How to plan your wedding day

It’s no exaggeration to say that planning a wedding is one of the biggest project management tasks of your life. When considering how to plan your wedding day, you’ll find yourself thinking about every conceivable aspect: from aligning your suppliers to making sure your wedding dress fits perfectly, to keeping your guests happy.

As a bride myself, one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with was that I wasn’t going to be able to micro-manage what was happening at every minute of every hour of the day. It’s a strange sensation: knowing that you will pour your heart and soul into the tiniest of details, that on the day will either go unnoticed or, in all likelihood, go wrong.

Because something is bound to go wrong. That’s just the law of weddings.

The important thing to remember is that it is only one day. Probably one of the most important days of your life, sure, but still just one day. And as the old adage goes, it’s better to prepare to fail than fail to prepare. So of course, you should plan everything to the best of your ability. And more importantly, you should delegate, because on the day, you’ll have more important things to worry about than favours or the food or the music…like marrying the love of your life.

Here are some foolhardy planning tools that will put you in the best possible position for you to relax and enjoy the day that you have worked so hard to create.
How to plan your wedding day

Make a (huge) list

The most valuable piece of advice I can give you when looking at how to plan your wedding day is to write everything down. And I mean, everything. A good place to do this is via a shared document like Google Sheets, where you can add as many tabs as you like and make real-time updates between you and your fiancé. Google also offers its own wedding planning templates, but I found it easier to create and modify my own. As a guide, here’s an A-Z of some of the tabs I created and what went into each one:

  • Accommodation – A list of potential accommodation for the night before and the night of, and a list of people staying (if known)
  • Bar – A list of evening bar drinks and prices (if applicable)
  • Beauty – A list of hair and make-up artists (MUAs), their contact details, and prices for bride, bridal party and trial
  • Budget – A list of everything (and I mean, everything) you buy or are planning to buy, with a paid/not paid column, and a running total to keep you on track – use our average wedding cost planner to guide you
  • Caterers – A list of suppliers, contact details and what’s included in the service (if outside catering is required)
  • Contact details – The names, emails, phone numbers and addresses of all your suppliers and bridal party
  • Dress – A list of boutiques, their location, contact details, designers stocked and boutique fee (if applicable)
  • Engagement party – A list of attendees, RSVPs and gifts given
  • Entertainment – A list of potential suppliers for day and evening entertainment with contact details and prices
  • Favours – For you to write down your idea for favours
  • Florists – A list of potential suppliers and their location/proximity to your venue
  • Gift list – For you to keep tabs of who gives what
  • Guest list – Contains guests’ names, addresses and a RSVP counter to keep a track of numbers
  • Hen/stag – A list of attendees
  • Honeymoon – A list of travel agents, countries on your wish list, prices, times and dates, and hotels
  • Music – A list of songs for the ceremony, drinks reception, wedding breakfast and evening party
  • Photographers/Videographers – A list of suppliers with their location, contact details and price
  • Readings – A list of potential ceremony readings
  • Rings and jewellery – A list of potential suppliers
  • Schedule – A high-level list of timings of the day as and when your suppliers feed this back to you, and a more detailed plan of the ceremony itself
  • Stationery – A list of potential designs you both like, including save the dates, invitations, order of service, name tags and other items
  • Supplier task list – A list of supplier tasks, assignees, and the point in the day at which they are expected to perform these tasks (to be shared with the suppliers well in advance of the wedding day)
  • Table plan – A list of your guests placed around tables, with dietary requirements
  • To-do – A month-by-month run down of tasks and people responsible, with exact dates where known
  • Transport – A list of suppliers, location/proximity to the venue and collection times
  • Venues – A shortlist of wedding venues to view including URL, contact details, capacity, cost, viewing dates and any other comments
  • Wedding fairs – A list of wedding fairs or events in your area with dates and discount codes for booking

What to do and when

OK, so that’s a lot of stuff to think about! Luckily, we’ve created a month-by-month wedding planning checklist to help you plan what to do and when, from 18 months beforehand to right up to the big day.

Get your free wedding planning checklist

Wedding Planning Checklist

The ceremony and legalities

In the UK, different religions have different rules, and if you’re going civil, you can forget about any references to religion – that even includes having songs like Ave Maria as you walk down the aisle…even the Beyoncé version!

Legally, you can get married if:

  • You are over 16 years’ old
  • If under 18, you have the permission of a parent or guardian
  • You are not related
  • You are free to marry (i.e. single, divorced or widowed)
  • You tie the knot at a legal premises or licensed venue
  • You are in the presence of a registrar or official
  • Your ceremony is witnessed by at least two people

Providing you pass the above criteria, the main wedding ceremony options you have are as follows:

Civil wedding ceremonies

This is the most popular choice for UK couples, with two-thirds opting for a civil ceremony over a religious one. But that means you have to forsake absolutely all references to religion whatsoever. You can, however, follow your civil ceremony with a religious blessing, but your registrars will need to have completely vacated the premises. You need to book your registrar less than 12 months and more than 17 days in advance of your wedding day. You have to ‘give notice’ at your local registrar (whether you’re getting married locally or not), and in order to give notice, you must have been resident in England or Wales for at least a week. Read our guide for more details on how to book your civil ceremony.

Register Offices for England and Wales: 0300 123 1837
Register Offices for Guernsey: 01481 725 277
Register Offices for Jersey: 01534 441 335
Register Offices for Northern Ireland: 0300 200 7890
Register Offices for Scotland: 0131 314 4447

Christian wedding ceremonies

If you opt for Church of England, you usually have to be a member of a church or attend a few services in order to show your commitment. The church then ‘calls banns’ on three consecutive Sundays three months before the wedding day, apart from in Scotland, where 15 days’ notice must be given at a register office.
With the Roman Catholic Church, you need to inform your priest at least 6 months prior to your wedding day. You both need to be confirmed or baptised (the priest has to give special permission if one of you is not), and you need to give notice and obtain your marriage licence with your local superintendent registrar.

Church of England: 020 7898 1000
Church of Scotland: 0131 225 5722
Catholic Church Marriage Care: 0800 389 3801
Baptists’ Union: 012358 517 700
Methodist Church: 020 7486 5502
United Reform Church: 020 7916 2020
Greek Archdiocese: 020 7723 4787

Jewish wedding ceremonies

When booking a Jewish wedding ceremony, you’ll need to both be Jewish and be members of your synagogue (Jewish blessings are available for couples where one partner is not Jewish). You’ll need to attend synagogue beforehand, and you’ll still need to apply in the normal way via your local register office, as well as via the Jewish Council or your synagogue.

Jewish Council: 020 8203 6311

Humanist wedding ceremonies

Humanist wedding ceremonies, as lovely as they are, hold no legal binding in the UK. You must book a civil ceremony in addition to a humanist one.

Humanist Association: 020 7324 3060

Same sex wedding ceremonies

You can form a civil partnership in all of the UK, but only get married in England, Scotland and Wales, where you can also convert your civil partnership into a marriage if desired. Religious denominations have different rules on same sex marriage, while houses of worship must be registered for same-sex weddings; check with them for details.

Stonewall: 08000 502020

Final points to remember…

  • Wedding planning is a full-time job, involving countless emails, admin and communication, so be ready for it!
  • Write everything down
  • Book the big stuff first before moving on to the finer details
  • By law of averages, something will probably go wrong on the day; don’t let it worry you
  • Relax and enjoy your wedmin – you’re just doing it so you can marry your bestie!

How to plan your wedding day

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