This is a step by step guide on planning your wedding day, including tips from Brides and Suppliers!

Whether you plan to hire a professional wedding planner or get planning yourself, I hope this will give you some guidance and useful tips!

12+ Months to Go…

Basics – Set a date, set a budget (will family help?), research suppliers (photographer, wedding cake maker, music/band/dj hire, caterers, entertainment etc), choose a venue. After this, send ‘save the date’ cards, draft your guest list (there are some great apps that you can use to track your replies, or create your own personal wedding website), create a to do list, choose your bridal party; bridesmaids and groomsmen, choose a style (this might be vintage, modern, boho), perhaps even short list colour schemes…. Do you want a Wedding Planner? If your budget permits, a Wedding planner will do a lot of this for you! Think about thank you gift ideas for the bridal party, are you having a hen do, if so who will organise this for you?

Logistics & Legal Docs – If you’re having a church wedding you will need to check with them you are eligible to marry, otherwise book a registrar for venues outside of this. You can also check legalities on the government website, including getting married abroad to ensure you have the correct documents in place. Your venue may depend on the number of guests you intend to invite. Wedding transport, cars/bus for bride, groom and even guests.

“Having got married abroad myself (In Central Park, New York), I know how simple it was to find out the information and documents we needed. Search engines are a great place to start” 

Venue – Be sure to have a look around at Wedding venues if you don’t already have one in mind. Check out if they have any wedding fairs coming up otherwise call up to make an appointment to speak to the wedding coordinator who will show you around and let you know what packages they can offer you. With venue packages, they can include (for example), hire of the venue and bar, prosecco or champagne for your guests drinks upon arrival, drinks and canapes following the ceremony – prior to your wedding breakfast, three-course sit down meal, glass of bubbly per guest for your toasts, menu and wine tasting prior to booking, chair covers and decorations, some even include a honeymoon suite for your wedding night. If it’s a hotel venue, they may offer a discount for over a certain number of people, for example over 50 people you might get X-amount off per room. These are things worth considering depending on the location of your venue (is it close enough for friends and family to get to, do they need to travel far and therefore require accommodation).

Do you have a family tradition such as getting married in the same church? Are you looking for something a bit more low key and intimate such as a marquee on a field (festival/boho style) with fantastic views, hay stacks and hire some portable toilets or a pop up bar. There are so many options these days – I’m lucky I get to experience some very unique and different ideas in the job I do! 

Wedding Dress – Now there are more choice than ever before, lots of Wedding boutiques to choose from (most are by appointment only, so remember to call up in advance), perhaps visit some wedding fairs, they often have wedding fashion shows. I would recommend not to take too many people with you, 2-3 maximum is best as you don’t want lots of different opinions, this is your day (it’s nice to include mum, sibling and best friend perhaps, maybe even your future mother-in-law, it depends whether you want them to see your dress prior to your big day or not). Consider beforehand will you wear low or high shoes as you will want to take some with you even if you haven’t purchased your shoes to get an idea of length (my Wedding Dress Boutique sold lots of Wedding shoes & accessories, therefore I was able to try various heels, however remember not all of them do so taking a pair of your own just incase is recommended), check what the terms are on the alterations policy, are these included, are they extra, how short notice the final fitting will be.

Other Outfits – Bridesmaids, Ushers etc. Will you be providing a budget for them to go shopping or will you pick this out for them?

Wedding Rings – Have you chosen your rings? It might be a good time to have a look and try some on to see what style you like, especially if you have an engagement ring already as the wedding band will need to fit with this.

Accessories – When trying on your wedding dress its a good time to try accessories, do you want a veil, tiara etc? It’s worth trying as when you put accessories together you will have a better idea what the end result will look like.

Photography – Book early to avoid disappointment as we can get booked up two years+ in advance! What style of photography do you like? Always choose someone whose style suits you best. It’s no good booking a fine art photographer if you want natural/documentary photos for example. Check portfolios, everyone is on social media these days, therefore it’s easy to check these out. Do you want a photographer who can provide an album within a package or do you want an online gallery? I personally prefer albums so you can pick them up and enjoy them rather than have the images locked up in digital files, they also become your family heirloom in years to come. There are lots of different options, I personally offer a digital package (USB), or an album option, with a separate a la carte menu to choose from if my couples wish to add anything. I know some photographers only provide a USB and do not offer albums or other products. These are all things to think about and consider beforehand.

