You’re engaged! Congratulations! Do a little dance. Take a ring selfie. Unassumingly flash your new bling at random passers-by. Pretty soon you’ll have people asking you, “When’s the Big Day?” and they’ll expect you to have it all figured out. Where to begin? Well, stress not, because I will break down exactly what you need to do to plan a beautiful wedding! While overwhelm is inevitable, particularly towards the end of your planning, having a clear overview will at least avoid fear of the unknown. Let’s begin!
Step 1: Relax
First of all, relax and enjoy being engaged! This is a very exciting time and you should enjoy every minute of it! Don’t feel pressured to start planning as soon as you get your ring. Just take it easy and enjoy being in the Love Bubble for a few weeks before you do anything else. If you feel stressed from the beginning, the whole planning process will quickly become overwhelming. Take. Your. Time.
Step 2: Organise an Engagement Party
An engagement party is completely optional, but your closest friends and family will probably want to celebrate this amazing event! Planning a party can also be used as a test-run for planning your wedding. After all, you will have to wear something nice, organise a guest list, prepare food and music, decorate your venue (even if it’s just your house) and invite people. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, but you’d be surprised at the amount of time that it takes to sort everything out, so don’t leave this planning until the last minute! Additionally, make sure you give guests at least a month’s notice before the date of the party. My husband and I had to reschedule ours to ensure we actually had guests attend! Engagement parties are also a great way to work out what not to do and see who does not get on i.e. who will need to be placed at opposite sides of the wedding venue! A great way to arrange a guest list and keep track of RSVPs is to create an Excel spreadsheet or create an Event on Facebook. No idea how to decorate for your engagement party? Check out the Pinterest board I used to plan my own.
Step 3: Seek inspiration and decide what you want
This is one of the most fun parts of the wedding planning process! You’ve always imagined perusing glamourous wedding magazines, saving pictures of magical venues and bringing your dream wedding to life, and now you can! Buy a couple of wedding magazines that appeal to you, set up a wedding board on Pinterest and follow some of those dreamy wedding accounts on Instagram. If you only buy one wedding magazine, make it one that includes a planning timeline and checklist, like the issue of Cosmopolitan Bride pictured below. This will tell you exactly when to organise each item e.g. Make sure you order your wedding dress 6-12 months before your wedding date. For even more inspiration, why not attend a Bridal Expo? This is a great way to get ideas and meet local vendors. You may even get access to discounts too!
Here are my recommended sources for wedding inspiration:
When deciding what you and your partner want, you must ask the following questions:
- What is my wedding style/theme?
- How will I decorate to suit the theme? What items do I need?
- What type of setting do I like and where can I find this setting?
- Will my ceremony and reception take place in separate locations? What will they look like?
- What will my dress look like?
- What type of hair and makeup do I want?
- Will I wear any accessories? If so, what do I want?
- What type of wedding ring do I want?
- What colours do I like and how can I incorporate them into the styling?
- What will my bridesmaids look like?
- What will the groom and groomsmen look like?
- What kind of cake will I have? Will it be a traditional tiered concoction or something a bit more modern like a cupcake or donut stand?
- What kind of flowers will I have?
- What kind of transport do I want? Traditional, themed or modern?
- Will I have a wishing well or an alternative for guests’ cards? What will it look like?
One more thing: make sure you buy a large ring binder folder and notebook. You can keep all of your inspirational clippings and contracts in the file and record any notes, ideas and discussions in the notebook. Believe me, you don’t want to be searching endlessly through emails from your vendors to find important details or forget what was said in a planning meeting. These items will be fundamental for an organised planning process!
Step 4: Choose a number of possible dates and write a guest list
Now that you know what you want, it’s time to start making your wedding a reality! To reduce potential stress and ensure that you have enough time to plan everything, I would suggest considering dates no sooner than a year away. What season would you like to get married? What months do you prefer? What days and dates would you prefer within these months? If you want to get really specific, consider what time you want the ceremony and reception to begin. (Just make sure you allow yourself up to 6 hours before the ceremony for hair, makeup and photography/videography. Yes, it really does take that long, especially with a large bridal party!) It’s important to have a range of possible dates in case your wedding venue/s are unavailable at certain times.
If you organised a guest list for your engagement party, you’re already half way there! While your engagement party was probably a small affair, it’s expected that you will invite more, if not all friends and family members to the Big Day. This is, however, completely your call! Do you want a small, medium or large wedding? Will it be local or overseas? Will children be invited? Just remember that more people means more cost, particularly when it comes to the reception. If there are people you know who you feel you need to invite, one way to reduce costs is to have an after party, which takes place after the reception. This is where you can invite acquaintances and work colleagues, but at a fraction of the cost! I recommend creating an Excel Spreadsheet for your guest list/s, which you can then update when you start to receive RSVPs.
