A guide to planning your wedding day
We're delighted to welcome Sarah Bell, Director of Onyx Event Planning, as our guest writer this week. With the start of a new year what better way to begin with a easy to follow guide on planning your wedding day...whatever the time of year.
Congratulations on your engagement
I bet you can’t stop smiling and looking at that amazing rock on your left hand! Now comes the questions; “when are you getting married?”, “where are you getting married?”,
“what kind of wedding are you going to have?”
It can all be a bit overwhelming for some couples. Where do you start, what do you book first, who should you speak to you, how much will it all cost?
Take a deep breath and relax, this is possibly going to be the biggest day of your life and I am sure you don’t want to rush into anything. You may have been dreaming of this day for as long as you can remember, so you want it to be perfect - and why shouldn’t it be?
So, sit back, grab yourself a drink, put your feet up and have a read of our Onyx Wedding Day Checklist. This will take you through, step by step, of what you need to do to plan your special day.
You can plan your wedding day how you want
Firstly, can I just say, there is no fixed time for how long you need to plan your day. You can do it as quickly or as slowly as you like. Don’t worry about what other people say or think, just keep remembering this is your day - not anyone else’s - and you can do it however you want to!
What type of wedding day would you like?
The very first thing you need to do as a couple is to discuss and decide what type of wedding you want - what does your ideal day look like? Is it traditional, rustic, modern, destination or festival, to name just a few. Once you’ve decided on your style then think about the how. Do you want to get married in a religious ceremony, a civil ceremony, or a celebrant led ceremony? Do you want an inside or outside ceremony?
Now comes the difficult part, the money. You need to have a think about how much you want to spend on your day, set yourself a budget. OK, I know you want it to be amazing and it can be, but think about how much you can afford. You may have saved for this day for a while, which is great, or you may have help to pay for it (even better!).
Just keep an eye on how much you are spending. A simple spreadsheet will help you (we all love spreadsheets, don’t we?!). List down all the categories – ceremony, reception, stationary, flowers, venue décor, entertainment, accommodation, cake, rings, attire, accessories, hair and makeup, photographer, videographer – these are just the main categories.
Whilst you are thinking about your budget, start to think about who you want to invite. Are you going for a small, intimate wedding with close family and friends or do you want to celebrate with the whole world!? Slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean!
How to start planning your wedding
You should think about whether you are going to plan everything yourselves or are you going to hire a wedding planner to help you? Of course, I would say this, as a wedding planner, but it’s amazing how some professional help can really make the planning of your big day a breeze. We know what works, what doesn’t, where to find suppliers, how to manage the budget and even how to save money.
If you decide on a wedding planner, make sure you do your research, have a look at the services they are offering and their fees. Some charge a percentage of your wedding budget and some charge a fixed price, so bear this mind when planning your budget.
OK, so you know what you want your day to look like and have an idea of who you would like to invite, now to start thinking about a date. Have you got one in mind, do you want a summer wedding or even a winter wedding? At a weekend or mid-week? Are you fixed to one date or do you have a couple of options?
Hopefully now you know what your ideal wedding is looking like, and you have a date.
12 months before your wedding day
Typically, up to 12 months before your wedding day you should be thinking about the following:
Start to visit your short list of venues, make sure you have a list of questions before you go – Are they available on your chosen date, what is included in the package, are there any restrictions on what suppliers you can use, etc.
If you are having a civil ceremony make sure that a registrar is available to conduct the ceremony. Your venue will be able to let you know the registrar’s details, you will normally need to book the registrar before you book your venue.
Also, if you are not marrying in the area where you live make sure you follow the correct process for registering your intention to marry. If you want a celebrant led ceremony, make sure the venue is happy with this and arrange to speak to a celebrant – have a look at our blog on
this subject. Once you’ve visited all the venues, you need to decide on your favourite and get it booked along with a registrar, if appropriate.
Ensure you read all the terms and conditions associated with the venue before signing and understand when you are expected to make payments.
Now that the venue is booked, you should know what is included on your day. If the below are not included in your venue package you need to start researching suppliers and get them booked. Make sure you visit the suppliers, look at their portfolios and make sure they fit in with your style:
Crockery / Cutlery / Glassware
Tables & Chairs
If your venue doesn't have catering included or if you'd prefer to organise your own catering then start contacting suppliers now. Caviar & Chips Catering are a great example of external caterers who will be able to look after all of your food and drink catering and provide everything you need to cater for your guests.