9-6 Months to go…

Flowers – from you and your bridesmaids bouquets, to button holes. Not to forget your venue, your wedding cake or even table decorations. Flowers are used for all the above and more. Again Instagram is  a great place for florists to showcase their best work, so it’s worth having a look to get an idea of what styles and ideas you like.

Cakes – The best bit about choosing a wedding cake is you get to book a FREE cake tasting session – yay, who doesn’t love cake!? You can sample flavours as well as check out their designs, do you want a traditional tiered cake or a muffin tower for example…

“Ensure you have a wedding cake tasting session, both to try the cake, as well as to meet the cake maker. Getting on with the supplier and liking their product will ensure that you can enjoy the planning and day that bit more” Maria Blackwell at The Daisy Baking Corner, (Featured in ‘Your Surrey Wedding’ Magazine): www.instagram.com/thedaisybakingcorner

Stationery – Save the date cards should be sent out with as much notice as possible (ideally 12+ months before), wedding invitations around 6 months before to allow time, table plan, place settings, menus, there are some amazing bespoke stationary suppliers out there, some people prefer to make their own but remember this can be very time consuming making it stressful, however if you have the time then it can be a brilliant personal touch, however if it’s within the budget i’d highly recommend having a specialist do this for you. Your venue may even have suppliers for this that they have worked with before and can recommend to you. Otherwise, yes – Social Media again (What would we do without Instagram!) 

Catering & Other Logistics – Outside of venues – Ok, so if you were to get married in a church then have a marquee for instance you will need to think about toilets, logistics, caterers if you’re not using a venue which includes this. A lot of venues have their own in-house chefs/caterers where you can arrange a tasting session to choose which dishes to include on your menu (this is the most popular choice), otherwise if you are sourcing caterers then you should think about what style of food you want, buffet, BBQ, dietary requirements etc. 

Seating Plan – Who will sit where? Do you want to mix the tables equally of both sides? “I have experienced both sides of this as a wedding guest and do personally feel that it is nice to mix up both sides, it also makes it easier to talk to people who you don’t already know – this is just my personal opinion” 

Entertainment – Comedians, magicians, bands, singers, children entertainment, DJ, singing waiters, the list is endless…. Ask around, check out social media as a lot of entertainers post video clips as well as photos to help you decide if they are a good fit for your day.

Hair & Make Up – Book a trial for you and your bridesmaids beforehand, will mothers of the bride and groom be included? I strongly advise not changing your whole appearance of hair colour to close to your wedding incase you don’t like it! Nails, pedicures etc.

Bathroom Baskets – These are so on trend right now, every wedding i have been to this year has one of these, it’s basically a touch up kit for you and your guests, ranging from deodorant, perfume, sanitary towels, tampons, make up, hair brush, plasters (blisters from shoes), headache tablets, hair pins, mints/chewing gum, toothpicks, (just a few ideas) you can literally add anything you want.

4 Weeks to go…

  • Check your RSVPs and your seating plan to ensure you have included everyone and have enough seats for those who have responded 
  • Has your venue provided a schedule for the day? Will you do this yourself? (i.e. bridal prep, ceremony, confetti run, group photos, wedding breakfast, speeches, cutting of the cake, first dance) this should include times and locations). This is just for yourself and your photographer will require this information to
  • Any wedding rehearsals (if applicable), should be in the diary
  • Remind those who are doing a speech to make sure they are prepared and have practiced. Having done business development in my previous career a good tip is to practice in front of a mirror (yes i know this is super awkward – but that’s the idea), very few people find this easy, practice makes perfect”

The Big Day

  • Make sure you eat something for breakfast, don’t leave for your ceremony on an empty stomach, it’s a long day until your wedding breakfast
  • Leave plenty of time for getting ready, bridal preparations, travel to the venue
  • Enjoy your morning getting ready, relax, you don’t want to get stressed about anything this is for your wedding suppliers to worry about. No one else knows your timeline, therefore if something doesn’t go to plan, no one else will know
  • It’s advisable to make sure everyone is ready ahead of schedule, 15-20 minutes before would be recommended (there’s always one who runs behind)
  • Lastly, enjoy it! This is your big day which has taken months (sometimes years) to plan, enjoy every moment

Tips from Brides and Wedding Suppliers:

(I asked a few of my brides & recommended suppliers for their best tips to pass on, here are a couple I received that may help you!)

