Firstly, congratulations!

A wedding day should be the most important day of any couple’s life and something that you should relish, so don’t let the planning put you off. We understand it can be a daunting prospect, especially as most people have little experience of organising an event for dozens, if not hundreds, of guests. But you should be able to enjoy the journey as much as the day itself, so we’re here to make the planning as painless and smooth as possible.

To make it more manageable, we’ve launched a special series of posts aimed at providing you with a detailed plan and breaking down the process into eight manageable chunks, followed by the ultimate wedding planning checklist.

Whatever your role in planning a wedding, whether you’re the happy couple planning your own big day, doting friends or family helping your loved ones, or starting out in your own wedding planning career, this guide aims to take you through each key stage, helping you make decisions, prioritise and complete the tasks essential for successfully planning the dream day. We want to make sure your wedding is well planned, within budget and, believe it or not, enjoyable to organise.

Of course, this being an event planning and management blog, we will be sticking to the things that fall within our expertise, we’ll be leaving other aspects such as choosing the dress, make-up, hair, gift list and the rings to those who know better.

Getting started

Couple getting ready to organise their wedding_opt
The proposal may have been nerve-wracking enough, but the thought of organising everything from scratch when it comes to the reality of actually planning a wedding can sometimes be enough to force anyone to abandon their hopes of a white wedding and run off to Gretna Green instead. But never fear, it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.

Once you’ve broken the news to parents, family and close friends, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty to start building the foundations of your big day. Start off with solid planning foundations and everything else will run a lot more smoothly.

Set the date

Set the date
In many fields of work, setting a deadline can really help focus the mind, and it is no different when planning a wedding. This should be one of your first priorities because it will give you a clear timeframe and will also mean you’ll be able to get accurate costs from suppliers and check the availability for venues and facilities rather than working hypothetically.

Of course, it is not always just a case of plucking a date out of the air, in some cases there may be aspects that you’ll need to consider first, such as fitting around work commitments, availability of any particular venue you have in mind, and liaising with special guests such as parents, best friends and anybody needing to travel far. This may mean that you’ll need to come back to this point later, but start thinking about a date and get one in the diary as soon as you can.

When choosing a date

Ensure that you allow enough time for preparations and, if needed, time to save up.

Previously, legal requirements restricted the times of weddings and civil ceremonies in most of the UK to between 8am and 6pm, but these restrictions were scrapped in England and Wales in October 2012, and no such restrictions are in place in Scotland (similar changes are yet to be introduced in Northern Ireland).

However, it is worth noting that even though the law has changed, many local authorities and religious groups may still only conduct ceremonies during the traditional times and they cannot be forced to host a wedding outside of these hours, so if you want an evening or nighttime ceremony, make sure you choose a venue that is willing to accommodate this.

For maximum turnout, it may be best to avoid popular times of the year when guests are likely to book holidays and also check the calendar for event dates in your area, such as festival dates, major sporting events and school holidays. You don’t want to be saying your vows in front of an empty venue because the guests are stuck in Glastonbury traffic on the motorway.

However, it is also important to remember that this is your day and when choosing a date it is almost impossible to please everybody.

Create a wedding folder

Messy office without filling
Don’t let wedding planning take over. Start as you mean to go on by being organised from the beginning and create a ‘wedding file’ on your computer, which will include everything about your wedding.

Take advantage of modern software tools and cloud computing

Try getting a Dropbox account (it’s free), which is an online folder stored in the cloud, meaning you and your partner will be able to access it from any computer or mobile device. You can also download a copy of the folder onto your desktop so you’ll have the files saved to your computer too which will be automatically kept in sync when changes are made or documents are added. Once it is set up you can use it to quickly save and store anything useful you come across on the web, such as these essential eventjuice wedding planning guides!

There are also a host of other online tools which can help you stay organised, such as Google Apps for storing and sharing documents, Evernote for collecting links and jotting down notes on your computer, laptop or mobile, or even Pinterest for collating inspirational images.

Set up a dedicated wedding folder in your email account too and you can use this to save all the important emails relating to the wedding, especially things like quotes and confirmations from suppliers.

Put together the wedding budget

Couple with their wedding money
It is impossible to start planning your wedding without knowing your budget, so you’ll need to get a provisional figure together as a priority. The idea that the bride’s father pays for everything is old-fashioned, and these days it is usually a family affair with the bride and groom contributing the majority, especially if both are working.

Find out contributions

The first thing to do is find out how much everybody is willing or able to contribute towards the day. It may feel a bit embarrassing talking about money, especially so early on, but there is little point in contacting venues or suppliers that are out of your price range, and you won’t be able to settle on anything unless you know for sure how much you have to spend.

Some couples choose to go it alone to avoid family arguments about who should be invited to the day – after all, it’s harder to not invite your dad’s brother who you haven’t seen for 10 years if your father is paying for everything.

Once you have an idea of how much everybody is going to contribute, create a spreadsheet with your budget, compile a list of expenses and keep track of any financial activities here, so you can see how much you’ve spent and what is left to play with. Some couples choose to open a separate wedding bank account too.

Allocate the budget

If you have no idea how much some things will cost, allocate the budget by what’s most important to you and your partner, and then compare it to the average wedding budget to see if your budget is realistic.

According to UKWeddingBelles, the average wedding will cost £16,164 in 2013, here’s a breakdown of where the money goes:

The average UK wedding budget in 2013
Stationery – £320
Stag and hen nights – £318
Insurance – £122
The service – £520
Wedding rings – £640
Flowers – £680
Reception decor – £500
The bride’s outfit – £1,300
Hair and beauty – £195
The groom’s outfit – £180
Attendant’s outfits – £360
Transport – £290
Photography – £1,080
Videography – £875
Venue, including food and drinks – £4,600
Entertainment – £560
Wedding cake – £290
Gifts – £134
Honeymoon and first night hotel – £3,200
TOTAL – £16,164
(Source: UKWeddingBelles)

Of course, the above list is just based on averages and there may be significant differences if, say for example, you may prefer to spend more on entertainment and less on food. Rather than just changing your spreadsheet, think about creative ways that you could save money on the food. Don’t be afraid of going down the DIY route for parts of your wedding either, this is increasingly popular and can really add to the personal nature of your big day and should not be seen as a bad thing.

Announce your engagement

Couple engaged
You’ll want to let everybody know that you’re engaged, so you might want to get on the blower and tell people about it. Or, alternatively, organise an engagement party, dinner or drinks to celebrate the fact that you are getting married. You may also wish to announce your engagement in the local newspapers.

Next steps:

In the next post we’ll take a look at putting together the guest list and roles in the wedding: Step 2: People Involved in a Wedding.

In the meantime, do you have any suggestions, insights, recommendations or great places to visit? Please share and let us know in the comments below and we’re always keen to hear on what you would like covered in future posts too.

michael

Michael Chidzey is the chief juicer of eventjuice and heads up marketing at Chillisauce, an event company based in London, UK. He also blogs on several websites and is a visiting lecturer in events management at London Metropolitan University.Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelchidzey

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