Note: This post is pre-recorded as Neil is on honeymoon.
There’s a quote by Irish comedian Ed Byrne on the lines of “The best thing about being married is that you don’t have to plan a wedding”. Whilst our experience was probably not as bad as his, your typical wedding will have several elements, all of which need organising separately, and it can be a big thing to take on.
Therefore, based on mine and Christine’s experience as a recently married couple, here are 10 things that we were advised or found out during the planning of ours.
Tip 1: Silk flowers are better than real ones
Almost all of our flowers were actually silk (or plastic). We bought them from Silk Floral Art near York, which meant that we could pick them up several days before the wedding. We also weren’t limited to using flowers which were in season – we could have any that we wanted that matched the colour scheme. For the table decorations there was a deposit for their return, and we have the option of converting Christine’s bouquet into a permanent decoration to keep. And, of course, silk flowers don’t wilt so they will always look good in your photographs, and even up close it’s hard to tell that they’re not real.
Tip 2: Think about what could go wrong
I’m not suggesting that you need to do a complete risk assessment, but it’s worth thinking about any problems that could arise, and, if so, what you could do about them. In our case, when we went to collect our flowers, it turned out that we hadn’t ordered enough for all of the tables; thankfully, we were collecting them four days before the wedding and so there was time for more to be made up for the day.
We also ensured that both myself and Christine were at the wedding venue (but in separate parts of the hotel) a couple of hours before the ceremony, so that we didn’t start late. And the cake was delivered to us by the bakery, rather than us collecting it and then potentially dropping and ruining it.
You may also want to consider wedding insurance, but we didn’t bother and wouldn’t have needed it anyway. We did, however, use credit cards for the expensive things, so there would have been the possibility of using Section 75 if things went wrong.
Tip 3: Your wedding needn’t cost the earth
On average, weddings in the UK cost £20,000, apparently. I find that hard to believe as ours cost less than half of that. They are expensive (and consequently we’re a bit broke at the moment) but you can avoid a lot of unnecessary expenses. As ever, MoneySavingExpert.com has a guide – 50 cheap wedding tips – and whilst some are extreme we did make a number of savings. With the help of Christine’s chief bridesmaid, we designed and printed our own wedding invitations on VistaPrint, which looked great and worked out at about 50p per invite – far less than some companies charged.
Also, when using some suppliers it’s sometimes worth not mentioning that it’s for a wedding, as some companies will want to charge you more because it’s your ‘special day’.
Tip 4: All-in-one packages are easier
We went for a big, all-in-one package with our hotel, the Best Western Monk Bar Hotel in York. The package was the single largest wedding purchase and cost almost half of our total budget, but it included lots of things that we would have otherwise had to organise separately. These included use of a room for the ceremony, along with some flowers (these were real but matched our silk flowers), the wedding reception with food and some drinks, plus placecards, and a DJ for the disco in the evening.
It may have been cheaper to hire a hall, caterers, and a DJ, and then buy in drinks and our own stationery, but more hassle. Considering all of the other things we’ve had to organise, having these things together was a big weight off our minds.
Tip 5: Get help from friends and family
Christine’s chief bridesmaid helped us with the invites, as already mentioned, and my mum also helped us make the wedding favours (which again cost around £1 each in the end), as well as some legwork last year looking for suitable venues.
But you could go further – if you have a friend with a decent camera who takes good photos, it may be worth approaching them to take your pictures on the day rather than hiring a professional photographer. Ditto if you have a friend who makes nice cakes. In the end we didn’t have any friends helping us on the day – we wanted our friends and family to enjoy the wedding as well – but it may be worth asking.
Tip 6: Get some ‘you time’ on the day
I’m saying this because we didn’t. We got married at 2pm and it was after midnight before Christine and I had any time alone with each other to sit down and relax. Ideally we would have taken some time out after the reception had finished to put our feet up, but we ended up spending some time with the photographers instead.
Tip 7: Go to wedding fairs, but get recommendations as well
Wedding fairs are a good way to find out about photographers, cake makers, florists and the like, but a personal recommendation is always better. The hotel and the bakery that we went for – 3 Tier Cakes in Halifax – both came recommended by several people and we weren’t disappointed. The hotel were fantastic and went out of their way several times to help us, and the cake looked and tasted fantastic.
However, we also found our flowers and our photographer – Michelle Heseltine – at separate wedding fairs and we very pleased with both. In all, we went to three wedding fairs in Leeds, Bradford and Manchester; the latter wasn’t so much use as it was so far away from York where we got married in the end, so I would recommend going to fairs closer to where you plan to get married. There are plenty of them and you can usually come away with a lot of freebies, but don’t feel pressurised to sign up to anything on the spot.
And I’d suggest setting up a throwaway email account for use at wedding fairs, as you’ll get asked for your contact details by lots of people which will result in a lot of junk email. Once you’ve got everything arranged then you can just close the account.
Tip 8: Think how long you want your photographer for
We’ve been to a number of weddings where the photographer turns up just as the bride finishes getting ready, stays for the ceremony and official photographs, then grabs a couple of shots of the newly-married couple pretending to cut the cake before disappearing. That means that you’re reliant on friends and family taking pictures during the reception and the disco.
We decided to pay a bit more and have two photographers all day. They were there about an hour before the ceremony to separately photograph Christine and I getting ready, and were there right through the ceremony, the reception and for the first hour of the disco. Therefore they were able to photograph the actual cake-cutting and also the guests who were only here in the evening. That way our photo album will record the events of the whole day.
Also, when choosing a photographer, make sure you sign a contract so you know exactly what services to expect, and whether you can buy the copyright for the photos (we didn’t do this, but we’re not too bothered about it). And make sure that the photographer is insured, and therefore able to provide a replacement photographer in case of illness. You don’t want to receive a phone call on the morning of your wedding saying the photographer can’t make it, leaving you high and dry.
Equipment isn’t everything. You absolutely should ensure that your photographers are using good quality kit, but make sure you see plenty of sample photos that they have taken as well. Ideally, you’ll be able to find someone who can take great pictures, and has top-end cameras, flashes and lenses so that you get plenty of quality and detail in your pictures.
Finally, always look at the photographer you’ve paid for. Your friends and family will have their own cameras too, and feel free to pose for those when your official photographer doesn’t need you looking at them.
Tip 9: Drink plenty of water
The abundance of alcohol at most weddings, combined with big wedding dresses or suits with waistcoats and shirts, and lots of dancing, means that you can get dehydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, and alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones. Dehydration will be the main cause of a hangover the following morning, which makes things difficult when you need to tidy up and vacate the premises before lunchtime.
We were offered a lot of free drinks and ended up turning some down; not at least because I wanted to be able to do my speech without slurring.
If you’re planning on wearing a big dress, think about toilet breaks as well.
Tip 10: Relax and enjoy the day
I suppose this is a re-hash of tips 2 and 6, but with good planning, everything will work out fine on the day, and you won’t be overwhelmed and stressed. And try to relax – you are the focus of the day and people will always be there to help you.
Everything went well for us, and we had a fabulous day that we will want to remember for the rest of our married lives.