Step 5: Set a budget
Alright ladies, I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s vital to work from here on with a budget. First of all, who will be paying for this wedding? Secondly, what can you/you and your partner/your parents afford to spend? Sure, you may have to alter this budget a little when you actually find out how much things are going to cost (be prepared to easily spend AU$3K on flowers), but sit down, work it all out, and try to stick to your budget as much as possible. I understand that it’s hard, and this is the one of the most boring parts of the planning process, but do what you can to keep costs down. I know you want a one-of-a-kind wedding, but don’t blow all of your savings on this one day! You’ll kick yourself later. After all, you’ve got a honeymoon and a home to save for. Would your money not be better put towards either of these? Keep things in perspective and think about what you can DIY.
If you’re really struggling to cut down your budget, here’s what you need for your wedding:
- Ceremony and reception venue.
- Wedding official – minister/celebrant.
- Music – for the ceremony and reception.
- Wedding dress.
- Bridesmaid/’s dress/es.
- Flowers/florist – for bouquets and possibly table arrangements and decorations.
- Transportation to the ceremony and/or reception.
- Stationary – invitations and RSVP cards, order of service booklets, seating chart, place cards, table numbers, menus, guestbook, wedding day Thank You cards and post-wedding day Thank You cards.
- Wedding rings.
- Decorations – vases, candles, marquee hire, tables, table settings, dance floor and any other items relevant to your venue and style/theme.
- Wedding cake.
- A gift registry/wishing well – make sure you inform guests which one you will be using and give them details, perhaps written into the invitations.
- A wishing well or something for guests to put cards in.
- Wedding night accommodation.
Here’s what’s optional:
- Videographer – yes, a professional videographer is lovely, but is it worth AU$5K? Buy a camcorder and ask a tech-savvy and trusted guest to record your wedding instead. You can always do what I did and edit the footage to create your own wedding video afterwards!
- Bridesmaids’ gifts – if you pay for your bridesmaids’ dresses, accessories, hair and makeup, do you really need to pay for a Thank You gift too? Your gift could be their wedding accessories and a personal card on the day. Easy!
- Entertainment – between our ceremony and reception, we hired a sketch artist to draw caricatures of guests and bought some board games to keep guests entertained, but you know what? The games were untouched and hardly anyone got drawn in the couple of hours between the ceremony and reception. Everyone just listened to our Jazz singer, put notes in our wishing well and talked to each other! Is entertainment worth the time, money or effort?
- Transportation from the reception – wedding transport is expensive and a driver will have to wait around for 3+ hours while you’re in your reception. Why not catch a taxi or a premium Uber to your wedding night accommodation instead?
- Hairdresser and makeup artist – if you know someone who could do either or both of these for you, you’ll be sure to save some money. Alternatively, everyone could do their own makeup if they’re good at it!
Here’s what you don’t need:
- Save The Date cards – when you know the date of your wedding, just tell everyone you know when your wedding is, or at least anyone who you will potentially invite! Stationary is expensive. Don’t waste your money on Save The Dates.
- A wedding website or the WedPics app – Sorry, but unless you have lots of young people (anyone under 35) attending your wedding, no one will look at the wedding website you spent 30 hours putting together. Likewise, no one will know how to/be bothered to download the Wedpics app and then upload their photos for you to see. Just be happy that you might see some on Facebook.
- Bomboniere/wedding favours – overkill! You’re paying for music and possibly entertainment as well as guests’ meals, you don’t need to give them gifts.
- Flowers from your florist at your ceremony – if you’re having your ceremony in a venue separate to your reception venue, such as at a church, you can buy flowers to decorate the space for cheaper than what your florist will charge. Just get/hire some nice vases and look up videos on how to make nice flower arrangements to do it yourself! You could even use artificial flowers to decorate windowsills and the front of the ceremony venue.
