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Planning your wedding day...

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Hey, I'm Liga and for over three years I worked organising more than 150 weddings and my favourite part was getting to know my couples, and making their wedding come together. I built wonderful relationships throughout these years, it was important for me to connect with couples as it allowed me to support them throughout the planning and letting their vision of their wedding come true on the day. Wedding day for most couples is overwhelming and stressful because there are so many elements that have to be thought about. I have planned intimate weddings for 2, 10, 30 guests as well as larger celebrations for up to 200 people. It doesn't matter how many guests are attending your wedding, you will still feel nervous and it is important that everyone involved are supportive, and help making this day the best day for you! As it can be so overwhelming to plan you special day I have put together this wedding planning guide and I hope it will be helpful to you! I have included links within this article so make sure to check them out.

Set your budget and discuss your priorities

Firstly you want to set your budget. Truthfully weddings have become more expensive, however, the reason behind this is also the inflation that we are all witnessing every day. Supplier rates are often discussed and if you think about it, it is the main income for most suppliers and they want to make sure that they can support themselves as well as provide the product that you are booking. I think when going through your budget alongside you have to decide what are the elements that are the most important to you. For example, if it is very important to have a live band, then you have to think what you are willing to substitute to meet your budget. When Nathan and I got married, our priority when looking at suppliers was to book a great photographer that we both like, as photos is something that we will cherish forever and they capture all those details that we spent so much time planning. Our wedding was very intimate with 15 people due to covid, we planned to have a bigger wedding a year later, however, after our intimate ceremony, we both agreed that it was so special for us that we decided not to try to recreate it and ended up cancelling the big wedding. We both agree that the only thing we would have changed was to have a videographer.  

Get organised and choose your wedding style

Once you have decided on what type of wedding you are looking to have it is time to get organised. Whatever that may mean for you, is key to ensure your wedding planning journey is smooth sailing. From buying a wedding planner book, to making a wedding budget plan and getting that wedding planning checklist  - feeling organised at the start will set you up so well for the remainder of the journey. Speak to your friends and family, they might have some tips from their wedding of what went well and if there is something that they would do differently. When I was planning weddings I noticed that many couples start listening too much to everyone else, want to please their family and start forgetting that it is their special day. So my advise to you, you will never be able to please everyone when it comes to weddings, you can be considarate and try to be accommodating but still have the wedding that you have always dreamed of. 

Probably the easiest way to choose your wedding style is to browse through Pinterest for inspiration and put together your wedding mood board. You can then share this with your suppliers as this will help to keep it cohesive. After a little time browsing, it will become clear what style of wedding is for you. Whether you choose a few key colours or an actual wedding theme (like a festival theme or a vintage theme, for example). Making supplier decisions will be much easier once you know what you are after.

Find your perfect wedding venue

Once you have your budget in mind and have decided on a theme, you can start searching for the right wedding venue for the two of you which fits in with it all. Securing and booking your wedding venue will determine your wedding date, location and your maximum guest numbers, so make choosing your venue a priority. From personal experience I would recommend to take your time and not rush your decision unless you already know where you would like to get married. We have listed few venues where we have photographed weddings and had a wonderful experience. 

Situated in the beautiful Hampshire countryside, Clock Barn is an idyllic barn wedding venue offering a number of picturesque indoor and outdoor spaces for your big day. You are spoilt for choice of different backdrops for your romantic photos. 

Careys Manor Hotel & Spa is a wedding venue located in Brockenhurst, Hampshire. This stunning property is surrounded by the spectacular New Forest and is ideal for those looking for comfort and nature on their special day. This Victorian Manor is home to a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces.

The Tithe Barn is a unique wedding and reception venue, set in the heart of the South Downs National Park. Imagine a stunning historic building in a glorious country setting, yours for exclusive use for the whole day.

Beaulieu offers historic venues combined with enchanting gardens all set within acres of beautiful grounds. With a mix of medieval history, family tradition and rustic charm.

Skylark offers an idyllic setting for your perfect day, boasting stunning surroundings, 18th century barn with its stunning wooden beams and beautiful décor, along with beautiful bar and dining room for the reception.

