Congratulations – you’re planning your wedding!
If you are reading this, you have just started planning one of the biggest days of your life – your wedding day!
You may be feeling slightly overwhelmed as to where to start and what the next steps are – so I am about to help you with that!
As a wedding photographer and a 2022 bride, I have gone through this process with so many couples and I have very recently planned one myself! So let’s get started!!
1. Embrace being a Fiancé
This probably isn’t the first step that you were expecting when planning your wedding… but it’s a really important thing to remember, especially if you have only recently made that big step!
It can often get forgotten so easily during the planning process! You are in this together and you are already at an incredibly exciting part of your lives! So don’t be afraid to just take a step back and be in love with where you are right now!
2. Decide on your budget
Ahhh the dreaded budget… working out a budget for an event you haven’t ever had to plan can be very difficult! If you have absolutely no idea what your budget is, it is probably best to get some quotes and work out how much things averagely cost and go from there!
Perhaps work out how much you can save each month or if you have any money saved up!
If you already know what your budget is then the best thing you can do is STICK TO IT!
3. Talk about your priorities
This is SO SO important!
Sitting down with your significant other and writing down the things that are MOST important to you both is the best way to start! No doubt, the things that you both prioritise will be different in some areas, but that’s fine as long as you are both aware.
Once you have worked out these priorities it will become easier to plan and easier to stick to the budget!
TOP TIP: Although I have preached to make sure you stick to your budget, in my eyes, hitting that list of priorities should be THE priority. Weddings can be expensive so make sure you get the bits you want first time and don’t regret missing out on something that is important to you! Money comes back but memories can be missed out on!!
4. Organisation is key
YES YES YES! If you are an organised person normally, than I am sure you have notebooks and spreadsheets already… maybe you’ve even had them for a while but you’ve just been waiting for your partner to pop the question…
If you are not very organised than take this as a sign to start getting your sh*t in order!
A wedding is made up of lots and lots of different suppliers, all with different prices and different payment schedules and deposits – which can get very confusing!
The best thing you can do is starting getting a list together of everything you need (this guide will help with that!) and as you book your suppliers you can make notes of their contact details and all info about payments and prices etc!
This way you will never miss a thing and your stress levels will be much lower!
5. Discuss & research styles
Pinterest is your best friend!
Again, communication is key! So the best thing you can do is allocate some time with your fiancé to sit down and chat about what you want your day to look like!
This could be an easy decision, if you both like the same things or it could be difficult. But the important thing is that you’re doing it together and sharing those decisions!
Plus if you both know whats going on, you can both begin to research the suppliers you need (that step is coming up)!
6. Pick your date
Picking your date is so so exciting!! This is a date that will be in your calendars forever and will bring you amazing memories every year!
When considering your date, try and think about these things:
- The Weather
- Seasonal (if you’re getting married in Cornwall for example, think about how busy it is)
- Weekday or Weekend
- Is it near a birthday or special event
If you are getting married in the UK you definitely need to think about the weather around your date! Although you can’t guarantee it, you can predict what it might be like and use that to help you decide.
Have a think about where you want to have your wedding and if that time of year will affect your day. For example, if you want to get married on a beach in Cornwall in August, it will be busy, so just bare that in mind.
Deciding on a weekday or weekend is also a big decision! Weekdays can often come with discounts from venues, however some of your guests might not be able to make a weekday wedding. Weekends are most common but can be more expensive.
7. Plan your guest list
This might be easy or again, this could be very difficult! Either way, make sure you are doing this together!
You will probably have to separate your list into the people that have to come and the people that you would like to come. Everyone has a different kind of list but the most important thing is, IT’S YOUR DAY! Invite whoever you bloody well like!
A lot of people get caught up in the politics of families and who comes and who doesn’t, but always remember, aside from the difficulties it’s your choice!
If your budget allows to invite the whole family then go for it, if it doesn’t then start crossing people off!
8. Scout out some venues
This step is super exciting as well!
Now hopefully you have already sat down with your fiancé and chatted about what you would like your day to be like! Fingers crossed you may have also chatted about where you would like it to be!
This is where google and Instagram come in very handy!
Find all of the venues that you like, that fit into your budget and go and view them! It is best to look around a few and go with a list of questions so that you can sit down afterwards and reflect on which was the best!
