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Engaged, a beginners guide

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

You got engaged…wow, that’s surreal! ;)

It’s the start of the whole new chapter that you get to write… but usually it’ll be your first time and it’s pretty overwhelming. So where do you start?

First thing to do… breathe!

Take some photos, you’ll want to remember this moment, but don’t share them yet!

I know it’s tempting and excitement can take over… but don’t post anything on social media until you’ve done this. (You’ll see this advice in a lot of places, but I still hear stories about Mum’s who heard about their daughter’s engagement because their neighbour saw it on Facebook and told them.)

Next thing is to phone your families and close friends. It’s a really special moment, share it with the people you love most.

Now you can post those photos and share the good news with your wider circle.

Third thing… BREATHE!!!!

Time to immerse yourself in Mags, blogs, Pinterest, Instagram and decide what your wedding will look and feel like.

Then get ready for the crazy to come…

And so to planning…

Starting points for planning your wedding:

How involved will your other half be in the planning? It’s their wedding too. For the most part one person (traditionally the groom) tends to want to stand back and leave most of the planning to their partner. Often this works best, creating parties by committee can be stressful unless you work very well together, but I have known some couples who’ve been equally in evolved and work really well together. Assigning tasks can really help with this (eg. one of you is in charge of organising catering, bar, celebrant, invitations, etc. , the other takes charge of flowers, cars, cake and scheduling, etc.)

What’s your time scale? Most weddings tend to happen around 18 months after the engagement, but there’s really no rule and if you want a lavish party waiting a little longer can make the difference to your budget as you have more time to save.

Think carefully about who will be your helpers (bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, etc). It’s easy to get carried away and ask all of your besties to take on these, but if you have invited 4 people to be your bridesmaids but forgotten that you should ask your sister in law… well Christmas could be tricky for a while. Also, consider who's paying for the outfits, shoes, transport, hotels, etc? Just because only 2 people are standing with you at the alter, doesn't make the moment less special or mean that the others you love aren't involved, but you really do need to think about if you are asking them to shoulder more cost than they are comfortably able to.

How many people will you be inviting? Everything else will depend upon this because it determines the venue you can have and your budget for everything. Check with your parents, best friends etc. to see if you’ve forgotten anyone… but beware of implying that they get to choose who’s on the guest list.

What’s your budget? Be realistic. In the early stages it’s a tricky balancing act as you try to cost the elements you want, but setting yourself an achievable ball park figure to start will save heartbreak later on. See above note on timescales. Don’t forget to build in a contingency! You may find that family would like to contribute, but be sure about what this might involve. If they contribute £500, but then start adding people to your guest list or telling you what food you have to have it may not be worth it.

What style of wedding do you want. Are you thinking stately home or dancing around a bonfire? Ethereal whites on beach or circus themed in a converted warehouse? Barn style rustic or urban crisp lines? Be practical too… you might be in your element at a festival when you’re wearing shorts and t-shirt but using a porta-loo in a in a big white dress is a very different experience.

Do you need to have a registrar? The legal bit doesn’t have to be part of your wedding day, you can do it before or after your ceremony... or not at all if that's what you'd prefer. You might opt for a church wedding, you might want to book a registrar to come to a venue and perform a standardised legal ceremony or you may want to have a celebrant who can create a ceremony perfectly designed around you, then sign the papers later on. (Bear in mind not all venues are legally sanctioned for the formal registrar wedding).

Start venue hunting. Remember, you can’t set a date or book anything else until you’ve booked your venue/s. Many venues you will need to book 18 months ahead as they are so busy. Look around at suppliers in your area and see what photos they have of previous weddings (Facebook and Instagram feeds are good for this). If a supplier has wedding images that you like, they will usually be able to recommend venues that would suit you and most are happy to do this. Many also have links on their website that can help.

What are your "must haves"? When you’re planning you should make up 2 different lists: the must haves and the wish list. The must haves are things that you really can’t do without (for most people these would be venue, food and drink, tables and chairs, the dress, accommodation, transport…), everything else can go on the wish list. This doesn’t mean that you will not have it, it just means that you’re not committing (either in your heart or with cash) to anything you might not have the budget for later on. Those beautiful table centres you saw on Pinterest would be lovely… but the actual tables have to come first ;). As things become clearer you can move things between the lists, and add another one called “sorted”!

Where to look:

Gather inspiration. Pinterest, Instagram, wedding mags and wedding blogs are a great resource for this, although do remember that many of these are “styled shoots” and not real weddings. They are a great source of inspiration and let suppliers showcase what they can do, but they are scenarios specifically designed to create beautiful photos without consideration of budget, weather, practicality or 150 hungry guests waiting for you to finish with the photographer before they can eat ;)

Look for local wedding suppliers. Do an internet search for local suppliers and search for area specific hashtags on Instagram/Facebook etc (eg. #sussexbride #pembrokeshirewedding #hampshireweddingcake). People like photographers, musicians, etc. can often travel some distance to be at your wedding as you will be their only booking for the day, but stylists, florists, cake makers etc. will usually only work fairly locally because they may need to deliver to multiple weddings and cannot be on the road for too long unless yours is a very big order and worth them turning away other business for. Also, things like flowers and cakes can’t be transported too far on a hot day without risk of it damaging them.

Talk to a wedding planner! I know that this sounds like it might really be something super expensive, but they will have great knowledge about local suppliers you can trust to do the job well and many planners have a sliding scale of involvement. Services can vary from just one planning meeting to the full package, but most couples choose to have a relationship with their planner where they can dip in and out as needed and a good planner can save you SO much time and money. On the day co-ordination especially can be invaluable.

Wedding fairs and open days. Traditionally, wedding fairs have been the main shop window for suppliers, but with the growth of the internet this has significantly changed for most suppliers. Having said that, wedding fairs are still a great place to pop along, see things up close, get inspiration and meet local suppliers in person. In recent years fairs celebrating less formal or alternative weddings have grown in popularity too and, with entertainment thrown in, it can be a fun day out. Many venues now host open days for couples to see the spaces offered and meet trusted suppliers they work with. The suppliers at these will not have been charged by the venue for attendance, they will be ones the venue honestly recommend and have a relationship with, so you can be sure they are established suppliers (who may not be at wedding fairs that are run for profit) and regularly work with the venue. Wedding fairs and open days tend to be on a Sunday and are rarely held between May and September (otherwise known as "wedding season").

So there're some starting out tips. Remember, it only looks scary before you begin. It'll have it's moments, but on the whole you're going to really enjoy planning. Oh.. and by the way... Congratulations! It's going to be excellent!!!

Love Kass xxxx

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