Planning a Stress-Free Wedding
With the summer wedding season upon me, I thought this would be the perfect time to share with you my advice on how to keep the wedding planning process as stress-free and relaxed as possible. As a wedding planner, I have a lot of first-hand experience of what makes the process easier, so here are some ideas as to how to keep your planning as fun and laid back as can be.
Keep on Top of the Finances
Anyone who’s ever watched “Grand Designs” knows that the happy couple, initially so joyful and excited about building their dream home, can end up wishing they’d never begun once they’ve realised it’s going to cost twice what they initially budgeted. Financial surprises are one of the biggest happiness-killers when planning a wedding, so make sure to plan the finances carefully from the outset. My post on wedding budgeting will help to get it right.
Don’t Over Complicate Things
The most stressed-out couples I work with are always the ones who over-complicate things that really don’t need to be that complicated. While personal details are lovely, biting off more than you can chew in the ‘DIY details’ department can turn into a mega-headache very quickly. And let’s be honest – there are certain things it’s simply easier to buy already-made. Do you really want to spend 3 weeks hand sewing bunting when you can buy it online for less than the cost of the materials? Do you really need to have a choice of menu for guests if it means getting 200 people to tell you what they want to eat before the wedding and ensuring the caterer knows who chose what? My rule of thumb is to think carefully about the time and stress cost versus the benefit of each decision and to make sure that anything in which you invest extra time and effort will make a big enough impact to be worth it. A lot of the time, it just isn’t.
Don’t Cut Corners Where It Counts
I’m all for cutting costs, but there are certain things on which a couple will look back and regret that they didn’t pay the extra to make life that little bit easier. My number one tip on this front is not to try and scrimp on the catering and bar staff. They’ll be the most instrumental players in how smoothly everything goes in the final run up and on the day, and if they’re short staffed or unprofessional the situation can quickly become seriously stressful. Going cheaper can be great, but sometimes it means that you’ll be struggling in the weeks before the wedding to get your caterer to respond to a vital email, or that the staff aren’t clearing glasses on the wedding day, or that your linen doesn’t fit right on the tables. So, when I advise people on how to cut costs, it’s never to scrimp on hiring quality suppliers with enough experienced staff to do the job. The temptation with spiralling wedding costs can also be to think that you’ll save money by doing things yourself. That’s true sometimes, and there are great ways to make savings by going down the DIY route, but remember to consider your own role in the equation. Do you really want to be going to the wedding venue the morning after the wedding to do the cleaning up? Nooooo. Just no. Better to pay the caterers the extra £150 to do it for you. For me this element is common sense, as there’s no point spending thousands on your wedding only to cut corners that make your life miserable when you’re meant to be happiest.
Get Guest Communications Right
One of the biggest admin jobs in the run up to a wedding is communicating with your guests, and they will often leave their questions and requests to the last minute. They’ll want to know what to wear, where to stay, how to get there, where to get a taxi from and what you’d like as a gift. Minimise the “guest-min” by providing all the information on a wedding website or including a particulars card with your wedding invitations, which offers maps and all the information they might need. Using a website to automate your RSVP system could also spare you a lot of last minute headaches. There are lots of wonderful free sites which you can use to build a wedding website with RSVP functionality, making life so much easier in the long run.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
While mums and bridesmaids are perfect for helping with admin and planning tasks (and there will be plenty on the list to be delegated), you should also think about the various logistical tasks there will be over the course of the wedding. On the day itself, your ushers and best man can be given their own specific roles to make sure everything runs smoothly. About 3 weeks before every wedding I create a guidebook for every member of the wedding party, which outlines their specific roles for the day, and which I email to them in advance. It lays out all the key timings, instructions and everything that they should be doing. This makes everything much easier on the day. Mum might be responsible for the safe-keeping of cards and gifts, one of the ushers might be responsible for shepherding guests for photographs, one of the bridesmaids might be in charge of packing up your things and having them moved to the honeymoon location, and so on. If you make sure every person knows their role in advance, you can keep stress to the bare minimum.