You might decide that a traditional venue isn’t for you and you would rather have it in a friends field or your parents back garden. Either way, don’t feel pressured into making your decision based on peoples opinions – PICK WHAT YOU WANT!
If you are planning to get married in the South West of England, check out this blog post for my favourite venues!
9. Research Suppliers
Again google and Instagram will come in very handy for this as well!
When it comes to suppliers you want to make sure you are getting exactly what you want and you are getting value for money! By that I don’t mean try and find the cheapest you can! I mean find the people that are worth the money you are paying! The suppliers that make you feel special and excited and that you gel with!
Obviously, as a wedding photographer I have to put this bit in…
When picking your wedding photographer, choose the person that you get along with because they will be there ALL day! Definitely don’t scrape the barrel with your photographer because once the dust settles, the photos are what you have left! Have as much time as you can budget for because you can’t get those moments back!
Here are some types of suppliers worth thinking about:
- Make Up Artist
- Celebrant or Registrar
- Hair Stylist
- Wedding Planner
- Cake Designer
- Live Singer/Band
- Wedding Stylist
- Outdoor Games
- Indoor Entertainment
- Extra Caterers (Ice Cream trucks, Burger vans, Chocolate fountains)
10. Read contracts CAREFULLY
When planning your wedding day this might seem obvious to some and maybe not to others.
When each supplier sends you their contract, make sure you read it!
You don’t want to be caught up in an agreement you didn’t think you were in!
11. Send Save the dates
Now that you have picked your date, your venue and your guest list, the next step when planning your wedding is to start designing or buying your save the dates and getting them sent out!
Now, it is up to you how long in advance you send them out, ultimately, the sooner people know the sooner they can write it in their diaries and put it in their calendars!
Get them out and share the excitement!!!
12. Pick your wedding party
Now this is where it starts to get fun!
You don’t have to have a wedding party however, a lot of people will so that they can shout out their most loved friends or loved ones and it is also great to have some extra hands to help on the run up or on the day!
Pick the people that you can rely on and that are always there for you, your ride or dies!!
13. Plan & buy outfits
Now we are getting into the thick of it!
Choosing your outfits is such an exciting part of this journey for you both! Whether you both know what each other are wearing or you are completely in the dark, this step is important!
Plan out what you think you want to wear, whether it’s traditional or different, and start researching where to find it!
Definitely go and try on a few options because you never know what you might fall in love with!!
You can also start deciding on your wedding parties outfits now as well! Once you know what you are both wearing, you can plan theirs off the back of that! Again, do your research and stick to your budget!!!
14. Start sorting decor
This will tie back in with step 5 – when you discussed and planned your styles!
When planning your wedding you might hire someone to sort your decor, or the venue might supply a lot of it! Either way, you want to start thinking about it!
If you have hired someone, make sure you know what they are providing and if you need to source anything extra. Some examples are does the venue supply knives and forks or do you need to sort a welcome sign.
If you do need to buy extra bits or you’re doing it all yourself, make sure you clear out someone’s garage because you are going to need some space!!
15. Buy your rings
This is a moment for you both to take out of the craziness and be together, just the two of you!
You might already have an idea of what you’d like, but again I recommend going into a few shops and trying some rings on!
This ring is going to be on forever so you want to make sure you love it!
Also, starting this part now means that if your ring needs to be made, you still have plenty of time! On that note as well, if you have an engagement ring that you are going to be wearing with your wedding ring, think about getting it cleaned or re-plated before the wedding so that it is nice and shiny!
16. Think about transport & accommodation
First off, transport: This is a big one if you are getting married and having a reception in two different places.
When planning your wedding, think about how your guests are going to get to your venue, how will they get between the two if you have more than one and how are they getting home. This doesn’t have to be your responsibility to organise but you definitely need to think about the logistics.
Is their enough parking? Do you need to order a minibus in between? Will there be loads of traffic that might mess up the schedule? Can guests get a taxi?
Accommodation, again doesn’t have to be your responsibility but is worth thinking about!
Have you got guests travelling a long way to get to your wedding and how close is the nearest accommodation? If you haven’t, do you want your family or wedding party staying with you the night before?
