Wedding planning experts at eve share their insights on how to plan a wedding, using years of experience to ensure you have the day you’ve been dreaming of.
How to plan a wedding: At a glance
To make it as easy as possible, we’ve broken down wedding planning into every component you’ll want to look at, and in what order. This list might seem daunting, but you’ll thank us later!
Theming and formality
Creating a guest list
Choosing your wedding party
Finding a venue
Getting wedding insurance
Menu and cake
What you need to hire in
Dress shopping and fittings
Choosing wedding stationary
Take a break
Bridesmaids dresses and alterations
Finding wedding rings
Give notice of marriage
The seating plan
Hair and makeup trials
Break in your shoes
Book beauty appointments
Accept help from others
Hire a wedding planner
So, let’s get into it!
Decide on theming and formality
Next, decide on the kind of day you’d both like to have: small and intimate or a grand affair? Country house or rustic barn? City or rural? Once you’ve made these decisions you can begin to shortlist venues, research décor, and get some idea of guest numbers dependant on the size of wedding you’d like.
The decisions you make at this stage will really shape the rest of the process moving forward – your colour scheme, your bridesmaids dresses, your bridal look, the décor you choose – so give yourself plenty of time to get it right.
Put together your guest list
It’s a good idea to work out your ideal guest list early on so that when you visit venues you have an idea on numbers. Much like with your budget, it’s no use falling in love with a venue that will seat 40 people to eat when you’ve got a guest list of 400 – don’t even look at it.
Choose your wedding party
This is a great part of the process for lots of couples: you get to choose your crew! Choosing bridesmaids and groomsmen may be a bit mor difficult if you have lots of friends or siblings but remember that you can do literally whatever you want here. No maid of honour or best man? Cool. No bridal party at all? Nice. Seven of each? Great.
Nowadays lots of couples are creating ‘proposals’ to ask their friends and families to be a part of the wedding party, with gifts or boxes of goodies, which is a sweet way to pop the question after you’ve said ‘yes’ yourself.
Find your wedding venue and set a date
Once you’ve got a good idea of the type of wedding day you want and the number of people you’d like to invite, you can begin looking for your venue.
Start out with a criteria based on your non-negotiables as a couple and begin researching wedding venues that meet these criteria. It might be a specific location, type of venue, date availability or something else, but knowing what these important factors are for you will help you to quickly rule out anything that isn’t going to give you the day you want.
Don’t be afraid of grilling your venue to find out as much information as possible (they will be happy to help) and no matter how much you love the look of a venue online, go and see a few. Many couples find that their heart may be almost set on a particular venue until they go and see it, and don’t get the same feeling they got in a venue they weren’t so bothered about from photographs online. It’s worth being open-minded: you’ll know when it’s the right one.
Take a look at our guide on every question to ask a wedding venue before you book
The date can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Some couples have a date in mind because it’s special to them and choose a venue based on availability for this date. Other couples find a venue that they love first, then work with the team to find a date that works. It’s up to you, but generally it’s easier to be quite flexible with your date to begin with (it’s helpful to have a month or a season in mind) and then choose your venue with a little more wiggle room to make it work for you.
Start researching and contacting suppliers
Once you’ve got your venue secured and a great idea of how your day should look, it’s a good idea to start reaching out to suppliers early on – they get booked up quickly, so if you have somebody specific in mind, you’ll want to get in there quick.
Many venues have a preferred suppliers list and ask you to choose your vendors from it. If you have a specific supplier in mind who is not on this list, ask. You might be able to use them if it’s something you really want, but be aware that this may accrue additional cost.
Remember, your venue has a PSL because they trust all the people on it implicitly and can guarantee quality. It’s actually a really good thing.
Choose your entertainment
Band, DJ, nothing at all? It’s your call – but now is the time to do it.
Get wedding insurance
Yes, you need wedding insurance. Whilst we’d like to think that everything will run smoothly for your wedding, it doesn’t always. It very often does, but there are no guarantees. Wedding insurance won’t cost you much, won’t take long to do and the peace of mind is totally worth it.
Decide on a menu and a cake
Now you’ve chosen your caterer, you can choose a great menu. This is a great part of the process! Usually couples will review a choice of menus together and seek recommendations or input from the caterer as and when required before making a shortlist and going for a tasting. Spoiler alert: you probably won’t need much else to eat that day.
Find out what you need to hire in
Caterers generally provide packages so be sure to find out what’s included. If you need to hire in your own tables, chairs or other furniture, linen, cutlery or glassware, you’ll need to know about this early on so that you can get it secured.
You’ll also need to know if any drinks are included in your catering package. Many will include a welcome drink or a glass of fizz for the toast, but check, check and check again so that you can source your own drinks if needed.
Work out whether you need accommodation for yourselves, your wedding party or any guests who are travelling from afar to join you on the day.
Many couples book a block of rooms with one hotel, other provide nearby accommodation info with invitations so that guests can make arrangements if needed.
Start wedding dress shopping 9-12 months before the day
It seems a long way in advance to find an outfit, doesn’t it? But it’s essential. Most bridalwear stores will charge a ‘rush fee’ for anything within six months of your wedding day and you’ll want to ensure that you have enough time for a few fittings and alterations if needed. Most brides have two fittings a few months apart, but if you end up with a dress that you want to personalise or add things to, you may need some additional time. This accounts for any delays in the production, delivery and personalisation of your dress – and this is something brides don’t usually want to risk!