“Ask for help! Most family and friends are happy to help with research into anything from bridesmaids dresses, shoes, cakes, making and posting invitations, catering, venues etc. You could even hold a wedding planning meeting with whoever would like to be involved and hep out and then delegate these things out to each person. This helped me massively and took a lot of the pressure off, enabling me to enjoy the whole process much more and best of all friends and family felt involved which also made it more fun!” Mrs Beckie Clark, Windsor, Berkshire

“If you have been to a friends wedding and you liked certain aspects of their day, then don’t be afraid to ask which suppliers they used, if anything it’s a huge compliment to them” Mrs R Price, Letchlade

“Making your own decorations is such a fun and personal way to add to your big day, just remember as beautiful as they can be, they take longer than you think. Perhaps your best friend or mum would like to help out” Mrs Helen Roberts, Cambridge 

“If you don’t like having your photo taken and time permits have an engagement photo session with your photographer. I personally hate posing for photos, so this helped for on the day as it made me far less anxious when we did the couple photographs” Aimee, Surrey

“One of the biggest makeup trends for 2019 weddings is blend and blur. Blurred eyeliner is a wedding makeup trend that keeps your eyes looking smokey without being over-dramatic. It’s a trend that covers all colours and is a favourite for brides who like to keep eye shadow minimal. This way you can everything from sweeping cat’s eye in any colour to elegantly accented lids that will work with nude-look makeup. Ask your stylist: For blurred eyeliner and softer shades on the lids” Advice from Award Winning hair and makeup artist Gabrielle: https://www.hairbygabrielle.co.uk/ https://www.instagram.com/hair_and_makeup_by_gabrielle/ (Check out Gabrielle’s stunning work, Gabrielle is a joy to work with)

Wedding Hair Options, whether its curly, straight, half up or all down it can be a very overwhelming decision. After years of specialising in Wedding hair, my top tips to any bride would be: 1. Don’t book your hair trial to early (you may change your mind or your may have a growth spurt) 2. Go with what you are most comfortable with, if you usually wear your hair down then opt for a soft wave or a glamorous blow-dry, *remember – You want to achieve a more polished version of yourself – not a different person 3. I would advise against a drastic hair colour changes too close to your big day, if you feel that you do want to look different talk to your hair dresser/colour consultant, who may guide you towards a high shine treatment or a slightly richer or brighter tone, without being a dramatic change. 4. We all love looking at photos and Instagram for inspiration, however I would always suggest not to get to distracted doing this, look for styles that suit your hair type. For example if you have fine hair search ‘wedding hair for fine hair’ 5. Finally Accessories – choose wisely as this is the finishing touch and can show your personality off at it’s best” If you are unsure why not arrange your hair trial for the same day you view your dress/accessories. Tips from wedding hair specialist, Libby: https://www.facebook.com/hairbylibbyswindon/ (Take a look at Libby’s gorgeous work , I have worked with Libby both professionally & personally & she comes extremely highly recommended

***REMEMBERThis is just a guide, the lists are endless and it’s up to you and your budget what you have or how simple you prefer to keep it. The order isn’t set in stone either, it may depend on what’s most important to you, as every wedding is unique. You can create your own checklist or even buy some beautiful wedding planner diaries/stationary if you are planning your own wedding. If you are hiring a wedding planner they will advise you on this and much more. Please feel free to make any comments below!***

Disclaimer:- This countdown was created from both my own experience as a bride, (from my little A5 wedding planner brought for me with a countdown insert & tabs to complete inside which I found incredibly useful), from friends and relatives experiences and from bridal magazines and forums. There is no set order and every wedding is unique and different.