The wedding breakfast will be your first meal together as a married couple, so take the opportunity to share your favourite foods and dishes that tell a story about your relationship together with your guests. Take your time gathering menu ideas and arrange a menu tasting to try your food before you book, but do make this one of your earlier things to tick off your to-do list.
Start researching photographers and/or videographers. Go and speak to them, understand their style of photography, have a look at their portfolios, does it fit with your style of wedding? Once you have decided on one, get it booked, again make sure you understand the terms and conditions and when payments are to be made.
If you have decided on a Tipi or Marquee wedding you will also need to consider where you are going to have the tipi / marquee, do you require toilets, do you need a power supplying to the area, do you need additional lighting, etc. Do not forget to get your wedding insurance sorted, there are some good companies out there so have a look around and make sure it covers everything you need.
Social media research
Start to think about how you want your venue or venues to look on your big day? Start looking for ideas, if you haven’t already got some. Good places to source inspiration are Pinterest, Instagram, wedding blogs, wedding websites, even interior design magazines. These will all help you with colour schemes and what’s hot and what’s not. You can hire a stylist and props from several companies, so get some quotes and check their availability.
Your wedding dress
Think about your wedding dress - what style do you want, what colour, is there a specific designer you have in mind? Start looking at dresses and try them on, to see how they look on you. Don’t rush choosing a dress, take your time. You need to make sure it is the right one for you - trust me you will know when it is! When you go dress shopping, think about who you want to take with you. Don’t have lots of people there as too many opinions will only cause problems!
Once you decide on a dress, get it ordered.
Bridesmaids & groomsmen
Time to decide on your bridesmaids and groomsmen, and start asking them. Do you want to stay somewhere the night before and the night of your wedding? Do you need to make arrangements for family members? If so, start sourcing accommodation and get it booked, especially if you are after the bridal suite for the night of your wedding. Are you going to have a honeymoon? If so, start thinking about where and get it booked.
Your wedding cake
What’s your cake going to look like? There are so many imaginative designs out there – do you want a traditional cake, themed cake, a cake made of cheese? Choices, choices! Visit suppliers and have tastings (the best bit!) and, once you have decided on your favourite one, get it booked. Also, check whether they supply a cake stand and knife, or whether the venue does. If not, you will need to source these.
Save the date
Now’s the time to send your ‘Save the dates’ out. Just remember to refine your guest list in line with your budget and venue. How are you going to arrive to your ceremony and reception – have a look at options for transport and start booking them. Go and visit the suppliers or go to wedding fayres to see what the cars look like, don’t just go on photos on their websites.
Six months before your wedding day
Typically, up to six months before your wedding day you should be thinking about the following:
If you haven’t already bought your dress, get it bought. You need to make sure you have enough time for fittings.
Colour and theme
You should now know the colour and theme for your big day, so you can start looking at your bridesmaids’ outfits and accessories, and start buying them. Maybe make a day of it and take all your bridesmaids with you and have a glass of bubbles (or two!) to celebrate. Decide on your invitations, are you having them made or making them yourself, make sure you give yourselves enough time if you are making them yourself.
Decide on the groom’s outfit, are you hiring or buying? Look at groomsmen’s outfits and decide on where you are going to get them from. If you are hiring, book them now.
Hair and make-up
If you wish to have your hair and makeup done on the day, start looking for suppliers and get them booked. Also, do you want anyone else having their hair and makeup done, do you want your bridesmaids to have theirs done? If so, you will need to let the hair and makeup artists know so they can either get more help or schedule in more time on the day.
Start finalising your guest list ready for your invitations. Pull the names together in a spreadsheet (yay, another one!), with the address details, so you have it all in one place for when you send your invites out.
Three months before your wedding day
Typically, up to 3 months before your wedding day you need to start thinking about the following:
It’s time to send your invitations to your guests. When you send out your invites, if you are sending RSVP cards make sure you number the RSVP’s and make a note of them - you will be surprised how many people just send the card straight back and don’t put a name on it!! If you pulled together a spreadsheet with your guest’s names and addresses, then add some more columns for “accepted”, “declined”, “day time”, “evening”, “allergies” this way you can keep a track of responses and have all the information together for final numbers and any allergies for your caterer.