Have you ever wondered why wedding dresses are white?
Book your fittings right away
As soon as you’ve chosen and purchased (or paid a deposit for) your dress, book your fittings. Your bridal store may have a seamstress in-house or somebody that they can recommend, and they’ll be booked up well in advance. Be sure to get yourself in the diary ASAP.
It’s also a good idea to work out where you’ll store your dress after you collect it. On the morning or the wedding (or even the night before) it’ll need to hang freely outside of its bag and we don’t want any peeping Groom (or peeping anyone) situations. Find out if a family member or someone in the wedding party can safely store the dress for you until the wedding – or some bridal stores will look after your dress for you, but there may be an additional charge.
Build a registry
Whether you’re going for a traditional gift registry, a honeymoon fund or a charity donation, you’ll need to know the details of this quite quickly. People will begin to ask about a wedding gift early on and you might want to include this information on your invites.
Choose stationary and send out save the dates
Traditionally, save the dates are sent out about six to eight months before the wedding but we think the more notice you can give your guests, the better. Especially if you’re planning a destination wedding, it gives people time to start thinking about their own arrangements in good time and prevents anybody booking a holiday over the time of your wedding before your invites go out.
Take a break
Planning a wedding is one of the most stressful things in a couple’s life – be sure to take breaks form it often. It’s OK to ask your loved ones for a break from wedding chat, or take some time to reconnect as a couple away from the ongoing stress of planning.
Generally the average wedding planning time is about 18-24 months, so that’s quite a long time to have something weighing on your shoulders!
Decide on whether to provide transport for your guests and make arrangements for this so that you can include it in your invitations and answer any questions that people have.
You’ll also need to think about transport for yourself – and yes, we are reminding you of this because many couples are so focused on their guests that they forget to plan their own means of travel!
Now it’s time to get your groomsmen sorted. Factor in about six to eight weeks for alterations and if your Groom is going tailor-made, you’ll probably want to give it a few months to be sure.
Look for bridesmaids dresses and arrange alterations
Once you’ve got your own attire sorted, you can start looking for bridesmaids dresses. It’s usually easier to choose these once you know what your own dress is like – if you end up choosing a formal ballgown you didn’t think you’d choose, and your bridesmaids are boho chic, you may end up feeling and looking a bit inconsistent with the rest of the vibe of the wedding. Plus, lots of brides like to ensure that their bridesmaids are wearing a different neckline to their own gown.
Find and purchase wedding bands
You’ll want to choose your wedding bands a few months in advance to accommodate sizing and/or ordering in. We find that the best rule of thumb is that you don’t know what you’re going to go for (even if you think you do) so give yourself as much time as possible.
Give notice of marriage
If your wedding ceremony is not taking place in a place of worship, you’ll need to give notice of marriage to your local council. In the UK, the rules for this are that you must be married within twelve months of giving notice, but not before 29 days.
Once you’ve got RSVPs, you can start thinking about seating. Give yourself time for this and know that it will change. Even if you’ve worked out the perfect seating scenario, we would recommend not printing your chart until a few weeks before the wedding so that there is room for things to change if needed.
Start thinking about pre, post and on-the-day logistics
Not the most fun part of planning, but an important one nonetheless. As the day draws closer, you’ll need to start thinking about what needs to be done, when, where you’ll be and how you’ll get around.
It’s a good idea to create a schedule for the week (or few days) before the wedding and the day after, so that you can easily see what the jobs are and allocate them.
When you know exactly what is happening, when you can send out your invitations. Don’t forget to include as much information as possible (taxis, accommodation options) and for any dietary requirements. Don’t forget supplier meals.
Research and book a honeymoon – and don’t forget to check your passports
If you’re travelling abroad for your honeymoon, don’t forget to check that your passports will be in date. You don’t want a last-minute rush of admin ruining your wedded bliss.
Book hair and make-up trials
Once you’ve chosen your hair and make-up artist(s) book in a trial with them – and it’s a great idea to have this on the same day as a wedding dress fitting. Artists will be able to advise you but have a look at Pinterest for bridal looks to give you a head start.
Book a final meeting with your venue and caterer
This is an important meeting to have and we strongly advise it. A couple of weeks before the wedding, get together with your venue and caterer to give final numbers, run through the details and solidify timings of the day. You will feel much better for doing this.
Break in your wedding shoes
Both brides and grooms should think about breaking in their wedding shoes around the house or at work if possible, if they haven’t been worn before. The last thing either of you want on your wedding day is a painful blister to spoil the fun.
Book your beauty
Book your beauty appointments well in advance so that you know it’s done: manicure, tanning, a final haircut, waxing, whatever you need. Get it in the diary early so you don’t need to think about it.
Wedding planning is tough, and can bring up difficult situations amongst family and loved ones. When this happens it can be tempting to take everything on yourself and avoid the opinions or input of others, but don’t take on everything yourself. There will always be jobs that you can give other people to ease the load.
Hire a wedding planner
eve helps couples find their dream wedding venues in London and has an experienced team of wedding planners. Whether you’re looking for full planning support or help with particular parts of your day, explore our portfolio or get in touch to speak to a wedding planning expert.