Step 6: Decide on and propose to your bridesmaids
While choosing bridesmaids at this stage in your planning may seem overdue, I recommend waiting until now for two reasons. Firstly, when you know your guest list and budget, you will know how many bridesmaids you can actually afford! Wouldn’t it be awful to ask and then have to take it back? For example, if you budget to spend no more than AU$1000 on bridesmaids’ dresses, you won’t be able to afford to have 10 bridesmaids. You could, of course, ask your bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses, making this point mute, but this can sometimes cause issues and it is expected that you will pay for it. Secondly, it’s good to wait before proposing to your potential bridesmaids to make sure the size of your bridal party balances with the size of your wedding! If you decide to host a small or destination wedding, a large bridal party will be unsuitable. Take all of this into consideration before you pop the question. When the time comes to propose, make it special. There are lots of great ideas on Pinterest! I made this box of goodies to propose to my friends:
Step 7: Visit venues, book your favourite and book your wedding official
If you bought the local wedding directory mentioned in Step 3, most wedding venues will be listed in there. Have a read through it and circle any ones that interest you. It’s also worth looking through articles on real local weddings and finding out where their weddings were held. Wedding Expos and even Google can also help you out. Contact the venues you like and schedule a time to meet with the Events Coordinator who can show you around. If you intend to have a ceremony and reception in two different locations, such as at a church and then a restaurant, you will have to conduct a separate search for each. If you don’t have a ceremony venue in mind, you should easily be able to Google it and find local venues. Don’t forget to have some questions prepared for the Events Coordinator, in advance! For destination weddings, contact the Events Coordinator, have a discussion with them about your plans and get a quote.
When you have visited a few venues and found some that you like, ask about their availability on your chosen dates and request quotes. These may rule out certain locations. Book your venue/s as soon as possible. If you will require a marquee or any extra equipment not provided by the reception venue, ask the Events Coordinator if they can organise this for you, or if you will have to organise it yourself. It’s best to ask now so that you have more time to organise it if the responsibility falls on you! If it does, work with the Events Coordinator to work out exactly what you need, and book the equipment when you can.
Next, find a wedding official i.e. the person who is going to marry you! If you’re having a church wedding, you may already have a minister in mind, or if you have found a church, you can ask its minister to perform the ceremony. You will, however, probably have to undertake some marriage counselling with them before the Big Day. (Not as scary as it sounds, I promise!) If you are planning a destination wedding, a celebrant will probably be included in the cost, but just check this with the Event Coordinator. You can find a local celebrant at Wedding Expos, online or in a wedding directory magazine, as you did with venues. Check their availability and get quotes. Have some questions ready to ensure they are the right fit for you. Make sure you also ask them what documentation they need and if there is anything you need to do, such as file a Notice of Intended Marriage.
Step 8: Research photographers/videographers, book them and start looking for photo opportunities
It’s getting real now! Just as you did with venues and possibly celebrants, use magazines (particularly your local wedding directory magazine), Wedding Expos, Google, and maybe even Instagram to find local photographers/videographers. Look through their work, read reviews/testimonials, choose a few individuals/companies that you like, check their availability and request quotes. When you know who you want, book them! You may want to arrange an engagement shoot with the photographer, but this is optional. Arrange to meet with them to discuss your style and plans for the day. If you have any special requests, let them know!
Before the Big Day, and maybe even before you meet with your photographer/videographer, research and visit locations where you can get some nice wedding photos between your ceremony and reception e.g. a park, the beach or a pier. Some locations (even public ones) require a permit to take wedding photos there, so look into this. If you are having your ceremony and reception in the same place, scout out the best photo opportunities on the venue grounds e.g. a water fountain, by a stream or in a vineyard. If you are planning a destination wedding, your Events Coordinator will let you know if a photographer is included in your package. If they are, you can try and talk with the photographer/videographer about your style and the kinds of photos/video you want. Alternatively, you can leave the work to them!
Step 9: Go dress and shoe shopping and purchase chosen items
The best part of your wedding planning is finally here! Find some local bridal stores, book an appointment and take your mum or a friend with you. Even if you don’t intend to buy a wedding dress locally, make sure that you try on a range of different styles to see what you like and what suits your body type. It may not be what you expect!
When you find a dress that you love, you have three options:
1. Order the dress from the store, or shop around and find the same dress in a different store at a cheaper price and order it there. Result: Easiest option, but there will be no way to make changes to the dress or change the price.
2. Go to a dressmaker/designer, have them sketch a copy of the original dress and/or add any changes you want and get a quote. Result: You will get exactly what you want, but the cost varies. It could be cheaper or more expensive than buying from a store.
3. Order a similar dress online. Result: The product will usually be cheaper than the other two options, but this method is less reliable and the product may look different than pictured.