Time to go shopping!!
It’s wedding ring shopping time, start looking round for what you both like and go and test them out and get them ordered. You will need to start to arrange your dress fittings. More shopping! start buying your accessories, shoes, hair pieces, jewellery.
Styling and accessories
Organise your hair and makeup trials, make sure you take some ideas with you, so they have something to work from, and be honest - if you don’t like it, say.
Start finalising the décor for your venue(s), whether this is with a prop hire or venue dressing company or whether you are buying everything yourself. Make sure you have everything sorted.
Speak to your florist and finalise all the flowers – bridal bouquet, button holes, bridesmaids’ bouquets, venue décor.
What favours are you going to have on your tables, start to organise them?
Think about your ceremony and start to select music, readings etc. Are you buying ‘thank you’ gifts for your parents, bridesmaids, groomsmen, then now’s the time to start buying them.
Did you know you can also hire a wedding planner to take care of everything on the day of your wedding? They will make sure that everything runs smoothly, so that you can both enjoy your day without that additional worry. This is the time to get in touch with planners, as they will want to meet up with you about 6 weeks before your big day to start speaking to your suppliers and finalising a timeline for your day.
One month before your wedding day
Typically, one month before you wedding day you should be thinking about the following:
Finalise the details
Start arranging your final dress fittings, make sure you take your underwear and shoes with you, so you can see how they all look together, and whether you have the right underwear!
Finalise all the details with all your suppliers – check they have your booking, what time they are turning up on the day, their main contact details for the day, make sure there are no problems.
Review your guest list and the RSVPs you have received. Chase up any that have not yet replied.
Create your table plan, think about who you want to sit where. You can do this with a spreadsheet, just create lists of 8 or 10 people depending on your table size.
If you want some special songs played by your DJ / band make sure you give them a playlist to see if they are available.
Go through a shot list with your photographer, this way you can make sure that special picture you want is taken.
Start wearing your wedding shoes around the house, this will avoid sore feet on the day.
Two weeks before your wedding day
Typically, two weeks before your wedding day you should be thinking of the following:
You should be providing the final numbers to the venue, your caterer and anyone else that needs them, maybe the florist. Maybe contact your suppliers again to chase up any last-minute changes or issues that may have arisen.
One week before your wedding day
Typically, one week before your wedding day you should be thinking of the following:
Timings and format for your wedding day
If you have not hired a planner, create a timetable for the day – this should include the timings for all the suppliers. Once you have pulled this together share it with your suppliers. Make sure you give your suppliers a contact name and number for on the wedding day, and make sure it is not yours!
Have any final beauty treatments – manicure, pedicure etc. Hold a wedding rehearsal, this way everyone in the wedding party will know what they are doing on the day.
Pack for the night before, if you are staying away from home, and your wedding night. Go and collect your dress, and the suits and any last-minute items. Write a list of things that you need to take to the venue the day before the wedding.
Make sure you start to relax!
The day before your wedding day
Drop off anything at the venue and make sure it is set up or getting set up how you want it. If not, now is the time to say, on the day maybe too late.
Reconfirm with all your suppliers if necessary.
If you haven’t already, make sure you have had a rehearsal.
Ensure that anyone who is doing readings for you have a copy of them.
Make sure you have an early night. I know you may not be able to sleep, as you are probably super excited, but try to relax, maybe take a nice bath and try to chillout.
On your wedding day
Give the rings to the best man or the ring bearer. If you have ‘thank you’ gifts, take them to where they need to be or give them to someone for safekeeping.
Enjoy your day, cherish every minute and make some wonderful memories.
The day after your wedding day
Make sure you arrange to return all the rentals, or the suppliers come and collect them. Ensure you have left nothing at the venue.
Return any suits to the hire companies.
Once you open your gifts, write a list of what you got and who it is from - that way you can personalise your thank you notes.
Good luck with planning your big day, I hope this checklist was useful. If you need any help planning your wedding or just assisting on the day, please get in touch with us:
Sarah Bell is the Director of Onyx Weddings & Events who take pride in making sure everything goes to plan and turns out amazing for all involved.
Sarah has excellent organisational skills from working in industry as a trained management accountant, meaning that she has superb financial and communication skills along with an exceptional eye for detail.
For more information you can contact Sarah on the following: