One thing that people only mention when you’re planning a wedding (or even after it’s over) is that not everyone enjoys their wedding day. And with the added stresses and unknowns of planning a wedding around a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever to know that when the big day arrives, you can enjoy it.
But after working at many weddings as a venue Front of House manager, attending the weddings of friends and family, and experiencing (and loving) my own, I have learned the following things which you may or may not find handy.
Here’s how to plan a wedding you and your guests can actually enjoy:
Be clear on your budget
Before you get too carried away with planning your big day, be clear on your budget. Plus include a bit extra just in case. Once you have this, start thinking about what is and isn’t most important to you – there are likely to be compromises along the way, so it’s best to know in advance where you’re most happy to make changes.
For example, we arranged the flowers ourselves, sent the invitations online, and bribed a friend to play the music for the ceremony rather than hiring musicians. Plus you don’t want to spend the day thinking ‘We spent €X on that, and no one cares!’
You do you
Everyone has opinions when it comes to weddings, especially friends and family. So though you might get some great recommendations, don’t feel like you have to take on the burden of every single piece of advice, or that you have to do things the way you think you ‘should’.
It’s you and your partner’s day, and there is just the right venue/dress/flowers/band out there for you. This also included hen/stag parties and anything else wedding related.
Luckily my bridesmaids understood that I would prefer a hen party with no drinking, clubbing, or penis straws, and a minimal amount of people – so we spent the weekend in London with matching pyjamas, ice skating, and Sister Act with a live gospel choir. It may be other people’s worst nightmare, but it was spot on for me.
Read the small print
Whether its COVID-19, snow or an ash cloud, things can happen that mess with our plans. It’s hard to prepare fully for the unexpected, but you can do bits to minimise the risks.
Before you sign on the dotted line for anything, read the small print and learn about the policies on cancellation or changes to the contract. It’s also a good idea to get insurance so you can protect yourselves as much as possible – it’ll make the organisation process much less stressful even if something does happen.
You can do more online than you think
We got married in England (but are based in Dublin) so I booked my band, bar, catering, marquee and photographer online: I met the caterer, marquee manager and photographer once to go through the details, and did a lot of research reading reviews, reading as much information as possible and looking at photos before booking.
This actually meant that we ended up with the best possible options – rather than going for the easiest option, we found suppliers that suited just what we wanted – for example, the bar came from Bristol but had a great range of craft beers, looked really cool (in a vintage lorry called Rosie) and had some of the nicest staff I’ve ever met.
It’s also fun having a dress-up party for bridesmaids dresses if you don’t want to go to a bridal salon. We ordered a load of the same colour and length from shops like Dorothy Perkins and ASOS so everyone found just the right one, but they looked like a set. We just returned any that weren’t right, and the girls looked amazing! I also got my dress online as the thought of trying on hundreds of dresses with an eager sales assistant made me feel queasy.
Think beyond the venue licence
If your perfect venue isn’t a licenced marriage venue, then why not consider doing the legal bit separately? As I always dreamed of getting married in the school where I grew up (which is a lot nicer than it sounds), we legally got married in the Dublin registry office, with pints and sandwiches afterwards in our favourite pub. Then a few months later we had our ‘real’ wedding – and I have wonderful memories from both.
However, don’t ignore things like the venue’s alcohol licence etc – if they legally have to stop serving or close at a certain time, they’ll want to stick to this. It may be your big day, and the staff may be wonderful but this probably doesn’t stretch to breaking the law. Having a plan for the afters and carrying it out with enthusiasm is much quicker!
Include things you’re really excited about
Include things you love (like the bunting that my Mum and her amazing patchwork group made), and don’t bother with things you don’t care about. We skipped wedding favours and getting everyone to witness us cutting the cake.
Because guess what? Most wedding guests won’t notice the hours you spent arranging the centrepieces or the vintage suitcases you hired. If you’ll smile every time you see them and you can afford it, go for it. If not, don’t bother.
Everyone is in a much better mood if there is enough food
Weddings last for hours, and the importance of keeping you and your guests satisfied cannot be underestimated, unless you want very hangry or drunk guests. I once went to a wedding with nine speeches before the starter and I nearly started eating the cutlery.
Having one or two speeches between each course breaks things up nicely, and gives the caterers time to get ready for the next course! You might also like to include nibbles during the drinks reception (ours included scotch eggs and I still think about them) or late evening snacks to keep the party going.
Getting a wedding photographer you think is great is worth the cost
Our photos captured the day perfectly, and I love flicking through them. Our photographer Sam, not only masterminded taking photos in the empty swimming pool, but he also felt like one of the gang and perfectly understood that we didn’t want to spend hours posing awkwardly for formal pictures.
For your wedding, you need to feel like the most gorgeous amazing version of yourself.
Choose hair and makeup that fits your personality rather than being talked into ‘wedding’. And if you’re not sure about your dress/hair/ makeup…change it! The dress I had originally wasn’t quite right in the end, so I got an amazing Savannah Miller: Nine one which fit like a dream, felt like me and was amazingly comfortable, and I sold the other one to another very happy bride to be.
Think about the music you love
We had a playlist (which we gradually assembled for months of all the songs we love) for most of the day, then just had a band for a two hour set to get the party started! If you’re getting a DJ or band, make sure you have the same taste in music as they do so there’ll be at least two of you busting a move on the dancefloor.
It will not be a ‘perfect’ day
Things might go wrong, but roll will it. Nearly everything is fixable, and mishaps often make for the best stories. We forgot the flowers for me and the maid of honour, so I just held two of the bridesmaids’ bouquets … whoops! I also forgot the cool flamingo umbrella my mum gave me, which would have been great for the photos in the rain.
For unknowns like weather-dependent elements, it’s best to have a clear back-up plan so if it’s pouring on the day, you’re happy with the plan B that’s already in place.
I’ve seen far too many wedding parties spending the whole day worrying about things, and not enjoying themselves.
When it comes down to it, it’s just a big party – your guests probably don’t care and will have a much better time if the bride and groom are enjoying themselves too. This is the day you’ve been planning for ages, and you don’t want to miss it thinking about inconsequential things.