It’s now time to take your bridesmaid/s shopping! From your research in Step 3, you should have decided on a basic colour scheme and some styles. Tell your bridesmaids what you have in mind, but also see what styles they like and what looks good on them. If possible, get them to try on dresses in your chosen colour. Be flexible! Sometimes what you had in mind doesn’t quite work. It’s important that everyone looks good and feels happy. As with your dress, there are three options when it comes to bridesmaids’ dresses. It’s your choice what you choose to do, of course, but there are some excellent online stores out there that are not only cheaper, but also have more options than bridal stores! I used For Her and For Him and cannot recommend them enough! They even have a custom design option, which I utilised to adapt a design my bridesmaids tried on in a store. Here’s what they looked like:
When the dresses are sorted, decide on footwear.
Have everyone ask the following questions:
- What are you comfortable in?
- Will you wear heels/flats or both?
- What kind of heels will you wear?
- What colour will look best?
- Do you already own a pair that would work?
If you are unsure about how to answer any of these questions, research what styles will suit your dresses, discuss your thoughts as a group, then shop accordingly.
Step 10: Research and book your florist
The best place to find florists is magazines featuring real life weddings, as well as your local wedding directory, Instagram and simply Googling local vendors. Look at their products, read reviews/testimonials, choose a few companies that you like, then check their availability. It may be a little more difficult to request quotes for florists. You can still try asking, but for some vendors, you may have to explain what you want, outline what your budget is and see what they can do with that. When you find a great florist, book them! If you find that your flower costs are likely to be extravagant (they usually are!), consider what you can do yourself. I’d recommend having bouquets and buttonholes arranged by a florist, but you could make flower arrangements yourself or purchase artificial flowers to decorate for a fraction of the cost. (See Step 5.) For destination weddings, again, you will need to speak with your Event Coordinator.
Step 11: Research and book music and/or entertainment
If you have been to a friend or family member’s wedding, you will know what you did and didn’t like about their musical choices! What kind of music do you want for your ceremony? What kind of music do you want for your reception – a singer/DJ or both? If you liked the band/DJ at a previous wedding, ask who they were or what company they came from and then Google them. If you don’t have anyone in mind, check out your local directory magazine, local wedding Facebook groups and Google. When seeking more information, musicians and music companies should have a website or social media accounts. When you look at company websites, they will usually list their musicians, and you may be able to see upcoming events where these musicians will be performing. There may even be YouTube videos of their performances, and wedding singers may also include their song lists on company websites. Shortlist a few candidates, check their availability, request quotes and if you have any special song requests, ask them if they are willing to perform them for you. If you choose to have a DJ, you will have to meet with him/her to discuss what type of music you want and probably give them a list of the songs you want them to play. Book your music as soon as possible. Ask them when they want/need your song selections.
As I said earlier, I’m not convinced you need much entertainment for your wedding, particularly between the ceremony and reception. If you want some ideas however, read this. Again, find local vendors, check their availability, get quotes and book as soon as you can!
Step 12: Research and book your cake baker
The “cake” may be high or low on your priority list, but it’s certainly worth thinking about as it will probably be the last thing your guests eat. Speak with your Event Coordinator about your wedding cake if you are planning a destination wedding. If you are not planning a destination wedding but choose to have a cupcake or donut stand in place of a cake, you may have to buy the food from your favourite bakery and do some DIY. Just make sure you have enough for all of your guests! If you’re going the traditional route, when searching for a baker, do the same as you did when researching other vendors. Get some quotes, check their availability, book the one you like, and arrange to meet them when you know what you want your cake to look like. It’s important to also arrange a cake tasting appointment with your baker to choose your flavour/s. Definitely the tastiest part of your planning! Enjoy!
Step 13: Research and book transport options
Some things you need to know before researching and booking transport:
- The groom and groomsmen usually make their own way to the wedding, so they won’t need their own transport.
- Consider the size of your bridal party, including groomsmen and how many can fit into your desired transport before booking. There are usually two wedding “cars”.
- Visit transport companies to view their transport in person, if you can.
- Always read customer reviews and testimonials on transport companies.
- Don’t book your transport before you attend a Bridal Expo.
I’m not going to lie, researching wedding transport was one of the least interesting parts of our planning. I think we just Googled local companies that had cars in the style we wanted and had good customer reviews, checked who had availability and booked that one! If you want the best price, however, make sure you get quotes from a few different companies and definitely don’t book until you see that company at a Bridal Expo! We booked ours and then a month later found the same company offering about 50% off their original price at one of these Expos! I was raging! It really does pay to wait and shop around.
Step 14: Plan and book your wedding night accommodation and honeymoon
Maybe you aren’t planning to spend your wedding night away from home. If so, skip the numbered points below and read the paragraph on planning your honeymoon. If you intend to go to a hotel after your reception, however, read on.
