How do you start planning a wedding?

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You’ve just got engaged, you’re riding high on a wave of excitement, mixed with a dose of nervous apprehension.

What next?

We’ve actually got to do this thing?

How do you even start planning a wedding? What comes first? How do you know what you need?

Planning a wedding is tough, there’s no getting away from that – but it can also be fun!

It’s a chance to dig deep into what you love, what you enjoy and what is important to you both individually – and as a couple.

First steps in planning a wedding

The first step in planning a wedding, as with any big project – is research! A wise man person once said ‘failure to prepare is preparing to fail’ and that’s very true with weddings.

Firstly you need to think about who you are and what you want from the day. Forget the wedding for a few minutes and think ‘what would I define as a good day?’. That’s going to be different for everyone.

  • Katie’s idea of a great day might be a nice country walk, followed by a big pub lunch in front of a fire.
  • Lauren might be more drawn to cocktails in a trendy London hotspot, followed by a night of dancing until sunrise.
  • Mark, might love to spend time with family, playing games, chatting and laughing.
  • Eve might enjoy kayaking, camping and climbing mountains.
  • Lottie might love making things and crafting, before having her family and friends over for a home-cooked meal.

There are no right or wrong answers here, it’s entirely up to you what you would class a good day.

Once you have an idea of what a good day is, then you can start to think about how that might work against the backdrop of a wedding.

Picking a Wedding Venue

Once you have a rough idea of what a good day looks like, you can start looking at venues and getting a feel for what might work for you. Looking at the example examples:

  • Katie might be drawn to a countryside wedding venue, somewhere with plenty of grounds and space – options to be outside, but with facilities to cosy up inside after it gets dark.
  • Lauren might be more drawn to slick London hotels, places with well-stocked bars and options for plenty of dancing.
  • Mark may be more drawn to an intimate wedding venue, with some lawns to play games on.
  • Even might want to elope and head out into the wild – a long hike before their vows atop an epic mountain perhaps.
  • Lottie might want to put her own stamp on the day, making lots of details and getting friends and family involved.

We’ve put together a great guide to Sussex Wedding Venues that you might want to consider.

Guest List (aka Do I really have to invite them?)

Before you can settle in a venue, you need to have a think about your guest list – who do you actually want to invite?

Are you an extrovert with 300+ close friends? Are you more introverted and prefer small gatherings? Do you have an extended family who will be offended if they don’t all get invites (yes, even cousin Claude, who you haven’t seen in 18 years!)

We’d always recommend focusing your guest list around people that make you happy, people you want to be around.

For every single guest on the list, as yourself the following question:

‘If we went out, would I be willing to pay £50 to take this person?’

(I say £50 because that’s quite an average ‘per head’ cost for a guest at a wedding.)

It’s a harsh line of thought, but if the answer is no – then you probably need to think about why you’re actually inviting this person! Granted, avoiding family backlash is sometimes worth a little cash spend.

If you have guests that you wouldn’t want to pay £50 to take out, but need to be invited to avoid upset or causing offence – then maybe consider having them as evening guests – limiting the day numbers will greatly reduce your budget.

After you’ve decided roughly how many guests you’re going to be having, then you can start to narrow down the venues that work for you, balanced with the ones that resonate with your idea for a great day.

A big guest list may not work well with ideas for an intimate day, and likewise, a small guest list may not work well with grand palace settings

We’ve written a guide on how to pick a wedding venue that might be of interest at this point.

Set the date

Once you’ve got a venue you love, that will likely dictate the dates you have available.

Consider whether you’d like a summer wedding or a winter one – maybe Autumn or Spring to give you a balance of nice weather and high-season rates.

Summer weddings are always popular in the UK, you have the greatest chance for nice weather – and usually, everyone’s healthy and happy.

Winter weddings run the risk of bad weather, as well as a higher chance of guests having colds and flu. But The winter light can be amazing if the schedule is planned correctly and winter weddings are usually much cheaper than summer ones.

Autumn is our personal favourite time for weddings – the light and colours are just perfect. Autumn weddings have good chance for nice weather – especially if the ceremony is earlier in the day and you still have the reduced costs relative to Summer dates.

Spring weddings, like Autumn ones, have a good chance for nice weather, and can be slightly cheaper the Summer dates – Spring colours are always lush too – perfectly for light airy portraits!

The day of the week

Consider the day of the week too!

Mid-week weddings are cheaper, Saturdays are the most expensive.

Will your guests need to take a day off work to attend? Are they likely to do that?

If its a Sunday, will they need to take a day off work afterwards to recover?

Can you make a weekend of it? Sometimes having a Friday wedding works well as you can then stretch the celebrations out across the entire weekend.

Are there any big events taking place close by on that day? In Sussex, we have the Goodwood Festival of Speed every year and it renders large areas of the county hard to access and full of traffic jams.

What next?

Once you have your date picked and your venue booked, then you can start booking the other things you need to make your day perfect. We’ll be writing more guides on the rest of the process and updating this article as time goes by!

One of the biggest things you need to book early in your planning, we’d say right after your venue – is your photographer! We usually book up 18 months to 2 years in advance, as all the top wedding photographers do. So once you have your date, do get in touch to check our availability.

If you have your heart set on us capturing your day, you may even want to get in touch with us before you book your venue, to confirm our availability – we’d hate to miss out on being a part of your day!