Wedding Planning – tips and tricks. Part 1 Guests, Budget, Venue and Photographer
This little blog is designed to help to guide you through the jungle of wedding planning through the eyes of a Wedding Photographer. Let’s face it, the engagement ring has gone on the finger – that was the first romantic gesture and a mark of your love and dedication to each other, but now what? How much does a wedding cost? Where can I have my wedding? Do I need to get married in a Church? What do I look for when looking for a wedding dress? How do I find a wedding photographer? The list of questions seems to just grow and grow along with the apparent size of the wedding budget.
After all everyone has said that weddings aren’t cheap. Now, you may be worrying just a bit and thinking it may never happen. It is a mammoth task and arguably the biggest decision and spend that you may make.
So, now that we’ve scared you half to death let’s work at breaking this all down. We have been wedding photographers for many years photographing over 800 weddings at the time of this post. We have spoken to literally hundreds of newly engaged couples in exactly the same boat and have have often met them a second or third time and heard their stories. On top of this, we went through the same process ourselves – we too were totally overwhelmed in the beginning.
Talk, discuss, share and talk some more
Remember that this should be the amalgamation of both of your dreams. All too often we see the men taking a back seat and just nodding in agreement as the Lady in their live tries to plan their dream wedding. A problem shared is a problem halved as they say and this holds true with your wedding.
Wedding guest List
Before you can get going you need to draw up a draft list of wedding guests. Don’t go into detail just yet as it will change but do maybe split it into 3 segments. The day guests, people that will attend the wedding Ceremony and will sit down with you for your Wedding Breakfast. The reserve day guests, those that will step in should a day guest be unable to attend. The evening guests, those that will come along to be with you in the evening – usually from the cutting of the cake onwards.
Consider your wedding party
How many Bridesmaids and Ushers will you have? Some Grooms have more than 1 Best Man, in fact we have shot a few weddings with 3 or more, but that’s maybe a bit much!
Choose your style of wedding
The starting point has to be taking time together to decide on what style of wedding you both feel comfortable with. Forget the budget at the moment. Are you thinking a relaxed festival style wedding or a more traditional church wedding followed by a reception in a hotel? Identifying this is they key to everything else. So here are a few of the styles that we have seen as wedding photographers:
Barn Weddings, Festival weddings, Farm weddings, Marquee weddings, Stately Home weddings, Country House weddings, Hotel weddings, Golf club weddings, Destination weddings, Woodland weddings, Themed weddings, Military weddings – there are probably more too as more and more new venues seem to pop up every year offering something a little more unique or quirky. Weddings are big business for venues!
What time of year do you want the wedding. Winter weddings are becoming more popular, prices may be cheaper to but you have less daylight hours. Summer weddings are beautiful but diaries fill fast and they can also be very hot for the guys in their suits.
When you think that you have a couple of ideas that you can both agree on – and don’t worry whether the family will like it for the moment, this is about you – get onto Google and start to search for venues in your chosen location.
Visit two types of wedding venues
Why two types? Just to be sure that the style you have chosen is right for you. You may think that you want a barn wedding but when visiting a country house you feel more comfortable. Be sure to meet their wedding coordinator and ask to see photographs of actual weddings. They will give you a tour and you should feel that they have all the time in the world for you. If you feel rushed and unimportant to them at this stage then it is a sure sign of how the day may go.
Part of your decision will rest on accommodation. Wedding guests may be travelling a long distance so you should think about where they will stay. Some barns do have a few rooms but most don’t for example.
Some wedding venues use outside caterers. Some have a list of preferred caterers. A venue may have in house catering. Or catering may be entirely up to you. Whatever the case your wedding reception will be the single largest cost. Based on your guest list ask the coordinator how much experience that they have had at wedding planning and, if you are happy, ask for a detailed quote based on your numbers and find out what deposit will secure it. Look out for hidden costs such as corkage, additional licence fee, security and even decor . Sometimes the twinkly lights that you see on your tour cost extra to turn on! Check availability for your chosen season, bearing in mind that the popular places will book fast.
Try and visit several of each type, we suggest at least three. When all have given you their costs you will be able to start to whittle down to your final choice.
Bam!! You have sorted the hardest part of your wedding and have an idea of a style and cost.
Draw up a Budget for your big day
So we know our ideal venue cost, you know how many people are coming and you know who your Wedding Party are. Now you need to start to think about other costs. Here is a quick rundown
Bridesmaids dresses and Ushers suits
Prices for all of these will depend on experience, quality of equipment, reliability, location and style. For now do a quick hunt and put a figure against each category. Don’t worry about being too precise at this stage as we are just trying to establish a ‘ball park’ cost for planning your wedding. Add another 15% on top for contingency and there is your overall draft budget.
How does that sound? Pretty daunting we are guessing but now you need to have that serious discussion as to how long it will take to save to achieve that figure. Most suppliers require a nominal deposit on booking with the final balance due 2 to 4 weeks prior. This gives you some breathing space but can sometimes trick people into leaving it until the last minute. Your Parents may be able to help so be honest and open with them, most will want to chip in and some may even have put savings aside. If the costs are too high and you don’t think that you could save enough to make your chosen wedding date then either trim the costs or push the wedding back to the next year. Do not take out bank loans if you can help it.
Find your perfect Wedding Photographer
We tend to book up to 2 years in advance so diaries fill quick. Your Wedding Photographer will be the person that sees most of you, will be working alongside you and will deliver the most lasting memory of the day. So, choose carefully and don’t be swayed by price too much but on personality and enthusiasm for your dream. The right Wedding Photographer can help to make your dream come true and should capture it in a way that you will want to look back on and show off to your friends and family. Shortlist three and meet them face to face if you can. A local wedding photographer would be a good choice as it makes the pre meetings easier. They may also know the local venues too and will help with your final choice. Questions to ask your wedding photographer could include
Can I see full weddings and not just the best bits?
How many photographs do you take?
Can I have two Photographers?
Can I see sample albums?
Do yo have Professional Indemnity Insurance?
What is your backup should you fall ill on the day?
What is your turnaround time?
Do you use flash?
Can I have formal shots as well as documentary style?
How long will you stay at my wedding?
We instantly know if we hit it off with a couple and vica-versa and tell them if we feel that there isn’t a ‘fit’. A typical first meeting should last at least an hour and feel unrushed and productive. If you feel comfortable and you like their work and they fit your budget then get a deposit down straight away. We have lost count of the number of disappointed couples that have lost their dates with us. As a Sussex wedding photographer, we also cover destination weddings and photograph couples in London and beyond. As you can imagine, we get busy as any good professional should be.
Lastly, remember, the planning of your wedding WILL get stressful, may cause arguments and will take time. However, the entire process is part of your wedding journey and a test of the strength of your relationship. ENJOY it, share it ( we’ve already said that I know but worth mentioning again). You will meet some lovely, honest, clever people most of whom are in the business because they love what they do and adore chatting to couples at the start of their journey.
So we hope that this little article has helped to set you on your way. We have only just scratched the surface though and more articles are due soon so keep checking back on the website or ‘subscribe’ if you want us to drop them in your inbox when they are available.
More wedding planning advice to follow in the next blog including:
Choosing the rings
How to find the ideal Wedding Dress
Bridesmaids and their dresses
Groomsmen and their suits
Bouquets and button holes find a great florist
Hair and make-up tips
Even the cake was in tiers – wedding cakes
Venue styling – bringing in a professional