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Your Guide To Planning A Wedding

Your guide to planning a wedding

If you’ve recently got engaged, you may be looking for help on what exactly planning a wedding entails and a checklist to make sure you don’t miss any vital parts. We’ve pulled together our expert knowledge to bring to you our top tips for all stages of planning your wedding celebration:

Mapperton Wedding outside The Coach House
Outside The Coach House. Photograph by Nicola Dixon Photography.

Setting the date

Of course, the very first part of any wedding is setting your date.  You’ll need to consider how much time you’ll need to plan your day. A small wedding can be organised in 6 months, however often couples will want to allow themselves 9-12 months.

Part of this process will be deciding where to hold your ceremony and your reception. You may decide to host it all at the same venue, or alternatively have a church ceremony. If you opt for the latter, you’ll want to confirm with both the venue and church that they both have the date available.

Expert tip: most venues and the church will allow you to provisionally book your date and allow you some time to speak to other suppliers to make sure they’re available, so it can be a good idea to make use of this time to allow stress-free planning.

Suppliers

Next on your list will be to find your main suppliers for your wedding and get them booked. Many will be booked several months in advanced, so make sure you speak to them about their availability as soon as you’ve booked your date.

  • Registrar – If you’re not getting married in church and have instead opted for a civil ceremony, you’ll need to book a registrar or celebrant.  The local authority website can be a good place to start researching options and can help put you in touch with local registrars.
  • Caterers – Your venue may have a list of caterers they work closely with, or you may know who you want to use already. However you decide to move forward there are things you’ll need to consider; Can they cater for your size party? Do they provide waiting staff? Do they offer a food tasting? Do they know of your venue or are they happy to do a site visit for logistics on the day?  What vegetarian, vegan and allergen-free dishes can they offer to cater for your guests needs.
  • Photographer – Photographer styles vary, so finding a photographer to suit your needs is important. Consider whether you’re looking for traditional images or something more contemporary. Take a look at the online portfolios of any potential photographers. Some will offer a pre-wedding shoot or engagement shoot so you can get comfortable being in front of the camera with your partner and get used to the photographer you’ll be using.
  • Florist – You don’t need to know your exact requirements at this stage, but certainly if you’re looking for larger format arrangements and lots of florals, booking your florist as early as possible is important. Pinterest and Instagram can be fantastic resources for visualising the style you feel would complement your wedding.
  • Entertainment – Band/DJ – Consider what type of entertainment you’ll be wanting for your day. Will you want a harpist for example for your ceremony, will you need a PA system for your speeches, would you like background music for your wedding breakfast? You’ll need to consider any restrictions at your venue, particularly bearing in mind noise levels and playing times.

Once you know your suppliers are available, confirm the date with your venue and church and make sure you send your save the dates to your guests!

Expert tip: a spreadsheet can be a great way to keep track of contact details, availability and pricing, and if you are confident with formulas this can be a perfect rough budget for your wedding!

Mapperton Weddings table setup with fresh white theme

Choose your theme

As you get closer to the date, the final details need to be though through, particularly any themes and colour schemes. Again, Pinterest and Instagram will provide great inspiration! Why not create a mood board on Pinterest that you can share and collaborate on with your suppliers? 

At this point in time, you should be speaking with your florist and any décor suppliers to start finalising ideas.

Dress shopping

When dress shopping, make sure you leave enough time for alterations – unless you’re prepared to buy off the shelf, most will need altering to get the perfect fit. 

If you’re not sure what style of dress you’re looking for, go with an open mind and ask to try on a variety of styles. Trust those in the boutique too. They are professionals at what they do, and often know exactly the style of dress that will suit you from the moment you walk in the door. Also remember that the dresses look very different on the hangers than they do when you’re wearing them so be open to trying them on.

Once you’ve sorted your wedding dress, you can then shop for bridesmaid dresses to compliment yours. Again, it’s important to leave enough time for any alterations that need to be made.

Expert tip: start to keep a diary in the planning stages, if you continue right through to the honeymoon you’ll have a wonderful record of your wedding journey to look back on in the years to come.

The perfect wedding day at Mapperton
The perfect wedding day. Photograph by Lesley Burdett Photography.

Register your intention to marry

From 12 months, book and attend a meeting with your registrar. These can be booked for any time between one year and three months before your wedding date, but it’s best not to leave it too late.

On the day of your meeting, you’ll register your intention to marry, pay for your marriage certificate and be given a form which asks for all of your wedding ceremony details.

You will then have up until six weeks before the wedding to return your ceremony details.

Bride preparing for wedding at The Garden Cottage, Mapperton
Bride and bridesmaids relaxing before the big day at The Garden Cottage, Mapperton

Bridal preparations

When you’re planning your day it’s important to consider bridal preparations:

  • Where will you be getting ready on the morning of your wedding? Do you need to book a hotel suite? Will your bridesmaids be staying with you?
  • Will you be booking hair and make-up? Make sure you book a trial too.

Cake

Finding someone to make your wedding cake can arranged much closer to the wedding date. This is because cake makers can work on more than one wedding cake per day. However, certainly don’t leave it until the last minute!

Find a supplier who is based close to your wedding venue as transporting a three tiered cake isn’t the easiest task. Add them to your Pinterest mood board or send them lots of photographs of the cakes you like. Many will be happy to arrange a meeting in person to finalise your design and to do a cake tasting.

Transport

If your wedding ceremony isn’t being held in the same location as your reception you’ll need to arrange transport to get you to the ceremony and then on to the reception venue. 

Do you need to consider transport for your guests? You may just simply want to speak to a local taxi firm to make sure there will be cars available, or you may wish to organise a coach for transfer between the ceremony and reception venue.

Invitations

It’s time to create and send your wedding invitations! Don’t forget to include details of local accommodation, and menu choices if you’re allowing guests options. Of course you’ll also need to include venue address, timings and dress code.

Expert tip: order or create and extra invitation for your keepsake box!

The extras

Now is a great time to buy your wedding rings, your shoes and bridal accessories.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to purchase or organise hire of the groomswear. Most rental companies will allow you to order your hire items from 3 months.

The details, table layout at Mapperton Weddings

The details

You should now be confirming the ceremony details to your registrar. You’ll need to include everything from what song you’re walking down the aisle to, to who’s in your bridal party, who’s giving you away, who your photographer is, what readings you want and whether you’re writing your own vows or using the traditional ones.

At this point you’ll also be looking at the finer details and finishing touches to the day itself. You’ll need to consider table layouts and seating plan, any signage for the day, any gifts, your wedding favours and of course any final décor items.

Make sure you have a final chat with all of your suppliers to confirm details, pay any outstanding balances and provide them with any logistical information they’ll need for the day including times they can access the venue to set up. 


If you get your planning right, on the day, you can simply hand everything over to your suppliers and bridal team and just enjoy your moment. 

And there we have it, our wedding planning guide which takes you through the steps you’ll need to plan the perfect wedding.

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