Here are my top tips for planning and booking wedding night accommodation:
1. Don’t overspend. Find a nice place, but remember you won’t be there for long so don’t pick a luxury resort costing AU$500 a night, unless this is literally where you are spending your honeymoon.
2. Choose somewhere with good reviews. Look for words like “clean”, “helpful staff”, “quiet” and “comfortable bed” in previous guest reviews. If you’re only staying at this venue for one night, these are the only things that matter. You’ll thank me later.
3. Mention that it’s your wedding night/honeymoon when booking. If you do, you’ll be sure to get a discount, special treats like free champagne or even a free room upgrade! Win!
After the stress of planning and the busyness of the wedding day, you are definitely going to want to get away! Take a trip to the travel agent, grab some brochures and get researching! What type of holiday would you like? Where do you want to go? Will you need a visa to enter this country? How long would you like to/can afford to go away for? If the costs of flights and accommodation are not outlined in the brochures, it should be easy to find online. Make sure you also check out www.smarttraveller.gov.au for advice on local laws, entry and exit requirements, health issues and current security ratings. You can even subscribe to their email list to get updates on your chosen country when things change, download the SmartTraveller app or follow Smart Traveller on Twitter or Facebook.
When you finally decide on a destination, depending on your level of confidence with technology, you can either book all of this online, or you can meet with a travel agent and get them to organise it for you. The latter option will take the stress off you, but be aware that you will have to pay them for their services. I also recommend only choosing airlines who will refund you if they have to cancel your flight. Believe me, you do not want the stress of having to make a last-minute booking with another airline when you are about to go on your honeymoon! If you are planning to change your name when you get married, make sure you book your flights under your current name so that it matches your passport. (You can worry about all of the name change business when you return!) Also ensure that you have travel insurance. This will be invaluable if anything happens to you overseas. Oh, and don’t forget to book time off work! Give yourself at least a few days off before the wedding to mentally prepare and finalise the inevitable last-minute tasks, in addition to the time you will be away on honeymoon. You will need it!
Step 15: Make sure the men have sorted their suits and choose an MC
It is a truth universally acknowledged that men will not even think about their suits until the last minute. Maybe it’s their easy-going nature. Maybe it’s laziness. Whatever the reason, nag the groom, groomsmen and your dad as much as possible to look into hiring or buying a suit! They will need to book an appointment in advance, the same as you and your bridesmaids did when you wanted to go dress shopping. For suit hire, the men will have to attend multiple fitting appointments before the wedding. About six months before the Big Day, ask again whether the groom, groomsmen and the dads have organised their suits. This is the last hurrah! No more time to dilly dally about. You’re on the home stretch. P.S. If Dad thinks he’s wearing an old suit, make sure he tries it on in case it has magically shrunk!
An MC is an abbreviation for Master of Ceremonies. You need one at your reception to introduce speakers and help move things along. A few months before your wedding (if you haven’t already), ask a trusted guest (preferably one who doesn’t mind public speaking) if they could do the honours. It’s important to give them a few months’ notice so that they can plan a few jokes and ask any questions they might have. Just don’t forget to provide them with a timeline/schedule so that they know the order of events! (Speak with your Events Coordinator about this if they haven’t already provided you with it.)
Step 16: Check your passports and schedule vaccinations for honeymoon (if required)
Whether you’re planning a destination wedding or an overseas honeymoon, you will need a current passport to fly. Six months before the wedding, check that your passport is still valid. This should give you enough time to have a new passport processed before you leave, if required. Note: you cannot change the surname on your passport until after you are married, so do not book your flights under your married name!
If you haven’t already, check out www.smarttraveller.gov.au for advice on local laws, entry and exit requirements, health issues and current security ratings for the country and area that you will be travelling to. If certain destinations have had health related issues, such as an outbreak of Dengue fever (Bali), it’s safest to get yourself vaccinated and protect yourself as much as you can (take mosquito repellent and medicine with you). Give yourself enough time to get all of the required vaccinations. You may have to get a few.
Step 17: Buy the wedding rings and get them insured
Time to get your wedding rings! What style will you choose? Will you wear your engagement and wedding ring together, on separate hands, or will you simply wear a wedding ring on its own? Big decisions ahead! Quick warning: if you are getting a custom-made wedding ring, you will have to give the jeweller your engagement ring for a few weeks to ensure that both rings work/fit together. Be prepared for serious withdrawal symptoms! Order your rings about 4-6 months in advance so that they will be ready in time for your wedding.
