Wedding planning tips from real couples
I’ve had the pleasure of working with quite a number of super organised, nicely laid back couples, and so I wanted to create a lovely personal blog post sharing some top tips for being organised ahead of and on the day. Each tip has a quote directly from the one of the couples I’ve photographed. These come straight from the people who have been there and done it! All of them had a great wedding days and with the planning ahead were relaxed on the day and had a lot of fun.
Let me know if these help you!
1. Set a budget and stick to it
Cass & Chris
Work off a master spreadsheet will make life so much easier. I kept a spreadsheet with my budget, deposits and remaining balances, RSVPs, dietary requirements, to do lists – you name it! It really helped to keep track of everything all in one place.
Don’t be afraid to delegate – it’s very easy to become fixated on doing everything yourself, but the more jobs you can take off of your plate the better (and the more relaxed you’ll be in the lead up).
Set a budget and stick to it – it’s very easy to get carried away when you’re planning a wedding. By setting a detailed budget, with a breakdown of what you intend to spend on each item, you can decide together what your priorities are from the outset.
Venue: Ramster Hall
2. Use a wedding planning book
Niki & Anthony
I listed all my ideas in a wedding planning book from Paperchase – it doubled up as a pretty memory book too! It had sections and timelines of when I should be booking venues, hiring suits, buying decorations etc. On the day I just hoped I remembered everything & figured as long as there was a wedding it’d all be fine!!
Venue: St Etheldreda’s Church & Trafalgar Tavern
See their wedding here: https://www.fionakellyphotography.com/christmassy-winter-wedding-london/
3. Start early and go from there
Elizabeth & Howard
The big tip from us is have a spreadsheet both of you can access from anywhere. It sounds dorky and perhaps overwhelming but a wedding is a big event and events planners use spreadsheets. In it is your guest list, your budget, all the emails and phone numbers you need, your suppliers and quotes are on there for you to pick the best and have a backup if they let you down.
Tip three is to find where you are happy to cut costs and go DIY, but also protect things like the photography and videography budget because we felt those were important.
Start early. The spreadsheet will start small and grow and become more useful the more you add and the more research you do. Start with ideas and your budget. Go from there.
Venue: Hampton Court House
See their wedding here: https://www.fionakellyphotography.com/summer-hampton-court-house-wedding/
4. Don’t take on too much
Chloe & Sam
I found planning apps super helpful to keep on top of tasks and work out what we wanted at our wedding. Also, find out supplier deadlines and put a reminder in your diary for a week or so beforehand. That way you don’t get surprise bills!
Don’t take on too much. There’s lots of social pressure around weddings and you can feel you need to do everything but only do what you and your partner really care about. We chose not to do lots of things that could have been time consuming like ‘save the dates’ and favours.
Venue: Pembroke Lodge
5. Dedicate time to the things that are most important to you as a couple
Helen & Martyn
Do wedmin little and often – breaking the task down into manageable chunks of half an hour or an hour where it’s possible is helpful, and take breaks!
Dedicate the most time to the things that are most important to you as a couple. Things that we were less of a priority were dealt with more quickly.
We definitely think that being organised was a key part of how much we enjoyed our day. We’ve had a few people (on the day and since) comment on how relaxed we were and we think it’s because we knew that everything was in hand with the professionals.
Venue: Eltham Palace
See their full wedding here: https://www.fionakellyphotography.com/elegant-eltham-palace-wedding/
6. Take time to make the day special
Amena & Iman
Lists help kept me sane rather than keeping everything in my head. Taking time to think about what would make the day special and unique to us (beyond the usual list). I’d seen with friends that the to-do list for weddings can be so overwhelming that often those bits can be overlooked and then get squeezed in at the end.
Allocate tasks to each other – it makes it so much easier if one of you isn’t doing everything and just means you can focus on what you need to do. Then make sure you allocate time to discuss these things. It can kind of take over your mind so organising specific times to discuss wedding specific things can help.
A big part of making it all work out well was getting our friends together and assigning people tasks/responsibilities – usually one each so it’s not too much to deal with and they can still enjoy themselves.
I think one thing people don’t realise is that seating plans for dinner take time. They’re a science! And because they’re done relatively close to finalising everything it can be pretty stressful.
It’s a cliche but just enjoy it. While at times it was a little stressful I just tried to remind myself that it was mainly a party (not thinking of it as a wedding made it surprisingly more easy for me) and we were bringing people we love together from all over for a chance to celebrate and have some fun!
Venue: One Whitehall Place
See their wedding here: https://www.fionakellyphotography.com/cultural-wedding-at-one-whitehall-place/
7. Meet your wedding suppliers before you book
Sheila & Paul
You have to determine the key things that are important for you both when booking vendors and services because they are what make your day. It’s then worth meeting them early to see if their approach will align to what you want for the day. You’re unlikely to get absolutely everything you want but if you land the key things you’re more likely to have a good day.
Venue: The Old Hall Ely
8. Have trust in your suppliers
Caroline & Simon
The one-word answer is “spreadsheets”. Ours ended up as a multi-tabbed behemoth, but was started within 48 hours of us getting engaged and really was the bedrock of our planning.
Right after we got engaged, we sat down together and went through all the other weddings we could remember going to, together or apart, and went through what went well and what we had found… sub-optimal.
I used the automatically-generated checklist on hitched.co.uk which is excellent.
