‘Where to Start with Wedding Planning’
Engagement season is in full swing! And when the excitement finally settles of having a ring put on your finger, it inevitably dawns on you, ‘I’VE GOT A WEDDING TO PLAN!’
We decided to create this blog post in order to help guide you through the basics of wedding planning. This is with a few of our own personal tips, having spent well over 8 years consumed by the wedding industry. It is a go to guide with ‘Where to Start with Wedding Planning.’
Get some inspiration and figure out the style of wedding that you love. Pinterest is a great way to get inspired. However, we hate to put a downer on things, but try not to get lost in a £1,000,000 dream wedding (unless you can afford that of course) and put ideas together that are realistic! Pinterest has hundreds of ideas and is a place where you can put different boards together for different parts of your wedding day.
Set an approximate budget. Figure out what is most important to you and what is less important. Set realistic budgets and make sure you research different vendors to figure out what different services cost. We highly recommend not paying attention to blog posts talking about averages, as often they aren’t based on facts.
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when formulating averages, and often these aren’t looked at carefully enough. A vendors experience, and also the areas that they generally work in, can play a large role. We would recommend contacting vendors first hand and finding work that you truly love. Then you need to judge what is worth pushing your budget for and what isn’t. This is why your list of what isn’t and is important, as a couple, is so crucial.
This is also a good point to decide if you’d like formal assistance with wedding planning or whether you like the idea of planning it all yourself. There is a whole minefield of services out there, including different levels of wedding planning that you can have assistance with on your day. The UKAWP is a great place to start if you want to find out more about these services.
Figure out who you want to have there to celebrate alongside you. Find out your approximate numbers, as this may have an impact on the type of venue that you want / need. Also, this is a good time to figure out who you want to be involved in your wedding. Best man, ushers, bridesmaids etc.
This is the first thing to book. You can’t have a wedding without a location. Visit venues together as a couple, and see what places you fall in love with. Maybe even get creative and try to think of ideas of more personal locations, close to your heart.
When Simon and I (Sonia) got married, all I wanted was to get married at home, with my loved ones around me. I wanted to get ready in my old bedroom and just walk downstairs to our wedding. So we opted to hire a marquee in the back garden of my parents home. We had my mother and her best friend help us plan everything. We did our formal registry on a separate date, at just a simple 8 person registry office.
We’ve worked alongside couples that have opted to get married at their family home, couples that have booked Airbnb’s, where their loved ones could stay for a couple of nights and make a whole weekend of it. Below is an image of Casterne Hall in the Peak District, which can be found on Airbnb.
The most unique venue that we have worked at was an old derelict church on the groom, Tom’s, family’s land. They renovated the church especially for the wedding and it was absolute perfection. They then had a tipi for the wedding reception.
If you don’t fancy preparing from scratch and want a venue where you can have more guidance, opt for a formal wedding venue. Here are some venue’s that we love, just to name a few are:
Hadsham Farm, Oxfordshire – a tipi venue by a lake, with a great amount of flexibility, which often can be tricky with some venues.
Owen House Wedding Barn, Cheshire – this venue has been set out to perfection. The owner is a Director of Photography, so has amazing eye for detail.
Hedsor House, Buckinghamshire – A perfect stately home within beautiful grounds and often seen on TV.
Cripps Barn, Gloucestershire – this venue is beautiful and the staff are amazing. Cripps & Co have a number of venues across the country. They are all stunning and very unique in comparison to each other.
Once you’ve got your venue booked or whilst booking the venue, you need to figure out how you are actually going to get married. Will you need a registrar, will the ceremony be at a place of worship? Or are you going to get married at a venue or even at home? If getting married at a place that isn’t licensed for weddings, you will need to have a formal registry done prior to your wedding day.
The one bonus to having the formal registry on a separate day, you can have a ‘blessing’ or truly personal ceremony and anyone that you like can be the celebrant. We’ve seen siblings or even best friends perform ceremonies.
It ends up being so intimate and on one occasion hilarious, as it was the brides ex boyfriend (who came out as gay after they split up) performing the ceremony. He added so many funny jokes and everyone was in tears of laughter!
With any legal registrar, be it non religious or religious, always check their rulings on photography and videography. It is known that some places of worship do not want the ceremony to be captured. Some have limitations on where the team can stand. But many are fine with it, so just make sure to find out early on!
This is the next thing to secure. As soon as you have your date, make sure to hunt around for photographers, or even prior to setting your date. Photographers do start getting bookings up to 2 years in advance. For us personally, there’s nothing worse than having to let an awesome couple know that we aren’t available. We often have couples communicating with us whilst they are booking their venue, to ensure our availability. We can take couples through the process of securing their date, as long as they know the area of their wedding and ideally if we know the ideal ceremony time.
