As someone who has recently got married, I would say start with the venue so you have a set date. Once this is in place, you can then ask for confirmed availability from all of the other vendors. Then book your food, as a lot of caterers know many of the venues and kitchens and some will already have a contract with venues, which may save you on additional costs that the venue may charge for using their kitchen. I planned my menu so that we had different options on both days of the functions. Also, do ask the caterers what is new, my caterer had offered a mixed grill for the starter on the wedding day, and this went down a real treat! The variety meant there was something for everyone.
With the venue sorted, get your registrar done – we opted to pay extra for the registrar to conduct our civil marriage in the venue (it was licensed for this) in the presence of all our guests, to save time of travelling back and forth from the town hall. Additionally, this way we didn’t need to limit the guests to 40 like the town hall required. I also had a family friend conduct the Nikah, the most amazing Imam who spoke English so that we knew what was going on. He was so down to Earth and chilled, and did an amazing sermon that everyone could resonate with – plus he was a firm believer in date nights with your spouse!
Next ask your videographer/photographer of choice for their availability and packages. Many tried to upsell products like a photobook/album or a photoshoot – don’t get tempted by things you don’t want/need. I knew that I would prefer to have a digital version of all my photos so opted out of the photobook and also knew there wasn’t any time allocated for a photoshoot so opted out of that too. Not only did it save money but also the stress of trying to schedule in time, or select only a few pictures for the photobook. Check the work of your video/photo people and agree beforehand to do some couple shots! My other half had some included in his package and we went to a park on the walimah, which was stressful but worth the pictures. One important thing to mention, please try to liaise with your fiancé’s photographer/videographer – mine wasn’t too happy that my other half’s videographer brought his daughter along as she was training, and offered to take pictures for the experience. It really ruined the mood as they kept bickering with one another and kept asking us to pose in different ways – really not what you want, and essentially ruin the photos.
Makeup artist next, especially if you have your eye on someone specific – they book up super fast! In regards to makeup artists, try and get a trial if possible or definitely do some research into their work, preferably by someone who has used them. My makeup artist was a bit of a stress and was unprofessional and my hair dropped on all three events – defo could have avoided that by going with someone more experienced. She also had no people skills so appeared very moody, didn’t converse and asked my mum to leave the room. She asked me to book her a family room at the same hotel for the three events, then called me a day before my first event and said she may not be able to do my make up for the last event due to childcare (even though I paid for a family room for four), and was happy to have them in the room whilst she got me ready. She also didn’t end up using the room for one of the nights, so I had to ask my sister to stay there to avoid wasting the money I paid. She also managed to tug off half my eyelash when brushing my hair on the wedding day, and then left and huffed when I called her (she was only in the car park) and said isn’t there someone there with glue? Not the kind of response you want when you’ve paid a substantial amount for her service. Just a heads up that some of the more ‘famous’ makeup artists start from from £900 an event!
Decide on a theme then sort your decor out with the decorator (if external from the venue). Especially in a small town, the one or two popular companies will get booked fast! Take pictures of things you like (Pinterest and Instagram helps here) which will help the decorator visualise the vibe you are going for. On word of advice, avoid going for really high centrepieces as they often block the view of your guests, and avoid anything too wide as they food/drinks and crockery will take up the space on the table.
With a theme in mind, you can move onto the invites, cake and favours – at least six months before, leaves you time to distribute the invites but also rectify any errors etc. I mail merged my invites with personalised labels for the envelopes – saved a ton of time writing it all out, just had to match the label to the invite (printed in the same order so super easy!) I definitely recommend buying a good printer and doing these yourself, you can save so much money and tailor them exactly how you want! I brought a bulk pack of envelopes on eBay for £13 and the ivory card was only £2 in the Hobbycraft black Friday sale! For favours, I got sweets from Poundstretcher, the boxes from Poundland and printed the labels myself – cost under £50 for the lot! My cake was kindly gifted to me by my sister.
Next I booked the hotel for the wedding night, I chose somewhere a littler further out of town but not too far to travel, so that we didn’t have any awkward encounters with our guests. This time is so precious and one that you won’t get back. Take your time to kick back and relax and just enjoy the peace and quiet! I had everything prepped and organised for the next day’s event, which meant I didn’t have much to do, much needed hot shower and relaxation time.
Definitely do your research into honeymoon destinations – my other half wanted Seychelles but it was way too pricey so we opted for the Maldives and so glad that we did! Being someone that often gets travel sick, and the longevity of the flight, I wanted an island that was close enough to get to by speedboat (Bandos took 20 mins max!) I also wanted a fully enclosed/indoor bathroom which this island offered. Be sure to check what is included in your package (we had afternoon tea and kayaking in ours) and what’s worth checking out that isn’t included (glass bottom boat and couple massage) Read more about Bandos here. Also, don’t bother with full board, pay the extra for all inclusive as the cost of food on the island are extortionate due to import taxes – a mini Toblerone was £11 in the gift shop, so glad we were All Inclusive (and I’d also packed a few snacks!)
Remember nothing is confirmed until deposits are paid so make envelopes of each person you owe money to, this helped my loads as I was able to just give the envelopes to friends or family to pass on without stressing if I had the cash. Jewellery and accessories are stress free if stored in boxes, I had a shoe box for each event with pins, mints etc so it was all sorted and ready to go. Definitely get a few quotes and DIY where possible to save a few quid:) Last but not least, enjoy this time and the events, all flies by within the blink of an eye! You can only plan so much, you have to go with the flow on the day!
Wishing us, you and all married couples a long, healthy, happy and prosperous marriage.