This is a beautiful wedding venue with stunning views over the Beaulieu River in the heart of the New Forest. Their Riverview Restaurant can hold civil ceremonies, wedding breakfast and your evening reception whilst offering beautiful views over the river. It offers plenty of opportunity to capture photos in the historic village and by the river. 

Make it legal

There are few options for the ceremony, you could either have a civil ceremony which would be an official ceremony run by the registry office at your chosen venue, a blessing run by a celebrant or a friend, or a religious ceremony at a church. 

Civil ceremony - To book your registrar you would need to contact your county's council, for example, for Hampshire your would be contacting Hampshire County Council. In order for the registrars to marry you at the chosen venue, your chosen ceremony room needs to have a license. Registrars get booked up very quickly, therefore, as soon as you know where you would like to get married make sure to check registrars availability. Civil ceremony normally takes up to 30 minutes, it is traditionally run by two registrars and you are required to have two witnesses. 

Church ceremony - To get married in a church or other religious building, you will need to contact the person in charge of your chosen church. Church ceremony normally takes up to an hour. When choosing church service you also have to include travel time for your guests to the reception venue. 

Blessing - It is not a legal ceremony, meaning that you won't be legally married. However, it gives you the opportunity to create a ceremony that is tailored to you and is personal to you. You could either book a celebrant or you can ask your family or a friend. If your chosen venue does not have a license this is a perfect option, or if you want to hold your ceremony outdoors and there is not a fixed structure, you can have a blessing instead. You could have a blessing and have the legal ceremony with the registrars at the venue either before or after the blessing. If you choose this, the legal ceremony would only take up to 15 minutes and you don't need to include all your guests, just two witnesses to sign the documents. Other option is to have civil ceremony at a registry office prior to your wedding day. 

Send your save the dates

Now is the time to make it official and inform your guests. I would recommend that you send your wedding invitations out approximately three to six months in advance of your big day or as soon as you have booked your venue as your guests will need as much as notice as possible. From this step forward I would like to suggest to keep little details throughout the planning, such as, wedding invitations / stationary, decoration items that could be used for detail shots by your photographer on the morning of the wedding. 

Choose your wedding suppliers

Next important step for the wedding planning checklist is choosing your wedding suppliers. Again, I would recommend to take your time talking to suppliers in order to find the right ones for you as they will shape the overall theme, style and cost of your wedding.

Start by making a list of all the suppliers you are going to need to hire. Your wedding venue may already have a list of recommended suppliers which is a great place to start, but make sure you widen your search if you want something a little different before you book and pay deposits. I have put together a list of the main suppliers to look for and referenced people we have worked with.

PHOTOGRAPHER

FLORIST

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CAKE

STATIONERY

WEDDING DECOR AND STYLING

HAIR AND MAKEUP

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MUSIC AND DJ

Make time for checking contracts

This  is probably the least fun part when planning your wedding, however, it is very important that you do take it seriously to avoid upset later down the line. Before you confirm a booking with any wedding supplier or venue, it is really important to take some time to review the contracts. These contracts are legally binding, therefore, you want to ensure that you, and your supplier, are both fully protected by them.

Most cases you won't need to make any changes, but it is important to remember that hiring wedding suppliers and venues often involves handing over a lot of money, for the most important day of your life, so guarantee yourself that peace of mind and check over all of your contracts before signing. Also, if your supplier is not providing a contract I would strongly recommend that you do ask for one to protect yourselves. I have witnessed many couples not having a contract in place with a supplier, they paid a deposit and never heard from them again. Also, please do make sure that both parties have signed the contract and that you have a copy of this. 

 Even if you are dealing with friends, family friends or friends of friends who are doing you a bit of a favour or a special deal, get everything to do with your wedding in writing. Having an email trail will really help in the very unlikely situation that something doesn't quite go right.