On the day, it was a bit about planning (I had a schedule for every 15 minutes from 9am onwards…) but mostly about surrounding ourselves with good people.
It was also about having trust in our suppliers. Reviews are so vital in the wedding business that we just trusted that everyone would turn up and do a good job, for fear of a terrible review. We picked suppliers with good reviews to start with, and were lucky with our budget that we weren’t trying to do things on a shoestring.
Then just chilling out and rolling with it. If something goes wrong, is there really much the couple can do about it? Nope. So we just accepted that and went with it. Did the guests know any different? Nope. Did they mind? 100% no.
Venue: The Old Palace, Hatfield House
9. Be flexible
Nadia & Chris
I found having a spreadsheet helped. I had a general one for costs, and then one for guests which included addresses (which I still use to this day actually!) food choices/allergies etc and was all colour coded for daytime and evening guests and if they rsvped yes or no and such (I’m cool…).
I also had a rough timeline for the day, with a list of people to have in which photos, that the groomsmen had copies of as they were helping to set things up. My advice though for that would be to have it, but be flexible. Things change on the day and you want to enjoy it so just go with the flow and don’t stress if things overrun slightly, it’s just good to have more than one person who knows what is going on.
Venue: Forty Hall
10. Get the big stuff sorted early
Lauren & Robin
- Get the big stuff sorted early (venue, band, photographer) then you can relax and tick the rest off as you go
- Make a wedding pack for your venues that has the order of the day and who to speak to for what, it means the bride and groom can just enjoy the day
- Get teams bride and groom involved. Team bride dressed our venue….think they might go into business together now they did such a good job and team groom ensured our guests had plenty to drink….which would explain some early casualities
- Think about how you’re getting your guests from one place to another. Our ceremony venue was in the middle of Hampstead so a big bus was a no-go. We considered Uber but would have created our own surge!
Venue: St Stephen’s Hampstead & Clapton Country Club
See their wedding here: https://www.fionakellyphotography.com/unique-london-wedding/
11. Make it easy on yourself and delegate
Cordi & Simon
Make it easy on yourself. We ended up doing a small church service on a Friday and a big party on the Saturday because we couldn’t figure out stress free logistics of getting people from A to B in Central London. It ended up making it a long, relaxed and super happy long weekend.
Figure out early what ‘matters’ to you both as it will focus both your budget and your task list. We used apps like Trello and Google Docs to keep things moving between the two of us. After the big suppliers are booked, spread the load a little and often using organisation tools to keep track. It also helps avoid arguments between the two of you as you can keep each other accountable.
Delegate to and recruit your most organised friends. All that is left for you to do is to enjoy the day and be with your guests.
Trust the professionals, and use their expertise, so meet them early on the day, get them clear what you expect, let them handle it.
Venue: St Mary Moorfields & Tanner Warehouse in Bermondsey
12. Work as a team
Alison & Tom
- Have a central spreadsheet to keep tabs on budget, supplier details, payment dates, timings for the day etc.
- Set reminders on your phone for when next payments are due or when you owe information e.g menu choices, music choices, order of service etc. Avoids last minute panics!
- Think about choosing local suppliers as it makes it really easy to pop in and discuss details without taking large chunks of time out of your weekends.
- Work as a team so that you’re both involved in the decisions, know what’s going on and have responsibility for sorting out the arrangements.
Venue: Queens House
13. Embrace the spreadsheet
Clare & Stu
I would have to say embrace the spreadsheets!! On the spreadsheet It’s a good idea to highlight the elements which are the most important to you and proportion your budget that way, and even if your priorities change it allows you the perspective to make the decisions on changes with conviction.
The other tip is to organise your email inbox into folders by vendor. It makes it easy to find invoices, check times, details etc (particularly when out and about) when you are chatting to your suppliers without having to route around.
One final thing is to make sure the couple is totally aligned on desires and sticks up for each other….family (albeit well intended) will always try to get involved, so it’s important you are able as a couple to politely dismiss this.
Venue: Hackney Town Hall & The Anthologist
See their wedding here: https://www.fionakellyphotography.com/cosy-stylish-central-london-wedding/
14. To Do lists help keep focus
Steph & Ross
I’m a massive fan of ‘to do’ lists – so creating one for the wedding felt like the first step. We used Trello to capture everything we needed to do and customised the board with our own labels, groupings and wedding background. This helped us to stay focused on our priorities and share with our families and bridal parties what we were planning. These really helped me to make sure we were getting things done but not getting lost in the craze of the wedding build up.
We were really lucky to have our families and bridal parties join us in London a week before the wedding. To help keep everyone on the same page we made a wedding day breakdown sheet for everyone which included contact details of suppliers and bridal party along with who needed to be where and when.
Venue: Dartmouth House
15. Remember, not everything will go to plan
Areti & Tim
The main thing that helped us get organised was a book we bought on planning a wedding that included a planner in it which gave us a good understanding of all the different elements of the wedding including a timeline, and a spreadsheet to keep track of the budget!
On the day itself, the main thing that helped was to remember that not everything will go to plan, it’s impossible. The guests don’t know what is supposed to happen – only what does happen.
Venue: Pembroke Lodge
See their wedding here: https://www.fionakellyphotography.com/sunny-spring-wedding-at-pembroke-lodge/
Wow! Thanks so much everyone for your brilliant tips, I hope you found these useful.
If you want to get more top tips and ideas on planning your wedding day do pop along to my planning guide section. Its full of useful posts and great advice.