Start your wedding plans early, start your preparations from the day you get engaged.
You must decide with your partner exactly what sort of wedding you would both would like. Formal or informal? Intimate or extravagant?
When it is time to choose the date of the wedding, allow yourself enough time to plan the wedding of your dreams.
Once you have decided on the venue for the ceremony, book it as early as you can. Popular dates during the summer, are booked anything up to a year in advance.
Money is an important factor which must be taken into consideration and a realistic budget should be set. Then arrange a meeting for everyone who will be contributing towards the cost involved in the initial discussion.
You must both decide at an early stage who will be paying for what. You don’t want any nasty surprises at a latter date and neither does your dad!
Consider buying some wedding day insurance. Many companies now offer packages to cover accidents prior to and on the big day itself – just in case.
The reception venue needs to be booked and confirmed as soon as possible. It is a good idea to visit as many possible reception venues as you can to compare what each one has to offer. It is a good idea to ask for written quotes so you can make your decision at home without feeling pressurised.
You now need to compile a guest list and then decide on the type of catering your require. A lunchtime buffet works well when your guests are a mixture of young and old. It also keeps costs down. A formal sit-down meal is wonderful but is also your most expensive option.
Ask the experts’ advice on getting value-for-money and your best choices of drinks for the number of guests.
The caterers will have many years experience on menu planning so take there advice when given. They will have lots of valuable experience about what works and what doesn’t.
Once you have found a suitable venue, book the date, time and exact room(s) you will need in writing. Ask for written confirmation in return.
If you would like menu cards for the centre of the tables ask your stationers to print them and place-names if you are having a sit-down reception. It would be a good idea to have two large table plans to post either side of the dining room.
Ask your parents to help with the seating plans to avoid any family upsets.
Now it is time to start looking for a wedding dress for the big day. You may be surprised how long it takes to make a gown, even one brought off-the-peg. The minimum notice for any gown is about eight weeks.
Consider the colour of your skin when choosing the shade of your dress. Pure white only really suits brunettes or black brides, blondes and redheads look better in ivory.
Try on as many different styles of dress as you can. Some wedding dresses have little hanger appeal but look wonderful once they are on.
Wedding dresses are expensive so you could consider hiring the dress. You can hire a one-off designer gown for about the same as you would pay for an off-the-peg manufacturer’s dress.
Decide on your ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’. This is the prefect opportunity to wear treasured family jewellery and gifts from very special friends.
Go shopping with your bridesmaids to choose dresses that suit them all. If they are of varying ages, use a theme rather than asking teenagers to wear the frills and flounces that only look cute on the under-tens.
Sit down with your groom and work out what he will be wearing. Most men hire their wedding attire and this needs to be done about for weeks in advance.
Once you have chosen your dress, buy suitable bridal lingerie and take it to one of the fittings to ensure a perfect fit.
You now need to arrange to photographers and a professional to video your big day. It would be a good idea to interview them and ask to see examples of their work and only book someone who seems flexible and has lots off ideas. Get confirmation of the booking in writing.
Setting a colour theme for the whole wedding can make it easier when choosing your dress, the bridesmaids’ outfits, the flowers and the reception decorations.
Visit a number of florists but not on a Saturday when they are usually very busy. A good florist should work with you to create something to suit your individual style of wedding. Be wary of anyone who just shows you pictures of ‘standard’ bouquets.
Ask your florist to prepare two very special bouquets as thank-you for both mums. These are traditionally presented by the groom during his speech.
Invitations need to be sent out about two months in advance. There are many different designs from the formal to the hand-made.
Book your wedding transport and confirm the exact model of car and the colour if it’s part of your theme.
If you want your new surname on your passport to take on honeymoon, apply for the name change as soon as you can as this can take some time.
Start shopping around for the best deals for your honeymoon. Room upgrades, champagne, flowers and a free dinner are readily available for honeymooners.
Once the honeymoon destination has been decided upon ask about necessary visas and make an appointment with your doctor for any inoculations.
Help your mum and future mother-in-law to choose their outfits. Ask your florist to design special corsages to match their colour schemes.
Go shopping with your groom for your wedding rings. It is a nice idea to have the rings engraved inside. Even just your initials and the wedding date is very romantic.
For the reception you will have to decide on the type of music you would like. A DJ is always a good option as they can play a variety of music. If you want to have live music, listen to tapes from potential groups and try to hear them live at least once.
If you are having a live band, remember they need to take regular breaks so you will need some kind of entertainment to fill in the gaps. Ask your venue about facilities for taped music.
Visit your baker or ask your caterers to recommend someone to make the wedding cake. Expect to pay at least £200 for a three-tiered traditional cake, a lot more if you want a cake with a theme.
Save about half the cost of your cake by getting a clever mum or friend to make the basic cake then take it along to a professional to have it iced and decorated.
Ring around all the local department stores and ask to be sent details of their wedding gift list services. Choose one or several stores and spend an afternoon choosing your gifts with your groom, your mum or your best friend.
Ask someone in your family to be in charge of the guest list, ticking off names as and when they accept. Your venue will probably want you to confirm final numbers a week or two in advance.
Obtain permission from your venues to throw confetti. If this is not permitted, tell your guests to bring rice, which the birds will eat, or rose petals.
A month before the wedding visit your venue when it is not being used and plan your room decorations. Flowers everywhere are expensive and two well placed displays can be just as effective.
Book your first night accommodation. Visit all the local hotels and ask to see the bridal suite. Check what ‘extras’ are included in their honeymoon package, like a chauffeur-driven care to drive you to the airport the following morning.
Buy a supply of disposable cameras and put a couple in the centre of each table at your reception. This gives your guests something to do and you should get a supply of wonderful behind-the-scenes informal pictures to supplement your album.
You need to buy gifts for the best man, ushers and bridesmaids. Get the gifts inscribed with your names and your wedding date.
Have a trial-run at the hairdressers a week or two before the big day. Take along your headdress and veil and even a polaroid camera to make recreating your wedding hairstyle easier.
Treat yourself to a make-up lesson with a professional. Take careful note of all the colours they use and how they use them so that you can do the same on your wedding morning.
It would be a good idea to pack your honeymoon cases and take them to your first night hotel the day before the wedding.
Nominate one of your bridesmaids or a close friend to pack up your wedding attire following the reception and store it for you until after the honeymoon.
Assemble a small bag with your wedding day essentials, like a hanky, a lipstick, an aspirin, a comb and hair grips and ask someone to keep it for you.