First things to do when planning your wedding

If you’ve just got engaged, let me be one of the first to say congratulations!

Once you get over the extra weight you’re now carrying around on your left hand you will at some point ask yourself “So, where do I actually start?”. Visiting wedding fairs and buying wedding magazines can be great inspiration for your wedding but can also be very overwhelming as you quickly realise there is a lot of choice when it comes to planning a wedding. So, there are a few things I suggest you do first of all:

Set a realistic budget

You may have some money put aside for your special day, now is the time to think about how much you feel is reasonable to spend on all the elements of your wedding, and ensure you have at least 5% put aside as a contingency. It may also be worth setting up a dedicated wedding bank account to start saving. If you have set your budget right from the start, it will be much easier to stick to it. Also, don’t forget to ask family members if they would be willing to contribute to the budget.

Draft a guest list and choose a venue

You can expect to spend around 40% of your budget on your reception so finding the right venue is an important choice – here are a few things to consider:

How many guests? – It will be difficult to book a venue (and ultimately set a date) if you don’t know how many people will be attending. Some venues will only be licensed up to a certain number and you don’t want to cram all of your guests in. Likewise, you wouldn’t want your 60 guests to be lost in a room big enough for 300. Some venues are more suitable for spending lots of time outside, likewise there are venues that have a beautiful interior that you will want to enjoy. When looking around venues, be sure to ask what the alternatives are to outside spaces if the weather is bad.

Do you want the ceremony and reception to be in the same location? – Most venues have a civil ceremony licence so the choice for your ceremony location is very wide. If you wish to marry in a church then it’s unlikely that you will have a reception venue within walking distance. However, there are some venues that have a church within their grounds.

Where are guests coming from? – Locations that are closer to home are much easier to liaise with. If your venue is an hour’s drive from home, you will need to factor that in to your ‘getting ready’ time on the day. If a lot of your guests are based far away from the venue it may be prudent to provide some transport.

Is accommodation available? – You may want to stay at the venue on the wedding night or even get ready there on the day, ask to see the honeymoon suite so you know what to expect. If accommodation is available for guests, find out if you can hold a number of rooms to ensure your guests get the accommodation they need.

What style is the venue? – Is it a country house, stately home, or a modern hotel? The style of the venue needs to complement the overall style of the wedding. A vintage style wedding would be much better suited to a country house or marquee venue than a modern hotel.

Are there in-house caterers? – Venues often have in-house caterers that you will have to use. However some venues allow you to bring in your own caterer. Bear in mind that this means you will need to choose yet another supplier!

Bear in mind that popular venues and popular dates (i.e. Saturdays in the Summer) can get booked up to 2 years in advance so the sooner you start looking the better.

Think about the type of ceremony

In 2009 there were 266,950 wedding ceremonies in the UK, 67% of those were civil ceremonies and most of the rest were religious ceremonies (source: office for national statistics So what is the difference and how do you actually go about planning your ceremony?

There are so many different religions and non-legal types of ceremony that it is impossible to go through them all – so here’s a run through of the most common ones:

Church of England – A traditional church wedding used to be one of the only options and the first place you would go when you got engaged was to see your local vicar.

In the past you could only get married in your local parish church, however the laws have be relaxed a little and in some cases you can now marry in a church located in another parish and a special family connection to the church will make this easier (visit for more information). To organise a church wedding the first thing you need to do is contact the vicar and book your date. The vicar will meet with you both to help plan the ceremony and talk through your options for music and readings, they will also offer guidance and advice on preparing for your married life together. The Wedding Banns are an announcement in church of your intention to marry and a chance for anyone to put forward a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place. The Banns will be read on three Sundays (usually consecutively) in the three months leading to the wedding. You must be at least 16 years old to marry in church and have parental consent if you are under 18. The wedding must take place between 8am and 6pm on any day of the week. A wedding rehearsal will usually take place a few days before the wedding, where key members of the wedding party, along with the vicar can find out how the service will run on the day. A Church of England wedding ceremony will cost from £320.00.

To find out more about getting married in a Church of England, visit

Civil Ceremonies – A civil ceremony can take place at a local authority registry office or at approved premises. An approved premise will be a public building such as a hotel or stately home or any other building the local authority feels is an appropriate place in which to be married. To organise a civil ceremony, the first thing you need to do is contact the local registry office and book the date, this can be done as far in advance as you like but no less that 17 days. Bookings have to be for a specific venue at a specific time, therefore if you wish to marry at an approved premise you will need to speak to them first to check availability. Registrar bookings are taken on a strictly first come first served basis. All bookings are treated as provisional until you have arranged the legal preliminaries. The legal preliminaries are called the Notice of Marriage. This is a legal document prepared by the registrar and is valid for one year.

wedding-sortedThe bride and groom must both visit the registrar in person to prepare a notice of marriage; you must be at least 16 years of age and have parental consent if you are under 18. You must have been a resident in the district you wish to be married for a period of 8 full consecutive days and provide legal identification i.e. full birth certificate, passport, and proof of residence if necessary. British law states that for a wedding in the UK to be legal the venue needs to be licensed by the local registrar, it must have a roof and be moored to its foundations, and can take place any time. A rehearsal will not normally take place for a civil ceremony but may be able to be arranged with the venue if you ask. Civil ceremonies must not include hymns, religious readings or prayers. Civil ceremonies cost from £140.00 at a registry office and from £350.00 at an approved premises.

This is a sample from a chapter in the amazing wedding book Your Wedding Sorted! Available from Amazon

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