If you didn’t get your engagement ring insured soon after your proposal, do it now, and insure your wedding rings when you get them too! Your insurance company should explain the cover to you, but just so that you are aware, you will probably not be covered if you lose your engagement ring overseas. Leave it in a save place at home when you go on your honeymoon. When my husband and I went on honeymoon, I just wore my wedding ring. It sucks to leave it behind, but engagement rings are expensive! You won’t want anything to happen to it.
Step 18: Research and book a hairdresser and makeup artist
If you can get a friend to do the bridal party’s hair and you are planning to do your own makeup, you can skip this section. Otherwise, it’s time to do some more research! Your local wedding directory may have some vendors, but be sure to check Instagram and do some Googling as well. You could also try Gumtree or local wedding Facebook groups. When you find a few companies/individuals that you like, make sure that they are well-reviewed and get quotes from a few of them. You’d be surprised at the range in prices! Remember this is for you, your bridal party, and potentially your mum, so it can get pricey pretty quickly. The prices will probably be per person.
Before you book, let your chosen hairdresser and makeup artist know the number in your bridal party and ask (in the nicest possible way) whether they can do this alone and what time they will need to start. Your photographer should let you know when everyone needs to be completely ready. For me, we had to be completed 1.5 hours before we were due to leave. Make a note of any times mentioned for the wedding day schedule/timeline that you will need to create later. Don’t forget to ask questions such as “Is the cost of your travel covered in the price?” and “Do you do a complimentary (free) trial before the wedding?” It pays to ask. A hair and makeup trial is also a must! Between you and me, my hair and makeup trials were awful, but I’m glad I did it, because I was able to tell the hairdresser and makeup artist what I didn’t like and then they had a clearer idea of what I was after. Book your vendors and the trials when you can. Speak with your Event Coordinator about local hairdressers and makeup artists if you are planning a destination wedding.
Step 19: Start a gift registry or organise a wishing well
There are two types of wedding gifts: items and money. Have you just bought a house and need items to help furnish it? If so, then a gift registry is for you! Have you already bought a house and have plenty of furnishings? Or, do you not have your own place yet and feel you’d be better off with some money? If you can relate to either of these questions, then you need a wishing well!
To arrange a gift registry, you can set one up online using a gift registry website based in your country, such as www.mygiftregistry.com.au or go into a large department store like Myer who can provide registry services, then ask for help at the relevant counter. A gift registry allows you to choose which gifts you would like/need. Guests can then access this registry and will (hopefully) buy you something from your list. It’s a good idea to choose items at various prices as everyone will have a different budget. You should provide details of how to view your gift registry to your guests in your wedding invitations.
A wishing well is relatively easy to organise. It is, after all, just a vessel to hold cards and money. You can buy one or hire one. Just Google it! It’s usually cheaper and less hassle to hire a wishing well, so that’s what we did. Ours looked like an actual well and had a lock for security. If you decide to go down this route, ask your reception venue if they can look after your wishing well when the meal begins. Take no risks when it comes to keeping your money and gifts safe! Again, inform your guests of your chosen method. A nice way to introduce it in your invitations is through a wishing well poem.
Step 20: Choose your stationary and send out invites
You will need the following pieces of stationary for your wedding:
- Invitation sets i.e. invitations (one for the ceremony and reception, and possibly a separate one for the after party only if you are doing this), RSVP cards (with a deadline and menu choices/dietary requirement options, if you are planning a sit-down reception) and return addressed envelopes, as well as a card with details about your registry/wishing well.
- Order of service booklets for the ceremony. (You can DIY this.)
- A seating chart for the reception (may be optional at a cocktail or buffet reception).
- Place cards for tables (may be optional at a cocktail or buffet reception).
- Table numbers (may be optional at a cocktail or buffet reception).
- Menus (may be optional at a cocktail or buffet reception).
- Some form of guestbook (our guestbook was the book of caricature sketches, and then we added notes and cards guests put in our wishing well).
- Wedding day Thank You cards (for bridesmaids, groomsmen, groom and parents).
- Post-wedding day Thank You cards (for guests).
When choosing wedding stationary, try to make it fit with the general theme and colour scheme of your wedding, and aim for consistency. If, for example, your theme is elegant, go for white invitations with gold cursive font. If your bridesmaids will wear blue, add a pop of blue to your stationary for a hint of what’s to come. Make all of your wedding stationary as similar as possible. The design doesn’t have to be something that’s never been seen before, but you should put a bit of thought into it. It’s one of the few items that guests may save.