17. Check your budget
Now a little check in for you..
Where are you with your budget?
Now hopefully you have been organised and written everything down! That will make this step a lot easier! If you are under budget and still have room then that’s great!
If you have gone overboard BUT you have ticked off all of your priorities then maybe you underestimated how much your budget needed to be!
Be reasonable with your budget, if you need to increase it to have what you prioritised then make that decision but if you are just spending for the sake of it then maybe you need to change things up a bit!
18. Design & send invites
Now that you are getting closer to the big day, it is time to make sure you have designed and ordered or made your invites so that they can be sent out.
Your invites will normally have a lot more info about the day than the save the dates did, so make sure you don’t send them too early in case people lose them!
TOP TIP: If you have RSVPs to be sent back to your home address, a good idea is to write a number on the back of each one so that when it does get sent back you know exactly who it is from! Especially if it also has food choices on! Most people will remember to put their name on it but if people forget it can be hard to figure out who’s rsvp is who’s!
19. Think about gifts
When planning your wedding you need to think: Are you having a gift list? Or are you asking for monetary gifts?
Whatever you decide you need to make this nice and clear for your guests! Don’t feel awkward about it because most people will be more than willing to bring you a gift to celebrate your wedding.
If you are asking for monetary gifts, make sure you include something with your invite or let people know so that you don’t end up with lots of presents that you don’t need or more awkwardly, don’t want!
20. Are you doing favours?
Favours are something that can easily be forgotten about, however you don’t even need to do them in the first place if you don’t want to!
Favours are normally a little gift back to your guests that they will receive when they sit down at their table. It can be literally anything! Some people have shots, chocolates, sweets, scratch cards, charity pins or some people just donate to charity rather than doing favours.
You don’t have to do anything at all but it’s worth having a think about in case either of you have any ideas!
21. Collect RSVP’s and start table plan
Like I said in step 18 about rsvp’s, now is your time to start collecting them and you’ll be glad you write those numbers on them!
Alternatively you might send round a text or email to get your guests to confirm if they are coming or not!
Now that you have your guest list and you know who is coming and who isn’t, you can start creating your table plan! But before you start, remember, you don’t have to do one! If you aren’t having a sit down meal and you’ve decided to have something a little more relaxed, let people sit wherever!
Table plans can be difficult, so this might be the time to enlist some of your closest family or friends to help you figure it out!
Oh and by the way, you don’t have to sit on the traditional top table with both parents, you can have a sweet heart table, just for the two of you! Do what you want and remember it’s your day, not anyone else’s!
22. Plan who for speeches & readings
Now that you are about to start creating the schedule for your wedding, you need to get clear on the people that are doing speeches and readings!
You might not want to include either of these but this is why it is worth having the conversation before you start planning your schedule!
Make sure that you check with everyone who you want to do speeches, that they are happy and they know when it will be and how long they have to do it!
If you are having readings during your ceremony, make sure you let your registrar or celebrant know, so that they can factor this into their timings.
23. Any vows?
Are you having any special vows?
Some people write their own personal vows or some just find something nice from the internet. If you are having something personal, start to get this sorted and on to paper! Your registrar or celebrant will like to know if you are doing anything special, again so that they can plan for it!
Don’t feel pressured into this however, you don’t have to do anything personal, you can just repeat what is said in the ceremony – it is completely up to you!
24. Create a schedule
Up until now you have probably been asked by a few people what your plans are for the day… now is the time to start planning all of that!
When planning your wedding, you sometimes forget you need to plan out what is going to happen and when! Sometimes venues will have a coordinator that will help you do this, or you might have to do it on your own.
Remember you don’t have to follow any rules or a strict plan, you can make it exactly what you want.
Just remember to schedule in plenty of time for any speeches and some time for the two of you to have photos and take some time out!
Here is an example for you with a 1pm ceremony time:
- Guests arrive from 12pm
- Ceremony 1pm
- Welcome drinks & Canapes 1:30pm
- Group Photos 2:30pm
- Meal 3pm
- Speeches 4:30pm
- Couple photos 5:30pm
- Cake Cut 7pm
- First Dance 7:15pm
- Evening Food 8pm
25. Meet with venue
Now is a good time to meet with your venue. You have been planning your wedding, you’ve come up with your schedule, you have sorted your suppliers, you know how many guests are coming and you are ready to get things sorted.