Keep One Mega Spreadsheet
Nowadays, I have pretty funky wedding planning software that I use to track all of the details of each wedding and to keep me sane and mistake-free, but in the days before this existed, I relied entirely on spreadsheets to keep me on track. When you first get started planning the wedding, create a wedding planning spreadsheet and makes tabs for:
- Supplier contact list
- Timeline of tasks by month
- Guest List
Then, make sure you track every detail as you go along. You can also add tabs for things like music choices or seating plans. It always works best to keep everything in one place. Make sure you keep it backed up and to use columns to add in any information you might need. For example, your guest list should track names, addresses and RSVPs, but it’s also a great idea to note if they need a seat on the coach or if they have sent you a gift. If you keep on top of it all the way through, everything will be a breeze in the final weeks.
Spread Out Tasks
It’s difficult to describe how much there is to do in the final few months of wedding planning, but my average wedding will involve around 2000 emails and 150 hours of planning and administration. That’s an awful lot, especially if you have a full-time job, so don’t leave it all to the last minute unless you want to be pulling your hair out. I promise you: no matter how well organised you are, about 100 things you never thought about will pop up in the final two to three weeks so if you’ve left a lot of stuff to figure out later on then you’ll end up completely frazzled. When I work with clients, I carefully tailor a month-by-month task plan to allow for the work to be evenly distributed over the course of the time we have. There are some things you won’t be able to do until the last minute (like the seating plan) but there are other things you can start thinking about a year in advance if you’d like to (song choices, for example). If you get anything you can do early out of the way, you’ll make life a lot easier for yourself in the long run.
Hire a Wedding Planner
Well, of course, I’m biased on this topic, but a good wedding planner can eliminate the stress from the wedding planning process almost completely. It’s not that they do everything for you (they don’t), but they do manage it all and relieve you of a lot of the work. So, if it’s something you have the budget for and you’d like a relaxed and fun experience then it’s definitely worth the investment. If your budget doesn’t stretch to getting a professional in to help, sourcing help for the final few weeks or just for the day can also really help to ease the pressure. A good wedding planner will be able to step in and handle all of your supplier confirmations and last-minute admin which can make those last few weeks a lot calmer. One of the best ways to look for a qualified and trustworthy wedding planner is through the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, who vet all their members carefully so that you know you’re in safe hands.
Pick a Comfy Dress and Shoes
I know “comfort” is about the last thing under consideration when deciding what to wear on your wedding day (I mean, come on, you just want to look amazing), but I promise you, my number one wedding day stressor with the brides I’ve worked with has been how uncomfortable they were. A few weeks ago, a bride who had spent two years planning her wedding approached me during dinner to tell me she couldn’t breathe in her dress. I mean, she’s planned this beautiful wedding and instead of enjoying it, she is actually struggling to breathe. Sure, looking beautiful is important, but if you’re so uncomfortable that you’re not enjoying your own wedding day, this is a problem. Take the time to select a dress that fits perfectly and is comfortable whether you’re standing or sitting, and think about a change of clothes for after dinner. With shoes, of course, bring a spare pair for dancing and photos but also make sure you break them in by wearing them around the house for a few weeks. Once you have a blister, switching to flats won’t save you.
Don’t Lose Sight of What Matters
This is probably my most important piece of advice. I know you want to, but you can’t control everything. Things can and will go wrong because something inevitably goes wrong at every wedding – and I say this with experience of managing over 100 weddings with the most airtight planning imaginable. Don’t get so caught up in the process that you lose sight of the reason for the occasion – a celebration of your marriage. Spend time in the months leading up to the wedding alone together, make a weekly date night a non-negotiable part of your schedule, and don’t sweat the small stuff because it matters less than you might think. After 23 years of event planning, I can promise you that the best weddings are the ones with warmth and character, and the perfection will come from the people you’re sharing it with, not the centrepieces.
The pictures from this article are from the gorgeous Meredith and Murray’s wedding at Atholl Palace, photographed by the amazing Sarah of Morgan and Rose.