Some wedding websites are saying to start looking at photographers 10 months before your day. We feel it isn’t wise to wait, if you already know your date. Many couples start booking 18 months in advance. If you know who’s work you love, make sure to secure your must have vendors as soon as you can.
Choosing Your Photographer
Beyond what has been mentioned above, it is super important to ask photographers for examples of full wedding galleries. These are galleries which couples actually receive back. This shows you the style and quality of the photography throughout an entire wedding day. Different scenarios and lighting situations, and the content of the wedding. It is not just the photographers ‘best of the best’ photos, that they show on their portfolio.
Photography is the one thing we highly recommend not settling on. Once the venue doors are closed, the cake is eaten and your outfits are tucked away in a cupboard – it is the photographs that live on and get passed down through the generations.
We may sound biased when it comes to photography, and we probably are. Unfortunately, the reality is, we are so passionate about the images because we made mistakes when it came to our own wedding. It’s not a day that you can redo, and we unfortunately did not push our budget and hire a photographer who’s work we truly loved. Someone who had years of experience. Those images are how you remember your day and what you look back on, so it is the one thing you should not settle on.
It’s important to find a photographer who’s work you love but also who you get on well with. They will be the person who spends the most time with you on your wedding day. There to support you and often be much more than a wedding photographer.
Within your plan for photography, ensure that you have a really good think about whether or not you’d like to have an album. From our personal experience, anyone who doesn’t include an album in their initial package, 9 times out of 10 they don’t end up with an album. Even if they were really passionate about the idea before the wedding. If an album is important to you, at least secure the very basic album option that is on offer. This way, you ensure that no matter what you will have an album.
You can always upgrade your album later on. But with our own experience, even with our very own wedding, if you delay getting an album organised, it will always get put on the back burner. Unless you factor budgeting it into your wedding plan in the early stages.
You genuinely can’t beat seeing your images in a physical album! Albums turn into family heirlooms and are what get passed down through the generations.
The image above is of Simon’s grandparents, on their wedding day. We truly saw the value in printed images when we saw their wedding album and especially when Grandad passed away a few years ago. You never truly know what will happen with technology, but physical prints really exist and are there to be treasured.
This is a good point to decide whether you’d like a videographer or not. Quite often couples have this as a last minute decision, if they have the budget, but that limits you to the choice of videographers available last minute. Videographers can have an impact on the day. It’s important to make a serious decision with this and not just have a videographer just to tick a box.
We asked our good friends and super talented videographers, The Wedding Filmmakers, for their advice.
If video is a priority, then we recommend looking to book the videographer at the same time as photography. Our top tip would be to make sure you watch examples of full length videos, when comparing companies. The quality and length of videos offered can vary significantly, so make sure you are aware of what you will receive as a finished product.
As with a photographer, if you like the idea of having your wedding memories captured on video, you need to choose a videographer who’s work you truly love. It needs to be someone who style works alongside the photographer as well, else it can impact the other vendors work. Don’t be afraid to ask photographers for recommendations on video, they usually have worked alongside many and would happily recommend teams that they love working alongside.
‘Where to Start with Wedding Planning – Continued’
Florist / Decor
For this part, we decided to ask the experts, Red Floral Architecture, on what they advise when looking for a florist for your special day.
Look to be innovative with your wedding floral design. Try not to follow the crowd. Dare to innovate not imitate. If you have seen designs on Pinterest of past weddings, use them as inspiration, don’t try to copy them. Chances are, if you have seen them before, so will your guests. So try to make your wedding project a new vibe and never be afraid of embracing colour.
Matt from Red Floral recommended getting in contact a year in advance for their services. We photographed their work above, at Katie & Nathan’s wedding at Owen House Wedding Barn. Their creativity totally blew us away. Flowers can really turn any location into something spectacular.
This is something to potentially bring up at the time of booking a venue. Does your venue provide a caterer? Do you have to use in house catering? For the evening food, are you allowed to bring in your own pizza ovens / street food or any other ideas that you may have? Some venues can often restrict you to their own caterer. Sometimes they will make you pay a charge to bring in your own supplier. Decide what is important to you and work this out accordingly.
Catering costs and styles will often be dependant on the amount of guests you plan to invite. We’ve seen all sorts from sit down meals to large sharing platters and informal BBQ’s. As well as working with couples who specifically chose venues purely for the meals that they have had there.
Below is a pretty impressive show of a dry ice starter at Curradine Barns, a wedding venue in Worcestershire.
For our own wedding, we actually asked Al Bader Lebanese restaurant in Birmingham to do our wedding catering. They delivered enough for 120 people on the day. My mother’s best friend is a head chef at a boarding school, so she guided us with how to plan this and work out the logistics.
In most cases, THE dress is one of the first things planned and organised. Brides get so excited way before the engagement with the idea of dress shopping. As a rule of thumb, 12 months prior is good for a custom ordered gown. Off the rack can be purchased even a couple of weeks before the wedding if you fancy a risk! The only thing to consider with off the rack is time for adjustments!