The venue might want to run through your timings so that they can figure out things from their end to make sure your day runs smoothly.
Remember they are the experts and they do this ALL the time so ask any questions you need and they will be able to help and put your mind at ease!
26. Social media strategy
This is something you might not have thought about when planning your wedding: do you mind if people are taking photos and posting to social media?
It doesn’t matter what you choose but again you need to make that clear to your guests! Some people prefer to ask guests to refrain from posting on social media until the couple have posted their first photo however some people don’t mind!
TOP TIP: Have an unplugged ceremony! Now if you don’t know what this means, it is when you ask your guests to put their phones and cameras away during the ceremony and just be with you both in the moment. This means that people won’t be distracted whilst you are saying your vows. It also means that photographers like me, that you have paid good money for, won’t be having to take photos of peoples phones rather than their faces!
27. Check in with suppliers
Now that you are so much more organised, it is always worth dropping your suppliers an email to check in. It might be that it is coming up to when a payment is due or that they need some more info from you!
They might not need any information but you might have some changes to update them on or just to run over the plans one last time!
It is just worth popping that email across to make sure you are all up to date!
28. Be mindful of diy’ing
Nearly there now!!!
Now that you are getting so close, it is worth baring in mind how much there is left to do. If you have decided to make a lot of decorations for your wedding, you might want to start being mindful that you aren’t overdoing it!
Making lots of things can be very time consuming and can make you so stressed out! Either enlist some help or work out if you actually need it!
29. Final try ons
Even if you have had your final try on’s in the shops, you should have your outfits at home by now and this is a great time to try everything back on!
Not necessarily to make sure you are still happy but to just remind yourself that you are excited! It can get really scary and stressful as you get closer and finding little things to make you excited are important!
Remember you will probably only where it once so why not try it on 100 times before!
30. Make some playlists!
Music is the best thing and easiest thing to use to make your day special and personal!
Now if you are getting ready in the morning, you might like to have some of your favourite songs playing in the background, so take this time to make these playlists and get all giddy about the big day!
You might also need a playlist for the afternoon drinks reception, if you do, brainstorm this together and include some of your favourite songs!
If you don’t think you have enough time for this or you are not sure where to start.. there are lots of pre made playlists titled ‘wedding morning’ on Spotify or Apple Music that you can download and listen to!
Are you having a honeymoon? Will it be straight after or maybe the year after?
Planning your wedding and planning a honeymoon can be a big job, a lot of people opt to plan the honeymoon after the wedding is over so they can lessen the stress!
If however you have decided to go away straight after the wedding, make sure you think about when you will need to start packing, where your honeymoon suitcases will be, what time you will leave (wedding day or day after).
32. Pre wedding do’s
Whether you want to go ‘traditional’ and call them Stag do’s or Hen do’s or you just wat to have a pre wedding do/party, you want to start getting this in soon!
Perhaps a few of your closet friends or family will already be on the case and all you have to do is turn up but if not maybe just plan a few nights away to let your hair down!
Equally you don’t have to do any of this! It is completely up to you, so make it yours and do what YOU want to!
33. Have some wedding free time
Now this is so so important when planning your wedding!
You are so close and the stress is REAL! Make sure you plan some time with your fiancé whether you go away or just stay at home, make it WEDDING FREE time!
Go back to being just you two before the craziness started and enjoy each others company! Remember this day is about how much you love each other so don’t forget that!
You are bound to argue and fall out but use this time to reflect on what is soon to come and the adventure you are about to begin!!!
34. Take it all in
IT’S YOUR F*CKING WEDDING DAY!!!!!
You did it! You made it to one of the best days of your life!
Now enjoy every single second because it really will fly by! Take time out for each other, take in every second and fall in love all over again!
I hope this step by step guide to planning your wedding day has given you everything you need to know when planning such an important day! It is a journey but one that you get to enjoy together that will begin the rest of your lives!
For all things wedding photography related or anything wedding related, my inbox is always open! Check out the rest of my website to find out about me as a wedding photographer and if you need any help with picking your venue or questions to ask your wedding photographer, check out these blog posts.
Have fun planning your wedding! x