This time last year I was freshly engaged, with my dream sparkly diamond ring on my finger and a stack of bridal magazines on my coffee table, and ready to kick off a journey I was probably more excited about than anything up until that point. I’ve never been one of those girls who’s been dreaming of a big white dress and even bigger wedding since she was little; I never put a pillow over my head, never had a secret scrapbook under my bed and never even married off Barbie to Ken. There’s no doubt that I wanted to find The One and spend the next decades building a life together, but I’m pragmatic enough to know that one fancy party does not define the rest of your lives.
I’ve far too many things on my plate and far too many dreams to follow to spend the next two years worrying about table decorations and which flowers are in season (although each to their own!) so I set to work and pretty much booked and planned an entire wedding in the space of three months. My family and friends weren’t surprised, but everyone else thought I was a bit mad; ‘how on earth did you manage that?’ was the question I heard most along the way, but it’s easily done if that’s what you want to do. If you’re in need of a pep talk, or simply want some tips to help your own journey, here’s how we booked and planned our wedding in the space of only a couple months.
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT
One of the major hurdles to overcome when planning your big day is knowing what kind of style suits you. I’ve been to many weddings at hotels and grand houses and I knew that structured style wasn’t necessarily for me; Josh wanted to keep the day relaxed and informal, focusing on putting our own stamp on it, and a hotel or house really didn’t appeal to him either. Knowing what we didn’t want helped to narrow down almost immediately to what we did: a relaxed barn-eque setting that had personality, felt warm and allowed us to have the whole day in one place. As soon as we’d decided upon that, everything else fell into place: we knew the kind of decoration, flowers, colours and details that would complement it, so we didn’t waste time going down routes or researching ideas that simply didn’t work.
DON’T BE SWAYED BY PINTEREST
Oh Pinterest, how I have a love-hate relationship with you. It’s great for inspiration and for curating ideas, aesthetics and colour schemes, but it’s also the place you can easily fall into and six hours later find yourself trying to find budget for an ice cream van and a wall of roses. Admittedly I did spend a few evenings scrolling and searching, just to find out how other people had styled and brought to life their own barn wedding, but on the whole I found it overloaded me with ideas and had the potential to double our budget. Yes a ‘pimp your prosecco’ stand, hay bales, flip flops by the dance floor and a bouncy castle seem like a great idea – but realistically they don’t add much to the overall experience, other than cost. Your guests are there to see you and share your special day, not to get excited about what they can put on Instagram. Don’t waste time (or money) on unnecessary details – unless they mean a lot to you.
PINPOINT KEY AREAS
Rather than panicking about what I needed to do to bring the day together, I first decided what suppliers I needed to find (invitation designer, florist,
baker, electrical supplier, band, hairdresser, makeup artist…) and
set about doing my research. It’s far easier to tackle a mammoth task like planning a wedding when you have five or six key areas to focus on one by one; every few days I’d focus on a new supplier I needed to source, tackling everything to do with it in one hit. Drawing up lists and splitting each area into manageable tasks will keep you focused and allow you to ‘tick off’ areas once you’ve secured them, rather than feeling like you’re on a never-ending hamster wheel of organisation. You’ll feel so much better once you’ve sorted flowers and a cake, rather than being overloaded with info on everything from starter options to bridesmaid bouquets.
SOURCE & BRIEF YOUR SUPPLIERS WELL
There’s no magic way to find the best suppliers, but a lot of googling for testimonies and emailing around for rate cards gave me a good place to start from. (Your venue often has a list of preferred suppliers which are worth contacting, although the costs can vary; I found some to be cost effective because they knew the venue and relied on their regular business, but others seemed to base their costs on the fact many brides are too busy to check whether their quote is reasonable!) I pulled together a list of five potential suppliers in each area and then provided them with an overview of what I wanted.
