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How to plan the perfect wedding day

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Congratulations – you have just got engaged! This is the first exciting step in creating the most magical day of your life – your wedding day. There are so many websites with wedding planners, wedding fashion, wedding venues etc, it can be really difficult to know where to start in the planning process. The best idea is to start thumbing your way through magazines – bridal, food, lifestyle and fashion magazines will all help to give you some inspiration so that you can start to form your own ideas on how you would like your day to be. Take cuttings from magazines, papers, print off stuff from the internet and start a wedding folder. Best to take your time over this early planning stage and not rush headlong into the first thing that takes your fancy as you are bound to change your mind further down the line!

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The next important step is to try and work out your budget – you will need to factor in costs for your dress, bridesmaids/pageboys outfits, hair, make-up, flowers, photographer, travel to church or civil ceremony venue, venue hire, wedding breakfast costs, drinks, additional evening catering costs and favours. If your family can help too, then so much the better – you will have more to work with.  It is also worthwhile taking out wedding insurance – nothing should go wrong, but it is comforting to know that if it does you are covered.

If you are planning your wedding for the following year, then you have the luxury of time on your side and you can take your time with planning, but sometimes you may want to tie the knot a bit quicker.  Once you have decided to get married and worked out your budget, there are certain steps to follow whether you have 18 months or 3 months:

Start your guest list; make a head count database which you can use throughout your planning process, with columns for names, contact information, RSVP’s, wedding gifts and any other relevant information. This will help you afterwards too, for all of your thank you letters. If budget is tight, then you will have to be quite ruthless with the guest list and keep it as small as you can. Less guests equals less costs.

If you are daunted with the thought of having to find suppliers for everything you need, you could hire a wedding planner. It will cost you more, but they tend to have a comprehensive list of suppliers that they have tried and tested, so you can be sure that you will get what you pay for. A planner is by no means necessary though and it is not really difficult to find local suppliers. Read reviews about them before committing – you want to be sure that they can provide exactly what they promise.

Have you decided on a date?  Next thing you need to do is find the perfect wedding venue. Are you having a church wedding or would you prefer a civil ceremony which can take place in your chosen venue providing it has a license? If you would rather have a church wedding, then it is advisable to find a venue no more than 45 mins drive away to not only make it less of a hassle for you, but also to make travelling easier for your guests. There are many unique venues dotted around the country, but if you decide you need help in finding your dream venue, why not try using a specialist venue finder? They offer their services for free and usually have some amazing venues which you would never have found on your own.  If time is short, you may consider a destination wedding – these are usually much easier to do at short notice as you choose your destination, turn up and get married.  This can end up costing you less too as not all guests will be able to travel to your chosen destination and the wedding and honeymoon are rolled into one.

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Once you have chosen the wedding venue, you will need to contact the local Registrar and book a time with them. Be aware that they do get very booked up, particularly at weekends, so you will need to give them as much notice as possible.

Now, the planning is coming along well…. you have the venue and the registrar booked and your guest list is done. You can now think about invitations – they need to go out six to eight weeks before the ceremony. Most people have them printed but you can also buy them “off the shelf”. Allow the RSVP cut-off to 3 weeks after sending them out, ie 3 to 4 weeks before the day. Time now to focus on your dress and your attendants’ clothes. Sometimes top designers take over a hotel for a day and sell off their dresses at a fraction of the cost, so it is worth keeping an eye open to see if one of these sales is coming up. We have attended one of these and there were dresses for £500 instead of £3500 for sale. You buy them as normal and then a dressmaker will alter it if necessary so that it fits perfectly. Or you may prefer to spoil yourself and go to London for the day on a crawl of wedding dress shops. Exhausting, but fun!  As usually a wedding dress is only worn once, it is possible to find a beautiful second hand dress.  Not to everyone’s taste, but if money is a bit short you can end up with just what you want without breaking the bank.  Bridesmaids dresses can either be made or you can get them from shops such as Monsoon which have some beautiful ones.

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So, the dress is now organised, just the fittings to go; the last dress fitting should be done no more than one month before the wedding date, as brides usually get quite stressed and lose weight before their big day. Don’t forget your shoes etc to complete the outfit. Next thing you need to do is research photographers – ask to see their portfolios and look at the style they prefer and decide whether their style suits you. You will undoubtedly find one that does.

Flowers are another important part of the day. Decide on your bouquet first, will you have a colour theme? Florists are exceptionally good at recommending the best flowers for any time of the year, so again, after you have seen their portfolios choose your florist and work with her on your bouquet, flowers for the bridesmaids, button-holes for the men and flowers for the reception venue. Churches usually have volunteers who put fresh flowers in regularly, so unless you have a specific requirement, you can usually rely on these volunteers having the church looking pretty.

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If you haven’t done so already and have time on your side, send save the date cards to your guests around 6 months before your wedding day to be sure that they are available on your special day. At the same time arrange your wedding transport, visit your wedding venue and meet with the caterers who should offer tastings so that you know what the quality of the food is beforehand and can make adjustments if necessary.

A wedding website is very popular, so create your own page though a free provider such as www.mywedding.com . Note the date of the wedding, the location, directions on how to get there and information on accommodation, then send the link to your guests.

Decide on the schedule for the day and be sure to send it to all your suppliers so that they can allow plenty of time to do what they have to do. Don’t forget entertainment for the evening – there are some specialist websites who can supply musicians of any genre, all exceptionally good, or you may elect to have a DJ. The venue usually has a couple of DJs they can recommend if you don’t know any.

Final checklist:

Venue booked?
Registrar/church booked?
All RSVPs in?
Dress ready?
Bridesmaids clothes ready?
Florist booked?
Menu decided upon?
Transport booked?
Entertainment booked?
Confirm times for hair and makeup?
Table plan done?
Honeymoon booked?
Speeches written?

Phew! we now recommend that you treat yourself to a stress-relieving massage along with a manicure and pedicure the day before the wedding. The planning is over, everything is in place, so allow yourself a bit of pamper time before what will undoubtedly be the most exciting day of your life.

Enjoy!

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