I got married last year and, like everyone else who has done this, I reckon this makes me an expert on the subject. So I’m dispensing my wisdom.
As I am 31 years old, LOTS of people I know are getting married. Is this you? Is this very confusing? Have you suddenly gone from having no interest in managing a large-scale fancy event to spending every spare minute of your day doing this? Fear not! I’m here to help.
How Do I Do It?
Now, wedding planning is not very difficult, but it IS time consuming. My advice is to lean into this. Allot the time, and find a way to make it nice for yourself. We booked three days off work, each about a month apart and six months for the wedding, specifically for googling shit and booking stuff. We went to the same pub – our wedding planning pub – to do the admin. Whatever you do, don’t pretend you can just do it on a few lunch breaks. It seems like you can, but you cannot. You and your partner need time and space, and maybe a couple of pints. So start a shared folder in google drive, and let’s get cracking.
What’s Most Important?
Sit down with your partner and that beer and ask yourselves – what is important, to you, about a wedding? For me, it was performing our own, meaningful vows, and then having a nice party with as many of our favourite people as possible without going into debt. But it will be different for you, and there are no wrong answers. Do you really want to be in a beautiful space? Is religion important? The food? Maybe you will do anything you need to as long as you can invite 300 people. Maybe you only want 30, but it has to be in a castle. Work it out, agree on it together, and write it down. Come back to it whenever you get stuck on a decision.
What’s Your Budget?
The average budget for a wedding in the UK at the moment is £25k. That’s a lot. We used £4k, and that meant making our own puddings, pizza for the wedding breakfast and a £200 wedding dress – all of which I absolutely loved, but if that’s not you, you’ll need more. “As little as possible” is not a budget. What do you have, and what do you want to spend?
Before you book a venue, have a long hard think about who needs to be there – who will you be sad if they weren’t there to share it? Is it important to your parents to have some of their close friends there?
Weddings tend to have teams- your parents, the bridesmaids, ushers, flower girls etc etc etc. How many do you want and what do you want them to do? I wanted my friends to be a bridesmaid, an officiant, a pianist, a photographer and some ushers. This sounds like a lot but is actually a lot less than some. Have a think. It’s lovely having your friends involved and helps make happy memories – but don’t get stuck in a horrible whirl of social obligation when actually all you wanted was your sister to help you buy a dress and your Dad to make a speech and that was it.
What Are You Doing?
Are you having a religious or civil ceremony? Are you actually doing said ceremony in front of your guests, or are you doing it a few days before, and then getting a friend to officiate a freeform humanist ceremony that you wrote with him? Are you doing hymns? Maybe a Beatles song? Will there be a band? A quiz? A disco? A treasure hunt? Will there be an after party? Breakfast the next day?? What???
You will find the answers to all these questions by looking inside your heart, and also at your budget. Most people would have the following as a minimum –
- Some sort of ceremony
- Chatting and drinks
- Dancing and more drinks
Where Are You Doing It?
Again, no right answer. I went for “a village hall within easy reach of my house”. Your answer might be “A Scottish Castle” or “Battersea Arts Centre” or “Vietnam” (all real friend examples!). This will be based on budget and who/how many your guests are. I think it looks incredible to have a lovely quirky venue – I pined after the Bodlian for ages! Be aware that if your budget is tight, this will almost certainly be an area you have to get a bit creative on.
What Are You Eating?
Wedding catering is an absurd sodding joke. We emailed one organisation and asked what they could do us for about a tenner a head, family style simple dishes. They emailed back a menu of a cold fork buffet for £50 a head. Jokers!
I would advise to look to what your favourite food is, for this. If your favourite food is cheap and easy to cater to a crowd (pizza, curry, hog roast, lebanese) then definitely have that. Do not worry that people will be disappointed not to have their lamb shank and mash. There will be other weddings in their calendar. Get what you want and everyone will think it is “cute” or “refreshing” if it’s a bit unusual. And if they don’t, stuff ’em, it’s your wedding.
What Are You Drinking?
If you/your family drink, booze is important, and at a wedding some of it is usually paid for by the couple. The standard is a few glasses of prosecco before dinner, wine on the tables and some fizz to toast, then on to a paying bar. Some people pay for booze all night, which is absolutely ace if you’re a guest, but if you’re the organiser raises the budget and the potential for Wedding Drama.
How Will People Get There?
By which I mean both where is the venue – should you put on a bus? And also how will they know that they are invited. The answer to this is, you have to invite them. Standard practice is a Save the Date (with bought geographical location) 6 months in advance, then an invite a couple of months before, and more notice if it’s in a different country. But I am crap at paper admin and sent everything out late, so take my advice with a pinch of salt.
What Will It All Look Like?
The fun bit! Not just decoration of the venue, but what you’re wearing, what the music will be, what kind of cake you’ll have, will there be favours?? Your vows! And so on. You do’t need any help with this because it’s entirely down to personal taste. My advice would be that once you have the essentials nailed down (guest list, day plan, food, booze) spend all the rest of your time on this and really enjoy it. These are the bits you’ll remember. I hope I’ll have happy memories forever of sewing bunting with my fiancé while listening to Brian Blessed’s autobiography on audible. No one needs bunting – but it can bring you much joy. So get into the little things as much as you want, and buy yourself some fairytale wedding shoes. And enjoy.
I’d love to do a wedding Q and A at some point – do leave any questions you have in the comments!