Each supplier was sent the same PDF document (with a very specific list of requirements and wedding details, with pictures for reference) so the quotes were comparable; once they all came back I entered all the figures into my wedding spreadsheet and picked the once that were both cost effective and understood my vision – because it’s not just about the money. We could’ve spent months to-ing and fro-ing between suppliers, but we looked at each element in turn and made a logical decision that we were both happy with. Those PDFs were also really handy as we got closer to the date, as everything we wanted from each of the suppliers was clearly laid out (with visuals for reference!) so we could be confident in just letting them do what they did best. Yes I was a wedding geek.
GET YOUR WEDDING PARTY TOGETHER
I anticipated that one of the trickiest parts of planning a wedding would be finding bridesmaid dresses and suits that worked for everyone in our bridal party, knowing they were all totally different heights and shapes. I’d kind of resigned myself to having mis-matching bridesmaids, but organised a trip out to try as many dresses as we could. Because everyone was in one place it made the whole process so much easier, instantly dismissing certain styles or designs while encouraging the girls to try on things they didn’t necessarily think would work for them. Miraculously we actually found two dresses that worked for all three and they were happy to wear, but having them all in the shop together made the process so much easier. (I’ve been a bridesmaid before and email, text or Facebook message are not ideal platforms to discuss outfits – even if necessary when you’re all over the country!) The same goes for the guys: getting them all to try on suits at the same time and find a style, colour and design that worked for all of them saved so much time and effort. Having a wedding WhatsApp group also helped to keep communication open and ensure everyone was on the same page, pinning down dates or sharing updates about everything from hair trials to shoe options; I can’t recommend it enough!
HAVE AN OPEN MIND
One of the best things we did was decide not really to have a ‘theme’. I wasn’t particularly keen on having everything matching and coordinated, and it didn’t really work with the rustic nature of our venue either, so I was quite content to have a colour palette and mis-matched details. Having an open mind in this respect really helped us to book everything and make decisions relatively quickly, rather than focusing on having those exact flowers or that exact type of menu; we were pretty chilled about the whole thing and just wanted everyone to have a fab time, so the rest was just decoration. (Figuratively and literally.) If it didn’t work, it was no big deal; if it did, bonus. We knew in ten years time we wouldn’t even remember most of the little details, so we went into the whole process with an open mind and fluid expectations.
FOCUS ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT
on from that, what we quickly realised was that we didn’t need all the
trappings and expensive details to make our day what we wanted it to be.
We quickly scrapped things like hay bales and ice cream vans,
recognising that they were expensive and didn’t add much to our day in
comparison, instead focusing on creating little moments that made our
guests happy. We switched canapes for Krispy Kremes which everyone still talks about months on, had personalised
M&Ms as our favours so everyone had a little momento to take home, and spent our
budget on good food instead of ‘doing what you’re supposed to do’. (Pizza and chips – the best wedding breakfast ever.) Our mantra throughout was to organise a day that was ‘us’ and that everyone would enjoy; those are the two things that we continue to hear from everyone that joined us on the day, which means it was exactly what we set out to achieve.
DON’T LEAVE ANYTHING UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE
The best piece of advice I can give any bride (or groom) to-be, is to tick off as much as you can as early as possible. Time will fly and before you know it you’ll be rushing around in a panic. If you can book and brief all your suppliers with at least six months notice, attend a hair and makeup trial with plenty of time to spare, and even have your hen with time built-in to recover, the whole process will be much more pleasant. We wanted to enjoy being engaged and have a pretty relaxed few months in the lead-up to the wedding, so we actioned as much of our ‘to do’ list as early as we could. The result was that we had a great summer with minimal stress (although be prepared for the three or four weeks prior to be pretty intense no matter how prepared you are!) and actually looked forward to our impending date – rather than wishing we had more time.
There are probably so many other bits of advice I could give or suggestions I could offer, but these are the areas that really made a difference to me. Your wedding day should be about you as a couple and you should enjoy the whole planning process, no matter how long or little you have. We made the choice to turn it around pretty quickly because we found our venue and it had space on a date we had in mind, as well as the money squirreled away to bring it to life; it may not be right for everyone, but it was for us.
Wedding planning can be as stressful or as stress-free as you make it, but remember it’s just one day – a marriage is the bit that lasts a lifetime.
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