horse and carriage or a slick Limousine, there are some practicalities to consider when choosing your transport. If your dress has a full skirt and a long train make sure you have enough space inside the car or carriage and check how easy it is to get in and out. Ask your dress supplier to show you how to fold your dress to minimise creasing on the journey.
27. Avoid a mud-splattered wedding dress
If you’re having a winter wedding and want to avoid getting mud splatters on your dress, ask the chauffeur to wipe down the side of the vehicle before you get out.
28. Find shoes that are comfortable
Although they will likely be hidden under your dress, do take time choosing the right bridal shoes. If you’re a flip-flops or trainers kind of girl, don’t feel pressured into choosing 4-inch stilettos: you’ll only feel uncomfortable on the day. Choose something that you feel comfortable in and practise walking around the shop to ensure they’re a good fit.
29. Take your wedding shoes to your dress fittings
You will need to have your shoes with you for your dress fittings so the length can be altered to fit perfectly.
30. Walk-in your shoes
On your Wedding Day, you’ll be wearing your shoes for potentially 10 hours or more so make sure you walk them in around the house beforehand to avoid blisters. Protect your shoes from scuff marks by wearing a large pair of white socks over them.
31. Make sure children’s outfits are comfortable
If you’re going to have flower girls or pageboys in your ceremony, ensure their clothes are comfortable (collars are non-itchy, sleeves are loose, and labels don’t scratch). The more comfortable they are, the less likely they are to fidget.
32. Ensure all the male members of the bridal party try on their outfits
If you’re hiring co-ordinating menswear for your party make sure they all visit the shop and get measured correctly. If your ushers are not all local consider using one of the bigger hire shops, so they can visit a shop local to them to be measured. When they collect their outfits ensure that they check that all items are in the suit bag, they don’t want to be hunting for cravats on the Wedding Day!
33. Take your florist to the ceremony and reception venues
Take your florist to visit your ceremony and reception venues, so they can suggest suitable arrangements for the space. If you’re having your ceremony and reception in the same venue you may be able to move your ceremony arrangements through to the reception room. This will not only save money it will also mean your flowers are on show for the whole day, not just the ceremony.
34. Choose the cake you want
Don’t feel as if you must order the traditional tiered wedding cake, there are more contemporary options available such as curled chocolate towers, individual cupcakes and French style croquembouche (a tower of profiteroles).
A 10” round cake will provide 60 portions so if you have a smaller number of guests but have your heart set on a four-tier cake consider using dummy tiers. They are iced and decorated to match the real cake tiers so no-one will ever know and you won’t be left with a mountain of uneaten cake to take home. If you have a very large number of guests don’t feel you must have an enormous cake. Talk to your cake maker about providing an extra ‘sheet cake’ that your venue can use to supplement your display cake; these cakes have plain icing so cost less than decorated tiers but once portioned no-one will know the difference.
35. Shop around for rings
Take your time and shop around when it comes to your wedding rings: you’ll be wearing them for the rest of your lives so make sure they’re the right ones! When looking at rings make sure you try them on with your engagement ring so you know they sit well next to each other. If your engagement ring is 18-carat gold your wedding ring needs to be too otherwise the higher carat ring will wear away the lower. When choosing the size of your ring, be aware that your fingers will shrink slightly when it’s cold. If this is the case, when you order your rings select a half size bigger to ensure a good fit whatever the temperature.
36. Ignore superstition and try the rings before you buy
Some people feel it’s bad luck to try your ring on before the wedding and so try them on their right hand instead; ignore the superstition and make sure they fit correctly on your left hand. This is important because most people find that the fingers on their less dominant hand are slightly thinner than those on their dominant hand, and you don’t want to have to get your rings resized afterwards.
37. Send invitations that reflect the style of your wedding
The first indication your guests will have as to the style of your wedding will come from the invitation you send them so make sure it gives the right impression. Choose a design, font and colour that ties in with the themes of your day. Consider including RSVP cards to encourage a swift reply from your guests.
38. Send a guest information card too
A guest information card is a useful way to let everyone know the details you wouldn’t normally find on the invitation itself. Include information such as the dress code, whether confetti is allowed at your venues, maps and directions, a list of local hotels and details of where your gift list is registered. This will make things easier and answer most small queries your guests may have.
39. Chase up people who haven’t responded to the RSVP
Have a close friend or family member call or email the people who haven’t responded to your invitation to find out if they intend to attend. Don’t assume they’re not coming: people forget to post the response card, and you don’t want to be surprised when they show up on the Big Day.