Wedding insurance

Do you need a wedding insurance? short answer - yes. I understand that it is not very romantic to think about what might go wrong with your wedding but it is always best to be prepared. Purchasing wedding insurance from the moment you start spending money on your wedding could really help with peace of mind for both your wedding and honeymoon spend. Wedding insurance is not actually that expensive to purchase comparing to the money you spend on the actual wedding. 

Choose your wedding party

Now it is time to start thinking about who your maid of honour, bridesmaids, ushers, best man, flower girls and page boys will be, or you might already have made your decision. It is important to understand what the different wedding roles consist of and who would you trust to carry out the important duties. You may also want to consider the cost as your wedding party will need outfits, bouquets, buttonholes and thank you gifts, so the more people you have, the more this could impact your budget.

Wedding transport and accommodation

It is time to think about how you would like to travel to your wedding, your wedding party and guests. Maybe you would like to arrive in a classic car or carriage. It would be helpful for your guests if you are able to provide information about transport links and share them on the invite or wedding website. It is also worth checking ahead to see what the parking situation is at your venue.

If you are getting married at a wedding venue with accommodation, don't forget to ask how many rooms are there, and will some of your guests need to find their own accommodation. Sometimes venues only reserve limited number of bedrooms for potential wedding guests, also, some bedrooms might already be booked. Therefore, you could research nearby hotels and provide information to your guests as an option. When I organised weddings at the hotel the most common confusion was over the accommodation. If you book bedrooms for your guests, make sure you provide an up to date list to venue and check in before the wedding that all reservations are correct.

 

For guests that are not planning or able to stay over it would be nice to provide local taxi numbers, especially if they are not Uber users and prefer to book something in advance. 

Consider creating a wedding website 

Having a wedding website for your guests can be very helpful and also easily amendable if plans have changed. Not only does it save you answering questions about parking or local hotels one-by-one, but it can also save you money on your wedding stationery. There so many options to create a free wedding website, such as, Hitched, WixWith Joy and Square Space.

It can be difficult to create a wedding invite that includes all the information as it can quickly become crammed. Therefore, you could either have everything on your website and save on stationary, or you could send out invites including main information and have al other details on your website. It is also a great way to make announcements to all of your guests without having to contact everyone individually, for example, you can even upload a video of announcing your wedding. If there are planned strikes or roadworks on the day of your wedding, you can post solution-based updates there.

This can be a lot more convenient for you and your guests to track RSVP's, food choices, dietaries and also access your wedding gift list. 

 

It is time to send out those invites

When you send out your wedding invites there are things you need to include, such as, location of the wedding, RSVP information, menu choices if applicable and other practical notes (dietary or access requirements). To avoid any confusion please ensure your invites are really clear as to who is invited, whether or not a plus one is included, and whether they are invited as an all-day wedding guest or just for the evening. The clearer you are now, the less awkward conversations you'll have coming your way.

 

Time to buy your wedding dress, groomswear and bridesmaid dresses

Choosing your wedding dress certainly will be an emotional and exciting journey. However, with so many options where do we even start? Well, I would like to share this article by Brides.com to an ultimate guide to wedding dress shopping. Once you have chosen your wedding dress it is time to think about your bridesmaids. 

For grooms wear I can recommend to have look at Marc Darcy, they have nice selection of suits.

 

Buy your wedding rings

When it comes to choosing a wedding ring, it is a good idea to bear in mind that this is the piece of jewellery that you are going to be wearing forever. Therefore, you want to think about comfort as well as visual appearance. I absolutely love my wedding ring but because I went for a ring with small diamonds they often get caught in my clothing. Make a day of it, decide a budget beforehand and choose the ones you like.

 

Collect RSVP's and create a table plan

When it comes to collecting your RSVP's there will always be guests that respond late, therefore, I would suggest to give a date more advance than what your catering company is requesting. For example, if venue has asked to give them 4 weeks notice, tell your guests that RSVP's need to be returned 6 weeks prior to the day. 

When you have received final numbers you can start putting together your seating plan. Traditionally a couple would sit at a top table, this can be either long or round, whatever you prefer and find more comfortable. More and more couples choose to have a "sweetheart" table where it is just the couple. This can often be a solution if you have too many people that would need to be seated at the top table. For guest tables you might want to group them by friends and family, or you might want to mix it up so people get to know each other. Also, it is important thinking if some guests have access requirements, or if they have young children. 