Bridesmaids gowns are often the next step, but this can become a little more time consuming, as you have more people to please.
As for the suits, we have noticed that these are often left until the last minute! But we would recommend a decent time frame, especially if the suits are being hired and ensuring that what you like is available.
Hair & Make Up
This is down to how couples are as individuals. Some like to do hair and make up themselves, some like to hire a professional. There is no right or wrong way for this. We just recommend giving yourself plenty of time to trial the look that you are going for, be it yourself or with a hair stylist / make up artist. The bonus to hiring a professional is they may give you good tips to lead up to your special day. Things like special facials or lip scrubs. Anything to ensure you have the best base for the big day. A good make up artist will also create a look that will last the whole day and not budge at all. This is what you ideally want, so something to keep in mind for your trial.
We cannot stress highly enough, make sure to read your contract for any vendor that you hire.
We’ve had a make up artist not allow any photography or even family members in the room during preparation. Sadly, the bride didn’t realise until the day, as she hadn’t read the contract. Also, don’t hire someone based on how many likes they have on Instagram. Read thorough reviews, which ideally talk about time keeping.
Hire someone based on personal recommendations, to know how they work first hand. We’ve seen make up artists turn up a couple of hours late on the wedding day. This ends up pushing the whole day off schedule and makes it very stressful for all involved. Especially when it’s our job to capture brides enjoying all of the ‘in the moment special feels’ of her wedding morning preparation with loved ones.
Bryony Dalton is lovely make up artist, who we have worked alongside, and who also gives out such amazing information on her social media. I have purchased great skincare products through her recommendations and cannot thank her enough!
Now this is a very personal one, as it depends on what you are like as a couple. Was it the love of music that brought you together? Is there that special song that makes you both shiver? We’ve seen all sorts, from brass bands to Rockeoke, which is a band that play whilst you sing karaoke! We have even had couples change wedding venue because of not wanted to compromise on restrictive sound limiters interrupting the party.
We’ve also come across magicians, lawn / fairground games and face painting / glitter. Bands / DJ’s tend to be booked up relatively far in advance, but things like lawn games can be organised by yourself even. A fun tradition that we came across recently was a German game of sawing a log. This was to show teamwork in marriage and was fantastic entertainment. You can see more images of Sarah & Marjan’s wedding, filled with games and also the sawing of the log by clicking here.
This is something that is very different for every couple. We’ve seen some couples opt for a traditional cake, some have a dessert table or even a Krispy Kream wall. For those people that don’t have a sweet tooth, a cheese tower always hits the spot!
Below is an image that we took of our good industry friend’s shop in Leicester, Baker St Cakes. This team are on a whole other level when it comes to cakes. Their cakes don’t only look good but their cakes taste out of this world – and we have tried our fair share or theirs and plenty of others. They actually have a cafe, so you can go and get their cakes at any time. We’ve even hired them to make Simon’s birthday cake before. We both have a sweet tooth, so cakes have to be high up on the priority list, taste wise.
We have seen all sorts of cake designs over the years. One of our recent couples had a mountain-scape design, as they love climbing. Couples have cut them with personalised knives, swords or haven’t wanted to do a formal cake cutting at all. Some have used them as desserts, others as additional treats in the evening.
Everyone is so different, and that is what we love most about weddings. You can do things how you want to and in your own way.
There are some details only you know are important on your day. Often it is to include people that are no longer there to celebrate your special day. We have seen so many beautiful ideas along the way, to ensure that those who aren’t present can be remembered. From seeds / badges as table favours, with the couple having made donations on everyones behalf, in memory of their loved one. To lockets with a photos wrapped around the bouquet or on a button hole flower. Many couples have a table with photos, like the image below, and we have seen countless people in tears when they see these personal touches. These details mean far much more than anything else on your special day.
With any time frames that you see for booking vendors, if you have something in mind it’s best to book sooner rather than later. Peak wedding dates can often be booked two years to a year in advance. However, if it’s a weekday in the winter, it’s safe to say there maybe a bit more availability.
We hope this ‘Where to Start with Wedding Planning’ post has helped to give you ideas with your special day. Having worked in the industry for so many years, we have got to know a lot of people providing a service to couples, to make their day as perfect as possible. If any of you are reading this, please feel free to give your input in the comments! And any previous brides, that we have worked with, please add your top tip’s in the comments too!
Sonia & Simon of S2 Images are husband and wife photography team. We photograph weddings nationally and internationally, having covered areas such as Warwickshire, London, the Cotswolds, Birmingham, the Midlands, Surrey, Hampshire, and even as far as Malaysia! We enjoy combining our love for travel with wedding photography. If you are planning your wedding, we would love to know your plans! Please get in touch via our contact page if you are interested in our services, be it national or worldwide.