40. Give your hairstylist and make-up artist the information they need
Provide your hairdresser and make-up artist with pictures of your dress so they can help you find a complementary style. If you have a veil, fascinator or other headpiece take it with you together with some ideas of what style you’d like.
41. Have a hair and make-up practise session
Whether you’re booking a professional, having a trusted friend do the honours or doing it yourself, schedule a practise session for your hair and make-up so you can see how you will look on your Wedding Day and decide whether you like the results.
42. Don’t be too adventurous with your wedding make-up
When it comes to your make-up, don’t go for something that is very different from your usual style (you want your Groom to recognise you as you come down the aisle!). A soft natural look will enhance your features, give you flawless photographs and still allow you to be yourself. Make sure you use waterproof mascara and a ‘kiss-proof’ lipstick!
43. Ask your Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid to help out
Introduce your Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid to the key members of both families before the wedding and ask that they make themselves known to your photographer on the day. They can then help round up the relevant people for photographs to speed things along. Make a list of contact names and numbers for all your suppliers. Give a copy to the Best Man, Chief Bridesmaid and your venue’s Wedding Co-ordinator. They can then chase up any late deliveries and answer any last-minute questions without worrying you.
44. Before you book an overseas wedding or honeymoon…
… organise your passport!
If you’re planning a honeymoon abroad and want to travel in your new married name, you will need to get a new passport organised; if your passport and ticket do not bear the same name you may be refused travel, even if you show your marriage certificate. You and your vicar or registrar will need to complete a PD2 form which can be downloaded from the Direct Gov website. This form is the confirmation of your wedding date and change of name, and you will need to send this along with the regular passport application form. You can apply for your new passport up to three months before your wedding. However, the passport will be post-dated meaning you cannot use it until you’re legally married. Some countries will not issue visas on post-dated passports so do check with the relevant consulate before applying for a new passport.
45. Consider relaxing alternatives to the traditional hen and stag nights
If a night on the town isn’t your thing, there are more relaxing alternatives. What about a nice pampering weekend at a local spa or hotel? This will give you a chance to catch up, relax and spend some quality girl-time with your friends. Many brides-to-be worry about what their future husband will get up to on his stag do. If you don’t trust the Best Man’s taste in activities why not suggest they try their hand at paint balling or rock climbing? Outdoor pursuits provide plenty of excuses to be macho and to get a bit muddy along the way!
46. Make arrangements for after the wedding
Arrange for someone to collect your wedding dress and any presents from your wedding night hotel and keep them somewhere safe until you return from honeymoon. Ask one of the ushers or the Best Man to return the menswear to the hire shop.
47. Pack an emergency wedding kit
Before the Big Day, put together an ‘emergency kit’ and ask your venue co-ordinator to keep it safe for you until you need it. You should include plasters, spare stockings, a travel sewing kit, your Wedding Day perfume, painkillers, tissues, baby powder (which hides stains on white dresses), mints and a nail file. With a kit like this, you’ll be prepared for any small glitches on the day.
48. Stave off hunger pangs on the Big Day
After all the planning, your Wedding Day is finally here. Make sure you eat a good breakfast so that you have enough energy to keep you going throughout the day. Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast or porridge are good slow energy release options and ones that will keep tummy rumbles at bay.
49. Plan your wedding morning
Whatever time your wedding is make sure you plan your morning so you don’t feel rushed. Ask your stylists how long your hair and make-up will take, and that of the bridesmaids and work back from your ceremony time to establish what time you need to start your preparations. Make sure you leave time for photographs before leaving for the ceremony.
50. Plan transportation for your guests.
In this day and age it is customary to plan transport for your guests leaving the church or registrar to the reception venue. Decide how many guests are to be catered for by asking who is travelling by car and who would like to be transported. Close family and friends like to have a drink and make a big celebration of your wedding and knowing you have cared for their welfare will go down really well.
51. And finally…
Relax and enjoy your Wedding Day!
This post was written by Belle Vue, who provide a range of transport options for weddings, from minibuses and coaches, to vintage coaches and double decker buses. They have a promotional offer on transport at the Fair, if you book a coach or vintage bus, they will supply a Chauffeur Driven Car for only £275. A discount of £125!
Belle Vue will be exhibiting at our North West Wedding Fair on Stand K10. Buy tickets here.