When shopping for wedding stationary, shop around! I had varying quotes for my invitations, from AU$120 – AU$1200! Weigh up the convenience of having stationary designed and/or printed locally at a (probably) higher cost, compared with the (probably) reduced cost of ordering it online at a higher risk. We used Wedding Paper Divas for our wedding invitations and I thought they were great! Because we couldn’t confirm our guest list until a few weeks before the Big Day, we used local vendors for the rest of our stationary. Try to book individuals/companies for the last-minute stationary in advance. You won’t have to provide them with seating information yet, but by booking them now, you have secured them for when they are needed.
If you chose to have a destination wedding, you should’ve already shared all of the key wedding details with the important people, like family members, bridesmaids and groomsmen, so that they could arrange time off work and book flights. Likewise, it’s good to give other potential guests more advanced notice than they would usually get for a local wedding. Sending out invitations for destination weddings 3 months in advance of the wedding date is the general consensus, but I would send them out earlier than that. If you are not inviting guests to your destination wedding, you could organise a reception for when you get home and send out invites for that instead. For local weddings, the tradition is to send out invitations 6-8 weeks before the wedding. Again though, I’d send them a little earlier, maybe about 3 months in advance. We sent ours out about 5 or 6 months in advance, but that was mainly because we were inviting my family from overseas. It always pays to be organised!
Step 21: Keep a record of RSVPs and start work on your seating plan
The easiest way to keep a record of RSVPs is to use an Excel Spreadsheet! In Step 4, I discussed creating a spreadsheet to record your guest list/s. As you receive guests’ responses, make a note of their answer and their dietary requirements/menu choices (if you have planned a sit-down reception). Using a spreadsheet helps you clearly see who has and hasn’t responded, but it’s also a handy tool to help you communicate with your Event Coordinator who will need these details. Update your spreadsheet weekly as new RSVPs arrive. If you have too much to do, you could even delegate this record keeping task to your mum or a trusted friend, like your Maid of Honour. Also, ask your Event Coordinator for a blank seating plan template (most venues should have one adapted to the room/location dimensions and seating options available) and start drafting this. Find out who cannot sit together. Arranging a seating plan will take some time.
Step 22: Buy wedding accessories, gifts and write Thank You cards and vows
Time to do a little bit more shopping! What accessories would you like for your wedding? What will suit your style of dress? Remember wedding accessories can also work as gifts for your bridesmaids!
Here are your accessory options:
- Bridal belt.
- Hair comb.
- Barrette/hair clip.
On the wedding day, when you present your brides with their gifts, it would also be a nice sentiment to give them a little Thank You card. Trust me, you want to write these now before all of your focus is on the minutiae of the wedding day and the reception! It doesn’t have to be too detailed. It’s really just a note. You will, after all, probably send your bridal party a post-wedding Thank You card too. All you have to say is that you’re glad they could be a part of your wedding and that you appreciated their attendance at events and whatever they helped with.
You may choose to use traditional vows at your ceremony, such as if you are having a church wedding. If so, skip to the next step. If you are writing your own vows, talk with your partner about whether you both want to vow the same things, or if you are both going to do your own thing and write your own vows.
Step 23: Ask a close friend to organise your Hen’s party
True story: I almost didn’t have a Hen’s party. Why? Because I was organising my wedding and had no time to organise something else! Do yourself a favour and delegate this task to a close friend. Work with them to arrange it if you want to. Tell them what you do and don’t want and let them sort out the rest. You’re just going to be there for the ride, my friend. Take it easy and enjoy!
Step 24: Confirm all bookings, follow-up with unresponsive guests and write a timeline for the wedding day
At this point in the planning process, confirm all of the bookings and arrangements with individuals, vendors and venues. There will be some vendors that you haven’t heard from in a while, so it’s good to check everything is still on track. There may be, however, some last-minute decisions that need to be made. This will vary from person to person, but it could be meeting with your DJ to make your song selection if they wanted to confirm details closer to the wedding date, or even finalising your reception menu.
There will always been at least one guest who “forgets” to send you their RSVP. Since you have been keeping a record of your RSVPs, you will know who it is. Follow-up with these people if you haven’t already and get an answer. You need to know now!
Use this information (and all other information you have been given by suppliers) to make a timeline. Include every event and the time that it will happen on the wedding day, from when the makeup artist/hairdresser/florist will arrive, to when you need to be ready for your bridal shots, to when each course at the reception is due to start. Your timeline should begin with when you need to wake up and end with when you will arrive at your wedding night accommodation.
Step 25: Finalise your seating plan and organise your table numbers and place cards
It is the month before your wedding. Since you have now contacted all unresponsive guests and know their attendance status, you can finalise your seating plan (if you are having a sit-down reception). Yay! Confirm with your parents and in-laws that the plan doesn’t have any major issues between people who have been placed beside each other or at the same table. When you’re happy with it, send the information to your chosen vendor to make a seating plan. If you haven’t already, also buy/make/order your table numbers and place cards (if appropriate to your style of reception.) Pinterest has lots of unique ideas for reception stationary to inspire you!