Once you have decided on who is sitting where you can start planning if you will use table numbers or names. When it comes to your table decorations I would like to recommend to also consider what type of food you will be serving. More often people choose sharing food which will limit space for the decorations on the table. By the time you have place settings, crockery, glassware, salt & pepper, butter, jugs of water it doesn't actually leave that much space for decorations. This is something I would definitely discuss with your venue or caterer and your florist or decorator. 

 

Create schedule of the days events

It is important that you put together a schedule of the timings as you will want to share this with your guests as well as suppliers. If you are getting married at a wedding venue then they normally put this together for you. However, if you are planning your big day yourselves and maybe are getting married at home or having a marquee wedding, you might have to put these together yourselves. I would love to to provide a template with timings that you can then amend to suit your special day. 

Getting Ready - If you are getting ready at a different location then don't forgot to include travel time. 

Guests arrive - Photos of groom and groomsmen at the ceremony location. I would suggest this 45min prior the ceremony. 

Interview with registrars - If you are a having a civil ceremony it is mandatory to have an interview with registrars prior the ceremony. First interview would be 30min prior, second 15min prior. If you are seeing each other prior the ceremony then you can have the interview together. 

Ceremony - For the civil ceremony allow 30 minutes or 1 hour for the church ceremony. 

Drinks reception -If your wedding is taking place at the same location all day I would recommend to have minimum 1 hour 30 minutes for the drinks reception. If you are getting married in the summer you might want to have 2 hours giving more time for photographs and chatting to your guests. If your ceremony is at different location to your reception, please include travel time and possibly photos after the ceremony. 

Wedding Meal - traditionally you would want to have 1 hour 30 minutes for the meal, especially three course meal and 30 minutes for the speeches. 

Tea and Coffee - Venues often offer tea and coffee after wedding meals has finished and before the evening reception starts, estimate 1 hour. Venue might use this time to turn around the reception room for the evening and you can freshen up or capture some more photos with your photographer, like those sunset photos! 

Evening Reception - Time to welcome your guests and get the party started. My advice is to start your evening reception with a cake cutting followed by the first dance. This way all guests have gathered around avoiding anyone missing it. 

 

Decide on Toast, Speeches and Readings

Often couples ask their family or friends to do a reading during the ceremony, it could be a poem or maybe a song. You want to make sure that who ever you choose that they feel comfortable doing it as it can be a lot of pressure for a person to stand in front of everyone and do a reading. This is also a really nice way to include those people who weren't chosen for a main wedding role. They can still feel they played a big part in your day despite the fact they aren't in a bridesmaid dress or walking you down the aisle.

It is entirely up to you if you want to have speeches at your wedding and when you would like it to take place. Some couples prefer to have speeches before the meal, this way if they are nervous they can get that out of the way and then enjoy the meal. Traditionally you would have father of the bride, followed by groom and best man. However, nowadays it is entirely up to you what order your choose, it is your day and you should do whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Arrange Stag & Hen Nights

Traditionally your wedding party would have this covered. However, don't be shy to discuss money side of things so you are prepared if there is anything you need to pay towards, as well as what you need to pack. You also want to ensure that the timings suit both you and your partner to make sure the dates and arrangements are appropriate.

The Finishing Touches

It is important to check in few weeks before the wedding with all your suppliers. You will probably have a final details meeting with the venue, this is when you want to tell them all about your decorations etc. and anything else you want to be done on the day by them. Make sure to go through all details about decorations and check that they are happy with everything you have asked for. 

With regards to music check that you have picked your ceremony music, as well as background music for the wedding breakfast and any requests for the evening. 

Thank you for taking your time and reading my guide. I know you might have other questions and I would be more than happy to help out with advice. Therefore, if you have other questions please complete a form at CONTACT US page and I will get back to you.

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If you found this page helpful I would love for you to share it with your family and friends, and maybe I will be able to help out other couples as well! 

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