Step 26: Attend a hair and makeup trial
While you can have your hair and makeup trials earlier in the process than this, I chose to have mine towards the end of my planning so that I had a clear idea of what I wanted. Enjoy being pampered, but also analyse the results. Be honest. If you want more contouring, let your makeup artist know so that she knows what to do next time. If you want to use a different colour of eyeshadow on the wedding day, let her know. If you like the hairstyle that your hairdresser has given you, but want it to hang a little lower, let her know. That is what they are there for! If you aren’t happy with how you look on the wedding day, it’s going to show. You want to feel a million dollars and enjoy the day. Don’t let hair and makeup ruin it!
Step 27: Final fitting check of all outfits/accessories, do any last-minute tasks and confirm all bookings/arrangements
Do a final check of all outfits and accessories. If you need to make alterations or buy anything, do it now! If you need to do some shopping for your honeymoon, this is also the time to do it. Other tasks that you will need to complete include informing your bank that you are going away so that you can use your card overseas (if applicable), currency conversion so that you have money for your honeymoon (if applicable) and getting your engagement ring cleaned by a jeweller so that is photo-ready. What else do you need to accomplish? Think about it, then once more, confirm all bookings and arrangements to guarantee that everything is on-course. It will put your mind at ease!
Step 28: Organise a wedding rehearsal
The wedding day is very close now! Make sure you arrange a rehearsal with your celebrant, bridal party, groomsmen and possibly ceremony musician so that everyone is clear on how the service will run. It might seem unnecessary, but when you have to sit in a certain place and walk at a certain pace, isn’t it better to practice? If you and your partner’s families are yet to properly meet, you could also arrange a rehearsal lunch/dinner afterwards.
Step 29: Send a timeline for the wedding day to all vendors and drop off items at venue/s
If you haven’t finished your schedule/timeline for the wedding day, do that right now! When complete, send this to all of your vendors, as well as your Event Coordinator. Everyone will need to know how long they have to complete their task. You may also want to share this with people like your dad who may be responsible for certain things like delivering buttonholes to the groom and groomsmen.
When speaking with your Event Coordinator, ask when you can drop off your reception stationary and anything else you want them to set up (if this was in your arrangement). Drop off whatever is necessary and make any final preparations!
Step 30: Pack for your honeymoon and prepare an emergency kit for the Big Day
Maybe you have already packed. If so, good for you! If not, do not leave it any later! Pack for your honeymoon as soon as possible, particularly if you will be leaving soon after the wedding. To prepare for any mishaps, it’s also a good idea to prepare an emergency kit that someone can carry with them on the wedding day. Be prepared for anything!
Your emergency pack could include:
- Any medicine/medical equipment you might need.
- Makeup for top-ups throughout the day.
- Printed copy of the wedding day schedule.
- Your phone.
- A copy of any important phone numbers.
- Your phone.
- A sewing kit.
- Bobby pins and hair ties.
- Tampons or pads.
- Band aids.
- Nurofen or paracetamol.
- Eye drops/spray to reduce contact lens discomfort (if relevant).
- Clear nail polish in case your stockings rip.
- Hand sanitiser.
- Earring backs in case anyone in the bridal party loses some.
Step 31: Enjoy the day
The planning is done! It’s your wedding day! Can you believe it?! It’s been a stressful process, but now all you have to do is enjoy yourself. You can’t change anything now. Just go with the flow. Treasure every minute of this day. It will fly by very quickly! I wish you every happiness in your new life together as a couple. Congratulations! Enjoy!
There you have it, folks, that’s my step-by-step advice on how to plan a wedding! I’ve put this into chronological order based on my own experience, but some services in your area may require you to book further in advance or closer to the wedding date. For even more planning accuracy, make sure you get yourself a wedding planning timeline and checklist. As I mentioned earlier, wedding magazines like Cosmopolitan Bride sometimes include them. You can keep this in your ring binder and tick items off as you go. Very handy! I know there is a lot to do, but just focus on one thing at a time. You will get everything done, and don’t forget, you’ve got your partner, bridal party and family to help too! Where possible, delegate! Good luck and happy planning!
Got any questions? Comment below or shoot me an email. I’ve been in your position, so I know how stressful it can be! For more advice and recommendations, you can also follow my Pinterest Bride board. It follows my whole wedding planning process.
Talk to you soon!
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